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[Bug 9876] Clarify that a figure can be any content with a caption

From: <bugzilla@jessica.w3.org>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2010 12:20:36 +0000
To: public-html-bugzilla@w3.org
Message-Id: <E1OoxvA-000809-2j@jessica.w3.org>

Shelley Powers <shelleyp@burningbird.net> changed:

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--- Comment #4 from Shelley Powers <shelleyp@burningbird.net>  2010-08-27 12:20:35 ---
(In reply to comment #3)
> I don't really understand the problem here. Figures (<figure> in HTML) are very
> similar to sidebars (<aside> in HTML) in print — both are typically offset
> from the main prose such that they can be moved around a little (or even a lot)
> without changing the meaning of the document, the main difference is that
> figures typically are referenced from the main prose while sidebars typically
> are not, and figures typically are for units of content (an image, a table, a
> listing) whereas sidebars tend to be prose. This is exactly what the spec says.
> Both of these are generalities, though, with exceptions. The text in the spec
> says all this. Where's the problem?

You have an incorrect understanding of the difference between figures and
sidebars in print. 

Figures are illustrative, which is why they are referenced in the text. They
are a visual illustration, regardless of what edge case you may find. Book
publishers tend to have specific requirements for figure content. For instance,
O'Reilly insists that the figure contents be a PNG or a TIFF. 

Sidebars are text that contain information that's tangential to the current
discussion. They are a way of providing a section of information that is of
interest in the section, but not essential to the section. They may be
anecdotal, or provide a history or other information that is interesting, but
not necessary. They are given a title, and are rarely referenced in the text.
The section should be short--preferably, to fit within a page. 

Some book publishers like sidebars, but may don't. You have to use with extreme
caution, because they can be distracting. Figures, on the other hand, are
encouraged because they can be clarifying. 

Tables are also another offset item. I've heard the term "floating block" used
for these items, but the publishers I've written for just use table, figure,
sidebar, block quote, code, etc.

Typographically, they are offset, but only because the person creating the
layout needs to be able to position the items because they don't split as
cleanly as text and are handled as a solid block. Unlike a web page, a printed
page is not malleable. 

People have been confused about the difference between figure and aside. They
seem to be interchangeable in the spec, which undercuts their supposed semantic
value. Considering all the discussions lately about incorrect use of table
summary, or longdesc, etc, I would think you'd want to ensure there is no
confusion as to the use and purpose of figure and aside. 

If the differences between the items are as vague as you say, based purely on
structure of content, and not purpose of content, then you should consider
eliminating one or the other.

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Received on Friday, 27 August 2010 12:20:41 UTC

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