W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > January 2000

Re: Why DOCTYPE Declarations for XHTML?

From: Arjun Ray <aray@q2.net>
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 23:59:40 -0500 (EST)
To: www-html <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.10001162159030.2094-100000@mail.q2.net>

On Sun, 16 Jan 2000, Murray Altheim wrote:
> Arjun Ray wrote:

> [...] being strictly accurate is here not so important as explaining
> things in straightforward enough terms that everyone (and I mean
> everyone reading and/or implementing software to our specs) can
> understand it. So if we've failed, it's in our attempt to simplify. 

OK, then I'll take this as a simplifying (new) definition, overriding the
(previously known) distinction between entity references and character

: entity reference
:   a mnemonic or numeric string used as a reference to the content of a
:   declared entity (eg., "&amp;" for "&", "&#60;" for "<", "&copy;" for
:   "".)

(Because, as you say, why "&#60;" is not an entity reference is lost in
the SGML clouds, and if the simplification is to have any point, it should
actively help to read, understand and inplement this way.)

> > Summary: "specifies a definition", not "declares the type".  Yet, the
> > mythology simply refuses to die that somehow a *document type* is being
> > "declared".  

> [...] the level of discernment you're attempting (as was Eliot) to
> bring to this discussion is lost on most people.

I disagree.  On the contrary, I think a lot of people have at least an
intuitive feel for the underlying issue.  The trouble is in articulating
it, and it can't help to use the wrong terms or to draw poor conclusions
from misleading usage in "official" documents.

> People understand the concept of a "document type" defined by a DTD,

I disagree again.  If anything, they're trying to avoid the conflation,
except the spec is encouraging it.  In reality, people want (to declare)
the document type semantically.  It so happens that there is no standard
way to do this in SGML/XML.  An application convention - honestly marked
as such - is the best one can do.

> and the simplifications being made in our specifications are our best
> attempt to define conformance for our target audience.

"Time will tell":)

> we're doing very simple: we're defining a named canonical set of markup
> declarations (which by *convention* is called a DTD) and defining 
> conformance by way of requiring that conformant instances declare and
> validate according to those specific sets of markup declarations.

I hope you realize that with things like the "If present" caveat I
questioned, and the repeated (deliberate?) use of 'document type' where
'DTD' would have been correct, this was not obvious?
> As for the 'mythology' of DTDs and document types, sorry, but the 
> convention is useful and I for one will continue to use it regardless
> of the strict technical accuracy as according to ISO 8879:1986. 

Is it too much to ask that the specs (say, the Modularization document)
provide for the definition of a FPI with public text class NOTATION to
identify the "abstract document type"?  (E.g. in the "Naming Rules"
section, something like how replacing 'DTD' with 'NOTATION' should be
taken as the "official" definition?)

Received on Sunday, 16 January 2000 23:56:57 UTC

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