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WHAT Working Group boils Ocean!

Did you ever read Feedback on XHTML [November 25, 2006] on Intertwingly? It's very heady. It was a reply to “I hope we can all agree that sending XHTML as application/xhtml+xml is silly” statement by Anne van Kesteren [November 24, 2006]. And, in that reply may be found,

Lachlan Hunt’s comment,

“Sam, I’ve fixed all the mistakes in the WHATWG’s WordPress templates.¬†The major remaining issue is that there is XHTML empty element syntax "/>" littered throughout the core of the code (a quick search revealed 947 of them!), but I’m reluctant to go through and edit those files because those changes will just get over written at the next upgrade.”

And, Sam Ruby’s reply,

“Lachlan: excellent!”

“I’m going to try to make the case, in a separate post, that HTML5 should allow for the empty element syntax.” [Elementary note: That includes the lowly <br />.]

And, he did. [whatwg] Allow trailing slash in always-empty HTML5 elements? was posted Nov 28 13:20:31 PST 2006.

What ensued was remarkable. I suggest Everyone read that thread. It was dialectic. And, if you should read it, please note the time-stamps. I would suggest Ian Hickson’s message [Thu Nov 30 19:22:28 PST 2006] as concise summation of this discussion wherein he replies to numerous thread-messages if you’d rather not read it all. What was remarkable was that as unexpected as it began it ended after two (2) days after having caused several issues to be resolved. It addressed numerous ethereal issues. It addressed common issues. All of these began with <[space] />. It included “Zeldman Kool-Aid” [Search Engine note: “Zeldman Kool-Aid” has about 14,600 search results in Google when it should be “W3C Kool-Aid” which has 109,000 results.], “next big thing”, “fashion statement”, “WordPress Bozos”, “lipsticking drill”, “infamous Appendix C”, “epic battles with Zeldman”, “axiomatic mantras”, “namespace”, “tag soup“, “string concatenation”, “fatal architectural flaw” and “graceful error recovery”. It wasn’t the B-movie Strum und Drang dialogue one so often gets these days. It used WordPress as a bone fide real-world example.

It doesn’t matter if those comments are vague, filled with unknown terminology or veer into subjects unfathomable. All arguments and comments should be read because they illuminate things seldom considered:

What machinations occur in working groups for including “small, insignificant” things, e.g., <br />.
Academic Hoodoo.
What is considered by one small suggested revision in specifications.
What is affected by one small revision made in specifications.
What “small, insignificant things” truly are.
Nothing’s “small and insignificant.”

[Note: The commentators may not be well-known but they know things. (See WHAT WG Acknowledgements.)]

My selections follow.

Leons Petrazickis [Wed Nov 29 11:17:03 PST 2006] wrote,

“This rigmarole is going to repeat on every site that has converted to XHTML sent as text/html. People are emotionally invested in the idea of trailing slashes. Websites have complex codebases, and going through them removing trailing slashes on singleton elements would be very hard.”

“They’ve already reaped all the benefits of XHTML -- cleaner, more readable, more maintainable code. There’s no incentive for them to agree with you. This is a minor point that we need to give to them.”

“The very idea of HTML5 is to not demand that the Web be scrapped and rewritten. We need the people who have rewritten all their pages so that they validate on the W3C validator -- they have the fire and the zeal and the will to spread our format. We need to make the migration from invalid XHTML to valid HTML5 very, very easy for them. We can’t require them to dig through PHP spaghetti. And that means that, no matter how it’s achieved, <br/> needs to be valid HTML5.”

Yes. Very true.

An extract from a Lachlan Hunt [Wed Nov 29 06:42:02 PST 2006] comment,

“That just illustrates a fundamental flaw in the way WordPress has been built. It is a perfect example of a CMS built by a bunch of bozos [1] and cannot be used as an excuse for allowing the syntax.”

Sam Ruby’s [Wed Nov 29 13:42:38 PST 2006] reply,

“We live in a cut and paste world. The fact that I could find an XHTMLism in the front page of Microsoft.com will likely surprise few. Lachlan is free to call the authors of WordPress bozos if he likes, but frankly the bozos out number you. What should be the most damning of all is that I found an example on the most prominent page on the mozilla.org site. No one can say that the authors of that page didn’t make a conscious choice in the DOCTYPE for that page. No one can say that the authors of that page are ignorant. No one can say that mozilla has a(n entirely) cavalier attitude towards standards.”

“My theory is that we live in a cut and paste world, one based on partial understanding. Few understand DOCTYPEs and xmlns attributes, mostly people crib from something that works.”

How many site developers would be able to read all of the current markup language guidelines (W3C and/or WHATWG) which are like an attempt at a static topographical map of clouds and—First—discern the proper markup language with its document type, i.e., HTML, XHTML 1.0, XHTML 1.1, HTML 5, XHTML 5 or XML? that will work in all user agents, all formats, all devices?

There were speculative musings that HTML5/XHTML5 would find future acceptance and use. The arguments for and against are identical,

  • Yes. Everyone who has well-formed HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 has already done the hard work; and, they will.
  • No. Everyone who has well-formed HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 has already done the hard work; and, they won’t.

How do we know know that after W3C HTML reshuffling Extensible XML Extension (or, XXX) won't be the next Big Thing? and exacerbate “Kool-Aid” reluctance.

Henri Sivonen had a comment [Thu Nov 30 01:22:29 PST 2006] that I found intriguing but malformed (from which the following has been extracted),

“…the blog.whatwg.org WordPress lipsticking drill was a total waste of time from a technical point of view. It was purely about public relations and politics.”


Sam Ruby’s reply [Thu Nov 30 04:15:47 PST 2006] was much more eloquent,

“As an alternative to being perceived as a “lipsticking drill”, I would prefer that others felt that an important part of the spec authoring process includes what amounts to a feasibility study and hands on experimentation with extant authoring tools.”

“I apologize if I’ve caused any ill will.”

“I do believe that efforts to keep blog.whatwg.org and other sites to be valid relative to the current draft of HTML5 are important in order to keep perspective and to provide an example for others to learn from.“

“Finally, I will express a bit of disappointment at seeing the WordPress folks prematurely being labeled bozos, and am disappointed to see portions of this discussion framed in terms that border on the discussions of epic battles with Zeldman.”

Everyone who has well-formed content has drunk or was imbued with W3C Kool-Aid®. Even those that are not well-formed.

Sam Ruby has an afterpiece, The White Pebble [December 1, 2006]. And, written HtmlVsXhtml on the WHATWG Wiki.

Two aspects of the internet (and, consequently, Web Standards) make for interesting considerations and developments with advancements in technology and technological presentations:

  1. Its fluidity.
  2. Its archives.

Two simple but significant things which will never cease.

Sean Fraser posted this on December 3, 2006 01:03 PM.

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