15 Dec 2007 12 am eastern

Re: CSS Unworking Group

Dear Andy:

I’m glad you’re expressing your concerns so forcefully; the web standards movement is painfully in need of leaders.

But like others I don’t see a connection between Opera’s lawsuit and your call for the disbanding of the CSS working group.

Apple and Microsoft and Netscape and Sun and Opera have been suing each other since the W3C started. What lawyers do has never stopped developers from Apple and Microsoft and Netscape and Sun and Opera from working together to craft W3C and ECMA specs.

And even if this time is different—even if, just this once, the existence of a lawsuit will stop a working group from working—I’m not sure it’s practical or advisable to cut browser makers out of the equation. For one thing, have you seen what the W3C comes up with when browser developers aren’t involved?

I can’t comment on the merits of Opera’s legal action because it is a legal action and I’m not a lawyer, let alone a lawyer versed in European antitrust law.

Based on past history, I don’t think the lawsuit will prevent the members of the CSS working group from doing their jobs. If it does, then the title of your post will be borne out, and Bert Bos, as group leader, will take action.

The web standards movement needs leaders who are passionate, but their leadership must also make sense. Proposing change when the change makes sense is good. Proposing change because you are disappointed and frustrated isn’t good enough. Anger can be brilliantly motivating; but anger is not a strategy.

[tags]webstandards, css, working group, opera, microsoft, antitrust, lawsuit, browsers[/tags]

Filed under: industry, Microsoft, Standards

74 Responses to “Re: CSS Unworking Group”

  1. will said on

    I just hope the lawsuit doesn’t cause the browser manufacturers to be compelled to adhere to new arbitrary standards created as a result of a judgment in the case.

  2. Dan Schulz said on

    Will, something tells me this suit won’t even make it to trial, so I doubt that would even be a concern. And if it did make it to trial, I doubt very highly that the judgment would result in an arbitrary standard being created since that is not what the Opera complaint is asking for.

  3. KatB said on

    I don’t think this response is out of anger. I think his response is from concern. I think he has some valid points, and it is fantastic that he feels able to express his concerns.

  4. Matt Wilcox said on

    “Proposing change when the change makes sense is good. Proposing change because you are disappointed and frustrated isn’t good enough.”

    Surely if the current system is one which generates disappointment and frustration so consistently for so many people, that in itself makes proposing change good. Proposing change isn’t about offering a solution, it’s about recognising a problem and _the need_ for a solution. I agree with Andy, the WG for CSS, and the WG for HTML5, are both highly ineffective. They need changing.

    _How_ they need changing is what needs to be debated, not _if_ they need changing.

  5. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    _How_ they need changing is what needs to be debated, not _if_ they need changing.

    I agree with that.

    I disagree with the notion that Opera’s filing suit against Microsoft mandates the disbanding of a CSS working group to which engineers from Microsoft and Opera (and other companies) contribute, which is the point Andy is making.

    I disagree with that point because there’s no logic to it. It’s apples and oranges. Not even. It’s apples and soap.

    The Web Standards Project has been silent about HTML 5 and CSS 3 and lots of other things. In the absence of strong leadership or any leadership from The Web Standards Project, frustrated designers and developers are leaping to support anyone who (a) is competent at design and standards (b) voices the frustration we’re all feeling and (c) proposes some sort of alternative, however vague.

    I think highly of Andy and if he’s ready to fill in the leadership gap, that’s great. But what he proposes needs to be clear, not vague, and his rationale needs to be based on logic, not mere emotion.

    That’s the clear, logical, unemotional thing I’m saying.

    If people would rather just get off on emoting than move forward in a coherent way, then we won’t get a real solution: we’ll just get movement sideways.

  6. Brad Bice said on

    Is your second link location wrong? Supposed to be pointing towards Meyerweb perhaps?

  7. Jeff Croft said on

    I was talking to a former colleague about Andy’s post, and he said, “it reads like a call to arms carefully designed to not actually happen.” I thought that was a pretty fair assessment.

    I also didn’t fully see the connection between Opera’s lawsuit and the need for change, but I do still generally agree that a change is needed — if we want to keep the web standards “movement” rolling. I’m not completely convinced that we still need a “movement,” though. A “movement,” in the form of ground-up support for the concept of standards, forcing browser manufacturers to see the light, was totally needs years ago. We got one (thanks in large part to Jeffrey, Eric, Molly, and Andy — all of whom are involved in this discussion), and it was awesome. It was the right plan at the right time, executed to perfection.

    Today, the situation is very different. The browser makers, by and large, have seen the light. Even if there are still areas where every browser lacks in support, the manufacturers have acknowledged it, and do seem to be making sincere efforts to correct it. For the most part, everyone is now on the same page. Because of that, I don’t know if we still need a “movement.”

    But, we do still need to maintain these relationships we’ve built with the browser makers and we need to keep amending, adding, and deprecating standards to move us forward. We need to educate people that are new to the field. There are a lot of things we need to do still, but one of them is not rail against the browser makers. We’ve been there and done that. They’re basically with us, now.

    Maybe — just maybe — if we started looking at it less as a “movement” and more as a mature profession, we’d be better able to communicate. I guess what I’m trying to say is: the web standards “movement” was built on anger. You note that anger is not a strategy (and I agree), but there is a culture of anger in this community (“To Hell With Bad Browsers!”) that we all (myself certainly included) need to grow past. Anger was needed at one point — it’s not, anymore. Now, we just need to be professional and work together.

    We don’t have to fight anymore. We won the war on standards. Now, we just have to keep the country we built on our new land together. I’m guessing that’s easier said than done.

