W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-evangelist@w3.org > December 2004

Intuitiveness and documentation of XHTML

From: John McLaren <fieldlab@yahoo.com>
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 2004 16:43:57 +0000
Message-ID: <004101c4e38e$6cfb3480$0bcfadd8@healthetech.com>
To: <public-evangelist@w3.org>
This is a general comment. Not sure if this is the best list for posting this, but if you know a better one, please cross post for me.

First of course, I'd like to commend everyone in the W3C for their hard work, against all corporate odds, over the years. Here is my take on the present state of HTML.

A big problem with the W3C documentation is serious lack of practical examples. This has lead to all sorts of other sites trying to duplicate the W3C's work just to add real world examples and make it read less like a legal document. The W3C seems to want to avoid examples directly in their documentation, maybe because it's not abstract or academic enough, but that seems like an arbitrary decision. Examples make the documentation more complex, but maybe they could be maintained Wiki-style. Computers exist to DO more and more work for the user, not MAKE more and more work. Computers should be applied to the most complex and demanding, and even annoying, aspects of making life easier for humans.

In contrast, there is an almost moralistic tone to much of what the W3C does. Besides the good things, though they are so slow to develop, in the background there is a virtual crusade to make everything in the languages more abstract without ever showing the advantage of the abstraction. It is often just abstraction for the sake of abstraction. There seems to be a crusade to add abstraction, complexity, and arbitrary rules to every aspect of the language, and always to subordinate the HTML coding experience of average users to the coding CONVENIENCE of whoever implements mundane XHTML parsers. Look at all the differences in the syntax requirements of XHTML. They have added all sorts of arbitrary closing keystrokes and required characters here and there, and ridiculous "/" requirements that any intelligent parser could automatically recognize or at least recognize MULTIPLE REPLACEMENTS for. But they have chosen a completely rigid, inflexible framework. HTML just gets less intuitive and less "human" all the time. Basically, for humans, XHTML's USER INTERFACE SUCKS! What happened to the concept of natural language programming? (not necessarily in English) And design flexibility? Isn't HTML a textbook candidate for built-in, W3C specified FLEXIBILITY? I mean we are not talking about GUIDANCE SYSTEMS here- for that, you use certified, 100% rigid ADA code. HTML and XHTML is 99% going to be for plain webpages by regular users and should be designed for THAT use, NOT satellites, and not as an object lesson in computer language theory for non-programmers who should never have to do complex coding. Now, due to the failures of W3C, those users have to buy FrontPage to even make a _webpage for their dog_ that will not get dissed by HTML snobs and possibly search engines too. It's like a circular, self-justifying form of tech-elitism.

I strongly suggest that the W3C acknowledge that by making a simple, standards compliant webpage more complex to create for novice users using a plain text editor, they have FAILED part of their responsibility, and a major effort needs to be made to maintain support for older simpler HTML standards while actually CONTINUING a development branch to maintain a DTD for a simple, highly intuitive type of HTML document intended for 99% of the people outside the W3C.

Thanks again for hearing this out-
John McLaren
Received on Thursday, 16 December 2004 16:49:49 UTC

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