HTMLWG Meeting, November 2007 (15th November 2007)

Also referred to as the HTML Working Group face-to-face meeting, this was part of the W3C TPAC 2007. It took place in Boston, USA.

W3C’s Q&A blog has writeups about various meetings (titles beginning with “TPAC 2007”). There’s also the Links Feast about Technical Plenary 2007, which doesn’t include this entry.

My attendance was sponsored by Google thanks to Ian Hickson. This time two years ago was the start of my first professional web project. Two years before that I was working at a supermarket. Now I’ve jetted across the Atlantic Ocean with a big corporate sponsor. I still can’t believe it!


I met a lot of cool people while I was there. Here are the names I remember and my general thoughts on them as people. Don’t take this seriously!

Anne van Kesteren:
A cool, regular guy who just happens to know a lot about the web.
David Baron:
Says little and speaks quietly. But it’s worth listening to.
Håkon Wium Lie (aka Howcome):
I was expecting either a mad scientist or a shut-in knowledge box. He was actually down-to-earth and easygoing.
Henny Swan from RNIB WAC:
Quiet, modest and calm. My mind kept going blank when I started talking to her.
Henri Sivonen:
Best described as “very Scandinavian” apart from having a straightforward sense of humour. Knows about religion and history. I walked the Freedom Trail with him.
Ian Hickson:
Active and helpful with some sense of humour, although a bit abrupt. Lent me his laptop so I could do the Data Tables presentation.
James Graham:
A proper British boffin.
Joshue O’Conner from CFIT, part of NCBI:
Need an amusing anecdote or a heart-warming story? Here’s your man!
Justin Thorpe:
A big, friendly Yank who works at a big, friendly library. His blog has lots of web stuff on it. Likes saying “that’s awesome”. You’re awesome, Justin!
Karl Dubost:
A polite and mild-mannered Frenchman. Incidentally, why capitalise People but not karl?
Maciej Stachowiak:
Archetypal trendy Mac-using programmer.
Shawn Lawton Henry:
Talkative, smiley, upbeat and a good listener. Forgot to ask why she has 3 boy’s names.
Steve Faulkner from The Paciello Group:
Initial reaction: this guy is a thug. After a while: this guy is funny.

There were other people I chatted with for a while but whose names I didn’t write down.

Wednesday 7th November 2007

  1. Left home at 7:15am with parents. They are having a holiday whilst I’m at the conference, so we travelled together.
  2. Left car at Heathrow airport via Purple Parking.
  3. Excellent fish and chips at a French restaurant in the airport.
  4. Flew to Iceland.
  5. Fell asleep on the plane. They are like big coaches or railway carriages.
  6. Changed flights.
  7. Flew to Boston.
  8. Lots of ID procedures upon arrival. Staff were calm, relaxed and gently humorous.
  9. Taxi to hotel.
  10. Big cars which are quiet, smooth and accelerate quickly.
  11. Checked in at hotel.
  12. Helpful staff all day.
  13. Bought still water from hotel restaurant.
  14. Can phone between rooms via extension numbers!
  15. Bumped into Karl Dubost in the lobby.

Thursday 8th November 2007

  1. Excellent breakfast with bacon, sausages, potatoe things, orange juice, tea and loads of other stuff.
  2. My mobile phone found AT&T but called it something different.
  3. Registered for the event at the lobby.
  4. Got my goody bag and wore the W3C T-shirt.
  5. Found Henri Sivonen in the hotel lobby.
  6. Walked the Freedom Trail with him.
  7. Couldn’t find my USB stick, which had my presentation materials! If you didn’t know already, I’m a noob. (Turned out to be inside the pocket of a tatty dressing gown which, in my infinite wisdom, I had decided not to pack.)
  8. Ian Hickson lent me his laptop to do the Data Tables presentation.
  9. I did the even shorter version for which everything was online. This was my Plan B. (I also had a Plan C.)
  10. Pitched for an Unconference session about data tables. Got one.
  11. Chatted with James Graham and some dude.
  12. ARIA group chat in the XSL-FO room, which was deserted.
  13. Phones parents using extension number to skip dinner plans.
  14. Returned to restaurant with Joshue O’Conner, Aaran Levanthal, Steven Faulker, Henny Swan and Justin Thorpe. Basically, all the “accessibility folk” who had managed to find each other.
  15. Broke for a rest. All this socialising is unfamiliar to me and exhausting, although very enjoyable.
  16. Went for dinner with Justin and Joshue (aka Josh).
  17. Ate Indian food for the first time. Shared the vegetarian stuff Josh was having. Mixture of spicy things, sour things and vegetables. It was nice.
  18. Found lots of common ground; human aspect of the work we do.
  19. Went back to hotel.

