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Mostly Harmless or Warning Label Required? [was RE: Review of Proposed Design Principles]

From: Dailey, David P. <david.dailey@sru.edu>
Date: Tue, 1 May 2007 20:58:03 -0400
Message-ID: <1835D662B263BC4E864A7CFAB2FEEB3D258BF1@msfexch01.srunet.sruad.edu>
To: "Doug Schepers" <doug.schepers@vectoreal.com>, <public-html@w3.org>

On Tue 5/1/2007 4:16 PM Doug Schepers wrote

>I've reviewed "HTML Design Principles (Proposed)", and I approve of all
>but one of the principals.  Again, I don't think any of them should be
>sacred and inviolate, but they seem mostly harmless.

To my knowledge no one has yet objected to my proposal http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/1667.html to add additional caution into the language framing the design principals. I had suggested three differing levels of caution.  Would anyone object to adding my favorite? 
C3 "None of the principles herein should be construed as inhibiting the extensibility of the web."
These principles are "Mostly harmless" are they? (Well I still am not sure I am convinced of what goodness they add, but maybe I'll begin to see that once I have a sense that there really is consensus and not a rush to judgment --[2] [6]; but I did like that book by your namesake Doug  so I'm willing to be persuaded simply through your nonchalance alone [0],.)
That such principles can be used in ways contrary to the objectives of the group seems quite possible.
 I believe that no guideline should be used without additional supporting logic.[1]
In the case of http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/0376.html  a suggestion was made and purportedly "refuted" by reference to one of the not-yet-agreed upon and previously un-explained principle. The suggestion was later "refuted" by an argument I liked better ("use script not markup for this since would be hard on the browser makers") so I let the issue drop. However  the interpretation of "degrade gracefully" as used in this context remains still elusive to me on grounds expressed in http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/0679.html . To me the above example does not degrade ungracefully, it just looks like text rather than a table which is exactly what an author would expect. Therefore I think additional caution may be needed as well as a few more examples to shore up the meaning of "degrade gracefully."[4]
I have seen others raise arguments that would seem to take issue with "don't reinvent the wheel." I cannot speak for them to say for sure if their comments would lead them in that direction or not, and they can either verify or deny that their statements lend support to my argument but
John Boyer in http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/1760.html wrote:
Why would we ever write a language that allows one to say C = A + B; 
when we already have
LOAD AX, 1000
LOAD BX, 1004
STO AX, 1008
T.V. Raman in http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/1528.html wrote:
I think the Web as we know it would be a far poorer place if the
only technologies considered implementable were those bundled in
browsers ---
this would in principle limit all innovation on the web to  one
or a small number of browsers.
The Web has succeeded because it's extensible -- dont break  it!
I have made several arguments against inclusion of the this principle. How about renaming the thing to
"Don't reinvent the wheel unless there is a better wheel, or the current one is broken"? [3], [5]
In the worst case I think Design Principles can foment disagreement more than forestall it particularly when they are used as a magic wand to make an unpleasant suggestion go away. In the worst case, they  need more than the existing cautionary language about "not being taken as absolutes;" they need warning labels.
The misuse of a design principle (through either zealotry [7] or simple misunderstanding) can serve to aggravate a discussion which began as a logical one by adding a moral dimension which did not already exist. I believe a future dissection of the corpus of this WG's discussion will prove my point -- but that is an empirical question for which I do not think anyone is suggesting we take the time now to do.
Like Doug, I share optimism that convergence is in sight, but there remain, I think, some of what TBL calls "hairy" issues remaining..
If everybody's ready to tack on C3 above to the design principles, then I think we're getting close. Get #1 straightened out (though this could be tough since there are some real differences of opinion being expressed here); add some more clarification to #2; maybe change the Wheel one; add some possible examples of how not to use design principles, and add a firm boundary on their application (rather like a bill of rights like C3) and then I'm as happy as I suppose one so skeptical of aphorisms can be.
>From Alphabetic Aphorisms c1986.
[0] An amusing analysis actually alleviates anxiety.
[1] Fanciful feuds follow from familiar foundations.
[2]  Hurrying hastens heartache.
[3] In ignoring imagination, industry is intolerant
[4] Mentioning mistakes may make more misunderstandings.
[5] Overlooking old obstacles often obscures opportunity.
[6] Pompous policies poison potential partnerships.
[7] Zaniness zaps zealotry.
Received on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 00:57:56 UTC

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