Saturday 31 December 2005

Your Three Web Standards Wishes for 2006

WEB STANDARDS WISHES can come true. At least in my little fantasy they do!

Put aside all thoughts of possible or impossible and dream up the three most desired improvements, changes, or new perspectives that you would like to see in the Web standards design and development arena.

I have so many it’s difficult to ask for three, but here goes:

  • CSS 2.1 formally becomes a recommendation
  • WCAG 2.0 gets sorted out
  • More companies, organizations, and agencies get into best practices

Then, let’s choose the top three and see if we can’t make them happen for real. Let’s have your best, and a very happy 2006 to all.

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Posted by:   Molly | 11:51 | Comments (30)

Wednesday 28 December 2005

Most Used App of the Year

OF ALL THE APPS ON YOUR COMPUTERS, which three did you use the most this year? Here are mine:

  • Entourage (and Webmail)
  • Adium (and Trillian)
  • Firefox

Most of my time is apparently spent in email, on IM, or browsing.

How ’bout you?

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Posted by:   Molly | 12:24 | Comments (116)

Monday 26 December 2005

She Cooks a Fine Pig She Does


Now I’m sure that many of my dead ancestors are rolling over in their graves, and quite possibly a few live relations have fallen into their plots and rolled over a few times as well. But yes indeedy that’s what I did: I cooked a fine pig.

Christmas is a holiday I spend by proxy. It’s not a holiday I seek out, because being raised with a strong Jewish heritage if not actual faith, Christmas wasn’t something on my family’s to-do list. Growing up Jewish in a nation dominated by Christians was at some times painful – consider South Park’s Kyle and his heartfelt “A Lonely Jew on Christmas” for a taste of what I mean.

I spent this Christmas in Tucson with friends for whom Christmas is important. So I went and cooked a big hunk of pig. Normally a pork shoulder roast weighing some eight pounds isn’t my first choice at the butcher shop, as my heritage might indicate. I was on orders from a friend who is the king of pig cookery, and entrusted me to do the pig work.

I bought the pig, I marinated the pig, and when the time came, I cooked the pig.

If you come from or empathize with a Jewish-American background, you do realize why my entire ancestral line is rolling over in those graves and moaning – in pain – because of this. However, when the pig, and the mashed potatoes and the fresh brussel sprouts with black pepper were served and consumed, all was happy, including the Jewish girl who cooked, and then ate, the pig.

Christmas is a holiday I spend by proxy. This year, I spent it learning that even a Jewish girl from Brooklyn could cook a pig so perfectly that gentiles cry.

What did you cook, eat, do, receive, think about or not do for Christmas?

Next year, I’m gonna cook a whole pig, I swear. With an apple in its mouth.

Just to say I did.

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Posted by:   Molly | 20:17 | Comments (38)

Thursday 22 December 2005

Star HTML and Microsoft IE7

Chris Wilson, Group Program Manager for IE Platform and Security at Microsoft, and Position is Everything‘s Big John Gallant have been having a conversation about * html in Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 7 for Windows (IE7). Wilson has been encouraging CSS designers and developers to repair any bug-specific hacks for several months now. Gallant remains unconvinced the solution is that easy and is afraid countless, unpaid hours of repair work will wind up on the shoulders of those designers and developers who have employed * html related hacks in their designs.

Universal woe

Hacks for browsers typically do one of two things. They exploit a bug (a flawed implementation) or they exploit the complete lack of an implementation. In the case of * html the hack is based on a bug. Child selector hacks, on the other hand, are based on the fact that IE versions up to 6.0 do not include any implementation for child selectors whatsoever.

The popular Holly Hack and related IE workarounds exploit a browser bug in which the universal selector, *, in CSS is misinterpreted. The bug is present in multiple versions of Internet Explorer. The hack is used primarily to correct a number of layout issues related to IE’s proprietary layout model.

With the bug repaired, Wilson says universal selector-related hacks will fail in IE7’s strict mode (compliance mode). The bug remains present when IE7 is running in quirks mode, and in that mode, the hacks will understandably work. Wilson began advocating that the Web design and development community prepare for change back in October. Gallant wants to know how the changes will affect you via a poll at p.i.e..

Is the entire kafuffle a non-issue until we actually have IE7 and see what we really get? Or maybe we can learn from Tantek Çelik (Technorati, WaSP) who advocates that bugs including * html be repaired; and that implementations such as child selectors (which are often used in tandem with the Holly Hack), could be held off until a later date if necessary.

