Posts Tagged ‘manu sporny’

Comic Update: Define “Evil”

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I’m not always comfortable with labeling technology-related positions as “evil” or “good” considering the difficulties of applying morality to anything in the 21st century without being told that it’s all subjective. However, considering the importance of the Internet and equal access to its content in today’s society, I think I’ll ask you all to excuse me when I say that net neutrality is a good thing.

Unless you’re a greedy content provider corporation interested in your bottom line. Then it might be a pain in your ass.

But since I’m not a greedy content provider, I’m going to go ahead and say that the recent joint proposal for an “open Internet” that Google and Verizon have made public is them knowingly abusing terminology, trying to falsely claim support for a neutrality their actions oppose, and are therefore being “evil”.

Today’s comic provides a desert-themed metaphor to my opinion on the topic, featuring Faruk Ateş and Manu Sporny, who stumble through the dunes with the Squirrel before encountering a familiar-seeming water merchant.

Let’s break down the timeline

  • The New York Times publishes an article claiming Google and Verizon are nearing a web tier deal, which Manu Sporny tweets about here, tying it into a threat to net neutrality.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. Faruk’s pretty clear on his opinion here, which I think sums up how a lot of us feel.
  • Google and Verizon jointly announce a proposal for the “open Internet”… sort of. An open Internet for those with wired connections.
  • Web citizens share their thoughts. This blog post by Jeff Sayre indicates some serious problems with it, specifically in their fifth and sixth elements of the proposal. In particular, they feel that “additional, differentiated online services” should be exempt, and explicitly are stating that net neutrality shouldn’t apply to the wireless Internet, but only the wired one. Other people, like Faruk, are more brief but share their thoughts clearly like he does here.

I’m aware there’s plenty of idiots on the Internet. But it’s absurd, and childish, to claim you’re not threatening net neutrality when you’re in fact doing that exact thing and actually expect us to buy into the lie. They can try to pretend that how you access your water matters, but the fact is that water is water, regardless of whether you’re drinking with a straw or a spoon.

The op-ed piece that Google and Verizon put in the Washington Post today is just more attempts at obfuscation, claiming without any effort at being convincing that somehow the wireless access to the Internet makes it somehow a different Internet that should be subject to unique rules (or, better yet for them, no rules.)

I’m willing to say that manipulating the public through intentional deception (aka lying), especially on an issue as important as net neutrality, is evil. And it’s clear that Google and Verizon are (badly) attempting to do this for a mutual financial gain.

Welcome to being evil, Google.

Comic Update: The HTML5 Show (AKA, A Mess)

Monday, January 11th, 2010

HTML5 is a mess.

That was a phrase in my Refresh presentation in December, when I was speaking of the dueling organizations jockeying for control of the spec.

At the time of my writing, I did not know how clean it was by comparison to its status today.

Today’s comic features Hixie the Leviathan interrupting a Muppet-show like meeting of the W3C HTML5 group. Blame the parody of Henson’s creations on the commentary of one Mr. Jeremy Keith. Tweets like this are candy for people like me. The comic also features Sam Ruby, John Foliot, Manu Sporny, Jeremy Keith and Bruce Lawson as Muppet parodies.

The fact is that it seems that Ian “Hixie” Hickson, the HTML5 editor, has taken his ball and gone home. He’s started splitting out the HTML5 spec on the W3C side of things into a shredded mess, by his own words with the hope that if the W3C spec becomes a giant mess, people will drift to the WHATWG spec by default. He’s petulantly insisted that microdata (his own creation) is part of HTML despite the recent W3C work that resulted in it being moved out of the spec. He states that the WHATWG spec trumps the W3C spec, so the latter organization has to get over itself and get back with the program. He’s implied that he’d prefer authors (that’s web designers/developers) stop using HTML5 features as much as they have because it’s causing problems. (This further reinforces my belief that Hixie is following an Implementer > Author > User mentality instead of the User > Author > Implementer mentality that HTML was built upon.) He’s made HTML versionless, insisting that HTML5 is a snapshot that he’s already gone past, and is sitting as monarch for life on the continuing evolution of the spec.

All this from a guy who’s catch phrase seems to be “I don’t understand.” Which is, to me, a dangerous trait in a person empowered with absolute rule over the spec.

In short, like Jeremy, I’m frustrated with a lot of the recent HTML-related issues from the front of advocacy. I’ve tried to sell HTML5 (and it’s grab-bag of toys) to co-workers, peers in web design, total strangers, and friends who didn’t escape a conversation early enough. I want to see it used more, so the browsers speed up implementation of juicy features, so I can use it even more excessively, and so on.

