W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > June 2005

Re: separator abuse

From: Christoph Päper <christoph.paeper@tu-clausthal.de>
Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2005 01:26:35 +0200
Message-ID: <42A62D2B.6050303@tu-clausthal.de>
To: Orion Adrian <orion.adrian@gmail.com>
CC: www-html@w3.org

Orion Adrian:
> On 6/1/05, Christoph Päper <christoph.paeper@tu-clausthal.de> wrote:
>> Orion Adrian:
>> We don't want to say: "Stop the ocean waves sound¹ at 'separator' and
>> start with the birds' singing²," but: "Play the ocean waves sound for
>> the first part and the birds' singing for the second."
> And how, praytell, do you expect to determine where the viewer is
> reading at the time? If this is an aural reader I don't think playing
> sound would be very popular.

I was thinking about an audio book, which (sometimes) do have 
background/ambient sounds.

> I cannot stress this enough. The usage of separator doesn't
> necessarily comply with any sort of regular organization.

That's why I'm against its inclusion into XHTML.

> It's content, not structure, and as such could have a near infininte
> number of reasons for use. Content cannot be regulated as its usage
> changes from generation to generation.

Content should not be inserted by (empty) elements. Maybe use entity 
references instead. I'd be fine (read: "would not care about") with 
'&separator;'. However, I don't think the WG thinks 'separator' was 
content but structural.

> Organization however tends to be similar from generationto generation
> which means one set of markup can cover most organizational structures
> for documents throughout the ages.

Exactly. The alledged use cases for 'separator' (PoV, timeline, 
elsewhere, ...) are structural and thus require structural mark-up and 
not an empty element that gets replaced by some other content.

> If there is an aspect of the
> document that is regular that can be addressed in such a way, a <div>
> with an appropriate class attribute should suffice,


> but that use case
> is much rarer than the use case for a generic <separator /> element.

I have yet to see such a use case, where 'separator' was appropriate, 
but not grouping elements. Even if I did, I would still have to be 
convinced that such rare cases demand their own XHTML element type, 
whereas much more common structures don't have one.

> Even if no one ever used a separator (e.g. ~~~) ever again there would
> still be a huge number of documents that would require it.

IMHO it's a question of PoV: Do you rather describe a border as a 
one-dimensional object (line) or as the common boundary of two (or more) 
two-dimensional objects (areas)? HTML is more about the latter.

> Why separators are used where they are used cannot necessarily be
> known. Since they cannot be represented by a concrete set of words, we
> can only guess at why there were used where they were used. It is also
> not the place of the W3C to dictate how content is written, simply how
> it is marked up. No one should be suggesting the removal of the
> authors ability to simply place a separator where they think it's
> appropriate.
> Authors often don't know why they write what they write, so asking
> them to determine why they placed the three tildes isn't particularly
> an easy thing to ask of them.

You have just questioned the whole point of mark-up. We must assume that 
the mark-up author knows and understands the structure of any given 

Christoph Päper
Received on Tuesday, 7 June 2005 23:26:44 UTC

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