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. That’s the weirdest “Dear John” letter I’ve ever read. I wish I could read the first draft, I bet it was much less… restrained.

  2. ha ha… nice gesture molly (and kind of spooky like a stalker lol)…

    i’m not sure i’d be doing it for free though but good on you for putting it out there. The key to overcoming ignorance is education.

    The Guatama Buddha said “All criticism is based on ignorance”.

  3. There ain’t no arguing with that! 🙂

  4. Molly, this is an incredibly generous offer and I thank you on behalf of the rest of the community for making such an open-hearted offer.
    Hopefully Mr Dvorak will realise the value he is being offered and take advantage of it!
    He cannot help but be won over by your teaching ability (and charms) 🙂

  5. David: Actually,that was pretty much the first draft, give or take a few words. Really!

    Norty: Oh right, *I’m the stalker*

    DO you think?

    Niccolo, No, amore, non.

    Malarkey: You got that right, and a 67 Lamb too.

    Lea: Thank goodness someone sees the seriousness to my joke. I would so be there! I love to teach CSS and I bet even John might find himself informed if not inspired.

    Thanks my friends! I was hesitant to put up this post. I’m really glad to get support.


  6. Now, let’s wait in anticipation to see if he takes you up on your offer. Oh yeah, what’s CSS? 😉

  7. I feel so uncomfortable, that I read it… It looks so private…

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  9. I feel so uncomfortable, that I read it… It looks so private…

    Hmm, new to this blog Dmitry? Try trawling through the archives if you want personal 🙂

  10. Bravo!

  11. Can I tag along to the class too?

  12. Great offer, Molly. I hope he’ll take you up on it. I know that if anyone can show John how to overcome his CD (cascade dysfunction), it’s you.


  13. If he doesn’t take you up on the offer, I will!

  14. Make sure you show him Malarkey’s specificity wars document. CSS and Darth Vader, what a combination 🙂

  15. Wow – Awesome offer I wish it was me – CSS sux lets go back to tables – (Molly fancy teaching me)?



  16. I’m not so sure you can teach an old dog new tricks 🙂

  17. What a generous offer Molly. I sincerely hope John understands that your intentions are genuine. But my gut says he’ll find it easier to ignore you than to accept. Shame if he does.

  18. Well John is fool if he doesn’t answer. If I was a guy I would love to receive a letter like that, from the greatest woman on the web;) He should know that you can’t ignore the love for CSS 🙂

  19. As I commented on Eric’s rebuttal, it’s all about his area of expertise, and you really hit the nail on the head here. I feel like I’m watching that show on Discovery Channel, Dirty Jobs. He digs his hand into a job, that he doesn’t know how to do, and then spends the entire episode complaining about it.

    I think the correct letter to Mr. Dvorak should be:

    Dear John,
    If you want your website redesigned, there are plenty of web designers who would be happy to consult with you and produce exactly the kind of website you want. If you would like to design your own website, there are plenty of websites out there that provide templates that don’t require any knowledge of CSS.

    Thank you,

  20. Can I replace John with Jules?

  21. Thats the best dear john letter. Hands down.

    And, I hope he takes you up on your offer! This is the response we need. We all know he, obviously, doesn’t understand CSS. And we all know that at one point it was frustrating for us. Jumping in and offering to HELP someone is a great option, and one that will benefit both you and John.

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  24. Some folks are so lucky 🙂

  25. I missed the leadup to this — but I sure enjoyed your response. A smile on a Friday morning; thanks.

    I think I may begin to follow this drama with some interest…

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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. It’s going to take me a while to not giggle impishly inside when I type “hover” “float” and “position.”

  29. Ok, don’t get me wrong. I read JD’s article a week or so ago too. I rolled my eyes and thought, “Well, everyone’s got to make a living…” However, doesn’t he have a point in there?

    Let’s take what I am currently dealing with (or refusing to accept and finding ways to ignore it like reading blogs): browser bugs/css misinterpretations/*features*. I’ve been working on a new web template for an entire unit at U.C. Davis. The old pages were a scattered assortment of of the nastiest HTML you’d ever NOT want to see.

    Anyway, as part of the page template, a committee wanted to have two even columns and it was up to me to figure out how to do this. I happened across a great technique ( Yay!

    Now it is several months later and the project is wrapping up…except today someone decided to throw in some links to named anchors…Firefox promptly turns around and shows it ass (
    In my case, no other browser does this. There is no solution apart from a redesign.

    Now, I LOVE CSS! It has made my life 110% better than when I was futzing with tables and the like. But, it is far from perfect and yes it can be a total can of worms at times. This type of thing is very frustrating even for someone who knows how to float, position and hover.

    P.S. No, I’m not related to John. Oh, anyone going to Seattle Sept 18th?

