Buzz Archive: November 2003 1.1, Standards via Writer2LaTex

For those using OpenOffice 1.1 software, Andreas Bovens has written:
Converting documents to xhtml 1.0 strict with Writer2LaTeX: a quickguide.
With a few changes to the OpenOffice software, Andreas clearly explains and shows how to modify the OpenOffice software to export XHTML Strict using Henrik Just's Writer2LaTeX utility.

Also see: Comments on the Andreas Bovens How-To Quickguide and if interested in the free office productivity software, the 1.1 Features list.

Web standards in ASP.NET

An ASP.NET developer claims that the next version of ASP.NET will produce standards-compliant XHTML, and include a built-in markup validator and accessibility checker as well.

Vector Wiki Whiteboard

In the article, Creating an SVG Wiki (November 19, 2003), author Danny Ayers shows how to make a whiteboard for Wiki using standards recommended SVG DOM.

Danny gives the minimal code needed for the WikiWhiteboard which allows its users the ability to draw or scribble and use a button to preserve the vector image to the Wiki for the next vistor or user. The SVG whiteboard could also be added to non wiki web pages.

More about Danny's project at: WikiWhiteboard for JSPWiki. More about SVG, at the W3C.

Dear Slashdot

We need to talk.

Daniel M. Frommelt's “Retooling Slashdot with Web Standards” provides spot-on coverage regarding Slashdot's lack of standard fare.

Slashdot is a very prominent site, but underneath the hood you will find an old jalopy that could benefit from a web standards mechanic.”

Even Joe Clark hopes Frommelt's article will be a “catalyst for change.” We do too.

With love, The Web Standards Project (WaSP)

WaSP Interviews: Dan Cederholm

WaSP is pleased to introduce a new ongoing feature: WaSP Interviews. Taking a look at some of the groundbreaking new redesigns happening on the web, we intend to go behind the scenes and shed some light on why more and more big-name sites are turning to web standards.

First on deck is Dan Cederholm, the man behind FastCompany/'s switch. Dan shares his team's experience dealing with universal access and retro-fitting over 20,000 pages of out-dated content, along with some interesting observations about Netscape Navigator 4.x users. Go read the interview to find out why web standards are working today for FastCompany and

SprintPCS does CSS

With a crisp new look, SprintPCS has re-launched as yet another well-designed, corporate standards-based showcase. Hats off to France Rupert and the rest of the team for their hard work. You can view France's design notes on his personal site, Point Break. You might note that there are a few inevitable rendering bugs and validation errors, partly thanks to an older CMS, but we're confident France and the team is hard at work to get those fixed.

ReUSEIT Results

The ReUSEIT contest results are in. In the contest, folks were challenged to create usable, accessible, standards-based redesigns of usability pundit Jakob Nielsen's web site. Some of the designs are pretty cool, my personal favorite, Minimal Jakob, ranked in the top ten. I like this particular design mostly because it's rather disturbing and yet every time I look at it, I laugh.

I can't help but wonder...

I can't help but wonder whether Jason would have better luck defending his position if he used standards-compliant markup.

CSS Vault

Do you ever come to the point sometimes when you are designing and the design is just simply not working so you begin to wonder why you are even a designer or could even claim to be one?

So speaks Paul Scrivens of 9rules. If you've ever felt the same (and who hasn't) a visit to his CSS Vault might be what's required to get the juices flowing and restore a little va-va-voom.

I needed a place where I could look at a list of sites that would inspire my creativity with CSS. I needed a site that linked to all the great CSS resources out there on the web. I couldn't find a site that combined those two elements, so I created one myself.

Partially inspired by the wunderkids of 37signals, the CSS Vault offers up an excellent collection of CSS sites and resources for your delectation.

Although the doors have only been open for a month there's already an impressive hit-list in the gallery, and around seventy tricks, hacks, demos and articles in the resource section.

So, comb your hair, put on some pants, and mosey on down to the CSS Vault. It's saved at least one designer from gloom, who knows what it can do for you...

On Saving Web Accessibility

Joe Clark writes in A List Apart that web accessibility is under threat from its own guidelines

An upcoming revision to the Web Accessibility Guidelines is in danger of becoming unrealistically divorced from real-world web development, yielding guidelines that are at once too vague and too specific. Your expertise and input can help create realistic guidelines that work.

In this piece Joe runs through his issues with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines - currently a 14,000 word document if you exclude markup examples which makes the prospect of reading it akin to 'an anaconda trying to swallow a Range Rover'.

It is true to say that Joe has something of a love/hate relationship with the various WAI groups, but it is also true to say that there are few things less pleasurable than reading through the accessibility documentation, be that version 1.0 or 2.0. Explaining what these documents mean to people new to the topic of web accessibility invariably involves dumbing them down to the bare minimum and thus losing the fine points that members of the working group have worked long and hard to get incorporated in the first place. Or, alternatively, you scare them off entirely by insisting that they read the whole lot (which they won't).

Having attended a face-to-face meeting of the working group, I have seen first-hand how difficult it is to progress the documentation and to get consensus on key points - and this is in a controlled forum where you can get answers instantly from the people directly in charge of the documentation's direction. I came away with a feeling that to be a full-time working group participant would take a lot of my free time, and I really didn't think I could realistically offer the commitment that it deserves. However, like Joe, I do believe that it's important that anyone with an interest in accessibility and a little free time looks at the issue and contributes where they can - Joe lists the many ways at the foot of his article.

