Things to do with the WWW

{Motivation} {HTML Tips and Issues} {Images} {Misc.}

Style sheets

Style sheets are wonderful! Hmmm, that could have been the case much sooner, if there hadn't been so many different flakey browser implementations. The browser makers only had several years to get used to the idea, which they seemed to have spent in the main devising short-term hacks to avoid actually having to implement style sheets.

Well, a muted welcome to the fact that they are finally Doing the Right Thing, and a massive vote of thanks to those victims who have collected up lists of what works and what doesn't. Sue Sims's collection of CSS links is a most valuable directory to a range of excellent resources.

Todd Fahrner clearly knows a hell of a lot more about typography than I do, and, although (or maybe "because") his motivations were often very different from mine, I felt I learned a lot from studying his pages. He since seems to have withdrawn from this activity and his pages are now frozen, but this classic quote stands firm:

The font size chosen by the user as a comfortable default (1 em) provides more truly useful information about the rendering environment than all the resolution-sniffing, window-querying, "open-this-wide" logic you can throw at the problem.

You want to get pixel-exact control over your web pages? A lot of people think that way, but read Web Pages aren't Printed on Paper, by John Allsopp, and then think it over.

I18n means Internationali[sz]ation

See my HTML Internationalisation (i18n) for a briefing on how things are supposed to work on the WWW, and some resources to help exploit it without falling foul of known bugs.

Related to this topic area, quite some time back I prepared an HTML4-compatible character map for use with an earlier version of rtftohtml, now to be found at LOGICTRAN. A version of the map got incorporated into the package.

"Flavell's Law"

Way back, I noticed a regular procession of newcomers popping up on comp.infosystems.www.authoring.html offering their amazing comprehensive/ one-stop/ authoritative/ whatever guide or tutorial to HTML; mostly, these folk had never posted on the group before, nor ever responded to discussion. Noticing that these would-be guides routinely disregarded HTML syntax rules and generally-accepted good practice, I got into the habit of feeding their URLs to a validator and commenting on the results.

History (Google Groups, to be honest) records that in a Usenet posting on 11 Aug 1997, Stan Brown first used the phrase "Flavell's Law", and this seems to have taken on a life of its own. I've seen several versions quoted of just what my "law" is supposed to have said. Dejanews found reference to it on sfnet.aloittelijat.kysymykset:

"Snif, sääli vain, että tuohonkin pätee ns. Flavell'n laki"

I've since seen it quoted in Norwegian and Dutch too. However, Matthias Gutfeldt takes me to task for subjecting youthful enthusiasm to such scrutiny.

HTML Motivations

Many of the resources linked from this section are now several years old. But, you know, the principles of good communication haven't suddenly changed, although the detailed landscape has certainly shifted: the writeups I'm pointing to seem to me to be based on some fundamental principles that don't suddenly get overturned just because a new version of one of the mass market browsers comes out. In truth, recent browser versions (albeit their initial implementations have been dreadfully flakey) have amply vindicated the principle contained in the original promise, of a content-based logical markup in HTML, decoupled from suggestions for presentation contained in separate stylesheet(s), just as was hinted at in the HTML/2.0 specification (RFC1866), and negating the short-termist but ultimately counterproductive overloading of HTML (3.2) with presentation-specific markup attributes, which are now (HTML4.0) for the most part deprecated.

There's a kind of perversity in the way that some of today's pages are increasingly bloated with multiple versions of Javascript, misguidedly intended to make the document available to versions of only two browsers, in ever-narrower ranges of browsing situation, when all observation shows that the trend is towards increasing diversity of browser and browsing situation, which can be beautifully reached by an appropriately flexible WWW-oriented authoring approach.

HTML (etc.) Tips and Issues

I'm not aiming here to offer a primer or tutorial for beginners. What you find here are tips and issues on selected topics, aimed at readers who are presumed to be familiar with at least the elements of HTML and the WWW already.



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