A'dam #2

I really don't like Amsterdam taxis. I took a taxi three times during this trip. The first time, the guy hid the taximeter with a map and tried to get 35 euros instead of 12. The second time, the guy did not start the taximeter ("Vrij" on the taximeter was not too hard to understand...). The third time, the driver started the taximeter with the Schipol Airport special price. I complained the three times and got the normal price.

But I really like Amsterdam. I walked from the RAI conference center to the center of the city and back to the NH Hotel where I was supposed to meet the other Mozillians. I discovered, walking, parts of the city I did not know, with nice art galleries, lots of bars and restaurants. I saw a girl fall from her bicycle and break her leg. Two police cars and an ambulance were there in less than two minutes. Very impressive. I also love the fact that people enjoy the sun after so many days of grey sky ("un ciel si gris qu'il faut lui pardonner"). All the bars are full, mini-skirts are everywhere, spring and summer are here again!

From a technical perspective, this conference is a big success. The attendance is of high quality, the talks are very good when not excellent. The food is well hum I'm fed up with sandwiches but what can you expect.

The two keynote speeches, given by charming Paula Le Dieu and Mike Shaver, were very different, and despite of a good talk quality, I am not sure everyone appreciated the almost out-of-context talk of Paula. Mike was excellent and learned that you should always close and open again your Mac laptop before trying a new projector...

Then I attended Relya's talk about XAML. XAML is really really really Microsoft's answer to XUL. It's a real shame they, again, reinvented the wheel but I have two other comments about it:

  1. I don't understand why Microsoft did XAML that way. I mean that XAML could be much more open if there was an extensible abstraction layer between the OS and the graphics/widget machinery on one hand and the XAML on the other. The top of that stack could be standardized, shared with other implementors, and Microsoft would be GREATLY PRAISED for that. And they would keep private the bottom of the stack, and nobody would complain since it would be windows-specific...
  2. CSS are not any more a part of XAML, or at least not as we understand it. XAML uses an XML-ized version of CSS and has tons of presentational attributes in the markup to achieve exactly the same effect. I think this is very bad design, potentially leading to barely maintainable XAML applications, and a strong mistake.

Right after that and in the same room, Ben Goodger took the floor to talk about XUL. It has to be said that there were much more people in the room for XUL than for XAML.

I have mixed feelings about Håkon Lie's "Browsing on Small Screens". There was nothing new in his talk and a mockup of an Acid2 test into a photo of a cellphone does not trigger my curiosity.

Michael Day's talk about 'Printing XML: Why CSS is better than XSL" was truely excellent and is a must-read if the slides are already online. His tool, YesLogic's PrinceXML is the ultimate XML+CSS to PDF converter. BTW, Håkon Lie now serves on the Board of YesLogic.

Then Brendan Eich triggered a lost of interest demo'ing E4X. This is going to deeply impact the way we write chrome code and extensions in Firefox. A simple list plus a filter will easily replace a TreeWalker widely increasing the readability of the code.

Brian Ryner gave a very interesting talk about XBL and XTF, showing how the latter can be used to extend the "native" tagset of the application, before a rocking Robert O'Callahan who demo'd SVG and canvas in Mozilla. I saw the jaw and eyes of a Microsoft guy do a "oooooohhhhhhhhh" when roc rotated a google search page in a canvas element and could still select the text and extend the selection...

Steven Pemberton was as always, a remarkable speaker, but his answer to my question leaves me a very bad taste. Basically, I asked him why XHTML2 preserves the useless head and body element. The answer was in substance "because this is a compromise". Ah. So XHTML2 preserves two useless elements that add potential dangers to the interpretation and styling of documents because it's a compromise. Getting rid of head would allow to attach directly the document's metadata to the root element of the document, making much more sense than a head element. Having a head element also preserves the ridiculous engraved-in-the-marble "head contents are not rendered". Body is dangerous because it's another box between the document and the contents; you all have written a blog template with a <div class="main"> or <div class="content">. Why do we also need a body?

Just following Steven, Ian Hickson explained in a few minutes what is the WHAT-WG and what is HTML5. Apparently, Microsoft never replied to their call to participation. Relya, who was in the room, did not comment. Hixie and Steven shared an item: in both XHTML2 and HTML5, it will be possible to have a list child of a paragraph. That's good, from a structural point of view. But that's bad, from a user's point of view. Imagine you have a paragraph, with red background color. And you have an unordered list in your clipboard. You place the caret at the end of the paragraph and paste your list. Where does it end up? In the paragraph or after it? Red background or not? I really fear that, once again, document model authors are completely neglecting the authoring side.

