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   IMO: Feelings about the W3C Standards
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Topic: IMO: Feelings about the W3C Standards       [Link=50]
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    IMO: Feelings about the W3C Standards   (Date posted: 09/18/03 at 14:06:26) Quote Modify Delete

Seen recently in the comments of a web based application...

Yeah, I'm using break tags. I don't care! A good standards panel aims to break as little existing code as possible. W3C is clearly aiming to break as MUCH existing code as possible. Is it any wonder their own companys' web designers ignore them?

There are at least two kinds of standards in the world:

. . . . . . .
Evolved Standards
These are standards that everybody just comes up with through the course of practicing their craft. One day, somebody decides: "hey, I've notice we're all doing it this way, let's codify it".

IMO These are the best standards. ANSI C is an example of such a standard; so is most of the D/ARPA (TCP/IP) work from the 1970's and 1980's.

. . . . . . .
Imposed Standards
These are standards that some group of people decided to produce before practitioners in the field reached any consensus. These are just as required and just as important as evolved standards but they tend to be imperfect even when developed by the most brilliant of committees. Most fail because they lack connection to the real world (e.g. ISO-OSI, though we did get an extremely useful reference model out of that).

If the standards committee members are truly excellent at their craft, some imposed standards, end up with more good than bad in them. This is where I'd put the W3C web design standards.

. . . . . . .
The problem with imposed standards is that, besides the usual opponents, they often produce two different types of proponents.

1. People who have practiced the craft in the absence of the standards, realize the standards are good on balance, and look diligently for time and opportunities to include them within their own work.

2. People who become zealots about the standards and spend much time insisting everybody (else) incorporate them right now . There seems to be a common, emerging set of characteristic among this second group within the world of W3C web page standards...

  • They often don't feel any need to practice the standards themselves.
  • They sometimes have very little grounding and background in real world web development to begin with, and
  • They often use the standard as a way to point out the shortcomings of their peers in an attempt to improve their own stature.

That last one is especially transparent and tedious if they are insisting others immediately follow W3C standards to the letter, while themselves publishing work on the web that does not.

. . . . . . .
But Wait
So am I saying that everybody who insists we all adopt the W3C standards is small and dumb? No, not at all.

Since it is an imposed standard, it is the W3C's job to proselytize and gently insist everybody get on board. It is also their job to be tolerant of current practices, the FLIC implores this of them, and in my opinion they live up to the responsibility quite admirably.

Then there are those few good and worthy zealots out there who not only proselytize for the cause, but also shoulder the responsibility and try to practice what they preach. Their sermons are often tempered by the real world difficulties they have had implementing a standard that did not evolve out of real world demands.

These people have done more to inspire me to spend lots of time trying to figure out ways to make the standards do what I want them to do with the aim of implementing them in the world. They are also the most likely to have real advice and help on doing just that. The committees who've taken on the Herculean task of defining the standards should study these groups closely.

This is just my opinion, but while the W3C is waiting for this mass to change its course, they should also try very hard to weed out the requirements in the standard that have no other reason to be in there than to be a rule that others must follow. That is, they should insist that every requirement within the standard be justified with real written reasons explaining why the standards will work better (now or in the future) if said requirement is included.

This is especially important when a requirement takes away commonly practiced constructs from the craft. (e.g. "it is common practice and does no harm to the strategy of the standard now or in the future" might be a good justification for inclusion).

. . . . . . .
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Last modification: JRepici - 09/18/03 at 14:06:26

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