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February 12, 2004

People Considered Harmful

Posted by Mike on February 12, 2004 5:07 PM

Ed's over on his blog coping with a reaction to escaped markup in XML documents which is, evidently, bad.

That, in turn, puts me in mind of a similar plaint from Sam, and the recent subject of a blogmark, wherein an author, inspired by the recent arrival of Atom still wet and dripping from the womb, says "this is our one chance as a community to get the format right from the beginning, and not force readers to have to work around bad feeds."

Right. Quick aside: You're wondering how you, as a reader, have ever had to work around a bad feed and if it was wrong or bad of you to do so. The writer's referring to software, so breathe easy. If you have the nagging need to blame somebody for some wrongdoing anyhow, blame me for making you read this poorly formed page.

Then there's the next paragraph:

"Just as an aside, here's my Atom feed. It's the default MovableType Atom feed (I think), so it may not be valid, but the folks at SixApart are usually pretty good about keeping their stuff valid."

So, even someone who realizes that the web is a trash-strewn wasteland of junk code written sloppily and forgiven too readily by friendly parsers turns around and says "Here's something I found laying around and put up on the web. I don't know if it's valid, or if it will work, or even if it really came from a trusted authority. I'm taking the issue on faith. I can assume no responsibility if you turn a pesky validator loose on it and it comes up wrong. But 'Yay, standards! Standards good!' I think I ate my paste."

It seems clear to me that the energies of assorted standards advocates would be better directed if they simply set out to ensure that no one is ever, ever lazy, stupid, confused, short-sighted, trusting, or ignorant ever again. What a well-formed world that will be!

Meanwhile, while the monks debate how many web developers it takes to suck all the air out of a room, the issue of standards compliance becomes a sick joke among "normal people," who know that anything they do will be met with outright hostility by the standards scolds and so stop bothering to do anything at all to keep up.

Why should they bother?

They've passed through a vale of withering scorn by daring to commit something to a page. If they make a half-hearted attempt to make sure it satisfies the specifications, dutifully checking things out with a validator, they'll get to avoid the hostility and skip straight to the mechanical equivalent of a mirthless, condescending smile. But they aren't going away, they're not going to quit putting up web pages, and they're just getting more and more sullen and disdainful of the entire process, which leads them to do much worse than making the authors of XML parsers work harder: They're ignoring basic issues (with apologies to Sam) of usability and accessibility because the whole thing's a word salad falling out of the mouths of people with preposterous emotional modulation issues.

P.S. Is it just me, or does the "Atom Enabled" logo look for all the world like it belongs on a team jersey in Rollerball?


Well, quoting Nick Bradbury with approval and then in the next paragraph saying "here's some soup, I'm not sure what's in it" isn't quite as bad as saying both parts yourself. But for the full fun effect, you need to throw in Nick's post from a week or two later, when he backed down and decided to just validate-on-subscription, with the option of not even complaining about invalid and not-well-formed feeds then.

Viva la crap!

Posted by: Phil Ringnalda at February 12, 2004 9:02 PM