Thursday 27 July 2006

Dear John (Dvorak)

Dear John,

I know it will come as a complete shock to you and everyone who knows me to find out I’ve actually been holding my tongue and waiting to respond to this one.

You see, I had to sort through a few emotional issues before talking with you. Some suggest that answering you could be a bad thing.

That’s my first inclination: Ignore the problem, it will go away. But then again, others advocate challenging your CSS issues head-on.

Not ever having been a wilting rose in this relationship, I suppose at the end of the day I’m going to have to speak my mind. But instead of having a tantrum, I’m going to make it very, very easy on you.

In fact, I’m going to make you an offer that would fully and totally break my heart if you refuse. The offer? I will come to you and help you learn CSS.

Give me two days, dear John, and I promise you will know the Cascade intimately. You will understand origin, sort order, even the specificity algorithm. I will teach you the secrets of CSS in a way that I am sure no one has ever taught you before. You will be able to float, position and even hover in ways you probably never imagined possible.

I will teach you why you don’t need hacks, or when you do. I will teach you the workarounds, the ups and downs, the ins and outs. I will do this for free, at my expense, on my dime and on my time because I’m just that convinced that all you need is a little CSS love.

Please, John. This was a very difficult letter to write. You know how I feel about things. You know I want my love for CSS to be our love, together, as it was meant to be. I hope you will have an answer for me soon.

Love always,

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 14:29 | Comments (93)

Comments (93)

  1. Dan – I was thinking just the same. In fact, I’m going to write a piece about what’s wrong with the Aston Martin DB7 and wait for the call from the car company to be proven wrong 😀

    Molly – I can’t wait to find out how it goes!

  2. JD is one of those love/hate types of columnists. Not that you eiither love or hate him completely but you either want to high-five him for some articles and half-drown him for others. He is thought provoking if nothing else. In this case I just remember one line from his own website’s TOS – “Most of what is on this website is bullshit and should be treated as such.”

    And Molly – if you’re giving out personal CSS lessons . . . 😉

  3. I’m late to the party (as usual), still I wanted to put in my two cents and say that I think Mr Dvorak is mostly correct. Obviously, he makes his living bucking standards. Still that doesn’t mean that he is always wrong. In fact I think he has a following because he is often right. As far as CSS goes, let’s start with my background. I am a geek and a hacker in the oldest sense of the word (the model railroading sense). I program for a living and built/program robots for fun. I work on various open source projects to unwind. I have neither the apptitude, nor the interest to be a designer. And my color vision sucks. Still, I believe in the power of the world wide web. I am inclide to follow standards unless there is a compelling reason not too. So I have played with CSS on and off for years. I have read several book, looked at online tutorials, and followed various blogs including this one. I must say that I don’t get it. I have yet to create a stylesheet myself, that I was happy with.
    This is entirely due to the fact that I don’t do CSS on a daily basis. When I have tried it, I was focused on creating content and wanted it to look nice. My solution to this conundrum is Open Source Web Design. I find a look that I like and I use it. My point is that even if Molly were willing to teach me CSS, it wouldn’t help. Sure in a week or so I could become a master with CSS and have a site that looked just as I wished. Unfortunately in 6 months when I am ready to redo my site all of that knowledge would have leaked out of my head to make room for TCP stack details, and the proper way to build and access an object graph. Either I would have to be taught again, or more likely I will simply use someone elses design.
    CSS is too involved for the trivial user. Yes it is quite powerful, but simple things are not simple in CSS. Just laying out a page is an involved and confusing exercise. I don’t want to be an expert in CSS, I get paid to be an expert in other things, I want to have a good looking site though. Since there are no tools/techniques that I am aware of for doing simple layout with CSS, I am stuck using someone elses idea of good design.
    This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be that site layout is just complex, but I believe that CSS adds to the complexity, rather than simplifying it.

    Tanks for your support
    Pat O

    _ _ _
    / \== / \== / \==

  4. BTW, the odd text at the bottom of my post is suppose to be:

    _ _ _
    / \== / \== / \==
    &ltooo&gt &ltooo&gt &ltooo&gt

    which if you look at it with a non-proportional font sort of looks like tanks.

  5. @Pat O: And that’s the reason you hire people like us to do the CSS portion of the work and we hire people like you to do what you do. Specialty and cooperation is the way to go and noone is an expert at everything.

    (Nice post, Molly … if that was really John replying, I can’t wait to hear how it goes. ;))

  6. @PAT 0: Very true, but we don’t go and and try and learn TCP stack details *confused*, and then when we can’t do it, use our weight in the industry to rubbish the whole concept of it, and throw all thats involved in the pit with it, do we?

    If you don’t understand it and don’t have the desire to learn and use it shut up and stick to what you know! ( that comment is for MR JD – not you)

    Who wants to be a Jack of all trades and master of none?

    Certainly not me

  7. BTW, assuming you do get together with Mr Dvorak, I would love to get a transcript/video/notes/whatever. Perhaps my issues with CSS is that I have never been properly taugh?

    Pat O

  8. taught? sure, thats it.

  9. check out my website, it will make Mr. D. proud.

