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Re: [Moderator Action] Footnote discussions

From: Matt Garrish <matt.garrish@bell.net>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2015 07:04:45 +0100
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: <BLU436-SMTP26905F82DBDF94F89B1A23FA3D0@phx.gbl>
To: "Liam R E Quin" <liam@w3.org>
But placement aside, there's no strong differentiator between the content of a footnote and an endnote. Whether the notes are placed within easy view or grouped at the end of the work is more often an aesthetic design or convention of the publisher/field than a required authoring intent.

In digital, I find this distinction of little value, as the UA could present them as pop-ups, isolated into a pane as you say, or grouped at the end of the content based on user preference. I'd much prefer a world where I could decide their layout -- based on the capabilities of the reading system --  than live with static placement. It also negates any value of the foot/end distinction when multiple layouts can be accommodated. Print is such a limited medium. I'm also feeling heretical today.

Marginalia is certainly different in nature than foot/end notes, and reading systems don't provide margins given that tablets/phones don't have enough space to do them well, so it's largely a failing case in EPUB right now. They also aren't always easily tied to a single reference or a few words. But I'd still see them as a similar case where the rendering can be tailored to the user preference (on, off, activated).

And, to be clear, if we had a dedicated element, I wouldn't have any issue with semantics that distinguish finer semantic purposes (still regarding foot and end as superfluous). As I mentioned, there are other distinctions of equal importance, like who authored the marginalia, as annotated works aren't always annotated by the author.

What I was reacting to was discussions that I've had with Tzviya about persisting endnotes and footnotes in digital when we don't have any special tagging or UA behaviours. If endnotes are "notes always at the end of the page", and footnotes are "notes almost always at the end of the page" because in digital right now no one wants the notes close to the content and getting in the way of the narrative, then what value are we bringing forward? If endnotes are just a static list that lives at the end of a section/work, what value does tagging the individual notes have at all beyond a wasted exercise in semantic inflection?

But I'm rambling again...

(I spent the morning digging out, so I feel your pain... literally. :)


-----Original Message----- From: Liam R E Quin
Sent: Monday, February 02, 2015 7:41 PM
To: Matt Garrish
Cc: Siegman, Tzviya - Hoboken ; Shane McCarron ; Dave Cramer ; David MacDonald ; Robert Sanderson ; Bill Kasdorf ; George Kerscher ; public-digipub-ig@w3.org
Subject: Re: Footnote discussions

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/ 
Received on Tuesday, 3 February 2015 06:04:52 UTC

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