People Specs

I lock my door at night

I’m not sure why the WhatWG folks thought that keeping an open door to the Twitter @whatwg account on the front page of their web site is a good idea, but it’s been interesting watching the *updates. Most are pretty juvenile, but there’s been some interesting snark along the way. Mostly, the posts have been by people asking why the WhatWG thought this was a good idea, as WhatWG followers are dropping like flies, tired of being spammed.

Interesting, too, that the WhatWG members are posting on the WhatWG IRC that the openness of the Twitter account was by decision, not by accident. Bragging about it, actually. After all, only a few spam messages will get through. Of course, that was before someone posted a note to the WhatWG IRC about the openness, making people aware of the capability. Once the open door was found, that’s all she wrote. The only thing keeping some control on the postings is the Twitter API limits.

To me, deciding to keep the door open to the WhatWG Twitter account highlights some of the problems we’ve had with the WhatWG folks in regards to HTML5: they see the world as this perfect utopia, where everyone follows the rules. If people don’t follow the rules, then the rules must be changed, because obviously, there’s something wrong with the rules.

Case in point: the table summary attribute isn’t being used correctly, not because people make mistakes, but because it’s bad and has to be removed, before someone gets hurt! Of course, those who advocate for its removal totally disregard that the bad summary attributes are attached to equally bad HTML table uses, too. But that’s not the point!

RDFa is too hard for people to use, and must be replaced by microdata. Why? Because Google make an RDFa error when it rolled out its support recently. But, it wasn’t a Google mistake, according to Ian Hickson, it was something inherently wrong with RDFa. Google quickly corrected its mistake error, but by that time, the damage was done: RDFa was shown to be a flawed system that needed to be replaced by something better. Why? Because people don’t make mistakes.

The same as people won’t spam an open Twitter account.

And now the folks on the WhatWG IRC are discussing the fact that those posting spammish messages to the WhatWG twitter account don’t understand the consequences of their actions. As jgraham wrote:

Lachy: I know that you can take some measures to cover your tracks, but in practice many people don’t bother and find that actions that they took believing that they would be free of consequences are not actually as anonymous and as free of consequences as they had assumed

In other words, never doubt your own judgment, when you can safely and easily find a way to dump any responsibility of your decisions on someone else.

The thing is, people learn from mistakes. A neighbor gets robbed, and we learn to lock our doors at night. People make mistakes with the summary attribute, or with RDFa, or any web technology, and we learn to provide better documentation. We are capable of learning from our past mistakes, learning, and doing a better job. We even learn to shut down that open door way to a Twitter account when it’s getting spammed.

There is no such thing as the perfect utopia where things can be made in such a way that no one is capable of making a mistake. All we can do is learn from the past, and do better in the future.

*Oh, and by the way? That “summary rules!” post was mine.


Evidently the WhatWG folks have finally realized that maybe an open door is a problem. Don’t expect an apology or acknowledgement, though:

factoryjoe: well, ok. some acknowledge might help people feel better that no more spam is forthcoming
Hixie: i expect that no more spam being forthcoming will make people feel better than spam telling them that no more spam is forthcoming


Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis: Worst Person in the World

Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals?

Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.

Continue reading Offered with no Commentary at MissouriGreen to find out why Keith Olbermann has named Missouri State Representative Cynthia Davis, Worst Person in the World.


Offered with no commentary

Via Kansas City Star, State Representative Cynthia Davis comments on a program to provide nutritional meals to poor kids during the summer. Representative Davis’ responses were pulled directly from her summer newsletter.

Program description: Current economic woes make Summer Food Service Program more important than ever. Program provides nutritious meals to young people throughout the state.

Davis response: The implication suggests that during a recession, parents don’t give their children nutritious food. The reverse may be true. During hard times, many families find it even more important to pull together. Families may economize by choosing to not waste hard earned dollars on potato chips, ice cream, or Twinkies. Perhaps some families will buy more beans and chicken and less sweets.

Program description: Hundreds of local community organizations throughout the state will offer lunch, as well as breakfast, during the summer months to eligible children.

