Weblogs: Web Standards

@Media 2006: Day 1

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Eric Meyer's CSS Flashback

Eric's keynote took us through the history of CSS, from its very beginnings with Chris Lilley, Chris Wilson, Hakon Wium Lee, Bert Bos, and Dave Raggett chairing the first Stylesheets panel. Eric shows us some handwritten notes he made at that session, including uppercase HTML and invalid CSS properties. Through the deliveries of browsers we see a steady rate of improvement until the starburst that is the Macintosh version of Internet Explorer 5.

Eric talks about the CSS test pages he initially created to test browser compliance. This little project ended up as the first W3C Test Suite. As well as being in the right place at the right time with the right people, he was part of the Web Standards Project's CSS Samurai, publishing top ten lists of CSS bugs that needed to be fixed.

Joe Clark recently played homage to the CSS Samurai by starting a WCAG Samurai focusing on web accessibility. Eric produces the inspiring thought:

Never underestimate the effect of a small, select group of passionate experts.

At the end of his keynote Eric listed a number of people he'd worked with over the years, one name in particular caught my attention, that of Alan Flavell. He is one of the unsung experts of web standards, I've been very fortunate to have learned a great deal about web standards from Alan through my Usenet days, and its great to see his efforts acknowledged in this way.

Jeremy Keith fixes CSS with Dom Scripting

Jeremy Keith, from clear-left, as well as the co-lead of the DOM Scripting Task Force, took us on a tour of Dom Scripting. CSS has a number of missing features, even some of the CSS 3 features will take years before they are commonly available to web designers.

Jeremy covers using JavaScript to enhance web pages with the following stylistic features:

Jeremy make the point that these scripts are temporary, at least until CSS and browser implementations support these features. Particularly, the emphasis on unobtrustive scripting means that any effect can be switched off just by changing one JavaScript file. No editing of each individual page is needed.

Chris Wilson and IE7

I was a bit disappointed with Chris' presentation. The first part felt like a sales pitch. I really wanted to understand how and why Internet Explorer 7 came about. How much of it was about peer-pressure, how much was it about as a counter-reaction to FireFox's growth. How much of it was a grokking of what web standards can offer?

There was a notable aspect of the talk, Chris briefly talked about Open Search and how a webpage can allow a user to add a new search engine to the browser's search engine list. Its been done in a number of browsers, but Chris' explanation made the difference for me being slightly curious through to very interested in the feature.

WCAG 2.0 panel discussion

The WaSP Accessibility Task Force took to the stage with a frank talk about the current draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Patrick Lauke's critique was a bit of an eye-opener (horizontal and vertical scoping - what weird concepts). Gez Lemon handled the topic of baselines excellently. Andy Clarke's passion for accessibility came to the fore with his stance that guidelines aren't the sliced bread of accessibility, its really about thinking about people. Ian, I thought, was on the fence - I was kind of expecting him to launch into a rant at some stages, but he moderated a calm and collected discussion.

Gez and I had a chat the previous evening about baselines, and what's important to remember is that a baseline is about the technology being used, pages using that technology still have to be accessible. Baselines are not a loophole for defending inaccessible content.

Jeffrey Veen on Web 2.0

Veen was awesome. He has a natural manner of presenting which is engaging and captivating. His little touches of humour brought a lot of life to what could have been a very dry and uninspiring topic. His talk of what constitutes trust in a website was surprising, people make their minds up about the trustworthiness of a site in well under a second.

The question and answer session was ruined by the first question - when does the football start. That was indeed the last question of the Q&A.

Winding down at the sugar reef

I swapped three beer coloured drops for a champagne drop earlier in the morning with dotjay. So I was well armed. The walk to Picadilly circus was a refreshing break, I got to meet Henny Swan from the RNIB (she of Huskie dog sledding through the Arctic circle), talked about how badly legal people understand web accessibility, and how that constricts what positive media and public relations we can do as a result of that lack of knowledge.

The Sugar Reef was a weird place. Stylistic to the point of being uncomfortable. I couldn't decide whether I was sitting on a couch or a dentists chair or a slab of rock. It took a good while for me to gel with the atomosphere, but once the chaos settled down I had an interesting chat with Jack Pickard and Jon Gibbins about accessibility, universality and the confusion between the two. It didn't get to handbags this time, and although I don't think I entirely understand Jack's position yet, I think he understood where I was coming from. Safe to say, Jack is passionate about accessibility as well as universality - he's achieving both goals. And they are worthwhile goals.


I left at about half seven. I was doggedly tired because of the previous night's activities. So an hour later I got home, to find a very worrying post from Molly on my aggregator. The first paragraph had me a little concerned. The second had my heart racing away into something resembling fear.

So, half groggy, half panicy I had a bit of a struggle to get someone into contact with Molly. My aim was simple - make sure there was someone there talking to her. Her blog post was just a little over two hours old by the time I read it, so time wasn't the best of friends.

Over the course of the next hour, I tried every avenue I could to somehow get into contact with Molly. Its at times like these I realise how lonely the World Wide Web could be. No idea where she was staying - except for "in a hotel in London". At one stage I was helpless - there's me with all that knowledge at my fingers, incapable and utterly useless in getting in touch with someone I care about.

I couldn't get hold of anyone else I knew who Molly knew, so the degrees of separation widened until I stumbled on a route that could work. My best friend Paula, still winding down in London. I told her my fears and my concerns, and hoping I was completely wrong about them. She found one of my single degrees of separation with Molly, and with that the great news - she wasn't alone tonight. There were friends there. As the fear ebbed, the tears took over.

Other commentary

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