Archive for October, 2009

In the year 2022

We all know that 2022 will be the year that HTML5 will be complete.

However, it’s possible that the completion of the spec might not be the only newsworthy event of that year.

The spiritual teacher, Raphael (author of the famous Spiritual Teachings and Universal Truths) has made many predictions, kindly collected on the Crawford2000 website.

Amongst others, we will see

  • The upper atmosphere of the Earth will be set on fire and everyone in the world will see this. It will be set on fire by the U.S. military using their H.A.A.R.P. (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program) climate control weapon.
  • Four heads of state will die within a week of each other and within one year of these deaths WWIII will start.
  • Anyone caught within 50 miles of a hydrogen bomb detonation will suffer damage to their soul, even to the point of the total destruction of their soul, which would release their spirit in energy form back to God, and they would cease to exist as individual spirits.
  • Extraterrestrials will land and assist the survivors of WWIII in the establishment and construction of a new civilization based on God’s Commandments and Spiritual Principles.

(hat tip to superdeluxesam)

In addition to all these calamities, Kurt Cagle predicts that if you use boolean attributes in your HTML5 (so selected instead of selected="selected" for example) you will

require special HTML processors to handle them. This makes them a pain to store in XML databases (you have to store them in text, losing a lot of the indexing goodness that comes with having XPath compliant XML), a pain to parse, a pain to transform…

We’ll be back to the days of the late HTML 3 spec, where web designers despaired of having their web pages act even remotely consistently between browsers, where coders will continue to learn bad habits that not only create more headaches for other coders but also contribute to the overall cost of products.

The future ain’t bright, chums.

Might as well give up now. I’m off to smoke heroin and take up alcoholism.

XML on the Web

I was asked by John Foliot (lovely bloke; I owe him some sightseeing and good single malt whisky) and Shelley Powers (never met her but am enjoying her book Painting The Web) to defend my statement that the rules of XML make no sense on the Web.

About three years ago, it was fashionable to argue about whose standards-willy was the longest. People mocked other people for using a transitional doctype because transitional was somehow just playing at xhtml. Another, more esoteric web standards cudgel was mocking those who served their xhtml content as text/html rather than proper XML.

I kept silent during those debates, as I was embarrassed by standards inadequacy. I used a transitional doctype and happily served my content as “tag soup” (as it was called by the longwillies) even to the browsers that could deal with XML.

Why? I used a transitional doctype until my HTML5 redesign this year because strict is too strict with user-generated content in comments. It’s impertinent to expect a commenter to know the rules of markup and—for example—use paragraphs inside a blockquote, and impossible to enforce. So why bother? Why risk invalidity or arse around with comment-sanitising plugins?

It’s similar story with serving content as real XML rather than text/html. Firstly, Internet Explorer doesn’t understand it, so you have to do content negotiation. For me there seemed no reason to do that, as the browsers that can understand proper XML seemed not to do anything special with it.

That’s the problem with XML as a Web format. It’s all risk and no advantage. By risk, I mean the legendary draconian XML error handling. Simply put: at the first well-formedness error, the browser must stop parsing and report an error. Mozilla’s yellow screen of death is an example of this.

That’s intolerable. In my day job I used to work on a site with potentially thousands of authors, ranging my team who validated everything to a lady who worked on Tuesdays and Wednesdays uploading job vacancies through a dinosaur CMS. It would be completely absurd for large swathes of information critical to our customers to break because of an unencoded ampersand in some third-party advertising content.

Any website that has user-generated content or non-geek authors cannot afford to risk being “real” XML, particularly when browsers have historically been tolerant of errors. (See Tim Berners-Lee’s annoucement that “The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn’t work.”)

Now, for re-purposing content, XML is super. RSS feeds are a tremendous example of this. But who has ever hand-written an RSS feed?

Primarily (and getting all touchy-feely on you) the Web isn’t a data transfer mechanism, it’s about communication. Forgiving browsers and liberal validation rules lower the barrier to entry to publishing on the Web.

Imagine you had a friend who spoke excellent English, but occasonally made small mistakes with grammar or pronunciation; would you put your hands over your ears and shout “La la la I can’t hear you!” until they corrected those errors? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you do the same with the Web?

Personal opinion; nothing to do with my employer, wife or hamster.

Added 31 January 2011: an interesting article by James Clark called XML vs the Web:

XML isn’t going away but I see it being less and less a Web technology; it won’t be something that you send over the wire on the public Web, but just one of many technologies that are used on the server to manage and generate what you do send over the wire.

Dear Tracey Emin

The Sunday Times reports that modern British artist Tracey Emin may leave the UK as she doesn’t want to pay the 50% tax that rich people (those who earn £150,000 a year) must pay.

Desperately poor Emin, who ekes out a living making personalised neon signs at £65,000 each, says

The taxes are too high, there aren’t enough incentives to work hard, and our politicians have put me off. We’re paying through the nose for everything.

It’s a shame when someone who has been the beneficiary of so much tax money for education, health care and funding of the galleries that buy her work should now be so churlish about an extra 10% of tax above an already-comfortable level of income.

It smacks of ingratitude and selfishness. But if that’s the way she feels, Britain will just have to soldier on without her contributions to art or the exchequer.

Emin herself once said,

Being an artist isn’t just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it’s some kind of communication, a message.

So I’ve made a neon message for Ms Emin:

piss of to a tax haven with your Tory mates

Have fun with the footballers and investment bankers, won’t you?