Wednesday 9 July 2008

A Proprietary Web in Deed and Fact?

Paul Ellis eloquently points out a few things I’ve become hoarse saying over the past year in his recent post A proprietary Web? Blame the W3C.

My personal list goes like this:

  1. There’s no such thing as “Web Standards”
  2. There’s no such thing as an open Web (except in our dreams)
  3. There’s no such thing as interoperability on the Web

Of course the grand irony here is that it’s supposed to be the W3C where we get Microsoft and Adobe and Apple and Mozilla and so on around the table working together to create specs. So blanket “blame the W3C” statements are a bit flawed. I’d be more specific. I’d say “blame patent and IP old-skoolers, blame poor W3C infrastructure, blame an archaic and slow rather than agile and rapid process.” I can honestly tell you the most interesting, passionate and standards-oriented brainstorms I’ve had the opportunity to be present at have always been at W3C WG meetings.

Alas, those meetings of minds are then hacked apart and returned to their respective Member Companies to be scrutinized in light of policies, agendas and oh the list does go on.

My concerns are therefore different than Ellis’, who feels that it’s time for a richer Web experience anyway. While I do agree with the need for rich experiences, I am more fundamentally concerned about how the “Open Web” will ever be re-opened, and if it ever will be.

Every time I’ve said “Web Standards Aren’t” I get a significant response. Sometimes people laugh, sometimes they look at me as if I forgot my medication that day. Ellis’ article brings it a little closer to home about the many years of commitment standardistas give to a quality of work and a visionary cause that may have long been lost before it was ever truly won.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 01:15 | Comments (46)

Comments (46)

  1. “blame an archaic and slow rather than agile and rapid process” Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes; a thousand times yes!

    Incidentally Web Standards are: but they’re pretty much theoretical beings. They barely exist on the real web.

  2. Now, the difference between theory and practice, is that in theory, there is no difference! (Thanks Corey)

  3. “I am more fundamentally concerned about how the “Open Web” will ever be re-opened, and if it ever will be.”

    I feel your pain Molly 😉 that said we have to continue fighting the good fight, however long and frustrating the process may be and if we do feel like it’s an uphill struggle and possibly just a dream. Without it the web will fractionalise further and become even more proprietary and territorial.

  4. I am optimistic about the W3C. When they want to work, they can work. We just need to make sure that’s more often and on the technologies more central to the Web – HTML and CSS.

  5. Thank you Molly. I am in full agreement with you here. We do indeed have a propriety web. One that does not consider any of the ideals for openness or interoperability.

    What really scares me is the web parallels society. It seems to be the elite and powerful who create these false standards. The true motive of the elite and powerful is just to consolidate their wealth and power.

    To quote from Ron Paul, “Armies Cannot Stop An Idea Whose Time Has Come”

    The time has come for a one open interoperable web. This is the free semantic web for all the people.

  6. I don’t think that a more agile process can work in today’s web. Incremental updates and features don’t fit in well with Internet Explorer’s model, and since that still has a sizable audience, and it’s slowness will keep these features out of mainstream use until long after it is a ratified standard/recommendation.

    Take Internet Explorer team’s stance on XHTML for instance, the stance is not to implement any of it until it all can be implemented. That sort of pessimism is exactly the barrier more agility with hit.

    Of course, it would be so nice if incremental updates could be concise chunks of functionality that could be added without the whole browser code base ending up as calcified organic growth.

    Firefox, Opera and Safari, with its steady release of updates, probably will have no problem with this incremental approach – look for example at the range of CSS3 and HTML5 features some of them support. I just don’t see Internet Explorer adopting this approach, and I don’t see Windows Update delivering such an approach.

    There is something wrong with the W3C process – it might be that it’s primarily about getting large organisations together, when the actual innovation/thought leaders are in smaller organisations or individuals – a group that the W3C has a history of not successfully dealing with. Look at HTML5 – how many ‘Invited Experts’ are there, as opposed to member organisations?

    I have to say, although the Atom IETF process delivered both the Syndication format and the Publishing Protocol, it longer than expected, but still far quicker than WCAG2, XHTML2, HTML5, CSS3. The balance on the IETF was tilted far more towards individual contributions and co-operations.

