The speaker interviews – Russ Weakley

The first of our speaker interviews is with Russ Weakley. Russ is a designer, one of the world’s leading experts on HMTL and CSS, and co-founder of the Web Standards group and mailing list. He’s been an influential figures in the development and spread of web standards globally.

Webstock: Russ, you’ve been quoted as saying that “sleep is for pussies”. Tell us about a typical working day for you – what you do, what hours you work, how much sleep you get.

Russ: I work as a web designer for the Australian Museum three days each week and run my own business outside these hours. I also try to help with the kids in the mornings and evenings, so this means I often work late into the night.

A typical day… It’s a little hard…

7:00am: wake up with a start!
7:00am – 9:00am: prepare breakfasts and lunches, feed and dress kids (amid copious threats of punishment and torture) then drop at school.
9:00am – 9:45am: drive to Museum, cursing traffic
9:45am – 5:30pm: work at museum with web team (which includes a Web Manager, Special project co-ordinator, web researcher, an assistant web person and me). If only I could tell you of some of the insane conversations that go on in our team!
5:30pm – 6:00pm: drive home cursing traffic
6:00pm – 9:00pm: force dinner into kids, check computer too often, get kids ready for bed, hype them up (as only a father can), read them books, then try to settle them down.
9:00pm – 3:00am: Max Design work – yahhh!

Rinse and repeat…

So, I often get around 4 hours sleep a night. A little sad now that I look at it. I think I need a hobby… Does Satan worshipping count as a hobby?

Webstock: You do a lot of teaching and training with HTML and CSS. Have things improved? Do web people in general have a better understanding of how to use HTML and CSS than they might of a few years ago?

Russ: This is a hard one as I think people often have good knowledge in patches – for X/HTML and CSS. Not many people have knowledge across the breadth of these topics.

When I run workshops I try to start with the basics as people often have little pockets of info here and there that they were not aware of.

The hardest group are the developers who think that X/HTML is easy. These people are often males with the least knowledge about HTML – often not aware of basic info like doctypes, elements, attributes etc.

Overall, I have noticed people are more aware of the fundamentals – especially in accessibility – which is very good news.

Webstock: What’s the future for HTML? Will it always be with us? Be supplanted by something else? And what’s your impression of the progress towards HTML5?

Russ: HTML was written in the early 1820’s. In those days there weren’t even cars, let alone multi-column layouts. Consequently, we have a VERY limited range of elements to use. We try all sorts of ways to squeeze as much semantics out of these elements as possible. Many of us have developed Repetitive Strain Injuries from all the squeezing.

So, we need more elements so that we can describe our content more clearly.

HTML5 is a great start in this direction. The team is working very carefully towards a brighter, squeeze-free future. I think by the year 3016 we will be ready to roll!

Webstock: What are you looking forward to in CSS3?

Russ: Chaos! Overwhelmed designers and developers… tears…

CSS3 is much more complex than CSS2. Some people have trouble with CSS2 – especially with browsers and implementation. So, there are going to be people who feel totally overwhelmed when CSS3 hits mainstream.

There are others who cannot wait for some of the cooler features – borders, backgrounds, many of these things will make our lives much easier, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I sit in both camps… Sometimes crying, other times hanging out for cool new CSS3 features to play with.

Webstock: Which speaker are you most excited about seeing at Webstock 09?

Russ: That is a little hard as they are all look good. Maybe these three:

Fiona Romeo, National Maritime Museum
Jane McGonigal, future forcaster (what a title!)
Joshua Porter, social web application designer

Regardless, I’m sure they will all be great (apart from that Russ Weakley guy – who sucks, from what I have heard).

Webstock: Thanks Russ! We’re looking forward to having your inimitable self at Webstock in February.

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