  8. Steven Clark said on

    i’m not entirely sure we entirely won the war on standards just yet… vastly more web pages are produced as junk than as quality standards markup.

    that being said browsers have come a long way in a relatively short time and as much as cutting them out of the equation might stop them talking and work in a more negative way than that envisioned by Andy.

    i think browser vendors do need to be involved. Where he is hitting a nail on the head though is that we do need to assess periodically whether they are being involved in the right way. If the tail starts wagging the horse it may need some adjustment. I’d hate to think (and yes I’m in no position to actually know this one way or another) that we’ll just get what they feel like implementing as opposed to implementing a spec which is of itself a working entity.

    just my 2 cents. The debate itself is very healthy for web standards.

  9. Matt Wilcox said on

    I disagree with the notion that Opera’s filing suit against Microsoft mandates the disbanding of a CSS working group to which engineers from Microsoft and Opera (and other companies) contribute, which is the point Andy is making.

    I happen to agree with you on this, though I’m not entirely sure that Andy’s point is as specific as your interpretation (it’s not made clear by Andy whether his post is a general call for a concerted think about the W3C’s methods, or just a reactionary knee-jerk to the specific issue of Opera’s litigation. I imagine the former having been instigated by the latter). I do not think that Opera’s impending litigation is grounds for disbanding the WG – but to a large extent that isn’t the point for me. The interesting thing is that it’s proved a catalyst to show just how unhappy many people in the industry are with the current WG progress and process. It’s a catalyst to question why it is the case that members of the WG itself are even considering such radical proposals as completely disbanding a Working Group in the first place. The issue has escalated from non-W3C-members making unhappy noises (for many months), to members of the WG making the very same unhappy noises. Sure, disbanding any WG, be it CSS3 or HTML5 (of which I too have grave concerns), is not going to provide a solution – but it’s a telling sign of the sheer scale of the problem that has, until now, been un-addressed by anyone with a voice that’s heard inside the W3C itself. The exciting point that Andy has made is not that people are unhappy with the pace and type of work the W3C WG does, but that the very process of the W3C is fundamentaly flawed and simply does not work any longer. That the W3C has failed already.

    I don’t think disbanding the WG will help solve anything in and of itself, and I’m not interested in whether it gets disbanded or not – what I’m interested in is seeing some proper debate with relevant people about why the WG(s) are getting such poor reaction from the very people they exist to serve (the public, and web developers, not the browser vendors), and how to move things forward in a way that doesn’t take a decade per specification, that doesn’t produce irrelevant ineffective recommendations and specifications (XHTML2, HTML5), and that does produce results that vendors will support in a prompt and complete fashion, so the we can actually use new tools that are relevant to us quickly. We all want the same thing. It’s time to recognise that the way things are going, the way things have gone for the last decade near as damn-it, will not get us there.

    frustrated designers and developers are leaping to support anyone who (a) is competent at design and standards (b) voices the frustration we’re all feeling and (c) proposes some sort of alternative, however vague.

    The very fact that this is happening, and that people are willing to jump on such vague propositions, only underlines the severity of the problem that until now no one in ‘power’ has chosen to debate, despite rumblings in the general developer blog-sphere. It’s the debate that’s crucial, getting it going. It is naive to expect a proposal for a solution from any one person, and with respect, irrelevant whether a solution is proposed or not at this point in time. This agenda is far larger than one person, involves far more detail and nuances than anyone not already heavily involved in the W3C process could know. A solution proposed by a single person will not address all the details that a successful solution would need, there are too many players that need to be consulted. Too many complexities. Besides, there not being a solution provided along with a complaint doesn’t invalidate the reason for the complaint nor lessen its severity.

    If people would rather just get off on emoting than move forward in a coherent way, then we won’t get a real solution: we’ll just get movement sideways.

    I don’t think it’s the intention of anyone simply to bitch and whine for the hell of it. It takes emoting in order to bring attention to a problem. Heck, that’s what the whole Web Standards thing was about – passionate displeasure with the system as it was, and through that passion a bringing together of people in order to then calmly work out a solution. You know this. It’s that first stage that’s happening now. People are brassed off, and starting to coalesce about exactly why they are so disheartened and annoyed with a W3C which has consistently failed to deliver relevant and usable specifications in a timely manner.

    Proposed solutions are step two and must involve debate with the current W3C members and the public who are so dissatisfied. We’re at step one – recognition of a severe problem. Step two is finding solutions, but in order to do that the W3C must open itself to the concerns of the public, must see things from the perspective of the public, and must engage in meaningful debate with the public. No more closed doors, no more half-hidden processes. The W3C must not believe that it is viable to carry on as is – a road to obscurity and irrelevance; not dismiss these complaints until someone provides a solution to them first; and not be complacent about its current practices, which in many ways are woefully inadequate.

  10. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Is your second link location wrong?

    Uh, no. It’s correct.

    Supposed to be pointing towards Meyerweb perhaps?

    No, supposed to be pointing to what it is pointing to: the discussion on Andy’s site, in which several people are unable to see the connection between Opera’s lawsuit and Andy’s demand that the CSS working group dissolve. (That’s because there IS NO CONNECTION. These companies sue each other all the time.)

  11. thacker said on

    Any ideas or hard-core information of how the DOJ and EU litigation may have added to the development delays of IE7?

  12. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @Jeff Croft and @Matt Wilcox, your comments are beautifully written and spot on.

    I’ll go further: we stopped needing anger during the movement. One of the things I tried to do as leader of The Web Standards Project was move the group from its initial righteous anger (which was needed to make browser makers pay attention, and to which I contributed when the group was young) to a more conciliatory and collegial stance, where we recognized that browser developers were our partners. They couldn’t be part of the solution if we kept making them the enemy.

