(X)HTML/CSS Geek Open Source

When Did Standards Compliance Become Only About Validation?

How has the message of the web standards community somehow been boiled down into a concentrate of your website must only validate to be standards compliant? Is this the result of a horrible game of web telephone? Sadly, this reduced definition of web standards makes it quite easy for someone to dismiss the positives of standards compliance. Why should making my site pass the muster of the W3C’s validators take precedence over creating new features for my audience/client/web application?

I’m currently in the process of evaluating open source ASP.NET content management systems. Important to me, of course, are adherence to web standards (coding and accessibility standards), cross-browser compatibility, simplicity/ease of use, etc. While, I was trying DotNetNuke (DNN) I became increasingly concerned about adherence to standards and cross-browser compatibility (among other things). I went searching on the forums for more information. I came upon a thread devoted to the topic of standards compliance in which a user inquires as to the timeline for web standards compliance in DNN. The replies were mixed. Some from users linking to tutorials on jumping through the hoops (sadly) necessary to make DNN produce valid XHTML code. Others, even more concerning, came from DNN team members. A few examples.

I will tell you that in all the work I get asked about, no one asks about CSS and XHTML compliancy, unless it’s a designer who went to do a multimedia course and was forced to some XHTML compliant site.

I’ve posted in forums before about my view on all this – and while I am no means an expert in every field, I’m looking at DNN right down the line from installing, hosting, advising, assisting, learning, you name it, and I think you need to also get this into perspective as well.

A final note, I am not saying it is not important to be XHTML compliant. I believe people should be able to use tabless or tabled designs, I personally have no preference for one or the other and have worked with both. I do think in terms of priorities, this is something I would consider to be lower on my list of must haves for the DotNetNuke framework.

However, IMHO the issue of accessibility compliance is much more important than xhtml compliance.

The above quotes, to me, show a serious misconception of web standards and the point of web standards — not to mention near contempt for standards compliance. To be fair, the users in the forum thread had themselves boiled standards down to code validation or css-based design versus table design. To me, web standards is about the entire approach to the architecture and design of a webpage/website. It’s not simply about creating XHTML that validates. It’s a way of thinking. Well-structured semantic code thoughtfully organized and designed leaves a smaller bandwidth fingerprint, loads faster for people on slower connections, and goes most of the way in making a website more accessible. A website that follows web standards is easier to maintain, and we all know maintenance is the real kicker in website development. I also think DNN missing the boat on web standards will cause them to lose the standards community (which isn’t small). As a standards-minded web developer, will I run the DNN obstacle course necessary to make a DNN website standards compliant (and for each upgrade after that)? Or would I turn to a product like Cuyahoga where the team is concerned with standards compliance and making it easy for developers to maintain website sanity?

Ultimately, this must be our own failure. How can the web standards message be improved? How can we fix the misconceptions that have propagated as a result of our own zealousness?

Politics Rant

Colorado Driver’s License == National ID Card

My Montana vehicle tags expire at the end of this month. In the interest of neatly compartmentalizing official Colorado residency duties, I decided I should also get a Colorado driver’s license around the same time I get Colorado plates. Thus, I headed to the Colorado DMV website to learn what I should bring with me. From its driver’s license FAQ:

To apply for a license, instructional permit or duplicate, you must:

  1. Submit 2 primary forms of identification. One form must establish lawful presence. Please see FAQ #1 for a complete list of acceptable identification documents.
  2. Provide your Social Security Number.
  3. Supply a Colorado residence address.
  4. Pass all required examinations (written, vision and road performance).
  5. Pay the required fee.
  6. Be fingerprinted and photographed.

The emphasis above was mine. So, um, I have to be fingerprinted to get my CO driver’s license?!

Refusing to believe that the website information was correct, I called my local DL office. They confirmed that one digital fingerprint was taken for “security purposes.” In other words, if someone came in to get a license claiming to be me, they couldn’t if their fingerprint didn’t match. Hmmm, for my security then? I was skeptical. As my local DL Office rep could give me no information as to where the information goes and what government agencies have access to it, I placed a call to the Colorado State Driver’s License Administration office. On my second customer rep, I struck upon useful though dubious information: Colorado is a “central issue” state. This means that once I apply for a driver’s license, my information is sent to the federal government in DC, it goes into their database, then my license is sent back to me. So for a recap:

Even though I am not a criminal, my fingerprints are now forevermore in a governmental database for no reason other than that I moved and wanted to get a new driver’s license.

This is a result of the Real ID Act which was passed because of its connection to a military spending bill (another topic of contention). The Act, besides violating my privacy, hands even more power to the inauspicious Department of Homeland Security.

So, what do I do in the meantime? Wait (my Montana license is good until 2012) until the ACLU has a chance to mount legal opposition to the bill? If I get my DL now and the Act is overturned, my information is still sitting out in a database. Realistically, I doubt that I really have any other option than getting a DL and being fingerprinted.

As part of the bigger picture, this legislation scares me. How much are we willing to give up for some perceived measure of security? Is living in a police state a price we’re willing to pay to “be secure.” Also, history shows us not to trust our government unconditionally, so why now are people so willing to give up civil liberties? Government officials didn’t suddenly get more trustworthy.

As they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Does anyone know the official status of the Real ID Act? Has the ACLU taken any steps to overturn it or test its legality? Can I refuse to give a fingerprint?


2006 CSS Reboot All-Stars

CSS Reboot - Jeff Croft

Impatient as I am, I’m not going to wait for the other coaches to weigh in; I’m just going to leap ahead and name Jeff Croft the MVP of the All-Star team. I love this design. He’s not a flashy Kobe Bryant, but more of a solid, dependable, thinking-person’s Tony Parker or Mike Miller design equivalent. From the backend architecture to the beautiful, usable design, each piece of the site is well thought out and purposeful. I dare you — try to find a piece of this site that wasn’t well redesigned.

CSS Reboot - Rob Goodlatte

I very much like this design as well. Rob Goodlatte’s site is a strong design departure from my MVP choice, but also awesomely complete. My favorite part of his site, though, is his full entry format page. It’s wide. It’s super readable. It has newspaper-style columns! Love it. Yes, I would marry it.

CSS Reboot - Matt Brett

Pink is not for everyone, but Matt Brett’s new design is hot. I love the strong choice of color, the grittiness, and the overall feel of the site. It’s an artistic design.

CSS Reboot - Critical Design

Another CSS Reboot site rocking the super large footer look, Critical Web Design’s new blog design is tickling my color senses. The blue is different and bold. The small graphical details are crisp, well-placed, and unique.

Now if people would stop voting up the crappy sites and vote for these guys instead.