W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > October 2002

Re: OL needs the start attribute

From: Sampo Syreeni <decoy@iki.fi>
Date: Sat, 19 Oct 2002 19:58:32 +0300 (EEST)
To: fantasai <fantasai@escape.com>
cc: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.4.30.0210191930580.15729-100000@kruuna.Helsinki.FI>

On 2002-10-18, fantasai uttered to www-html@w3.org:

>Whether numbering is pure presentational or not, it is impractical to
>rely on stylesheets when there are references to list items in running
>text. It can be done (XRef in DocBook has similar requirements), but I
>think that this would be too complex for XHTML.

If people are ready to code the labels separately in order to get the
precise appearance they want, they should be ready to use normal links. I
mean, it isn't that difficult to saddle the item with an id and just link
to it. If you then apply the normal online style guidelines, you wouldn't
be using a number, anyway, but descriptive text.

Folks should understand that the Web isn't electronic paper, and that it
imposes its own (very reasonable) constraints on what can be expressed and
how. Dispensing with precise list numberings is one such constraint when
it's more important to express order. If that doesn't do the trick, we're
obviously dealing with something where presentation *is* part of the
content, in which case people are better off just using PDF.

Besides, your precise argument can be made against each and every
accessibility feature in HTML. Putting in alt attributes is a similar
irritation to those who'd rather just use table based layout with lots of
cool graphics. Carried out to its logical conclusion the argument implies
that we should simply do away with semantic markup and give people the
tagsoup they know and love.

>The number is a label for the list item. Labels are content.

In that case they should be encoded instead of inferred. But we already
have a list which can do that. Why mess up OL's with such detail?

>Witness how the correspondance between two identical documents breaks
>down when the numbering doesn't match up: a reference to a numbered item
>becomes instance-specific.

Yes, but only if we forgo HTML's raison d'etre, linking. This is just
another reason why one should never refer to list items by number in HTML
-- automatic numbering wasn't guaranteed to remain consistent in the first
place. Once again, what you see is not what you get, and referring to list
items by number seems like an accessibility error on par with "click here"
Sampo Syreeni, aka decoy - mailto:decoy@iki.fi, tel:+358-50-5756111
student/math+cs/helsinki university, http://www.iki.fi/~decoy/front
openpgp: 050985C2/025E D175 ABE5 027C 9494 EEB0 E090 8BA9 0509 85C2
Received on Saturday, 19 October 2002 12:58:39 UTC

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