Davis response: Who’s buying dinner? Who is getting paid to serve the meal? Churches and other non-profits can do this at no cost to the taxpayer if it is warranted. That is what they did when Louisiana had a hurricane.

Program description: “Children need nutritious food to grow and learn all year long,” said Ann McCormack, chief of the health department’s Bureau of Community Food and Nutrition Assistance.

Davis response: The problem of childhood obesity has been cited as one of the most rapidly growing health problems in America. People who are struggling with lack of food usually do not have an obesity problem.

Program description: Meals will be served at designated sites to children age 18 and under.

Davis response:Anyone under 18 can be eligible? Can’t they get a job during the summer by the time they are 16? Hunger can be a positive motivator. What is wrong with the idea of getting a job so you can get better meals?

Tip: If you work for McDonald’s, they will feed you for free during your break.

Offered without commentary. Because none is necessary.

Update: More from Riverfront Times, including link to Keith Olbermann naming Davis Worst Person in the World.

Update: Excellent response from FoxContact your local state legislator to ask them to lobby Republicans to remove Rep. Davis from her chairmanship of the Committe on Children and Families. Excellent suggestion.

Update: Representative Davis responds. I’ve also included a copy of her press release (PDF). Good luck finding anything coherent in there.

People Technology


Since I was fulfilling one duty today I thought I would also fulfill another and renew my driver’s license. To renew a license here in Missouri you have to show all sorts of proof of residency, identity, and nationality. You also have to take an eye exam, and a traffic sign recognition test.

The traffic sign exam is more or less a joke, but the eye exam was a little different. When you look through the eye piece, you see rows of letters, white on black, separated by a dotted line down the middle. When you get the test, the person administering it will tell you to read the letters in one of the rows, then ask if you see a blinking light, and if so, on which side. There also seemed to be a stereoscopic aspect to the test, as the letters on one side of the dotted line seemed a little more blurry then those on the other.

There’s no graduated height eye test—either your vision, corrected or otherwise, is good enough, or it isn’t, in which case, go away, get better glasses and come back.

When I got to the license place, I grabbed a number and sat down to wait. Ahead of me, a middle aged Asian guy with his daughter was renewing his license, and having some problems communicating with the person administering the eye test.

He did know some English, and could read the letters. But when she had him look into the eyepiece and read the sixth row, whatever he read didn’t match what she expected, and she kept repeating to him to read the “sixth row”. “Read the sixth row”. He conferred with his daughter in his native language, and would try again, frustrated because he was doing what examiner asked. She also was getting irritated, because there several people waiting, and he couldn’t get the test.

All of a sudden, after another frustrated exchange, he got really excited, said something to his daughter, and then looked back into the eyepiece. He rattled off a bunch of letters, and evidently, got them all right because they went on to the traffic sign test. Again, he had problems, but the DMV person was out of patience, gave him a page with traffic signs and suggested he go to the back of the room, look over the paper, and then he could come back and take the test.

When I got to her desk, I was a little apprehensive about the test, wondering what the heck I was going to find. She asked me to read the first row, and I had no problems. She then asked me to read the signs and tell me what each one was. Again, I had no problem, and was out of the licensing place quickly.

It was only later that that an idea came to me that possibly explained the problems the Asian guy was having. This is only a guess, but I think when she told him to read the sixth row, he actually read the sixth column. In other words, he read top to bottom, rather than left to right. When she kept repeating sixth row, he’d re-read the same column. It was only after a few tries that he caught on to what she was asking, and then read the sixth row, sixth from top of chart, reading left to right.

I think the same thing happened with the road signs: he was reading top to bottom, and she was expecting left to right. Just goes to show that technology is only as good as the shared culture allows it to be.


A truly deserving prize

Throughout the current economic crises, and well before, there’s one person I’ve returned to again and again for both thoughtful commentary on matters economical and political, and reassurance in difficult times and that’s Paul Krugman. I’m absolutely delighted to read he’s won the Nobel Prize in Economics. I cannot think of anyone who has a better grasp of the state of world economics than Mr. Krugman.

I gather that he also has critics among the other economists because of his liberal views. Considering that the conservatives just issued in a $700 billion bail out, I think I’ll stick with the liberals.