Wednesday 27 February 2008

Interview: Roger & Molly: Webstock New Zealand

I like this interview! It runs a bit long but Roger made me feel so welcome it just came out as a spontaneous chat.

Anyone willing to do text transcript, holler. I’d like to make one available!

Thank you, Roger, for a great interview.

Enjoy, comment, bitch etc. below:

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 08:12 | Comments (37)

Comments (37)

  1. Great interview Molly. I was especially very interested in your discussion about interoperability and the HTML 5 stuff. Very interesting. I’m not a big fan of HTML 5 as it stands and its always interesting to get some insight. Thanks.

  2. Hey Molly!
    I’m willing to do a transcript for you, it may take me a week but I will do it no sweat. Pop me an e-mail and let me know where I can send it to you.


  3. Pingback: Roger Hudson Interviews Molly Holzschlag on camera

  4. @Steven: thanks! 😀

    @John: awesome – just email me the text, Or you can even post it here in comments, I’ll move it to its own page. Either way, thanks for your very generous offer to provide a text transcript.


  5. Molly,

    Re: the comments about professional organizations – I agree with you completely. But weren’t you once involved with the World Organization of Webmasters? What ever happened with that? Are they still around?

  6. Go Molly! Molly for President! Vote Molly in 08! Woohoo!

  7. Hey John,

    If you get stuck with transcribing, I’m happy to split it with you – you do ten mins, I’ll do the other ten – easier.

  8. @ Lid

    Hey that sounds good! I will do the first 10 if you want to do the remainder. I should have it done by early next week 🙂

  9. Pingback: Max Design - standards based web design, development and training » Some links for light reading (4/3/08)

  10. Pingback: Confluence: Site Design

  11. Damn good interview, Holzschlag.

  12. Pingback: Mine Of Creativity » Archive » Microsoft listens to the developers

  13. I have read this interview a dozen times. Your comments regarding a proposed best practices organization are intriguing. Is this an active proposal that will move or is moving forward or just a conceptualized idea? If it is just an idea, how do you propose getting this structured and launched?

  14. Pingback: maxdesign » Blog Archive » Some links for light reading (4/3/08)

  15. @John – I’ll contact you through the contact form on your site when I’m done. E-mail me and I’ll send over my bit so you can put them together – Tuesday ish? 🙂

  16. Thanks Lid! I have been sooo busy at work the last week and I will finish up for sure this week. Thanks again 🙂

  17. John – I’ve transcribed the second portion of the interview and have e-mailed it to you (having problems sending so let me know if you don’t get it).

    I’ve highlighed the words I’m uncertain of – not so great with some of the terminology

    Good luck!

    Molly – brilliant interview – thanks!

  18. @ Molly – you have mail! It’s all done and dusted and you should now have a nice pdf file in your in box.

    @ Lid thanks for helping – great work 🙂

  19. Hey Molly in case you didn’t get your mail….

    Molly Holzschlag in conversation with Roger Hudson Webstock 2008

    Roger Hudson: Nice to see you again Molly and welcome to Webstock 2008!

    Molly Holzschlag: Well, thank you very much.

