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ISSUE-89 Change Proposal

From: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2010 14:06:21 -0500
Message-ID: <643cc0271003261206qe4617b2ic20601f8cf2f2e55@mail.gmail.com>
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
(Any document references contained in this Change Proposal are
specific to the March 4th Draft)


Remove Section 4.13 Common Idioms completely from the HTML5 specification.


Currently, the Idioms section[1] contains suggested markup and CSS to
create a web page tag cloud, a conversation, and footnotes. This
section is only suggested markup: there are no author or
implementation conformance requirements, no new attributes or elements
introduced, and no changes to either HTML/XHTML syntax, or the DOM. It
is nothing more than the HTML5 Editor's suggestion about what people
can use.

According to the HTML5 Editor, Ian Hickson, the rationale[2] given for
keeping this section is:

    This section was added at the request of authors who wanted to
know what the spec suggested for the topics it mentions. Therefore
removing it would be doing authors a disservice, and authors take

I checked in email archives for both WhatWG and the W3C, and can find
no author requests for including this material. I did find questions
that people asked on the WhatWG email list about recommendations of
syntax to use, and scattered requests for a new dialog element and
something specific to footers, but none resulted in additional
elements/attributes. [3]. Asking for new elements or advice on how to
use the new HTML5 syntax is a different thing than asking that
recommended markup use be included in the HTML5 specification.

What is the purpose of this section? If it was created specifically in
response to people asking for a dialog or footnote element, a better
approach would be to provide a detailed rationale for why such
requests were refused, and then point people to this when asked again.
If people disagree, we have a Decision process in place where they can
escalate the item to an issue and provide a change proposal. Providing
a how-to section is not the way to basically tell people, "No".

In addition, there can be no author or implementation conformance
tests for the section. The suggestions are just that, suggestions. A
person is just as welcome to ignore the suggestions, as not. Yet by
being included in the HTML5 specification, there's a real risk of such
suggestions being codified as requirements—rather than help authors,
such suggestions could end up causing problems for authors.

As an example of the problem of including this type of material in the
specification, there have been discussions about dialog markup[4],
supposedly related to the HTML WG deprecating the use of the dl
element for dialog. The use of the dl to mark up dialog, though, was
only a suggestion made in the HTML4 specification, in a manner very
similar to what we now have in Section 4.13. How can this group
deprecate that which was never anything more than a suggestion?

If the use of dl in HTML4 was nothing more than a suggestion, and we
don't want to encourage such use in the future, then don't repeat the
suggestion in HTML5. End of story. If people want to continue using
dl, OK. If people don't, well, that's OK too. No interoperability or
other problem is introduced if people use different markup.

A better approach is for markup for a specific purpose to occur
organically, becoming a best practice over time. We've seen this
happen with menus. There is no requirement that menus be unordered
lists—it is a best practice that grew over time, to the point where we
rarely see web page menus now that aren't unordered lists. And if
there are people who prefer to use another markup? That's fine, too.


Remove Section 4.13 and any references to it. As an ancillary
suggestion, I would also strongly recommend removing the note in the
dl element section that states the following:

    Note: The dl  element is inappropriate for marking up dialogue.
Examples of how to mark up dialogue are shown below.

It's not up to us to tell people what markup to use for what, aside
from there being a rationale for providing such a guideline. Unless
we're planning on making the use of dl for dialog non-conforming, in
addition to making another use of markup conforming for dialog, and
providing a good rationale for doing both, we should just drop any
reference to dialog markup. Let the market determine best practice.



Removing this section prevents possible future confusion about what is
a requirement, and what is one suggestion out of the pool of possible
suggestions. This change also ensures that the best markup to use for
specific purposes is allowed to develop organically, and the best
practices emerge naturally.


Change requires Editor time to implement within the specification.


By removing this text from the document, someone unfamiliar with past
discussions about dialog and footnote elements may ask for such
elements in the future. The risk can be offset  if they are directed
to the past discussions. If they persist in wanting these elements,
they should be encouraged to submit a bug, and push the item through
the Decision Process. Future requests can then be directed to the
formally recorded rationale for rejecting a special purpose dialog and
footnote elements.


[1] http://dev.w3.org/html5/spec/interactive-elements.html#common-idioms-without-dedicated-elements

[2] http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=8401

[3] http://lists.whatwg.org/htdig.cgi/whatwg-whatwg.org/2008-October/016556.html

[4] http://lists.whatwg.org/htdig.cgi/whatwg-whatwg.org/2006-October/007576.html
Received on Friday, 26 March 2010 19:06:51 UTC

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