    Although lead capably by Sam Ruby and Tim Bray (as well as Paul Hoffman), they both work for “Member Organisations of W3C”, but seemed to communicate as individuals. Neither of them threw their weight around because of their employer. Also, they accepted paths that they didn’t favour, and the rough consensus and working code approach I think created a more equitable foundation to build a good standard. But I liked the approach of “working code” trumps “email volume” – it empowers the doers rather than the talkers, and the end result is something that has already proven to be implementable.

    Perhaps avoiding the process of working inside the W3C is the answer. It certainly worked for Atom. It was initially working for WHATWG until the point they were merged back into the W3C. It seems to be working for microformats (despite the pseudo-academic buffonery that ignores practical implications and real world barriers).

  7. Isofarro, there are far more “Invited Experts” in the HTML WG than Member organizations.

    Also, the WHATWG is not merged “back” into the W3C. It still functions like it used to do.

  8. As for Atom and Atompub, those are a lot simpler than what HTML5 and CSS 2.1 define.

  9. The marketplace of ideas seems to have been forgotten in a pursuit for some utopian ideal.

    Standards bodies have their place, but they’ve proven themselves to be the opposite of “vigorous”. Maybe it’s time to go back to the idea that an open web can be created if “standards” (per se) are ignored – and the marketplace picks the best ideas. (I can already hear the howls…)

    Centralized systems never work – and I must admit the standards bodies always remind me of the old Soviet 5-year farming plans. None of which ever worked, but that didn’t stop them assuming the next one might. People like these systems because they provide a certainty; but its that very “attribute” that undermines progress: the only thing that’s certain is that which has gone before. (And even that’s not entirely accurate!) Vested interest will always trump innovation.

    Anyway, while “we” have a centralized system that has a selection process that makes the Pentagon procurement process look streamlined there never will be an “open” web. Market pressure ensures openness, nothing else.

    Yay for capitalism! Let its dynamism run the web, too. Otherwise known as: let the good ideas roll with the bad ones, and may the best idea get market-share! 🙂

    Carolyn Ann

  10. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the conversation re web standards changed from dynamic, intellectually-driven discussions and agreements to a maintenance of corporate status-quo. (I use “corporate” in both senses of the word: corporations, and groups.)

    Considering the open-source based culture of the web, this seems paradoxical – to say the least! It shows how some have managed to, well, pervert the standards-making process.

    Looking at how long it took to develop HTML5 (a standard looking for a reason to exist), I’d say it’s high time that people stopped looking to standards and started wandering into that famous bazaar.

    Carolyn Ann

  11. I would agree that the W3C is “holding things back”…if all browsers currently implement all of the existing specifications and are being prevented from future development while waiting new specifications.

    This is not the way it is, though. Is XHTML implemented in IE? Is SVG implemented in IE? Carolyn Ann, your fear of communal efforts is a rather interested perspective, if it weren’t for the fact that the web would not even exist without these same communal efforts.

    Giving in to Microsoft? Every time Microsoft “wins” in the marketplace, it leaves its supporters in the dust. That’s what happened with IE6 a long time ago. The company “beat” Netscape, and then became indifferent to the browser arena until it felt threatened by Mozilla, Safari, and Opera.

    Put your trust in companies who only have their own purposes and interests at heart? Might as well appoint the CEO of Exxon as the next head of the EPA and be done with it.

    Rather than stagnate, the web has grown by leaps and bounds. I am sorry that some people are so bored with what we have that they have to look elsewhere. Perhaps their boredom is less to to do with the specifications, than their own limitations on being able to see what we can do with what we already have.

  12. It’s not a “fear”, per se: although I suspect you’re using the term “fear” in a slightly different context. I just don’t think the communal approach works. You don’t end up with a viable standard: you end up with the minimum that can get past the committee! (Which appears to be top-heavy with groups that favor the status quo.)

