Peter pointed out my worst habit: I’m too verbose. If you ever have the guts to take a look at the source code of my homepage, you’ll notice that a sane webmaster would’ve made it half as long, just by cutting out all the cruft that I like to stick in there. What do I mean by “cruft”? This is the first paragraph – a very typical one – in my post from Monday:
Here’s a task for my readers: let’s keep up with the Joneses. Elder currently has a longer entry on Wikipedia than St. X does. On top of that, St. X’s article doesn’t contain anything other than a trite introduction to the school.
Here’s the markup that I used for it:
Here’s a task for my readers: let’s <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses" rel="bookmark" title="Wikipedia: Keeping up with the Joneses">keep up with the Joneses</a>. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_High_School" rel="bookmark" title="Wikipedia: Elder High School">Elder</a> currently has a longer entry on Wikipedia than <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Xavier_High_School" rel="bookmark" title="Wikipedia: St. Xavier High School"><abbr title="Saint">St.</abbr> <abbr title="Xavier">X</abbr></a> does. On top of that, <abbr title="Saint">St.</abbr> <abbr title="Xavier">X</abbr>’s article doesn’t contain anything other than a trite introduction to the school.
I know. It’s horrendous. Any poor soul just starting out in HTML wouldn’t be able to read it, and even most experts would have trouble without the help of a text editor with color coding. Just for fun, let’s analyze the various types of cruft that I have in that sample:
- Character entity references
Most coders don’t even know what those are. See all those
’’s and such? They resolve to symbols that you can’t type out with a normal keyboard, such as ’ (an “educated” double right quotemark). I happen to dabble in the intricacies of typographic convention. Sane people would simple type the entry up in Word or OOo Writer, copy-paste it into their blog, and bedone with it. Others would customize MT to handle it for them, automatically. Not me: I type it all out by hand. Hey, at least I don’t use the hex codes like I used to.
- Excessive hyperlink attributes
Have you ever hovered over a link here? You’ll most likely get a tooltip, dutifully informing you of the target page’s title and website name. If that link points to another part of Minh’s Notes, it’ll even include the date of publication! Now view the source: for every link I “fire off,” I include (at the least) the
You probably already know what the
hrefattribute is all about: it contains the link’s URL. The other two, on the other hand, are a lot more obscure. In fact, I only learned about
rel, which says how the linked page is related to the current one, isn’t even used by most browsers in a meaningful way. (It could be used to build a sitewide table of contents, for example.) And, by process of elimination, you should’ve guessed by now that
titleis responsible for the coveted tooltip.
Just to make you scream in frustration, let me also point out that I often include the
hreflangattribute to specify the language of the target page as well.
- Abbreviations, acronyms, initialisms – oh my!
I make a point of specifying the expanded form of every abbreviation, acronym, and initialism on this site, using the
acronymtags. That’s why you always see those dotted underlines around here. (Unfortunately, IE on Windows doesn’t understand the poor
This practice actually has a more reasonable explanation. In the early days of this weblog, I covered mostly Internet-related things, such as Web standards. Whenever you start talking about Web standards, you cannot avoid rattling off three-dozen initialisms in one minute. And they all have to begin with the letter X – as in XML, XForms, XHTML, XLink, XKMS, XQuery, XSD, XPath, XPointer, XMPP, XUL, XBL, XAML, XBEL, XSL-FO, XSLT… the list goes on and on!
And nobody will know what you’re talking about unless you expand your acronyms.
So, cutting out all the bloat, we have this lean bit of markup:
Here's a task for my readers: let's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses">keep up with the Joneses</a>. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_High_School">Elder</a> currently has a longer entry on Wikipedia than <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Xavier_High_School">St. X</a> does. On top of that, St. X's article doesn't contain anything other than a trite introduction to the school.
Why do I go through all this trouble? Have I gone looney? Take a look back at the top of my homepage. See that dark green box that contains my blog’s tagline? Read it: “Thinking too hard, for your viewing pleasure…” Doesn’t that describe me?
Now, consider this: weblogs were originally intended to filter out the best of the Web, for the convenience of their readers, because the Internet really suffers from information overload. What I do is to link to things like might spark your interest, like they sparked mine. Of course, if I link too much, that purpose is lost, and I’ve only compounded the problem of overload.
I’m not the only one to have such a problem: try reading Jamie Zawinski’s rants. You’ll never make it through an article, unless you strictly discipline yourself to follow only one link level deep, because there’s just so much interesting stuff linked around there.
Linkage isn’t as big a problem for me as it used to be. But the code has only gotten uglier.