W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > January 2012

Re: Fast-track new people to areas www-style need the most help with

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2012 02:43:47 +0100
To: Matthew Wilcox <elvendil@gmail.com>
Cc: "www-style@w3.org Style" <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <g1geh7dk1lgrqt2eolmnfhs2sbhnorga17@hive.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>
* Matthew Wilcox wrote:
>I do find the flippancy of this a little off-putting. To be very clear:
>CSS's shoddy layout systems have been complained about, loudly, for many
>years.

I don't see anything about layout systems on <http://webstandards.org/>,
see http://web.archive.org/web/20011127065441/http://webstandards.org/
for comparison, "WaSP to W3C: Remember your Charter and Mission". The
first W3C meeting I attended was on 5 October 2001, and if you look at
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-patentpolicy-comment/2001Oct/
you can probably tell what was being discussed even though it wasn't on
any program (background for both: W3C was considering to adopt a patent
policy that some people and organizations campaigned against, thousands
of complaints came in towards the deadline). That's fairly loud.

>Agreed - they should be! They're not though. They're obvious to you because
>you are familiar with all of those topics. Please, try and clear your mind
>of what you already know, and approach the list from the perspective of an
>enthusiastic newcomer. How do you find out that stuff? And I am being
>absolutely serious. You find your way to the www-list archive. How do you
>discover what the www-style archive page is and what www-style does? How do
>you find out how to join? Once you do join, how do you find out
>the etiquette of the list? How do you find out that you're supposed to
>quote full threads in all replies? That you're supposed to structure the
>subject line in some way? How do I find out how to set up my mail client?
>What special headers are sent with mail that I might find useful? How do I
>get my client to expose them? How do I find out who is editing what specs?
>How do I discover how the W3c functions and the specific part the list has
>to play? How do I discover how specs are edited? How do I discover the
>process in the lifespan of a request? That it goes "bring up a point in the
>list > resolve the point > ... what now ..."?

I grew up, among other places, on Usenet, german Usenet in particular,
and sooner or later people there would become aware that there is a
group de.newusers.infos which features articles meant to help new users 
to become familiar with the medium, it features a Netiquette, articles
on why one should follow certain rules. It features most of what you
cite above, how to make good subject lines, quoting styles and so on.

http://web.archive.org/web/20090305081801/http://www.w3.org/ The W3C
used to have a usable web site where finding information wasn't hard, in
your case if you are interested in CSS you could click on "CSS" there
http://web.archive.org/web/20090305052813/http://www.w3.org/Style/CSS/
which mentions the mailing list and its archive at the very top, and the
list archive index defines the scope of the list and so on and so forth.
You can, or could anyway, follow your nose. Part of the german Usenet
netiquette is a recommendation to retrieve old articles and read them
before starting to post so you get acquainted with the group. When you
do that in see most people do something a certain way, then maybe that's
what you are supposed to do.

Another article in de.newusers.infos is dedicated to header lines which
explains for instance what the Message-ID header is. That's important as
citing a Message-ID was how you properly referenced other articles, be-
fore Web-based archives became more usable. There is even a URI scheme
for that, at least with my client I can click this link to find your
news:CAMCRKi+mmqv_YDebm4KTYa8uXyV6dCYpn2pRF6Orht_UyUnNig@mail.gmail.com
message. The W3C built on that concept so http://www.w3.org/mid/<msgid>
where <msgid> is the Message-ID of your mail works in the same way. The
Archived-At header just constructs the address automatically so you do
not have to know the http://www.w3.org/mid/ prefix.

This comes fairly naturally when you are curious and have rudimentary
problem solving skills. In 2009 there was a huge debate here in Germany
on exclusionism versus inclusionism on the German Wikipedia (huge as in
covered in most mainstream online media) triggered by a number of con-
troversial deletions and other things. Arguments often included refer-
ences on how Wikipedia can't have an article on every X and people do
not care about Y and I wanted to know what the true state of the wiki is
and so I downloaded the german Wikipedia and a couple of days worth of
pageview statistics and made an application that relates numbers of
articles in categories with pageviews of articles in the categories and
I put that online <http://katograph.appspot.com/>. There were all kinds
of things I had to find out to make that, but there was no difficulty
there.

