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Re: "Presentational" vs. "Legacy"

From: Jonny Axelsson <jonny@metastasis.net>
Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2000 22:55:24 +0200
Message-Id: <3.0.6.32.20000403225524.007bbda0@mail.linpro.no>
To: <www-html@w3.org>
At 20:05 03.04.00 +0200, Jan Roland Eriksson wrote:
>Ok, I have read your archived post, and at the risk of "beating an
>already dead animal" here, I have a different view...

These are some basic tenents of mine:
1. There are relatively clear typographical rules for when to use I[TALIC]
(in languages using italic)
2. There are fewer and more inconsistent typographical rules for bold
3. Underline is primarily "poor man's italic" (from the age of the
typewriter), but is also used for special effects (like hypertext)
4. STRONG is made by false analogy with B[OLD]
5. Not every text document in the future will (necessarily) be XML,
certainly most current documents are not XML

I'll use these statements too in my arguments:
A. Syntactically there is no difference between B, EM, Q, ACRONYM, SUB.
They have the same content model.
B. It is important to discern between representation and presentation. EM
/represent/ an emphasis, it might be /presented/ using an italic font, or
by having "/" on each side of the content.
C. Non-HTML documents are semi-structured (as are HTML/XML documents).
D. People are inconsistent coders. No matter how structured XML becomes,
you can't avoid this.
E. Automated translations to/from XML is desirable, and so is minimization
of information loss in the process.

>Humans have 5 senses, but so far I have not seen any technical devices
>that would let me "smell" or "taste" my way through a www document, so
>that leaves us with three than can be (and are) used.

>Frankly I don't know exactly what an "italic voice" or a "bold voice"
>sounds like, but I do know about an "emphasized voice" as well as a
>"strong voice".

Catering for the senses is a presentational issue [AB]. It is exactly as
easy to present I as EM in any medium [A]. But does EM represent the same
as I and STRONG the same as B, ie. are they only "politically correct"
aliases? I would say no, and if they were, one of these pairs should be
removed from the standard as redundant. I is used to represent a half-dozen
meanings [1], one of which is emphasis. Another one (in Norwegian) is that
ship names should be in italic. So if you see "M/S Titanic" in italic, you
can't tell if that is because it is emphasised or just because it is a
ship. For this reason you might want to skip I all together for this lack
of precision, but an better approach is to use EM when appropriate, I
otherwise. Even the catch-all is useful, and often at the limit of what
authors can handle (if they don't understand when to use italic, they won't
understand how to use any other markup) [1CD]. As for aural presentation,
try pause before both I and EM, with a little more stress using EM than I.
Also, this avoids confusion between a "titanic iceberg" (like the 200 km x
60 km monster recently released from Antartica) and the iceberg that sunk
Titanic.


>I just feel that in markup we would all benefit from using element names
>that makes sense for more than just those who can read things from paper
>or a VDU.

This I agree with. "Bold" and "Italic" is unfortunate when the presentation
isn't bold or italic (as in aural style sheets, or when that isn't the
preferred/possible presentation, most cell phones can't show italic). Then
again (this is a cop-out) the elements aren't "BOLD" and "ITALIC", they are
"B" and "I", and anyway that they are called bold and italic doesn't make
it harder to use in non-visual context.

>And relying on stylesheets (as in 'EM EM {...}' to replace STRONG) is
>not the way to go. Stylesheets are _optional_ and a correct and
>understandable presentation shall be possible without them.

Apart from [B], this is an opportunity to explain [4]. First, on the
presentational side, stylesheets (CSS, XSL, whatever) are the /only/ way to
present an XML document. As for EM EM, in ordinary written text, italic is
a toggle switch, italic inside italic (<i>...<i>text</i>...</i>) is
presented as normal, you cannot present doubly italicized text as doubly
italicized, but you can represent it that way. I would personally represent
EM EM the same way as EM in a visual (and probably any other) browser, but
representionally there is a difference. But a presentational short-coming
is no reason to add a representional kluge (STRONG).

>Those who are thinking of publishing "well formed only" xml docs on the
>www may want to contemplate a bit about that, before they go ahead.
>There's no guarantee that every user agent out there will be stylesheet
>capable. I know at least one right now that is not, it's called
>AltaVista IMMIC :)

You can do dangerous things with CSS, like thoughtless use of the content
property or positioning. But in my opinion EM EM is cleaner coding than
STRONG (then, in my opinion, EM is cleaner than EM EM, there is really no
need for either EM EM or STRONG).

>Basically, on the www, the "meaning" of element content in a document
>shall not be carried in a "required" stylesheet presentation suggestion,
>it's as simple as that.

If there is no rough consensus for how an element should be used, at least
locally, nothing you can do will make the element useful. [D]


Finally there is HTML/XML in a greater context. I have done many
translations to HTML and a few translation from HTML. You cannot map from
word processor italic to EM, but you can map to I, and an italic -> I ->
italic translation is non-lossy. EM -> italic is lossy, but automatic,
while italic -> EM is manual (and time consuming). [5CDE]
Received on Monday, 3 April 2000 17:01:03 GMT

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