Posts Tagged ‘imaginary’

Comic Update: HTML5′s Unicorn Heuristics

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

When the editor of a specification becomes openly hostile about the specification he is writing, and openly disrespectful to the duly appointed chairs of that effort, then it is time to replace that editor. This seems as rational to me as a star soccer (football for the rest of the world) player getting nasty about his team and coach.

Referencing soccer during the World Cup, see? I’m so topical.

There is no soccer occurring in today’s comic, which pokes fun at Ian Hickson, editor-for-life of HTML. It also features Miro Keller, the winner of my AEA: Seattle/Dribbble guest comic contest. There’s a washing machine and unicorn in there too. Thanks Miro, for being so patient about appearing in the comic.

The pink unicorn is an example of an imaginary solution to the issue of empty alt attributes inside image tags, one which is as equally valid as the image analysis heuristics suggested by Mr. Hickson for helping blind people understand images. See Matthew May’s related bug report on this actual situation. I’m sure if the unicorn seems too girly to you, we could use tea leaves and chicken bones.

I’d give Ian points for actually seeming to care about the visually impaired for a change, but an imaginary solution being championed seems like a really poor way to address the challenges they face. I suppose it’s arguably a step-up from claiming that table summary attributes are harmful to sighted users and that authors are incapable of writing descriptions that would be usable.

Yes, he says authors are incapable of writing useful table summaries that are non-harmful to sighted users. But, thankfully, the unicorns… I mean the image analysis heuristics will be safe and far more effective.

Competence regarding accessibility challenges isn’t something Ian needs, however. Arguably, what he really needs is the ability to accept advice on such a topic from people in the know… which ties into the issue I started this whole parade with:

I used to behave the way Ian Hickson does when it comes to dealing with responsibility, power, and making use of those when dealing with other people.

Then I turned ten.

Is that statement too caustic and pointed to belong in a standards debate? My apologies. I was just following Ian’s lead. He accuses Sam Ruby of weak leadership as the HTML chair “you just do what the more vocal members of this group want regardless of the technical arguments,” proceeds to insult either the entire workgroup or Sam again (I’m unsure of the exact recipient of “you” here) “from a technical point of view, your decisions are all arbitrary.” and “The WHATWG draft continues to exist because it’s the only way to have a specification that actually makes sense in the face of the ridiculous decisions you keep making.” and contrasts the two versions of the spec in a fashion that is more than slightly disrespectful to the W3C’s version “Easier to just add the reference in just the W3C version and keep the WHATWG version sane.”

Folks, this is all in a single email.

I’m a web developer who makes a comic poking fun at our industry in my spare time.  Ian Hickson is the sole editor of the HTML5 spec, for both the WHATWG and the W3C. As discussed ad nauseum, he is (as characterized by even those not critical of him) the Leviathan, a sort of dictator/tyrant.

If Ian Hickson wants to snap at me, so be it. I’m poking fun at him with a stick as often as I can. But if as editor he cannot speak respectfully to the chairs of the HTML WG even when they’re attempting to be civil to him, then something is wrong. If he’s openly disrespectful to the very specification that he is responsible for authoring, then we’ve got an even bigger problem.

The fiction that the HTML5 spec isn’t split is just that, a fiction. The people empowered to run this process for us have a responsibility that outweighs the responsibilities of your average web monkey. Some would say this is how specifications were always written. Perhaps so. But this specification is far more public, and far more exposed to the “authors” that need to buy into using HTML5. I know for a fact from personal conversations that many of these authors aren’t buying in explicitly because of behavior like Ian’s creating the real confusion as to which specification matters (W3C vs WHAT WG) and whether the specification will survive this rancorous process.

If the editor of HTML5 can’t even be bothered to be civil about what he’s writing without a knock-down brawl every time there’s something added or subtracted that goes against his opinion, then he needs to stop being the editor. Period.

Do I file a bug for that?