    Once again much of the standards community is deeply frustrated, but the anger appears to be free-floating, unfocused, and self-cancelling. Standardistas are angry at XHTML 2 for being divorced from reality but they are equally angry at HTML 5 for being too real (i.e. too close to the foibles of non-standards-aware developers). They’re angry that browser makers weren’t included in XHTML 2 and angry that browser makers are driving HTML 5. The W3C is wrong when it ignores its corporate sponsors and wrong when it listens to them.

    Our colleagues are furious about Microsoft’s relatively slow adaptation of standards but they’re also angry that standards aren’t moving faster. If CSS3 moved faster, by what magic would Microsoft be able to support it correctly?

    The future of CSS, WCAG, and HTML are serious concerns. The new leaders of standards-oriented web design, if leaders there be, should work together to frame the problems coherently and contribute to the solution. Chest-thumping and grandstanding are empty, self-serving gestures.

    Joe Clark did the right thing: He articulated profound concerns about WCAG 2, proposed an alternative way forward, and led the effort to put that alternative in front of web designers.

    Likewise, Gian Sampson-Wild raised concerns about WCAG 2′s emphasis on testability.

    These were acts of leadership: brave and coherent.

    I’m disheartened by the general lack of leadership. I wish The Web Standards Project would either disband or get meaningfully busy.

    it reads like a call to arms carefully designed to not actually happen.

    There may be something to that.

  13. Matt Wilcox said on

    …we recognized that browser developers were our partners. They couldn’t be part of the solution if we kept making them the enemy.

    Absolutely, and there’s no way around this, it doesn’t make sense to exclude the people who actually instigate the recommendations as software. However, browser vendors do have vested interests and I believe the concern that exists over their involvement is about how much influence they have within the group, rather than that they have any. Their level of influence is something which, frankly, I don’t think anyone outside of the W3C knows – and it’s partly this lack of transparency which helps create a climate of paranoia. My personal opinion is that they should have a seat as advisers on W3C proposals, but that they should not themselves be making any proposals for features of specifications or technologies. Of course, that’s a thought which may be completely unrealistic – I don’t know enough about how the W3C works to know any better – which leads me to address another problem, lack of transparency and lack of leadership.

    I’m disheartened by the general lack of leadership. I wish The Web Standards Project would either disband or get meaningfully busy.

    Absolutely, and I’ve a feeling you are not alone.

    The new leaders of standards-oriented web design, if leaders there be, should work together to frame the problems coherently and contribute to the solution. Chest-thumping and grandstanding are empty, self-serving gestures.

    Again I absolutely agree, we need the problems framing in order to address them – but wonder if this somewhat misses the point. Isn’t the W3C supposed to be leading? Shouldn’t they be aware of this? Isn’t it the W3C which holds ultimate responsibility for how the web evolves? Why are the W3C, then, so out of touch? And, if we accept that this is in large part the source of the problem, how does anyone take leadership and help get things back on track for developers and users as a whole? It’s clear to me that despite good intentions, the W3C staff at the moment are either unable or unwilling to get a good leader. Either unable or unwilling to focus their efforts in a way that addresses the problems and goals of the web today. Either unable or unwilling to open up, modernise, and include people with current real world experience at high levels of the organisation.

    And if the W3C can not accomplish these things, how is anyone to lead change? How are we to draft meaningful strategies, solutions, or specifications, if the people that need to be in on it in order to ratify it are a large part of the problem? This is what I meant when I’ve said in the past that the W3C is on a dangerous path to irrelevance. Either it fixes its issues, or it will end up getting replaced. If it gets replaced, my worry is that it won’t be an open group of professionals that replaces it – but a coalition of browser vendors – which is what nearly happened with HTML5. That really would be disaster.

    What Joe Clark had that enabled him to show strong leadership was a firm and detailed understanding not only of the realities of accessibility in our industry, but of the processes through which WCAG 2.0 went, and the people and organisations involved throughout. Joe pulled off a great move by raising the concerns he did, and helping to pave a way toward a solution. But the problems with the W3C and the Working Groups at the moment are quite simply too large and too complex for any one person to realistically address, because they are too complex for any one person to know how it all ties together. The most anyone can do is issue a rallying call and hope to gain the knowledgeable input of people who can help forge a solution, and pray to get the attention of people in a position to instigate change.

    The trouble is – where on earth do you start trying to fix the W3C? What area do you attempt to focus on first? Do you attempt to re-negotiate the role of the browser vendors? Do you look at the specifications themselves? Do you look at the organisation as whole? Do you address first the relationship between W3C and the public? How about the archaic communication (seemingly) both internal and external? (mailing lists in the 21st century is not on – why not forums, which are readily searchable and much more familiar to today’s web user – and isn’t the W3C about today’s and tomorrows web user, not just yesterdays?) How do you address the insular attitude that seems to exist? The lack of people within the W3C who actually use the W3C technologies in the real world, daily? (Can we please get a few less engineers and a few more more designers and developers, who actually build websites for a living, in the CSS group? – one just doesn’t cut it).

    Well, I could go on – my point is the magnitude of the level of change, the complexity of the relationships that make up our industries decision makers. How do you convince these people to take leadership from people ‘outside’? How do you convince them to change their own leadership?

    I do not believe that it’s possible for any one person to claim leadership and get it all fixed. I’m not even sure if a group could form and have any real effect on the organisations that need to be effected. But yes, somehow this all needs addressing. I just wish someone somewhere knew how to start.

  14. Matt Wilcox said on

    As something of an ignorant idea (I’m not in any way a software engineer):

    If CSS3 moved faster, by what magic would Microsoft be able to support it correctly?

    This is a software problem rather than a standards problem – but would it not make sense to emulate Flash’s approach? By which I mean making HTML and CSS modularised plug-ins, in the same way that Flash Player is a plug-in. In this way it might be possible to have the plug-in authored once and once only, possibly by a coalition of browser vendors working to W3C specifications, and the plug-ins distributed to the browsers when new recommendations are released. Again, I’ve no idea how practical such an approach would be, but the plug-in system would negate the problem that we have at the moment whereby legacy browsers are unable to cope with modern (or even half-modern) standards, and users are unable or unwilling to upgrade the browser itself (thus meaning we all need to use CSS2 selectors for layout or else have a site break in IE6/7).

