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

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