Standards Police: It’s All Been Said

It started with an email which inspired a righteously annoyed blog post. It got linked to from another very prominent design blog which in turn spawned a heated discussion. The debate was carried to yet another blog. And ultimately it pushed someone else to swear off future postings about web standards.

Summary of the debate: Lots of sites have these handy little validate me links as a badge of honor, declaring that they adhere to web standards (look down and to the left). So is it the duty of a user to validate someone else’s site and point out errors to the site’s author? Is it then the author’s duty to correct these errors post-haste when they are pointed out? Since my little site can hardly compare to the others in traffic or popularity I have yet to receive any validation gotchas from visitors, so I can’t speak from experience. Hence I have to straddle the fence on this one. It simply depends on the circumstances: the severity of the error, the impact on the users, the purpose of the site, the tone of the notice, etc. Sometimes it may be genuinely helpful, and sometimes it’s just a taunting annoyance.

Obviously validity is something to strive for, but it’s not always possible to be 100% standards-compliant 100% of the time, especially on dynamically generated sites like weblogs. The debate was never about whether or not we should validate our sites, it was really about whether or not it’s cool for a casual outsider to point out non-critical bugs. It’s a shame the discussion spitfired into an argument and two of my favorite bloggers (Keith and Matt) wound up on opposite sides of the fence.

Where I’m Coming From

I’ve had a blog in one form or another for about three years but only recently caught a ride on the standards bandwagon. Some time in September I read this Slashdot review of The Orange Book. I had been aware of standards for some time and had even been gradually moving toward better use of them in my work. I had heard of the book, seen it on the shelf, but never felt driven to pick it up and read it until that review sold me. It was a bit of an epiphany and my approach to building sites has been changed forever.

I started checking out Zeldman’s site regularly, and from there I started following links to other noteworthy weblogs within the standards milieu. I discovered a rich community of like-minded geeks who were gracious enough to share their knowledge and experience in building websites with the techniques I had just begun to fully explore. Those links over there on the left form a partial list of the sites I visit on a daily basis.

Through following this network of personal journals over the past 10 months I was able to not only expand my expertise, but also feel a sense of kinship. These folks are friends, not competitors. They actually meet and hang out and collaborate and advise each other. And I’ll admit a certain amount of envy. I wanna be a blogger too. I want my opinions to be respected. I want my posts to get linked to by the other blogs I read. I want to go to conferences and meet my fellow web geeks and build XFN linkages.

I finally got around to scrapping the news portal that lived at this subdomain and relaunched in handy blog form. Of course, nobody has heard of it. For months I was but a silent observer, reading posts and comments but never contributing until I had my own site to lend my comments a semblance of street cred. But now I’ve got a voice. This is MY blog, and I can weigh in at last.

Nothing To Add

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a lot to contribute on this particular matter, especially nothing that hasn’t already been covered in threads elsewhere. Call me a waffler, but I just think there are too many factors to consider. If a site I built has some serious bug which prevents a certain segment of users from accessing it, then by all means let me know and I’ll try to fix it. But if you’re just trying to nitpick and point a finger to take me down a peg, get a life.