Legal, Laws, and Regs

Those poor Exxon executives

I don’t hide the fact that I hold today’s sitting Supreme Court justices in disdain. There’s no reason to look further for my reasons than what was reported by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post; about the Exxon Valdez, and the Supreme Court’s concerns about the poor Exxon executives, and what is becoming known as the Supreme Court Corporate Two-Step.

The notion of the justices pulling a number out of thin air seemed a bit too neat for an oil spill that spoiled 1,200 miles of Alaska’s coastline. But then the argument had less to do with the dead marine animals and ruined fishermen than with an obscure maritime law case from 1818 called The Amiable Nancy– or, as Scalia put it, the ” Amiable Whatever It Is.”

As the justices probed the intricacies of the laws of the sea, Ginsburg discussed Rule 50. Kennedy invoked Instruction 30, Instruction 33 and Instruction 36. Spectators showed evidence of drowsiness. Reporters yawned — at least until they were jolted awake by an alarming prospect raised by Ginsburg, who spoke about “a new trial” and the “next time around.”

A new trial? After 19 years of legal fighting? Out on the plaza after the argument, Brian O’Neill, one of the Alaska victims’ lawyers, conceded that, whatever the Supreme Court’s ruling, Exxon had already won. “I guess the lesson you learn,” he said, “is that if you’re big and powerful enough, you can bring the system to a halt.”

Thank you Tortdeform.

Technology Writing

Tasks, transcripts, and semantics

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m spending the rest of the week creating plug-ins that will XHTMLate WordPress. I’m not sure how far I can get with plug-ins, but the end result could be both interesting and useful. I still feel that XHTMLating WordPress is at least partially philosophy, as much as it is code. I can’t seem to communicate this clearly, though, so I am dropping the subject and just focusing on code.

I also have a design for my “Painting the Web” book web site, and need to create a lovely SVG paintbrush, as part of the design. Since my artistic skills are more along the lines of telling a program to draw a line from A to B, the effort may take some time. However, the medium I’m using (SVG) is compatible with my skillset, so perhaps the effort will be trivial and the result good. Better yet, I’ll be able to find a paintbrush at Wikipedia to use.

I did want to point out an interview that Paul Miller of Talis had with Tim Berners-Lee. Unlike most other podcasts, this interview also has a written transcript as well as published show notes. I really wish more video and audio podcasters would spend the time transcribing shows into text, as well as providing more in-depth information about the show than posting a video window and telling people, “Hey! Cool Stuff!” In the meantime, I’m going to watch this podcast via my Apple TV, since the Talis series is also listed at iTunes. I wonder if it’s in HD? (Later: oops! It’s not in video. Darn. I was looking forward to seeing Sir Tim in HD.)

In the write-up on the interview, Miller wrote:

We talked for a fascinating hour during which we ranged from past to future, from technology to policy. We covered specifications such as RDF and SPARQL, and we talked about the pressing need for more accessible texts to explain the Semantic Web to mainstream business.

My book, “Practical RDF”, is out of date, and I and my editor have been talking about a new edition. However, a new edition would not be focused entirely on RDF, and probably wouldn’t cover certain aspects of RDF, in order to be a bit more comprehensive. RDF doesn’t function alone in the world, and a book that covers semantic web technologies needs to cover not only RDF, but also all the complementary technologies. This, in addition to the new tools, data initiatives, and companies.

Now is actually a rather exciting time to be creating a new edition of a book on semantic web technologies. I remember when I wrote “Practical RDF”, which was published before the final release of the RDF specification, I had to stretch a bit to find tools and technologies focused on RDF and/or the semantic web. Now, the semantic web is hip, and the challenge is less on finding good material and more on ensuring that the book isn’t too big, or covers too much.

I don’t think the new edition will be called the same, but we’ll be keeping the “Practical” in the title in some way. Maybe something along the lines of “Practical Semantic Web”. I am nothing if not a practical person, and the “practical” component of the title will also be the overall theme for the book. However, even with this constraint I visualize a book bursting at the seams.

We’re also planning a new edition of Learning JavaScript, too. Unfortunately, the first edition was on a bit of a fast track, and I made mistakes in the book; more than I’d like to see with any of my books. I’ve made corrections via errata, but it will be nice to create a new, updated version.

I’m also helping out with a new edition of a third book, but this would be more along the lines of contributing commentary on organization and some chapters than being sole author.


XHTMLating feeds

Jeff has been adding SVG annotation, as well as objects to his weblog design. When using SVG, the first issue that arises is serving up XHTML in order for the SVG to be processed correctly. This also means serving up your Atom feeds, accordingly.

In Jeff’s case, he’s using the object element to incorporate SVG annotating the post type. If he inlined his SVG, and wanted it processed correctly in feed readers (both big ‘ifs’–stripping out the SVG is also an acceptable response), two things need to be modified.

First, there’s an html_type option value that needs to be adjusted. The only want to do this at this time is to manually update it in the database. I had thought there was a modification made to WordPress to add this as an Administration option, but I couldn’t find it in the checked in code.

I hard coded my feed for this weblog to XHTML, and made the appropriate adjustments, removing the CDATA section and adding a wrapping DIV element (source for feed and comments feed).

To ensure the two feed files don’t get overwritten, I have a plug-in that I use to override the location of the atom feed files, pointing the location to files in my theme directory.

This is only a temporary fix, though. The real fix would be to provide an option to set the html_type in the admin page, which then serves the weblog pages up accordingly, as well as being used to set the type in the feeds. The value should also be used to determine the output of the content in the feeds.

All of this could be done in plug-ins. What can’t, is handling input from readers when serving up XHTML pages. Input from readers enters WordPress in several different places in the code, most of which do not have hooks allowing us to override the code to provide our own. The only way WordPress will be able to effectively do XHTML is through a commitment to make this a change in the underlying base code.

Since the WordPress developers have not shown any interest in supporting XHTML, and since I haven’t seen a lot of interest in XHTML support in WordPress from my own explorations and published posts, this is just not a challenge I’ve been eager to take on.

The real question is will Microsoft support the XHTML MIME type in IE8? Not having support for XHTML is one of the major browsers is probably the biggest hold up on more widespread support for XHTML. Otherwise, I would think that the increasing interest in SVG would start generating enough movement towards XHTML to finally trickle it’s way into the WordPress community, regardless of the aversion to XHTML of the development team.

PS I would appreciate help testing my current XHTML validation in my comments. You can’t hurt anything with the way the comments are now currently moderated.