Dave Shea opened Web Directions North at 0902 hours. (Liveblogging joins partway through.)

[After the Web got started in earnest, it seemed that commercial interests would take over.] Those of us left? Well, we were interested in the Web for its own sake. We actually spent time looking at those specifications that the W3C had introduced years earlier to the complete apathy of everyone else working at the time. We were interested in doing things right. This has all come about with a certain amount of inevitability, really; but in 2004, the idea of running a Web conference focussing on Web standards and accessibility – that wasn’t something that anyone expected. John and Maxine helped begin a conference in Sydney in 2004. I was thrilled to go down and deliver the keynote. Derek Featherstone delivered the keynote in 2005. Other conferences have sprung up and blossomed. Last year, there was some debate in Canada: Why don’t we have something happening here? Let me tell you, if you have the right people reading your blog posts, things happen. And here we are.

We’ve brought in speakers from five different countries. The sessions involve some never-before-seen issues.

Pete LePage and Angela Baxley Microsoft took the stage at 0908 to introduce Molly Holzschlag. If you lined her books up from here to the back of the room, you might actually make it: She’s got 30 books published, and she’s all about Web standards. (Asks Molly how long she’s been doing “Web stuff”: Since 1993.) Molly’s been out there advocating Web standards, teaching people about cool Web design/Web technique stuff, working with browser vendors like Microsoft and Firefox and Opera so we all do the same thing and don’t cause any headaches. I’m really excited she’s going to do a presentation today about breaking Web standards and crimes against Web standards.

Molly: Have you let people know what your job actually is?

Pete: I’m the product manager for Internet Explorer [for developers]. If you want to come with Nerf bats, we’ll take it for IE6. We’re not gonna take it for IE7, but if you want to Nerf-bat us for IE6…. (Angela works on Expression Studio.)

Molly Holzschlag walked onstage at 0910. “Crimes against Web standards: Web wrongs in the information age.”

Who’s been committing crimes against Web standards since 1993? 1997? 2000? more recently? (Decreasing numbers of hands.) How many people here have never built a table-based layout ever? (Seven.) A page with frames? (“Lot more.”) How many people know when they look at a DOCTYPE what they’re looking at? (Many.)

Today is intended to be light-hearted. I intend to look at my own code crimes, then at other crimes against Web standards, then look at each other’s crimes and let you judge just how criminal you are.

I began in 1993. That means when I was working with HTML or whatever the hell it was at that point – this SGML tag stuff – what was different about the Web? Man: “Pixels.” Can anybody tell me what that means? Other man: “Less of them?” No, it was text-based. There was no such thing as a graphical user interface for the Web in public hands. It was never intended to be that way, and we as people who are working in the Web are battling that.

Crimes: “In search of space.” This is Mick Garrison, my Web master; we committed a lot of crimes together. (Shows <ul><li><p><li><p>.) But this validates. The validator does not know it is presentational.

(Shows hyperlinks as navigation.) What would we do today to make this a little more sensible? Place it in an list. OK, very good. Would we use those ps? No; we’d put those in list items. (Ends in <p><p>, which would collapse into a single p.)

(Shows example with a dozen or more brs.) What’s it for? To make the user scroll? Clearing the image? Vertical alignment? All of you were correct. If I were to tell you this is one table cell next to another table cell, not nested tables, can you describe what would result? Lining up text with image. But what are all those breaks for? One table, two cells (with one column having two sidebar photos, the other a column of text with one photo). You can see how easy that would be to do in CSS. And for a site that was designed in 1995–1996, not too shabby. But there really was no other way. What would you have done if this were 1997? Spacer GIFs. But it still looks great, and, ironically enough, because of its lightweight table, it is actually accessible and readable – and valid.

(Runs video from Eric Meyer trying to sound like a mafioso, which worked as well as fellow ginger David Caruso’s efforts to sound like a cop. But I digress.)

“In search of WYSIWYG.” (Shows snippet of code from GoLive.) A cool table? usegridx? Anybody know what it’s there for? Man: “GoLive.” Did you say that? “I was the product manager. And you know what? My tables were cool.” Contributing to our bad behaviour – you terrible criminal, you! That was all used for the layout grid. And there were ways to clean this up, to be fair.

(Shows other snippet.) It’s not a broken DOCTYPE It’s HTML 2 from the IETF. See? We have a history. This is FrontPage 1.1 with font.

(Shows third snippet, with leftmargin, topmargin.) Dreamweaver.

(Shows video from Neil C. Ford. “The client wanted it quick and I was up against a deadline. Nested tables? They’re not really that bad, are they? Those plus a few spaces kind of made it easy. Of course, converting all the text to graphics made it even easier. It works. I got paid. Maintenance might be a problem. So we won’t worry about it. Apparently there’s some problem with accessibility or something. I could get to the site fine, so it looks perfectly accessible to me. I can’t see what the fuss is about. People are making me out to be some kind of villain. I’m the villain? Nah, can’t be. I’m not the person who told the guys using Outlook to use Word, now, am I?”)

