W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > July 1996

Poetry and the Web

From: Paul Prescod <papresco@calum.csclub.uwaterloo.ca>
Date: Tue, 2 Jul 1996 17:10:10 -0400
Message-Id: <1.5.4.32.19960702211010.006ff1f8@csclub.uwaterloo.ca>
To: www-style@w3.org
Charles Peyton Taylor said:

>yeah, yeah, yeah.  You're obviously not the person who is 
>going to have to install all of those plugins.

Do your users really read that much poetry online? If not, don't worry about
it. If so, tell them to use Microsoft Internet Explorer. It is pretty
seamless in the integration of its Active-X components.

Scott E. Preece said:

>So, who made you king of what was appropriate content?  If the
>appropriate content model for HTML is just plain text in common document
>structure, then most of the content of the Web is inappropriate for HTML
>and the domain of HTML interest is the tiny subset of people who have
>common-or-garden documents and aren't sophisticated enough to want
>DocBook or other more detailed markup.
>
>Now that PDF is going native in the major browsers, it may well be a
>better path for most of the content of the Web.  With page-by-page
>serving and tools for indexing and extracting content, I'm not sure I
>see what advantage HTML has anymore, for most authors.  It's too simple
>for people who care about structure and too complicated for people who
>don't.

I can buy that. I think most people with a good feeling for what HTML can
and cannot do would agree. It is unfortunate that so many have bought into
the myth that it can be everything to everybody. I would be happy to see
HTML die in favor of PDF/DocBook/TEILite/Whatever. Somehow, though, I think
we'll all still be here next year fighting off people who want to add the
<C++> tag.

Scott E. Preece also said:

>SPACER is about as innocuous tag as I can imagine.  It can be happily
>ignored by unaware browsers and does nothing to obscure the content from
>tools.  So what's the beef?

It is one more thing to learn, document, code, validate (documents, DTDs,
browsers and other tools), work around, support, teach etc. Every tag has
costs. That is why every language _must_ have limits. As Todd Fahrner said,
the only alternative is Microsoft Life Markup Language. "It solves all of
your problems."

How did I become the arbitrer of what does and doesn't belong in HTML? I'm
not. I just try to use my common sense. Admittedly this becomes harder and
harder with each release of HTML as it becomes a more and more confusing
muddle of structural and presentational markup.

Gayle Kidder said:

>But PDF readers are huge and imperfect machines, not in wide use yet,

Well, they aren't going to become popular if we keep trying to turn HTML
into PDF, will they?

>and the files take humungous amounts of time and bandwidth to download.

Only if they are poorly created. If you create PDF files with the same care
that you do HTML files, they will be just as small. I'll admit, I don't know
if PDF is amicable to that kind of hand-markup, but I know darn well that
LaTeX is. It does a darn good job, too.

>HTML remains the best and simplest method of publishing with wide
>distribution. Surely you're not suggesting that all poets should be
>banned to outer room of PDF?

We're all banned to the outer rooms, Gayle. HTML isn't particularly good at
publishing _anything_ as Scott Preece mentioned above. Poets just happen to
be in a particularly high profile outer room and that's why their needs are
mentioned here. But if you talk to technical documenters who are used to
DocBook,academics who are used to TEI or LaTeX,  or graphic artists used to
PostScript, you'll find that they are _all_ in outer rooms when it comes to
publishing on the web. (have you ever tried to publish a family tree on the
web?)

The solution is not to break HTML. The solution is to fix the web. Standard
Web browsers should be able to show documents in many different formats
without special "plug-ins." Unfortunately so much energy is expended on
expanding HTML endlessly that we have hardly budged in moving towards that
goal. 

 Paul Prescod
Received on Tuesday, 2 July 1996 17:11:41 GMT

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