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Proposal for precisely flagging optional specifications

From: James Hopkins <james@idreamincode.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 23:58:44 +0000
Message-Id: <931E7B95-2AEA-4342-8A10-47E6335FAC92@idreamincode.co.uk>
To: public-css-testsuite@w3.org
In some parts of the CSS 2.1 specification (and I'm sure in CSS 3,  
too) some parts of the specification are optional; that is, a vendor  
"may choose to include the [specification] item because a particular  
marketplace requires it or because the vendor feels that it enhances  
the product while another vendor may omit the same item" [RFC2119 (http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2119.txt 
)]. In test cases that test solely optional behavior, the 'may'  
requirement flag is adequate since it implies that all behavior being  
tested is optional. However, using the same mechanism for flagging  
optionality in cases that test an implementation involving, but not  
restricted to optional behavior, can be a problem since it may be  
difficult to determine what part is optional and what isn't, from a  
reviewer's point of view.

The issue in hand can be applied to writing test cases for 12.5 LISTS  
since the specification itself is entirely optional [1], based on the  
fact that vendors are free to choose whether list-items generate  
marker boxes. For example, a document is created to test how a first- 
child floated box interacts with the marker box (which is positioned  
inside the principal box). Since the marker box is rendered as the  
first inline box in the principal box in this instance, this test  
translates into the interaction between inline and floated boxes which  
is documented as REQUIRED in a separate specification. However, the  
generation of a marker box is optional, and in order to pass this  
test, marker box generation must be supported.

The recognized 'may' META flag is unsuitable for flagging this, since  
the optional behavior in this case is out of scope of the test  
document itself. Also, the nature of a META element coupled with the  
restrictiveness of token values (where the 'may' value could be used)  
for the 'flags' attribute, means that authors have no way of flagging  
where the option within the specification actually lies. As a result,  
a reviewer may find it difficult to determine exactly what the  
optional behavior is, especially if the author has included a  
correctly-written assertion which should contain a "complete detailed  
statement expressing what specifically the test is attempting to prove".

To resolve this issue, I'd like to propose a new 'assumption' META  
field. The object of this field is to flag any optional behavior and,  
more importantly, describe what the optional behavior is and where it  
lies within the specification. For readability, one 'assumption' is  
allowed per META field, and multiple 'assumption' META declarations  
are also allowed. For example, when applied to tests based on the  
optional marker box generation, it would look like:-

<meta name="assumption" content="Support for marker box generation" />

Although the 'assumption' META declaration could conceivably be used  
in every test regardless of whether or not the test relies on optional  
behavior (since support for any specification could be assumed in  
advance of testing an implementation), it should be reserved only for  
tests that rely on optional behavior which cannot be described simply  
by the META 'flags' declaration.

[1] "An element with 'display: list-item' generates a principal box  
for the element's content and an optional marker box as a visual  
indication that the element is a list item" [http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS21/generate.html#lists 
Received on Tuesday, 1 December 2009 23:59:16 UTC

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