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Microsoft Staff Web Logs fail Validation

Or, So What!

Web standards are important. Validation is a single facet of web standards. W3C Recommendations are facets. Accessibility, Usability, Document Type Definitions are facets of web standards. Education, educators and Standardistas are. Selfrighteous twits, too.

Web standards should transcend operating systems, platforms and user agents. The difficulties and deficiencies of each are well-known. Well-documented. And, very well belaboured. Beginning, novice and intermediate web developers experiencing failures with standards are pilloried; large companies that have not publicly embraced standards are ridiculed. “Hypertext” was coined in 1965. Tim Berners-Lee’s invention appeared in late 1990. W3C has been lurking about since 1994. The nascent Web Standards Movement since 2003 [Note: That would be Jeffery Zeldman’s “ Designing with Web Standards” original copyright date.] It is nascent; The Web Standards Project verifies it,

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

Microsoft staff web logs fail validation. So what! nearly Every one else’s does, too! No, Web standards hasn’t failed but dialogue seems so.

The original vitriolic commentary was regarding TechNet Events Bloggers - Microsoft/Staff sites which failed HTML validation. However, that could have been extended. MSDN New Zealand: Meet the Microsoft Team sites all failed. Very simple research would have shown that these sites were—Mostly—template-based and utilized a Content Management System (CMS). Those site owners who took these cellophane-wrapped HTML templates with accompanying style sheets did not tweak anything in the markup language or CSS. Nothing.

Further, after sampling, MIT Community Servers sites all failed.

It’s doubtful Microsoft Staff or MIT bloggers know about web standards. Why should they? What possible benefit would occur if one were to write them that their sites were W3C validation noncompliant. The onus for web standards compliance does not fall on users of a particular CMS service. It falls on the service it’s self. It is Community Servers responsibility for offering valid HTML templates to its users.

How do we know this?


[Note: The following address—Solely—those sites of the Microsoft Staff since commentary was directed towards them.]

Elementary Step No. 1: Collect data.

MSDN New Zealand: Meet the Microsoft Team had 6 sites.

TechNet Events Bloggers - Microsoft/Staff had 27 sites.

Errors found.
All HTML failed. Mostly common HTML errors including XHTML self-closed <head> elements, "O:P" undefined and errant “&”s in URIs. The error range was 1,272 greatest and 11 lowest.
Unmonkeyed CSS templates were valid (excepting -moz extensions and inline-tables.)
All monkeyed CSS failed for common errors.

HTML had,

<meta name="GENERATOR" content="CommunityServer 2.0 (Build: 60209.2598)" />

Style Sheets had,

Author: Jaxon Rice (gosatango)
Updates: http://cs.soup.co.za/blogs/cs_skins/articles/3.aspx
Email bugs and suggestions to: [email protected]
Community Server: http://www.communityserver.org

Elementary Step No. 2: Ascertain probable author(s).

After site review, it was apparent that none of the authors excepting three had modified templates HTML or CSS. Therefore,

  • CommunityServer 2.0 = Community Server: http://www.communityserver.org
  • Jaxon Rice
  • http://cs.soup.co.za

Elementary Step No. 3: Research responsible author(s).

Community Server
Community Server was found because I already had it’s URL above, i.e., http://www.communityserver.org. “Community Server is the powerful platform that lets you share, discuss, rate, collaborate, show, interact and build a vibrant online community in minutes.” ~From their site.
Jaxon Rice
Mr. Rice was found through Google. “Souplog is the personal weblog of Soup owner Jaxon Rice, and focuses on CSS, and modifying and skinning Community Server, a CMS published by Telligent Systems” ~From his site.
That would be Mr. Rice.

Elementary Step No. 4: Contact responsible author(s).

Jaxon Rice was the author of record for the style sheets and, therefore, the probable author of the HTML templates. And, what do you know. He was.

Of my first introductory message, Jaxon Rice Soup Consulting wrote,

“The skins that you are contacting me about are one of my bugbears. They were done in a hurry about two and a half years ago for Community Server (http://communityserver.org) the platform upon which MSDN blogs runs, and were basically a direct port from some .Text skins that I did in 2002. I was well aware at the time that they were not W3C compliant, mostly due to factors beyond my control, but also because I was still learning about web standards. The main factor that prevented standards compliance was that I was creating these skins for a very rigid ASP.NET 1.1 based platform with hard coded styles and controls - possibly the most standards unfriendly environment to code in. The only good thing that I can say about those skins is that at least they got rid of the old table based layouts that the earlier skins had and introduced div based layouts to MS bloggers.”