    A lot of this gnashing of teeth and brains is due to Microsoft’s dominance. People don’t install Firefox for a variety of reasons, none of which are actually relevant in this discussion, and as such IE gets to be the standard-defining browser of the entire world. Steve Balmer must be very happy. But that’s actually not a technical issue: it’s a marketing one! (Sure, you could try and sue MS and force them to include Firefox… An approach the EU lawyers and “fair-traders” would probably find enticing…)

    In that Raymond’s Bazaar, it might be possible to find a product that advertises that it works with IE, but it’s so much better if you choose another browser…

    Communal approaches (sometimes) work in politics. It will always fail if you’re trying to introduce progress.

    Carolyn Ann

  13. Carolyn Ann, your saying that communal efforts don’t succeed doesn’t make it so. What did I just get through saying? Most of the innovation on the web is do to “communal efforts”. This page is created with HTML, designed with CSS, probably activated with JavaScript, including JPEG and PNG images served up using Apache — all of which were either directly created or heavily influenced by the community.

    Microsoft’s dominance is based on one thing only: inertia. Microsoft embedded their browser into their operating system. If they didn’t, IE would be a fast fading memory. The company hasn’t had a decent web offering since IE6 was first released, which was seven years ago.

    As for people not installing Firefox, it’s now the dominant browser at all my web sites, and even Safari is starting to beat IE for my graphics site. IE has no where to go but down.

    Blame the W3C for today’s problems web problems? That’s the most absurd statement I’ve heard in a month. About as absurd as saying that we don’t have the capability, today, for a rich web experience. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all we can do…if we weren’t held up by IE. Put the blame where it belongs.

  14. Does it really matter?

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  16. Shelly:

    Your counter-examples don’t really work. XHTML isn’t our bottleneck, per sae. If everyone had perfect XHTML rendering, that would still leave DOM issues and CSS quirks to iron out. SVG surely would be nice, but it’s also no panacea. VML does many things better, things which we actually need in order to build better apps. I think you’re suggesting here that the current marketplace for browsers is broken (i.e., only MSFT gets an effective vote), and I’ll agree with you 100% on that, but it seems far-fetched to assume that Microsoft and Netscape drove the standards which we have now to the point that they’re at in order to preserve high ideals or further the cause of a grand web vision. Netscape wanted a piece of Microsoft’s turf and Microsoft did nearly anything (and everything) they could to kill the upstart…including pushing HTML 4.0 and CSS2 to completion, building the best browser the world had ever seen, and employing all manner of dirty tricks and market-destroying tactics.

    We may not like where we are, but it seems a stretch to venerate the current state of standards while ignoring that messy, self-interested competing parties are the ones that gave them to us.

    As for your perspective that people are “bored” with what we have now, I think that’s not being charitable enough. Many of us have been trying to push this jalopy as far as it’ll go, and I can tell you from long hard-earned experience that we’re at the bottom of the barrel. We’re tapped out. There isn’t any more headroom in IE 6 and 7, no matter how well Moore’s Law treats us. IE 8 is a faint shimmer on the horizon. It’s not boredom you sense, it’s despair and loathing.


  17. Well, you do have a good point, Shelley. But I do think the web-standards process has bogged down, and it’s not just due to IE/MS: Firefox isn’t all that wonderful, either. It’s better than IE, but that’s not exactly stretching anything.

    The corporate interests that seem to be on the various web-standard committees aren’t helping anything. How long did HTML5 take to come out? (Is it actually out, as of now?) Is it actually needed, at this point? Could the marketplace of competing ideas have done something a heck of a lot better? (Which, again, wouldn’t be that much of a stretch!)

    I’m not wedded to the idea of a free-for-all, although I do think it has its pluses, but the current process isn’t working. It’s stagnating, and taking innovation with it. It might have worked in the past, but it really isn’t working now. Something is needed that isn’t weighted to a series of meetings that, frankly, seem to be boondoggles for many of those involved. These meetings seem to produce an ever-spiraling set of concerns, few resolutions and a camel that looks awfully like an elephant. We need race horses, not those strange looking critters these committees somehow manage to find the courage to present as “coherent”.

    Consensus can work – it’s the basis of political action the world over – but it needs to be managed! And right now it’s being managed into a confusing maelstrom of inactivity.

    But, on a side note, thank you (to you and Alex Russell) for debating the point! 🙂 Maybe some good will come of it!

