Re: More thoughts

Kee Hinckley (nazgul@wraith.utopia.com)
Mon, 31 Oct 94 11:53:47 EST


Date: Mon, 31 Oct 94 11:53:47 EST
From: nazgul@wraith.utopia.com (Kee Hinckley)
Message-Id: <9410311653.AA09067@utopia.utopia.com.utopia.com>
To: www-html@www0.cern.ch
Subject: Re: More thoughts

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From: nazgul@wraith.utopia.com (Kee Hinckley)
Message-Id: <9410281818.AA06374@utopia.utopia.com.utopia.com>
To: www-html@www0.cern.ch
Subject: Re: More thoughts

I have seen a number of people say things like:

> it's presumptuous for the provider to dictate the details of page
> layout to the consumer.

or

> I think some of the demands for precise layout is a bit of a holdover from
> when information providers were -required- to make all of the layout 
> decisions (e.g., hardcopy).  The Web is a different medium where the consumer

And people keep mentioning dumb terminal browsers.

A few assertions:
    o If dumb terminals were important to the commercial success of the
      internet, the internet would have been a commercial success a long
      time ago.  (I know, there are other factors, but frankly, the 
      future is not in dumb terminals.)

    o Even if they are important, that doesn't mean that you need to
      design *for* them, just that you need to make sure that the
      information presented can be displayed somehow.  Saying we
      can't do fonts because of dumb terminals is like saying we
      can't do images because of dumb terminals. 

      There are tools out there that strip a postscript file down
      to bare text that you can read.  Not pretty, but it does
      contain the information.

      Or does it?  Which leads to:

    o Information and presentation are not as separable as people
      seem to be asserting.  Let me quote from Terry Swack, a Boston-
      based designer:

	If knowledge is information in a context, then content and form
	cannot exist without one another. Information that is all content
	is equally as uncommunicative is that which is all form. This
	loss of differentiation must not be discounted. If design is not
	integrated with the development of technology, there will be no
	catching up. We will have created for ourselves a world of useless
	content.

	(http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/jaroslav/credits.html or go to
	 the root at http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/jaroslav/Convergence.html)

    o Precise layout demands are *not* a holdover from the days of print,
      they are a part of the common desire to use layout to present 
      information, and to use layout to create an esthetically pleasing
      appearance.  Designing a system that cannot provide a high level
      of graphical control in this day and age is going to result in a
      system that will die out of use.  Here, I'll make a prediction and
      you can come and kick me and five years and tell me I was wrong.

	If HTML doesn't provide a higher level of presentation capabilities
	then the market for the Web will either die, or a replacement
	language, including the hot-link capabilities, will become the
	primary mechanism and HTML will become have only a secondary role
	in the commercial use of the Web.

      Finally.
    
    o People keeping saying asserting that the user should have control
      of fonts, they should have control of layout, they should....
      Just *who* are you designing systems for?  If you are designing
      sytems for people just like yourself, then you are absolutely
      right.  I used to work at a workstation company that designed
      systems for people just like themselves.  When workstations started
      appealing to a broader market, they got swallowed up.

      Fundamentally we have a conflict here.  There is a large group of
      people who are putting their salaries, career and families on the
      line betting that the internet, which they have been using all these
      years, is now commercially viable to a much larger audience.  And
      there are another group who are still looking at it from a much
      purer academic viewpoint.  Both groups need to co-exist, both have
      something to offer each other.  But throwing around words like
      "must not", and "should never" isn't going to get us anywhere.  As
      the folks at Mosaic Comm have shown us, whether for right or wrong,
      the future is no longer in any one group's control.