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Re: Suggestions regarding creation of an "Authoring Specification" for HTML 5

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 01:04:24 +0000 (UTC)
To: noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com
Cc: public-html-comments@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0906260006090.1648@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Mon, 20 Oct 2008 noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com wrote:
> My overall comment is that I think the specification for the authoring 
> of correct HTML 5 documents is of great importance.  I understand that 
> you are hoping that the need can be met in part by, eventually, using 
> scripts to produce a stripped down version of the existing draft, 
> leaving out much of the parsing and error recovery detail.  Perhaps this 
> will lead to a first class result, but I have some nervousness that the 
> result might not be as effective as one might like.

I have now made the three versions available:


They are also available on the W3C space as a single document that you can 
dynamically change the view for using your browser's alternative style 
sheet interface:


> * Simple success criteria should be explicitly set down for the 
> authoring specification.  What information must it convey, to which 
> audiences should it be comprehensible, etc.?  I'm not suggesting any 
> big, elaborate, or time-consuming requirements effort, just a very brief 
> set of criteria that could be agreed by the community as a yardstick for 
> judging any particular draft.  Perhaps this already exists.

I've tried to clarify the expected audience here:


Is that what you had in mind?

> * I think it would be a good idea to generate representative drafts 
> sooner rather than later.  If practical, this could be done by marking 
> up the existing draft and running the full automated process.  If that's 
> impractical soon, as I suspect may be the case, I would think that one 
> or two members of the HTML working group could be tasked with manually 
> producing a partial skeleton for evaluation, including at least some of 
> the key sections such as 8.1, and representative slices of some of the 
> others.  For example, if one or two microsyntaxes and the definitions of 
> a few representative elements were converted, it would probably give a 
> very good idea as to whether the presentation of all of them would 
> eventually be effective.  I think the resulting draft should be 
> circulated for comment, and should be used to inform planning for how 
> the final HTML 5 authoring draft will eventually be prepared.

Doing the whole draft did not end up taking much work (just a couple of 
weeks), so I just did the whole thing.

> * I think there are good reasons why most of the semantics of HTML 5 are 
> explained in terms of the DOM, but it's worth keeping in mind that for 
> authors (except when scripting), it's the serialized document that's of 
> primary concern.  So, it's worth explaining clearly and early the key 
> invariants of what a legal HTML 5 document looks like.  For example: 
> "Start tags look like <this>, end tags look like </this>; elements are 
> properly nested and thus encode a tree, which by the way is isomorphic 
> to the corresponding DOM tree"; etc.. 
> Determining thinks like this from the existing specification is a bit of 
> a theorem proving exercise:  you have to notice that the DOM is always a 
> tree, even though browsers accept input that's poorly nested, you have 
> to notice that there are serialization rules that invariably result in 
> properly nested tags, and you have realize that those in turn define 
> what is intented as legal HTML 5.  There's a risk that, if all one does 
> is to strip the existing spec. to produce the authoring spec, these key 
> aspects of correct HTML 5 will be unduly hard to discover.

I've tried to write a section that covers these basic points:


> * I think the authoring specification is important enough that attention 
> should be given to introductory material, organization of the table of 
> contents, etc.  Perhaps this comment is obvious, in which case I 
> apologize for mentioning it.  Right now, I understand that the most 
> critical section for authors is in section 8.1, so it's not immediately 
> obvious that a simple stripping of the existing draft will result in a 
> document that flows in sensible order, with key concepts suitably 
> highlighted.

I don't think the syntax section is actually any more important for 
authors than the semantics section, to be honest. There's not really much 
point learning how to write until you have a vocabulary to write.

However, I've made the section mentioned above ("A quick introduction to 
HTML") link to the syntax section, so for those who find this information 
important there will now be a direct reference from the introduction 
section to the syntax section.

> For example, I could imagine introductory material setting out some of 
> the information mentioned in the bullet above.

I have attempted to do this.

> You could also any general syntactic rules, such as whether tags need to 
> be explicitly closed or can be implicitly closed by the end tag for a 
> parent, and if it's not obvious from the table of contents, provide 
> simple guidance as to which sections are good starting points for 
> learning key concepts.

I've tried to do this (in particular I've now included an explicit mention 
of the rule that mis-nested tags aren't allowed).

> I hope these suggestions are helpful.

Very much so! Thank you very much. Please let me know if the changes I 
have made are satisfactory, or if there is anything else I can do to 
improve the specification.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Friday, 26 June 2009 01:05:00 UTC

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