Friday, September 4, 2009

Tag, you're out!

A while back, I wrote somewhere (I thought it was in this blog, but I can’t find it) that the creation of was a rebooting for me, and I needed to learn how to manage a website.

Well, this summer I decided that the time had come to quit procrastinating and learn HTML and XHTML so I could do my own tinkering with People told me, “Sure, you can learn it. I learned it, so surely you can.”

So I enrolled in “Publish on Web Using HTML/XHTML” at Foothill College. It was an online course, a delivery method with which I’m familiar because I teach an online course at the University of Maryland University College. I was excited about learning something new, and about being on the student end of an online course.

I got into it, and early on I discovered that the people who invented the web were smarter than I thought. Way smarter. These languages are not simple. And they are mercilessly unforgiving. Make one mistake in an opening or closing tag (don’t ask) and HTML simply refuses to perform. It just sits there, lines and lines of code on your computer, and because you left out one punctuation mark or got some tiny part of the syntax wrong, it does nothing.

Talk about user unfriendly. I felt it was user hostile!

To make a long story short, when I bombed the mid-term I realized that I had bitten off more than I had time to chew at this particular moment, so I withdrew from the course. Licking my wounds, I left the field of combat and said, “OK, I’ll come back another day.”

A month or so later, in a completely unrelated development, I was participating in a virtual meeting with a person who is an expert in HTML and XHTML, and we were discussing modifications to a work-related website. I could see his computer screen on my laptop. At a certain point he began writing new code to change the look of the page.

There, before my very eyes, I saw a person writing HTML as fluently and easily as I am writing English in this post. More than that, he was thinking in HTML, the way fluent translators can think in second and third languages. It rolled across the screen, all the tags and colons and semicolons and quotation marks and styles, marching across the virtual page in perfect order and form. He clicked “publish” and voila! There was the web page, looking exactly how he had told it to look.

It was a beautiful thing to see (OK, beautiful to me). To watch someone do so easily and so effortlessly what I had struggled with so mightily was both amazing and humbling.

Bottom line: I have a whole new appreciation for the people who do web design and creation. A huge appreciation. I learned my limitations. I learned that not every rebooting enterprise is a good idea. In truth, I can’t do everything.

Some things are better left to the experts. And HTML and XHTML are two of them!

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