W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > April 2007

Re: Proposing <indent> vs. <blockquote>

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2007 10:47:46 +0100
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <1176544067.11681.19.camel@galahad>

Ease of use is a crucial goal, but I doubt HTML suitable for writing
everything from documents to web applications ever has been or ever will
be suitable for mass, still less universal, hand authoring.
Reintroducing presentational elements would (at best) introduce further
layer of indirection between what people mean and their HTML. The
problem is not that presentational markup is necessarily
non-interoperable, but that it is deeply ambiguous. Screen readers and
voice browsers, for example, would either need to ignore indent (risking
communication failure) or report it every time in case it was being used
with special purpose, slowing down reading time and forcing the user to
guess what it might mean in any given instance.

One could make HTML a little more suitable for widespread hand authoring
by removing the requirement to encode ampersands, forcing use of a
unicode character set where entities would be unnecessary except to
escape HTML markup, and separating out a kernel of semantic markup used
for basic communication (e.g. a, quote, p, br, em, ul, ol, li, abbr,
section, heading, img, video, table, tr, th, td, and span for changes of
language). Adding indent, i, b, font, and friends would dramatically
complicate that subset while reducing its ability to communicate across
the board.

We do have a way of encoding information that is usable for mass hand
authoring: it's called text/plain and many authors already use it for
blog comments. It's also trivial to produce a client that word-wraps
automatically and follows URIs in plain text: most email clients do this

If formatting HTML is difficult, effective responses would be:

1) To improve CSS's usability. I think the usability problems of CSS
relate primarily to page layout not text formatting though.

2) To encourage authors to rely on browsers' default presentation.

3) To improve browsers' default presentation (e.g. by increasing
line-height to say 1.5 improve legibility).

The more limited benefit adduced to including presentational elements is
to allow authors who do not control the presentation of host documents
to force a useful presentation in the sections they author. This sounds
like it should be mentioned to the authors and possibly reported as a
bug with the default CSS and documentation for the CMS in question.

Many CMS require input by hand authoring because we haven't devised
effective tools for expressing what people mean rather than how people
want to format their text. Many other systems use would-be WYSIWIG GUIs,
presumably because their creators don't agree that hand authoring is
easier than using tools.

With regard to how robots can treat blockquote currently, any blockquote
with the cite attribute is highly unlikely to be misused for
indentation. So rather than introducing indent we should encourage
providing citations for quotations.

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Saturday, 14 April 2007 10:17:13 UTC

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