[whatwg] several messages about HTML5

Henri Sivonen hsivonen at iki.fi
Wed Feb 21 07:28:16 PST 2007

On Feb 21, 2007, at 16:39, Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis wrote:

> Henri Sivonen wrote:
>> I think device independence and accessibility are worthwhile goals.
>> Semantic markup and separation of content and style are not essential
>> in themselves but just a means of pursuing the other goals.
> Those aren't the /only/ goals of semantic markup and separation of
> content and style. They also make sites easier to redesign.

Sure, but that's an authoring-side benefit involving the author and  
his/her future self or successor. It isn't an issue for arbitrary  
parties exchanging data over a world-wide network without prior  
bilateral agreement. That is, site maintenance as such is not an  
interchange issue.

Specs for the Web and related education campaigns should, in my  
opinion, first and foremost facilitate the communication of arbitrary  
parties without bilateral prior agreements. Making things easier in  
the private space of the author is good for the author but doesn't  
require others to work in the same ways (except to the extent working  
in the same ways creates demand for authoring tools which leads to  
tool availability).

Basically, if someone is being inefficient privately, it is his  
problem (less reason to demand him to change his ways). But if he is  
serving bad stuff to you, it is your problem, too (more reason to  
demand him to change his ways). The two can be related, though.

Of course, if communicating between arbitrary parties can be improved  
by acting on private selfish incentives, all the better. In fact, on  
the Web, the best way to get authors to act in common benefit is to  
make sure that acting to their own benefit has the side effect of  
being beneficial to the Web as a whole.

>> Well, to the extent most people keep semantics implicit and only
>> think about presentation explicitly, reconciling "natural" with
>> asking them to think differently is a problem.
> In so far as this is true, it is true only when particular conventions
> become exceptionally familiar. In unfamiliar cases (academic citation
> formatting) or confusing cases ("it's" vs. "its"), people typically  
> have
> to resolve the semantics of what they are trying to format before  
> trying
> to apply a format to it.

Actually, the fact that many native English speakers cannot write  
"it's" vs. "its" or "they're" vs. "their" vs. "there" correctly  
suggests that people have a tendency to think in terms of aural  
*presentation* of the language instead of the *semantics* of the  

Henri Sivonen
hsivonen at iki.fi

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