Tue, 03 Aug 2004

ISSYCWG

(or I See Something You Certainly Won’t Get)

I’m not really concerned with the bulk of this post, really, it’s mostly concerned with things I don’t care about. I’m not the kind of guy, at any level, who’s looking for an it’s-not-just-a-floor-wax, it’s-a-dessert-topping-too blogging client/aggregator/server whatever-the-fuh. Unix, man, simple, focused tools that do one thing (well) and aren’t selfish with their data.

I use a semi-fancy text editor as a blogging client. I could use a fancier one, or a simpler one. I serve my pages with an almost pathologically simple publishing system. I think the real reason I favor this way of working is that I’m rarely surprised by my tools. When you serve content, surprise is bad.

The following bullet point, though, caught my attention:

3. WYSIWYG copy and paste.

It totally amazes me that both Moveable Type and TypePad don’t have a way for Windows users to go to a blog post - copy it - and paste it.

The web is not WYSIWYG, not from the top of it’s addled little head nor to the soles of its duct-taped together Chuck Taylor’s. When you (or even worse, your tools) pretend that it is you set yourself up for certain disappointment.

It would be nice for simple authoring if the web was WYSIWYG, and I’d like some ice cream, please, sir. And a pony. Definitely a pony.

Early on in the web’s history, it was the norm to conflate presentation and content. Of course, this never really worked, which became screamingly obvious once the second and succeeding browsing useragents appeared. Suitably chastened, later formal iterations of HTML and related tech made this distinction more explicit. CSS was developed to give authors (some) control over presentation, but the standards were always painfully plain on some very important points: presentation and content are separate, and presentation can and will vary widely in differing implementations in various contexts (e.g. desktop vs. mobile, different useragents, etc.) and that factors such as accessibility, iñtërnâtiônàlizætiøn, and a thousand other details have to be taken into account.

The sad fact is that a huge number of pages (perhaps even the majority) on the real, wild, web sport at least one of the following problems:

  • Wrong or missing DOCTYPE
  • Wrong or missing encoding declaration
  • Wrong or missing mimetype
  • Broken markup
    • improperly nested tags
    • improperly escaped characters
    • hacky markup that exists solely to work around, er, idiosyncrasies in the dominant useragent(s)

Any time you copy and paste from someone else’s broken page, you have a high likelihood of importing whatever brokenness existed in the source into your own. There are a few nuts out there like myself who like to poke the bear with a sharp stick by playing cute with things like curly quotes and uncommon characters, but I do it with eyes wide open, knowing that I need to tread carefully, and that I still stand a good chance of being mauled at any moment.

It’s true that the wide world of humans out there needs tools that make this stuff easier. I will be just as happy as everyone else when those tools arrive.

:: 09:05
:: /tech/computers/web | [+]
::Comments (0)

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You can’t learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle
is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency.
— W. Somerset Maugham, “The Circle”