But if people don’t even know if HTML5 exists anymore, or the status of the organizations working on it seem to be out of whack, why would they bother using the <video> tag or exploring <canvas>? We need to give people something to work with. Which means we need to not have insane grandstanding by a single individual.

But hey, this is just one squirrel’s view: HTML5 is a mess.

Comic Update: The W3C/WHATWG Community Theater Group

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I can’t help but be shocked at times at the drama and ugliness that builds up around the HTML5 effort. Good men and women, thinking that they can make a difference, time and again enter the dangerous mailing lists of the W3C and WHAT WG only to be ignored at best or belittled and chewed to pieces. These are zones (allegedly) of collaboration, but instead seem more at times like zones of war.

Go ahead and take a look for yourselves.

I’d think that this was just me overreacting, but when I tweeted on Sunday about my thoughts on the drama in the lists, I got a number of responses that illustrate that I’m not alone in my perception.

Jin Yang indicated that popcorn was a good snack while watching the drama unfold. After I made a bar brawl analogy, David Peterson suggested that whiskey might help them calm down, and that his two year old has progressed farther in the manners department. John Foliot provided some perspective sharing that this “us & them” mentality is a relatively new thing. And Manu Sporny joked that the W3C and WHAT WG originated as community theater groups.

Naturally, his joke was comedy, not fact. But I couldn’t help but think, what if…? So today’s comic portrays Manu Sporny and the Squirrel attending a fateful showing of Our American Cousin.

I want to say that I do see a lot of polite dialogue in the lists. I’m just amazed at how much bad behavior (sometimes well dressed, mind you) makes it into the discussions. Here’s hoping the good outweighs the bad by the time Last Call rolls around.

(As a closing note, I like the term Dundrearyisms.)

Comic Update: Who Really Is the Wizard of HTML5?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Today’s comic portrays my misgivings about HTML5 through the lens of L. Frank Baum, imagining a world where Chris Wilson, Manu Sporny and John Foliot were my companions through a standards-creating journey roadblocked by a guy in a purple coat with a big curtain.

Let’s review the facts.

Ian Hickson, editor of the HTML5 spec and top dog of the WHAT WG, is an employee of Google. He also adheres to a policy when dealing with people that can be summed up as: Deny, Delay, Too Late.

It can be argued that HTML5 is an important upgrade to one of the most vital technologies of the 21st century. Billions of people are using the Internet to facilitate communication and business, share their culture, access otherwise censored information when living under harsh regimes, and so forth. Most of the sites they use for these purposes are built in some fashion upon HTML.

At the currently accelerating rate of content creation, it’s safe to say that billions of pages will be built with HTML5. How these pages are designed, and how they’ll meet the needs of people both in the present and in the future rest upon how this standard is outlined. Everything from preserving the portability of microdata, ensuring the accessibility of web users with special needs, and finding ways to share media without the hassle of brand-specific plugin wars (anyone seen a flash site on an iPhone yet?) are determined by this effort.

So why is it that the person who is the center of this process is allowed to be a man who rejects consensus, actively denies issues (based on his own admitted policy) and substitutes expert advice in important areas like accessibility with analyzing data from the Google Index and parsing numbers? Numbers that we cannot have a third party confirm because every request to do just this is ignored?

There is no doubt in my mind that Ian is brilliant. However no man, no matter how brilliant, should be allowed to be so influential on a spec when he is bringing all this baggage to the table with him.

The biggest problem for me is as follows: Google. Ian’s work is highly influenced by data harvested by Google. I am positive Google has some spectacular views of the web, resulting in some highly accurate views of the current state of the Internet. I’m also sure that this doesn’t matter one bit if we have to take their word for it, because we can’t view it ourselves.

Most people search the web through Google. I get mail through Google, site analytics through Google, news through Google, and sometimes even browse with a browser used by Google. It’s impossible to throw a rock at the Internet and not somehow hit Google. It’s to the point where even the US government is getting a bit itchy and considering taking antitrust actions against them.

I don’t want to sound paranoid, but perhaps we shouldn’t craft HTML5 solely on Google’s say-so. If the data-harvesting Ian performs can’t be independently verified, then perhaps we shouldn’t accept it as fact. It’s just not prudent. We definitely shouldn’t use it as a substitute for actual experts in discussions like accessibility (which I spoke about last week). If Ian can’t accept that limitation or provide access to the raw data, then we need to consider whether a conflict of interests exists and whether he should remain as the editor. With him doing such a poor job of playing well with others (whether they be individuals, experts, or other WC3 working groups) while relying on private information from his employer, how can he be expected to create a HTML5 that meets not just his needs, or Google’s needs, but everyone’s needs?

