Opera, CSS and the Working Group: there’s no need to get tetchy

Thursday, December 20, 2007 23:08 | Filed in Standards, Technology

I might have mentioned before, that the CSS Invited Expert Andy Clark had suggested that Opera’s complaint to the EU about Microsoft might make it difficult for Opera and Microsoft to work together, if they were so publicly squabbling over standards, and he called for the CSS working group to be disbanded and reformed with a different structure.

Of course, given that one of the two threads of Opera’s complaint is that Microsoft isn’t following web standards, this is rather undermined anyway by the news that internal builds of IE8 are passing the ACID2 test. However, that still leaves the question of whether or not Microsoft are exploiting a monopoly on operating systems to create a browser monopoly to squabble about…

It’s therefore quite reasonable to ask — as Andy did — whether this would make it difficult for Opera and Microsoft to work together, and ask for them to be able to confirm whether this wouldn’t damage the CSS working group:

I want to see Opera’s Håkon Wium Lie and CSS Working Group representatives from Microsoft and Bert Bos all make public statements to the effect that this issue will not affect the CSS Working Group.Andy Clarke

And today on the CSS working group blog, we did get some statements to that effect.

As far as Microsoft is concerned, I have not received any instruction to change my participation in W3C in any way because of this or any other lawsuits. Personally, I love working with HÃ¥kon and all CSSWG members.Alex Mogilevsky (Microsoft)

You are absolutely correct. I very much enjoy working with Microsoft representatives and would like to continue doing so. I also hope the work will result in better standards support in IEHÃ¥kon Wium Lie (Opera)

Unfortunately, the rather snarky and tetchy tone of the post was inappropriate.

It was entitled signal to noise, and ended with “Please find something else to argue over, thanks.” implying that Andy, and the rest of us who had worried about it, were talking nonsense that wasn’t worth listening to. No. We were expressing a legitimate concern, which has been assuaged to some degree by those statements from Opera, from Microsoft, and from Microsoft’s progress with IE8.

[Update: following my discussion with fantasai in the comments section below, I toned down this post, acknowledging that maybe I was being too harsh on fantasai, and fantasai has also toned down the original post slightly. I believe this hitherto unknown phenomenon in web standards is known as a compromise, and involves such bizarre concepts as "trying to understand the other person's point of view". Unfortunately, I can't see it catching on :-) ]

Unfortunately, some of that progress has for me been undone by fantasai (whom I’ve praised in the past) for taking that sort of snarking, biting tone and seeming not to understand that people would legitimately have concerns.

It’s great that you’ve got HÃ¥kon and Alex to publicly say those things. But that should have happened three days ago, instead of it seemingly only being sparked off after people publicly raise queries about it.

Also, if those working on the CSS group can’t, don’t, or won’t understand that not all of us have a direct line to HÃ¥kon or Alex, we don’t know what they’re like to work with and we don’t know how they are likely to behave in a particular situation, then I would suggest that those members of the CSS group step out from the ivory tower for a while and see what life is like on the outside.

If the CSS group have lost touch with the ability to understand how web developers and designers feel about things to this extent, then I think Andy has a point — the group should be disbanded and/or restructured. Not because Opera and Microsoft can’t get on, but because the CSS working group have lost touch with the people they’re supposed to be developing these standards for.

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5 Comments to Opera, CSS and the Working Group: there’s no need to get tetchy

  1. fantasai says:

    December 21st, 2007 at 12:55 am

    I’m sorry that you don’t appreciate the tone. As for how long it took to post that, none of us was even aware that this would be considered an issue until Andy posted his piece and the blogosphere exploded. Now Andy *does* have direct access to the working group and its members, but despite not asking anyone he went and posted his predictions as if he had the inside word.

    Btw, “even bitchy”? That is entirely inappropriate. I might be short on patience this week having spent most of it trying to cool down various fires, but I at least have not been blatantly insulting.

  2. JackP says:

    December 21st, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Okay, I’ll take “bitchy” back: you’re right – on reflection it wasn’t that bad [and I'll edit the article to remove that reference] But it did come over as tetchy at least…

    And I know Andy has direct access to the WG and it’s members — which is one of the reasons, that as he is someone I respect, even if I don’t always agree with — that if he was concerned about it, it seemed appropriate to me to be worried about it.

    And I know that what I’m asking you (and anyone else in that situation to do) is to remain calm and cooly explain the situation when you’re fed up to the back teeth of it, when you’ve had people complaining at you all the time and so on — and that may not be fair, but I think it’s the standard we need to see from the working group(s), howsoever they may be set up…

  3. Joe Clark says:

    December 21st, 2007 at 3:21 am

    Listen, I want everybody in CSS WG to stop acting like Andy Clarke has some kind of dues to pay before he speaks his mind. He didn’t need to ask anyone if he could call for the dissolution of the Working Group. He could do that if he wanted.

    I can’t believe you people.

  4. fantasai says:

    December 21st, 2007 at 4:55 am

    OK, if you’re going to alter reality then I’ll cheat and tone it down, too. :) I think I owe it to HÃ¥kon and Alex to let their statements speak for themselves.


    Joe, I don’t have a problem with Andy posting what he wants without asking permission. I do have a problem with him claiming to have an inside view despite not showing up to a single meeting (F2F or telecon) since his first TP and not having otherwise developed a working relationship with the people involved. He could have used his unique opportunity to discuss the potential problems he sees with the people concerned before posting such negative and inflammatory statements, but he did not. He didn’t even try. I consider that inconsiderate and unprofessional behavior, not least because it is misleading. The CSSWG does not play the numbers game. If we did, we would have very few people left.

  5. Youngy says:

    November 11th, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Normally I’m against kililng but this article slaughtered my ignorance.

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