    R: Is this your first trip to Wellington?
    M: It’s my very first trip to New Zealand, yes and it’s just fabulous, I’m enjoying it.
    R: The conferences been going well?
    M: Oh I’m really enjoying it, but one of the things that’s really special about it I think is that is that it’s got a great
    sense of passion and this unity of who we are and what we are in the web and workers of the web, I’m liking
    that passion a lot.
    I’m also enjoying the fact that there are speakers here from all over the world many of whom
    you know who are colleagues of mine for many years, and the fact there are a lot of local people and so it’s really
    bringing a lot of different people together, so it feels very much of a “webstock”, – you know like a get together
    of very diverse individuals with one greater common goal which is to make a very useful web and continue
    on innovation for the web.
    R: In your presentation you draw distinction between standards and best practice what did you mean by this?
    M: What I mean by that is that when we talk about web standards, I am challenging the language, I am suggesting
    that what we are doing really aren’t true standards like a manufactured standard for example which is, a good
    example would be a safety feature within your automobile. There have to be certain levels of safety features
    in each automobile before that manufactured item is able to ship and the law oversees this throughout the world.
    So there are international standards for that sort of thing, what this allows for, is for interoperability and quality and
    a level of security for the individuals in terms of what they are selling.
    We don’t really have anything like that in the web, what we have is a collection of specifications and
    recommendations that come out of the W3C as well as some other organizations depending on who we are
    talking about, for example Javascript is actually being standardized under ECMA.
    So the W3C itself, the technologies that we see there such as XML, XHTML, HTML and CSS and all the various
    languages that we mostly work with as the lingua franca of the web, are specifications and recommendations,
    these are not standards in the truest sense of the word.
    When we talk about W3C specifications and recommendations, there is no real mechanism to check other than
    conformance, so if I write an HTML document I can validate that document. But that doesn’t necessarily mean
    that what is valid and conforming is what is useful, usable, accessible and really works.
    That all comes into this ideology that we have termed web standards, (the term really emerged out of the
    Web Standards Project) where the idea was really about best practices and how to use these specifications and
    guidelines and recommendations to create great websites that are living to this ideal. I can create a website that
    validates and that doesn’t live to this ideal very easily, and so I think it’s just very important that we make the
    distinction that what we are really trying to achieve when we achieve web standards is actually a level of
    R: So in all of this, how important is interoperability?
    M: Interoperability is the most important thing in my opinion when we look at the web and the vision that it was
    meant to be, was that it would be any platform, completely platform agnostic, completely user agent agnostic
    so, in other words whether I’m using my little pda device or I’m sitting at a huge screen at my computer
    station that I should be able to access that data and this is where interoperability (software interoperability)
    it means that the information data that I’m sending, can be viewed in some way by all of these devices .
    Now the web is really meant to be that way and it can be that way, the problem is that these best practices
    have not necessarily been applied or adopted at a rate in which we would like to see it, a lot of that is
    educationally related, there are are problems in education and tools and things of that nature.
    Building websites is really not an easy thing to do, and so interoperability is what we need in order to get
    back to what that ground vision was originally so that we use our best practices in order to create that
    interoperability, but we also need in terms of our software we need that to be interoperability where we see
    the worst problems and the most challenge there as within the browser, so which browser is doing what
    is going to determine how we work.
    R: So without a greater commitment to interoperability, is the concept of web standards relevant still?
    M: I think that web standards are a part of the commitment to interoperability, it’s sort of , somebody put it
    very well when I was asking for public definition on my blog about what people thought web standards were
    and he said “Standards are putting the cart before the horse”.
    So the two are intertwined, but until peoples skill sets balance out, until there are some more
    of us of a professional standard involved, and I think we are going to be at odds with the interoperability
    issue because we have difficulties in getting the different companies to decide they want to work together
    and lease those baselines and compete in other areas.
    If we go back to the analogy of the car what I would say is that various user agents (the browsers),
    need to be promising each other that baseline commitment to certain aspects of specifications and
    what we would like to be standardized within browsers are there, that is their baseline, everybody
    follows that baseline and then innovation is built on top of that.
    R: Is the explosion of mobile devices bringing us to a crisis point now?
    M: I think that point of crisis has been with us since 1994 actually, as soon as the web became visual.
    Naturally, we can’t necessarily look at all of that and go “oh! this is a terrible thing” because of course
    it advanced the web, it made the web very useful for people right away, but what happens is again
    “the cart before the horse” we were building very complex websites without really understanding what
