There was a time, long, long ago, when writing a standard was a simpler, more angelic process than it is now. If you had a good idea, you could just write it up succinctly, send it to a mailing list, and if people liked it it would get added to a specification with a few tweaks — and then ship. In those days, large handwaving features roamed free across the Web’s tundra, grazing peaceably from host to host.
I for one recall fondly those sleepless nights of passion when as a fledgling Web developer I would tweak the innards of a page to make that table cell just the right shade of chartreuse green.
But that came at a cost. The time you spend tweaking a basic feature to make it work everywhere is time you can’t spend with friends and family, exploring the deeper meaning of life, finally writing that action movie adapted from Descartes’ “Meditationes de Prima Philosophia”, or, you know, hacking on yet something else.
Today, far more care goes into writing stricter specifications. But that alone is not enough: the way to properly ensure interoperability is to write test suites. Years ago, W3C had a QA Activity that produced a lot of excellent work that is still the foundation of much of what we do today. But in those times there was still too little interest in testing, and it eventually had to be shut down for lack of participation.
Thankfully, interest in testing has done nothing but grow in more recent times, and we can dedicate resources to testing again. One project that we in W3C are particularly fond of is Test The Web Forward. Part of the larger Move The Web Forward initiative — a grassroots movement true to Web form — it endeavours to get developers “more involved in contributing to the web platform [they] help define”.
More specifically, TestTWF is running events that are part-conference, part-hackathon, in which Web experts from Adobe, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and W3C are at your disposal to help you write tests for W3C specifications.
Why would you want to attend? First, you’ll learn a lot about Web technology, from some of the best experts that can be found. By expanding the number of tests and becoming a contributor, you’re making the Web a better place. That’s obviously good for karma, but it’s also great for yourself a few months down the line when you’ll be spared tearing your hair out thanks to a test you wrote. Overall, such improvements to the Open Web Platform are ripe with virtuous circles: by making the platform more interoperable you’re not just helping yourself down the line, but you’re also helping countless others, some of whom will use that saved time to craft awesome libraries you might use, write informative blog posts you might read, or simply contribute more tests themselves.
So Test The Web Forward is a great occasion to come be a hero and help save the Web from its own bugs!
That’s why W3C is proud to sponsor TestTWF, why we’ll attend and help, and why we encourage all developers who can to join! There’s a session in Beijing on Oct 20-21, and another in Paris on Oct 26-27. I’ll be at the latter myself — I look forward to hacking on some tests with you there!