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

Re: Support Existing Content

From: Jeff Schiller <codedread@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 10:28:32 -0500
Message-ID: <da131fde0705040828y18f94b32m47725aa8d154affd@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Gareth Hay" <gazhay@gmail.com>, public-html@w3.org

Gareth, I hope you continue to participate in this discussion.

On 5/4/07, Gareth Hay <gazhay@gmail.com> wrote:
> If I wrote a C program, it works for me, I send it to you, you run it
> and you get "Segmentation Fault", who do you blame?
> Why is it "end user" punishment. It's the /authors/ fault.

As others have mentioned, the end user is still "punished" because she
can't see the content.

> >
> >> Doesn't  "Parse error : line 5" - tell you all you need to know?
> >
> > If I loaded http://digg.com and saw that, then no, it would not
> > tell me all I need to know. Since what I need to know is the
> > information on the page, not a parse error.
> >
> So who are you going to blame? the browser vendor? I don't think so.
> What would happen, no-one would be able to read digg and they lose
> all their 'custom'.
> Why is this a problem if they haven't written the page properly?

Again, this is a problem because the <u>end user did not get the
information they wanted</u>.  The primary function of the web is for
sharing information.  Being able to lay the blame at someone's feet
does not solve the problem that the user could not access said

>>>>> I think that the situation we have just now is untenable.
>>>> What's untenable about it? What is the actual harm of
>>>> noncomforming content that you're trying to solve?
>>> You don't think tag-soup is harmful at all?
>> That's not an answer.  <snip>
> It is an answer,

The question was - what is the harm of nonconforming content?  Your
"answer" was a question about whether they found it harmful.   I
disagree with your assertion that you have provided an answer here.

> Why does there need to be a technical motivation behind my position.

Because this is a matter that deals with technology and business and
information.  We need to make decisions based on facts, not on beliefs
or aesthetics or politics or ...  Are you finding it hard to frame
your technical motivation properly or is it that you do not have any
technical motivation?  If there is no technical motivation, then what
is your motivation?

>> Regardless of whose fault it is, surely this is a
>> punishment for the end user. How can it not be? If you get hit by a
>> car, does it make you feel better that it's the driver's fault?
> Ok, Can you give me an example, in terms of the car hitting a
> pedestrian, what would happen with your method of error recovery?

If I understand the analogy properly, the pedestrian would never be
hit by the car in the first place.  Maybe the car would swerve around
the pedestrian and shake her up, but she would still be able to cross
the street.  ;)

> So we specify the way someone /should/ write a document and then let
> them get away with doing it /close to/ the spec but not quite?
> I think that is absurd, I really do.

Think of it this way - you don't require everyone that speaks to you
to use 100% proper English and grammar, do you?  If someone makes a
grammatical error when speaking to you, do you tell them that there
was an error and reject everything they say until they correct it?
Such a mannerism would lead to people not wanting to try and
communicate with you.

I know comparing human speech/cognition to documentation
formats/parsing is a little on the ridiculous side, but my point is
this:  because human brains are able to work around errors/warts, we
are able to have effective communication between the masses.  The web
works in a similar way now with a much much smaller vocabulary and a
smaller set of possible errors.

Now here's an important point:  I will agree that it's _possible_ to
take the route of draconian handling and clean language design and
still have effective communication on the web, but there are two

a) older (non-conforming) content will stagnate and may eventually
become unreadable (by new browsers who would have to painfully reverse
engineer older, more forgiving user agents like Mozilla, Opera and
Safari have been trying to do for years)
b) making the web strict may reduce the number of people who
participate (i.e. those who find HTML5 too hard to get right) because
it's been easier in the past

We need to weigh the technical benefits of your suggested approach
against those risks before deciding.  If there are no technical
benefits, then it does not make sense to expose ourselves to those
risks.  As chartered, it's better to take an evolutionary approach,
not a revolutionary approach.

Gareth, from a software engineering standpoint, I actually prefer the
idea of draconian error handling, clean language design, etc.  In such
a system it's easier for me, as an author, to ensure that my content
will display properly if i have a set of rigid rules and obvious error
detection.  Such a system conforms to my software engineering
background and maps nicely to compiled languages like C++ and Java
that I use day-to-day.  I also wouldn't mind updating my older HTML4
documents to XHTML, for instance, as this would not take a lot of my

However, I realize that this is my own background and my own viewpoint
and my own availability.  Not everyone in the world has this same
technical background.  Not everyone has the time or inclination or
money to migrate their documents.  If a large enough portion of the
world feel that "good enough" works for them, then the system has to
accommodate them.  I know what you'll say:  "let those people keep
their HTML 4.01 documents then", but this leaves a problem for future
browsers to try and render them.  It would be better to document how
browsers should behave for 99% of the web's content.

Would you rather have a library:

a) full of books written by anyone which may include some grammatical errors
b) contain only books written by people who can write 100%
grammatically correct English

Bear in mind that the number of people who can do b) is a much smaller
number than the number of people who can do a).  It's clear to me that
a) gives me access to more information/entertainment/people.
Received on Friday, 4 May 2007 15:28:38 GMT

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