[whatwg] Semantic styling languages in the guise of HTMLattributes.

Mike Schinkel mikeschinkel at gmail.com
Wed Dec 27 12:21:11 PST 2006

Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
> On Dec 22, 2006, at 3:23 AM, Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:
> >
> > Henri Sivonen wrote:
> > ...
> >> Also, it seems to me that the usefulness of non-heuristic machine 
> >> consumption of semantic roles of things like dialogs, names of 
> >> vessels, biological taxonomical names, quotations, etc. has been 
> >> vastly exaggerated.
> >
> > I'm not entirely sure what "non-heuristic machine consumption" is,
> An example of non-heuristic machine consumption is where 
> Google Glossary thinks: "In an HTML 3.2 or earlier document 
> containing the code '<dl><dt>foo<dt> <dd>bar</dd></dl>', 
> 'bar' is a definition of 'foo'". (It probably thinks the same 
> about HTML 4 documents, too, which is applying a small 
> "ignore that nonsense about dialogues" heuristic.)
> An example of heuristic machine consumption is where Google Glossary
> thinks: "In an HTML document containing the code 
> '<p><b>foo:</b> bar</p>', 'bar' is probably a definition of 
> 'foo', especially if the page has several consecutive 
> paragraphs with that structure and different bold text."
> Non-heuristic machine consumption fails when semantic 
> elements are abused, and becomes practical when elements have 
> multiple popular meanings (examples of the latter include 
> <dl> in HTML 4, and <p> in HTML 5). Heuristic machine 
> consumption fails occasionally by the very nature of 
> heuristics (examples currently include 
> <http://www.google.com/search?q=define:author> and
> <http://www.google.com/search?q=define:editor>.)

The origin of this thread was my request for adding attributes to all
elements to support microformat-like semantic markup. Based on the context
of your reply, it seems you are agreeing with Matthew Raymond in his
assertion that using microformat-like semantic markup is A Bad Thing(tm). Am
I understanding your position correctly? (If I'm not, please forgive me.)

Let me ask this: Why it is not preferrable to use the non-heuristic machine
consumption that microformat-like semantic markup would allow as opposed to
limiting the web to heuristic machine consumption in so many contexts where
there are not enough semantics to know for sure? It seems to me
microformat-like semantic markup can improve on the situation as opposed to
leaving things at status quo.

And as for the status quo, the "microformat movement" is gaining momentum
because it makes possible things people need but didn't previously realize
was possible. And unlike the professionals that read and attempt to follow
standards (i.e. some browser vendors, etc.) most web content authors don't
read standards and many are not even interested in following standards if
they get in the way of accomplishing their client's goals. So the likelihood
of stopping microformat-like semantic markup is slim to NIL; why not embrace
it and provide support to help those web authors achieve their goals in as
interoperable manner as possible?

-Mike Schinkel

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