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Hands Across the Sea

Cripes.  In preparing to mention some upcoming appearances, I realized I’d never gotten around to mentioning a couple of events in the recent past; specifically, AEA Seattle and the Webmaster Jam Session.  I’ll get to those in the next couple of posts, and then fire off a couple of reviews.

What I called you all here for, though, was to pass along news of an upcoming two-continent microtour.  Yes!  You can almost feel the white-hot spirit energy of this global adventure, can’t you?  I know I can, and unless I’m very much mistaken, I see it in your eyes too.

It’s a special thing we’ve just shared.  Don’t tell anyone else.

The festivities will start with my return to London (UK, not Ohio) for a two-day Carson Workshop on December 7th and 8th.  You can learn more at the Carson Workshops site, of course.  I hear tell that a goodly chunk of the limited seating has already been claimed.  In the course of the two days, I’ll be leading an expedition into the very heart of CSS.  From the darkest, thorniest jungles to the spectacular hidden vistas glimpsed only by a few lucky souls we will travel, and those who emerge alive will truly be a band of brothers and sisters.

Since I’ll already be in London on the date, might there be a stop by the BBC Backstage Bash?  Could be.  Could very well be.

From the sun-kissed shores of wild England, I’ll wing my way to verdant Boston for Web Design World.  It will be there that I will spend half a day—said day being December 11th—presenting a condensed version of some parts of the content covered in London, an overland flight giving us an idea of where the previous week’s group blazed a mighty trail.  Yes, I’d like to present it all, but since I have not (yet) fully asserted dominance over the flow of time, I have no way to fit two days into half a day.  It would be like trying to fit a Danish prince inside a nutshell.  No matter how you or he may espouse theories of some fabled infinite space to be ruled within that diminuitive husk, homey just won’t fit.

My work in Boston having been completed, I will make my way homeward at last, nearly a full week and many thounsands of miles after leaving it, tired but triumphant, ready to face the New Year and all the changes it will bring.

So now you know.  And as well we know, knowing is half the battle.

(For those who might be in the know, a bonus prize to anyone who can identify the web site and author I was homage-ing in this post.  Not parodying!  No no!  I’m not sure such a thing would be possible in any event.)

Broken Rights

Once I got a look at the markup of my latest Vitamin piece, “Stand Up For Your Rights!“, I winced.  Four paragraphs, with each alternating bit of dialogue separated by a line break?  Ay caramba!

And yet, I’m not sure I could have done better, structurally speaking.  The only semi-reasonable alternative that comes to mind is a set of four blockquotes with paragraphs instead of line breaks, but that doesn’t work for me.  They are, after all, invented conversations.  I’m not quoting anything.

Maybe paragraphed text with a div, possibly classed, for each section (yes, all right, each division) of the article would have been a better choice.  Or maybe not.  What do you think?

Still Here

I’ll get back to the whole IE7 thing in a day or three.  Sorry to start the conversation and then go silent, but I’ve recently learned two things.

  1. The week after announcing a new event over at An Event Apart (like, say, AEA Chicago) is always very busy as registrations come in, people contact us with questions, posts have to be written, and so on.
  2. The week before an event (like, say, AEA Atlanta) is always very busy with travel preparations, double-checking of arrangements, last-minute tweaks to talks, and so on.

So of course we’d set things up to have both happen the same week.  With another conference on my schedule for the end of the same week as AEA Atlanta.

Anyway, as I say, I’ll get back to the blogging Real Soon Now.  In the meantime, I have two new appearances to announce (in chronological order).

  1. 27-28 April 2006 – Iceweb 2006 – Reykjavik, Iceland

    I’ll be presenting “The One True Layout?”, which will be a detailed look at the pros and cons of techniques debuted in Alex Robinson’s article.  A bunch of other big names will be there as well, despite which I got top billing on the site’s speaker list.  Ha!  Take that, Mr. Dave “I’m Too Sexy For The Web” Shea!

  2. 12 May 2006 – Carson Workshops – London, England

    This will be an updated version of the full-day seminar “Professional CSS XHTML Techniques”.  Seating on these is quite limited, so you might want to register early and often.  Or at least early.

That’s it for now.  I hope to be back soon.

