Pinky and the Markup Brains

What ended up being the ultimate irritation of my brief foray into HTML5 land, is that I found out, after careful perusal of my original use of RDFa, that I wasn’t using it incorrectly. However, by the time I got through listening to all the arguments, back and forth, and round and round, I was beginning to doubt whether an angle bracket really looked like < and >. I am correct, aren’t I? These are angle brackets, right?

Of course not. I call them angle brackets, but others call them diamond brackets, and I’m sure someone else, most likely from the UK, calls them elbow brackets or the Queen’s brackets, or some such thing.

However, the back and forth, and round and round, wouldn’t be an issue, could even be a journey of discovery, if it weren’t for the arrogance of some of the participants. Or, what I perceive to be arrogance. Variations of, “But that’s wrong and here’s why”, followed up with references to other specifications that hurt, actually physically hurt just to look at, given in a tone of, “How could you think otherwise?” Or responses based on some absolutely obscene piece of markup minutia, repeated over and over again, in attempts to hammer the point home to we, the seemingly dense as bricks.

The end product of such discussions, though, is that people like myself flee the discussion—literally flee, as if the hounds of hell were chomping at our butts. The downside of running away, though, is we’re left feeling that we have no input, no control over what the web of the future will, or will not, allow. That the web of the future of the web is designed by and for the web designers, and not thee and me.

The real problem, though, has less to do with communication style, and more to do with differing levels of expertise and interest. People like me, who are consumers of specs, are mixed in with people who create the parsers and the browsers, and live and breath, eat and sleep this stuff. What else can we, the consumers, do, though? There seemingly is no way for those of us, on the dumb side of markup, to communicate our concerns, wishes, and desires to the other side. But when we do venture into the lists, we are quickly overwhelmed with the specs, the references, the minutia. Our interests get lost in the fact that we don’t have the language to participate. Worse, we don’t have the language to participate in a field notorious for being both competitive, and impatient.

Unbeknownst to ourselves, we have become Pinky to the markup Brains.

So we consumers flee the lists and leave them to the developers and designers, and the end result is that we have specifications, and eventually implementations, that, well, frankly, scare the shit out of most of us.

Don’t believe me? How else could you explain the Yellow Screen of Death that appears whenever you make a simple mistake in markup for the post you’re writing? Not a helpful error, or an error that gently points out where and why the problem occurs; an error that tries to work with you to correct the problem.

No, it is an ugly error, an angry error, with red on yellow, that screams, “Bad, Shelley! Bad”, before it invariably trails off to uselessness on the right side of the browser. You don’t think an actual person like you and me would have designed a specification that encourages this behavior, or a browser that implements it, do you?

The true irony, though, is when you do voice concerns, or criticism, you’re typically met with, “If you want something, you need to participate in the email lists working on the specifications”, and the cycle begins anew. Narf.

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