W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-math@w3.org > March 2006

RE: Formal query about WG role and MathML-FAQ

From: Robert Miner <robertm@dessci.com>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 11:28:05 -0800
Message-ID: <D1EFB337111B674B8F1BE155B01C6DD6C7E151@franklin.corp.dessci>
To: <juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com>, <www-math@w3.org>


I'd like to make a couple of points. 

First, it seems to me that you perhaps don't give proper emphasis to the
fact that the W3C is a consortium of member organizations. Thus, your
insistence on "official" answers is somewhat misplaced.  It doesn't
really make sense at a certain level.  If Canonical Science were to
become a member organization, then there is a well-defined process for
raising concerns and blocking certain procedural actions if they aren't.
However, since you aren't a representative of a member organization (is
this correct?) then you have no official standing. 

Of course, you are a potential customer/critic/consumer of the products
and services provided by member organizations, such as my own company
Design Science.  And further, W3C does try to provide a forumn for the
community as a whole. So it is entirely approriate for you to post your
ideas and criticisms to the www-math list. I don't mean to discourage
that at all. 

However, as I have observed again and again during the decade I've
devoted myself to the issues of electronic mathematical communication,
the principle challenges are not technical, but political. MathML is not
the way it is exclusively because of language design considerations --
it is the way it is because it was the politically feasible compromise
between the many conflicting interests of the consortium members that
had a stake is standardizing a markup for math notation.  Similarly, you
can rest assured that no one in the Math group is happy about the
fragmented and generally unsatisfactory level of support for MathML in
browsers. But the challenge is to muster the resources necessary to
affect change. Believe it or not, the providers of software such as
Safari, Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer haven't been inclined to
make math support their first priority. 

If you want people to comment on your proposals and ultimately use the
input language you devise, your challenge is to convince them it is a
good idea, that you will find a way to make good tool support widely
available, and that you won't just take of lot of valuable time from
busy people only to become yet another guy who has strong views on how
math notation should be coded but whose project ultimately produces
little. There have been a lot of such people over the years and thus I
am wary. Speaking personally, irate hectoring on public mailing lists
isn't the most effective way to pursuade me to take an interest in your

>From what I've seen so far, I'd say your ideas on authoring have a
reasonable chance for meeting the needs of a certain group of people.
But in general, my view is that most of the potential authors of
mathematical content that want to author by hand in a text editor would
rather just use a TeX family language. You might win some supporters
from that group, but you are competing with more established
alternatives like ASCIIMathML and others that have already developed and
deployed working software. By far the larger group of potential authors
of math on the web prefer simpler, graphical authoring tools, which is
part of the reason that most commercial software development has focused
on that group.


Robert Miner
Director, New Product Development
W3C Math Interest Group co-chair

- our address has changed -
Design Science, Inc.
140 Pine Avenue, 4th Floor
Long Beach, California  90802
Tel:  (651) 223-2883
Fax:  (651) 292-0014
~ Makers of MathType, MathFlow, MathPlayer, WebEQ, Equation Editor,
TexAide ~


