W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > May 2007

RE: "Pave The Cowpaths" Design Principle

From: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 16:34:44 -0700
To: "'Laura Carlson'" <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>, <www-html@w3.org>, <public-html@w3.org>
Cc: "'Roger Johansson'" <roger@456bereastreet.com>, <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Message-ID: <001f01c79424$f8dc7740$4b8240ab@Piglet>

John Foliot stands, bows to Laura and applauds loudly!!!  Bravo Laura!

It's sad that there seems to be this intense polarization, but clearly the
accessibility advocates are being ignored and dismissed, at times rudely.
Semantics are critical to web accessibility, and promoting a vision that
advocates, "We are against semantics for the sake of semantics." [Lachlan
Hunt: http://tinyurl.com/ys7lbo] clearly illustrates how deep this divide
is.  

I wonder aloud, what does TBL think of this move to ignore semantics in the
new spec? 
[http://www.w3.org/DesignIssues/Semantic.html]
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web]

JF

**********************

Laura Carlson wrote:
> In "Help keep accessibility and semantics in HTML" [1], Roger
> Johansson comments that: 
> 
>> The politically correct opinion seems to be that anything that is
>> widely used should be adopted ('pave the cowpaths'). And that leaves
>> little or no room for semantics and accessibility. [2]
> 
>> On 7 maj 2007, at 17.09, Philip & Le Khanh wrote: [3]
>> 
>>> Just because a practice is prevalent in the real
>>> world doesn't mean we should necessarily sanction or
>>> ratify it, IMHO.
>> 
>> On 7 may 2007 Roger Johansson wrote:
>> 
>> Thanks for saying that out loud. Pave the cowpaths is,
>> in my opinion, a really bad design principle.
> 
> The proposed HTML 5 design principle "Pave The Cowpaths" [4] does
> indeed seem to condone many practices that past specs  may have
> frowned upon. "Pave the Cowpaths" is an underlying principle being
> debated in many* of the recent semantics and accessibility threads on
> public-html@w3.org.    
> 
> Thus I don't think it's appropriate to include this in the official
> design principles. 
> 
> "The Calf Path" [5] by Sam Walter Foss (1895) was a "popular humorous
> poem during the early days  of the good roads movement. In the poem,
> Foss describes how a crooked path originally carved by a calf walking
> home developed into a major road traveled by hundreds of thousands of
> people." [6]  Foss talks of of blindly following a crooked cow path
> course.     
> 
>> They followed still his crooked way,
>> And lost one hundred years a day;
>> 
>> For thus such reverence is lent,
>> To well established precedent.
>> 
>> A moral lesson this might teach,
>> Were I ordained and called to preach;
>> 
>> For men are prone to go it blind,
>> Along the calf-paths of the mind;
>> 
>> And work away from sun to sun,
>> To do what other men have done.
>> 
>> They follow in the beaten track,
>> And out and in, and forth and back,
>> 
>> And still their devious course pursue,
>> To keep the path that others do.
> 
> More recently, in 'Don't Pave the Cowpaths' [7], Mike Arace discusses
> why codifying bad practices may not be a good idea. 
> 
>> I was attending a business analysis training session the other day,
>> learning to flowchart my way to self-actualization and inner peace,
>> when the trainer brought up that little gem. I am not usually one to
>> fall prey to generic business analogies, but this one jumped out at
>> me. He explained it like this:
>> 
>>> When flying into Dallas-Fort Worth, the cities seem to
>>> shoot up out of nowhere from a giant prairie. Looking closely at the
>>> ground you will see many of the roads leading into the cities curve
>>> and bend, following no discernable logic at all. Why are they like
>>> this? Because back when Dallas was primarily a ranching
>>> town those were the paths the cattle would follow
>>> as they were driven into town. They would walk the
>>> long way around hills, cross rivers only at the low
>>> points, and follow a path of least resistance the
>>> whole way there. Over time people started following
>>> the same paths, and eventually they paved them and
>>> made them permanent. So now the town has a bunch
>>> of inefficient roads just because that was the way
>>> they had always been.
>> 
>> When applied to the world of information technology, this analogy can
>> be taken to mean that you shouldn't write new applications that
>> codify bad practices already in place in a business or organization.
>> New programs are a chance to get things right and should be used as
>> an opportunity to ask the challenging questions about why things are
>> the way they are and what can be done better.
> 
> Laura
> 
> [1] http://tinyurl.com/2h6k96
> [2] http://tinyurl.com/yrhkgb
> [3] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007May/0822.html
> [4] http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/ProposedDesignPrinciples
> [5] http://www.mitcharf.com/mitcharf/art/poems/calfpath.html
> [6] http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/summer96/p96su20.htm
> [7] http://mikeomatic.net/?page_id=31
> 
> *Threads include:
>    The Semantic Debate
>    Cleaning House
>    Rethinking HTML 5
>    Support Existing Content
>    Predefined Class Names Solution
Received on Friday, 11 May 2007 23:36:14 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Wednesday, 9 May 2012 00:15:58 GMT