[whatwg] several messages about XML syntax and HTML5

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Dec 4 16:45:51 PST 2006

On Tue, 5 Dec 2006, Sander Tekelenburg wrote:
> >
> >    http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#parsing
> Still, I don't see how this makes it not guesswork.

Well, if you want to call "well-defined interoperable error handling" 
"guesswork", then sure. I guess that's just terminology.

The point is the browsers all do the same thing, and that's well-defined 
and documented.

> I don't see how, in error situation x, interpreting y as z can ever 
> guarantee that the author did indeed mean z.

Well, if all the browsers do Z, then since the author presumably checked 
his page with at least one browser, and it did Z, and he didn't correct Y, 
then the assumption that Z is what Y was supposed to be is IMHO a safe 

> >> How is that different from that key in the status bar that they see 
> >> randomly on some pages?
> >
> > Given the extremely bad usability of SSL UI, and the fact that the 
> > security community is currently having to desperately find new ways to 
> > make sites secure in a way that users understand, your analogy is 
> > actually very apt. There are a number of studies that show that SSL UI 
> > is horrendous; one study I read suggests that over 60% of users don't 
> > even pay attention to SSL error messages, let alone the lock.
> Surely your "not paying attention" is the same as my earlier "ignoring"? 
> How does the ignorability of the lock icon make it negatively affect 
> usability? (Maybe from the standpoint of those who insist the user must 
> deal with that message, but surely not from the standpoint of the user.)
> Sure, bugging people with error messages continuously is bad for 
> usability. But an unobtrusive, ignorable icon that conveys something 
> useful?

This is somewhat out of scope of the WHATWG work. In my experience with 
usability studies, unobtrusive, ignorable icons are a waste of time, and 
in my experience with browser vendors, they mostly try to avoid UI that's 
a waste of time. I doubt a mainstream browser would support this feature.

It's certainly possible, though, and the HTML5 spec goes to some lengths 
to make implementing such a feature somewhat easier than it had been, for 
example by defining what is a parse error and what is not.

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

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