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[Bug 7670] Use of prefixes is too complicated for a Web technology

From: <bugzilla@wiggum.w3.org>
Date: Tue, 22 Sep 2009 23:32:06 +0000
To: public-html-bugzilla@w3.org
Message-Id: <E1MqEq6-0005xo-Jw@wiggum.w3.org>

Gavin Carothers <gavin@carothers.name> changed:

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--- Comment #31 from Gavin Carothers <gavin@carothers.name>  2009-09-22 23:32:05 ---
A few nights ago when I first saw this I was slightly upset, my wife asked what
was wrong. I ended up bring a pad of paper to bed in order to explain. Nothing
like XML/RDF prefixes for pillow talk. I should point out that my wife knows
only some HTML and next to nothing about RDF or XML. She does have a degree
(German and History, it's important, we'll get back to this), I don't.

Anyway, as it turns out it's reasonably easy to write triples on paper using N3
notation. After about 10 minutes my wife was having no trouble understanding
how to write statements like "The article about Michelle Obama on The Drudge
Report was issued on 2009-09-18." Then on a new page I wrote down a changed a
prefix definition! THE HORRORS! dc: now stood for http://www.dccomics.com,
"Well, that's not the same dc, so I guess I need to use another prefix for the
Dublin thingy." Not that confused then. She pointed out that the citation
method for The Chicago Manual of Style used by a wide range of disciplines and
a wide range of people is far more complicated. It has features that would
horrify the HTML WG. Tokens whose meaning is 100% dependent on scanning
backwards for the last instance of another token (ibid), so that while copy
editing it's massively important to keep track of them when moving blocks of
text around. Shortened person and book names that are document dependent, are
the norm. Yet hundreds of thousands of people are able to use this complex
citation method. Do people screw it up? All the time. Do they understand why
and fix it? Of course.

We were able to come up with rules that make using prefixes in almost any
context simpler. Note, these are for the most part AUTHORING guidelines, not
requirements when reading:

* Reusing the same prefix in the same document with different meanings is
horribly confusing ("If you did that, I'd break your figures."). Possible to
figure out, but not really desirable. Seems like a reasonable place for a

* Defining all the prefixes in one place makes it simpler to keep track of
them. But understood when it would be simpler to define a new prefix for a
section of content.

* "Couldn't you have a simple tool that just shows you what prefixes are
defined at any point in the document?" How such a tool has failed to exist in
the XML world... may write this.

I really don't think prefixing as too complicated for wide adoption. Document
authors today deal with complex style guides like The Chicago Manual of Style,
the Modern Language Association, and APA. All of these are at least as
complicated as the notion of prefixing, some more complicated.

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Received on Tuesday, 22 September 2009 23:32:21 UTC

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