Working Together on www-html [was: A belated introduction ]

Daniel W. Connolly (
Sun, 24 Dec 1995 17:20:30 -0500

In message <>, BearHeart / Bill Weinma
n writes:
> My interest in HTML is mostly due to the Web's power as a medium
>of expression. I see HTML as a small poorly-thought-out language with
>a definition that's lagging behind its popularity by about 20 klicks.
>The gap is widening daily.

"poorly-thought-out." Hmm... I'd say "not over-engineered." I think
TimBL realized that HTML was more organic than formal -- more
like English than, say, scheme. There was really no point in trying
to find the "right" set of tags -- just enough to whack up every-day
documents, plus hyperlinks.

I've worked hard to make the syntax formal. But I de-emphasize
efforts to formalize the semantics.

I've written a couple essays on the topic. Please see:

(hmmm.. our fileserver is messed up.)
Anyway: browse around the HTML page and look for "Toward Closure on HTML"
and "On Formally Unconvertable Documents."

> I would like to be a part of fixing that, but I see a couple of
>problems that make it difficult for me: 1) I'm very opinionated; and

It's good to have strong beliefs, but ...

>2) Other people don't know how to handle #1.

Be very careful of what you say: it just might come true. You largely
get what you expect out of people. If you tell the readership of
this list that they "don't know how to handle" something, they're
likely to show you exactly that. I prefer to think that we can
have a constructive discussion here.

But I think the real problem that prevents most of the folks on this
list from really being part of the process of fixing HTML is that they
don't have very much resource to bring to bear.

I keep an eye on this list because I want to be sure there's a way
that _anybody_ can contribute to HTML development, whether they
have time, money, expertise, or not. Good ideas come from the strangest
places (ever read Douglas Adam's forward about sandwiches, guitar,
baths etc.?)

But I take it all with a grain of salt. I value proposals that
have implementation experience behind them above those that don't.

I'd prefer to see:

I'm working on this system to track baseball cards,
and I'm really limited by HTML's lack of ___ . So
I added the <bubblegum> tag, and wrote this little perl
script to index the database and ...
But I'm not sure this is the best syntax for what
I'm trying to do. Any suggestions?

rather than

"we need to decouple the URL from the file." (or whatever
it was)

> The way to deal with it is
>with substantive debate. But I don't know if this is the forum for it
>or not.

We try...

> - - - - - - - -
> I would like to be a part of the definition process for future
>versions of HTML, but I'm finding it difficult to participate in this

Keep in mind that this forum has no real official status in the HTML
standardization process. This forum is like a farm team where raw
ideas are harvested and refined.

The standards body for HTML right now is the IETF. The forum for
submissions and reviews is (soon to be, as soon as I do the administrivia). The IETF is an
all-volunteer task force, and the entire standards process is
completely open to anyone with internet mail.

W3C is also a standards body. You have to pay to play, we do some
things behind closed doors, and standards are approved by a vote. On
the other hand, the specs and code we produce are royalty free, they
will go through a public review/comment period, and we often publish
our drafts as internet drafts (to disseminate the information) and we
expect that some W3C standards will go through the IETF process as

The idea is that the capital resources of W3C can cause things
to happen faster than they would in the IETF. We're more likely
to make mistakes than the IETF, cuz we don't have as wide a review
audience. But there's urgency in the web market, and we think this
is the best way to proceed.

There aren't any specs that have been throught the whole W3C standards
process yet, but we've issued some drafts. See:

Regarding this forum, I am often disappointed by the level of rigor
and the heat-vs-light ratio. I urge folks to

* present evidence
* give specific, detailed examples
* cite sources

Often folks agree, but they don't know it because they're using
different terms for the same things. Part of the value of a forum
like this is building shared context and terminology. Let's all work
on that.

Also: don't worry so much about convincing everybody or having
the last word. Just because somebody posts a follow-up that
disagrees with your position doesn't mean your position wasn't
appreciated by others.

With the html-wg mailing list, there's a document to focus the
discussion. The document captures the common understanding, and
folks that have a problem with it say so in review comments.

Here, we have no work-product to focus the discussion. Be aware
of that. Proposals are just proposals. We're here to constructively
criticize each other and exchange ideas. But we're not actually
building anything.



> runs Windows 95 and I use it mostly for
>writing (because there is nothing like Word for writing) and
>other things that require an MS environment
> runs Linux and I use it for programming. I am
>fluent in several assembly languages, C, Perl, and ksh/awk/sed.

I'm looking forward to the day when I don't have to switch between
Win95 and linux on my home machine...

> Through most of the '70s I designed musical electronics:

I used to work at Quigley Music in Kansas City MO.

"Quigley Music -- The Supplier of Rock and Roll"

It was staffed by a bunch of ex-road musicians. Mostly I set up
and took down drum kits, carried boxes around, and the like.
That place was the source of many great stories...

> These days, I write technical books (I'm currently working on
>The CGI Book, New Riders, ISBN: 1-56205-571)

I wish I could find time to write just one of the books I've
been asked to write...

> I
>play blues guitar

I can fake a little blues guitar.

> I currently live in Dallas, Texas.

I used to work for Convex Computer Corp in Dallas -- '90-'92.

> As a technical writer, hacker, songwriter, and poet, I have a passion
>for language. I am fluent in English and conversational in Spanish,

Me too.

I just stared to dump my songs, poems, and short stories into
the computer. I hope to make some of it available via the web
some time...

> I like parentheses.