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Re: Against 'start' and 'value' attributes

From: Etan Wexler <ewexler@stickdog.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2003 05:33:42 -0800
To: Daniel Glazman <glazman@netscape.com>, www-html@w3.org
Message-id: <BA91D157.4C2%ewexler@stickdog.com>

Daniel Glazman wrote to <mailto:www-html@w3.org> on 10 March 2003 in "Re:
Against 'start' and 'value' attributes"

> If I receive a text with questions numbered 1 to 6 in a list
> and only have answers to 2 to 4, I may want to start a list with start="2".

Sure, I agree that one may want to start a list at a number other than 1.
What I don't agree is that a 'start' attribute is a good solution. What if
you have only answers to 2, 4, and 5? With a simplistic 'start' attribute,
you cannot express the correct information. An element of a list-marker type
accomodates both this case and many more with facility. Consider:

 <li><marker>2.</marker> ...</li>
 <li><marker>4.</marker> ...</li>
 <li><marker>5.</marker> ...</li>

Non-numeric labels are just as easy to handle:

 <li><marker>*</marker> ...</li>
 <li><marker>&#x2020;</marker> <!--dagger-->...</li>
 <li><marker>&#x203B;</marker> <!--reference mark--> ...</li>

> Not all instances of lists with a start index > 1 are continuing lists.

I'm glad that you raised this point. I had failed to consider it. But now,
having considered it, I remain at my original position. I do not think that
a 'start' attribute is the solution, as noted above.

> The "let's do that with CSS" answer is not more satisfying. The fact
> that the list's numbering starts at 2 instead of 1 is not purely
> presentational but also content-related.

I half agree. Numbering becomes an essential part of content in cases where
hypertext does not apply. Printed documents like legal briefs are prime
examples. And, without a doubt, people will use XHTML 2 to comment on
print-only documents. Numbering therefore remains a real concern.

What I must emphasize, though, is that reference by number (or other mark)
is a leftover of non-hyper text. In a pure hypertext, reference would be by
links. If, in your example, links connected each answer to the corresponding
question, a user agent could follow the links and present the corresponding
list item markers with your answers.

In pure hypertext, numbering typically is presentational. The
machine-readable link forms the stable basis of the reference mechanism
available to the user. The particular numbers used as labels become
unimportant; even if the numbers change in the original, the change
propagates effortlessly through all affected documents.
Received on Monday, 10 March 2003 08:33:50 GMT

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