Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Chris Kaminski left this comment in my comments on the post I made about the Acid test that IE 7 was going to be held to. I thought this comment was worth reprinting in full:

I'm a longtime member of the Web Standards Project ( -- I was on the original steering committee -- but am NOT speaking for the group here. Everything below is based on my own observations and opinions.

Slashdot got it wrong. Opera isn't doing the Acid2 test. The WaSP is -- though a couple of Opera folks are (heavily) involved.

While IE7 is the highest-profile target for obvious reasons, I can assure you that the test will reveal bugs in other browsers too -- including Opera and Firefox.

While the announcement of IE7 and a desire to provide more of the sort of test cases that Chris Wilson has said are useful to the IE team provided the impetus for starting the project now, this isn't about picking on IE. It's about *finally* getting all the really useful bits of the HTML and CSS recommendations implemented in all the major browsers so that web devs have a solid platform to build on.

As I said above, I can't speak for the group, but I personally would love to get input on the test from someone on the IE team, though realistically I expect they're rather busy with other things at the moment.

Well, the WaSP (which is a group of about 25 Web designers and developers) had a chance to approach me at the SXSW show and talk with me about this test over the weekend -- instead of taking that approach in private they decided to go public with CNET first -- that tells me they care more about PR than really working with browser vendors to improve things for users.

They knew I had great relationships with the IE team and could have gotten them better feedback on the test. They never emailed me, never called me (my cell phone number is on my blog for a reason) or let me know they were about to go public. Heck, I hung out and partied with many of them at Tantek's birthday party last weekend.

Instead of working with browser vendors, like their charter says, in reality the WaSP turned me away from a meeting that they were holding in the middle of the SXSW conference hall (I happened to accidentally come across the meeting, I know many of the people on WaSP and was trying to be friendly, but they turned me away from the table quickly and, I might say, rudely).

So, I'm not quite sure that the WaSP group really wants to work with vendors who are making browsers (I didn't see anyone from the Firefox team at the meeting either -- why is Opera involved with the WaSP, but not a representative of Mozilla or Microsoft?) I'm now wondering whether maybe WaSP is a marketing department for Opera? It sure seems like it. The article in today sure made it seem like Opera is behind this test, not WaSP. And if WaSP is behind it, it seems like they want PR more than they want to really work with Microsoft (or Firefox, since I didn't see any Firefox involvement with WaSP either) to improve things for end users.

Personally, I wonder about what the W3C has to say about this little Acid test? Why isn't this being done through the W3C?

Finally, I'm gonna ask a provocative business question of Opera (and other browser manufacturers): What's your business again? If all the browsers have the same underlying features, and they should only add things that are standards, what differentiation are you offering your customers and investors? Are you saying Firefox's developers can't propose anything new that'd push the Web forward? Hey, how about some linking technologies like Greasemonkey? Is Firefox not allowed to add anything like that that the W3C didn't propose and that the WaSP didn't approve of?

Just wanna have the rules clarified before IE 7 comes out.

Disclaimer: these are my own opinions and are not representative of Microsoft's opinions or strategy. I also haven't seen IE 7 yet, so don't know just how good or bad its standards compliance is. I've been staying away from IE 7 because if I knew I'd be tempted to blab. Just being honest.

11:23:53 PM    comment 

Oh, geez, Rory and Scott go at it in another geeky fun video. I wanna see THAT talk at TechED!

On another part of the Internet you can find these Flash movies that are pretty funny. Who's this "Sparkle" superhero? Hmmm. Maybe the folks who created these videos missed the Avalon 3D video.

Update: Fixed a link here.

11:05:38 PM    comment 

Jeff Sandquist is back on Channel 9 today. But what's this PHP compiler for .NET? Cool.

9:20:29 PM    comment 
9:19:24 PM    comment 

Oh, this is so cool. Arcs of Fire (a game for Tablet PC) has added inking support to their community forums. Hey, Charles and Lenn, can we add this to Channel 9? I wanna ink comments on the forums there.

9:15:21 PM    comment 

Eileen Brown has a bunch of links to stuff about the new Office Communicator 2005 (code-named Istanbul) and she's seriously impressed.

9:09:30 PM    comment 

The question on Slashdot is "what happened to Google's OSX homage?"

Of course there's lots of other mirrors to find the same thing:

Fun! I wanna do an homage to OSX. Speaking of which, I wonder who will have the best April Fools' page this year?

9:05:36 PM    comment 

Found on Slashdot: Opera is building an acid-test for Internet Explorer 7.0 to see if it'll follow Web standards.

Oh, I wore my Firefox shirt to Microsoft today. When I walked into Best Buy with my badge on the guy behind the checkout counter started giving me heck before admitting that he used Firefox too. (Sorry Matt Raible, they didn't have a USB cable for your camera).

Sounds like it's nearly time to go over and interview the Internet Explorer team with the Channel 9 camera.

Oh, well, back to my RSS news aggregator. That's where I spend 90% of my Internet time now anyway. Are you still using a Web browser? Good. I've been telling audiences that those of you still using Web browsers are wasting your time. I think that Opera might be more concerned by that.

Think I'm alone? Audiences at SXSW and Northern Voice have been very heavy RSS users. So much so that at SXSW there was a panel discussing whether or not design mattered anymore.

8:59:53 PM    comment 

Microsoft employee blogs are at So, why am I writing this? Because they used to be at too, but starting this morning they are only at So, if you wanna listen into Microsoft employee blogs, update your favorites and aggregators.