Exploiting a software bug to create a hack becomes dangerous as software is updated and bugs are repaired. While somewhat less danger exists when implementation issues are addressed, what happens when the implementation is introduced and it, too, is flawed? This is why hacks are so problematic, but just how these particular hacks in IE7 will affect the community is still vague.

Me, Me, Select Me!

The faulty interpretation of the universal selector is currently present in the following versions of Internet Explorer:

  • Macintosh: 5.0, 5.15, 5.21
  • Windows: 5.0, 5.5, 6.0

The bug is present in both quirks and standards mode in these versions. Here’s a look at what happens in these IE versions when the universal selector is involved:

Microsoft IE Browser Misnterpretations: Universal Selector
Selector IE Interpretation W3C Interpretation
* html html Matches no element (the html element is root and therefore never has an ancestor)
* * body * body Matches no element (body is the first child of html only)
* html body html body Matches no element

Have layout?

IE layout, which is IE’s determination of how elements are drawn, bound, and behave, has been a bit of a mystery for some time. This is largely due to lack of documentation and discussion about the issue. Dean Edwards (WaSP, WHATWG), Gallant and others went in search of better documentation for hasLayout. Markus Mielke, a Microsoft program manager working with Wilson, joined in the conversations which bore fruit.

Two good references that emerged regarding IE layout are On Having Layout and HasLayout Overview in which Mielke writes:

There are several bugs in Internet Explorer that can be worked around by forcing a layout (an IE internal data structure) on an element (like, dimensional bug fixes and Holly hack). Most users are not aware of the implications of having a layout applied to an element. – HasLayout Overview, Markus Mielke, Microsoft

Mielke’s article, which cites the input of Edwards, Gallant, Wilson and WaSP among others, goes directly to the heart of the * html concern.

Road to repair

Gallant says that the * html hack in CSS is “the only hack that is going to cause serious pain” and believes that the hack “could probably be retained without getting in the way of any actual support enhancements” that Microsoft has planned for IE7.

Wilson points out that the goal is to fix IE, and getting there is a process. “I want to remove the * html hack to make it useful . . . because it will then only apply to obsolete browsers.” He also shares a dislike for any hacks at all. “All CSS hacks are too risky in the long run, unless they only apply in orphaned or obsolete browsers, period. Tantek Çelik said this; I agree with it very strongly.”

Gallant states that the “time to kill the * html hack is when Vista arrives, presumably without the layout problem.” Wilson feels that fixing the browser is most important. “The Holly hack, and I say this with the greatest of respect, is an elephant gun solution. Sometimes it’s an elephant you’re trying to fix. Sometimes it’s a mouse. Some elephants are fixed in IE7, some mice are. We will not fix every possible layout issue in IE in IE7, however, and it’s unrealistic to expect we can do so.”

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 10:30 | Comments (62)

Tuesday 20 December 2005

Thinking Outside the Grid

AFTER SEVERAL YEARS of promising Jeffrey Zeldman I’d write an article for A List Apart, I finally fulfilled my empty promise. You can read Thinking Outside the Grid in ALA no. 209, which is in fact the last issue for 2005.

Wshew, slipped it in there, didn’t I?

I actually owe the ALA team a huge thanks for several reasons. That Jeffrey still encouraged me to submit something after all my years of never getting around to it is pretty darned nice of him. Erin Kissane and the ALA team worked ’til last minute to add some, ahem, spit and polish to the article.

I must mention the awesome illustration from Kevin Cornell. I’d followed Kevin’s work in ALA but just recently began to explore his blog, bearskinrug, which readers had mentioned here on my blog just last week. It hadn’t been on my radar ’til now, and holy smokies, folkies, this is one worth checking out.

And of course, fantastically talented designer Jason Santa Maria gets a big hug and a promise of a night of free drinks from me at SXSW in March. He spent a lot of time working with me to choose the imagery and design the figures, and it was fun to get to know him better and collaborate a bit in the process. Look for his terrific box model visual in the article. Originally, Jon Hicks had graciously given us the green light to use his fabulous 3d box model in the article, but Jason got started playing with the idea. So now, we’ve got another great box model diagram floating around.

Okay, bad pun, so I’ll leave you with this: I hope you enjoy the article as much as I enjoyed writing it and working with everyone at ALA.

