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RE: Help get math turned back on in Chrome

From: Paul Topping <pault@dessci.com>
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2013 17:26:51 +0000
To: Dave Barton <dbarton@mathscribe.com>, "www-math@w3.org" <www-math@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B6C5B1ABA88AF446821B281774E6DB7107A880@FERMAT.corp.dessci>
I agree with all of this but it prompts me to make some additional points:

While we might feel that we are "at the beginning of mathematics use on the web", such words are not so great when making a campaign for MathML support as they imply that the revolution has yet to happen. It is the kind of thing that people say when they hope something will happen. As I argued earlier in this thread, it has already happened. MathML is in use in many places and is the de facto standard for representing mathematics.

One way this kind of thinking can be used is to remind people that HTML5 is a standard that every browser maker has embraced and it is at the heart of EPUB3 ebook standards. Both of these standards are committed to by various communities and represent decisions that no one is going to go back on. Both standards include MathML. So any browser that doesn't implement it eventually is not going to be fully HTML5-compliant. I mean this in a practical sense, not in the sense that a standards lawyer might mean it. If a browser says that it does HTML5, then that sets up expectations. As evidence, we see that many people thought that when browsers came out with HTML5 support that that automatically included MathML support since the standard implies that. They are a bit surprised to learn that browsers' HTML5 implementations are not yet complete. We should use this in our arguments. Why don't browser makers put effort into adding MathML support since they are committed to doing so and will have to do it eventually?

MathML is an internal technology. Someday the only people that will know the term are programmers. People who work with mathematics on computers will only know see functionality that does the job, not its underlying standards. Right now we have to use the term "MathML" explicitly because it is all we have. But when talking to the communities that stand to benefit from this technology, such as education and accessibility, we should bear in mind that they are not interested in implementing standards but in benefitting from the technologies they enable. Choose your words carefully or risk sounding like a geek trying to push his/her favorite technology.


From: Dave Barton [mailto:dbarton@mathscribe.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2013 6:05 PM
To: www-math@w3.org
Subject: Re: Help get math turned back on in Chrome

On Feb 7, 2013, at 4:39 PM, Paul Topping wrote:

Here are some arguments we can use:

-          HTML5 and EPUB3 are standards that virtually everyone cares about. Both include MathML as THE way to encode math.
-          Half the departments of a typical university use math in their educational content and this is going to increasingly be consumed as HTML5 and EPUB3.
-          MathML is the basis of accessible math standards and education and governments have committed to making content accessible.
-          Most of the big publishing companies that make textbooks and scientific journals are using MathML internally and will be putting it in their content once EPUB3 and HTML5 are well-established.

There are strong arguments to be made but voting by clicking on bugs or telling Google directly won't do it by themselves.

I think these arguments are fantastic. I love this e-mail.

I would add high school courses to the university argument. Online courses are exploding literally geometrically at both levels. We could have a long discussion about the reasons for this (both educational and financial), and the projections, but the numbers are huge. The best estimates I've seen are that fully half of all high school courses in the U.S. may be online by 2019.

What are the projections for tablet sales to students worldwide in the next few years? Do we want their textbooks to just contain text, graphics, and movies, or do we want actual mathematics in them? If we use MathML, we can parse and analyze the mathematics, feeding it into graphing or other scientific visualization software. As Peter Krautzberger points out, we are at the beginning of mathematics use on the web. But we can't get started without a common format and a user interface.

Another way to say this is I'm asking for a requirements analysis phase for MathML (step one of the classic software development life cycle). If Google doesn't think enough customers are clamoring for MathML now, can we both increase that number, and project how much it will grow in the next few years?

Another point is that rendering engines like WebKit are not just inside web browsers, but also e-mail and other programs. We are starting to be able to include formatted mathematics in e-mail, based on MathML. Online tutors want to communicate with students mathematically. Professional scientists and engineers would love to view and create mathematics as well.

All this could literally be had for the price of less than one developer. We just need to make this argument, to the right people I guess.

Cheers, Dave B.
Received on Friday, 8 February 2013 17:27:24 UTC

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