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[whatwg] the cite element

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Wed, 23 Sep 2009 00:46:28 +0000 (UTC)
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0909222337240.15471@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Wed, 16 Sep 2009, Erik Vorhes wrote:
> On Wed, Sep 16, 2009 at 4:16 AM, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:
> >> Unless there is some semantic value to the name being more than 
> >> "just" a name, yes.
> >
> > Is there?
> 
> Yes

What is it?


> and with the removal of the <dialog> element (of which I was unaware 
> when I sent my last message) makes a compelling case for the 
> re-expansion of <cite> for dialog.

Why?


> On October 31, 2006, Michael Fortin suggested the following pattern: 
> <p><cite>Me:</cite> <q>Can I say something?</q>
> 
> Which Jeremy Keith also recommends. [1]
> 
> (For longer text it would make more sense to do something like 
> <cite></cite><blockquote></blockquote>, but that's beside the point.)
> 
> You didn't explicitly object to such a pattern (though implemented a 
> different one for <dialog>) as late as May 5, 2008 [2].

You don't think "this is all moot" is explicit enough? :-)


> Aside from the current definition of <cite>, I think this would be a 
> good use of the element, since it makes more sense than <b> or <span> 
> (what do those signify in this context?) and there's nothing wrong with 
> an italicized name in this context. Moreover, there are examples of 
> Fortin/Keith's usage in the wild.

I don't understand why we need an element here at all, and I don't 
understand why we would want to reuse <cite>, of all elements, if we did 
in fact need one.


> > ... I don't understand what your proposal is, at this point. How do 
> > you define "citation"? What problem does it solve?
> 
> I should have made this clearer, I suppose, sorry. What I propose is 
> that <cite> should be allowed for markup in the following instances:
> 
> - titles of works
> - full citations
> - names and other sources of quote attribution (including identifying
> speakers in dialog)
> - names of blog post commenters and authors (in the context of their
> comments, posts, etc.)

That seems like a really strange and eclectic variety of uses. It seems 
like authors are better served with more focused elements or with 
elements where there's no seeming gaps in what the element can be used. 
For example, it seems odd to say that in the following, the third <cite> 
is non-conforming, but the other two are fine:

   <article>
    <footer>Comment by <cite>John Adams</cite></footer>
    <p>I think that the following comment by <cite>Fred Fox</cite> is 
    right:</p>
    <blockquote>
     <p>Tomatoes are juicy.</p>
    </blockquote>
    <p>However, I like to visit <cite>Ian</cite> and he does not like them 
    at all.</p>
   </article>

It seems like it would be better to not have any elements for the 
bottom three definitions you list, or to introduce a new element for those 
that have use cases. However, no compelling use cases have been mentioned 
as far as I am aware.


On Wed, 16 Sep 2009, Erik Vorhes wrote:
>
> A use-case for "person's name" in the context of <cite>:
> 
> In reference to many Classical texts one will often refer to the author 
> in lieu of the title (or in some cases that author's corpus). E.g.:
> 
> <p>You should read <cite>Herodotus</cite>.</p>

That's a fine use of <cite>, though, because there "Herodotus" is being 
used as the name of a work (albeit not the name printed on the cover).


On Mon, 21 Sep 2009, Erik Vorhes wrote:
>
> I never suggested otherwise. I want to be able to mark up names, etc., 
> not just titles of works, with <cite> when the context is appropriate. 
> That is, I want to mark up these things when they function as an 
> attribution. (As I have previously detailed.)

I'm still having trouble with the "why". Could you elaborate on why you 
need to mark these up explicitly?


> I feel here that you're stretching the definition of "title of work"
> beyond its usefulness. If we can use aliases within <cite>, great, but
> that seems to make more apparent the usefulness of having <cite> be
> for more than just "title of work."

There's two uses that I know of: making titles of works italics by 
default, and making it easier to change that style. In:

   <p>You should read <cite>Herodotus</cite>.</p>


On Wed, 16 Sep 2009, Jim Jewett wrote:
> Ian wrote:
> > Eric wrote:
> >> Put another way, if you had no prior knowledge of the current HTML5 
> >> definition of <cite> (and perhaps any other specification's 
> >> definition of the element), what would seem to be logical and 
> >> appropriate uses of the element?
> >
> > You mean based on just the element name? I wouldn't use it without 
> > reading the spec first. Most people seem to think it means "italics", 
> > though, for what that's worth.
> 
> I think that gets at the root of the problem with cite.  Most people 
> don't read the spec, or even know where to find it.  cite isn't common 
> enough to just copy by example, and it turns out to be ambiguous as the 
> name of an element or attribute.

Agreed. Not sure what to do about that, though; removing the whole element 
seems a little brutal since it is used and isn't causing that much harm.


> Do you wrap the actual excerpt (the precise thing you're citing), or the 
> name of the source?  If you wrap the name/title of the source, is there 
> a way to show the scope of what you're attributing?
> 
> The HTML 4 definition ("CITE: Contains a citation or a reference to 
> other sources.") didn't help much, but I'm not sure it can be fixed by a 
> spec change.  If you have to look it up, then only careful people will 
> use it properly.  (On the other hand, if there is any HTML element whose 
> users are likely to be extra careful, cite is a strong candidate.)

