My article about New York Times’s design director Khoi Vinh’s comment that he and his staff still hand code their HTML stirred a fair amount of both nostalgic and contemporary reverie among TidBITS readers (see “Hand Coding HTML Is Still in Vogue,” 2008-04-28). Slashdot picked up Vinh’s comment separately, and many readers there seemed to misunderstand – they thought Vinh was saying that every page on the New York Times site was being created by hand. One commenter wrote, “Handcoding takes far more time than is necessary in a changing scenario of today’s news. Effort not proportional to returns. As a shareholder, i [sic] would sue them for wasting money.”
Of course, as other Slashdotters contemptuously replied, the New York Times is database-driven, and Vinh and his staff are hand coding templates, not pages. Readers at Lifehacker were much more clued in when they commented on my article. It’s fascinating to see people cast off the opprobrium that sticks to hand coding HTML, and proclaim how great it is.
But this set of responses made me realize that my headline was perhaps confusing: Hand coding seems to imply that every page is written by hand. In fact, we at TidBITS, the folks at the Times, and people at millions of sites around the world are hand crafting our HTML. We use HTML like a chisel, and enjoy the feeling of manual tools. Others may use jackhammers, and that’s their choice.
Stand up today and be counted as an HTML handcrafter. I feel a “ye olde” coming on.