[whatwg] Web Apps 1.0: On-line help

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Tue May 10 00:58:03 PDT 2005

On Mon, 9 May 2005, Dean Edwards wrote:
> >
> > Unless someone can come up with a way to make discoverability 
> > practical and usable, there is no point us having [help].
> It is not all about user agents. I once had to build a web application 
> with extensive context sensitive help. The app even recalled common 
> entries for data fields. To make it work we invented an attribute called 
> "helpID". If the "help" attribute were defined we would have used that 
> instead.

I don't see anything wrong with a Web application using custom attributes 
(preferably clearly prefixed or in a custom namespace) to store 
information like this. But I don't see the value in making the attribute 
for such a case standard. It would restrict what you could do with it, for 
one -- say the Web app wanted to store just a number for the help. Or just 
a URI. Or two URIs. Or an IDREF. Or a string. If we had an attribute, we'd 
have to define what it was, thus either blocking innovation, or using up 
an attribute for no good reason.

> [...reasons why the things I listed might work sometimes...]

Yes, all the things I listed are plausible solutions, that's why I listed 
them. But they're not good _enough_, IMHO.

> I think that a help attribute is useful in the realm of web 
> applications. Applications tend to be more complex than web documents. A 
> good application is sometimes only as good as its help system. Even if 
> UAs make nothing of it, web developers would have a standard attribute 
> to hook their own help systems from.

I don't see the advantage of having a standard way of doing something 
non-standard. It wouldn't improve interoperability.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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