Posts Tagged ‘what wg’

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?

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: HTML5 Stubborness and Snogging

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Today’s comic references two very important topics that everyone should know about.

The first involves Bruce Lawson and snogging. In relation to point #2, I tweeted this. He responded with this. I find the word snogging hilarious, so it went downhill from there, with mental images of Ian Hickson and John Foliot getting hot and heavy.

In those mental images, Ian is asked to shave.

The second topic, which quite inadvertently spawned the first, involves HTML5, ARIA and the apparent lack of peace between the groups responsible for developing each. In his post Alternate Text in HTML5, Bruce bravely discusses his opinion on the topic despite his stated delicate nature and then suggests a group hug, and perhaps a sing along.

By comment #2, Anne van Kesteren has dropped the thunder and brought back the fighting.

Here’s a recap: Blind people can’t see. Blind web users, as a result, need some aids to make sense of things we’d take for granted, even when screen readers are taken into account. Pictures need some form of alternate text and tables need some sort of summary to help give them the scope of the data that’s about to be read to them (as just two examples.)

The WAI-CG has methods for solving these sorts of problems. These solutions exist in HTML4. However, the WHAT WG, with what I presume is a desire to keep code simple, want to do accessibility their own way. To prove their point, they lean on surveys of existing web content which show little adoption of the accessibility features being debated. They also decline to accept the advice of accessibility experts with real-life experience interacting with disabled users.

For a bunch of smart people, that’s pretty stupid.

Actually, that’s stupid for stupid people, so it’s outright dead-brained for smart people.

Why would surveys of existing content prove the effectiveness of the features when used? All it proves is that accessibility awareness needs to be raised among developers. To figure out whether the proper use of these features improve accessibility for the blind, I’d suggest talking to a blind web user.

As John Foliot points out in his comments in Bruce’s post, by all accounts Ian has not actually received any input from a blind person on the accessibility features he is denying.

I’m not an expert in this field, so I’m not going to propose solutions. I do propose, however, that the WHAT WG listens to the experts instead of continuing to cling to their “not invented here” mentality and looking to their own interests before those of the community that absolutely relies on accessibility to make use of the web.

In other words, stop being jerks.

Here’s a couple of related links to the topic in addition to those shown above that might make a good read: Mechanism to Summarize a Table, maintained by Laura Carlson. HTML5 and WAI-ARIA by Anne van Kesteren (the real good stuff is in the comments). Also, make sure to check out the comments in Bruce’s post. There’s a lot of good material in there to get a feel for positions and justifications.

Edit: Corrected the authorship of the Mechanism to Summarize a Table link, based on John’s correction below. Sorry for that, Laura!