Why tool makers have to listen to feedback and institute social conventions
Simon Willison: Scripting.com, with added CSS [via Roland Tanglao: KLogs]
One of the aims of this course is to show how relatively simple CSS can be used to make dramatic improvements to existing sites. Today, I'll show how CSS can be used to reduce the amount of code needed for a small part of the design of Scripting.com.
I post this for two purposes:
(1) I want to keep the reference for myself in case I find time to learn CSS.
(2) I would like to use it as an argument in the discussion with Sebastian Fiedler about CSS, Radio templates and the role of sofware in promoting "good standards".
Sebastian is not happy at all with amount of HTML codes in Dina's RSS and believes that
if someone writes on the Web he or she should check some of the basic concepts of mark up. The concept of separate stlye sheets (CSS) and structural HTML is not really hard to understand... Anybody who has mastered her text processor should understand the concept right from the start.
I guess that you would agree that knowing that using CSS is better than hard-coded formatting and being able to do it are different. As a user I know, but I do not want to learn CSS to be able to do it (I changed it in my weblog only because I've got help). At the end I guess that embedding CSS in Radio templates is easier than making many users like me learning CSS :)
The problem is not in Microsoft, the problem is in Radio developers not thinking about it, so we have to rely on social conventions (see post+discussion about Quoting in Radio and Ross Mayfield comments to it).
So, if you really care that newcomers are not falling in the same trap, than make sure that you (or someone else) write beginner-friendly instruction explaining why HTML is bad in posts and how they can deal with it. Another option would be to push Userland guys or developer community to make sure that they define CSS for quoting, make proper default styles and add easy options to edit them.
Coming back to the example in the beginning of this post: I think it illustrates that at least one person behind Radio does not consider using stylesheets important. This attitude is embedded in Radio templates and then multiplied in many weblogs.
To make the point better I will cite Ross (bold is mine)
The integrated aggregator was the reason I adopted Radio in the first place and remains its best feature. However, the design of the tool doesn't capture the concerns of use, fair use in this case, leading to the need for social convention. [...]
The tradeoff is code can institute rules which is dangerous to pre-plan, but at a cost of user flexibility, while social conventions lag in adoption. The opportunity is for the tool makers to listen to feedback and institute social conventions as they mature to eliminate differences between new and established users.
Working on the BlogTalk paper I became even more convinced that blogging tools are not easy. And, as Dina says, this could be a huge entry barrier:
honestly all i want to do is get on with the content and not be bothered by the formatting (i find i'm spending way too much time on it) ... and i do see such issues as a huge entry barrier for potential bloggers.
Citing Brian Marick's review of Crossing the chasm once more:
Pragmatists want a product that works. They are not interested in debugging it. They want to be able to hire people who've used it. They want to find books about it in the bookstore. If there's customization that's needed, they want to find third parties who can do it. Better yet, they want to buy third-party packages written for people just like them. In short, they don't just want a product. They want a 100% solution to their business problem. If they get the 80% that delighted the visionary, they feel cheated, and they tell their pragmatist friends.
Do you want blogging epidemic? It's time to understand that it is not about inventing nice technologies. It's all about happy users.