A Dozen Questions for Ms Holzschlag
Molly E. Holzschlag is a writer, teacher, public speaker and opera singer based in Tucson (who enjoys a paycheck from Norway and a life at 35,000 feet…).
An author, with a hand in over 35 books related to the craft of web design - including Transcending CSS and The Zen of CSS Design: Visual Enlightenment for the Web - she has inspired many of those at the forefront of today’s Web Standards movement. A movement she has continued to passionately lead since her recent appointment as a Web Evangelist at Opera Software.
There are few evangelists working within any industry known simply by their first name alone. Molly is one.
We asked Ms Holzschlag a dozen questions.
Where did you learn your craft?
I lost my roadmap, took a turn, and ended up here. What happened in between, I honestly cannot remember.
Who inspires you?
People who demonstrate courage, which is displayed in such a variety of ways, it’s difficult to categorise. I suppose I’m interested in anyone who challenges the status quo with a reasonable argument.
What are your influences?
Alan Turing. And sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
In ‘[Why] Web Standards Aren’t’ 1 you reference the standards that ease the lives of engineers on oil rigs, stating by comparison that, “What we have today, on the web, are not standards in the truest sense.” How important are standards, and can you envisage a time when web designers will enjoy standards in the truest sense of the word?
Web Standards are the closest form of organised anarchy with the goal to keep the web open and as free or low-cost as possible. It’s a mandatory fight.
Without a Web Standards movement, proprietary formats would move in too quickly at this sensitive time of the web’s life. This doesn’t mean proprietary formats are bad, it just means we need practical tools to carry out the true vision of the web, which is for everyone.
Which is more important: “valid and conforming” or “useful, usable, accessible and [what] really works”?
The latter. What works should always trump what’s specified. It goes back to the organised anarchy idea. Even if it’s
<marquee>. Would we have progressed to a richer web without them?
The W3C’s recent announcement that, “work on XHTML 2 is expected to stop at the end of 2009 to focus resources on the development of HTML 5,” sparked a great deal of - at times very heated - discussion. As a web standards advocate, what are your views on this announcement, the subsequent reaction(s), and its impact on the direction the web might take as a consequence?
This is the ‘elephant in the room’ question.
If I were a fortune teller of merit I would give you an answer, however, my honest answer is I have no idea what these changes will bring.
What I do know is that XHTML lost momentum despite its promises. In some ways, this is due to lack of browser support for XML MIME types, but in other ways this is due to no clear pathway as to what “Extensible” really meant. So I could write my own DTDs? I liked that idea, to be honest. I don’t want XHTML as XML to die per se. I’d like to see it really work and then make a decision.
But like it or not, HTML 5 is here, and as I said, and have said before, what is implemented trumps what is specified. HTML 5 is being implemented. XHTML, other than 1.0 or 1.1 served as
text/html, is not a cross-browser answer, despite over nine years in development.
HTML 5 represents a move beyond markup, what implications do you envisage this will have for designers and developers working on the web?
Ideally, HTML 5 will enrich the web by providing developers with a strong application and rich web platform. There’s elegance in HTML 5, but also chaos and confusion. I fear the latter, I embrace the former.
As a web standards advocate you’ve spoken about the importance of interoperability and being platform agnostic. In your role as a Web Evangelist at Opera Software - a company innovating within the browser space - do you believe interoperability is a goal that can be attained?
At night I often dream of a world where all platforms and user agents perform equally, if uniquely magnificently, and leave everyone satisfied with their experience. Then I wake up.
Universities are often criticised for being too slow to react to the rapid pace of change on the web. As an educator, do you believe web standards can be taught?
Absolutely. Just add students.
Universities are slower to move toward new requirements, usually. In the US we have state and community colleges, and often they are more capable of responding quickly to new curricula.
This is an enormous issue, however. At Opera Software, one of the tasks we have is to address this very thing, which we do in tandem with WaSP Interact Curriculum and Opera Web Standards Curriculum, run by Chris Mills and many other colleagues.
What’s your favourite typeface?
All of them. Except for Comic Sans. Unless a child sends me something in Comic Sans. Then it’s OK.
What’s your favourite plain text editor?
What’s your favourite tea?
Assam first flush brewed at least three minutes and served with 2% milk. Although Earl Grey strong and then iced and served with lemon and orange slices is very refreshing during Arizona summers.