    was going to happen over time as they needed to scale as they needed to be modified as they needed
    to be managed for the long term, as they began to grow right, so we have all of these challenges now
    in the infrastructure that came out of this experience in this huge burst of growth you know in the evolution.
    But this is part of evolutionary technology and we have to I think accept that, but we have also to be
    involved and constantly learning and improving and really caring for our profession.
    R: 1994 also is the year of course that the W3C came into existence. It seems they deliberately avoided
    when they were setting up W3C to have any responsibility of control, they sort of shunned the notion
    that which being an organization would somehow be a controlled way.
    Was that a right decision back then do you think?
    M: I think it’s really a philosophical issue, because the web is supposed to be an anyone anywhere other people
    kind of thing, the democratic vision if you will, is part of that decision and I don’t want to see
    that changed, I think that’s beautiful it should be that way every person should be able to have their say
    if they wanted. And that’s really some of the value – it has tremendous amount to do with the value
    of what we have on the web today.
    So I think that “No it was not inherently wrong for them to take that ideology”, but what never really seemed
    to emerge was a professional, a very strong professional industry organization and we start seeing little ones
    coming up in different areas, Australia for example here in New Zealand there is a web standards new Zealand
    there is various groups around the world that are starting to do this professionalism.
    None of these things really ever rose to that position where there is a professional organization that could be
    helpful to the people in the web profession, by providing educational resources, by providing different things
    that such such professional organizations do.
    R: Not wishing to belittle the democratic side, but also since 1994, the Web has grown a hundred fold.
    Maybe it is time – I can’t help feeling – that someone was responsible; there is a need for a responsible
    M: I think yes, and I think we’re going to start to see that happen, but it’s not going to be one organization.
    As you sit through this conference we see that. For example Simon Wilson was talking about OpenID and the
    various groups that are working together; this is what we really have to see.
    We have to see different specialities coming together in this huge mashup of technology and creativity.
    And I think that in order to sustain that we’re going to need to have little pieces of the pie come together and
    make up the whole thing.
    So the W3C will always have a role, I hope, but certainly its infrastructure can improve but, again,
    I am an advocate for professional organizations, I would also like to see some external to W3C, non partisan
    groups come up so that interoperability issues can be discussed freely amongst various browser vendors without
    the agenda’s getting in the way.
    R: In recent times, the development of HTML 5 has generated a whole lot of heat, has there also been a bit of
    light do you think?
    M: A whole lot of heat?
    R: A whole lot of argument.
    M: Ah, arguments and passion. I think HTML 5 certainly, when you look at it as a spec, it’s really fascinating.
    I mean we’re really moving away from just a markup language, to a language where there’s the creation and the
    relevance of API’s and all of this, so, you really have to look at it as something different.
    I think it’s an evolutionary step; the way that people in the HTML 5, well originally the Web Working Group before
    HTML 5 came under the auspices of W3C, the folks in the Web working group really set things such as HTML 5,
    if it were coming out right after HTML 4.01, it probably would have been a progression, but now, it’s like a
    reworking of HTML because of all the different things that have happened, and the focus on application
    So we’re looking at an HTML 5 at a lot of things that will empower us on the client side with applications
    so that’s really good. But, the implementation part is going to be where we’re going to see problems.
    A good example is client side storage. That’s a very, very good idea and HTML 5, a whole part of the spec
    is based on how to do that, but who’s going to implement it?
    You’re going to see again, the disparities here, and this again turns into a competitive issue on the functionality
    and the baseline of a browser and that’s not where the competition should be.
    So, there’s no unity in that piece, and that’s where interoperability in the software gets lost, and I’m very concerned
    about that.
    So whether it’s HTML 5 or whether it’s JavaScript, we also have an issue with JavaScript right now –
    in browsers and browsers evolving along different paths.
    I really would hope to see some point where the user-agent implementers get together and get those baselines
    into place; agree on those baselines, abide by those baselines and then find their own ways to compete.
    R: Do you think some of the lack of communication has led to, I know a lot of people in the accessibility community
    have been very upset by some of the stuff in HTML 5
    M: Well, it’s something very specific, it’s really for the canvas issue and other things in HTML 5
    that accessibility folks are worried about and I think….here are problems in the HTML 5 process from the get go.
    You heard me speak about the authorship as being largely driven by one single person so,
    this isn’t to say that there aren’t collaborators and it’s certainly under the W3C. There are a lot more people
    involved in a more formal way.
    But, the fact of the matter is that the majority of the spec was written by one person and a handful of supporters,
    and that would be Ian Hickson and he’s also the person that has written ASA 2 and ASA 3 tests.
    Certainly a very bright guy, but it worries me that one individual would have that much sway over a given