I think you're right to be pessimistic, but I think that the spec can help 
more than you realise. Tutorials and online discussions often derive 
indirectly from what the spec says, so we can definitely push people in 
the right direction. A simple definition like "titles of works" helps.


> My own interpretation of (a fraction of)
> http://philip.html5.org/data/cite.txt did not support narrowing the
> definition only to titles.  For example
> 
> (1)  Examples of citing a person, arguably the creator.
> 
> (1a)  http://www.hiddenmickeys.org/Movies/MaryPoppins.html
> 
> The cite element is used to give credit to the person who
> found/verified each "Hidden Mickey":
>     <CITE>REPORTED: <A HREF="mailto:...">Beverly O'Dell</A> 12 MAR 98</CITE>
>     <CITE>UPDATE: Greg Bevier 29 JUL 98</CITE>

I don't think that's a usage anyone is actually arguing for though, is it?


> (1b)  http://www.webporter.com -- they give the author of the article.
>  But it looks like they (at least sometimes) include the title as
> well, which fits under full citation.

Right, this is the "full citation" feature. Notice their stylings, though: 
they are overriding the default font styles, and instead treating the 
whole thing as a block-level element. They would be better off using <p> 
with a class, or having us introduce a block-level element like <credit> 
or <dc> (which we might add to <figure>).

Also, note that this is an example of putting the citation inside the 
quote.


> (1c)  http://www.thesentencegame.com/ -- a link to the snipped author.

Right.


> (1d)  http://drotner.com/squirtboating/  -- the phototographer and subject
>     <cite class="subject">Paddler: Kelly McCauley</cite>
>     <cite class="attribution">Photo: April McCauley, 2001</cite>
> 
> These do seem useful; if you wanted more information, it might well be 
> "How do I contact this photographer or that model to get something 
> similar?"

Again, this would be better handled by <figure> than <cite>. Their markup 
now is:

  <table class="photo">
   <tr><td><img src="images/ksquirt2_39-10_02.jpg" alt="Kelly goofing around." /></td></tr>
   <tr><td><cite class="subject">Paddler: Kelly McCauley</cite></td></tr>
   <tr><td><cite class="attribution">Photo: April McCauley, 2001</cite></td></tr>
  </table>

This would be what <figure> would let them do, especially if we added <dc> 
for credits:

  <fiure class="photo">
   <dd><img src="images/ksquirt2_39-10_02.jpg" alt="Kelly goofing around.">
   <dt>Paddler: Kelly McCauley
   <dc>Photo: April McCauley, 2001
  </table>

No need for <cite> for what they're doing.


> (2)  Several uses -- and several *non-uses* for titles from
> http://www.growndodo.com/wordplay/oulipo/
> 
> The page begins with carefully attributed blockquotes.  These are
> *not* done with cite, presumably because it didn't seem flexible
> enough.  Instead, it was marked up as
> 
>     <p class="quote">...
>     <p class="citation">
>       <span class="citationauthor">Fran&ccedil;ois Le Lionnais</span>,
>       <span class="citationsource">Lipo: First Manifesto</span></p>
> 
> Within the text, <cite> was used to point to source materials, but
> there didn't seem to be anything qouted; in most cases the texts were
> used as example objects of study; if they actually need a title
> markup, then so does the specific Viking ship in Leif's example.
> Sample usage:   <cite>S + 7</cite> (substrata (&quot;novelette&quot; +
> 7) does appear to be a title.
> 
> At the end of the page, there is a further readings section.
>     <dt>author<cite>title</cite>publisher</dt> is used for printed
> reference books
> but
>     <p class="linklist"><a href ...> is used for equivalent references
> on the web,
> and cite is also used to name the professor of a course
>     <cite>4-5 units, <a
> href="http://www.centerforbookculture.org/dalkey/bio_gsorrentino.html">Sorrentino</a></cite>

That page seems pretty close to what HTML5 specifies now, though it's not 
fully consistent, as you say.


> (3)  Example of usage as per HTML5
>     http://www.pacifier.com/~tpope/

Indeed.


> (4)  Example of italics -- though they may be going for the
> "commendation" meaning of cite:
>  http://www.patriagrande.net/guatemala/otto.htm
> 
> (5)  Clearly just for italics -- http://www.truck-town.com/
> 
> (6)  http://www.winthrop.dk/hender.html -- Using it to wrap the
> portion of your own text that was "cited" as opposed to original.
> 
> That said, I can't rule out that it was just a way to get italics;
> later on the page, there was cites for "shot heard round
> the&#10;world" (title of event?) and "revolutionaries" (describing the
> original settlers).

Indeed.


Overall, it seems to me that the authors who used it as per HTML5 were the 
ones who then needed to do the least amount of work to get the effect they 
wanted. Those who used it for some purpose that didn't match HTML5 (other 
than italics) usually ended up having to override the resulting 
presentation in CSS.

I think that we should not be encouraging people to do things that require 
them to do more work. That's the main reason I think that what HTML5 says 
is preferable to other options that are less specific and that might need 
more explicit styling.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 22 September 2009 17:46:28 UTC

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