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RE: Why Design Principles?

From: Dailey, David P. <david.dailey@sru.edu>
Date: Tue, 2 Jun 2009 21:42:45 -0400
Message-ID: <6FBCADEE93126744846AA99EBEF4AEB60A5AA1@msfexch01.srunet.sruad.edu>
To: "Maciej Stachowiak" <mjs@apple.com>
Cc: "HTML WG" <public-html@w3.org>
In [1] Maciej wrote:

B) The actual level of dissent over the Design Principles is quite 
low. The number of objectors is rather small, the disagreements do not 
rise to the level of Formal Objections, and many are over form, not 
substance. As Henri points out, if this level of disagreement is 
enough to make us stop work, we will never get anything done. So at 
this point, I think it would be a very bad precedent to formally 
abandon the Design Principles. The level of dissent is lower than for 
HTML5, and the stakes are much lower as well. If we can't come to 
reasonable agreement here, then how will we ever resolve much harder 

Last night [2]  in what I believe to be an affliated thread about design aphorisms (can we agree to call them "guidelines" rather than "principles?" -- the word principles just rankles my aging sensibilities? -- else 'til then I may uncontrollably revert to my historic preference of calling them "aphorisms" [3] or, worse yet, The Incomprehensibles) I tried to raise the point [2] that
"the spring of 2007 I took so strong a stand against the Design Principles. It seemed that anything that purports to extend the charter of what the group is working on should not be done by simple majority rule. A stronger criterion for consensus should be required if this is to focus the activity of the entire group."
Perhaps another way of saying this is that an effort such as building the web of the future is not made stronger through running roughshod over the minority. I truly think that in the chaos that was the discussion of the Design Aphorisms/Principles in Spring of 2007 the majority of the participants really didn't know what was being debated. Bet you a handful of Hatch chiles that I can find at least some people who voted for them but who would also admit to not knowing that a minority position actually existed. The cacophony during which the primary players urged haste in the adoption of Los Uncompaghres (it is a Ute word that only looks incomprehensible [4])  made it difficult to follow all the tributaries of the foul stream, at least, for those very few of us who seem to represent the aged.
The point is this: by forcing design principles for the "world wide web" onto anyone who really intrinsically despises them may mean that the term "world wide web" becomes false advertising. Do Apple and Google and Microsoft really want to help subsidize the legal defense against false advertising? I jest of course. I always jest. Even when I claim I jest, I jest.
Bet you a handful of San Luis Valley pintos that it'd be easier to pursuade Microsoft not to follow the recommendations of the HTML WG than it would be to disenfranchise those who seek to make the next version of the web inclusive and who feel the design principles fail this basic litmus test. Not all people who actually care voted back then. Not all people who actually voted cared.  And where would that put things? Eh?
As I wrote earlier on at least several (I have run out of fingers to count from typing too much) occasions, a simple thing like whether or not we have Ogg or Dailey's own patented audio compression [5] ... sure... why not let the majority decide [6].  Or consider something even less contentious like <indent> vs <blockquote> or <abbr> and <acronym> -- sure it's just a set of axioms for an expressive space -- is parsimony or independence really required?  In the worst case it is only money. In the long run tags and attributes are only vocabulary -- semantic primitives -- the number of semantic primitives required for a given expressive space is NP-complete (and I am not about to tell you how to solve that problem!) and that's when you know the expressive space. We don't! And yet I have a strong hunch that the expressive spaces of the languages we seek to invent are not equivalent, (though I get the sense that things ARE improving as we age, principles or no)! 
 Principles are more like syntax and we haven't even begun to discuss "semantics" in the "real" sense ot the term. What is the expressive space we wish to enable?  If we write an exclusionary (or just plain goofy) grammar, guaranteed that the utterances derived from it will be narrow or (worse) goofy. 
Let me see (hard as it is) if I can get to the crux of my issue here:
Design Principles ought not to have ANY dissenters.  Guidelines: sure!  But creed, founding principle, or pirates' code? Nah, let's play Second Life instead! [7]

[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009May/0322.html
[2] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0011.html
[3] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/0679.html 
[4] http://www.answers.com/topic/ridgway-colorado
[5]  patent under development AND public domain (but alas I jest)
[6] Who does that majority represent, btw? Are they like the electoral college that elected Wencelslaus I? How is representation decided among those electors?  Maybe weakened consensus where minorities are ignored works for simple things but for Principles with a capital P? As Robespierre always said: better count your votes carefully if you want to play that way!  capital Poo I say!
[7] If anybody really cares to make sense of some of the allusions here I refer you to my n-2* posts in the WG archives for March through June of  2007 and offer free antacids for your effort (in exchange for lodging and beer of course). *Two of them were just plain silly so you should avoid those.
Received on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 01:44:12 UTC

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