    If HTML and CSS were merely plug-ins, anyone could update any browser’s parsing/render engine in the same manner that they update to the latest Flash Player. And then that ‘IE version X won’t die, so I have to code like it’s 1999′ problem stops mattering and stops reoccurring.

  15. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @Matt Wilcox:

    I agree with your comment about directional problems at the W3C — and so do the W3C leaders with whom I’ve spoken.

    Including more working designers and developers might be part of the solution.

    When the standards we use today were being developed, there was more participation by “invited experts” who actually created websites. People like Jeff Veen, Todd Fahrner, David Siegel, and (I’m pretty sure) Lynda Weinman sat with the engineers and browser makers on the CSS and HTML working groups — not to tell them how to create a layout engine, but to provide input on what web content creators need.

    Over the past two years, the W3C has tried to include more of us again, but the W3C’s own outdated processes sometimes interfere. For instance, Tim Berners-Lee invited me to join a working group, but between the timing of the invitation and the amount of last-minute paperwork required, I wasn’t able to accept his offer. This has happened to others as well.

    I doubt Andy’s post will motivate the W3C to invite more designers to participate. Read Daniel Glazman’s response for a taste of how Andy’s post will likely go down.

    From the W3C’s perspective, people actively petitioned to get Andy into the CSS working group. Once he was in, by his own admission, he did not actively participate. After 12 months of not actively participating, Andy announced that the CSS working group should be abolished or reformed on the grounds that Opera is suing Microsoft. At best this is naive. A bunch of naive “Right on, Andy” comments on Andy’s blog will do little to persuade the W3C that our community understands the challenges of creating standards and has something vital to contribute.

  16. Malarkey said on

    Hi Jeffrey, I’ve published my follow up CSS Working Group proposals today and would love to hear your feedback.

  17. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Thanks! Read and responded.

  18. Matt Wilcox said on

    I agree with your comment about directional problems at the W3C — and so do the W3C leaders with whom I’ve spoken.

    It’s good to know that this is known about inside the W3C, but it’d be nicer still if we could see things being done about it (yes, it’s that same old complaint). The lack of awareness that this is a known issue is a sign in itself of the poor communication going on between the W3C and the public. Poor communication is not helping matters.

    …not to tell them how to create a layout engine, but to provide input on what web content creators need

    And that is exactly as it should be, and I can not for the life of me understand how the W3C can be effective in any other way. Perhaps this is precisely why it has not been effective recently.

    I doubt Andy’s post will motivate the W3C to invite more designers to participate.

    That would seem to me to be a tragedy if it were to have that effect – and having read the particular response of the developer you mention, it’s a concern that the apparent attitude of the people involved in the W3C is one such as that to public criticism. I can understand the frustration – especially when Andy’s input has been so limited, but as stated way up there – anger is not a strategy. Anger fixes nothing. And while Andy may not have contributed too much – he’s the one and only designer (that I am aware of anyway) that’s got that level of access to the WG, and can report back on how things are going.

    For me, the number one problem with the W3C as it stands is that its focus is so horribly diffused. It isn’t up to software engineers and academics to decide what designers and developers need their tools to do. It’s the designers and developers which should be either leading directly, or being heavily consulted – just as it was in the past. It’s the software engineers job to convert those desires and thoughts into something practicable, through talks with the browser vendors. It’s not the W3C’s role to guess at what people want (XHTML2) or to devolve into meaningless debates about fundamentally superficial features (HTML5 and ‘video’ tags, etc.,) that make the specifications eternally late (CSS3).

    A bunch of naive “Right on, Andy” comments on Andy’s blog will do little to persuade the W3C that our community understands the challenges of creating standards and has something vital to contribute

    Nor should they be convinced purely by “wahoo, stick it to the man!” type reactions. But if the W3C has an attitude that says the people who use their specifications daily don’t know what they want and therefore don’t have something vital to contribute – that itself is a major flaw in the W3Cs thinking. The tough job of making specs isn’t for us to know (and the process is one we’ve never been told either, so it’s naive of the W3C to complain that we don’t know how tough it is or expect sympathy from us). Nor is the difficulty of making specifications relevant to knowing what we need from them. It’s a tough job – but it’s not our place as designers and developers to care about that toughness. It’s our place to say “we need this” and “we would like that” and “we don’t care about such and such”. From there it’s over to the people with the knowledge and connections to make wishes realities and create a specification that meets real-world desires and goals.

    While I do cringe a little at the current debate, I’m very glad that it has been aired. At the very least, I am learning about how the W3C works in reality, as opposed to in theory. Thanks for your insights Jeffrey.

  19. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Thanks for your insights, Matt—and thanks to Andy for restarting this discussion.

  20. Scott said on

    Is there a place where one could go to read about how things happen (or as some would say don’t) with respect to the standards body… how they determine what gets in the spec what doesn’t, timetable, etc…

    As someone who isn’t a noted expert but, who cares about standards, cross browser compatibility, and the ability to further develop my craft, I would like to make a few observations about some of the observations in this thread.

    Over the past two years, the W3C has tried to include more of us again, but the W3C’s own outdated processes sometimes interfere. For instance, Tim Berners-Lee invited me to join a working group, but between the timing of the invitation and the amount of last-minute paperwork required, I wasn’t able to accept his offer. This has happened to others as well.

    To me, this is a simple thing – you want someone with experience and proven past leadership in this area but, because of antiquated methods of moving things along, something this simple is an issue? (maybe I was reading this wrong)?

