Tag Archives: html

I can teach HTML. Well.

I enjoy talking about, and teaching people to use, valid, semantically-meaningful and accessible HTML. I don’t get to do the teaching very often, so, after running a session on the correct use of HTML tables, it was heartening today to receive a complimentary e-mail from an attendee. Having little modesty, I’m going to share part of it with you:

Just wanted to say thank you for the training this week… The subject of making our pages accessible for customers is a very important one, we will now make changes to the way in which we load our pages ensuring that we meet these standards… We found it very informative, interesting and unlike other training we’ve been on we didn’t walk out of there completely baffled, which is an accomplishment on your part, as the majority of us are not familiar with HTML.

The Highway Code should be available as a set of linkable HTML documents, not just PDFs

The Highway Code is:

the official road user guide for Great Britain ()

Drivers must study it in order to pass a driving test, and all road users should remain familiar with it — including any revisions — throughout their lives.

It’s available online, but large parts only as a series of large PDF files. That means that when, for example, my friend Pete Ashton asks:

It’s still illegal to park on double yellow lines, right? on Twitter

I can’t easily answer him by linking directly to the section of the Road Markings PDF which says:

Double yellow lines mean no waiting at any time, unless there are signs that specifically indicate seasonal restrictions.

I would like the Highway Code to be fully available as a series of plain old semantic HTML web pages, with each section within each page having a unique ID (which even the parts already in HTML currently lack), so that I can link to the relevant, specific, section when I want to refer to it. For example, the section quoted above might be at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/markings#double-yellow

Dear Government, Can you do that, please?

Update: I’ve asked my MP, Khalid Mahmood, to do what he can to assist with this request. I’ll let you know what happens.

Marking up the scientific names of living things

As any web manager worth their salt knows, it’s <span lang=”fr”>trés important</span> that changes in language be marked up with HTML’s “lang” attribute, using an IETF language tag (such as “fr” for French, as shown above). This allows software like text readers for blind people to pronounce them correctly (instead of sounding like an outtake from ‘Allo ‘Allo!) and means that translation software can handle them appropriately.

But what happens when a page like this one includes the scientific (or taxonomic) name of a living thing, such as Circus cyaneus (the Hen Harrier)? It’s not English, and should not be translated, into, say, German, as Zirkus cyaneus.

It’s not really Latin, either, though some people mistakenly refer to scientific names as “Latin names”. Many of them are neologisms — new words, with no real Latin content, but based on Latinised Greek (for example Brachypelma albopilosum), people’s names (Ardeola grayii, in honour of John Edward Gray, a biologist), place names (Nepenthes sumatrana, from Sumatra), culture (Ba humbugi, a quote from Charles Dickens‘ ‘A Christmas Carol‘) or even humour (Phthiria relativitae, a play on “The Theory of Relativity”).

Back in 2003, on the IETF mailing list whcih discusses such langauge codes, I proposed that there should be a specific language code, or sub-code, so that scientific names such as these could be marked up and recognised by software. There wasn’t much interest (possibly because I made the proposal as an amateur, rather than a professional or academic taxonomist), and distractions in my work and domestic life meant that I didn’t, unfortunately, have time to pursue the matter.

However, the need for such a code has now been recognised by Gregor Hagedorn, of the Julius Kuehn Institute, Germany‘s Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, in Berlin, who has rekindled my proposal.

With the support of Gregor and other taxonomists, via the Taxacom mailing list, I’m hopeful we can at last make a case that such a code is needed.

hAccessibility – Unhappy First Birthday

It’s one year today since Bruce Lawson and James Craig published “hAccessibility“, about the misuse of the ‘abbr’ element in microformats (an issue I first raised on 20 September 2006 in Accessify Forums).

As recent events show, the microformats cabal still has its collective head up its own^W^W^W in the sand.

Despite suggestions for a workaround, a solution seems no nearer, thanks to their apparent indifference. Shame on them.

More Nokia N95 (and Opera Mini) wishes

Dear Nokia, and Opera,

When using your browsers on my N95, please can I:

  • Copy text from a web page
  • Disable CSS
  • View the HTML source
  • Parse microformats (not least hCard, to add contact details to the address book and dial phone numbers; hCalendar, to add events to the calendar; and Geo, to find places on maps).

Surely that’s not a lot to ask for? Thank you.