I’m not part of the “elite”!

June 20th, 2007

Molly came to Holland. She talked to about 200 web professionals, of whom none (0, zilch, not even one) were concerned with accessibility or web standards. That can happen. She also said that “about 20 people were on par with advanced developers in the UK, US or Australia”. I do wonder how she got to that conclusion – what was the definition of an ‘advanced developer’, and why does the way she writes it sound like the UK, US and Australia have 100% advanced developers?

Further down in her post she talks about the “elite”: “We forget how elite we are, how privileged to even have the conversations that we do.” That sentence, following the numbers of the (in Molly’s words) “under-represented countries when it comes to educational opportunities and resources”, makes me cringe! I so hope I misunderstood her completely, but in my understanding, she could just as well have said “We in the USA rule the world when it comes to accessibility and standards based web design, and we have a long road to go before the rest of the world will follow us.”

Well, based on that (hopefully *mis*-) understanding, here’s why I think she’s wrong.

To back up my thoughts I made up my own numerical guidelines for defining who’s on par with whom, and who’s not. First of all I found numbers of standards-loving designers per country, on (and if you care about the standards, go and add yourself and your sites now!), then I looked up population numbers on, and calculated the ratio of web standards loving designer per head of population:

country registered
W3c fans
(July 2006 est.)
United States 585 298,444,215 1 / 339,220
UK 533 60,609,153 1 / 113,713
Australia 175 20,264,082 1 / 115,794
Netherlands 114 16,491,461 1 / 144,661

Looks to me like the Netherlands are almost on par with the UK and Australia, while the US is almost 3 times less concerned with the standards 🙂

And yes, I know these numbers don’t mean anything, as it is not about standards compliant designers vs population, but vs number of designers. Unfortunately I don’t know how many designers there are in each country, nor do I know whether is equally well-known in each country. All I’m saying, is that there are plenty of standards compliant designers in the Netherlands who care about accessibility, and the reason Molly didn’t meet any of them could well be because I didn’t go to the ReMIX event! 😉

I did get the invitation, but there was nothing compelling on it to make me go. Actually, on the contrary – the text on the card said: “You’ll see the newest of the newest in the area of web- and interactive design and you can follow sessions by visionaries like Scott Guthrie, Molly Holzschlag and Koji Kato. Also, Microsoft will introduce Silverlight there, a new technology that will change the image of and about the web forever.” Which was then followed by the typical marketing speak that holds no truth at all but is designed to convince the reader to go: “As a professional you can’t miss that.”

Being that I did follow all the videos of the sessions via already, why travel to Amsterdam to see it all again? Introducing Silverlight? An introduction can’t be done twice – in my opinion Silverlight was introduced on MIX in April, not on ReMIX in June. Also, I’m not a programmer – I don’t use programming languages besides a bit of PHP and sometimes borrowed Perl, and the description of the event did not quite sound like “let us show you even more ways to make accessible web sites”. My guess is that I’m not the only accessible web designer who got the invitation and thought “not for me”. Maybe if I didn’t have two school age kids I would have gone, just for curiosity’s sake, but I certainly didn’t feel it was a ‘must go’ event.

That said, it appears there will be a ReMIX event in the UK in September (although this site doesn’t show any details yet). Maybe I’ll go there, and make sure I’m part of Molly’s statistics. Or would I then be counted as another native English speaking member of the elite? 😉

2 Responses to “I’m not part of the “elite”!”

  1. Molly E Holzschlag says:

    Ouch. We did misunderstand one another. Let me clarify, the problem is worldwide and my "stats" aren’t stats merely the experience I’m having at a variety of events across the globe where my focus is on standards.

    Also, the term elite apparently has really negative connotations at this point. The elite are the best at something. What I meant was to say that the fact we can even have this sort of conversation makes us very privileged and in the minority.

    That is not an insult toward anyone. It’s a concern about education. So I hope you will understand my use of the term and what I really meant.

    Bottom line, standards are simply not the way the majority of people work the web, and with all the advancements in RIA, I fear we’re building a platform with a very poor foundation.

  2. Els says:

    Thanks Molly,

    Yes I understand what you meant, and I agree with your concerns too. It’s just that your post wasn’t entirely clear on this to me, so I’m glad you clarified it now 🙂

    [more detailed reply sent by email]