Are We Becoming Complacent


Is there a changing of the guard, who are the new samari

I’ve noticed this over the last say 18 to 12 months, things are changing in the web community. There are still the usual arguments between people and various factional groups. That’s nothing new there. No it’s something more. It’s like a complacency, that we have all fought hard and that the war is over and we can live now in a golden age. The voices of leadership seem to be dropping away, not being as potent or vocal as they once where. Molly Holzschlag has seen it to, and again call people to arms, I seem to remember Molly doing this before recently.

So is there a problem, why do we not give a damn anymore. It seems as if people are not caring about standards, that the good guys (us) are losing out time and time again to the bad guys (the non standards posse). Things like table layouts, bad ajax implementations and accessibility being an unaffordable option are common place. What the hell happened!

I’ll tell you a simple story of a web community, it grew from islands of individuals with ideas and dreams to a friendly, cooperative and spirited community. It took it’s time to get to this stage, but it did get there. The people in the community where young vibrant, free of responsibility, free to focus on the web and it’s needs. The community saw that previous leaders, that had aspired them in the first place, where not forefilling their dreams they had promised. So they tool theire leader’s dream the turned it inwards and educated their own on the needs for standards, usability and accessibility. And for a while it was good. Now time has passed, but something has gone wrong. The fire in the belly, the vibrant spirit was gone. And the new crop of youngsters won’t listen to their experience.

Nice story. So where is the problem, well its not that simple, it’s not one thing, it’s several:

  • Changing of the guard

    A while back Kevin Lawver stepped down from the CSS Working Group freely admitting that time was the main issue. Fantasa also points out that people like Andy Clarke have been too busy to contribute as well. This got me thinking since then. Most of these groups are run by volunteers, who give up their own personal time to contribute to the web community at large. Now there does come a point where in everyones life where you have other responsibilities (work, family, business or personal matters) that will eat into any time you have for volunteer work. Look at the age of these people that are stepping aside or paring down their contributions. This is a changing of the guard. It’s just we may not have mentored up the young people to take our place.

    Maybe people have been to busy playing at being Web Rock Gods ;). These people will not be gone forever. But if you want them to stay on the fringes and have them lend a guiding hand from time to time, then we need to let them step aside. It’s just we are seeing it happen on mass.

  • Community gone wrong

    Maybe we are just being overwhelmed by a vocal minority. An example in point is the my local web standards mailing list. To be honest I have given up reading each post on this list or even posting (which is bad, I know) . I just cherry pick now. Why? Well the conversation is the same, and at times very condescending towards perceived new list members, read people that don’t post a lot. I don’t post a lot. Does this make me a newbie. Do I feel obliged to join the conversation, well no not anymore. Don’t get me wrong there are some wonderful community building people on this list. Then there are the divisionalists.

    The extreme view of this is the WHATWG members on the W3C HTML list, this is a classic example. There are two lists 1) WHATWG by HTML5 and 2) HTML5 by W3C with it seems overlapping members with two distinct agendas from the WHATWG camp. I worry do we have two drafts of HTML5, I hope not. With this the simplification of HTML5 by WHATWG seems in my view a step back into the back days of 1996. Are we about to erase all the blood sweat and tears just because of some noisy minority, I hope not. Questions need to be asked is WHATWG planning to make accessibility and semantics ‘irrelevant’ as they are too hard to implement.

    Doesn’t take much for an interested fringe group to move their agenda forward and take control. So in away we (yes you and me) need to be the voice of sanity. We need to voice our concerns little by little and support each other. Maybe someone will listen.

  • Ignore it, it will go away

    Are people playing the three wise monkeys. Totally frustrated by it all. Trying to ignore it all in a vain hope all the evil will just go away. Is there just too much in the way of RIA, bad ajaxification that is destroying accessibility just as we appear to getting accessibility and standards into the right perspectives. Are the back room coders now getting their revenge on us the minority standard zealots. With all this wave of Web2.0 craziness, are we just stunned at the entire scope of the problem, not knowing where to start.

  • We are all over worked

    I don’t know about you but working in the web industry at the moment is just insane. The work level in the past twelve months has gone from busy to extremely busy. Again if people are very busy then they just don’t get time to read lists, forums, blogs etc, they just get by on the edge of burnout. And even those with a lack of aging responsibility are effected by this one. This leaves it to a minority again. Will this pass, yes it will as night follows day.

