Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Why XHTML? A Pastoral Tale

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jan 25, 2000

Posted to MuniMall Newsletter, 26 January 2000.

Why should community website designers embrace the new XHTML standard?

Well, suppose you were driving down Highway 14 one beautiful summer day and the rumbling in your stomach announced that it was lunch time.

You cancel the music playback and call on the car computer (you are using voice access because screen displays were banned in 2003).

"Where am I?" you ask. Your Global Positioning System relays your coordinates and your computer responds, "You are ten kilometers east of Tofield."

"Are there any restaurants in Tofield?" you ask (not having travelled through the region recently).

Using the same technology that today powers cell phones, your car accesses the internet and searches for information. It finds the Tofield community home page, which you select.

"Restaurants?" you ask. Four are listed, and based on customer reviews you select a promising candidate, the Blue Plate Grazen Grill (you're in the mood for beef).

"Menu?" you prompt, and reading from the restaurant's web site, your computer lists today's specials with prices and options.

You make a decision. "Call them, please," you instruct your computer (for some reason, computers seem to work more quickly when you say 'please' - nobody knows why).

The background noise of a busy restaurant (a good sign) fills your car and a pleasant voice answers. "Blue Plate Grazen Grill," she says. "How can I help you."

"I'm about five minutes away," you say. I'd like to order the Blue Plate Special for today with slaw and gravy.

"We will be expecting you," says the helpful voice. "We accept direct debit and smart card." You consider paying for the meal immediately, but etiquette demands a tip, which you'd rather pay after you eat.

"I'll pay by smart card," you say, and disconnect. Your slab of beef is already on the grill befor you hang up - the restaurant knows it can debit your account should you decide to change your mind.

The usual green sign approaches on the horizon. "Approaching Tofield," you car advises. "Directions?" you ask. The computer remembers that you just called the Blue Plate and needs no further prompting.

"Right at the light, three blocks to Second Street, half a block on your left," it advises.

Later, sated and satisfied, driving east toward the rising gibbous moon, you call on your car computer one more time, this time to file a satisfactory review.

Why XHTML? Can you afford not to...?

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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