Eric Meyer Interview

February 12th, 2007

My friends at Lunarpages recently interviewed the well known tech/nerd author Eric Meyer.

Meyer is well known for his CSS books (I’ve read a few) and the books are pretty good overall. Especially the O’reilly titles.

My beef is that CSS hacks are just a bad idea, and Meyer uses his hacks all over his books …

That said, Amy (from Lunarpages) asked me if I had any questions for Eric; being a trouble maker that I am, I asked this question:

Do you regret promoting the use of CSS hacks given the recent issues with IE7 – i.e. that it broke certain commonly used hacks?

Eric: No. I always did my best to be clear that hacks were, by their nature, fragile beasts, and could be broken by a future revision. At the same time, what else could we do? It was either hack around browser bugs, or abandon CSS as a layout tool. Neither was palatable, but the former was less unpalatable than the latter. What I regret is that the hacks were necessary at all.

I find the answer interesting, but I don’t think it reflects the reality of the situation:

There was and is another option: IE conditional comments.

I won’t go in details about IE conditional comments here (just watch the video,) but I have to wonder why Eric and the other web standards proponents did not talk about this solution that easily and effectively solves one of CSS’ biggest failings (in the real world)?

Regardless of that point, it is an interesting interview with someone who has had some impact on web design today.

CIAO,

Stefan Mischook

7 Responses to “Eric Meyer Interview”

  1. LSW says:

    I thought comments were a recent developement. Remember Eric has written books on CSS for many years when hacks were the only choice. I have not read a recent one so not sure if he still does… but he is one of the founding fathers of CSS and if it was better supported the way they wrote it to be used it would not be an issue.

    So exactly how long have conditional comments been available? I have heard if them only the last 2 years or so.

  2. @LSW,

    “So exactly how long have conditional comments been available? I have heard if them only the last 2 years or so.”

    Answer:

    Since IE5 … a long time before hacks became popular. They (web standards zealots) probably ignored IE conditional comments because they were not part of the standards. If that was indeed the case, they ignored a totally viable solution for theoretical correctness.

  3. Anthony says:

    Really great interview indeed, I run a small web design blog and wish i could get great interviews like this. Conditional comments have been around for ages and I still use them today – my preferred method.

  4. Adam says:

    My opinion is use hacks were you need to. It may not be the best solution but that is why we call them hacks. If it was what was meant to be done then it would be standard and nobody would have a problem. Rather than worry about people using hacks we should be worried about getting a set of web standards that browser need to be complaint with.

    But either way great interview and post.

    Adam

  5. Hi Adam,

    I don’t believe that hacks should ever be used. Eric should have not advised people to use them either. IE has had conditional comments since version 5.5 … that makes hacks unnecessary.

    I had hacks in a WordPress theme I used and had to go back and fix things precisely because the original template designer used hacks … a big pain in the butt.

  6. Audioforge says:

    Hey we need trouble makers out there shaking things up….That was a great question and very relevant.

    My question is this: Why haven’t conditional comments become standardized by the ‘Web Standards Gurus’? I found nothing about it on the W3.org site.

    Do you think they ever will be standardized so ‘hacks’ will go away completely?

  7. “Why haven’t conditional comments become standardized by the ‘Web Standards Gurus’?”

    Nerd politics.

    “Do you think they ever will be standardized so ‘hacks’ will go away completely?”

    It does not need to be standardized. It works since only IE supports it.

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