    It’s good to know that this is known about inside the W3C, but it’d be nicer still if we could see things being done about it (yes, it’s that same old complaint). The lack of awareness that this is a known issue is a sign in itself of the poor communication going on between the W3C and the public. Poor communication is not helping matters.

    I couldn’t agree more – of which I couldn’t know less! The last sentence of the above quote, “poor communication is not helping matters” really needs to be emphasized.

    Some have mentioned that anger is no longer necessary and while I’m not a fan of the emotion (in large un-focused burts, or in inflammatory ways) I would respectfully disagree. I do see where it can provide a benefit that could possibly carry over into momentum.

    In todays world it’s difficult to find two people to agree on what day to wash the car, much less determine what goes into a spec, how to get a standards body focused and moving. However, at the end of the day, someone needs to do this. At the end of the day, sometimes you just need to lead, or get out of the way.

    I say this with as much respect and kindness as one can say to another.

  21. name required said on

    It

    is

    not

    a

    lawsuit

    It is an antitrust complaint.

  22. Mike Whitehurst said on

    Note that Andy filters his comments live a sive on crack.

    Pretty sure you sensible people also realised that dispanding a working group isn’t going to help the standards situation at all, it’s just plain dumb.

  23. fantasai said on

    If you want to know more about how the CSS Working Group operates, what it works on and why, and what goes into writing a spec, here are some things you can read:

    Behind the Scenes: What is the CSS Working Group doing?
    The W3C Process Document
    David Baron’s response to Andy
    The CSSWG Blog and www-style

    Andy is not the only designer in the working group: AOL sends a couple designer reps as well. They at least show up to the face-to-face meetings.

  24. Malarkey said on

    @ Mike Whitehurst: I make it very clear that I moderate disrespectful comments. Calling anyone a retard on my site is unacceptable behavior. Grow up.

  25. Gus said on

    I am going to start my own W3C. Who’s in?

  26. Scott said on

    @fantasai,

    Thanks for the links – I will have a peek later this evening. I appreciate your taking the time to post them.

    - Scott

  27. Matt Wilcox said on

    @ fantasia

    It’s nice to know that Opera send over a few designers. My knowledge on the number of designers in the W3C itself comes in large part from reading one of Jeff Croft’s post and the associated links it contains:

    http://www2.jeffcroft.com/blog/2007/aug/18/w3c-where-are-web-designers-and-developers/

    If that is true (and it certainly appears to check out) then it is a big problem for the W3C. And while it’s taken that they are attempting to address the issue, clearly they are not being as successful at that recruitment drive as they need to be.

    Thanks for the links, I shall read them after lunch :)

    As an aside:

    They at least show up to the face-to-face meetings

    Please be aware that not everyone lives on the half of the globe with America on it, or has an employer willing to fund their expenses… (which is another problem with the W3C’s mode of operation, if it deems face-to-face meeting to be important, it needs to fund such meetings).

  28. Malarkey said on

    @ Matt Wilcox: I could kiss you! But I won’t obviously, not after last time ;)

  29. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Ha ha!

  30. Matt Wilcox said on

    Steady on, I’m not sure that’s entirely British :p

  31. fantasai said on

    @Matt: Approximately half the meetings are in Europe, actually. Participating on the mailing list and the telecons (if you use Skype) is practically free, and we do often teleconference in people who aren’t able to make face-to-face meetings in person. Lack of participation here is not about the money, it’s about the time. (And yeah, time==money. But by being a member of the working group, you’re supposedly dedicating the time anyway.)

    Me, until HP contracted me last March I funded my participation entirely on my own. On a *student* budget. I spent savings from my one summer internship and from working part time fixing computer problems in order to travel to the face-to-face meetings. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can’t tell me that it simply costs too much financially.

    Other people have other priorities. I understand. But it does bother me that someone who is criticizing the working group so harshly *and* claiming to do so from the inside has not put any serious effort into his participation.

    BTW, you can read Kevin Lawver (AOL’s rep)’s response here. (Oh, and s/Opera/AOL/ on your post. ;)

  32. Molly E. Holzschlag said on

    Showing up is important, I have to agree to that. It’s cost me a lot of money to be a standards advocate, Invited Expert to W3C and back in my time with WaSP, well, people would probably make fun of me for how much of my own time, money and health I put on the line.

    Jeffrey, I too worked hard to make WaSP a kinder WaSP. It took so much energy from my that I had to leave, and now I feel that there’s all this great braintrust there but no motivation. Leaders are always hard to find in this world, and that’s a torch that can burn the person who carries it. I hope someone gets fired up enough to take that on, or let it die its own sad death.

    I told you recently that I believed there was a crisis in web standards. You seemed skeptical. Then, you asked me to articulate the points as objectively as possible. I quipped back to you that asking me to not be passionate was like asking me not to breathe.

    I think these last days, and the very interesting ones yet to come (oh, this week will prove most interesting as this story continues to unfold) prove that there is a crisis, a complex one that touches every point in the process of making the Web.

    Clearly, this is as passionate a story as it is anything. But the issues are real. I, too, long for the person or group that can articulate all of our very relevant yet often very different perspectives and passions in some short, sharp and cogent way.

  33. gavin jacobi said on

    The amount of bickering and name calling I have read over the last few days is nothing short of embarrassing for people who are claiming to represent my best interests as a professional, standards-based web developer.

    …I hope someone gets fired up enough to take that on…

    We have had enough of that lately but unfortunately name-calling and sh#t-stirring is not conducive to rational discussion.

    I, too, long for the person or group that can articulate all of our very relevant yet often very different perspectives and passions in some short, sharp and cogent way.

    If someone doesn’t locate a grownup soon it won’t be just the W3C CSS group becoming irrelevant but the whole damn issue.

