# RE: FYI: a nice interactive... Digital Document

From: Paul Topping <pault@dessci.com>
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2015 16:46:37 +0000
To: "t-cole3@illinois.edu" <t-cole3@illinois.edu>, Peter Krautzberger <peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org>, 'Ivan Herman' <ivan@w3.org>
CC: 'W3C Digital Publishing IG' <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B6C5B1ABA88AF446821B281774E6DB71B6EF1FE0@FERMAT.corp.dessci>
I don’t think it makes sense to ask a mathematician about web technologies like MathML that are intended to be used behind the scenes. Many mathematicians assume that you are asking them if they’d prefer to type their equations in MathML. No one but programmers working on MathML support should really be coding directly in MathML.

I see no evidence that browser vendors are asking mathematicians such questions and basing their lack of MathML support on their answers. Instead, the communities they talk to are web technologists, most of whom don’t care much about math, and the general public who want to see math in their browser but don’t know anything about MathML.

Finally, I find I always have to remind people that most math is not written by mathematicians but educators. There are probably way more math teachers than mathematicians and more math content written by them. Most educators don’t know about LaTeX and use Microsoft Word to write their content.

Paul

From: Timothy Cole [mailto:t-cole3@illinois.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 9:14 AM
To: Peter Krautzberger <peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org>; 'Ivan Herman' <ivan@w3.org>
Cc: 'W3C Digital Publishing IG' <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>
Subject: RE: FYI: a nice interactive... Digital Document

I fully agree with Peter's analysis, but it paints what seems on the surface a somewhat complex picture and I think there is risk of the mathematics community appearing too disjoint to outsiders, e.g., browser vendors.

If I am a browser vendor and I talk with a publisher using MathML, I am told that browsers should provide native rendering for MathML.  But if I then turn to a mathematician and ask if he or she would like native rendering of MathML in the browser, I get told (by many) that he or she never uses MathML and would much prefer native support for LaTex.  So I look at how often each appears in Web pages. I conclude that those authoring math have no standard language for expressing mathematics and therefore I should not try to render math natively.

Obviously browser vendors are much more sophisticated than this, and other considerations are primarily driving reluctance to implement native rendering of mathematics. And mapping back and forth between MathML and LaTex has gotten easy, almost trivial (if ignore semantic features of MathML). But when advocating for better support for math rendering, I do think the seeming split between MathML and LaTex makes the advocacy a little more difficult. It becomes a longer explanation, which is never helpful to persuasion.

-Tim Cole

From: Peter Krautzberger [mailto:peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2015 5:44 AM
To: Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org<mailto:ivan@w3.org>>
Cc: W3C Digital Publishing IG <public-digipub-ig@w3.org<mailto:public-digipub-ig@w3.org>>
Subject: Re: FYI: a nice interactive... Digital Document

> But that is also a matter of the authors/publishers.

Yes, but making this a little easier might be worthwhile.

> I wonder: what would be the favourite syntax for authors to encode maths when they author HTML? I am not sure MathML would win on that front…

That depends on which authors you have in mind. If you already know TeX/LaTeX, then writing such TeX-like input is obviously easier for you. But most people don't know LaTeX (then again: this piece by Kathi Fletcher<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__kefletcher.blogspot.de_2012_09_creating-2Dand-2Dediting-2Dmath-2Dcan-2Dwe-2Dget.html&d=AwMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=zjI0r-H6xRs5fYf2_jJkju6US9ijk0nLw4ns2nuwU2k&m=hjv7CchLimOuSRzIrFveTlJQXDS5im7h_hQyZrF0Yz4&s=lkb-e4AeWGwb0WeuHgduC6POIvC6NpOFP5q8nbyxASw&e=>).

The causal Word user will be using MS Equation Editor or MathMagic/MathType/etc. The tablet user might prefer Microsoft's Math Input Panel or MyScript apps for handwriting recognition. For students, I'd always suggest Peter Jipsen's asciimath notation. I've never seen a wysiwyg editor be really productive but clearly people keep buying them. I hear MathML editors shine in situations where non-experts have to deal with the expert content, e.g., it's easier for a copy-editor to work with MathML than a complex (macro-infested) TeX string.

Once you do even simple webby things like styling, you quickly run into limitations with TeX or asciimath because it gets cumbersome and sometimes incompatible (e.g., reflow). And then we're not even close to those nice animations and visualizations.

Of course, you can write MathML by hand (I frequently do) but that's like people saying they write HTML or CSS by hand all the time. Sure, some people do. But the majority uses CMSs, frameworks, HTML templating, CSS processors etc. So I would agree that the developer tool chain for MathML could greatly improve (i.e., these HTML/CSS workflows rarely work for MathML).

But I think the problem always comes down to MathML support in browsers.

We already have a gazillion tools to convert any kind of math input to MathML (and often back).  If MathML was usable on the web, people would convert to it and be done with it. If they can't use client-side JS solutions, they look for other solutions. That's why people still end up using binary images (I"m looking at you, ebooks), or, if they're fancy, things like mathjax-node, KaTeX, mathquill, jqmath etc. People are re-inventing the wheel that MathML was supposed to be -- and they keep getting better at it as HTML, CSS, and SVG implementations improve.

Peter.

On Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 10:37 AM, Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org<mailto:ivan@w3.org>> wrote:

On 15 Sep 2015, at 09:37 , Peter Krautzberger <peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org<mailto:peter.krautzberger@mathjax.org>> wrote:

Thanks for sharing it -- great example of web document!

Enabling portability of this kind of document would be fantastic.

Yes. But that is also a matter of the authors/publishers. Very clearly, this *should* be possible, "just" by collecting all the resources in one place (whatever that means)

B.t.w., all the sources use LaTeX for mathematics. I remembered your comparison of Markdown vs. HTML yesterday but, seeing this, I wonder: what would be the favourite syntax for authors to encode maths when they author HTML? I am not sure MathML would win on that front…

Cheers

I.

Peter.

On Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 7:13 AM, Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org<mailto:ivan@w3.org>> wrote:
I do not know whether it is a Portable Digital Document, though… But a great example for things that can be done. Lots of MathJax, Peter:-)

Here is another example:
immersive linear algebra
by J. Ström, K. Åström, and T. Akenine-Möller
ISBN: 978-91-637-9354-7

http://immersivemath.com/ila/index.html<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__immersivemath.com_ila_index.html&d=AwMFaQ&c=8hUWFZcy2Z-Za5rBPlktOQ&r=zjI0r-H6xRs5fYf2_jJkju6US9ijk0nLw4ns2nuwU2k&m=hjv7CchLimOuSRzIrFveTlJQXDS5im7h_hQyZrF0Yz4&s=TIwXw-mE2Litu8OygwchaRpZxgohnN24ymm9e_9m6sk&e=>

Ivan

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Ivan Herman, W3C