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Re: Footnote discussions

From: Liam R E Quin <liam@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 2015 19:41:25 -0500
To: Matt Garrish <matt.garrish@bell.net>
Cc: "Siegman, Tzviya - Hoboken" <tsiegman@wiley.com>, "Shane McCarron" <shane@aptest.com>, "Dave Cramer" <dauwhe@gmail.com>, "David MacDonald" <david100@sympatico.ca>, "Robert Sanderson" <azaroth42@gmail.com>, "Bill Kasdorf" <bkasdorf@apexcovantage.com>, "George Kerscher" <kerscher@montana.com>, <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20150202194125.476c5212.liam@w3.org>
On Mon, 2 Feb 2015 16:03:02 -0500 Matt Garrish <matt.garrish@bell.net> wrote:

> It’s not to suggest that the distinctions aren’t real in publishing and don’t have meaning, but aren’t they all just variations in kind when we take print workflows out of the equation? [...]. Accept that they’re all annotations -- and that styling/layout can be so fluid in digital that they could be pop-ups, margin notes, bottom of page notes or end notes all depending on the capabilities of the user agent and the desire of the reader

To pull some threads together...

The nature of a footnote is that it does not require any actuation -- in print you can see it by looking at the bottom of the page, and in an e-reader one can easily imagine a dedicated footnote area anywhere on the screen.

The nature of marginalia is that it can be seen without any actuation, and also that one can use marginalia as a way t find related content.

The nature of an end note is that it does require actuation (even if in print it's just keeping two bookmarks and turning a bunch of pages, or scanning down to the end of a section).

So there is a difference in authorial intent.

That many Web designers are not familiar with the demands of producing and processing complex texts doesn't mean the distinctions are not important -- these texts are a huge challenge to put on the Web today.

I think it's useful to look at a second level of footnotes as an annotation. For example, a critical edition of a text wthat had footnotes with dagger, star, obelisk for numbering ill often add another level off footnotes with 1, 2, 3, or even Greek callouts, as here [Member-only link, sorry; I'll try and make them public in the next few days but I have also attached it to this message]

Here, note (1) is from the first edition, and note (*) is a clarification in this second edition (a footnote to a footnote in fact). The margin note helps people to find a passage of signifcance (in the opinion of the editor) and the 2 at upper right is a page/folio number from the original manuscript.

This is not a complex example of notes in the humanities.

Speaking from a markup point of view, and from searching and editing, one might reasonably want different markup for these different cases, perhaps yes using the work of the annotations WG - assuming they accept complex/rich text annotations that contain markup and might themselves contain footnotes.

And from an accessibility perspective, a footnote as a link isn't bad if you can reliably go back to exactly the right place; I' might also want to be able to have a sort of table of contents of a section containing only the marginalia, so as to be able to go straight to a passage of interest, and the markup would need to support this. Endnotes are in a sense already links.

The current CSS draft in GCPM does not I think handle multiple levels of footnotes (as on this sample page). I have many more recent examples but used this one because it's out of copyright. In one of the other samples in the same set there are multilingual examples, with Greek and Hebrew. An interlinear gloss is another example where I think the term "annotations" may be OK or may seem to trivialize the importance of the gloss - the gloss is actually often the main text of the document. So in markup one might want to make the gloss - the translation written between the lines of the original - be the main text and the "original" be an annotation, that-which-is-translated. Another example would be Japanese Ruby. However, in processing the text one typically needs to be able to ignore the ruby annotations.

It might be that from an HTML perspective note class="footnote" -- Matt, they are called footnotes, it's not about the placement, deal with it eh? :-) :-) -- would work, perhaps with ARIA roles to indicate rendering and actuation intent.

> then what becomes more interesting is the semantics of the information carried in the annotation, who has provided it (author, translator), etc. to facilitate intelligent rendering.

I think this probably goes back to HTML class and ARIA.

> The multi-reference problem would have to be overcome, although maybe it wouldn’t be so much of an issue if you aren’t “going somewhere” so much as “something opens” (i.e., that can be closed to the current spot). Or, if you have the choice, you could pick the rendering option that best works for you.

In complex texts it's not uncommon to have a single note referred to multiple times in a chapter - it should only appear once on each applicable page in print of course, but can make the UI harder for "going back".

> [...] Forcing people to read notes where they occur removes the ability to explore the notes after reading the text (something I’m fond of doing, as I hate losing the narrative thread). But perhaps this is a UA problem to solve if we leave rendering to the UA.

I think it probably is. However, Web browsers haven't been very innovative in hypertext so far, and ideas like content narrowing (show only...) have to be done in JavaScript today -- and seem not as common as one might have thought when the Web started.

> But that leads to the question do we really want another linking method? Maybe I’m not as informed on the @rel/@role attributes, but couldn’t one of them carry the semantic that the <a> references a note? I get the urge for a dedicated reference, but most of the appeal of HTML (to me) is its minimalism, and EPUB’s stuck with <a> without problem. It would be nice not to have explicit references at all, but as Dave Cramer noted, inlining leads to messy content models plus duplication for multi-references (and on to maintenance headaches...).

The problem isn't simple. So it's a case of whether the markup helps, or whether we have to solve the problems by overloading the markup.

Liam (just in from clearing snow here in Eastern Ontario)

Liam Quin - XML Activity Lead, W3C, http://www.w3.org/People/Quin/
Pictures from old books: http://fromoldbooks.org/

(image/jpeg attachment: Hearne-Works-VolIV-447-780x1200.jpg)

Received on Tuesday, 3 February 2015 00:41:47 UTC

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