    Carolyn Ann

  18. Standardization across assisted technology user agents would be a good thing … even simple text to speech applications cannot render simple HTML effectively. Text to speech and vice versa should have been a reality by now.

    The future of Internet communication will not reside within standard web browsers. Proprietary RIA frameworks will replace that. Standards, for all practical purposes, are a dead horse, in my view.

  19. Yes, Thacker, you should immediately go out and see if you can’t do your entire web site all in Flash. I’ve heard that Google can index it now. If you work _real hard_ you won’t have to use any awful standard stuff at all. Better yet — Silverlight. Blank pages with embedded Silverlight. That’s the ticket.

    Alex, I was writing about cross-browser differences for NetscapeWorld close to 12 years ago. I am aware of the motivations of both Netscape and IE back then. I followed step by painful step, browser version after version.

    I am also aware of the symbiotic relationship between the proprietary interests of the browser makers and the standards effort. After all, isn’t that what led to Ajax, and in fact, an improved Ajax?

    Netscape would create something, Microsoft would create something else newer, better, and the MS option would be incorporated into whatever standard was appropriate. Next time, it was Netscape’s turn. Symbiotic: proprietary and standard.

    I am additionally aware of how challenging it is to create sophisticated animations with SVG or javaScript or the Canvas element. We’re talking about embedded browser elements that are dependent on the rendering capability of the browsers, being compared to plug-ins, which can actually code directly on to the graphics system. I am not recommending people immediately go out and code World or Warcraft or whatever is popular with SVG.

    At the same time, it makes me feel good when I try something in SVG or whatever and it looks and behaves the same in Opera, Firefox, and Safari. Oh, one might implement a new feature before another; and another browser might run and animation more smoothly–but it works, in all three browsers. That happened so rarely with the old IE and Netscape a decade ago. I don’t want to go back. It was the wild west, exciting yes, but exhausting.

    We won’t be able to improve on SVG, or the Canvas element, or JavaScript, or any standard, while we’re sitting on a four legged stool with one leg missing. Two guesses as to which leg is not showing up.

    We are in danger of losing that symbiotic relationship between the proprietary and the standard. We’re coming close to saying, let’s just chuck it all, and pick a side. We don’t need no sticken’ standards. Let the best browser win. Except that Adobe wants the winner to not be a browser.

    Your comment was curious, There isn’t any more headroom in IE 6 and 7, no matter how well Moore’s Law treats us. IE 8 is a faint shimmer on the horizon. It’s not boredom you sense, it’s despair and loathing.

    I can agree, we’re tapped out with the IEs. However, I’m a little confused about what you see is the best course to take.

  20. I love this memory lane stuff, sorry for stuffing your comments Molly. Want to talk about conniving companies and standards? IE wasn’t the only winner in these games.

    This was my take on the whole “ECMA” situation, back in August of 1997. A nice follow on from one of the earlier pre-blogs blog.

  21. @Carolyn Ann, you write.

    “Yay for capitalism!”

    Capitalism creates a world with no equality. It creates conditions that allow a few people to consolidate wealth and power. It creates the conditions where we have a world of war, poverty, hunger and death which the power elite are indifferent to.

    Capitalism is about the survival of the fittest in the market place. If you fail in creating capital you join the growing leagues of the impoverish. A simple doubling of the cost of food worldwide can cause a billion people to die of starvation.

  22. I’d never argue that capitalism is an engine for equality, Alan. Heck, I’d never argue it was a perfect system. What I do claim is that it’s a system that works. Various controls have to be placed on it, the nature and degree of control depending on the local society, and some other factors, etc. (This is a comment in a blog that’s not mine, so full explanations and the desired accuracy is replaced by brevity!)

    Centralized systems are proven, empirically, not to work. Mostly because they remove incentive (old fashioned corruption has a place, too) – if there’s no need to improve, why bother?

    No, capitalism, like democracy, is not a perfect system, but both have the virtue that they work. Misapplied and abused, neither system is effective.

    The web standards process has become some arcane, and futile, quest for perfection – equality seems to be a popular concept. It’s a pity that it’s a misapplied concept: equality in technology isn’t the same as equality in the world. It seems that many confuse the two, however. There seems to be more emphasis on arriving at a solution everyone likes, than in actually arriving at a solution. Any solution.