  30. Well that certainly is an offer worth considering. I wonder if he can get down off the soapbox that seems to be permanently attached to his feet. I usually like to hear what JD has to say, but to bad-mouth CSS is so retro and so not kewl.

    Molly you can teach me the ins and outs of the specificity algorithm anytime….I promise I won’t cringe.

    Nice counterpoint.


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  32. Some years ago I would have totally agreed with Mr. Dvorak. The frustration can be tremendeous. And that is all this article -“Why CSS bugs me”- is. Venting frustration. CSS is like Maleysian, you can learn it in a ten minutes, to properly understand it takes ten years.

    The mere fact that it would take someone like you to teach him the ins and outs illustrates the point of the steep learning curve.

    To the less devoted like John Dvorak (he only wants to style his blog) there might be a point where the frustration wins over the willingness to learn CSS. They will quit and reside to oldskool code again.

    Perhaps there is a point in his point we should take seriously. (And that won’t be solved by CSS3 🙂 )

  33. I don’t think Dvorak’s article is even worth commenting about. I don’t know who the heck he is–apparently he’s famous or something. But not knowing who he is, he just sounds like a newbie who probably just spent a long, late night fussing with something that just wouldn’t work. We’ve all been there.

    Yes, it can be frustrating. Yes the cascade can be confusing. But he’s equating his confusion and frustration to there being a problem with it. And he’s blaming the different browser rendering issues on the wrong thing.

    At the same time, CSS evangelists want to believe that CSS is a mighty panacea. Well, it is a wonderful tool, but like all the others out there, has limitations and places where it fails.

    Anyway, it’s a great response you gave. I wish it was me getting a personal lesson. I can never get the supposed “one true” examples on the web to work and always resort to rolling my own.

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  36. Yes, CSS has a learning curve and can be frustrating. Sometimes we need to debug. These same issues apply to more traditional programming, but does anyone question its validity? Or that it takes time and determination to learn? We study the skills of our trade and become professionals. Don’t we often have conversations about the “anyone can do Web pages” mentality? ‘

    My son takes viola lessons with a professional violist. My son can fool around on the instrument and produce some sounds. His teacher insists that he do things properly, according to the principles that generate the truest results and create real art. My son is becoming well-trained. This is clearly more difficult than doodling. But if it were so easy, anyone could do it, no?

    Every profession requires time and effort to perfect, and it is always an ongoing process that evolves and continues throughout one’s professional life. No field is a static and completed picture at any point in time. I am trying to understand why some people think Web design should be any different. Or perhaps they don’t think it is a serious endeavor?

  37. Whew, what a rebuttal. I don’t know whether I should be laughing or taking a cold shower…


  38. two days?? I s that as in two earth days??

    OK! DEAL

  39. Pingback: Out » Blog Archive » Well! Molly and John!

  40. Why yes, John, two earth days.

    I just sent you an email:

    “Okay John,

    When’s our two earth day date with CSS? Let’s make it happen.

    Ready to float, position and hover, I am always,

  41. Wow! the tigress roars! but this article is soothing my love for css that was just bruised by john!

    thanks molly

  42. Right… now I know how to learn CSS in the best way possible with the best teacher ever. Write an article to annoy Molly 😀

    Ah… small problem… She knows my name and what I look like… Damn. Maybe she’ll have forgotten ! **fingers crossed, let’s get typing !**

    (Seriously, I, like most, or even all, people who have used CSS to some extent have spent long hours fiddling around trying to understand and get things to work, but with CSS as with any other language, it wouldn’t occur to me to blame the tool, only the person using it. Remember, to err is human, to hover is CSS, and to completely f*** things up is IE…)

  43. OMG Molly – I don’t know about Mr. Dvorak, but I’d take you up on this offer in a heartbeat!! While I use CSS regularly in the pages I maintain (which were mostly all created about 5+ years ago under tables, tables, and more tables – with a few clear.gifs thrown in – trying slowly slowly to convert them where possible), I feel like I’m shooting in the dark most of the time. I’ve taught myself all I know from books, websites, etc, but as Dave Cross of NAPP says when giving Photoshop seminars, “the trouble with teaching yourself is the teacher”. Yep. Know any good classes you’d recommend??


  44. I just cannot hold back this exceptional comment: Nice.

  45. As so many people have said, I’d take you up on the offer! You know, that might not be a bad idea. Instead of conferences en mass, you could signup for one-on-one tutoring with CSS (or choose your language) gurus!

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  48. So if I write an article for a major magazine bashing CSS can I also get personalized free lessons?

  49. Pingback: Technikwürze - Design & Webstandards Podcast » Blog Archiv » Technikwürze 32 - Gehälter und die Links

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