HTML5 at A Day Apart DC 2010

The third day of An Event Apart has its own name: A Day Apart. It is “a one-day learning event dedicated to a special topic.” The topic varies from city to city. Not all An Event Apart cities had Days Apart this year, but next year every two-day conference will be followed by one.

DC’s 2010 A Day Apart covered the HTML5 in the morning with Jeremy Keith and CSS3 in the afternoon with Ethan Marcotte. Though perhaps you could have learned the same material through  free, purely online sources, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to learn about these standards from real live people.

Understand HTML5 with Jeremy Keith

As many speakers had with their own subjects throughout An Event Apart, Jeremy lead with an abbreviated history of HTML to ground our discussion. I learn something new—there was no “HTML 1.0.” Tim Berners-Lee created something called “HTML Tags” in October 1991, and then in November 1995, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) came out with HTML 2.0.  Jeremy aptly described the 90s, the early days of HTML, as “the wild west days of the web.”

Throughout the lesson, the audience was entertained by the reveal of some of the new features of HTML5. The doctype change is particularly exciting:

That’s it! Beautiful, huh? It also demonstrates one of HTML 5’s design principles: support authors and do not harm existing content and use cases. The HTML 5 doctype is the smallest number of bytes needed to trigger standards mode in IE. Doctypes were originally created for validators, not browsers, so HTML takes the opportunity to simplify things for authors.

Jeremy pointed out that he used the XHTML 1.0 validator because it encouraged better code—”The validator punishes me. I like that.” I have to agree with him. HTML 5, however, does not enforce strict syntax. Tags can be written in ALL CAPS, values are valid without “”, and you can leave out closing tags. I was initially disappointed, and Jeremy identified with us, saying, “My skin crawls with you.” His offered solution does seem reasonable, however. New HTML tools can be created that promote clean code, similar to how JSLint promotes clean JavaScript and hurts your feelings.

To introduce some of the new elements to us, Jeremy incorporated a partner activity—match the new elements to their definitions! It turned out to be tricker that it sounds, created some connections between conference neighbors, and helped me to remember the tags better than if I had simply read them online. Nice.

I am most excited  about HTML 5’s encouragement of semantic markup. We did have time to go through the elements that are getting all the media attention these days—<audio> and <video>—but they are just icing on the cake to me. Though I will likely still stick with <div>s with class attributes to indicate structure (so that I do not have to use javascript libraries to create support for the new elements in less-aware browsers), I will, as Jeremy suggests, use the vocabulary of the new elements.

HTML 5 is pretty exciting.

The Afternoon

My recollections of Ethan’s workshop about CSS3 are up next!

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About Veronica Erb

Designs, researches, illustrates, and writes code. Plays ukulele. Dances Balboa. Grew up in a geodesic dome, and hasn't gotten over it.
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