Selling Out Again

I noticed this morning, after the power finally came back on, that the graphic next to the information on the Carson Workshops home page about the CSS/XHTML workshop I’m doing in a couple of weeks has a “LAST FEW” banner over it, so it looks like those seats are going fast as well.  If you were interested in that one but hadn’t yet gotten around to registering, now might be a good time.

Slashdot’s Validity

With the Redesign Watch back up and running, the most recent entry is Slashdot, the venerable geek portal so infamous for its ability to kill web servers with a single link that the site’s name is a verb meaning “to bring a server grinding to a halt”.

I was asked in a comment:

What’s your feeling on slashdot being HTML 4.01 (and slightly failing validation) VS XHTML 1.0?

My feeling is good.  Why?  Let’s take the second part first.

When it comes to HTML versus XHTML, I just do not care.  Sure, sure, people will tell you that XHTML is XML so it’s more transformable or something.  That’s a very good argument when the XHTML is well-formed and valid.  It’s also a very good argument for using HTML when it’s well-formed and valid.  Conversely, neither HTML nor XHTML is easily transformed when ill-formed and invalid.  This is an experiential point of view, too: I’ve written XSLT (which is itself so tortuous and ugly that it almost by definition cannot be called well-formed) to transform both HTML and XHTML, and the effort is pretty much the same each way—assuming well-formed, valid markup.

So as far as I’m concerned, there’s really no major practical difference between HTML and XHTML.  There are plenty of minor practical differences, like having to throw trailing slashes on all your empty elements in XHTML and needing some namespace information.  Some people will tell you the whole MIME-type thing is a major practical concern, but I’m just not that much of a purist.  Take that for whatever it’s worth.

I mean, imagine a world where Slashdot had used XHTML instead of HTML, and was failing validation.  How would that be any better or worse than things are now?

Okay, so that’s the second part.  The first part, the failure to validate, is not something I can get too terribly upset about.  Slashdot, as a site that accepts ads, is going to get horrible markup shoved into its pages.  That’s just the way it is.  If you want major sites to be perfectly valid, then in all honesty advertisers are the place to start.  So they’re already operating with a major handicap there.

Even if we were to ride our high horses along a very hard line and say that ads are just no excuse, I’d be hard-pressed to fault the job they’ve done.  For example, I ran a check on the Slashdot home page.  Out of 1,262 lines of code, there were exactly four validation errors, and that’s using HTML 4.01 Strict—you’ll note they bypassed Transitional, which only increases my respect.  Three of the errors revolved around an image in a noscript element, and the last was due to the presence of a language attribute on a script element—something they can fix in fifteen seconds, once it gets to the top of the to-do list.

You know what?  I’d be ecstatic to have that low a failure rate when launching the markover of an incredibly complex site like Slashdot.  Think about all the content they have to manage, stitch together, and offer up.  Four errors out of all that dynamically assembled markup?  I say somebody should organize them a parade for doing such a good job, and showing that any site can make use of and benefit from standards.

I’m also really looking forward to the restyling of Slashdot through user-created style sheets, and the Greasemonkey enhancements built on top of this new structure.  If there’s a site whose readers are inherently primed to script the holy bejeezus out of it, that would be the one.

Would I be happier if they’d managed to achieve total validation?  Of course.  In the meantime, though, I’m going to be very nearly as happy for what they’ve accomplished, and also for the simple fact of it being another major site that’s taken a big step forward.  Progress is always a cause for celebration in my world.

Speaking Out

Just a reminder to all of you in the Chicago, IL area that I’ll be talking about XHTML, CSS, and that sort of thing on Thursday, 4 3 November 2005.  I’ll be talking all day long, or close to it, as I delve into details, rebuild a design or two, and answer questions from the attendees.  If you’re interested, check out the Carson Workshops site for more information on this and other workshops.

If you’re in Philadelphia, of course, you’ll want to check out An Event Apart, where Mr. Zeldman and I will trade off talking all day.  Seats have been selling pretty briskly, so if you’re interested, you might want to register soon.

I’d encourage all you Strayans to register for WE05, except it’s completely sold out.  The same is very nearly true of UI10, from what I’m told.  Things are definitely picking up on the events circuit!

Which is a good thing for me… after all, how else am I going to reach Gold Elite status?  (I wonder if I get an energy sword for that.)

