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November 23, 2002

Semantic Overloading

How much power should we allow the CLASS attribute to have in providing semantic structure?

<h3 class="BlogPostTitle">First p0st!</h3>

Consider the dual nature of the above example. It's a third-level header. It's a blog post title. Let's assume that for the moment that I'm using the H3 element strictly for structural, not presentational purposes (i.e. I don't care how the H3 is rendered in your user-agent of choice). Is the semantic value of the "BlogPostTitle" class outweighing the structural value of the H3?

Anil Dash is proposing a syndication format for weblogs that builds on the foundation of XHTML. I think the idea is sound, but I have a problem with making certain XHTML elements "required." For example, an H3 element makes no sense in a document that contains no H1 or H2 elements, so requiring that all post titles be delimited by H3 tags seems cruel and unusual.

The easy and obvious solution would be to standardize a set of CLASS attribute values and make those required. This method would allow any element to be a post body, post title or permalink. This is also where XML adherents would begin to get upset, because the practice of using the CLASS attribute to denote such deep semantic meaning is generally frowned upon. Ideally, you'd want a BLOGPOST element or something similarly specific.

So now we're in some murky waters. RSS provides a decent set of elements for syndicating weblogs, but it requires compromises on the part of the author. Full disclosure: I don't like providing an RSS feed. It's messy, it requires me to change my authoring habits, and I'm half-convinced that, like SOAP, the only reason it exists is to create a market for tools. If aggregation via XHTML were easier, there wouldn't be religious wars over syndication formats. But in order to get there, the rules that govern XHTML as a semantic metalanguage will need to be put to the test. Anil's idea could be that test.

It could work, or it could flop. I don't know, but I'm interested in seeing where it goes. So don't worry, I'm not planning on hauling down my RSS feed anytime soon.

Related reading:

November 22, 2002

HTML Docs For JavaScript

Tantek has come up with an extremely clever way to include HTML documentation for JavaScript code inside the same document using comment hacks. The particular (and peculiar) sequence of SGML comments <!-- --> and C-style comments /* */ allow the document to be parsed as either HTML or JavaScript depending on the way it's imported into the document.

November 21, 2002


Some of the musical snippets I wrote for the Fray Day 5 SF CD:

Will you be my friend?

November 19, 2002

I Hate Post Titles

Copies of the Sandalwood Sessions are on their way to Amazon and CDBaby, and I'm in the process of setting up a Paypal store to do my own order fulfillment. Fly, little disc!

I spent the weekend getting reacquainted with XSLT (and its components, XSL and XPath) for a one-off project. I have to admit that the XSLT abilities of IE's MSXML3 parser are da bomb. I know it's fashionable to do your transformations on the server, but there's something nice about having the XML (data, stylesheets and all) cached on the client itself, and not hitting the server again and again as you're formatting the data. A lot of nasty things have been said about the complexity of XPath, but it's really a snap, especially if you're already familiar with DOM 2 Core. Mozilla has similar capabilities staring with 1.2 final, but the implementation is different.

Congress is voting on the Homeland Security Act (HSA) soon, possibly today. A rather noxious piece of legislation, the Cyber Security Enhancement Act (CSEA), has been rolled into the HSA that would allow any government entity (federal, state, or local) to request email and voicemail from your ISP or telephone provider without a warrant or probable cause. The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a form letter opposing the legislation you can forward to your Congresspeople.

November 18, 2002

The Sandalwood Sessions

Walkingbirds: The Sandalwood Sessions

Okay, here we go. I've finally gotten around to releasing the first-ever Walkingbirds EP, the Sandalwood Sessions. This record contains all the early demos I did with Laurie in all their imperfect, tape-hissing, AC-humming glory. For those of you who'd like something better than the lousy 56Kbps MP3 versions, this is for you. I mean, you can actually hear the bass parts!

The Sandalwood Sessions is currently available from Mixonic (and from CDBaby shortly) for the low, low price of $10.00 US.

Here's the fun part: printed on the CD insert is the secret word that will get you into the secret area of the Walkingbirds site. What is the secret suprise? Uhm, not a whole lot, but it was fun putting together.


