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Re: How is it possible to devise such a feeble system?

From: Sampo Syreeni <decoy@iki.fi>
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2001 12:27:23 +0300 (EEST)
To: Jesse McCarthy <mccarthy36@earthlink.net>
cc: <www-style@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.SOL.4.30.0110261202490.7771-100000@kruuna.Helsinki.FI>
On Thu, 25 Oct 2001, Jesse McCarthy wrote:

>One moment you're asking where it says "that HTML tables couldn't be
>used for layout purposes", then the next moment, after you read where it
>says that, you tell me "Believe me, I've read this"?  Can you say
>in-con-gru-i-ty?  Let's not forget, you're the one who brought up WAI in
>the first place.

No. What I said is WAI is the only instance to formally state that tables
used for layout are bad. Hence, WAI did not come out of the "clear blue
sky", but is an unstated reference whenever anybody raves about how bad
tables are.

Knowing WAI is important in another respect, as well: if you haven't read
their material, you won't really understand why table based layout
actually *is* so bad. If you think about the accessibility reasoning
behind the rule, you'll see that it mostly applies to HTML tables, and not
the CSS ones.

>CSS 2 became a recommendation in May 1998, well before the XHTML Table
>module existed, as the specification which that belongs to didn't become
>a recommendation until three years later in April 2001.  The first
>working draft wasn't even published until April 1999, so the developers
>of the CSS 2 spec knew nothing of that.

How is that relevant, here? We know that cross-DTD inclusion/extension is
what the Namespaces spec was built to solve. Tables are a primary example.
CSS developers certainly didn't have namespaces at their disposal, but
rather Namespaces solves a problem CSS designers couldn't have solved
earlier -- how to elegantly mark up table data.

>The bottom line is the properties we are talking about were _only_
>intended to be used to establish table functionality in document
>languages that do not have predefined table elements, and now that the
>XHTML Table module exists, they would only be intended to be used in
>non-XML document languages that do not have predefined table elements.

In that case the table properties should be augmented to allow for
layout-only tables, in CSS3. The reasoning: people want to do two
dimensional layout, tables make it possible, the current table properties
cannot be used for the purpose, and after accessibility features are taken
care of in the document language, there is nothing wrong with doing 2D,
itself. Want to take that up?

>Furthermore, according to W3, these CSS table related properties DO by
>definition assign "actual table semantics to XML":
>"The following 'display' values assign table semantics to an arbitrary
>element:" table, inline-table, table-row, table-row-group,
>table-header-group, table- footer-group, table-column,
>table-column-group, table-cell, table-caption.

Not necessarily. This is text from the CSS specification, and so it can be
read to mean that we're simply talking about making something look like a
table. If it is indeed meant that whatever is marked display:table is
strictly equivalent to an HTML table, why are not spans, heading scopes,
table summaries and the like included?

>The moral of the story, for you, is "a hack is a hack is a hack".
>Don't let your supposed cleverness get the better of your judgement.

I'd venture to say that if your interpretation of the standard is the
right one, you're absolutely right. "A hack is a hack is a hack". CSS,
that is. CSS's stated goal is to be a style language. If it is actually
meant to assign semantics to XML, it can only do so in a very limited
fashion and is woefully inadequate in many respects (e.g. you cannot mark
abbreviations, links, metadata, text language, document structure and so
on, ad nauseam). That would make it irregular, inelegant and kludgy.
OTOH, if you view CSS purely as a layout mechanism, the current spec seems
quite alright. Take your pick.

Sampo Syreeni, aka decoy - mailto:decoy@iki.fi, tel:+358-50-5756111
student/math+cs/helsinki university, http://www.iki.fi/~decoy/front
openpgp: 050985C2/025E D175 ABE5 027C 9494 EEB0 E090 8BA9 0509 85C2
Received on Friday, 26 October 2001 05:27:30 UTC

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