[microformats-discuss] Re: Educationg Others

Mark Pilgrim pilgrim at gmail.com
Wed Oct 5 07:46:45 PDT 2005

On 10/5/05, Luke Arno <luke.arno at gmail.com> wrote:
> We should eschew the "general case."

At the risk of letting this thread live on forever, I think this sums
up the fundamental disconnect here.  The regulars on this list grok
this intuitively, or at least have accepted it for so long that
they've forgotten how to articulate it.  We simply don't care about
the general case.

Some people (Scott, Lisa, others) look at this and say "what about
this edge case?" or "how do you combine them?" or "I need something
with rigid structure" or "how do you validate them" or whatever.  And
these are all obvious questions that form interesting permathreads on
mailing lists around the world.  And we just don't care.  Not because
we're lazy or sloppy or naive -- in fact, just the opposite.  Our
apathy towards the edge case is born out of bitter experience.  We all
bear the scars of drawn-out battles over edge cases that satisfied
someone's sense of "completeness" or "aesthetics" or "perfection", but
ultimately made the common cases harder and solved no real problem.

Ryan said microformats are all about 80/20.  He's right, but unless
you've share our common experience, he may as well be speaking in Zen
koans.  Most standards go like this:

1. Solve 80% of the problem in a matter of weeks.
2. Spend two years arguing about the last 20%.  (*cough* Atom *cough*)
3. Implement the 80% in a matter of weeks.  Wonder why everything is so hard.
4. Spend months implementing the last 20%.  Realize why the first 80%
was so hard.  Curse a lot.
5. Discover that the last 20% wasn't really worth all the time spent
arguing about it or implementing it.

Microformats, on the other hand, go like this:

1. Solve the 80% in a matter of weeks.
2. Promise (wink wink) to tackle the 20% "later".
3. Implement the 80% in a matter of days.
4. Watch people use it for a few months.  Maybe tweak a little here and there.
5. Discover that the last 20% wasn't really necessary after all. 
Breathe a sigh of relief that you never bothered.  Move on to the next

The regulars on this list have all been through the full standards
cycle many times.  We know about edge cases, we know about validators,
we know about standards.  We know.  We've been there.  We've all
decided that this way is better.  Not because it's easier or faster or
sloppier, but because *it leads to a better result*.  Really.  The
fact that it happens to be easier and faster is just a karmic


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