November 14, 2002

Loosely Joined

Chris has a new band.
Michael has a new album.
Shannon points to the most evil axe ever.
Bad karma in the making.

Alternate Formats (Can Suck)

I've invalidated my RSS feed by including relative URL references inside some of the IMG tags. Question: if I am required to include a LINK element in my RSS feed, is there a reason RSS aggregators can't use it to resolve relative links? The $REMOTE_HOST or equivalent? Given that people have been using relative URLs in pages for years, I'd expect RSS tools to be a bit more flexible in this regard. I mean, browsers can handle relative URIs, right?

Add this to my growing list of frustrations with alternate formats like RSS. I chose to design in XHTML and CSS because I wanted my site to be accessible to many devices. I don't understand the need to generate a separate page in a separate format, with different rules and restrictions, to provide content to a particular type of device, which is a school of thought we should be moving away from.

One day soon this site will be pure XML, with your format of choice generated from an XSLT template set. Until I get around to that, pay no mind as I sit here and grumble.

November 13, 2002

KnowNow Does Open Source

Good lord, Joe Hewitt really is doing the weblog thing. Check out his commenting UI.

In a strange twist of events, the brass at KnowNow have given the green light to Open Source some of the early prototypes of our 2-way-web technology. The legacy code includes a notification server written in Perl (for the Apache HTTP server) and a JavaScript library (called a microserver) which takes care of the publish-and-subscribe stuff. The project is called mod_pubsub, with all of the code available at the Sourceforge project page, with the goal of melding these concepts into an full C module that turns Apache into a real-time messaging bus. Whew.

November 11, 2002

DOM Inspector Intro

Mozilla engineer Ian Oeschger has written an introduction to the DOM Inspector app that comes packaged with that browser.

Birthing Pains

Monday? Did I say Monday? I meant next Monday. Sorry, just couldn't pull it off over the weekend. On a positive note, it is indeed happening, so I guess that's good.

November 7, 2002

Small Packages

Tiny little sleeve for a tiny little CDLast night I pulled together my submission to SXSW 2003, and even though I have a snowball's chance of getting selected to perform in Austin next year, one of my goals for this year was to submit something, anything. Mission accomplished. The best thing I can do now is forget I ever submitted anything.

Yeah, that's a 3" mini-CD, the same one from last year.

Gentle readers, cease thy protestations! The secret will be revealed next Monday. Okay, so it's not as compelling as "What Is The Matrix?" but geez, I'm only one guy.

Under Wraps

Nobody knows it
but you've got a secret smile
and you use it only for me

November 6, 2002

Are You Sure?

Best animated popup ad ever.

November 4, 2002

102. Mozilla Makes You Sexy

From Blogzilla: 101 Things Mozilla Can Do That IE Cannot.

November 1, 2002


Dreaming Of Violets was downloaded for the 800th time sometime last night, and the number is still climbing, thanks to a number of people who thought it was cool enough to merit a mention on weblogs and mailing lists. 800 downloads over three days, approaching 2GB of bandwidth. Geez!

Some people are calling it a collaboration, which I'm not sure is entirely accurate but I'm okay with nonetheless. Shannon and I didn't say, "hey, let's write a song!" I just embellished what was already a very well written tune. Shannon herself nails it on her site; I heard a lot of potential in "Violets," and felt compelled to flesh it out, while trying to remain true to the spirit of the song and the way it was presented.

I think this experience reveals something important about independent artists; because they have more control over their work and a lot less to lose, they tend to view things like this as an opportunity, rather than a threat. That, and the fact that Shannon and I can deal with each other directly as equals, rather than talking through record label-appointed lawyers and artist reps. This is partly why (in my experience) most DIY artists seem to be very comfortable with the idea of MP3 file trading and the Web and see it as a tool to strengthen the bond with their audience, while signed artists are often indifferent or ignorant of the issues, and tend to view the Web as a money leak, because that's what the label tells them.

I was going to write something here about how more indie artists should keep weblogs, but I'll save that for later.

Allan Karl is calling it "cobloggaration." Heh.