Mozillians then gathered for the dinner in a restaurant Maria and I already tried a few years ago. That was fun to be all together, and meet again, or sometimes for the first time, the people I see each and every day on IRC. But the restaurant (Five Flies) was far below its reputation and the description it gets in the tourist guides, and the Crème Brûlée with a very salty sausage inside will remain on my list of things to avoid.

I am now waiting for Max Froumentin's Multimodal Web before Jean Paoli's closing keynote, and I'll drive back to Paris.


1. On Friday 27 May 2005, 04:13 by Ferdinand

"("Vrij" on the taximeter was not too hard to understand...)" I'm dutch and I have no clue about what you mean bij "vrij". Do you mean Free? maybe Gratis?

2. On Friday 27 May 2005, 05:16 by Pierre

Thanks for the report. I'm impressed with the breadth of the topics on the table and the quality of the speakers. Also, the fact that the meeting took place in Amsterdam is a clear sign that Mozilla now has its feet on both sides of the Atlantic.

In the end, though, I was left with the following thought... Mozilla meetings seem to be the place where people try to turn their code into specs, while at W3C meetings people try to turn their specs into code. Will there a middle-ground someday?

3. On Friday 27 May 2005, 09:52 by Laurens Holst

Amazing that you got ripped off so much in those taxis! I’ll remember to avoid them. Taxis are expensive enough as it is.

"But I really like Amsterdam."

Good :).

About the head and body: I don’t really see the problem. I can understand that they might be less useful. But on the other hand, I’ve always liked to keep certain metadata separate from the content. About styling the body and the document root: we already have that situation in XHTML 1.0, and frankly, I don’t see the problem. Works just fine.

About <li>s in <p>s: I think you can just do it the old way. It has worked fine up till now, right? If people really want a list in a paragraph, they can always change that in the source.

Ferdinand: if the meter is on ‘vrij’ it means that it’s not counting, and the taxi chauffeur will probably charge you an amount he made up himself. You won’t be able to point to the meter to complain that his usual tarif is much lower.


4. On Friday 27 May 2005, 10:56 by Dracos

I agree, XAML is poorly designed in ways that only Microsoft could achieve. The presentational markup tells me that few people in Redmond really "get" CSS.

IMO, HTML5 is a huge waste of time: now, for the spec's authors, and in the future for both browser developers and web application authors. I don't want to have to choose between clunky (though shiny new) HTML and clean, simple, strict XML-based XHTML. HTML is dead, leave it that way.

5. On Friday 27 May 2005, 11:27 by jgraham

HTML is dead, leave it that way.

Yuh-hu I mean we just need those pesky last few billion HTML pages to disappear and it will be finally gone. I guess that should happen any decade now. I mean at some point the rate of creation of new HTML pages won't be orders of magnitude greater than the rate of creation of XML-XHTML pages and, well, then HTML will really finally absolutely be dead. Totally dead. Yeah.

6. On Friday 27 May 2005, 20:57 by A

XHTML2, yuck. HTML5, probably yuck (haven't looked at the spec yet).

Laurens: xhtml does have a problem with body element. People don't know if they should style body or xhtml element to affect background, or if they maybe need to do both, or if it in fact depends on the browser

7. On Friday 27 May 2005, 20:58 by A

How do you create paragraphs in these comments?

This should be another para, but just continues the previous no matter what I try.

8. On Saturday 28 May 2005, 04:34 by G.

Yes Amsterdam is a fantastic town. I spent 10 days, it was 10 days walking, speaking with people, resting near grecht...

By the way - as we are talking about Europe - : what will you vote on Sunday?

9. On Saturday 28 May 2005, 09:22 by Ian Hickson

Dracos: HTML5 is usable either in XML form or in tag soup form, it doesn't restrict you to one or the other. Hopefully that takes care of your concern, but in case it doesn't, please mail us at whatwg@whatwg.org and I'll see what I can do to fix the problem. (I'm not really 100% sure what you meant.)

10. On Saturday 28 May 2005, 09:23 by Ian Hickson

A: If you still think HTML5 is "yuck" once you've looked at the spec, please send your reasons to whatwg@whatwg.org and we'll see what can be done to resolve your concerns.

11. On Saturday 28 May 2005, 09:23 by Ian Hickson

Daniel: I've taken a note of your comments regarding HEAD and BODY and will probably make them optional in the XML serialisation of HTML5 (they are already optional in the tag soup serialisation of HTML). I've also noted your comments about editors, and will hopefully have the time at some point to include a chapter on editor conformance requirements or guidelines to handle this case. When I start working on that I'll try to remember to contact you and work with you on making it good.

12. On Monday 30 May 2005, 05:05 by Michael

Hi Daniel, thanks for the kind words regarding my XTech presentation, it was my first such presentation and a lot of fun to present.

The slides are up on my website:

Printing XML: Why CSS is better than XSL

They're HTML that can be viewed as a slideshow in Opera's full screen mode (F11).