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Re: Proposing <indent> vs. <blockquote>

From: Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis <bhawkeslewis@googlemail.com>
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2007 23:16:23 +0100
Message-ID: <4622A437.7070001@googlemail.com>
To: public-html@w3.org
CC: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>

Murray Maloney wrote:
> He didn't say "without semantics". I took his meaning to be "without
> the semantics of blockquote" Perhaps you didn't read it the same way.

I can't read Mike's first email as asking for anything other than 
<indent> without any semantics. I'll leave it to Mike to clarify what he 
meant if he wishes.

> Suspiciously like a semantic definition? Whatever do you mean?

The words you chose appeared to describe non-visual relationships 
between ideas, not merely a visual formatting. This has two implications:

1) We can probably come up with a semantic element to fulfill the use-case.

2) If we can't, we can probably come up with better language to express 
<indent>'s non-significance for web communications.

>> It also has no obvious relation to how Mike is actually misusing 
>> <blockquote> (I'll deal with that in greater detail in a subsequent
>> post.)
> Misuse of <blockquote> is widespread. Misuse of HTML is widespread. 
> Is it any wonder? What is your point?

You wrote an email trying to reassure Mike that something like his 
element would make it into HTML 5. My somewhat tortuous point was that 
beyond the similarity of name and visual presentation, the semantics 
implied by your description of the element don't fulfill Mike's needs 
(either a meaningless <indent> in Mike's view, or example and <speech> 
in my analysis).

> The merit of <indent>, perhaps with a different/better spelling, is
> obvious to those in the audience who realize that truly semantic
> markup will never gain traction until it becomes easier not to abuse
> it than it is to abuse it.

Two questions:

1. Is there any evidence that introducing new presentational markup will 
make it "easier not to abuse" semantic markup? Here's some evidence 
against that idea. <b> and <i> are not deprecated in HTML 4.01 or XHTML 
1.x. Yet WYSIWYG editors that spit out <strong> and <em> for [B] and [I] 
buttons are commonplace. By your logic, that shouldn't be happening.

2. If people can't be bothered to use semantic markup now, how will you 
entice them to do so in the future, especially when they can just keep 
using the presentational elements you've introduced instead?

> Y'all keep missing the point that I want semantic markup a much or
> more than the next guy.

People can agree on vague ultimate goals while still having robust 
discussions about particular methods.

> My reference for "Document Publishing" is the Chicago University
> Press's "A Manual of Style", 12th Edition,  ISBN:0-226-77008-7. I
> don't clam it to the uber-authority, but it is close enough for HTML.

I haven't got a copy of the Chicago Manual to check, but I don't 
understand how it's an authority on /hypertext/ documents at all.

> According to the Chicago Manual of Style, by example and through
> prose, indicating subordination by reducing left and/or right margins
> is not only common practice, but is encouraged folowing a colon (:).
> Tables of contents, indexes, subordinate paragraphs in technical and
> legal documents, notes, warnings, epigraphs, dedications, callouts
> and colophons often employ reduced margins to stand out from "normal"
> text.
> Ideally, we would have an HTML element to correspond to every logical
> element of a "Document", but we don't.

So why don't we spec those logical elements rather than <indent>?

WHATWG's draft already includes semantics for note and warning, and a 
<footer> element which equates to colophon:




What would be wrong with adding the following as elements, predefined 
classes, types, or WAI-ARIA roles:

1. epigraph (these seem quite common on blogs)
2. dedication (never seen one of these on the web)
3. tableofcontents
4. index (for alphabetical lists of local links)

For subordinate paragraphs in legal and technical documents, I believe 
we need a way of semantically associating particular numbering systems 
with blocks. One option would be to bring back alphanumeric types for 
<ol>, but that would require some accessibility testing. Another option 
would be to use heading elements to demarcate each subordination, but 
style them to be inline with the following text. A third option would be 
to just use <strong>, but that wouldn't help assistive technology in 
skip over whole sections, so I don't think that's a good idea.

Judging by:


callout has no agreed meaning, representation, or behaviour. How does 
the Chicago Manual define it?

> But we have also discovered that everyone tends to trust <b> and <i>
> even though they do not contribute to deeper semantic understanding.
> They are trusted because they do not make any claims about semantics,
> except where attributes might be employed to add a layer of semantics
> that may be discoverable by reading a profile or employing a GRDDL
> transform.

Why should semantic claims added by profiles or GRDDL be trusted either?

> Rather than try to search through all of the back chatter, I have
> herein attempted to answer your questions.

Thank you. :)

>>> That's not to say that semantics can't be overlayed onto HTML, it
>>>  can. Using a variety of techniques, including CLASS attributes, 
>>> profiles, GRDDL, XSLT, and so on, HTML content be used coerced
>>> into being semantically rich.
> As I said, the advantage would be to make HTML semantically rich --
> that is, rich beyond the semantics of "hypertext document
> publishing."

But the semantics of "hypertext document publishing" seem completely 

> What I am suggesting is that HTML will suffer from abuse at least as
> long as there is not sufficient markup to perform normal document
> composition.

Sure. I just don't believe we need any presentational markup to perform 
"normal document composition".

> I have been using markup for over 30 years now. I know a little bit
> about it. I do not appreciate attempts to marginalize my opinion, so
> to speak.

Sorry if I offended you somehow. I'm not trying to "marginalize" your 
opinion. But I hope you'll allow me to <indent> my own.


Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis
Received on Sunday, 15 April 2007 22:58:59 UTC

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