Fun_People Archive
20 Mar
art unfettered by outmoded notions of "practicality" or "purpose."

Date: Wed, 20 Mar 96 17:54:44 -0800
From: Peter Langston <psl>
To: Fun_People
Subject: art unfettered by outmoded notions of "practicality" or "purpose."

Forwarded-by: Keith Bostic <>
From: (Guy Harris)

Another issue of Suck, at

says, among other things:

	Ted Nelson's Xanadu got it right - name your technical project
	after a drug-induced poem that was never completed (or, as some
	literary critics argue, was never meant to be completed) and
	follow suit with a series ofconfused ramblings and managerial
	blunders, jettisoning several million dollars for "development"
	in the process to secure the legend.  Then, exile yourself and
	your followers to Pacific Rim countries, and redefine your
	product as a licensable "concept," not a technology.  Never
	shipping product will only cement your reputation of being too
	far ahead of anybody's time.

	The Tim Berners-Lee-led band of implementing heretics made the
	mistake of veering from the path set out by Nelson into the true
	madness of attempting to make the dream real.  Luckily, Netscape
	came along to save the Web from itself, and when we can all
	browse the networked hypertext universe with set top boxes and
	remote controls, the world will once again be safe for
	visionaries like Ted.

	But the Berners-Lee legacy of the W3 Consortium still has a
	chance at making history - not through creating "standards" that
	will be routinely ignored by those who actually control the Web
	(or ignored by Netscape, which amounts to the same thing), but by
	drawing up specifications that, in their own disregard for
	market realities, challenge the status quo by demonstrating the
	impossibility of all situations.  Like any piece of performance
	art, the W3C should reject its marginalization by embracing it.

	To those ends, the W3C is already well on its way, with three
	draft specifications that, taken together and with slight
	modifications, can set out a bold new path for academic efforts
	on the Web.

	Perhaps the W3C's strongest pending spec is Dave Ragget's "The
	HTML3 Table Model." A master rhetorician, Dave truly shines when
	unhampered by technical details in his "design rationale"
	section: "For the visually impaired, HTML offers the hope of
	setting to rights the damage caused by the adoption of windows
	based graphical user interfaces." Insight like that, of course,
	takes true vision.

	The most appealing aspect of Dave's "specification," however, is
	that it's based entirely on fantasy; as every schoolboy knows,
	the only good thing a table can be used for is a page layout
	grid.  Dave's text resonates with the same perverse beauty as a
	pierced scrotum - art unfettered by outmoded notions of
	"practicality" or "purpose."


	Had style sheets succeeded, tables might have served their
	intended role better if there were ways to represent mathematical
	formulas in HTML - after all, rows and columns of numbers are
	often produced through the application of numerical equations.
	Unfortunately, after four years of Web development, we still don't
	have mathematical entities to represent things like division signs
	- but the W3 has given us a spec for "HTML predefined icon-like
	symbols," with shamelessly bad classics like &sadsmiley;, sure to
	put blink to shame if they were ever to be implemented in a Web
	browser that's actually used.  Luckily, there's no chance of that.

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