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political strategy for MathML

From: William F. Hammond <hammond@csc.albany.edu>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 11:10:21 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <199910281510.LAA07636@hilbert.math.albany.edu>
To: www-math@w3.org
David Carlisle writes, quoting Hugh Devlin:

> > I don't know if you guys are working on a new rev of the dtd's 
> Yes, we are (there is a charter to produce a revised MathMl 2 spec early
> next year)
> So if MathML is to be embedded into a larger document type for
> controlling the rest of the document (xhtml, docbook, Kluwer Journal
> DTD, ...) then it can not have `variants' of the ISO declarations
> all parts of the document have to be using the same definitions for the
> ISO entity names.

MathML is much more granular than either xhtml or docbook, both of
which *can* be edited by hand.  While I have nearly ended my period
of editing html by hand, I doubt if hand-editing of docbook is about
to disappear.

I find this lack of parllelism bothersome in the case of docbook even
though it is not a formal problem.  (Of course, there is a way of
viewing things so that those who create docbook docs spin them out
from personal or house document types.)

Would, for example, anyone care to show us something that is a
reasonable editing interface (aside from CAS GUI authoring systems)
for docbook+ezmath or something similar just to boost our confidence
in the idea of docbook+mathml?

If it comes down to the situation that the only way MathML will ever
be created in the real world is with CAS output, then I wonder at what
time it becomes credible that mass market pc's will be delivered
having browsers that handle MathML out of the box?

(In fact, on a mass market pc purchased here at the University a few
months ago, I find a native browser that apparently thinks a document
served through http as "text/plain", but with a uri ending in ".sgml",
should be handled as "text/html" with unknown tags and their recursive
contents ignored.)

Until out of the box pc's have browsers that handle MathML, a teacher
in the U.S. will not be able to assume that a significant fraction of
his or her students have easy access to online documents with MathML.
So why bother making them?  It seems better for now to use TeX-like or
CAS-like notation inside ordinary HTML.

An issue from the very beginning in 1995 (when the draft for HTML 3.0
was dropped by W3C) for the HTML Math WG has been access to math for
the widest audience.  Remember that by mid 1993 one could deliver dvi's
across the network either with http/html or with gopher+, and the only
problem was that there was no distribution of dvi viewing systems.

Even today I believe that only a third of my students have easy
access to online pdf.

It has been a long time.

With my personal production system, still under development, involving
a LaTeX-like SGML application that admits down-translation to an
essentially equivalent XML application, I would need to add symbol
declarations, something that is not at all like present LaTeX, in
order to think about translating rigorously to (xhtml|docbook|tei)
+mathml.  This would be a large undertaking on which I would want
help.  That said, it is also unclear to me at this point whether it
would eventually be the best route through the formatting object
language (still a moving target, I believe) to a mass-market browser
screen formatting.  If it is not the optimal such route, then the only
reason to provide translation to MathML might be for enabling CAS
input clipped from an online document.  Do the CAS folk have any
thoughts about this?

                                    -- Bill
Received on Thursday, 28 October 1999 11:10:27 UTC

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