So what do you think, is there a slow down in the support for the old ways put forth circa 2000 (standards et al) or is it just a changing of the guard and the program will return to normal after the usual chaotic settling in period. You know I think it’s little of each for everyone.

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  1. Time definitely; I’m so busy at the moment I barely have time to focus and make sure I’m not getting in my design and coding practices – let alone contributing to the greater good.

    But I admit also – the initial hype of web standards for me has died down a little; I’ve lost sight of the value and importance of it – and if asked “So why should I make my page WCAG/W3C AA compliant” or “Why does it matter if my XHTML doesn’t validate” … I’d be inclined to say “I can’t be bothered answering that again”.

  2. “There are two lists 1) WHATWG by HTML5 and 2) HTML5 by W3C with it seems overlapping members with two distinct agendas from the WHATWG camp. I worry do we have two drafts of HTML5, I hope not.”

    Instead of worrying, why don’t you read it and find out? The very first page says: “This specification is also being produced by the W3C HTML WG. The two specifications are identical from the table of contents onwards.”

  3. @mpt. Thanks for the link. I wasn’t taking about the documented web pages, but the discussion on two lists. There does seem to be two distinct agendas occurring. I have a concern we may end up with a backward step in web accessibility etc.

  4. I don’t think there’s two agendas — there’s probably many hundreds of agendas, one for each person contributing to the effort!

    Personally (as editor of the HTML5 spec) I’m trying very hard to address the needs of everyone’s agendas, insofar as they are compatible. Ensuring that HTML becomes more usable to people with handicaps (as well as people who are physically and emotionally healthy but who have computers with limited or unusal capabilities, which is often the same thing as being handicapped) is high on my list of priorities.

    If you have any specific concerns about the HTML5 spec, please feel free to post to one of the lists ( or or, if you’re not a member and don’t want to join, feel free to e-mail me directly (

  5. Personally I shifted my audience target. There is not much point to advocate on the commonly known mailing lists or forums as these discussions end up in detailed threads about pet-peeves and anal retentive markup masturbation. The “standards war” is not won, but it has become a stalemate as people who evangelize target those who already believe to gain a quick win and those who really would want and need that information will never reach it as they don’t get time to read mailing lists or money to attend conferences.

    The web standards movement has become a bit inbred and it is time we look outside and see where we can help. This also means knowing what ails people and how they have to work before we actually go there and preach of the land of milk and honey. The question to the audience on every conference I’ve been at was “who here still creates table layouts” which will result in nobody as people are too scared to stand out as the kid who does it wrong. The question should be “who here has to work with systems that create bad markup?” and then we could help those to find a way around that.

    Last year’s Highland Fling conference was about “Progressive Enhancement” and was a treat. I proposed next year’s topic to be “remedial development” and covering tricks and concepts how to clean up bad code, as this is what we do most of the time anyways.

    My @media Ajax call will be about writing JavaScript for large projects and distributed teams.

    All in all I don’t think there is a lot of complacency, there is just a shift in target and we should encourage new people to step up as a lot of the big names in standards were too busy giving presentations and workshops to really get their hands dirty in what people do have to work with.

  6. I do not think it is a matter of complacency, but a matter of priority. Of all the battles a senior developer can fight with clients, co-workers and the community at large, why choose standards? To be honest, there are several other exciting fronts that I would rather invest my time in that provide more satisfaction. I understand the importance of standards and educating upcoming designers and developers, but any arguments you could make have already been made, and the information is readily available. Point them in the right direction, and hope for the best.

  7. Chris has a good point re: target audience.

    I think the standards soap box is a bit dead and mainstream standards is starting to pick up a bit.

    So time to get off the soap box and get into the mix of it all. Blend in with the crowd and start to fight from the inside of the larger companies.

    Douglas Bowman, Jeff Veen and many of these kind of guys are no longer preaching but doing. They may be working for Google but I think they have a long way to go on the standards front by far.

    It’s just a bit of an evolution of what was started many years ago… not complacency so much.

  8. @Chris – Yes you have it 100%. We have changed the approach. Changed focus, for the better. We need to bring the remaining 80% of the industry in the fold. However the question remains, what are people doing to foster the next generation of people to help develop the standards etc. We are still going to need these people.

    @Brian – That’s what I’m getting at the general guard has changed its focus or stepped aside. Standards and best practice are important. But they are not the first and last word in web design and development

    @Scott – question is how do we mix it with the mainstream web people that don’t attend events or just stay with their focused local user groups (if you are lucky).

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