W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > January 2013

Re: current definition of <figure> in HTML is problematic

From: Leif Halvard Silli <xn--mlform-iua@xn--mlform-iua.no>
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2013 01:27:16 +0100
To: Silvia Pfeiffer <silviapfeiffer1@gmail.com>
Cc: "Michael[tm] Smith" <mike@w3.org>, Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20130125012716087956.ca6700b8@xn--mlform-iua.no>
The current text includes "dedicated pages". Thus: Perhaps the text 
could simply make it even *clearer* that such a figure, when moved away 
to e.g. a dedicated page, can *still* be kept inside the <figure> 
element … (Which implies that it can be the sole content of a page.) 

I.e. just give readers some reading help.

Leif H Silli

Silvia Pfeiffer, Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:10:36 +1100:
> It's people like that who are self-restricting their use of elements and
> advising others to do it the same way that set precedents and then we end
> up with a different reality from the spec (de-facto standards). I therefore
> agree that we should put some clarifying language into the spec.
> 
> Maybe we just need to split up that paragraph and stat the "moving away"
> possibility as a second sentence (after "but that...") as something that is
> "also possible".
> 
> Silvia.
> 
> On Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 7:21 AM, Michael[tm] Smith <mike@w3.org> wrote:
> 
>> Steve Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, 2013-01-24 09:44 +0000:
>> 
>>> I think the current definition [4] of  the figure element leads to
>>> developers thinking that they cannot use it to caption an image or images
>>> that are ket parts of the content:
>>> 
>>> "The element can thus be used to annotate illustrations, diagrams,
>> photos,
>>> code listings, etc, that are referred to from the main content of the
>>> document, but that could, without affecting the flow of the document, be
>>> moved away from that primary content, e.g. to the side of the page, to
>>> dedicated pages, or to an appendix."
>> 
>> I agree that statement seems to be confusing people, and so maybe some
>> language should be added around there to make it more clear that the figure
>> element is not necessarily restricted to being used only for the purpose
>> described there.
>> 
>> But I'm not sure it's the fault of the spec that some people are
>> misunderstanding it. For one thing, that sentence above is clearly not
>> stating any normative requirement. Or at least I think, to anybody who's
>> taken time to get familiar with the editorial style the spec consistently
>> uses, it would be clear that sentence states no normative requirements.
>> 
>> For context about what I mean, it's worth also quoting what the spec says
>> just before that statement you quote above. What it says is:
>> 
>>   The figure element represents some flow content, optionally with a
>>   caption, that is self-contained and is typically referenced as a single
>>   unit from the main flow of the document.
>> 
>> As far as I can see, that sentence is the only statement in the spec that
>> normatively defines the meaning of the figure element. And the parts of
>> that sentence that are qualified with "optionally" and "typically" are not
>> stating absolute requirements, so the only statement that's actually fully
>> normative is "The figure element represents some flow content that is
>> self-contained."
>> 
>> The spec very consistently uses a particular style to clearly distinguish
>> between parts that are normative and parts that are just informative or
>> illustrative. For a lot of elements, the only normative part is a sentence
>> that uses "The foo element represents" pattern. And the part of the spec
>> that gives those statements normative weight as authoring-conformance
>> requirements is here:
>> 
>>   http://www.w3.org/html/wg/drafts/html/master/dom.html#elements

>> 
>>   Elements, attributes, and attribute values in HTML are defined (by this
>>   specification) to have certain meanings (semantics). For example, the ol
>>   element represents an ordered list, and the lang attribute represents the
>>   language of the content.
>> 
>>   Authors must not use elements, attributes, or attribute values for
>>   purposes other than their appropriate intended semantic purpose, as doing
>>   so prevents software from correctly processing the page.
>> 
>> If elements have other normative authoring-conformance requirements, the
>> spec states them very clearly by using RFC 2119 "must", "must not", etc.,
>> language. For example, for the "address" element, the spec states these
>> additional normative authoring constraints:
>> 
>>   The address element must not be used to represent arbitrary addresses
>>   (e.g. postal addresses), unless those addresses are in fact the relevant
>>   contact information.
>> 
>>   The address element must not contain information other than contact
>>   information.
>> 
>> So if the spec were going to actually normatively state what purposes a
>> figure element is restricted to, it would state it with some "must" or
>> "must not" language, like this:
>> 
>>   The figure element must not be used to contain the main content of a
>>   document or the main content of a section of a document.
>> 
>>   The figure element must only be used to annotate illustrations, diagrams,
>>   photos, code listings, etc, that are referred to from the main content of
>>   the document, but that could, without affecting the flow of the document,
>>   be moved away from that primary content, e.g. to the side of the page, to
>>   dedicated pages, or to an appendix.
>> 
>> But it doesn't say that. Instead, it just says the figure element "can be"
>> used in a particular way. That implies that it's not necessarily restricted
>> to the particular use it describes, and there's a possibility it can be
>> used for other purposes.
>> 
>> In other words, that statement is simply illustrative. It's just additional
>> guidance that's there to help people understand what the element is by
>> describing a common case where it can be used.
>> 
>>> For example, in this current discussion
>>> http://html5doctor.com/html5-simplequiz-7-pinterest/

>>> 
>>> developers are making statements such as [1]:
>>> 
>>> "I don’t think figure is appropriate, because it’s for things that can be
>>> taken out of flow and moved to an appendix, and the pins on the page are
>>> the whole point of the flow"
>> 
>> So yeah the person quoted is making a mistaken inference about what the
>> spec actually says.  The spec doesn't say that it's *only* for things that
>> can be taken out of flow and moved to an appendix.
>> 
>>> "<figure>s are intended to contain accessory content, not the main
>>> substance of the section in question."
>> 
>> And here I think the person quoted is making another mistaken inference
>> that's going even farther away from what the spec actually says. The spec
>> doesn't use the word "accessory" nor anything like it here, nor does it say
>> that figure must not be used to mark up the main substance of anything.
>> 
>>> "The spec says they can be moved away from the main flow of the document
>>> without affecting the document’s meaning. I therefore don’t think it’s
>>> appropriate to use them for the main image and description here." [2]
>> 
>> So the spec doesn't say at all what the person quoted there is claiming.
>> That is, it doesn't say that a figure is something that absolutely can
>> always be moved away. It says the figure element "can be" used for things
>> that could be moved away without affecting the document's "flow" (not
>> "meaning", by the way, as misquoted above). It does not say that the figure
>> element must only be used for those things, but not for anything else.
>> 
>> I think in general some people do way too much hair-splitting about how a
>> particular element should or should not be used -- I mean in cases like
>> this, where the authoring restriction they're asserting is something that's
>> not even possible to check with a validator and that has no relation to how
>> the content is handled by a Web browser.
>> 
>> But anyway, clearly for the case of figure we have some people that are
>> reading more restrictions into its use than what the spec actually says. So
>> I agree it would be worthwhile to come up with some additions or
>> refinements to the language there to avoid having people unnecessarily
>> restrict their use of the figure element in particular ways that there's no
>> good reason they need to be restricting it to.
>> 
>>   --Mike
>> 
>> --
>> Michael[tm] Smith http://people.w3.org/mike

>> 
>> 
Received on Friday, 25 January 2013 00:27:47 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Friday, 25 January 2013 00:27:48 GMT