“Framed.” “To view our framed version, download Netscape 2.” (Shows page with static navbar and scrolling body copy.) Shows old site from MSN, which was IE-only at the time. Shows snippet to hide the frame. “So it would break in Netscape?” I ask. No, so it wouldn’t break in Netscape. (Shows purple-and-white-on black frames site for the Disabilities Forum.) Does anybody have a desire to still work with frames? Andy Clarke: “I miss them so much!” Imagine what a designer like Andy could do with frames. Andy: “Imagine what I did with frames!”

(Shows Lynx.) Many, many purists will tell you that this is the biggest crime against Web standards. What is it? (Shows Mosaic logo.) You may remember the beautiful background colour we were forced to look at – grey. What is with the re-emergence of grey? (Shows another Meyer video. “I think the therapy’s going well. I realize the error of my ways.” Pretends to be doing Web tech support. “You… want to prevent users from changing the text size?”)

(Shows Tim Berners-Lee quote: “Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days.”) (Shows IE logo stomping a Doc Marten on a Netscape logo.) (Shows iCab, Camino, Safari, Opera, Firefox logos, does show of hands.) Who’s using [each] as their primary browser? (I put up my hand for Opera, as do one or two others.)

But then came five lonely years. (Runs recording from Bill Gates.) Slide: Box-model hack, DOCTYPE switch. Gates saying we’ve done the mea culpa, and yes, we should have kept the browser innovation at a continuous curve.

(Shows * html.) Anybody explain why this is so wrong? Man: “HTML has no parent.” When it came to do IE7, this fix had to be fixed; this is a bug.

(Shows a faux magazine cover: Dean Edwards.) Dean took just about every IE6 bug or faulty or problematic issue and, using IE’s own JScript, created a library that repaired everything in IE6. That’s a little message, I think, at the very least that it could be done.

(Shows Web Standards Project logo.) We sat down with representatives from Microsoft and began to talk about the pain and the suffering and the woe we had felt from Microsoft. And out of that has grown many, many positive things, including IE7. (Asks for show of hands of browser vendors in the audience.)

I’d like to do something terrible for a journalist and take people’s quotes out of context. He said “mea culpa.” But now we have progress, and I want everyone to give a round of applause to everyone who worked so very hard to get it that way. A lot of people feel that the4y should not have to be playing the part of cop when it comes to what browser developers are doing. But if we want it, we have to fight for it. Ands that’s how it’s been all along. So until that paradigm shifts….

Some lessons:

  1. Presentational hacks appeared first.
  2. Table layouts were likely the fault of WYSIWYG software.
  3. Just because it’s in a spec doesn’t mean it’s good. [(Asks how many W3C people are here. Four.) Frames are problematic.]
  4. Waiting years for browser upgrades sucks. Let’s make sure that never happens again.
  5. Forgiveness is a virtue that shall be rewarded.

(Ends 0943.)

Asks for people from the 1993 days to confess markup sins. Scott Fedgett is called to stand up. Scott: I wrote an article on table-based layout well before there were WYSIWYG layouts. What are you doing today to make up for your crimes? I only use CSS and valid markup; I am preaching the gospel. So what made this change for you? Ostracism from my peers? And the company you work for? I’m fighting the good fight from within (at Adobe Dreamweaver). We’re working hard to absolve ourselves from some of the guilt that Molly has forced on us. Molly: And Dreamweaver has come a long way.

David Storey, Opera: Actually, I’m trying to fix everybody else’s crimes at the moment. (When a site doesn’t work in Opera, he goes around trying to fix it.) Is it just opening the Web for Opera? When we give suggestions for fixes, we make sure it works in all browsers.

Markus: I confess! When I did my Ph.D. work, they loved table-based layouts. When I joined Microsoft in 1996, the same. Two years ago we started work on IE7. It is one of the highlights of my life that it’s all coming together here.

Dave Orchard, W3C. Molly: What do you think the W3C might have to do with Web crimes? We haven’t done a good enough job with advocacy. Web Standards Project has been better, I think, than what the W3C has been able to accomplish on those. Work on HTML and XHTML and tag-soup integration and all that other stuff – that unquoted-attributes world of HTML mixing in with microformats…. I’m hoping we can try to bring those worlds together a little bit, but that’s really hard because of the legacy stuff. Molly: And the bureaucracy of the W3C. What about the design of the site? What’s up with that?

John Allsopp: In fairness, the term wasn’t even invented (when I started in 1994). I used images for text, a table to get a list of things separated out the way I wanted, the “font tag.” It’s a great irony I started writing CSS software and the CSS Samurai. You cannot do nonstandard stuff – by design.

(Scribe terminated at 0951. There may be no other liveblogged sessions due to difficulty of typing.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.02.08 16:56. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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