Authoring HTML 5 - A Call to Web Professionals

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Robert recently published his thoughts on HTML 5. In his post, he gives a reference to a post by Roger giving another look at HTML 5. They are both addressing two issues of the work done on HTML:

  • Attitude
  • HTML 5 and Authoring


I'm the current staff contact for the HTML WG as defined by the charter and when something is wrong in the way the Working Group operates, I feel personally concerned. On this matter, arrogance and disdain are no way to work. Developing agreement around a technology is first a social process and it is why it takes so much time. Online communications make it sometimes difficult to have a sensible behavior. Each time I feel someone overstepped, I invite this person to speak with more considerations. Humor, Jokes, Blunt statements are very difficult in an online cross-cultural context. So to everyone in the community, I apologize if it happens sometimes, but I encourage you to continue to work with the Working Group.

Robert and Roger have something in common, they are Web professionals. It means people who are at the end of the business food chain. Those who are making a living of creating Web sites, of maintaining code, of dealing with broken CMS or browsers. When someone blew it up higher in the food chain, they have to handle it, because they have a customer who pays them money. We need you.

HTML 5 and Authoring

There is a real need for Web Designers and Web Developers working in Web agencies, making an actual business of the Web to participate to the work of HTML 5. You need to speak up. There are more effective ways of speaking up with this very open group, diverse in terms of competences and focus. I will come back to it later.

HTML 4 was really oriented toward the authors and was at this time almost the only document of reference for authoring HTML. Books had been written, but when you wanted the final answer on a question. You had two choices: validator and the HTML 4.01 specification. Time have changed. Around 95% of the Web is invalid, but it is not broken. We still have to read it, we still can read it, most of the time.

Oh yes… it is far to be perfect, but everywhere I look around me, I don't see perfection, I see things working with more or less flexibility. Sometimes your subway ticket will fail, but most of the time it works. Why? Because in our daily life, there are ways to deal with broken behaviors, broken materials, broken processes. It's a feature.

The HTML 5 specification, still in development, contains a broader audience than HTML 4 one, or more exactly, many audiences. It makes the document difficult to read for some people. We like light bulb jokes. A light bulb can be seen as a way to give you light, as a piece of physics, as a way to make money, as an object of design. HTML 5 tries to answer many issues at once.

  • Parsing the Web
  • Defining the semantics of HTML
  • Handling the user interaction
  • Making Web applications possible

Yes. It is strange to see a font element in the document, but still there are millions of documents out there using it. You still have to know how to handle it when you are a browser developer. This doesn't match the author perspective, specifically those like Roger and Robert whom business is based more on producing (authoring) HTML more than consuming HTML (reading/browsers).

In their business, the code has to be simple, clean, not having too many ways of writing the same thing. They want to be able to share documents without to be like a browser, handling many different cases. Humans are good at understanding errors but they not very effective at making repetitive stuff all the time like browsers. It is time consuming to have many ways to writing things (with or without quotes, end tags or not). Only one way of writing is beneficial for the authors in a business context.

An indecent proposal

What I would like from Roger, Robert and others, maybe in a small group gathering the Web professionals.

  • Review the HTML 5 Specification, editors draft, specifically the part 3. Semantics and structure of HTML elements and the part 8.1. Writing HTML documents.
  • Clearly define what is missing part by part
  • Suggest what is missing for understanding
  • Suggest authoring best practices on
  • Define a correct way of writing html selecting correct elements, attributes and syntax rules

It would be a positive step in defining how we should author our pages. At the same time, we are currently defining how we should read old pages.

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