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Re: Custom markup

From: <Jukka.Korpela@hut.fi>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 2000 03:09:25 -0400 (EDT)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.4.10.10004130940530.26839-100000@alpha.hut.fi>
On Tue, 11 Apr 2000 JOrendorff@ixl.com wrote:

> In many cases, print documents have typographical conventions
> that reflect some underlying semantic order.  But there is no
> HTML tag for most of this stuff.

I'm afraid the Modern Answer to this is: Use XML! All stand and
praise XML! We're supposed to forget academic ideas about
universal structured markup and join the chorus.

> This "semantic order" often
> has very limited scope:  it only applies to a small range of
> documents, perhaps even a single document.

In several cases yes. But some of the usages you mention are
widespread in their own areas. People's names are quite often bold
in their first occurrences in newspaper columns. Writing scientific
names of species in italics whenever possible is a normative rule
in biology.

> I think some HTML gurus don't like <div> and <span> and the class=
> attribute, because even when they are used with semantic intent
> (e.g. span class="celebrity"), they have no communicative value.
> No one else knows the meaning of my special values for class=.

I couldn't express that idea more clearly. Well, I might throw in
an example:
<span class="mun-ikkari-luokka-ihan-vaan-esimerkin-vuoksi">
(Funnily, despite all the i18n business, it is _still_ common to 
implicitly assume that virtually all people know English and use
English when naming things.)

> Even if I can, with a stylesheet, "teach" the client how to
> present this invented element, I haven't done anything much
> of value, compared to what XML can offer.

XML offers absolutely nothing as regards to semantics, i.e. the
meaning of elements in markup.

> But some stuff is just document-specific no matter how you look at
> it, and a lot of stuff that falls into one of the above categories
> just isn't standardized yet.  How can I deal with all this?

If you ask what you can do with present-day HTML and browsers,
the answer is that the question is off-topic for this list, except
perhaps as an illustrative background: if you can't do it meaningfully
at present, there's a need for improvement in HTML.

If HTML were developed as a structured markup language for the needs
of universal hypertext especially on the WWW, then some of the cases
you mention (like people's names and scientific names of organisms)
would certainly be considered as serious candidates for having
markup elements of their own. And some simple generic extension
mechanisms _within the framework of HTML_ would be considered too,
I suppose. Such as the inclusion of markup for purposes of abstractly
"making a distinction" so that an author could specify, for example,
that some texts belong to a category different from normal text or
some other text, and expect browsers to display the different categories
in _some_ way that makes a distinction (different background color,
different font face, different tone of voice, whatever) by default.
This would help in making distinctions like AM vs. PM times where
the main thing is to make a difference, not to make it in some particular
way. (The example itself is not very good, since the real solution to
time presentation problem is of course to use standardized notations.)

But the current tag set approach ( http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/Activity.html
even uses a heading "Using XHTML with other W3C tag sets", listing
e.g. style sheets as tag sets too!) seems to make any proposals in that
direction an exercise in futility. Unless I've understood things
fundamentally wrong, of course.

Yucca, http://www.hut.fi/u/jkorpela/ or http://yucca.hut.fi/yucca.html
Received on Thursday, 13 April 2000 05:37:55 UTC

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