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

Matthew Paul Thomas mpt at myrealbox.com
Sun Jan 21 02:16:47 PST 2007

On Jan 11, 2007, at 7:01 AM, Sander Tekelenburg wrote:
> At 14:42 +1300 UTC, on 2007-01-07, Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
>> On Jan 7, 2007, at 7:13 AM, Sander Tekelenburg wrote:
> ...
>>> It's still entirely unclear to me *why* the cite attribute needs a
>>> replacement. What is wrong with it?
>> First, it's hard for UAs to present cite= in a way that is both usable
>> and backward compatible.
> I'm assuming your "unusable" refers to the text in parenthesis 
> (below), but it's not clear to me what you mean with "backward 
> compatible presentation of the cite attribute by UAs". Are you talking 
> about a new UA version doing something different with the cite 
> attribute than the previous version did?

Yes, where what the previous version did = nothing.

> ...
> The fact that UI problems like this aren't solved yet does not mean 
> they cannot be solved. Just that they haven't been solved yet. I'm 
> sure that to a large extend this has to do with UA vendors having 
> spent resources on browser wars and ESP engines for the past 10 years, 
> at the cost of other development.

You may be right.

> ...
>> Second, it's hard for authors to use it in a way that is
>> backward-compatible. That is, if the source information is important
>> enough that it needs to be accessible in those UAs that don't (yet)
>> support cite=, the author has to provide the information in some other
>> fashion too.
> Yeah, but as a spec writer you then risk entering the terrain of 
> dumbing down the Web for everyone, just because some people are still 
> using lousy UAs.

Good luck convincing people that their browser is lousy because it 
doesn't present citations. I expect the typical response would be "Eh?"

> Some of us feel that such information should be *available* but not 
> *visible* per se, because making it visible will often only lead to 
> distraction from the actual text.

Ah, but we already have a thoroughly compatible element for conditional 
presentation of information: <a>. So a backward-compatible way of 
citing sources would be an attribute that points to either <a> (if the 
full citation should be out of the flow of text), or to another element 
(if it should be inline).

For example:

     <p><a id="q018" href="http://example.com/2007/01/21/c">Fred
     Mondegreen concurs</a>: <q source="#q018">When you compare it
     with books, the Web is still a newborn baby</q>.</p>

     <p>As <span id="q019">Albert Einstein said during an interview
     in 1949</span>: <q source="#q019">I do not know how the Third
     World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use
     in the Fourth — rocks!</q></p>

(Disclaimer: I don't expect people would actually use this, unless 
there was some famous semantic application taking advantage of it. The 
same applies to cite=.)

> ...
>> And third, it requires the existence of an IRI of some sort. Often you
>> won't have this, for example when the source information for your 
>> quote is something as vague as "attributed to Mark Twain".
> I think that in such a case it would be appropriate to have the cite
> attribute's content point to the source that attributes it to Twain, 
> like so:
> <q cite="URL">To be, or not to be</q>, as Mark Twain supposedly said.

Google notwithstanding, the Web does not contain all quotable material 
that exists. If the source is a pamphlet, magazine, user manual, or 
interview, there may well be *no* relevant URL to cite.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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