    In pursuing this utopian vision, the web standards bodies have given us timetables that are ridiculously long, have a strong resemblance to those 5-year agricultural plans I mentioned, and the resulting document will be made available well past the time of need. Phone companies couldn’t do better – and they’re well practiced at preventing progress.

    The structure of the web-standards committees is, to be frank, baffling. I’ve never seen a system like that, and even a moments thought will show that it doesn’t work. There’s no leader, no one to guide the process. Sure there are project managers (although they’re called something else), and there are process experts, and even a few people who know the web technologies (how they got in, I have no idea… ). What’s missing, in its entirety, is something called “leadership”.

    There’s no incentive for the groups to produce a standard – what happens if they don’t? Oh, another meeting someplace nice, a few bloggers who write mean-spirited criticisms (don’t they know how hard all of this is?) and a corporate executive or two who feels happy that they don’t have to deal with rapid or radical change.

    If you want evidence that the web standards process isn’t working, look at the timetables. They’re not timetables, they’re century calendars. I think we put a man on the Moon in less time. Before such a thing as HTML existed, too.

    And no, capitalism is not about survival of the fittest: it’s about the creation of goods and services that fulfill a need. In the realm of the computer it’s about market-share, purely and simply. The resulting, or at least hoped for, wealth that comes from that is a different topic. Open source has changed the rules, a little, for computers and capitalism. Which is no bad thing.

    As Thomas Jefferson said: “A little revolution now and then is a good thing” We need a revolution in how web standards are developed. And while we’re not discussing liberty, a metaphorical guillotine could be useful, too.

    Carolyn Ann

  23. For the life of me, when I look at W3C’s membership list I can’t shake the thought that the foxes are guarding the henhouse.

    From where I sit, it’s like this:

    Whizzy, shiny things are beloved of Marketing guys.

    The Marketing guys get the credit for giving a campaign juice.

    Juicy campaigns have the end result of bringing in revenue.

    Thus – fallacious or not – there’s a strong implied link between whizzy, shiny things and revenue…

    If you were a software publisher, wouldn’t you try to make money from that logic too?

    If nothing else, keep in mind that when you take away anyone’s favorite toy, creativity goes straight down the drain. For some people it’s psychoactive substances, for others gadgets or actual toys… you get the idea. Take ’em away, the result’s the same.

    As I see it, the W3C’s glacial pace is a direct consequence of its member organizations’ desire to let the market sort out as much as possible, then draft the standards ex post facto.

  24. Shelley stated,

    Yes, Thacker, you should immediately go out and see if you can’t do your entire web site all in Flash. I’ve heard that Google can index it now. If you work _real hard_ you won’t have to use any awful standard stuff at all. Better yet — Silverlight. Blank pages with embedded Silverlight. That’s the ticket.

    yeah yeah yeah. What’s the problem? So what if I recommend to clients to use Word 95 to generate HTML.


    Seriously, I wouldn’t make it a habit to interject assumptions between the lines unless of course looking like a twit is the objective.

    Thank you very much.

  25. @Carolyn Ann

    Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power – Abraham Lincoln

    We are now seeing in this world today what this means.

  26. I’m sorry, Alan: I don’t understand your point. 🙁

    Carolyn Ann

  27. Seriously, I wouldn’t make it a habit to interject assumptions between the lines unless of course looking like a twit is the objective.

    Enough about you, Thacker, let’s talk about how pervasive standards-based technology really is, and how impossible to get by without “standards”.

  28. :::Chuckling:::: Powers, I have to admit your comeback of “Enough about you, Thacker […]” was funny.


    Pervasive? Over a year ago wasn’t there a discussion about how 95% of the web is broken because of non-standards compliance? Impossible? BMW seems to be getting by even though their web content is not fully navigable within Firefox.

    If such things were ‘pervasive’ and ‘impossible’, BMW would be taking the hit rather than the browser in the mind of its customer.

  29. Only in a capitalistic society would the news of the possible impeachment of a President and Vice President be hidden by the mainstream media.

    Only in a capitalistic society would a depression happen.

    Capitalism operates like a pyramid, see the reverse of your money.