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Posted by:   Molly | 06:48 | Comments (17)

Monday 19 December 2005

Blogging is Like Sushi


  • Eating sushi in the U.S. became popular only in the latter part of the 20th century. Many a raw fish critic suggested that sushi would be a passing fad. Blogging started picking up popularity in 2000. Many people suggested blogging would be a passing fad.
  • Blogging can be delicious, so can sushi.
  • Both sushi and blog posts must be very fresh.

Yes, I’m certain of it, blogging is in fact like sushi.

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Posted by:   Molly | 17:39 | Comments (21)

Two Hot Full Time Web Jobs: Atlanta

LOOKING FOR WORK IN ATLANTA? Timothy Gray is hoping to fill two full-time openings at TSI. You’d be working on sites like and One position is for a very experienced Web designer and developer, and the other is for a ColdFusion developer.

Both of these positions are full time, on-site. They are not for freelancers or telecommuters. Send email to Timothy Gray for more information. Good luck!

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Posted by:   Molly | 13:10 | Comments Off on Two Hot Full Time Web Jobs: Atlanta

Tuesday 13 December 2005

Molly’s Unabashedly Biased Picks 2005: Blogs, Design, Books and Achievements

ALL OF MY PICKS for the best Web Design and Development contributions of 2005 are completely biased, based solely on the people who have mentored, motivated and inspired me personally this year. So yes, they are all my friends.

Since that definition includes so many, I’m going to follow the leader of the pack and limit my picks to four categories: Blog, Design, Book, and Special Achievement.

Let me find my sparkly wrap and we’re off . . .

Pick of Blogs 2005

Contenders include Douglas Bowman for his thoughtfulness, Tantek Çelik because of his focus on problem-solving with real solutions, Andy Clarke for his wit and willingness to learn openly, Dean Edwards because he’s very, very clever; Dave Shea as he’s precise and broad in his interests, and Roger Johansson because he’s so generous with his knowledge.

My pick for best blog, however, must go to Eric Meyer. Eric shares his skills, his perceptions and his life with grace, honesty and his own brand of cynical humor. I’ve followed and been part of his career, been made a member of his family and he has never, ever let me down. I follow Eric’s blog because no matter the content, he always teaches me so much.

Best Blog: meyerweb

Pick of Design 2005

Choosing a standout design isn’t easy, particularly when it comes to matching great design with great markup and CSS. I’ve been drawn to many designers within the CSS Zen Garden, largely because I’ve focused on that site as a great example when I write and teach.

My pick for best design goes to Andy Clarke’s own blog site, And All that Malarkey. The blog’s design is fresh, unique and doesn’t fall into the fixed and centered trends and traps we saw all year. The multiple IE / MOSe versions make the design all the more compelling. It’s been extraordinarily useful as a showcase for progressive enhancement. Clarke’s blog design showcases the rich content of the site and while it draws from many aspects of magazine style publishing, it works well for the Web, too.

Andy warrants best design because he gets “it” – the essence of making standards-based design look delicious, communicate a clear message, and function well. He is the quintessential Web designer. He is visual, smart with markup and CSS, experimental, and he’s a passionate advocate, consummate professional and full of love and respect for everyone with whom he interacts.

Best Design: Andy Clarke.

Pick of Books 2005

I’ve enjoyed reading a few good web design and development books this year, and two authors that stand out are Stuart Langridge and Jeremy Keith . I still know very little about JavaScript, mostly because I’ve never had to really apply it in my work. I hope to learn more in 2006.

I am confident that Rachel Andrew writes books that far more people should read. I would give her best book but I’m going to be very selfish and nominate one of my own instead.

That book would have to be The Zen of CSS Design. I’m not nominating this because of me, really. Zen succeeds because it is a beautiful book, an honest book, and a book that captures the passion of 2005. That beauty would never have been possible without the vision and hard work of Dave Shea.

It’s because of Zen, the positive experience of working as co-author with Dave and getting to know many of the designers involved that I was most inspired in everything I worked on for the remainder of 2005.

Best Book: Zen of CSS Design

Special Achievement Award

In this category there are thousands. It’s every individual who makes up the communities based in and extended from the social aspects of the Web. For me, it’s always about the discussion, the relationships, and the growth.

So for me, the Achievement Award must broadly acknowledge every single person who is participating in moving the Web forward with passion, pride and positive thought.

My Special Achievement Award goes to you.

Got Picks?

Trackback your picks or comment if you’ve got ’em.