  10. Dear Molly,

    John only loves your CSS more because you offered it first. I would have ConfeSSed my intent to make love to his markup had I not found your letter sitting on his desk.

    Though my heart shall remain heavy, I will not hold a grudge. In fact, how could I? Your selector is much more specific than mine…


  11. Boy would I love to be a mouse in the corner during those two earth days! Please be sure to let us read all about how it went.

  12. The basics of CSS are exceptionally easy. But Pat O is right in that layouts are mindnumbingly complex and over-frustrating, even for experts. It was with delight that I recently received a free booklet with .net magazine (of which Molly is an editorial adviser), which is also known as Web Builder magazine in the States. The booklet was called “The CSS Anthology: 14 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks” by the talented Rachel Andrew, published by Sitepoint. It gave some rock-solid and easy-to-follow examples of common layouts you might want to build. So really, all you have to do is subscribe to a magazine like .net, buy a book, or search online, and layouts can be made easy.

    I would particularly like to recommend these sites for anyone confounded by CSS:

    Blue Robot, for examples of many simple layouts:

    Position Is Everything, for cross-browser solutions, and some great example layouts:

  13. Damn wish I was John! I’m a CSS virgin and would love to learn from the best. Hopefully, a dialogue of the training will be presented after the fact.

  14. Pingback: Dan Rubin’s SuperfluousBanter (Orangina Edition) » Blog Archive » Dvorak’s Cry For Help

  15. Pingback: Blog Standard Stuff » Dear John (Dvorak)

  16. I think that John himself qualifies the column (and at the same time permits us to ignore it as blather) in the title itself: “Why CSS Bugs *ME*”. It bugs John (and a select few who don’t understand it) and this is one of the problems with the web professional community in its current state. Hobbyists try to walk in step with the professionals like very few other professions. I recently installed two ceiling fans in my house, after many hours of sweating, grunting, swearing, and nearly electrocuting myself. But I don’t A) think that this means the electical setup in homes is stupid, or B) try to pass myself off as a lighting expert now.

    Dvorak’s soapboxing reminds me of Richard Petty’s reactions to Danica Patrick enjoying a measure of success in car racing, in that he’s giving away his own obselescence in the industry. He’s a dinosaur that refuses to evolve (or understand the nature of evolution) as the world evolves around them. At this rate, he’ll be extinct in no time.

  17. Pingback: Max Design » Some links for light reading (28/7/06)

  18. Pingback: Aravind’s Link Blog » Same old argument

  19. Dear, Dear Molly, if you are going to begin to fix John Dvorak, I would think his CSS problems would be WAY down the list. There is just so much that is deeply wrong about the man…

  20. There’s nothing “wrong” with Dvorak. He’s just expressing himself as everyone else SHOULD be allowed to. Funny thing I’ve noticed in the recent decade or so is that freedom of expression is OK only if it is an expression that the MAJORITY can agree on — otherwise the person doing the expressing is the outcast and is therefor asked NOT to expression oneself.

    This hypocrisy thing is what doesn’t get past my logic net. Say one thing – do another. Speak out of both sides of the mouth. Either the man has a right to an opinion or he doesn’t. Being that he’s been writing that column WAY BEFORE you could imagine, probably before many of you discovered what computers are or what they can do, gives him a slight edge. I think his publisher probably agrees as well.

    Personally, I don’t think he gives a crap what you folks think and neither should you give a crap what he writes. It IS a free nation, the USA that is. UNLESS you’re doing or saying something that the majority doesn’t like. Hmm… chastising him sounds more like nazi Germany to me.

    Maybe you could all learn something from his gripes instead of shooting back at the guy. He MIGHT actually have a real issue with CSS and someone COULD have taken the opportunity to contact him privately, assist him and, well, learn something themselves in the process.

    Nice folks you all are. Nice.

    Oh, and “Mark – August 11th, 2006 at 12:22 pm” – there’s nothing “deeply wrong” with not agreeing with the MAJORITY. That is, in fact, how things like CSS and other standards get formed because people were SICK of the CURRENT standard. But, of course, these are the hypocritical changes that people like, no – dont like, wait: is it like today or is it dislike.. WHAT ever.

  21. Can I get free training too?


    haha, good luck with Mr. Dvorak. Good luck indeed.

    – shatil

  22. Hey, almost a year on, how did it go? Did you meet up with John for those two earth days and teach him CSS?

    What is with all the spam?

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  27. Its not often a blog post makes me laugh out loud. Thanks Molly, you have brightened up a long and intense Friday!

  28. Hello


  29. Lots of silly comments. Does anyone here actually try to build sophisticated web applications? where text formatting and display changes the meaning of the content? or are you all style mavens? is that all you do? try to build a large web application (with 7 panels that are receiving content from a server pool of financial analytics using AJAX) that are being used by bond traders with real-time rich text analysis that are delivering critical market information. Now you have a bug. Some component is “inheriting” some junk from some div somewhere up the chain. CSS: good for storing reusable style properties, but inheritance as a result of containment? nope, no thanks!

  30. oh yeah. i like it

  31. wonderfull content but silly comments.. thank you for the post….

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