    As you say in your latest blog, “The State of the World?” Do you really understand the true state of our world?

  30. Pingback: six0blog » Web Standards

  31. No, I can’t say I do know the state of the world! But then I don’t pretend to. I try to make sense of it, and – as always – fail in some manner.

    Personally, I do like capitalism – it two things that no other economic system can manage: an accordance with free speech, and a willingness to embrace risk. It’s like Eric Raymond’s Bazaar: the risk isn’t that a particular solution will be found, it’s that the solution developer will go bust while he’s [sic] being discovered! All of it leads to true innovation, not that ersatz version so often touted by the likes of major corporations.

    Certainty leads to complacency. Uncertainty leads to dynamism.

    But capitalism isn’t perfect – and anyone claiming it is should be regarded a fool. What it is, though, is extremely efficient at moving capital around. Checks and balances are needed to ensure that the Robber Baron’s don’t re-emerge (such a thing is happening, already!), but overall I prefer a system where I can define success in my own terms.

    I did want to point out to you that capitalism isn’t usually the starter of wars: it’s nearly always ideology. Wars over resources have been, and will continue to be, fought – but ideology is, by far, the most predominant reason populations got o war with each other. Wars are an anathema to trade (and hence capitalism); Europe prefers, for instance, to use its considerable spending power to exert influence on others, so they behave. America is still reeling from 9/11, so it’s exempt from such a discussion (I think that reasonably sidesteps Iraq and the quagmire of a discussion that would be!). Asia is thinking of setting up an Asian Union, in the model of the EU, which would also cut down on the potential for conflict. And so on. People will always go to war over something; sadly, that’s just the way we are.

    But thank you for reading my blog. I will most certainly reciprocate! 🙂

    Carolyn Ann

  32. Mmm while I agree with your three statements about web standards Molly, because you’re right – they aren’t standards (just recommendations), there isn’t interoperability, and no open web (if I understand the concept you mean by that).

    I do, however, think that any set of technologies does need to be standardised because it gets very hard for 2 machines to talk to each other consistently without a shared vocabulary. Its fine for some people to comment that it should be a free market driven atmosphere but if things did move too fast in that market how would hardware and even software keep up with the disparate language differences between programming solutions in points A, B, C etc… seriously, that would be even worse for interoperability (which would rely on a common understanding).

    Web standards (or recommendations) have their place. Unfortunately I see things another way, I think a lot of web standards progress have been shot in the foot by individual standardista’s personal agendas and sometimes by fame and sometimes by a combination of those forces. Design by committee is always dangerous, pleasing everyone pleases nobody and tends to create products that are overall mediocre in the end.

    My opinion, for what its worth. Small group go in and make a core standard around a technology. Then release B expands that to include next step features, and iterative improvements follow. I’d say push the big boys off the table for that process, too. On day X provide a specification they either follow or not – their commercial choice. If they follow everyone gets to interoperate. If not they get a product in a silo.

    That’s my 7am before work rant for the 2 cents its worth. We critically need standardisation, and the support between vendors for that in their products. The 2 major problems I see are that W3C is bogged in beaurocracy (partly because standardistas come in a zillion flavours, not just vendors) and its become about trying to please everyone. How about just producing a best model working spec with some beta testing? A little more agile. A little more proactive. A couple of simple plain english objectives on the wall of that Working Group – interoperability, accessibility, ease of implementation.

    Then invite everyone in the door at the end, very smart people, and THEN we ask “how do we do it”? We ask “how do we make this new spec happen”?

    Cos the current process is a duck + a beaver = platypus… (although I do love the platypus, don’t get me wrong)…

    And of course I’m often wrong about things so feel free to shoot me down 🙂

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  34. Ah, the passion!

    @Steven – what you describe could not occur without the “big boys” as they are the implementors of the technologies. An analogy might be inviting drivers of cars to create specs for auto companies. 🙂

  35. @Molly

    Passion is wonderful. Abraham Lincoln had passion. Martin Luther King had passion. Those words by them still stir something within which seeks freedom.

    @Carolyn Ann (a pattern emerging) 🙂

    It seems like you want to argue for taxes, debt and slavery. You say “Checks and balances are needed to ensure that the Robber Baron’s don’t re-emerge.” Why don’t you educate yourself about Capitalism.

