[whatwg] <blockquote cite> and <q cite>

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com
Thu Jan 4 16:41:56 PST 2007

Martin Atkins asked:
> So do you expect browsers to use an online service to look up 
> information about a given referenced book? What online service should 
> they use to do this, and what happens when that online service ceases to 
> exist at some point in the future?

Actually, is it not trivial to build UAs that can pull down new URIs
with other updates and where users can add URIs for new online services
if necessary? Standards for querying book data already exist (Z39,
OpenURL, etc). And even if the standards changed, book data is
reasonably stable and could be remapped to the fields of new services
via formatting strings if necessary (compare the keyword search
implementation in Firefox, and similar features in Konqueror and Opera).
In terms of long-term service provision, major libraries like the
Library of Congress and major interlibrary initiatives like OCLC are a
good bet. I'm not especially worried by this part of the problem. I'd go
as far as to say it might be unusually easy to design a future-adaptive
back-end for querying bibliographic data for use over the next 10 years
(which is apparently the expected life-cycle of IE7). I'd actually be
more concerned about /generic/ search, syndication, and bookmark
components relying on external services, and browsers already include at
least the first two.

Martin Atkins continued:
> I'm not sure what exactly you expect browsers to do with the ISBN you've 
> entered. Certainly just displaying the bare ISBN onscreen with no other 
> information isn't very user-friendly.

Quite! If necessary, a UA presented with an ISBN alone in markup could
of course requery the same online services for further citation data for
display. And history suggests that even when the ISBN system expands to
incorporate yet more books it will do so in a compatible way. (The ISBN
system has just shifted to a 13-digit format, but software is required
to process the old 10-digit numbers too.)  But what I actually envisaged
was a process more like this:

1. You're a web content author and you want to quote from a modern
deadtree book. You click Insert Quotation, which brings up a dialog.

3. You type in the quotation text into the Quotation box.

4. You type in the ISBN off the back of the book into the ISBN box
(time: 7 seconds) and click "Autofill". Your authoring tool queries the
online services to complete the citation data (time: 3 seconds).

5. You type in a start page and end page for the citation (time: 5

6. Satisfied, you click "OK", closing the dialog.

7. The authoring tool inserts the quotation in an quotation element with
a citation URI that includes ISBN, title, author(s), editor(s),
publisher, publication date, publication location, start page and end
page, probably in the form of an OpenURL.

8. Your readers' UAs extract the citation data from the OpenURL and
expose it as, say, a "footnote". Your readers can follow the OpenURL to
their OpenURL dispatcher of choice, and from there get it out of their
library, buy it off Amazon, view it on Questia, or whatever. Or they can
use the citation data to go look at the precise page in a preview
service like Google Books. Or ... well, the list goes on. There's an
awful lot you can do with an accurate book reference. 

Step 7 is rather handy, since it cuts down on the number of queries
required for the system to function. Indeed, you could have a UA with no
access to web services and it could still display the citation data.
Step 7 seemingly also solves the problem of what happens when a future
historian wants to check your references from the convenience of their
cybernetic web interface in Earth Year 2407.

As for the normal links on which most of the web currently relies, I
suspect half of those will have come down with link rot by then. ;)

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

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