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Working Group Decision on ISSUE-89

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2011 15:18:49 -0500
Message-ID: <4D641A29.5090002@intertwingly.net>
To: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
The decision follows.  The chairs made an effort to explicitly address
all arguments presented in the Change Proposals on this topic in
addition to arguments posted as objections in the poll.

*** Question before the Working Group ***

The HTML5 specification has a section, currently numbered 4.13, which
discusses common idioms without dedicated elements.  Some members of the
working group have questioned whether this was needed.  The result was
an issue, two change proposals, and a straw poll for objections:

http://www.w3.org/html/wg/tracker/issues/89
http://www.w3.org/html/wg/wiki/ChangeProposals/removeidioms
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010May/0360.html
http://www.w3.org/2002/09/wbs/40318/issue-89-objection-poll/results

== Uncontested observations:

  * The section is only suggested markup: there are no author or
    implementation conformance requirements, no new attributes or
    elements introduced, and no changes to either HTML/XHTML syntax, or
    the DOM.

  * There's a risk of such suggestions being codified as requirements;
    the impact of this risk is what is in question.

  * The current set of idioms are fairly random and there may be many
    more idioms that could benefit from being documented.

None of these were decisive.  There were people who supported either of
these proposals even after taking these facts into consideration.  The
fact that they were acknowledged up front was appreciated.

== Need for a section on idioms

The core argument seems to be "It's not up to us to tell people what
markup to use for what" vs "one purpose of an HTML specification is to
instruct authors on what elements they're expected to use in particular
circumstances. This instruction is inextricable from the purpose of HTML
as a semantic authoring language".

In terms of specifics backing up these arguments, we found the following
statements:

  * “how to mark up footnotes and how to mark up main contents of a page
    is something that I've seen repeatedly asked on the public-html
    mailing list and elsewhere. So it seems like a good idea to help
    educate authors on how to do this in a manner that is semantic and
    accessibility friendly.”

  * “Several of the idioms are quite useful. The first, "The main part of
    the content", is something that anyone who's added <header> and
    <footer> elements will naturally come to think about. "Conversations"
    is also useful, especially since there once was dedicated markup
    suggested for this. "Footnotes" is something I've personally wondered
    about, and the guidance is helpful, if nothing else to show that
    there *isn't* a single correct way to do footnotes.  I object to
    removing useful spec text speculatively.”

As both tended to support the retention of this section over removal,
and no statements were an objection to the specific advice presented,
the objections to removing the section were found to be stronger than
the objections to retaining it.

*** Decision of the Working Group ***

Therefore, the HTML Working Group hereby adopts the Zero-edit Change
Proposal for ISSUE-89.  Of the Change Proposals before us, this one has
drawn the weaker objections.

== Next Steps ==

Bug 8401 is to be closed and marked as WGDecision.  Issues 89 is also to
be closed.

Since the prevailing Change Proposal does not call for a spec change, no
further actions are required.

== Appealing this Decision ==

If anyone strongly disagrees with the content of the decision and would
like to raise a Formal Objection, they may do so at this time. Formal
Objections are reviewed by the Director in consultation with the Team.
Ordinarily, Formal Objections are only reviewed as part of a transition
request.

== Revisiting this Issue ==

This issue can be reopened if new information come up. Examples of
possible relevant new information include:

* Identifying a number of specific issues with the content of this
   section.

* Identifying an alternative that provides equal or consistently
   superior advice.  As a concrete example, if this were split out into a
   separate document and improved upon, and the result were to gain wide
   support in the working group, that would be grounds for reopening this
   issue.

== Arguments not considered

A number of statements were made without providing any evidence that the
specific text in this section either met or failed to meet the criteria.
Examples:

  * Some types of content are common enough on the web to be significant,
    and complex enough to not have a simple, obvious way to mark them up,
    but do not offer enough benefit to directly address their use-cases
    by adding to HTML.

  * well authored contents are needed to seed copy'n'paste

  * tutorial and teaching sites present potentially inferior and
    conflicting advice

A number of statements were made not about the actual text itself but
about statements made elsewhere and tangential statements made in
support of the rationale.  Note that the question before us is whether
it makes sense now to include it, not whether it did so before, or even
whether or not some portion of the rationale provided was not decisive:

  * Unable to find original request.

  * Attempts to invoke accessibility as a justification for retention.

A number of statements made reference to alternatives which were not
suggested, and therefore were not evaluated:

  * A better approach would be to provide a detailed rationale

  * If there is serious risk that people will take these sections to be
    normative, then perhaps we should just add a big note stating that it
    is not.  Again, we only evaluated change proposals actually offered.
Received on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 20:19:20 UTC

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