Browser Targetting: Outdated

Locking users into a specific browser is soooo 1998.

In an otherwise insightful new article by Jean Tillman of Unisys (the company that brought you the now-expired GIF patent, for those keeping notes), it's argued that those building web-based applications may wish to take advantage of browser-specific technology:

Designers of Web-based applications, however, may have more control over the target environment, depending on the situation. They can specify a required browser, much like they specify the required hardware or operating system environment. This gives them more freedom of design and more choices for implementing browser-specific capabilities.

Somebody get this lady a copy of DWWS, stat!

Even in a closed environment like a company with a well-employed IT department or an educational facility, relying on a particular browser/operating system setup demonstrates a lack of foresight that's best left behind in the dot-com era. Even if absolutely everyone runs that particular combo today, what about next year? Three years from now? Ten years?

If we learned anything from the Year 2000 bug, it's this: software lives long past its expiration date. Assuming that an application will be continually upgraded to run on current technology is naïve at best. Locking an organization in to a certain browser is dangerous; don't do it.

To Hack Or Not To Hack?

Now that is a question. Specifically, I'm referring to the use of CSS hacks, tricks that take advantage of known browser bugs to do such things as hiding troublesome CSS from specific browsers but not for others. Some markup purists believe them to be as evil as mal-formed XML or invalid HTML, that they are to be avoided at all costs because it's only a metter of time before a new browser comes out that doesn't behave as you'd expect and consequently renders your CSS-hacked site in a less than desirable way.

However, in the strive for total purity of CSS, in order to stick only to those properties that are known to work consistently in all browsers, we'd all be left with dull-looking, carbon-copy sites that might have some nicely styled text and background colors, but little in the way of innovative layout. At least that's my opinion. And so laying my cards on the table, I thought I should mention that fellow WaSP Mark Pilgrim has a bunch of new CSS Hacks for Safari 1.1 (which is currently only available if you upgrade to OS X 10.3, but that's another matter) for you to try out.

Handle with care.

Validity of Eolas Patent To Be Reexamined

Apparently (and thankfully) swayed by the W3C's impassioned appeal, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has agreed to reexamine the validity of the Eolas patent:

“A substantial outcry from a widespread segment of the affected industry has essentially raised a question of patentability with respect to the 906 patent claims,” Stephen Kunin, the USPTO's deputy commissioner for patent examination policy, wrote in his order for re-examination. “This creates an extraordinary situation for which a director-ordered examination is an appropriate remedy.”

While the USPTO has indeed made a promising move, it is only the first in the involved patent reexamination process. Given the sweeping changes the Eolas patent could inflict upon the Web as we know it, we can only hope that the end result is the right one for web standards.

A Shopping Cart That Checks Out

No matter how hard we try, there will always be web sites that refuse to validate, don't want to play ball where it comes to accessibility and laugh in the face of table-free CSS layouts - and mostly these sites are the type that are generated dynamically (be that a CMS solution, an e-commerce site or a user-driven forum). Today I spotted an email which I felt compelled to follow up on though - it was regarding an e-commerce shopping cart service that claimed it could achieve AAA Bobby compliance, validate as XHTML Transitional and would generate pages that are table-free (unless there is real tabular data). "Ahh, heard that one before," I thought, and picked up the phone to speak to 'one of their tech guys' to grill him a bit more. What I heard from the other end of the line, though, was very encouraging, so I'll paraphrase here:

"Inspired by CSS Zen garden ... cannot change underlying XHTML but we provide hooks for CSS manpulation, like the zen garden ... not enforcing table-based designs because we appreciate that not all developers understand how to do this ... the Doug Bowman sliding doors method [used in one template] ... using the @import statement to split styles between basic and advanced ... the Zeldman method ... AAA compliant except for pages with forms because of the deault placeholder text ..."

This is not the kind of 'marketese' I'm used to hearing, and for a change it felt goooood. The site/service in question is called Karova, and will be premiered at the Techshare 2003 conference in Birmingham, UK, and I'll be watching this one with interest.

More than one Internet Explorer

Fellow WaSP Ethan Marcotte has stumbled across a gem of a find — turning Microsoft's recent patent headache into an opportunity, a clever Chicagoan designer has discovered that the new 'patent-friendly' version of IE highlights a hole that allows the simultaneous install of IE5.01, IE5.5, and IE6.0 all on the same Windows machine.

Read Joe Maddalone's tutorial to set this up on your own system. The instructions are simple enough to cause wondering whether Microsoft has held back this information for the past five years, and why. We don't know, perhaps Microsoft themselves can clear this up for us.

Seeking Students

Paul Bohman of is seeking college and university students with disabilities. He will be researching and conducting a study about the use of Web in higher education. Paul will conduct interviews over the next few weeks via phone, email, online chat, or in person(he is located in Logan Utah, United States). While the primary focus surrounds students in United States schools, he is also interested in participants from all over the world. The WebAim team can interview in English, Spanish, German, Hindi, or Telugu.

If you are interested or you know of a person who may be interested, please pass the information on to contact Paul Bohman.

The web site offers tutorials, tips, news, information, and a Discussion Forum about the accessibility of web content(including rich media and digital documents). Nicely redesigned, is valid XHTML 1.0 strict and uses CSS without tables to deliver its content. The front page offers up the latest news or articles of interest. One article, Do Accessible Web Sites Have to be boring?, may be of interest to many.