I’m not convinced he can.

Comic Update: Madness? This is HTML5!

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Warning: this post falls into diatribe territory. I strongly feel that important technologies should be determined by consensus and not closed circles, and I’m not convinced that this is currently the case of HTML5.

I seriously doubt that Ian Hickson would ever kick Manu Sporny into a deep well (as today’s comic implies). For that matter, I’m not convinced he’d run around in only a cape, sandals and shorts, but I don’t know him as a person so I could be wrong on that point.

However, everything I’ve read, from the W3C’s mailing list archives, to blog posts by various people ranging from ARIA to RDFa, to Ian’s own words have convinced me that Hickson has fallen deep into a self-important gatekeeper mentality on the HTML5 spec, and anyone else’s opinions be damned. Although I will rant a bit on the topic, I’ll start by directing you to the following blog post/chronology by Sam Ruby that discusses this (albeit without the rhetoric I’d be more likely to fall into). The whole thing is a good read, but if you’re impatient you can jump to the end and check out his conclusion. He discusses the need for consensus over dictatorship in the open web again here (I get the impression he discusses that a lot, this is just a sample. I also don’t think he uses the word “dictatorship.”)

It’s become clear to a good deal of people more involved in these circles than I that a Not Invented Here attitude has tainted the HTML5 group, as discussed by Jeremy Keith here in a post about ARIA and HTML5. I’m guessing it’s an easy enough trap for any group of experts to fall into, but it still creates a situation where an otherwise open process becomes a closed loop. Case in point? Well, if ARIA isn’t enough for you, how about the attempts to get RDFa into the HTML5 spec?

RDFa has been facing a Hixie-manufactured road block for months now on inclusion into the HTML5 specification for what on the outside appears to be no better reason than its origination outside of his inner circle. Ian claims he’s seen insufficient use-cases and that he is “confused” by how RDFa is used, despite constant feedback by the RDFa proponents such as Manu Sporny providing both use cases and tutorials. Considering his technical expertise, I find the confusion claim by Hickson more than a bit perplexing. My own technical pedigree doesn’t come close to Ian’s, and yet I was able to successfully use valid RDFa syntax after less than a hour of reading the convenient RDFaWiki. Heck, if reading isn’t your strong point (which would be an unusual situation for a web professional) you can even watch videos they provide.

As near as I can tell, the only reason that he’d be “confused” by both the problems RDFa is designed to solve and how to implement it is because he wants to ensure that it doesn’t make it into the HTML5 spec, and he’s simply counting down the timer. Ian’s guide to handling people starts with Step 1: “There is No Situation” and concludes with Step 4: “Something could have been done, but it is too late.” Considering the stalemate for the past few months as he says repeatedly “There aren’t enough use-cases” or “I’m confused”, one could guess that he’s holding out until October, which according to his often derided timetable is when the Last Call Working Draft is supposed to occur.

Ultimately, though, the problem is more deeply routed than stubbornness. It seems, by all accounts, an unwillingness to play well with others. Quoted in a comment to Sam Ruby’s post Half Full, Ian said “The HTML5 work isn’t using the traditional W3C approach, and will never use a consensus approach so long as I am editor. Consensus simply isn’t a good way to get technically solid specifications, and is in any case basically impossible to achieve in a group with hundreds of participants such as this one.

Someone with that mentality shouldn’t be allowed to steer the ship for a standard that will define how millions (if not billions) of web pages are made over the next few years. We’re all going to be impacted by HTML5, so even though we don’t need to all agree (an impossibility considering human nature) at least attempting a consensus of those involved is desirable. Even if I’m frustrated by glacial pace of CSS3 implementation, I prefer the W3C’s attempt at a participatory process to some sort of autocratic decision-making on how I’ll be coding for next few years.

For more views about the challenges of trying to be involved in the HTML5 process, peruse these bits about the RDFa/HTML5 conflict by Shelly Powers. Also, I reccomend checking out the advocacy of rev=”canonical” by Jeremy Keith here and here. These posts are notable because they illustrate issues with how the HTML5 group is impacting web development (without hitting the topic over the head as I’d be inclined to do) from the angle of an easy to state problem: the prevalence of URL shortening, the potential for link-rot, and a proposed solution that includes using rev, an attribute that the HTML5 WG has already decided to remove from the HTML5 spec.

What can be done? Well, you can do as Keith proposed for rev=”canonical”, and use it, validation be damned. If, for example, RDFa or ARIA is used enough by authors, then a time will come that no option will exist other than it be included in the spec. It’s a brute-force approach, but it’s a democratic one, which is far preferable to letting one Google employee decide what’s best for us.