Friday 9th November 2007

  1. Slept in.
  2. Offline data storage session.
  3. Talked about @font-face with Howcome and Maciej (aka mjs).
  4. Talked about CSS transition proposal with mjs.
  5. I literally had to move browser makers just to sit down.
  6. Lunch in the glorified tent with Shawn Henry and a pleasant ATAG woman called Jutta.
  7. I literally had to move accessibility experts just to sit down.
  8. Helped people locate the data tables meeting and directed it a bit. Attendees:
    • Steve Faulkner
    • James Graham
    • Joshue O’Conner
    • Justin Thorpe
    • Ben Millard (me)
    Ideas were:
    • Authors get tables wrong most of the time.
    • Tables look really difficult to authors:
      1. HTML4 is ambigious.
      2. Authors get advice directly or through tutorials and books from people who are confused by HTML4.
      3. This confusion affects the mainstream.
    • Give authors clear, simple instructions: use <th> for all your header cells.
    • Use automatic association algorithm(s) so association attributes aren’t needed most of the time.
    • In the wild, headers+id is:
      • Wrong on some cells.
      • Usually right.
      • Sometimes required.
    • Retain association attributes for those tables which need them:
      • headers+id for irregular tables; heirarchical row headers.
      • scope for tables currently using <td scope> instead of <th>.
    • James Graham suggests applying the algorithm in Simon Pieters’s sequence (search for “several-pass”) but cell-by-cell rather than whole-table, with headers stopping other algorithms for that cell. Lets authors make accessible tables where other algorithms give unwanted associations.
    Henri Sivonen said these made sense when I summarised them. High praise!
  9. Meeting lead by Karl Dubost about an HTML5 document aimed at mainstream authors.
  10. Molly, fantasai and I think a couple of other people will start a Task Force to work on this.
  11. Waited with Shawn before going out to dinner with Josh, Steve and Justin.
  12. Crammed into a taxi.
  13. Had Afghan food. Shawn recommended the Bendi, which was nice. I had ice-cream for dessert, which had a tangy flavour to it. I also drank a little red wine for the first time.
  14. Walked a couple of blocks to a plush hotel.
  15. Had a little white wine for the first time.
  16. Long discussions about each other’s lives, life in general, hopes and fears.
  17. Went back to hotel in a 6-seater people cruiser thing. I paid. You walk down an aisle to reach the back seats.
  18. It was late so I said my farewells and went to bed.

Saturday 10th November 2007

  1. Packed stuff ready to leave.
  2. Observed a session led by Dan Connolly about things on the edge of HTMLWG’s scope.
  3. Said goodbyes to Justin, Shawn and Josh.
  4. Met up with parents.
  5. Went downtown and ate at Wendy’s. Was really tasty!
  6. Went through the market areas.
  7. Took a horse-drawn carriage ride around part of Boston.
  8. Packed again at hotel.
  9. Went to the airport.
  10. Dad got stopped at the metal detector for a long time due to the rivets in his jeans. Other airport detectors weren’t picking them up. I guess there is no spec for metal detector sensitivity?
  11. Waited for hours before we boarded.

Sunday 11th November 2007

  1. Long bus ride to hotel.
  2. Icelandic styling is very cool. Their climate noticeably colder than the UK.
  3. Room rumbers were not consecutive. They seemed about as logical as a dartboard.
  4. I was feeling very hungry but also very tired. Had a glass of water and went to sleep.
  5. Slept in until 3:45pm.
  6. Met up with parents again. Was raining.
  7. Went to a café.
  8. Chatted in hotel room.
  9. Weather was overcast, much like the UK.

Monday 12th November 2007

  1. Had a lovely breakfast at 8am in the hotel.
  2. Drove to Geysir in the hire car.
  3. Involved driving along a slightly icy and very potholed road made from fine, black gravel.
  4. One of them was throwing up a big jet of water every few minutes. You get to stand very close to them and it’s noticeably warmer in that area.
  5. Travelled on to a big waterfall that had cut a deep gorge through the rock.
  6. Ate a bowl of Traditional Icelandic Lamb Soup in the vistors’ centre. Much like English stews my mum sometimes cooks.
  7. Navigated to the hotel.
  8. Relaxed.
  9. Went back to the café and had the Super Burger, followed by a sweet muffin.
  10. I paid for this meal. It came to just under kr5,000.

The dot, period or full stop character (.) is seriously overloaded in Iceland. It is used for:

The result is things like “kr. 5.000.00” which is plain crazy. Use a comma for thousand separators. That better matches how it is spoken. Don’t put a dot after abbreviated terms. A few places already made that change.

Tuesday 13th November 2007

  1. Breakfast in the hotel again. Just as tasty as yesterday.
  2. Snoozed for a while.
  3. Packed.
  4. Went to geothermal beach, which was deserted due to it being November.
  5. Long wait at airport.
  6. Short flight which was half an hour ahead of schedule.
  7. Breathtaking views of UK cities at night.
  8. 540mph cruising speed means you cover a lot of ground very quickly!
  9. Got confused about where to pick up the car at Heathrow.
  10. Drove home.
  11. The guinea pigs had been well looked after by our neighbour. Baby ones had grown a lot. All looked healthy.

Hot chocolate with cream on it is pretty expensive but totally worth it. I drank this a couple of times per day in Iceland, once or twice in Boston and also at Heathrow airport.

This was definitely a trip to remember. My previous vacation was in 2002!