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Re: "Pave The Cowpaths" Design Principle

From: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>
Date: Fri, 11 May 2007 16:58:33 -0700
Message-ID: <46450329.8020405@sicking.cc>
To: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
CC: 'Laura Carlson' <laura.lee.carlson@gmail.com>, www-html@w3.org, public-html@w3.org, 'Roger Johansson' <roger@456bereastreet.com>, lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au

I'd prefer if we talked about the design principles rather than who has 
expressed what opinion. Looking at the actual document[1] it neither 
demands that the cowpaths are used or says to not encourage semantics. I 
assume you don't consider <br/> as less semantic than <br>?

/ Jonas

[1]http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/ProposedDesignPrinciples

John Foliot wrote:
> 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 Saturday, 12 May 2007 00:01:40 UTC

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