    At least Australia seems to have true checks and balances.

    Australia has a Government surplus of $45 billion ($2,250 per person) where America has a Government deficient of $9.5 trillion (-$29,700 per person).

    Also some education on the different types of upper class is needed.

    BTW, you fail by your own words. You can succeed in any manner.

  36. Nitpicking is not a viable form of argument, Alan.

    I must say, I do find your assumptions quite offensive! And as you seem to have rapidly dived into the realm of the personal insult, I shall cease my part in this conversation.

    We all succeed, or fail, in our own manner. I wish you success in learning how to maintain a reasonable, honest and polite conversation.

    Carolyn Ann

  37. @Carolyn Ann, you wrote these words.

    “I try to make sense of it, and – as always – fail in some manner.” That is self talk.

  38. I have absolutely no idea what “self talk” is, Alan. Can you be so generous as to explain?

    In my writing I simply to try to communicate something about my perception of the world. I invariably fail, because I’m writing a quick blog post (I strictly adhere to the principle of “write first, think later”), and not of the intellectual power to keep track of all the issues I might want to address. I go where my words take me, and sometimes I find a surprise.

    I think, as we all do, that some ideas are good, and some are not, and some are somewhere in between. To condemn me as a racist simply because we disagree is quite breathtaking; I’d say “audacious”, but that seems to imply something positive in your mean-spirited and trite accusation. That your accusation is meaningless negated any sting – I did find it amusing – but you pour on the insult when you have little left to say.

    I presume you mean to brow-beat me (I can presume little else, from your lack of consideration)? If you do, you’re on a losing wicket – if I may use a analogy from Cricket? If you have something of relevance to add, please do so: otherwise, I will ignore as I should have before I wrote this.

    Carolyn Ann

    PS I don’t recall you coming up with any suggestions on how to address the central topic of this discussion, namely the almost total lack of meaningful activity from the web-standards committees.

  39. @Carolyn Ann

    I never called you racist. Btw, how have I been mean-spirited?

    All I said is that you fail by your words. I would also fail by my words if I put myself down. This is self talk. Rewording your own words, this is what you say about yourself.

    “I always fail in some manner in making sense of it.”

    I would say (hope) that you would always succeed in making sense of this.

    Here is the answer to the original question.

    Peaceful open society = Semantic open web

    We can not have the later without the former being true. That’s where Capitalism comes into play. The Capitalist motto is Divide and Conquer.

  40. Carolyn Ann — And no, capitalism is not about survival of the fittest: it’s about the creation of goods and services that fulfill a need.

    The hell it is. What have you been reading? Or not reading?

    Personally, I do like capitalism – it two things that no other economic system can manage: an accordance with free speech, and a willingness to embrace risk.

    Ah. The latter. Try Noam Chomsky. See if you don’t come away with some actual thoughts.

    So many sheep who don’t know they are one. Baa!

    Molly, thank you – great thread!

  41. Thanks, for the suggestion, Zo. I tried to read Chomsky some time ago. “Tried” being the operative word… Can’t stand the man’s meanderings, myself. “Whimsical” is a polite word for his efforts; although he did do some interesting work on language for a little while. You should try reading Ayn Rand! Maybe you’ll not throw the book as far as I felt like throwing it. Better yet: read something like Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire”, or Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose”. Or how about some Shakespeare? Maybe a sonnet or two? Or his comedies? You’ll definitely come away with some thoughts.

    What’s with the dislike of capitalism? Some think it a bad system, or something. It ain’t perfect, but then again only a nitwit would say it was. If it’s so bad, what would replace it? (As a viable economic system, not a pipe-dream. Please. And, just to add a nice touch, it has to support the entrepreneur and be compatible with the ideals of free speech/expression.)

    If there’s no need for something – whether it’s a real need, or simply a perceived need – there’s no invention. No invention, no intellectual property, etc. Capitalism has a lot going for it; even the so-called socialist places (Chavez’ Venezuela comes to mind, as does China) rely on capitalism for their money. No invention, no entrepreneurs, no need for capital, no need for money, no need for, well, anything that makes the world a better place. Replacing capitalism with something else is akin to suggesting that people not make any effort to improve their lot in life.

