I would RTFM if there was an FM to FR Apr 30th, 2004
This is going to be a massive rant. I kid you not. There will be much swearing in this article. Much swearing. There will be vitriol. There will be abusive language. This is going to be R-rated stuff.
I’m about to let loose, so if you read this article, you have been duly warned. Do not read further unless you can handle it. Or if you can excuse my language.
[Expletive] the OpenSource movement
There are three reasons why the OpenSource movement has not taken over the world.
The installation procedures for OpenSource programs suck worse than their obtuse user interfaces. I’m still shocked I was able to install MySQL, MoveableType, PHP and Perl on my Mac OS X system. I installed all of it nearly blind, it took three days, and if I had to do it again, I think I would probably shoot myself instead of going through that torture test one more time.
The documentation for OpenSource technology is truly horrendous. This is also a problem with the W3C specs, so I’ll address this issue below.
Until these issues are adequately addressed, the OpenSource movement will be nothing more than an underground clique for those who have nothing better to do with their lives than memorize massive amounts of obscure command line syntax and drink lots of Red Bull.
And no, Apple is not scoring points with me lately when it comes to working with OpenSource technologies. Mac OS X has become a maze of extraordinarily arcane UNIX procedures to fix low level system problems. So sure, I may be able to turn Apache on with a checkbox in the Sharing System Preferences panel on my G4 Powerbook, but how do I configure Apache? Oh yeah… That’s right. With a file hidden entirely from my view in the Finder unless I use the Terminal or BBEdit to access it, and then I have to parse the all the obscure textual information in that config file.
[Expletive] XHTML 1.0 Strict
So, I was chided by a blogger for the fact my web site used awkward markup and non-validating XHTML 1.0.
It was a valid point. So I fixed the awkward markup. Easy enough as it was just laziness on my part. But then I decided to try and fix the validation issues with my templates and XHTML 1.0. That was like pulling the infamous string of the infamous sweater.
What did I discover? Here’s the short list:
Imagemaps don’t validate. Yes, I followed the only spec I could find, the W3C HTML 4.0.1 spec for imagemaps. I used the example format for client-side imagemaps, using name instead of id. Why? Because using id seems to break imagemaps. But in switching back, now my site refuses to validate for the Gurus v. Bloggers article even though I followed the example. What is causing this? The name attribute is supposedly not a valid XHTML attribute. [Expletive] brilliant.
Blockquote requires a P tag to wrap the quoted text inside the blockquote element. This was news to me. Was it mentioned specifically in the W3C HTML 4.0.1 spec for the blockquote element. Nope. Oh wait… There is an example and it uses the P tag, but there is nary a mention in the definition of the element that this is now the case. Sure, maybe I missed this documented elsewhere, but it was a surprise to me. I discovered the rule from a web site other than the W3C’s. I should also note that I see a lot of other blogs out there that also do not do seem to do it correctly all of the time. Even Dan Cederholm’s and Keith Robinsons’ blogs seem to miss this markup gotcha, so I don’t think I’m the only one who missed this little change.
The whole encoded ampersands for URLs issue just sucks. I don’t care what the reason is, but the whole encoded characters for URLs and URIs is [expletive] lame. It’s not my fault other people have URLs and URIs that use all sorts of ampersands or God knows what special characters throughout. Why can’t the validator ignore everything inside the href attribute?
The MovableType header bug. I’ve come to the conclusion MovableType’s knack for adding P tags around header tags when you have Convert Line Breaks enabled is nothing more than a bug. Why? Because MovableType doesn’t seem to add those P tags when a line in the Entry or Comment field starts with a UL or blockquote tag. That tells me that MovableType seems to be scanning for unique tags, so why not add all the H# tags? As such, I had to hack a close paragraph and open paragraph around my header tags to fix this problem, and it sucks.
There was much more than this. However, I spent a good six hours with these four very simple issues. Why? Because the [expletive] spec and documentation for all this stuff is [expletive] lame, and doesn’t tell me what I need to know in simple, clear and concise language.
[Expletive] the W3C
If anyone wants to know why the W3C sucks, I give you these two simple reasons:
Their web site sucks beyond belief. Trying to find specific answers to specific questions about web standards in that heap of a web site is nearly a huge waste of time.
The documentation for HTML, XHTML and CSS is wildly out of control. I fear looking at anything past the main specs I need — I might just lose all hope in the entire technology thing.
Reading the specs on the W3C is mind boggling, akin to how bad it was trying to read old volumes of Inside Macintosh where you had to have prior knowledge of at least ten iterations of the changes to the core APIs in order to figure what the [expletive] went wrong with a simple line of code. Further, the language and examples in the specs are horrendously formatted. The key examples to understand how various elements work are either lacking in relevant detail, or leave out key information. How many times must the box model be described in blogs across the world in order for people to get how to make XHTML and CSS work together?
The documentation and spec for the W3C should be flattened. Everything I need to know about XHTML should be in one updated spec. I shouldn’t have to backtrack through all sorts of web sites and other W3C specs to figure out how the [expletive] to code something as simple as HTML. Same goes for the CSS spec.
Look, HTML code is easy. It’s not hard. CSS is fairly trivial compared to learning the ropes of desktop publishing or Actionscript. It really is. The only reason any of this is hard is because the specs and documentation are a [expletive] joke.
So the W3C is an organization that is run by volunteers. I realize this, and I don’t care. If people are going to spend large amounts of time creating standards, and then have the nerve to get the rest of us to attempt to develop to those standards, they better find a way to fix the specs. And soon.
One idea to fix all this crappy documentation
So, even though I’m ranting, I do have a suggestion to offer. I know the W3C is made up largely of volunteers, and they seem to have little time to write good documentation. Well, let’s find someone who does have the time and can write good specs. Maybe someone like Eric Meyer or Dan Cederholm.
If every blogger out there were willing to pay $20 for good specs, it would only take ten thousand (10,000) bloggers to create a nice $200,000 paycheck for someone like a Meyer or Cedarholm to spend their time fixing this crappy specification problem. (And I’m only referring to the XHTML and CSS specs right now.) Ten thousand bloggers sounds like a lot, but there’s ten of millions blogger out there now. I’m sure the blogsphere could get 1% of them to pony up such a small amount if people passed the word along.
I’m not asking that either of these guys do all this work then put a PayPal donation button up hoping people pay them for their hard work. I say we get a trusted third party to hold the donations in escrow, create an account for donations and blitz the blogging world asking for money. It would be like NPR donation campaigns or the Jerry Lewis Telethon or the recent success of the Howard Dean campaign. Once the blogsphere hits a specific amount, I’m sure we could get someone who is trusted by the web community to tackle the job.
Just fix the damn W3C specs.
A grass roots movement. If the W3C had knock down, bang up specs with clear, concise examples, the web development world would be a seriously better place.
I feel better now
So much better. I really won’t do that again. I promise. But I had to vent.