“Over the years I have become a huge advocate of web standards and have stuck with the Community Server platform in the hopes of changing things from the inside :). I am pleased to say that I have managed to make a lot of progress. One of the reasons that I was interested in your Reboot articles is that I submitted an entry to the Reboot myself - my own personal blog, in the hopes of persuading the Community Server Development team that a web standards friendly version of CS was possible.”


“I have also made a web standards friendly "developer skin" for CS dev’s to use as a starting point for their own skins, as well as contributed a number of new skins to the default installation of CS that follow best practices when it comes to web standards:”


“Unfortunately these skins do not validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional compliant due to one or two of the hard coded code issues that I mentioned above, but they are leap years ahead of the ones that you have seen on MSDN blogs. Last week I wrote an impassioned plea to Telligent (the company behind Community Server) to fully embrace web standards in their next version of CS and I am really happy to say that they have made a commitment to do this, which means that MSDN blogs and a couple of other huge blog sites will finally have skins that are totally compliant.” [Elementary emphasis.]

“I urge you to read the blog post in the link below - it is probably pretty close to the kind of advocacy you are talking about.”


And, from my second message with specific queries, he replied,

“Answers to your questions. All of these are relevant to Community Server, the product that I contribute to. I am not an employee of Telligent (http://telligent.com), but I do contribute to the community and have inside access to their dev team and latest products. CS is a blog/gallery/forum solution, but I will be concentrating on blog skins in my answers.”

1. How many HTML templates are there?

“There are about 12 blog skins that ship with CS, some of them with up to 8 variations that are controlled via secondary CSS stylesheets.”

2. How many Style Sheets?

“Each skin has a primary stylesheet, and optionally a secondary stylesheet that alters certain aspects of the primary stylesheet (layout, link colors, background graphics etc). End Users can also input code in the control panel that serves as a third stylesheet that overrides the primary and secondary styles.”

3. How many HTML template authors are there?

“There are a growing number of blog skin authors (similar to the early days of Wordpress), but the default skins that ship with CS were designed by two or three of us. Some of the default skins are pretty old.”

“The new skins that ship by default have two purposes - they try to demonstrate different skin and layout techniques so that end users can customize these for their own skins, and they try to follow good web standards practices. As I mentioned, few of these stay valid for any amount of time because the text editor that they currently use does not output valid XHTML. This will hopefully change in the next version.” [Elementary emphasis.]

4. How many CSS template authors are there?

“See the above answer.”

5. Are there any guidelines for those bloggers? Meaning, Robert Scoble is on WordPress, http://thespoke.net/blogs/lohao/default.aspx is tables-based, and http://erickwa.spaces.live.com/ is Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 7.1.

“I do not work for Microsoft, so I cannot really answer this question. As far as I know, MS bloggers can blog on whatever platform they wish, and most do. Community Server is the platform that runs blogs.msdn.com which is why so many MS employees and developers are on it.”

“It has taken three years, but Telligent finally seem to be getting web standards and are taking steps to make the next major version of CS web standards compliant. [Elementary emphasis.] They are totally rewriting the skinning system so that end users can easily make their own sites standards friendly, which is something I have been advocating for years.”

“My impression is that even developers who traditionally did not get web standards (.Net developers, for instance) are now starting to get it.” [Elementary emphasis.]

“On another note, designing for templates has its own set of challenges, not least being that the end user can often surprise you with what they end up doing. It is far, far easier to design a blog skin that you are going to end up controlling than a blog skin for 1,000 housewives to use.”

“What I have been trying to do recently is create skins that use very similar XHTML markup so that I can use the same classes across all of my skins - this makes it a lot easier for end users to work out what is going on, and hopefully introduce them to better CSS practice and web standards. For example, here is the stylesheet for my developer skin, heavily commented with references to articles about the techniques that I used in the skin.”


“And here are a few of the new blog skins that ship with CS 2.1 using similar markup.”

http://cs.soup.co.za/blogs/beta/default.aspx - Riviera skin, Javascript borders and shadows

http://cs.soup.co.za/blogs/epsilon/default.aspx - Gold Coast, Elastic Layout that expands to a max width of 950px

That’s what the responsible author wrote after my contacting him. It’s dialogue.

Community Server has difficulties with web standards. That has not been denied. However, efforts are being made towards standards compliance. That’s but one very major company. What about others?

Perhaps, someone will perform investigation of WordPress Themes templates and, isolating validation failed templates, contact the author(s) responsible and enter dialogues. Or, for those adventurous, Google returns about 2,620,000 sites for “html templates”. The first site — HTML Templates, HTML Web Templates - Template Monster — has 163 W3C Markup Validator errors on its index page; they may benefit from Web Standards dialogues. And, even if code authors are defensive and rude, you will have tried.

Or—Maybe—more web standards advocates like Mr. Rice will be there.

One never knows.

Sean Fraser posted this on September 28, 2006 04:32 PM.

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