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Re: Formal definition of HTML5 (was Re: Version information)

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2007 14:01:55 +0100
Message-ID: <462373C3.1080507@cam.ac.uk>
To: Henrik Dvergsdal <henrik.dvergsdal@hibo.no>
CC: public-html@w3.org

Henrik Dvergsdal wrote:

> 6. It will make the text of the standard more accessible, at least for 
> "competent" developers. When you get used to the formal syntax it is 
> much easier to read than the prose.

FWIW, by this definition I am not a "competent" developer (I do not find formal 
syntax easier to read than prose). Nevertheless I was able to make a significant 
contribution to html5lib because the parsing algorithm (which is different to 
the conformance requirements, but nevertheless illustrative) is written in 
English prose. When implementing the library we were able to report and resolve 
some ambiguities in the spec; I would expect other implementations to find other 
issues leading to further clarification. I would suggest this experience alone 
highlights two points in favour of English prose:

1) It is accessible to those without a background in computer science. This 
probably includes the majority of web developers. There is little point in 
making document conformance requirements in a language that is not spoken by 
those looking to produce documents.

2) It encourages multiple, /independent/ implementations of the specification, 
allowing ambiguities in the text to be quickly resolved. An official schema is 
also likely to contain bugs (compared to the intent of the WG coming from the 
English prose discussion to schema translation) but they are less likely to be 
noticed as people will use the schema as-is.

"Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's it all going to end?"
  -- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Received on Monday, 16 April 2007 13:03:16 UTC

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