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Posted by:   Molly | 13:51 | Comments (35)

Friday 9 December 2005

Putting The “World” into World Wide Web

24 WAYS IS friend and colleague Drew MclLellan’s seasonal celebration featuring an article-a-day on a range of Web design and development topics.

Today, I’m featured, with my article Putting the World into World Wide Web.

Here’s the 24 Ways intro to the article:

Molly E. Holzschlag explores the many issues surrounding the internationalization and localization of both web design and site content. As a W3C invited expert for internationalization, and an International Woman of Mystery, she knows what she’s talking about – in anyone’s language.

Impress your friends with your wont for internationalization


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Posted by:   Molly | 04:36 | Comments (10)

Thursday 8 December 2005

Best. Spam. Ever.


I just got a really good one, if not the best:

“Thanks for useless info!”

I would understand this better had it been a real comment instead of just spam.

What’s your favorite comment spam ever?

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Posted by:   Molly | 05:22 | Comments (36)

Wednesday 7 December 2005

Pride Goeth After A Fall

WHAT WOULD YOU DO? I’m pulling into a parking spot at the corner market when I notice a wheelchair on its side and a yellow van parked at a wrong angle in the parking lot. Seeing movement on the ground, I quickly park my car and run over, mobile phone in hand dialing 911.

I get to the scene, where a relatively young woman has fallen from the van in her wheelchair, which then toppled over. She hit her head hard on th pavment. She’s conscious, and a small group of good samaritans including my neighbor are trying to help her move.

I tell them to wait a moment before moving her and ask her, “Ma’am, what happened, exactly?” She went on to explain that she’d fallen and hit her head. “Did you black out?” says I. “For a moment” she responds, “but I’m fine, I’m fine. Just help me up.”

I say, “Look, if you’ve hit your head, please, please just wait til the ambulance gets here. You could be injured and shouldn’t be moved.”

She says “I’m a nurse! I say it’s okay!” To which I of course reply “Then you of all people should know how dangerous it is to have these people move you.” I wasn’t going to continue debating the issue, she was already in distress and obviously her pride was getting the better of her.

Fortunately the police showed up and took hold of the situation before anyone actually moved her.

I’m glad that people ran to her rescue, she could have been killed in that parking lot as large trucks go in and out of it and might not have had a clear view of her. But trying to move her (none of us had any idea why she was in a wheelchair to begin with) was a dangerous thing for her, a kind thing for people to try to do but the entirely wrong thing from a medical standpoint. In my overly litigious nation, it’s also a lawsuit waiting to happen if she’d been injured or her injuries made worse from being moved.

Am I just insane to try and do the right thing? Is it this sort of thing that makes most people just give up and say “screw it, why bother to try and help anyway?”

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Posted by:   Molly | 15:51 | Comments (25)

Tuesday 6 December 2005

Name The Movie

Tell me where the following quote is from. Tell me the film, the character, the awesome soundtrack, the context.

“How much for the masterpiece?”

Dare ya.

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Posted by:   Molly | 03:59 | Comments (30)

Sunday 4 December 2005

XHTML Anatomy: A Document Deconstructed

SOME THINGS START SMALL AND GROW BIG. That’s exactly what’s happened with an idea I have. I want to put together a human-readable glossary or lookup chart for commonly used terms within XHTML and CSS. I’m a known nomenclature fanatic. I love words and I believe that improving our use of proper terminology helps us communicate more effectively. What’s more, I’ve been technical editor on several upcoming books and it continues to disturb me that many very bright, skilled and knowledgeable leaders in our industry get terminology wrong, or are inconsistent in their descriptions. You know who you are.

So, a glossary. Seems simple enough. I began with the W3C’s glossaries, which are completely vague and overly-complicated. I’m sure you’re all so surprised. Okay, that wasn’t a good model. Then, I began to think that a good approach would be to deconstruct documents, discuss terminology, best practices and maybe add some interesting asides. And then extract a glossary from those documents.

As you can see, what started out as a small idea has grown into a big one. It’s going to take a while to get the glossary together, but in the meantime I’ve begun to deconstruct documents and cite terms. While much of the information is going to be well-known to the intermediate and advanced reader, I could use your help in gathering up the cited terms and providing clear, easy-to-understand definitions for them. You can just add your suggestions to the comments, and I’ll grab them and coordinate them.

What’s more, there’s a gem or two in the deconstruction, including an example of a completely valid headless, body-less, HTML 3.2 document.

Continue reading . . .

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Posted by:   Molly | 03:08 | Comments (13)

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