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Re: [VE][108] Error Message Feedback

From: Jukka K. Korpela <jkorpela@cs.tut.fi>
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 04:36:01 +0300 (EEST)
To: www-validator@w3.org
Cc: Josh Greenberg <josh@developedweb.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.GSO.4.58.0406120411070.20070@korppi.cs.tut.fi>

On Fri, 11 Jun 2004, Josh Greenberg wrote:

> The W3C HTML validator did not recognize tag attributes that were in
> lowercase as opposed to uppercase.  It said there was no attibute "VALUE"
> (but "value" was present), and it did the same for LEFTMARGIN, TOPMARGIN,
> and other values.

You have misunderstood the message. I think this is fairly common, and the
error message might need some adjustment. What the message is meant to say
is that there is no attribute such-and-such _defined in the DTD you
specified_, but people very often read this as if it said that the
validator complains that there is attribute such-and-such in the
_document_.

So this is really a 180 degrees misunderstanding: the validator tries to
say that the attribute is not permitted, but its user thinks that it is
saying that it is required - or, more often, that the validator is
claiming that there is no such-and-such attribute in the document when
there clearly is!

The current explanation to the message begins with the following:

"You have used the attribute named above in your document, but the
document type you are using does not support that attribute for this
element."

which is fine, and explains the situation (though I would say "allow"
instead of "support" - DTDs allow things, browsers may support them).

Since the error message itself is of great importance, and people often
miss the helpful explanations, I would suggest a rewording. For example,
instead of
  there is no attribute "..."
it could say
  document type does not allow attribute "..." here

By the way, the default Subject of the messages sent by using the
validator's links related to the error messages seems to have changed so
that it does not any more speak about error message suggestions. I think
"Error Message Feedback" is a considerable improvement (though I would say
"Error message feedback", since capitalization is not common in E-mail
Subject lines). However, I would like to note that the title attribute
still says "Suggest improvements on this error message explanation by
sending mail to the public list www-validator". If a title attribute is
deemed useful (some browsers used to use it as the default Subject line
for E-mail when used for mailto: links, but this might be history by now,
and the usual "tooltip" effect might be what we need to think about),
then I think it should be e.g. "Comment on this error message or
explanation on the public mailing list www-validator". (So it would say
that you can comment either the error message itself, or its explanation.)

Moreover, the link text of the message has been changed to
&#x2709;, which is rather extravagant. First, we know that decimal
character references work somewhat more widely than hexadecimal.
Second, this character, ENVELOPE, is misleading - although a picture of an
envelope is often used as a symbol for E-mail, this is quite illogical,
and new users should not be expected to know this strange idea. (Sending
E-mail and sending a letter in an envelope are two fundamentally different
ways of contacting someone.) Third, very few fonts contain a glyph for
this character, so most people will see it as a question mark or small
rectangle or something like that. Fourth, using the same link text in
different links (i.e., links that create E-mail with different default
Subject lines) violates W3C recommendations. Suggestion: use the link text
  Send comment on message N
where N is the number of the message.

-- 
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela, http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/
Received on Friday, 11 June 2004 21:36:06 GMT

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