The CSS Working Group and Me

I’ve represented AOL on the CSS Working Group for over three years now, and I’ve always felt that I’m not able to give enough time to it, or help as much as I wanted to, because of my responsibilities in my “real” job. With recent blog posts by Ian Hickson and Fantasai, I think it’s time to put up or shut up, especially since fantasai called me out in her’s:
bq. For most of my time on the working group, the only representation we had from the web design community was from AOL: from Kimberly Blessing and Kevin Lawver. When Andy Clarke joined the CSS Working Group as an Invited Expert last year, I was really excited: finally some more web designer perspective. But Andy and Kevin are both too busy to be regular participants,and when they are around, they're not technical enough to really follow the discussions and understand the impact some silly sentence in the spec has on what web designers are trying to do.
In my defense, even though it doesn’t look like I’m following, I usually am, except when the discussion veers into the bowels of typography, internationalization or we have six hour arguments about punctuation (it’s happened, don’t try to deny it): that’s when the blood starts seeping out of my ears. When we discuss layout or things I actually want/need to use, I’m right in there.
Now, it stings a little bit to be called “not technical enough”, but she’s right. I’m not. I don’t have an inside-out knowledge of typography, of how browsers are built or the reasons certain things are hard for them to do. I build web apps, not web browsers, and after sitting through over three years of meetings, I certainly don’t want to build browsers. It’s a hard, painful and thankless job. The folks who work at Mozilla, Opera, Apple, Microsoft and anyone else who works on browsers are extremely smart and I’m in awe of them. I understand that building browser is hard, but it’s extremely frustrating when features that web developers and designers need are shot down because they’re “too hard to implement”.
I share her concerns about the lack of designer input on CSS, and that the group is dominated by browser implementors. That’s why I asked Cindy Li to be my backup in the group, and when she left AOL, asked for designers to volunteer to join the working group. I got Jason Cranford Teague and Justin Kirk, two very skilled and experienced designers, to join up, and effectively tripled the designer population in the working group. In fact, Jason’s volunteered to work with Andy to design the group’s blog, which is great!
I think the CSS Working Group needs more designer and developer input. I think W3C member companies need to pony up some designers and developers to help out – even if it’s just to provide feedback on working drafts and proposals and provide use cases and real world examples of things we need.
I don’t know what the point of this is, except that I agree with both Ian and fantasai – something is wrong. The CSS Working Group is in jeopardy of becoming irrelevant, and unless the group gets new blood and can open up, we’re in real trouble. The worst part is, I’ve had to admit to myself that I don’t have the time or ability to do anything about it other than nod and agree with them. I’m hoping that by sharing my perspective as a web developer, bringing more designers into the group, I’ve done something worthwhile in my time in the group. It certainly doesn’t feel like enough.

1 thought on “The CSS Working Group and Me”

  1. Oy, I know you follow the discussions and participate when you’re there. 🙂 You’re just often not there. 🙁
    > “Now, it stings a little bit to be called ‘not technical enough'”, but she’s right.
    Which, I want to note, doesn’t mean that you or any of our other designer reps aren’t far more capable of using CSS to make a useful and spiffy website than all the non-designers of the CSSWG put together. Seriously.
    (And I think pretty much everyone except me, Paul, and Steve zones out during the i18n discussions, so don’t feel left alone in that.)

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