    My fear is that those who are not directly involved in all of this will end up seeing it as the squabbling of web luminaries fighting over a spotlight and arguing about how many angels will fit on a pixel.

    The rest of us will just get on with making web sites for our clients with whatever technology or de-facto standards we have at hand.

  34. Jeff Croft said on

    The amount of bickering and name calling I have read over the last few days is nothing short of embarrassing for people who are claiming to represent my best interests as a professional, standards-based web developer.

    Hmm. I was just thinking how civil this whole thing has been compared to some debates we have in the industry. I haven’t seen much, if any, name-calling at all.

  35. gavin jacobi said on

    @Jeff Croft: Maybe it is comparatively civil (at least here) but it has been snarky enough elswhere for me to be on the verge of dismissing the whole thing as irritating background noise. I am getting that feeling of “Oh dear, here we go again…” There are lots of people out here like me — the lowly trench workers that try to use what the W3C members and the browser vendors bicker over. If it just becomes background noise it becomes irrelevant.

    @Molly: It has been a few years since we have chatted properly but I hope you remember how passionate I am about web standards and education. If someone like me could get to the point where I could give a fig if the whole issue went to hell in a hand-basket something is seriously broken. People like you and Mr Zeldman put an awful lot into helping push the web in a sensible direction and it pains me to think that all that hard work could get lost in a debate where some are considering a return to the browser wars is preferable. ‘Best viewed with Silverlight’ …yeah, great.

  36. Jeff Croft said on

    …some are considering a return to the browser wars is preferable. ‘Best viewed with Silverlight’ …yeah, great.

    If that’s actually what you think Alex Russel and others are suggesting with a “return to the browser wars,” you clearly didn’t read (or understand) his piece.

  37. Matt Wilcox said on

    @fantasai

    I admire you for funding your involvement yourself, and am grateful for enthusiasts willing to devote so much energy, time, and money to a voluntary cause. I am also aware that the W3C WGs hold teleconferences and such to try and raise participation (I am, technically, on the HTML5 WG – sadly I’ve never managed to participate thanks to none of my emails showing up in the lists. I never figured out why that is, but guess that it might be due to using Gmail as a forwarder). Regardless, the semi-jibe that was made in your post was:

    They at least show up to the face-to-face meetings

    I’m not privy to Andy’s circumstances, but in general when you run a small company time is very limited indeed, and to have to fit in and fund trips abroad is simply a great deal to ask from any volunteer (especially one with a career and family to maintain). I’m not talking about Andy in particular – there are no doubt many potential WG members that aren’t simply because they fit into the same bracket as Andy, so he’s a good example to keep in mind. It’s great that some of you are able to do what you do; but it is entirely unsurprising that many who want to help in a similar way, can’t.

    My complaint isn’t that it can’t be done through self-funding and self sacrifice, but that it isn’t do-able by many people, and it is not fair to expect that. If you rely on the self-fund method the people you get participating are less likely to be the people with a pulse on the industry and an eye for practicality. They are more likely to be students working on the theory of how real web-development works, rather than people who do real-world web development for paying clients. If the W3C wants more experts in their WG (and they should), they have to be able to get them in. The W3C needs to employ (or at least subsidise) advisers if it wants a good source of practical, relevant opinion and information.

    it does bother me that someone who is criticizing the working group so harshly *and* claiming to do so from the inside has not put any serious effort into his participation.

    I can certainly understand that, I’d be a bit ticked off too. However, from a personal viewpoint, I’d rather be seeing some thought put in as to why someone who wants to be involved seemingly can’t put in the expected level of participation – and whether there’s anything that can be done about it. Rather than guess about personal priorities and assume that because some people can do it everyone else should be able to.

    I found Kevin Lawver’s response to be rather telling. His view seemed somewhat polarised and defensive, and he apparently missed the point that Andy was saying the W3C WG’s process doesn’t work – joining in face-to-face meetings won’t help that. Kevin does make some good points in there too however.

    @Jeff Croft

    I was just thinking how civil this whole thing has been compared to some debates we have in the industry. I haven’t seen much, if any, name-calling at all.

    I had been thinking the same. It’s been a refreshing debate mostly free of hissy-fits and mud slinging. I sometimes wonder if people mistake criticism for animosity.

    @Molly

    I think these last days, and the very interesting ones yet to come … prove that there is a crisis, a complex one that touches every point in the process of making the Web.

    I’m hoping if nothing else it proves exactly that. The W3C need a wake-up call, and despite lots of murmurings from many developers, they only seem to want to pay attention if opinions are written-up and documented by a committee and then filed in an box for them marked “W3C Agenda’s, your problems and solutions”.

    I ought to make clear – I’m annoyed with the W3C process, not the people. There are many people in there that seem perfectly aware of ‘the deal’, but seem unable to effect the process of the W3C in a meaningful way.

  38. gavin jacobi said on

    @Jeff: I did read his piece, I did understand it and there were some really good points made, but my “Best with SilverLight” comment was no more or less emotive than “return to the browser wars” and a lot less emotive than “Web developers everywhere need to start burning their standards advocacy literature and start telling their browser vendors to give them the new shiny.”

  39. gavin jacobi said on

    @Jeff:

    “I was just thinking how civil this whole thing has been compared to some debates we have in the industry. I haven’t seen much, if any, name-calling at all.”

    I think I was tipped over by a few comments on Andy’s site and some other statements that alude to the standards movement itself as being the problem. You are right this has been pretty civil all round. Sometimes childish, but civil.

