Buzz Archive: April 2004

A Roadmap to Standards

Dave Shea: a man with too much time on his hands, or simply chock-full of genius? In either event, dash over to read A Roadmap to Standards. A veritable blognum opus, Dave's essay explains in practical, real-world terms the need for DOCTYPEs, validation, and structured markup — it's a must-read for anyone interested in moving the web forward, but not sure where to begin.

I suppose The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy references are just an added bonus. And Dave does seem to know where his towel is.

WSG Interviews Eric Meyer

The Web Standards Group, known best for their evangelism of standards both online and in the sunny climes of Australia, have posted their Top Ten Questions for Eric Meyer.

Eric discusses his new CSS books, along with his opinions on CSS3, where CSS has been, where it's going, and what its favorite snack is. OK, maybe not the snack bit. There are tips for new developers, alongside Eric's take on image replacement and CSS hacks. All that in just ten questions - what's not to like?

more freebies from westciv

In their ongoing efforts to spread the good word about markup and CSS, Westciv is offering FREE courses on HTML 4 and XHTML starting this week and running for the next several months.

The free program is excellent for those brand new to standards, or for those folks using CSS but who do not have a strong foundation in markup. Because the relationship of your HTML or XHTML documents to your CSS is so critical to avoiding mishaps and problems with CSS, it will also appeal to those individuals who have been using visual editors without much of an understanding of what really goes into standardized HTML and XHTML.

You can follow the free course online, or purchase the course for download at $29.99 and go at your own pace. Either way, I've found Westciv's content to be very straight-forward, easy-to-understand, and very helpful with accessibility and usability concerns as well as their hallmark specialty of CSS.

DRC? Yeah, You Know Me.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) released a formal accessibility review of one thousand UK websites today. Their findings paint a bleak picture: in their automated tests, 81% of the sites tested failed to reach the minimum standard for accessibility; additionally, 585 accessibility and usability problems were uncovered in user testing of a hundred web sites from that group.

However, the study makes specific mention that nearly half of those problems were not in violation of the WCAG checkpoints — implying a shortcoming in the guidelines themselves:

Compliance with the Guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative is a necessary but not sufficient condition for ensuring that sites are practically accessible and usable by disabled people.

Disability Rights Commission, The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People

The W3C promptly issued a response to the DRC's findings. While applauding the report and its recommendations as largely useful and informative, the statement directly addresses potential misunderstandings about W3C's WAI Guidelines introduced by certain interpretations of the [DRC's] data.

The Register has in-depth coverage of the report.

Safety First

We've all been there.

You've got a blog. You've spent hours getting the templates and CSS just right. It even validates. You are the model of a cool, modern, standards aware weblogger.

So you post a new entry to let the world know that you are now compliant. You even include a link to the validation results for your page so your readers can see for themselves. You go out for a drink to celebrate a job well done.

When you get home, your inbox is full. It's all the same thing, from visitors to your site. They're saying that your page doesn't actually validate. "But that can't be," you say, "I just got it validating and i haven't changed the templates since. All I did was post one entry!"

You run the page through the validator again and, sure enough, there's a big "This page is not Valid XHTML 1.0!" warning and an error message. You look closer and it all becomes clear.

The URL for the validation results that you linked to has something like ".../check?uri=...&detect_charset=..." in it. You've let a bare, unescaped ampersand slip into your pristine page. For shame! So you escape it properly and vow to be more careful posting links in the future.

Of course that lasts about a week and before you know it, you're getting more email from concerned visitors pointing out that your site doesn't validate because of more bare ampersands in URLs (OK. maybe you don't. we sure do anytime our site doesn't validate).

It's a never ending battle and the temptation is to just give up and admit defeat.

Fortunately, you don't have to choose between constant, tiring vigilance and going back to the land of "almost compliant" pages. At least not if you use Movable Type.

With some help , Gavin Estey has made the world safe for standards compliant blogging with the SafeHref MT plugin. It automatically escapes the ampersands in your href's and lets you post free of worry.

Finally, you can relax and get on with the blogosphere gossip and meme propagation that makes your weblog the beautiful and unique snowflake that it is.

W3C Recs the DOM3 Core

The Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Core Specification was released today by the W3C as a full-fledged Recommendation. This module provides the foundation for all the other modules in the DOM Level 3 architecture.

Also today, the DOM Level 3 Load & Save module, which defines the interface for dynamically pulling data from an external XML source into a document as well as serializing DOM documents to XML, reached Recommendation status.

Read the W3C’s press release for more information.

New Zealand Hearts Standards

In a sweeping online initiative, the New Zealand government has set a 1 January 2006 deadline for all government websites to comply with the national accessibility guidelines. The mandates were issued in the spirit of ensuring New Zealanders' right of access to government information and services — pages must be able to function without requiring JavaScript, HTML alternatives must be provided to PDFs, and sites should be friendly to Internet connections as slow as 9.6kbps.

