I recently returned from speaking at a conference in Kentucky where I ended up putting on four hats and seeing HTML5 and the future of mobile computing differently each time. I was struggling with trying to figure out why standards committees take so long to come to an agreement. After all, the vision of the web is clear, right?
Why did we get off the XHTML superhighway and jump on the scenic route where we ignore the bumps and potholes of bad syntax and limited metadata? What kind of folks are driving the bus right now and are they really going the right direction? Should we stay on the bus while we head into Mobileville? I've decided that the questions you pose are at least if not more important than the answers you think are right. Because that tells you what your vision is and if you've followed a little of this blog, you know that strategic vision is important.
The four hats are:
- The Engineer - who likes all of the functionality logically thought out
- The DBA - who likes the the data well defined and stored
- The Designer - who likes to deliver an emotional message to the customer
- The Businessman - who makes sure the customer is happy and they make a profit
Those four hats have led me to not watch the standards groups as much as watch Google and Amazon for what to use in the future that people want. The real vision of the web is to make money by giving computer users what they want. Waiting for standards groups won't get you there. After all, the current prediction is that CSS3 will be completely standardized by 2022. Here's a rundown of the first two hats:
I see the HTML world being altered so that these variable manipulators can have better code and read each other's functions easier. The push in HTML5 towards meaningful naming of the loosely typed datatypes that were divs and spans is going to give programmers a better handle on what it is they are talking to. The code will become less dependent on ids and more dependent on setting up the HTML with the proper element names like <mark>, <time>, <progress>, <meter>, <details> and some of the more argued over names like <style scoped>.
I also love to understand data and its meaningful use. Having the right field name and the right multiplicity gives me a warm glow. But I also know that too much data analysis can torture those poor programming souls who have to recombine the data for the page they work on.
Here we're not talking about the fields where programmers hand over their data after the output is available but where the data can be semantically meaningful as text. These are the domain entities and at a high level they are represented by <header>, <nav>, <footer>, <section>, <aside> and <article>.
My biggest hurdle here is knowing that the data already comes from a semantically proper framework called the database. If all the work has been done there, then who benefits by rethinking the meaningful structure one more time for the web? The only answer is that the DBA traditionally send the data to the programmers who use that "data markup" for their benefit. The field names become bundled together and as I put back on my Engineer hat, I am happy to create complex View Model types for my View, the web page.
But it's reinventing the wheel when there's a database and it's better for team coding experiences to have more readable code. But wait, is there a web service that might be looking for my article elements? Not yet in the HTML5 way. If you are looking for a current semantic framework of entities, you have to look no further than Google's recommendations. The microformats they recommend carry much more weight for reasons to mark up with them than just a standards board. People are using the schemas for reviews, events, organizations, places, restaurants, recipes, etc. without even knowing about it but you are losing out on having Google process your data and provide search results with it if you don't.
The XHTML push that we unceremoniously dumped was a DBA's dream for a perfect interface language between data source and data consumer. The problem was that it's not a homogenous set of data. Our web DBA's don't work under the same domain and the complexity made it uncomfortable to work with so many needs and choices that we found had already been solved with another data model. Or two (relational and objects). We didn't need a third (XML).
To be continued...
- Doug Hoff, Business IT Expert; MCT, SCJP, ITILv3, COBIT LinkIn with Doug