Who’s my audience, again?

I’m writing a post about character encoding issues with the Sherlock plugins that Firefox uses to power the toolbar search box. That post will (maybe) be read by Whole Wheat Radio listeners who aren’t going to understand a word of it, and by my buddy Jim Kloss who certainly could understand it, but would need so much backstory that the whole thing would be longer than he’d want to read, and by people interested in web development and blogging who really don’t care, and people reading Planet Mozilla who need to know but will need a moderate amount of supporting information to make it clear what’s happening and why I’m right and thousands of plugins are wrong, and by Mozilla hackers who need about fifty words to understand, and will tolerate reading maybe a hundred words, tops.

Getting out of the habit of just letting fly with whatever’s on your mind without thinking too much about how to put it and who’s on the other side of the screen isn’t very good for the blogging flow.

13 Comments

Comment by Niall Kennedy #
2005-01-15 14:12:09

What about people interested in web development and blogging who really care? Sometimes when I run into issues I presume other developers have experienced as well I turn your your blog for the answers. It’s distributed trouble shooting and education.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-15 14:37:00

Hmm. That puts you halfway between the non-core-hacker Planet reader and Jimbob: I can assume you’ll follow some links to things you don’t know about, but I still need at least a short explanation of Sherlock files and how Moz has various search tools that can be controlled by a little XMLish glue, but only a casual swipe at how the wrong charset screws things up, since you already know that.

 
 
Comment by Jim Kloss #
2005-01-15 14:56:02

Oh! Seriously, I feel your pain. But that’s one thing I enjoy here – the diversity of your posts. Even though 95% of them don’t interest me, the ones that do more than make up for it. I enjoy seeing where your head is at because, chances are, I’ll be reading about whatever you’re working on in the ’mainstream’ community a few months later.

Blog away man, blog away!

 
2005-01-15 16:29:33

I wouldn’t worry about it. Write it like you’re writing to yourself. If you try to laser in on some sort of specific audience with each post you’ll just end up frustrating yourself.

 
Comment by Roger Benningfield #
2005-01-15 17:45:20

Phil: That’s what category-specific feeds are for. I don’t know why anyone would want to skip the Unexpurgated Phil, but they have options if they need ’em.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-15 19:28:26

Oh, I’ve long since gotten over worrying about talking about music in front of web developers, or blogging in front of Mozillians: I’ve got a category-specific feed for Planet Mozilla, and anyone else who wants to filter me needs to persuade their aggregator developer to do some innovating.

No, what bothers me when I can’t stop overthinking is how to write for all of those diverse people I’m insisting read all my posts. In the end, I usually do just what I did this time: too much detail for people who just need to know the particular fact I found out, not nearly enough for interested people who don’t know anything about the topic, far far too much for uninterested people. Luckily, most of the time I’m far too entranced by the sight of my own voice to be distracted by worries about what anyone else will think ;)

 
 
Comment by Shelley #
2005-01-16 08:52:02

Personally, I only read you for the posts on RDF.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-16 14:58:52

Been a long dry spell, hasn’t it? I ran across my old intertwingle-RSS1-and-FOAF project the other month… scared me to death. I couldn’t remember having turned off the cronjob firing up the crawler.

 
 
Comment by pb #
2005-01-17 03:01:19

Does IE have a bug displaying &curren and &not ?

IE seems to decode them even thought the don’t end with a semi-colon.

ps, the filter here seems to choke on this as well.

Comment by Marcus #
2005-01-17 04:55:59

You don’t need to end entities with a semi-colon in SGML-based HTML. It’s just best practice to avoid confusion.

 
Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-17 09:18:45

IE’s bug is that it decodes them no matter what follows them. The SGML rules say (very roughly, since I’ve never spent the 224 Swiss Francs to actually get a copy) that any & is the start of some entity, and then you look at the characters which follow one by one to find an endpoint which will tell you whether it’s a known entity or an illegal undeclared one. In the best case, you find a semicolon to clearly end it, but it also ends at any character which can’t be in an entity name in your particular case, which for HTML means something that’s not a NAME token: entity names can only include letters, numbers, hyphens, underscores, colons, and periods, so as soon as you come to a character that’s not one of those, you’ve found the end of the entity name.

That’s the right way, go until you find a character which can’t be in an entity name, then see if you recognize what you found. However, IE starts at the ampersand, takes the next character and sees if it recognizes the entity, takes the next one if it could be a name character, sees if it recognizes it, takes the next… so it will interpret &nothing; as meaning ¬hing; and display ¬hing;, masking your undeclared nothing entity.

Where it really becomes a problem is with &nbsp – if you build yourself a web site with Frontpage, and check your work in IE, you will wind up using a ton of nonbreaking spaces, and butting them up against stuff. In IE, &nbsp23.95 is a price pushed a little away from the left side of the table cell; in Gecko, it’s the unknown entity &nbsp23.95 which must be displayed as-is.

Comment by Mark #
2005-01-19 13:07:46

I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed you, Phil.

 
 
 
Comment by Sol #
2005-01-20 13:41:58

I don’t get it, but it sure makes you sound smart. Where’s the stuff about music? Carry on… and if you find the time, come back and hang out. The EJs seem to have forgotten who you are. They keep saying ”Phil who, Sol?” Oh, by the way, is Dimbot on vacation?

 
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