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["William F. Hammond" <hammond@csc.albany.edu>: listmail W3C-MATH-ERB]



I'll compose a response to Bill shortly.  Suggestions and comments
are welcome.

-Ron
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Date: Wed, 17 Jul 1996 15:22:09 -0400
From: "William F. Hammond" <hammond@csc.albany.edu>
Subject: listmail W3C-MATH-ERB
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To Ron Whitney --

I understand that you are the ERB Chair.

Is it possible for a non-member of the ERB to participate in
the list "w3c-math-erb@w3.org"?

Perhaps you might be able to forward my comments to the list.

I would like to see the reviews on MathSciNet available in HTML-Math
without the need for other-than-standard browser processing.

Markup isomorphic to a narrow dialect of pageless LaTeX is about right
for that.  If the ERB agrees with this point of view, then part of the
ERB's task might be to set that dialect at the same time that the
details of HTML-Math are being set.

Although my concept of HTML-Math is not something rich enough for
either journal articles or symbolic manipulation program data, it is
something that is (1) better than the kind of typescript that was used
for preprints prior to the widespread use of TeX and LaTeX for
preprints, (2) more than adequate for network posting of educational
materials, and (3) good for informal communication among
mathematicians who want to share something that is easier to read than
TeX source.

I think that the March '95 draft for HTML-3.0 was pointed in the right
direction.

I think that work on "structure" should continue, but it will easily
go beyond what is reasonable for the mimetype "text/html", which is
the basic web document.  So I hope that the incorporation of HTML-math
into HTML is not held up by work on additional structure intended for
processing by tools other than web browsers.

We need to have exposure at the basic level of the web for the sake
of the public relations of the entire mathematical and scientific
community.  To have wide exposure one needs not only processing done
by standard tools but also *fast* processing.  User impatience is an
impediment to exposure.

Remember that there are limits to the level of "structure" in HTML.
For example there is no sentence container tag.  More rigorous
content-based markup would provide for that.

The needs of non-visual users are important because many of the most
important users will be non-visual information-gathering robots.  I
think that some of the criticism of LaTeX-level markup in this regard
fails to take due notice of math-mode.  If the markup is not too
complicated, one might hope that browsing tools will enable users to
write search-strings in that language.

Published mathematics is never without ambiguity except for the
context supplied by its audience.  Symbolic manipulation programs can
supply context, but it is not easy.

My suspicion is that the goal of having markup that can be fed into
symbolic manipulation programs, if it is to accommodate all such
programs, is very much more complicated than most imagine.
Regardless, such markup is not appropriate for incorporation in
documents under the web's basic mimetype "text/html" since those
documents are to be processed only by web browsers.

Remember that, as we speak, an author may furnish anchors to documents
of arbitrary mimetype, e.g. "application/x-mathematica".  Probably
within 18 months the spiffy browsers will handle recursive documents
(with arbitary mixing of mimetypes) using the <OBJECT> tag that is
now under discussion.

                                   -- Bill Hammond


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