    Besides: isn’t the computer, and especially the PC, the result of capitalism? Oh, yeah it is! How embarrassing.

    Carolyn Ann

  42. @Carolyn Ann, you wrote.

    “But you pour on the insult when you have little left to say.”

    I have only just begun. You foolishly underestimate me.

    You seem to follow in the footsteps of those who blame the other side for what they are actually guilty of. Then you go on with your rhetoric trying to justify your views but you are typical of such people, where the more you speak, the more your hypocrisies are exposed for all to see. That’s if these people are not sheep.

    The more you proceed with your rhetoric the more others will look on with wonder. Look around in America. Look at the poor, the destitute, the demoralized, the traumatized and the uneducated, all which are further impoverished by the tyrannical rule of Capitalism. I do see your true colors and I would declare that you follow the doctrine of conservatism. I am the opposite of you as I am a social libertarian (Libertarian socialism ~ Anarchism).

    BTW, where did I call you a racist? You seem to accuse me of something which you are actually guilty of. I have love a respect for all humanity. Do you?

  43. Alan, you do seem to be rather oblivious to the implications of your words. You said I supported slavery – that’s a racist, and quite derogatory, statement that has no foundation. I found it quite amusing, but I have enough wit to know you intended it as offensive.

    Please, if you want to have a discussion about political philosophies, let’s have a reasoned and respectful virtual chat. (Maybe somewhere else; we are consuming the bandwidth Molly, presumably, pays for. We only have her assumed permission to do so.) Impassioned and unfounded accusations of misdeeds, and simply assuming that your “opponent” (I am not that, by the way – although you seem to prefer the stark black and white of the absolute, which ensures that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically your opponent) is incapable of “love a[nd] respect for all humanity” are the hallmarks of illiterate shouting matches. Not intelligent, informed and educational debates.By the way, you’re not the “opposite” of me, because you have no idea of my political philosophy; you assume so much.

    Arguing with you about capitalism is so similar to arguing with a Fundamentalist about creationism/ID/Biblical Inerrancy; it’s quite amusing. Like them, you don’t actually “listen”, preferring your own rhetoric. And judging from your use of “self talk”, your own colloquialisms, too.

    I made a suggestion that struck me as either a way out of the impasse created by the inactivity of the Web Standards boards, or at least a reasonable proposal that could be examined, expanded upon or discarded. But it was a suggestion, intended to provoke thought – something I haven’t actually seen you produce. (You can parse that sentence any way you wish.) You immediately go off on some sort digressionry temper tantrum, the likes of which I haven’t witnessed for some time. At least a week, if memory serves.

    My suggestion is exactly the same one as Eric Raymond’s famous Bazaar. There’s no difference between my suggestion, and his – I lifted it, lock, stock and barrel from his “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”. Not being into plagiarism, I did use my own words to describe it, however. I don’t even claim that my submission to the conversation was even “clever”; Mr Raymond did the heavy lifting in that department. I simply applied his ideas to the question Molly sort of posed.

    The basic concept has merit; it has, after all, worked astonishingly well in the open-source marketplace. (Yes, there were some other factors, all economic – things like a glut of programmers who suddenly had lots of free time when they were laid off, and a complacency on the part of many software firms that still astonishes, and so on. I feel that I have a write a dissertation, not a comment, just to prevent you from leaping onto the smallest grammatical infraction. I’ll stop that practice, and assume you can extrapolate and also have the ability to ask “have you considered this … ?” instead of the “you support taxes, debt and slavery!” nonsense (it was nonsense) you seem to be fond of.)

    So, if you want to – reasonably and without the childish invective – debate web standards, let’s do so. If you just want to hurl invective, may I suggest you do it in your own virtual space? (Oh, if you do, please don’t make too much effort to let me know.)

    I apologize to everyone else, if they’ve even gotten this far in the “dialogue”. I am not as witty, or skilled as Ms Powers is with words, and I haven’t had my morning coffee as yet. Heck, I’m still bleary eyed, squinting and checking I’m wearing my reading glasses!

    Thank you
    Carolyn Ann

  44. This is Awesome, thanks!

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