Hixie's Natural Log

2005-06-05 00:09 UTC Spring 2005 Travelog: Part 3 (France)

I returned to Oslo for a day last weekend, primarily to pick up clothes for the next week, but also to get some decent sleep for once (during my week in Amsterdam I didn't get me than six hours each night), and maybe to go out and relax. Sadly, Oslo was miserable and gray and wet, so instead I stayed inside and waded through bugmail from the various bug systems that spam me. I did get some decent sleep though.

Then it was off to the south of France for a CSS face-to-face. We got through the 201 issues that were raised since we reached CR, and are going to publish another last call relatively soon. Over the last few months the issues that have been raised have mostly been non-issues, for example pointing out errors that aren't errors, asking for mostly gratuitous changes, or asking for new features that we've agreed to postpone to CSS3.

Now it's time to concentrate on these CSS3 specs. I personally am going to be concentrating on the Selectors spec, which, while not strictly a "CSS3" spec, is usually lumped into the same bucket. Values and Units is also a priority. That draft has a number of really cool new features which should be easy to implement and will be of massive help to authors.

On the Friday most of us attended W3C10. This is one of W3C's many birthday parties this year, which the CSS working group decided to crash since we were meeting mere metres away, the exact same week.

To be honest I wasn't that impressed. There were two sessions that were really interesting: Richard Ishida's talk was, as always, fascinating and fun; and TBL and Robert had an unscripted session in which they reminisced about the start of the Web, which was also quite interesting.

The other talks were, however, somewhat less entertaining. By this I mean no disrespect; Richard is a tough guy to compete with when it comes to giving a presentation. But please, if you are intending to give a talk or a presentation: do not just read your slides! If you are saying no more (and maybe even less!) than is written on your slides, then you might as well not be there! Slides should complement your talk, they shouldn't be redundant with what you're saying. This means no bulleted lists, no long paragraphs, and no graphs with unreadable legends. Personally, at least, I find talks much more effective if the slides consist of just one word, or a big picture, or the like, with the speaker talking about the subject from the heart, rather than from a script.

One trend I noticed amongst the various talks and in the question-and-answer session was a very strong underlying assumption that the Web is to be created on a company-by-company basis, or organisation-by-organisation basis, rather than on a person-by-person basis. It seems to me that one of the biggest advantages of the Internet, and the Web in particular, is that it has let people interact with each other rather than the bar being so high that only companies or organisations could afford to take part in the development of the world. Going forward it seems to me that this should be used to bring the people back into the process.

Ah well. Baby steps.

Speaking of steps (ahem), the hotel where I stayed for this part of my trip was picked because it was a nice convenient walking distance from INRIA, where our CSS face-to-face meeting was hosted. Unfortunately, INRIA is based in a sparse business park near a village in the middle of nowhere. Since I refuse to drive a car (for ecological reasons: if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem), and since I prefer not to use a taxi unless I am in a hurry, I investigated the possibility of using the local public transport facilities in order to get to the airport.

I took (after a few minutes decyphering the very poorly documented bus timetable) a bus that passed by my hotel and stopped at Antibes's railway station, then (after an hour of walking around exploring Antibes, and two minutes looking — successfully — for an open wireless network to check my e-mail), a short hop by train to the train station immediately before Nice Ville, and a walk to the airport (by dead reckoning — I saw a plane take off, and headed in that general direction).

I could have gone to the main Nice Ville stop instead and taken a shuttle to the airport, but then I would not have walked past the Phœnix park, a beautiful botanical garden with all kinds of flowers and animals, so I'm rather glad I walked instead. I spent a while relaxing with a turtle, walked past several lizards who scampered out of my way, saw a rat (I've no idea if he was a legitimate resident of the park or if he was a squatter — which reminds me, I saw both a bird and a mouse in the McDonald's area of Schipol airport a few weeks back!), walked past some lovely fountains, and generally relaxed.

At one point I chatted briefly with a (french-speaking) lady who was considering the pros and cons of getting a pet turtle at home. "But do they bite? They bite, don't they? I want to have one at home but they might bite." I tried to answer her question by examining the long description of the turtle's natural habitat, diet, likelihood of becoming extinct, and so forth, and then, after failing to find anything conclusive in that long text, noticed the sign in much larger print placed above the display: "Do not touch the turtles. They bite." which rather cleanly answered the question.

Of course I also pointed out that cats bite, but people still keep them as pets (or at least, think they do, but that's another story). She didn't seem convinced by this line of argument, however.

After that discussion I walked into a part of the park's big pyramid greenhouse that was set for high humidity, and was most amused when the climate system suddenly decided it was getting too dry and let loose a dense mist. It was quite refreshing, but I'm glad I didn't have my laptop or book out at the time!

Later, while trying to find my way back out of the park and on to the airport, I walked through a children's playground. Or rather, I tried to walk through. My theory was that the playground was between me and the exit, so the logical thing to do was to enter it, walk past the many happy kids, and walk out the other side. That worked really well until the walking out bit. I walked through the exit into a path cut into a tall reed garden — reeds as tall as trees. Unfortunately, it wasn't an exit. It was a maze.

Thankfully it wasn't anywhere near as large a maze as Longleat's.

Next week I get to deal with the three tons of e-mail that will have accumulated while I was away...