    @Matt: Good points well made.
    As an outsider looking in (and as a murmuring developer :-) ) it seems painfully clear that it is the process and not the people — but it is still going to take people within the W3C to change the process. What is the chance of that? Maybe what Andy is doing will at least stir things up in a good way. He has always struck me as a Mod Trickster. Harlequin on a scooter :-)

  40. Wong said on

    Stop giving into Microsoft’s monopoly. Let Opera take them to court, if it screws up web dev for 5yrs so be it. I’m tired of MS using their OS and Browser to dominate the web. IE8 and MS’s future site will probably require silverlight to run, forcing its adoptance on more people. They dont care about standards, they only care about making money and pushing their products and people cave in to their stranglehold.

  41. Malarkey said on

    @ gavin jacobi: A trickster? Trickster? ;) I hope that my kicking off discussions, no matter whether or not people agree with me, can help begin a process of change. That’s me done now on the subject. I’m going to write about potato chips/crisps next.

  42. Ray McK said on

    I have little understanding of all the subtleties and intricacies involved here but I’m glad you got the ball rolling Andy. You have most certainly started a worthwhile discussion and for that I thank you. Thank you 8 )

    This has GOT TO BE the longest word count for any Daily Report article.

  43. fantasai said on

    @Matt: You’re missing my point. Participation requires time, and it requires effort. There’s just no way around that fact. Dave Hyatt doesn’t show up to face-to-face meetings or telecons, but he tracks what’s going on and sends a message when he has something to say. My point is not about self-funding travel. It is an option that Andy could have taken, but as I said before, we do teleconference in people who aren’t able to travel. My point, and Kevin’s point, is about putting in the time. If you’re not willing to put in the time, it doesn’t matter what the process is, you won’t be able to participate.

  44. Matt Wilcox said on

    @fantasai

    Well you’re right, there’s no arguing with the putting in time element.

    Still, wishing to be optimistic and looking for solutions, can we not get more designers in, if some of the few that are in can not (for whatever reason) participate? I know it’s an obvious question – but it still strikes me that it’s an obvious question that hasn’t been well answered. Why is the process, as Jeffrey mentions, so difficult when seeking to get designers on-board?

  45. gavin jacobi said on

    Yes Malarkey — Loki with smokes. I saw you at work at WDS07 ;)

    I am going to stop shouting on Jeffrey’s front lawn and go re-read what Jeremy has written.

  46. Eivind Eklund said on

    If you’re not willing to put in the time, it doesn’t matter what the process is, you won’t be able to participate.

    This is true, and it contains an underlying assumption that makes it false in context: It assumes that people putting in time is independent of the process. This is wrong – people put time into what they feel rewarding, and the process makes a lot of difference to what is rewarding.

    A particularly important point is that people will generally only contribute if they feel they can make a difference that is worth the cost of time and energy – and the process makes a large difference here. Also, being a lone dissenting voice is quite expensive – I recommend everybody that hasn’t done so to read up on social psychology and in particular group dynamics – very interesting.

  47. fantasai said on

    @Matt: well there are several problems. One is that discussions in the working group are often so technical that designers have trouble relating. AOL’s reps often run into this problem at our meetings, and when I point designers to www-style (our public mailing list), they complain about how detailed and technical the discussions are. (They also complain that it’s a mailing list: but that is how most technical communication happens.) Another problem is that really being part of the working group in fact and not in name only requires a serious time commitment. Also, from talking with Kevin Lawver it seems designers getting plugged into standards work find it very disorienting: it’s not what they expect, and it takes awhile to get used to the reality of how things get done. (See his post about it.)

    At this point I’m pretty convinced that adding designers to the working group isn’t going to solve the “need more designer input” problem. We should have at least a few designers on the group, but there are other ways to approach the problem, too. I think having a web designers “advisory board” with which we communicate closely is more likely to work, and I’ve been hopeful that the CSS Eleven could help fill that role. That gives designers an opportunity to discuss ideas at their level and collectively present them as input to our technical work. Another thing we can do is write up and present some of our more high-level issues for web designer feedback, which I’ve already started to do. The web designers in our group could redefine their role as hooking us up to the rest of the community, not just “being a representative”. I think someone like Andy has the potential to be a great facilitator and liaison, if he will just make some serious effort and time commitment to understanding the issues, communicating with us and the web design community, and actually filling that role.

    The working group has already taken many steps over the past year to improve the situation. We’ve shifted almost all of our technical discussion over to the public mailing list, which makes it possible for technically-oriented non-members to be more involved. We’ve started a weblog. We’re posting summaries of our meetings to the mailing list and the blog, so everyone can see and keep up with what we’re doing. We’ve partnered with CSS3.info to set up the Future of Style aggregate feed as a place to gather discussion on the future of CSS and The CSS3 Soapbox as a place where anyone can submit their input in blog post form. Jason Cranford Teague (AOL’s other rep) and I are currently working on a redesign of the CSS homepage to make it easier to find information and follow the CSSWG’s work. There’s still a lot of room for improvement (and concrete suggestions are welcome), but we are trying and despite all the negative press I believe we have been making progress.

  48. Jibber said on

    I wish I could go back and not read that post by Håkon Wium Lie. That way I could still respect him. I hate IE! I wish it would die a very painful, public death. But I can not respect the suggestion that we force anyone to do anything that they would not voluntarily do absent the threat of force. Why not suggest forcing users to have to use a more standards-compliant browser? How is it any different?

    I definitely support putting pressure on MS to stop talking and start doing but I don’t believe it is moral to get what we want through force. Does Opera think what they’re doing is any different than walking into Bill Gates office with a gun and demaning the very same things? It’s not! The ends does not justify the means. I hate it when you find out someone that you respected is an idiot. Makes you feel like an idiot for respecting them in the first place.

  49. Dennison Uy - Graphic Designer said on

    Jibber if it’s any consolation to you, IE8 now passes the Acid2 test so hopefully with its launch we will finally have a standards-compliant browser on our hands and we can all move on with our lives.

