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Semantic vs. Presentational (was Proposing <indent> vs. <blockquote>)

From: Mike Schinkel <w3c-lists@mikeschinkel.com>
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 01:52:28 -0400
Message-ID: <4632E11C.1050307@mikeschinkel.com>
To: public-html@w3.org

To all:

The debate I triggered regarding <indent> has evolved to be a debate 
fundamentally involving the value systems of those people debating and 
not the specific technical aspect of the proposed element.  Rather than 
continue that debate in the guise of <indent>, for which a technical 
debate should occur, I propse we bring the fundamental issues that 
turned it into a "religious" debate to the surface and get a consensus 
decision.  I will attempt to frame the debate here, but I'm sure I'll 
mis-characterize a portion of the debate so I expect others to step in 
to clarify.

1.) On the one hand there are those that believe that HTML should be 
about content/semantics and not about presentation.  Those people 
(appear to) believe that, while presentational elements do exist in HTML 
by legacy they should be deprecated and nothing presentation in nature 
should be added moving forward. Further, those people believe that all 
content authors should be required to learn CSS.   We'll call this group 
the "semantans."

2.) On the other hand there are those that believe that HTML is about 
empowering people to publish, and part of publishing is presentation.  
While this group believes that semantic markup is a good and worthy goal 
it is also believes a pragmatic approach is warranted and understands 
that a.) many people will not be bothered to learn CSS for presentation 
and will thus misuse other semantic elements, and b.) that not every 
semantic need will be captured and converted into appropriate markup by 
this working process and thus "catch-all" elements are warranted, 
possibly with freeform attributes as in the example below to let future 
analysis be performed. We'll call this group the "pragmatans."

    <indent rel="whatever">

Unfortunately this debate is just like the "abortion debate in real 
life; i.e. the "pro-lifers" say "no abortions, period" whereas the 
"pro-choicers" want abortions to be rare, but available. Similarly the 
"semantans" are absolutists whereas the "pragmatans" value semantics but 
see value in pure presentational markup for basic document layout.

In summary I'd like to propose we determine as a working group a 
consensus of the issue of Semantic vs. Presentational markup to allow WG 
participants to refer to it in the future to stop these types of endless 
debates. As such, I would suggest it would probably be of interest to 
all WG participants.

Respectfully submitted,

-Mike Schinkel
http://atlanta-web.org - http://t.oolicio.us
Received on Saturday, 28 April 2007 05:52:53 UTC

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