[whatwg] Books and rhetoric Re: Modal Dialog Box support

Matthew Raymond mattraymond at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 6 19:39:36 PDT 2006

Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
> On Wed, 06 Sep 2006 20:46:52 +0200, Matthew Raymond  
>> 3) Response to the email in question is delayed while the reader is
>> hunting for a book.
> Of course, if the discussion is based on the book to the extent that it is  
> necessary to read it in order to take further part. (There are cases where  
> that is justifiable, of course. Discussing the details of a piece of  
> research without having read it is a bit pointless...)

   Rimantas's entire email was this:

   "Chapter 30 'Using Dialogs' in 'About the Face 2.0' by Alan Cooper
makes a good read too."

   There's nothing you can clearly determine about his meaning without
reading the book he refers to. That is not the same as a conversation
regarding the 9/ll Report, for instance, where you'll be specifically
talking about a literary source, because the thread is not about "About
the Face 2.0". Furthermore, I fail to see the value of limiting a public
conversation on standards because one or two people want to argue about
one book.

>>    James Graham was more tactful about this, and I suppose I could have
>> myself been a little more tactful to the person who posted the
>> Amazon.com link, but I want it to be clear that it's not acceptable for
>> someone to have to be well read to participate in this mailing list. As
>> such, your comment may be seen by some as elitist.
> "something useful, should you be inclined to take the time" was meant to  
> imply that it is not essential, but those who want to become ridiculously  
> well-read™ might find it interesting. My impression was that reading this  
> book was not core to understanding the statement, just that it laid out  
> what is presumably a similar argument in more detail.

   Upon reexamination of the email, he does appear to be making a casual
reference as you state. Hence my remark that I should have been more

> Reductio ad absurdum (what you did, taking my argument to its logical  
> extreme to show that it is of limited value) cuts both ways. There is no  
> requirement that people know anything at all about the Web to participate  
> on this list, although it would be a waste of almost everyone's time.

   The difference here is that someone with little access to books can
still read web specifications and articles that are on the Internet.
There are two classifications of information here. The original
reference that started this conversation was to a book that you'd
probably have to mail order because it's not necessarily that common.
Contrast that with any specification on the W3C website and you can
clearly see that they differ greatly with regards to access. If you
refer to web content, a smart but uneducated person can quickly come up
to speed, whereas books take time to acquire, can be quite expensive in
some cases, and are not searchable.

> It strikes me as pretty obvious that being well read will increase the  
> value of your contribution, and probably what you gain from this list as  
> well. That does not mean you should read every book [someone] names, but nor  
> should you expect people to restrict their statements to things that do  
> not rely on any research that is only published in a form that requires  
> payment (although good manners is, as James suggested, to at least  
> summarise such information here for those who don't have a limitless  
> book-buying budget and the spare time to sit and read every stray scrap  
> that passes by).

   It wasn't just about good manners. If you go back and read the
message, you have no way of knowing what the author's position is on
modal dialogs unless you read the specified chapter of the book he
linked to. Not only could the author have made some statement about the
contents of the book, thus allowing us to understand both his position
and why we'd want to read the book, but under U.S. copyright law he
could have included a brief excerpt of the book's text as well.

   So this isn't just about manners. Referencing supporting material as
the sole means of communicating your argument serves a barrier to
further conversation and debate, even if the argument is offered in a
causal manner.

> I am quite content to be accused of saying that people who know more can  
> better contribute. I do not at all subscribe to the idea that you must be  
> ridiculously well-read™ to participate, nor do you have to be so to have  
> very valuable contributions to make. (Some people will criticise me  
> whatever I say. Others will always agree and praise it. For the most part,  
> neither of these groups are very interesting).

   No message can please all the people all the time, but if the people
don't have the resources to devote to deciphering a message in the first
place, it won't matter if they like it or not because they'll never be
able to understand it. Encryption-by-book-reference is bad.

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