    specification when they are not working toward an interoperable environment.
    I think that’s more critical so that if it’s only one person, that also means one agenda and I don’t know what the
    agenda is, though I’m sure to Ian, it’s making the best Web that it can be because he’s a very hardworking
    dedicated person. But I don’t think that is the way specifications should evolve and I don’t think it’s going to help
    with interoperability because it cuts the dialogue and it creates cabals, it creates these separations where
    “I’m with these guys” and “I’m with these guys,” and “but, no, I’m over here”.
    So there’s separation not integration. That’s a huge part of the problem.
    R: Wonder about the recent sort of area of the development of IE 8. What’s been going on there?
    M: What I can tell you about, in my understanding of the hot topics of IE8 and what’s going on there, is that we’re
    seeing a shift away from the triad engine. So the triad engine has some core problems with it.
    It’s an older engine, of course there wasn’t any change or innovation for that long period of 5 years,
    and that caused a tremendous problem for Microsoft in terms of software, engineering, and trying to figure out
    how to catch up with everybody else.
    So one of the things that they have done, is that they’ve now begun to create a very strong engine,
    that is capable of supporting in this case a lot of CSS 2.1 stuff, like all the CSS 2.1 stuff rendering, and all that,
    so a tremendous amount of support stuff in IE8 but there’s still these legacy issues and for Microsoft,
    that’s a critical piece because so many intranets, and so many public websites have been built using that as the
    What Microsoft risks, is that it will “break” the Web if it changes its browser too abruptly.
    So what ended up happening is an opt-in switch. So that individuals, so the creation of this opt-in switch
    if you add a meta element that says if I want my browser to operate in compliance mode, which is the standards
    mode, very similar to something we used to have, not used to have, it still happens with alt type switching,
    standards mode and quirks mode, basically, this is a different level of that; a different layer of that.
    Where if we have the meta elements in there, then we can force that browser to render in the best way possible.
    Otherwise, it’s going to default to an earlier version, probably, IE6, I’m not clear yet whether that is factual,
    but that is what I’m led to understand at this time.
    Which of course has caused some very big concerns in the industry.
    Why isn’t it going to default to whatever the latest and best would be beneath that, but this has to do with the ‘don’t
    break the Web’ ideology in the IE group within Microsoft because they have that responsibility to many,
    many billions of customers.
    R: The last few years, there’s been a huge boost in social networking sites, is that presenting us with some
    M: Oh well, clearly it does. I mean when you talk about security, you talk about identity, all of that comes into
    play so what’s really fascinating about social networking to me is that it is extraordinarily powerful, and yes,
    in the wrong hands, extraordinarily dangerous.
    So we have to be very responsible I think, again, this is where I’m hinting at the idea professional organizations
    that set a level of professional standards for people working in the industry that say we’re only going to do
    these best practices because we want to keep the Web safe.
    You saw Simon talking a little earlier about OpenID and some of the ways they are doing that through encryption.
    There are some technologies out there that are really going to assist us with that. But, there are a lot of concerns
    no doubt.
    R: So how do you see the web developing over the next few years?
    M: It’s interesting because I’m not a fortune teller; not a good one anyway, and I tend to be leery of making
    predictions, but one of the things that I think is certainly going to happen is we’re going to see clearly a
    lot more video, audio, more mashups, and more complex things happen technologically,
    and perhaps I hope a great improvement in user experience.
    And of course with more broadband over time that even will increase more.
    But, my concern for the future has less to do with what is actually going to end up in the technological realm,
    than what is happening in the professional side of things.
    We need to keep the community learning, we need to keep the passion alive, we need to keep the ideologies
    alive, and that happens through social network, through conferences such as Webstock, bringing the world
    together in a greater ideology of professionalism. Because if we have professional understanding and set the
    bar higher for us, ourselves, then we are challenged to create better things; to solve problems more efficiently,
    and to create more innovative products.
    So I think that’s where the focus is, that’s where it needs to be in the education, the community, the social
    network and the professional network as we move ahead – supporting each other via community.
    R: So, what’s next for Molly?
    M: I think a couple of days of rest.
    R: Many, many thanks for your time.
    M: Thank you so much
    R: And thank you very much for a great presentation
    M: Thank you, it was truly my pleasure
    R: Thank you.

  20. Many thanks Molly, John and Lid for making a transcipt of the interview available.

  21. Go Molly! Molly for President!

  22. Wow, great interview there.

  23. CSS is good but but I hope that all browsers start supporting it soon. At least the new releases.

  24. The HTML 5 stuff is quite interesting. The speed at which technology is changing is quite scary. You gotta keep learning all the time. The minute you take a break you are left behind.

  25. just great interview thanks

  26. thank you nice sharing nice site

  27. I enjoy reading your posts. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Very interesting inverview.Thank you.

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