If I really want a certain CSS feature, I would try to find out how the
existing features came to be beginning to end, and with probably a good
bit of effort searching and reading and analyzing I would come to know
that the syntax for the feature has to be defined like it is done for
the other features, and it has to be implemented, and there should be a
test suit, some examples, and so on, I might find I should download the
Firefox and Webkit source code, figure out how to compile them, learn
the various APIs, actually make a patch implementing the feature, and so
on. It's fair to assume that when I show up on the list with a spec and
patches for two implementations, examples and a test suite, all roughly
as good as what already exists, I am likely to get my feature, perhaps
with some tweaks. There is no difficulty there, unless perhaps the idea
for the feature is flawed.

You want to make a Star Trek television series about terrorism, war, and
religion starting around the time of The Next Generation and the Feder-
ation is to play a prominent leading role. Well, religion and violence
are not typical for the federation during that time, so it has to play
on the periphery, somewhere a little bit outside federation terrority.
You want some interesting twists, so you pair federation with religion,
pair terrorism with the good guys, you want some immersion which would
require some constants, you can't have a new religion for every episode,
but individual religions tend to be fairly localised, so you can't make
it a "space ship goes to all sorts of places" kind of series. But you
also don't want to stick on one particular planet because Star Trek is
people being in space rather than on planets. Solution: space station.

For a Star Trek series you want non-human characters who comment on the
human condition, in war there is spying and defection and betrayel, it
is not difficult to come up with Deep Space Nine on a conceptual level,
it's just ideas, breaking them down, and applying other things you know
to generate "new" ideas on a smaller scale. If you watch all of Star
Trek and then decide you want to write some fan fiction that plays at
some point during or before or after the events in Deep Space Nine, it
should not be that difficult, beyond how writing interesting dialog and
whatever else you need in generic skills.

Reading the entire www-style archive would take about as long as viewing
all Deep Space Nine episodes if you can read www-style in 10 seconds on
average. I unfortunately do not have good software that would allow me
to make a word count in the archives (it would have to detect quotes and
signatures, but many people do not follow the netiquette to use ">" to
indicate quoted text and "-- " as signature separator, so you would have
to employ something more complex than applying regular expressions and I
do not know of software that does this well), but it seems fairly plau-
sible that reading and understanding all of it should be similar to
watching and understanding all of Deep Space Nine (within a single digit
factor).

The point being, if you asked how to go about writing good fan fiction
for the Deep Space Nine universe and I told you to watch the series, you
would probably find that quite reasonable. If you want to write fan
fiction for the Cascading Style Sheets universe, telling you to read all
the www-style canon would be quite similar, except that fan fiction is
very unusual, normal episodes are developed involving many people, and
normal CSS features are developed involving many people, the "person
develops syntax, writes specification, makes test cases, implements the
feature in some browser engine, argues for inclusion in the standard"
thing happens, just like some people write good fan fiction, but it's
fairly rare.

So, what are you really asking? How do you find out? Well, bing it. Or
ask. Or observe. This group or some similar group. Stop caring, and just
do what you are interested in. With all your questions above you do not
seem to have any trouble to formulate questions that are relevant. To me
that indicates you have excellent problem-solving skills. You do not
actually need us to write some www-style specific tutorial that deals
with all the questions you ask. You found out about www-style, so there
is no point in asking how to find out about www-style on the www-style
list because you and everybody reading your message did find out about
it. If I am not mistaken, you used to simply post your text quoting
nothing, and switched to actually quoting things. Since "we here" tend
to quote stuff, you essentially learned doing that without us proving
comprehensive introductory material and making sure it's easily access-
ible.

Maybe this is inefficient, maybe this requires a lot of human labour
that would not be needed if there was better documentation, if there
were better tools. Maybe this creates jobs that would not exist other-
wise.
-- 
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de
Am Badedeich 7 · Telefon: +49(0)160/4415681 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
25899 Dagebüll · PGP Pub. KeyID: 0xA4357E78 · http://www.websitedev.de/ 
Received on Thursday, 19 January 2012 01:44:16 GMT

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