Thursday, October 22, 2009

Absurdism in HTML

For various reasons, I've been thinking about absurdism lately. I'm especially fond of works such as Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", and Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" (both of which I happened to see at UMD many, many years ago ... maybe that has something to do with it). But of all the places you might find absurdism, I never expected to see it in HTML code.

Today, buried in the depths of JSP/HTML, I came across a "summary" attribute for a table that made me really stop and think. Now, the point of a "summary" attribute, is SUPPOSED to alert screen readers and other text-only display devices, and help describe the information contained in the table. This summary was strait forward, and absolutely absurd:

a simple table to hold our rows

Yep. Absolutely correct, yet absolutely useless information. Beautiful, in it's way.

Still, if you follow the semantics of the HTML document, what Adobe Dreamweaver does for the "title" element is a downright contradiction:

<title>Untitled Document</title>

Frankly, any software that writes HTML like this shouldn't be trusted.