8:45:27 PM    comment 

Somasegar (he's a corporate vice president on DevDiv Mangagement, one of Microsoft's top executive bloggers): Rumors of my (VB6) demise.

8:42:40 PM    comment 

I just thought of a couple more guidelines:

7) If there is conflict between links, always display the original link. That way the integrity of the linking system stays intact. Keeping the integrity of the linking system is very important to users.

8) If linking technologies are fighting over links, either display no links, or let all the linking technologies display links and let the user choose.

It's possible, for instance, to come up with a menu. Look at the Smart Tag implementation again. A link could pull up a box that'd let you see all the linking technologies that are fighting over that link and let you choose.

Again, take as user-centric an approach as possible and make sure you don't confuse anyone as to where the new links are coming from.

Make sense?

9:50:16 AM    comment 

OK, I've taken another look at linking technologies (Microsoft's failed Smart Tags in a beta of IE 6, Google's Autolink, and now GreaseMonkey are examples).

I've changed my mind -- somewhat. I'm now going to take a user-centric stance instead of a don't-tread-on-my-content approach. I'm also admitting I was wrong in calling all linking technologies evil.

So, let's throw out what I've written so far. Let's, instead, attempt to get big companies like Microsoft to take as user-centric an approach as possible when building linking technologies.

Many people, including Cory Doctorow told me that I was on the wrong side of the line by being anti-user (our debate should be up this weekend, Doug Kaye told me -- he apologizes for taking so long to get it up, but he's at O'Reilly's ETech conference right now so can't get them up).

So, how should we judge whether these new linking technologies are really "pro user?" Here's six guidelines:

1) Does the linking technology ship with a default set of linking behaviors? If it does, bad. If it doesn't, good. Why is shipping with a default set of linking behaviors evil? Because that tells me that the company that is shipping the linking technology is more concerned by its revenue generating potential rather than taking a user-centric approach. From studying past human behavior we know that most people will just live with the defaults. If you must include a default set of linking behaviors just as a proof of concept, then link to someone other than your company at first. Personally, I'd rather people who get the linking technology be asked to download a "behavior pack" which will be clear about what it does. For instance, if Microsoft releases a linking technology, then it should let you choose your first "behavior pack." It should take you out to a Web site and let you choose from a variety of packs so you know what you're getting and how it'll behave. If a default is loaded it should set off bells for being "anti user" because then it's clear that the linking technology was designed to take users to advertising or company-specific stuff.

2) Does the linking technology potentially confuse some users when it's turned on? Now, Microsoft's Smart Tag attempt (picture here) at least tried to use a squiggly line to differentiate itself from regular old A HREF links. I'd like future attempts to go even further. Why can't you put something that looks like a transparent piece of glass over a word that a linking technology is adding? Why do we need it to look like a link at all? That way no user would ever be confused. But, if you decide to stick with a link then Google's approach is OK. That forced the user to click a button on every page to see the new links. I just would hate to see what would happen when a company would try to turn that on by default. I see a ton of potential user confusion coming. It should be clear where the new link is coming from, and, what behavior pack added it.

3) Does the linking technology give Web designers an "opt out?" I might not want anyone to use a linking technology on my page, for instance. I'm a user, this is my work, and it seems sane to me to tell linking technologies to stay off while visiting this page. Taking a you-must-display-my-new-links approach seems to be anti-user. Maybe that's just me, though.

4) Can the linking technology be programmed by the user? This is a key point. It should be #1, actually. If you're gonna argue that linking technologies are "for the user" then you MUST let the user have control of the linking technology. You MUST let the user remove linking behavior and you MUST let the user ADD linking behaviors. If your linking technology does not have this it CAN NOT BE SEEN AS USER FRIENDLY. This is why I love Greasemonkey but I don't like other linking technologies currently being tested. Greasemonkey puts me in control. It's user centric.

5) Can the user package up new linking behaviors and distribute those to other users of the linking technology? Again, one of the key arguments that has gotten me to switch my mind is that linking technologies are potentially user empowering. Well, if you're gonna make that argument then you need to go all the way to the mat for this one. If I'm a user and I want to create linking behaviors that'll take you, to, say, a favorite charity of mine, then I should be enabled to do so. If not, then the linking technology HAS TO BE judged as anti-user.

This is why I like Greasemonkey again. Mark Pilgrim, the other day, shipped a behavior pack for Greasemonkey that he called "Butler." I thought that was great. I wish I could do it with other linking technologies currently on the market.

6) For linking technologies to be seen as "user centric" they must be explicitly loaded by the user. Including them by default with other products or services is treading on dangerous water. This is why Greasemonkey is good and Smart Tags were evil.

What do you think about this set of guidelines? Disagree or agree?

I'm still waiting for a really user-centric linking technology. Greasemonkey is close, though, and made me realize I was wrong in just calling all linking technologies evil.

9:33:32 AM    comment 

Brad Abrams reports that the .NET BCL team asked themselves "what would happen if we did nothing but blog today?" You can see the results. Lots of interesting information.

Oh, oh, this will start a whole new round of "but you didn't ship any software today" complaints. But, at least we'll have great documentation from the geeks who wrote a core part of .NET. The BCL team is the one who did the base class library, which are the core set of APIs that .NET developers call from their apps). Now, back to work! We want Whidbey (next version of .NET) to ship.

8:51:18 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 1:03:41 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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