An Event Apart Debuts

I couldn’t be more proud to announce the launch of An Event Apart.  What is An Event Apart (AEA)?  It’s an all-day seminar, one that moves from city to city, featuring me and Jeffrey Zeldman.  The inaugural event will be held at the Franklin Institute in central Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Monday, 5 December 2005.  We’ll be taking it to other cities in 2006; keep an eye on the AEA RSS feed for announcements.

Honestly, AEA can be summarized in one sentence: it’s the kind of seminar Jeffrey and I would want to attend.  Hopefully that right there is enough to get you interested, but wait until you hear the details.

  • No “intro to X” sessions.  We’re packing the day with as much detail, technical insight, and expert information as possible.  We won’t be taking any time to explain the basics of CSS or XHTML or anything else.  From the first minute to the last, we’re putting the pedal to the metal.
  • An intimate look at how Jeffrey and I do what we do.  Most of our material will be drawn from recent projects we’ve done together, such as the web sites for A List Apart, An Event Apart, UNIFEM, and others.  All the nifty tricks, browser hacks, practical compromises and development surprises—they’ll be laid bare for attendees to examine, question, chuckle over, and take back to their own work.
  • Going from  comp to complete.  How does one get from a visual comp file to a working XHTML+CSS page?  You’ll find out how we do it as we step through that very process.
  • Constant interaction.  This isn’t a rigidly formalized “we talk for 80 minutes and you ask questions for 10 minutes” kind of setup.  Jeffrey and I see it as more of a conversation between us and the attendees.  We’ll probably do most of the talking, and we’ll certainly have all kinds of stuff to talk about, but we’re really looking forward to questions that will take things in a new direction.  We want the attendees to ask tough questions about what we’re showing, and ask us about the tough problems they’ve faced.
  • Attendee markover.  For one of the day’s sessions, we’ll take a site submitted by an attendee and give it a markover, turning it into semantic XHTML and CSS without disrupting the visual appearance.  This will make for a great look at practical standards-oriented design for a real-world site.
  • Interesting venues.  Jeffrey and I been to a zillion conferences in hotel ballrooms and conference centers, and frankly we’re bored to death with that whole repetitive scene.  So we’re going to aim for places that are a little off the beaten path; venues that have some interest.  As an example, just look at the venue for AEA Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute; it’s one of the most prestigious science museums in the country.

The content of AEA won’t be just markup and CSS, either.  We’re going to talk about how standards-based design speeds up the development process, how we work in a distributed team, and how we approach web design in general.  We’ll share what’s worked for us and what hasn’t, and find out what experiences the attendees have had.

So if you’re in the Philadelphia area, or can reach it fairly easily, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the AEA site—and then ask yourself whether this is an event you can afford to miss.

Reserved ID Values?

As a followup to my entry about id="tags" causing problems in IE/Win, here are four five test pages for IE/Win:

These are based on Kevin Hamilton’s observation that it’s highly likely the problems are caused by the tags method in IE/Win’s document.all DOM interface.  As he says:

[I]f you have an element with an id=”tags”, then document.all.tags is now a reference to that element, and no longer a method of the document.all object.

Such states would completely shatter any IE DOM scripting that relied on the document.all methods, and at least in the case of tags causes problems like crashing on print (probably because of the aforementioned conflict between the ID value and the DOM method).  The other keywords of concern are chronicled in the test pages listed above.  I’d test IE/Win myself, except I don’t have a printer handy for IE/Win to use, and besides, bug-hunting is best conducted in large groups.

Basically, load up each test page in IE/Win and do anything you can think to do.  Try to print, view source, save a local copy, et cetera, et cetera—the more obscure and offbeat, the better.  Let us know via the comments any problems you run into with said pages (trying to print them is a good first step, since that’s what messed up on tags) and I’ll add notes to each page based on what’s found.

In the meantime, I’m personally going to avoid using any of those words as ID values, and heartily recommend the same to you.

Update: I’ve added a test (for length) to the above list, and have another that’s not on the list due to its unfinished nature.  It’s a test of id="all"; the problem is, I don’t really know how to test it, or if it’s likely to be a problem at all.  Suggestions are welcomed in the comments.  I added some JavaScript links to some of the test pages as a secondary test, but I’m not sure how much good they do, to be honest.  As with suggestions, your feedback is welcome.

For those in search of more background, or trying to find new ways to test possible conflicts, or whatever, feel free to look over Microsoft’s documentation of the “all Collection”.

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