  50. Iain Urquhart said on

    I’m unsure where to start on my response to all of this, its 1am and I’ve come to the table late on in the discussion after trying to follow whats been said for the last hour.

    My head hurts. I’m relativley new to web development and try to design/develop with common sense as much as possible. How can new players like me come to the table and develop their skillsets with feelings of ‘job satisfaction’ when the industry is already evolving at the pace it is. Our art, architecture, genius, whatever we and (sometimes) those around us proclaim, are embarrassingly dated within 2-4 years.

    Moving things faster and introducing new features quickly will be like the dhtml boom that dynamicdrive.com brought. More quirky ‘toys’, more ‘candy’ for clients to demand, that do no more than distract us from what we’re trying to deliver – content.

    I’m in favour of keeping things simple, I’ve only just got to grips with the skillsets I woked hard to proudly own and I’m enjoying using those to ‘do my job’. I’m totally up for progression, and learning, and improving… and i throw the odd tantrum about IE, but reading posts from internet icons that confuse the bejeezus out of me make me wonder where this ship is heading..?..

  51. bruce said on

    Hi all
    On the Web Standards Project, we’re collecting people’s priorities and wants for CSS3 at the request of the CSS working group, so if people want them to listen to your feature requests etc, that’s the place to go.

    http://www.webstandards.org/2008/01/18/tell-the-css-wg-what-you-want-from-css3/

  52. nja said on

    Jibber I totally agree. Force is not the way. On the other hand, MS had it coming for a very fong time.

  53. Sklepy Internetowe said on

    Novadays it’s very difficult to meet all cross-browser css standard. Different browser, different css manipulation to get the same results! It’s time consumig, and finally we have different result. Definitelly we need one exact-match standard; (I’m not saying about f* IE, even where native css syntax is being interpreted in incorrect way!) Many thanks for article. Take care.

  54. naturyzm said on

    My complaint isn’t that it can’t be done through self-funding and self sacrifice, but that it isn’t do-able by many people, and it is not fair to expect that. If you rely on the self-fund method the people you get participating are less likely to be the people with a pulse on the industry and an eye for practicality. They are more likely to be students working on the theory of how real web-development works, rather than people who do real-world web development for paying clients. If the W3C wants more experts in their WG (and they should), they have to be able to get them in. The W3C needs to employ (or at least subsidise) advisers if it wants a good source of practical, relevant opinion and information.

  55. CSS Working Group proposals | Malarkey Rides Again said on

    [...] Zeldman thinks that I’m angry and writes that Anger can be brilliantly motivating; but anger is not a strategy.. If Jeffrey were to read [...]

  56. mezzoblue § Year-end said on

    [...] have been swift and passionate both on-site and elsewhere. For my part, I questioned the financing of such a proposal, but that’s far from my only [...]

  57. Tom said on

    This is true, and it contains an underlying assumption that makes it false in context: It assumes that people putting in time is independent of the process. This is wrong – people put time into what they feel rewarding, and the process makes a lot of difference to what is rewarding.

  58. Ф@kazuhi.to: December 2007 said on

    [...] Jeffrey Zeldman Presents : Re: CSS Unworking Group JeffreyAndyؤŤʡ”The web standards movement needs leaders who are passionate, but their leadership must also make sense.” (tags: css w3c standards) Permalink | Comment (0) | Trackback (0) [...]

  59. seo said on

    Nice tutorial and interesting point of view

  60. web design company said on

    Thanks for the great post ;D

  61. Andy said on

    _How_ they need changing is what needs to be debated, not _if_ they need changing.
    This is straight to the point talk, instead of just talking the obvious. You see a problem, you fix it.

  62. Webdesign Hamburg said on

    Until the IE6 has a popularity under 5%, it not very important, what the others are about!?!?

  63. konto bankowe said on

    Very nice.Thanks for the great post :)

  64. Sklep Calivita said on

    Very accurate observations
    Web Standards needs a passionate leaders.

  65. Pod Sosnami said on

    Very interesting article – thanks. I really enjoyed reading all of your articles. Keep up the good work.

  66. Szyby samochodowe said on

    In the programmers world one need standards because applications are created in many independent groups.
    Thanks:)

  67. Mp3 Teledyski said on

    Stop giving into Microsoft’s monopoly. Let Opera take them to court, if it screws up web dev for 5yrs so be it. I’m tired of MS using their OS and Browser to dominate the web. IE8 and MS’s future site will probably require silverlight to run, forcing its adoptance on more people. They dont care about standards, they only care about making money and pushing their products and people cave in to their stranglehold.

  68. Richard Fink said on

    @Mp3 Teledyski:
    “They dont care about standards, they only care about making money and pushing their products and people cave in to their stranglehold.”
    You couldn’t be more wrong. Take a look at IE8 and the postings on the IE blog for the past six months. There is great awareness of standards and they have been implemented. I doubt if the facts will change your mind, but it needs to be stated.

  69. Lucas said on

    Unfortunately most people don’t care ’bout w3c etc. things. There is a theory which tells that this standard hasn’t got influence on for example place in search scores.

  70. Uslugi internetowe said on

    Yeah, they don’t care because Search Engines are not affected by W3C standards, but good content should always be connected with proper display, which is provided by keeping standards.

  71. ThePickards » Opera: is the fat lady singing for the CSS group? said on

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  72. filmy online said on

    “I was just thinking how civil this whole thing has been compared to some debates we have in the industry. I haven’t seen much, if any, name-calling at all.”

    I think I was tipped over by a few comments on Andy’s site and some other statements that alude to the standards movement itself as being the problem. You are right this has been pretty civil all round. Sometimes childish, but civil.

  73. Tell the CSS WG what you want from CSS3 - The Web Standards Project said on

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  74. Adactio: Journal—Year zero said on

    [...] as Zeldman points out, this connection is tenuous at [...]

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