Writing about web page
I really enjoyed watching this TEDx talk by McNamee. It’s amazing how much change is happening, both in the technology and approaches to using the web and also how this use of the web is shaping the world around us.
So we hear more and more about HTML5, as the big new thing, and this week we see the release of this talk from March as well as the announcement that, essentially, flash is bowing out in favour of html5. Without having really seen html5 code, my first thought is dismay – html as far I’ve seen is an awkward language, hard to program in, with too many verbose tags and a silly overloading of symbols, which imo are fine for relational operators, but not as balanced delimiters.
I have not enjoyed the few times I have had to write complex webpages in raw html. However, it seems that the move to XML-based languages is something I need to finally get used to. I spent a big part of the summer studying XQuery and XPath, which provide methods to access XML documents. (Along with colleagues in Beijing, we are looking at how to optimize a compiler for XML. Glad to have had the opportunity to work on this project, and hope we get some results in the next year.) And then, of course, SBML underlies the communication of much of biological information in the areas of systems and synthetic biology. Certainly these metalanguages allow mechanical processing of information to be done effectively, and the progress in computational biology wouldn’t have been possible without the XML-based techniques to tame the variety of database formats which were around. The actual syntax of SBML (and CellML, etc) is wel hidden ehind the toolset. But, in terms of programming web applications, games, and other tools, it seems one would have to actually engage with the syntax of html5. Seems like it will be a real pain!
And what about testing? Verifiability? I look forward to seeing more on the analysis of html5 from a semantic point of view. And then, we may need to see how we can actually support our students engagement with all these changes happening. Teaching programming the way we do—Java, on workstations, standalone programs—is certainly not enough. What are CS departments around the world doing to keep their curricula up to date?