Christian Heilmann

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Archive for September, 2006

The myth of Common Knowledge

Friday, September 29th, 2006

Recently I have discovered a really sad pattern of behaviour in the webdevelopment world and its communication channels (blogs, mailing lists, forums, IM): People don’t share information as they are afraid that it may sound too trivial, not relevant or has been discussed to death already.

This is happening in companies, too: new developers hold back in asking questions or showing others what they have done and how they solved a certain problem as they fear it may make them sound inexperienced and helpless.

It is an overused expression, but there really are no stupid questions. Repeating them over and over again without taking on information you get in answers makes you appear stupid, but the question in itself stays relevant.

There is no gain in all of us being smug about knowing it all and not really caring to ask for help with small nagging issues in favour of spending days to solve them ourselves. Asking a colleague is not a weakness but simply shows that you care about the problem and you want a second opinion to test your approach (XP fans will remember the pair programming idea).

I have some blog posts here that get an amazing amount of hits that some people asked me why I ever bothered to put them up. Things like “[link:,How to remove the border around a linked image]”, “[link:,Using CSS classes to avoid loops], [link:,Printing Background Images] or [link:,Linking an Icon and a text and apply a roll-over state]. This proves to me that the demand is there, and that things we consider “Common Knowledge” might not be that common.

There is a rather cool site that got into the direction of offering information like this, called [link:,Bite Size Standards]. However, after an initial honeymoon period of posts it seems to have gone back to bed for a beauty sleep.

In my current work, [link:,Tom Croucher,colleague friend] tries to start implementing something called “Lightning Talks”, which are 5 minute presentations of someone of the team to the team about a certain issue and how to solve it, followed by a 10 minute question and answer session.

Battling the Common Knowledge Myth

Now, as a web site like bitesize standards means work and dedication and filtering, I propose another idea:

Let’s post a lot of these small “Issue – Solution” blog posts and simply use a unified Technorati tag for them, for example “[tag]webdevtrick[/tag]”. That way other bloggers or sites can get the feed on that tag and show them, and we can advertise the idea on mailing lists every time the same question gets asked. Consider it a decentralised FAQ with Technorati as the aggregator.

I’ll publish results here, and simply will start doing that myself, so even if I am wrong with this idea, it doesn’t cost me much time.

Massive Bug in Google Maps!

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

[link:,Stuart Colville,colleague friend] just sent me proof for a massive bug in Google Maps! Check it out for yourself!

In case it is fixed, [link:,here’s my flickr copy].

So address tags are rubbish for microformat hCards?

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Did I mention that you learn something new every day? I just answered a question on CSS discuss about styling BR elements in andADDRESS element (don’t ask) and got all microformaty by offering spans inside the address with all kind of [link:,hCard] goodness as the solution.

I thought I was in the know as even Tantek used them in his [link:,elements of XHTML] presentations. However, [link:,Bradley Wright,friend colleague] turned around with a smile on his face and told me that ADDRESS is bad choice for a hCard, as when you look at the [link:,specs of HTML 4.01], you find in the [link:,ADDRESS section]:

The ADDRESS element may be used by authors to supply contact information for a document or a major part of a document such as a form. This element often appears at the beginning or end of a document.

Which means it is semantically there to provide a contact option for this document, and not for a physical locationnot for a physical location of a product the web site advertises or an address of someone the article talks about. Brad, of course had this from another person that has too much time to read the specs: [link:,Mark Norman Francis,friend colleague met muse] as they had argued about that earlier because of an hCard integration in a company property.

So, is this the end of ADDRESS? Seeing that it is an inline elementthat it doesn’t allow for nested paragraphs in HTML 4.01 strict, I always considered it a bad choice for marking up an address anyways.


We were too late with this discussion, actually. [link:,Tantek explained the logic of it in 2005 on the microformats list] and it is also [link:,part of the hCard FAQ].

Dear me, bad research on my behalf.

Greenpeace target Apple

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

Greenpeace [link:,released a web site targeted at Apple] to make the company use more eco-friendly materials, create a greener Apple or even offer [link:,recycling facilities like Dell does].

Let’s see if they get sued for using that menu.

I got my laptop stolen yesterday night

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

During a substandards meeting. I am really really down and annoyed about this, especially as I had half a chapter of the new book and a lot of photos on it that were not on flickr yet. I was also really annoyed that the police expects you to go to the next police station to report things like that yourself as “there are not enough policemen in the area”. The pub is in Covent Garden. If you see someone with a T43 IBM Thinkpad with a “Do you flickr” and a Creative Commons Sticker, just punch him and bring him here.