So if you're a standards-devoted developer or designer living in New Zealand, it's not a bad time to be freelancing.

El Reg in CSS

The Register, the web's most vitriolic source of IT industry news, has made the leap to CSS and web standards - and they've done it with style. The new site validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional and makes extensive use of CSS. While they still use a solitary table for their site's signature three column headline grid the overall improvement is dramatic. Congratulations to the team at GBdirect for a great job on the redesign. Further details about the new site's underlying technology can be found on their about page or by perusing the extensive comments in their CSS.

NN4.x Layouts

Still stuck supporting Netscape Navigator 4.x? Our deepest condolences.

But all is not lost. Found recently: NN4-compatible XHTML/CSS 3 column layouts. (see also: CSS Layouts for Netscape 4)

Complicated CSS-based layouts that actually work in NN4? The mind boggles, but there you go — it can be done!

The Way Forward With Web Standards

MACCAWS (Making A Commercial Case for Adopting Web Standards) have finally released their first white paper, The Way Forward with Web Standards. A document aimed at the technically minded, it presents an exhaustive business case for web standards while debunking common myths and misperceptions. And for the standards-naïve manager or client in your life, a non-technical introduction to the document is also available.

W3C Link Checker Stands Alone

The W3C link checker has been upgraded, and a standalone version released. You can:

Both the service and the standalone tool are free. As always, the W3C is openly soliciting your feedback and bug reports about its validation products and services.

W32ValidXHTML.A On The Loose

Antivirus software maker McAfee announced today that a new virus is making the rounds. The infection is spreading with ferocity among Web servers and desktop Windows systems alike, taking advantage of an obscure bug in the SMB file-sharing protocol that allows people named "Denis" to install software remotely without the hassle of messy passwords. A comment in the binary executeable contained the string "Netsky.Q is a wanky klooj. Shout outs to all my Web Standards peeps!"

Microsoft has denied any wrongdoing, but will issue a patch later today, and a Microsoft spokesman, who could not be reached for comment, blamed their Canadian subsidiary in a handwritten note shoved beneath the table in the diner where we did not officially meet to discuss the news.

The virus appears to do nothing harmful to your computer, does not install any registry keys or delete any vital software or install software that turns your machine into a zombie spam proxy. All it appears to do is scan both local and remote filesystems for HTML files (files with the extensions .htm, .html, .shtm, .shtml, and any file containing '<HTML>' in the first 128 characters) and validate them, using the excellent CSE HTML Validator. If the file fails to properly validate to XHTML 1.0 Strict, it is deleted.

Antivirus engineer Torus Donut, of Finland's F-Secure, says "we expect to see many variants of this bugger, validating everything according to different interpretations of the various standards; we've already seen a variant that tries to run a prototype CSS 3.0 validator, but it spends most of its cycles trying to decide where to install it. We've seen a variant that doesn't like tables used for formatting, regardless of whether the document is valid or not. And we saw one variant that simply deleted Internet Explorer 5.5 - we figure the virus author to be a bitter ex-employee of one of the big bubble Web companies, like CKS or maybe iXL."

Others in the industry have made guesses as to who the virus author (or authors) are; some suggested that it might be someone with a great deal of cross-browser DHTML experience, their mind unhinged by the ordeal; others suspect that the author may just be a bored and very bright devotee of Zeldman with a lot of Intel x86 assembler experience.

No matter who is responsible, however, the message is clear: don't want your files deleted? Make sure they validate. And never execute unknown email attachments or run insecure operating systems and mail client software.

March for Web Standards

As we code, we must make the pledge that we shall always code for the future. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of web standards, "When will you be satisfied?"

We can never be satisfied as long as our pages cannot avail themselves of child selectors. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodys, burdened by excessive spacer graphics and font tags, are inaccessible on even the least deserving handheld device. We can never be satisfied as long as trunks are locked, and ties smeared with ketchup. No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until DOCTYPEs roll down like waters and validation like a mighty stream.

The time is now. Rise up, and march for web standards.

(With apologies to the great Dr. King)

Web Standards Perk Up More Than Your Site

Scientists from Johns Hopkins University in conjunction with the W3C today announced the results of a study showing a strong correlation between the use of non-standard, proprietary markup and erectile dysfunction in Web developers. According to the senior researcher Dr. Ella Mensa-Lechter, “Subjects who kept their structure clean noticed a marked improvement in its ability to perform in a variety of presentations.”

The study was prompted by the revelation that the claims of developers “having a hard time with Web standards” had been dramatically misunderstood.