> -----Original Message-----
> From: www-math-request@w3.org 
> [mailto:www-math-request@w3.org] On Behalf Of 
> juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com
> Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:38 PM
> To: www-math@w3.org
> Subject: Re: Formal query about WG role and MathML-FAQ
> Bruce Miller said:
> >
> > juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com wrote:
> > >
> > > I think I have detected some confusion in a topic I 
> consider of maximum
> > > importance. For that reason, I would remark the two 
> obvious (related but
> > > independent) points of the CanonMath research are being 
> mixed by others:
> > >
> > > 1) the need for going beyond usual available tools (TeX, MathML,
> > > ASCIIMath, etc.) simply because they fail to provide 
> solutions to some
> > > real life problems.
> >
> > "the need" => _your_ need;
> > Many people are happy with the above.
> > Others are content to extend TeX, ASCIIMath, whatever to solve thier
> > real life problems. And yet others construct other tools to 
> solve thiers.
> >
> I think that both logic and scope of above statements are not correct.
> The "=>" appears to be incorrect.
> That MathML is not designed to be authored by hand is well-known.
> Therefore, one can use either full applications -which are 
> limited- or an
> input syntax. The own Math WG recognizes the need for input 
> syntaxes on
> the official w3c MathML FAQ.
> Ok, then what input syntax?
> TeX one? That works in some cases, but does not work for 
> others. Then just
> a mathematician (Peter) developed ASCIIMath, which works in 
> some cases but
> does not work in others. Both TeX and ASCIIMath are 
> incomplete and therein
> the need for the use of both for specific niches. A double 
> approach cannot
> be thought to be a final solution even ignoring other 
> scientific fields
> where both do not work: TeX/LaTeX is little used in chemistry, for
> example.
> The need for a new syntax for mathematics is also discussed by Robert
> Mayans, in a recent work that I already cited here.
> Therefore, the investigation I am doing only can provide 
> benefits (even if
> I fail, that can be taken for learn useful lessons from my 
> errors) for all
> mathematical/scientific/educative community.
> Final language will be initially used by the canonical 
> science community
> but, as I already said, language and tools will be openly available to
> anyone.
> Therefore I would encourage that "the need" => the need;
> > As has been said here repeatedly, if the available methods 
> don't solve
> your needs,
> > nobody is "forcing" you to use them.  You are more than welcome to
> > develop your own solution.
> >
> This has never been the question.
> The former (and important) question was: there is a problem, 
> how can we
> solve? Here some of my ideas; what you think?
> A related question was: The MathML FAQ "promises" assistance 
> from the WG
> to develop input syntaxes for MathML; I am doing one, why did 
> my mails and
> posts receive zero replies?
> > > 2) the final implementation of the notation/syntax 
> chosen. For example,
> > >
> > > <CanonMath>a <fraction/> b</CanonMath>
> > > <CanonMath>a  &fraction; b</CanonMath>
> > > <CanonMath>a \fraction b</CanonMath>
> > > <CanonMath>a \fraction b</CanonMath>
> > > <CanonMath>a <fract/> b</CanonMath>
> > > <CanonMath>a <f/> b</CanonMath>
> > > ...
> >
> > You don't need pages and pages of straw-men to convince 
> this forum that,
> > at _some_ level of abstraction, these are all equivalent; 
> pretty obvious.
> > (BTW: Using HTML as an example of semantic markup doesn't 
> buy too much
> > credibility here)
> >
> > However, you seem to be ignoring _practical_ issues;
> > the above expressions _are_ different from DOM and XPath 
> points of view.
> I am obtaining lot of problems for understanding several of 
> your positions
> and replies. I have submitted here some examples of XSLT templates for
> some tree transformations I have in my mind. For example, I 
> have studied
> transformations of kind
> <mathematics>a \fraction b</mathematics>
> to
> <math display="block" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">
> 	<mi>a</mi>
> 	<fraction/>
> 	<mi>b</mi>
> </math>
> for example, via the next XSLT template
> <xsl:template name="ReplaceTeXt">
> 	<xsl:param name="string"/>
> 	<xsl:param name="command"/>
> 	<xsl:param name="TagName"/>
> 	<xsl:choose>
> 		<xsl:when test="contains($string,$command)">
> 			<math 
> xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML" display="block">
> 			<mi><xsl:value-of 
> select="substring-before($string,$command)"/></mi>
> 			<fraction/>
> 			<mi><xsl:value-of 
> select="substring-after($string,$command)"/></mi>
> 			</math>
> 		</xsl:when>
> 		<xsl:otherwise>
> 			<xsl:value-of select="$string"/>
> 		</xsl:otherwise>
> 	</xsl:choose>
> </xsl:template>
> <xsl:template match="mathematics">
> 	<xsl:call-template name="ReplaceTeXt">
> 		<xsl:with-param name="string" select="text()"/>
> 		<xsl:with-param name="command" select="'\fraction'"/>
> 		<xsl:with-param name="TagName" select="'fraction'"/>
> 	</xsl:call-template>
> </xsl:template>
> How could I write those templates using XPath for matching 
> without knowing
> the XML-tree of document I am transforming? How can you 
> suggest that I am
> ignoring trees are different? This just perplexes me!
> > I also haven't seen you address grouping and precedence issues, for
> example.
> > I would helpfully and respectfully suggest that you actually
> > _implement_ a parser to make these issues more clear.
> > It should be a parser complete enough to parse non-trivial math
> > expressions --- using whatever markup you choose ---
> > rather than just a fragment that substitutes <sup/> for ^.
> >
> Again, I feel unable to decipher this.
> First)
> The Canonical Science Today entry
> [http://canonicalscience.blogspot.com/2006/02/choosing-notatio
> and my postings here were about
> "Choosing a notation/syntax for CanonMath"
> not about what is the best language/script/etc for this 
> transformation.
> Second)
> a) I already explained here my philosophy about the role of 
> computational
> technologies.
> b) It is a waste of time to write a parser without fixing first the
> markup. The parser for a totally textual markup is deferent 
> from one for a
> markup based in XML tags. Begin to write a kind of parser 
> just for just
> after change it if the markup changes appears to be not a 
> very intelligent
> attitude.
> Third)
> Some like
> <myMarkup>
> <mi>a</mi><fraction/><mi>b</mi>
> </ myMarkup>
> can be transformed to
> <math display="block" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML">
> <mfract><mi>a</mi><mi>b</mi></mfract>
> </math>
> via silibing axes in XPath. The logic is as follow
> match fraction, then write a mfract tag with first child the 
> 1st silibing
> before and second child the 1st silibing after (because orientation of
> axes is inverted in XPath). Anyway, details are highly dependant of
> language and version used. For example is not the same work 
> with XSLT 2.0
> that with XSLT 1.0.
> A big difficulty I see now about the use of XSLT is the 
> grouping via { and
> } since a simple substitution of characters cannot work due to
> XML-completeness of the XSLT. But probably it would be solved 
> via a double
> substitution template.
> > With that suggestion, I've exhausted my constructiveness 
> and interest
> > --- and indeed patience.  Please do not consider the lack of further
> > responses as "ignoring you".
> >
> Thanks by your patient with someone so foolish as I can be 
> sometimes and
> excuse me if sometimes I was unable to understand your replies.
> Let me repeat again that the point was neither lack of reply 
> nor "ignoring
> you". The question -very different you are delineating- was that the
> official MathML FAQ
> [http://www.w3.org/Math/mathml-faq.html]
> states that WG will provide technical advice to anyone 
> developing input
> sintaxes for MathML. I am one of those, and let me repeat 
> again that both
> my successive mails and my first posting here was not ***formally***
> replied.
> As I already said before, a reply such as "Sorry we have no 
> time for your
> program" (or no time...) (or no interest...) is very different from no
> reply at all, specially when one does an ***official*** request for
> assistance after reading the official MathML FAQ:
> "The WG will provide technical advice to all those who are 
> involved in the
> development of input syntaxes for MathML-aware tools."
> I was not asking MathML people as individuals, I was asking them as
> members of the official WG, which refer above FAQ entry. 
> Anyone would be
> aware of the difference...
> > --
> > bruce.miller@nist.gov
> > http://math.nist.gov/~BMiller/
> Juan R.
Received on Thursday, 16 March 2006 19:28:31 UTC

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