[whatwg] Re: About XHTML 2.0

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Sun May 22 16:38:19 PDT 2005

On Mon, 23 May 2005, Christoph Päper wrote:
> Ian Hickson schrieb:
> > 
> > I read a lot of fiction books and when I come across a "* * *" it reads to
> > me like a paragraph, saying "Meanwhile, in a different part of the
> > universe:"; it doesn't read as "end section. new section:".
>   <section>
>     ...
>     <div class="pov Foo">...</div>
>     <!-- 'plot', 'note', 'loc', 'place', 'time', 'story' ... -->
>     <!-- former place of 'hr' in disguise -->
>     <div class="pov Bar">...</div>
>     <!-- former place of 'hr' in disguise -->
>     <div class="pov Foo">...</div>
>     ...
>   </section>

...has no semantics apart from delineating one section. Remember that 
class="" and <div> are meaningless. A document has the same semantics 
after you strip out any class attributes and <div> elements.

> > To put it another way, sections are things that you can put a title 
> > to.
> 'div' is the proper HTML element type for subdivisions (of sections) that
> actually are not sections.

According to what specification? According to HTML4, <div> only "defines 
content to be block-level" (whatever that means!).

> Anyhow you can still group paragraphs by wrapping them in a division 
> instead of dividing them by a separator. The latter is IMO not a very 
> markupish approach. MLs are usually about putting (informational) atoms 
> into bags and these into larger ones, iterated until you reach the top 
> one, the root.

The paragraphs are all part of the <section> (chapter). They're not 
further grouped together, IMHO. An <hr> is equivalent to a <p> with the 
content "Meanwhile, somewhere else..." or similar ("From someone else's 
point of view...", "At another time..."). In fact if a story was to be 
styled into comic form, <hr> elements would typically be presented as 
narrator-level text in the next paragraph's panel. For example:

   <p><q>No!</q> said Fred.</p>
   <p>The tree stood alone.</p>

In comic form:

   +----------+ +--------------+-------+
   |  _____   | | Meanwhile... |       |
   | < No! >  | +--------------+       |
   |  \/^^^   | |         /|\          |
   |  o       | |         /|\          |
   | -+-      | |          |           |
   | / \      | |          |           |
   +----------+ +----------------------+

Not that we have any user agents or stylesheet languages (short of actual 
humans) capable of that kind of interpretation and presentation today, but 
my point is that the <hr> here is a unit on par with a paragraph, it's not 
an artefact of an implied higher level grouping.

In text form:

   "No!" said Fred.

      *   *   *

   The tree stood alone.

In aural form:

   No!, said Fred. [pause] The tree stood alone.

If we didn't have <hr>, I would imagine the above example would be marked 
up as:

   <p><q>No!</q> said Fred.</p>
   <p>* * *</p>
   <p>The tree stood alone.</p>

...or some such. I really don't think:

    <p><q>No!</q> said Fred.</p>
    <p>The tree stood alone.</p>

...would be better than <hr>, in fact I think it would be unnatural from 
an authoring perspective. We mustn't fall into the trap of considering 
everything to be a hierarchy, just because that is what XML most easily 
marks up. Book authors have managed quite well for centuries without 
considering their documents to be formed of trees! (Notwithstanding what 
paper is made of, I mean.)

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

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