May the source be with you

Danny, suffering from a cold leading to procrastinitis (I hear you on this one), hooked on a port of the WP 2813 theme to MT, LiveJournal, and Typepad to create an XSLT transform of the stylehseet items into RDF. This is based on the continuing effort to add more microformat labeling of page contents in order to enhance discoverability.

It’s a nice bit of code, but it strikes me as less than an efficient method when it comes to providing semantic information about the contents of the page.

The same processes that deliver the page for human consumption are also the same processes that provide the same data for syndication. It’s only a small step to then take the same information and provide this in an already formatted RDF format, accessible just by tacking on either /rdf or /meta at the end of the document.

If the issue is then one of static pages, such as those provided by Movable Type, couldn’t one generate static meta pages, as easily?

I’m not pushing against microformats. To me it makes sense to use ‘intelligent’ CSS class names for the different constructs contained within the page, because it’s more consistent and makes it easier to move templates between tools. Besides, might as well start smart than dumb.

But shouldn’t the approach be to generate all the content–human readable content using semantic markup and smart CSS labels, syndication feeds, and RDF–dynamically? Rather than generate one and then use XSLT to ‘transform’ to the other? Or is the bigger issue: let’s all start being consistent with our CSS–make it do double duty. Start bringing presentation, format, layout, and semantics into a cohesive whole.

Of course, I could have completely misread Danny’s intentions, too.

Regardless, I need to clean up my own CSS files. After I finish the Adding Ajax book, first.


The Dell workaround

A Dell customer, unhappy with the company’s response to his complaints, sued the company. However, rather than having the papers delivered to the company headquarters, he had them delivered to a Dell Kiosk in a shopping mall. When the court date came, Dell wasn’t represented and the customer won the case.

What’s particularly interesting with this, is a constrast between it and a case in Illinois where Dell was being sued in a class action lawsuit. Purchasers of Dell computers sued the company because it claimed a specific chip was the ‘fastest’, and they disputed this claim after getting their computers.

In the Illinois case, Dell filed a motion to stay the proceedings based on the fact that the Terms and Conditions of the computer sale contained an arbitration clause. Since the buyers completed the purchase, the buyers agreed to the T & C, including the use of arbitration in any and all disputes between them and the company.

The lower courts denied the motion, but Dell won on appeal and the case was remanded to arbitration. (See more details in the Internet Cases weblog.)

On appeal, the court held that the plaintiffs were properly made aware of the terms and conditions. The hyperlinks appearing on the web pages made the pages “the same as a multipage written paper contract. The blue hyperlink simply takes a person to another page of the contract, similar to turning the page of a written paper contract.” The contrasting blue color of the hyperlink served to make it conspicuous. Finally, the court noted that because the plaintiffs were purchasing computers online, they were not novices, and should have known that more information would have been available by clicking on the link.


If the customer in the first story had filed with the agent on record for the company in his state, his lawsuit would have been squashed, and he would have been forced into arbitration.

Why is this not necessarily in the best interest of the customer? Why did the plaintiffs in the Illinois case fight this move to arbitration? Let’s just say that little people seldom win against Big People in arbitration. In a story the Washington Post ran in 2000, it found that for the National Arbitration Forum, one corporate client won over individuals in arbitration, 99.6% of the time. More importantly, there is no transparency in arbitration: most of the actions are secret; whatever rights we have during the arbitration process are given at the discretion of the arbitration company and not mandated by law; and the decisions lack verifiability. It has, however, become a billion dollar industry, and new darling of the corporates.

Personally, I’ve had nothing but good service from Dell, so I’m not picking on the company just to pick on the company. However, before you make your online purchases this year, read the Terms and Conditions and look for an arbitration clause. If you find one, consider if you really want to enter into an agreement to arbitrate if a problem occurs.

Oh, and I’ve checked: so far as I can see, Apple has not inserted a mandatory/binding arbitration clause into it’s Terms and Conditions.


Nuclear proliferation

If you had signed up to get feeds of your congressional representative votes, you would have seen several having to do with a new nuclear deal with India. Time and again, any attempt to put any safeguards and restrictions on what could be given or sold to India was voted down, and now we have a ‘bi-partisan’ bill giving India the green light to develop bombs, as well as plants.

Do I think this is a good deal? No.

We made this deal based on economic self-interest. if another country wishes to do the same, say Russia supply Iran, or China supply Syria, we have lost the right to cry foul. Why? Because we’re the ones that started this new nuclear race — we, and our Wal-Marts, and our Boeings, and our Microsofts.

Welcome to a brave new world, and the best little Congress money can buy.

Do Nothing Congress is right. According to this St. Lou Today article, the typical work week for this last congress was from Tuesday morning to Thursday afternoon.

Hell of a job if you can get it.