17:23 PM

Getting the CSS Internet 2.0 religion . . . . . . . . . (don't mention the sin of tables)

The past few days I've been working on my CSS skills--the media technology that lies at the heart of this next phase of  the Internet. I don't mind learning some Geek, in fact I speak a little Geek, I used to be a software engineer for a very short time a long time ago.

I'm of the opinion that these days, I should be a "technology enabled" journalist and I encourage my media colleagues to do the same. I should know how these technologies such as CSS, RSS, XML, HTML, PHP, JavaScript, (not PERL) Ruby on Rails, do what they do.

I don't need to be proficient in these computer languages, but I should know enougth to be able to do basic things with these tools, because there is an opportunity for journalists to become "media engineers." By knowing something about these technologies--which are all essentially publishing technologies--journalists can craft new types of media, and CSS is a key enabling technology.

When I worked as a mainstream journalist, we didn't have to learn an alphabet soup of new skills all the time. Software engineers and web site developers have to constantly update their personal bag of skills.

Our main requirement as journalists was to meet deadlines, we didn't need exotic skills such as typing or spelling. Most of us type fairly fast using just two fingers.

Being good at spelling is nice but not a deal breaker, the spell checker catches most spelling mistakes, and the subs (sub-editors) catch the rest. (The little known secret of the newspaper world is that the sub-editors make the news stories look great... Journalism is about team work and not about "standalone journalism" as blogger journalism is sometimes called.)

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)  can deconstruct the media world on the fly... CSS manages to separate content from its form and function, while at the same time providing great control over each one of those elements.

CSS makes visible Marshall McLuhan's famous and confusing insight: "The medium is the message" plain to see.

For those unfamiliar with CSS, it is a style sheet for the web. It tells a web browser how to display text, where to place an image, what color to make the headings, etc.

The beauty of CSS is that by making one change in the style sheet, you can change the look of hundreds of thousands of pages on a web site. Otherwise, you'd have to change each web page by hand or by batch tools.

CSS has become somewhat of a "religion" in the sense that there is a large community of web site developers that strives for  a pure, "validated"  CSS way to do things. And if your web site doesn't validate, that's not good--(and don't tell anybody that you use html tables on your site!)