Luca Passani is well-known by mobile developers as the inventor
of WURFL , the primary open source tool for device capability recognition.
Recently, Luca has published a document about practices for mobile development
(Global Authoring Practices for Mobile Development, GAP).
We used to know that Luca was involved in a similar effort in the
context of W3C Best Practices , so we wondered what on earth was going on.
We didn't need to remain curious for long.
We just went and asked him directly:
Question: Luca, what is this initiative of yours all about?
Answer: GAP is a document aimed at mobile developers which was long overdue.
The industry has produced lots of tutorials and developer guides, each and every one of which only contains part of the story (and, sometimes, even contradict one another). This is no surprise after all: why should Nokia cover the Teleca browser? why should Openwave refrain from promoting the valuable usability extensions in its browser? is there any business reason why the Opera guys should tell developers to create content for browsers less powerful
than their own? The reality is that covering competitors' products makes no business sense. This is why everyone ended up producing the documentation that makes the most sense to them.
Unfortunately, this situation creates a paradox: the audience of these guidelines, i.e. the developers, are the one left wondering what they should do to create decent mobile content that works acceptably well on all devices. There is a gap to be filled and this is where the Global Authoring Practices (GAP) document plays a role.
Q: This makes sense, yet you announced one year ago that you were going
to partecipate in the W3C Best Practice Working Group group.
By reading the group charter one walks away with the idea that the objectives of GAP and the one of the BP candidate recommendation are pretty similar....
A: You are correct. When I entered BPWG last year, I was animated by the
best of intentions. I believed that there was interest in delivering a set of practices that could help developers and I was eager to put my name on a W3C recommendation. Unfortunately,
things turned out to work a bit differently. I felt very strongly that developers voice had very little power in that forum. W3C agenda and the agendas of other companies were driving the show.
Also, there did not seem to be a will to clearly identify the scope of the project and everyone was happy with it.
When it became clear that adaptation was not going to be mandated and the group denied to honor the request to clearly identify whether it was web or mobile clients we were dealing with,
I decided to refrain from contributing. That was until a few months later, when I noticed that the mobileOK thing was getting pushed very hard by some of the partecipants. I consider MobileOK potentially harmful for my daily work and for the mobile industry in general.
That's when I decided that a passive attitude would not be enough and I had to move to action.