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Re: [W3C docs] We should teach by example.

From: Philip TAYLOR <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
Date: Sat, 07 Jul 2007 07:53:25 +0100
Message-ID: <468F3865.7080609@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>
To: "Michael(tm) Smith" <mike@w3.org>
CC: Jon Barnett <jonbarnett@gmail.com>, "Michael A. Puls II" <shadow2531@gmail.com>, www-archive@w3.org

Hallo Mike --

Michael(tm) Smith wrote:

 > Philip, speaking as someone who has worked for two different
 > browser companies I hope you will trust me when I reiterate what
 > several others have already pointed out on the list: Browsers not
 > implement SGML parsers now, nor have they ever. They do not
 > dereference public or system IDs and do anything with them, do not
 > retrieve DTDs nor use any kind of internal DTD against which to
 > validate document instances.

I know.  But that is the same argument that is used to
defend the lack of emphasis placed on grammar in many
schools today -- "people will understand you, so it
doesn't matter whether you speak correctly or not".
Well, I'm too old to agree with that : it /does/ matter
whether one speaks correctly or not, and it matters
whether a document that putatively contains a dialect
of SGML correctly identifies itself as such or not.

It also, of course, prevents the document from being
validated, unless one happens to know or remember exactly
which dialect it contains.  And validation is the key
to that much-mooted concept "interoperability" : a document
that validates /should/ render "correctly" [1] in any browser;
if it does /not/ render correctly in a particular browser,
then one is perfectly entitled to blame the browser rather
than the document.

 > A browser does not need a doctype to be present to define for it the
 > HTML dialect. So your last sentence could just as well be written,
 > "Even without a doctype, a document can be parsed and converted
 > into meaning and/or rendering".

And ungrammatical utterances can still communicate meaning.
But they usually do so with a marked lack of precision, whence
the need for puncutation words such as "like" and punctuation
phrases such as "you know what I'm saying".  The whole point
is that the meaning/rendering of "an arbitrary mixture of
angle brackets, ampersands, semi-colons and prose" can only be
guessed at;  with a DOCTYPE, it is known.

 > True, SGML tools do need a doctype to do anything with a document.
 > But browsers are not SGML tools.

More's the pity : if they were, I could close the
innermost open nest with </>, rather than needing
to specify which nest it is I intend to close.

 > Anyway, as one of the most active contributors and users of the
 > list, I hope you can appreciate that we all need to be doing more
 > to try to ensure that the list remains useful and focused on
 > helping the working group meet its chartered objectives. And
 > continuing a discussion about this topic (and similar topics that
 > don't contribute to bringing the group any closer to meeting is
 > goals) on public-html seems to me at best to not be helping the
 > work of the group, and perhaps even harming it.

Indeed so, and I hope you noticed my message to Dan supporting
your comment on this.  Dan, however, ruled that the debate was
both in order and productive, so I felt permitted to offer
a point of view.

** Phil.
--------
[1] Where "correctly" is a rather flexible concept.
Received on Saturday, 7 July 2007 06:53:30 GMT

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