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Weekly Synopsis: 4

September 22, 2009

Although there was much freaking-out and gnashing of teeth, all students did well and all students turned in the homework (nothing like the prospect of a zero to sharpen focus!). There were some common errors in the work (order not indicative of importance):

  • Imaginary elements and/or CSS properties. Many used “size” as a property for selectors, some created non-existent selectors (elements). The way to avoid this is to use the “validate CSS” tool in the Web Developer’s Toolbar.
  • Use of deprecated elements. This week I deducted .2 points, in the future I will deduct more.
  • Submitting a “good” homework link. Quite a few students added “www” to the URL, or left off the file extension (my domains do not include “www” and I’ve never sent a link to a student that includes this information, a small thing but this work is all about the small). I’ve written a program which fetches the contents of your homework via manipulation of the file name and Domain Root string; lack of a file extension, or additions to the domain, make this system throw an error. It took me about 12 hours to grade 33 assignments, making me stop to alter the student’s submitted link is irritating. Conversely, making me laugh in the middle of this task usually makes me grade easier or give extra credit on whim.
  • I view errors the way an algebra teacher views errors, if a student makes one error (and repeats it consistently) then that is only “one” error deduction for grading purposes. An example is the use of relative links, if the student’s links didn’t work because of this, there is only one deduction no matter how many bad links actually are on the page.
  • A common CSS error this week is using sizing properties without a unit (only zero as a size can be missing a unit); many students should revisit page 159 of Castro to see what is required when using the “font” property with any selector.
  • Be sure to read closely the errors and warnings of the validators (HTML and CSS); the CSS tool is good because it gives plain English error messages; HTML validation errors are a little more cryptic. Also, HTML errors cascade down so that fixing just one error at the top of the list will make many of the others go away. There is one especially freaky error that you just have to know about to fix–empty elements in the <head> section of your documents. An example:
    • <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="student.css" media="all" /> 
    • there has to be a space between the last double quote and the forward slash or the HTML validator will issue dozens/hundreds of errors! This applies to any of the “empty” elements in the <head> section of your XHTML documents.
  • “Deep linking” explained: the way hosts charge for hosting a site is via “bandwidth” and my site is no exception. Each month GoDaddy charges me a small flat rate and allows me to serve up to 150GB per month (total of all files requested from the Internet by browsers) this is an “economy” plan and I could buy one that gives unlimited bandwidth for more money. Deep linking means putting links to one’s content from another domain. If I have a web page where an image is part of MY content, but link to an image on another site, then that other site is paying for the bandwidth to serve it up to requests on my site. This is considered bad form. Perhaps the site hosting that image is OK with linking to it because they have unlimited bandwidth, perhaps not. If you want to use an image found on another site (not copyright protected, etc.) right/control click on it and choose “save as” to save it to your machine. Then you can resize, change the file format, whatever. Then upload to your own site and link locally. Not only is this more courteous, but if that other site changes its directory structure (quite common) your site won’t have missing images when users visit.
  • Improperly nested <ol> and <ul> elements; this caused many nearly perfect homework assignment to get deductions. From my POV it is kind of shocking as I gave away the method in both the live lecture and the written lecture. Make sure you can do this, as the movement of bad nested lists to Jello will cause non-validation and a loss of a whole point in week 5. Also, Castro is quite good on the subject. Re-read this chapter until you get it, as it is the DOM and parent/child in practice. Moreover, the HTML validator will tell you exactly what is wrong in this case.
  • Coding frustration; to reiterate, there was much freaking out this week. Whenever you find yourself in this state, stop working and take a break. If you are stuck for an hour, contact me. This is why I always say “start early” as fixing a stuck student requires some analysis of the work at hand. Usually I respond within a few hours. Also, when contacting me be very specific about what is happening. Many times just articulating the problem sheds light.

Lastly, do not make the homework harder than it is. Don’t read into the assignments requirements that are not there. For example there is much talking on the tech board about preserving the CSS from week 4 in the Jello layout. Is that requirement articulated in the homework? Should a student want to do that, I’ll be impressed (it’s actually easy to do: add a <div id=”week4″> inside the content <div> of the Jello layout, then make all the rules for week 4 something like  #week4 h3 {some: css;} and this would only be where there is no class or id CSS already setup, which if I remember week4 right, should be only one of the 5 required <p> elements; the inline style can stay the same and the <head> style can be added also…literally 10 minutes work of cut and paste). Even so, is it specified in the assignment? What is required is that ALL pages have a Jello layout and are USABLE by the definitions in the lecture PDF…that is explicit. As an addendum to the assignment for this week, I’ll give .5 extra credit for preserving the week4 CSS in the Jello layout.

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