[whatwg] on bibtex-in-html5

Simon Spiegel simon at simifilm.ch
Thu Jun 11 01:47:49 PDT 2009

On 11.06.2009, at 00:44, Jonas Sicking wrote:

> On Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 3:12 AM, Julian  
> Reschke<julian.reschke at gmx.de> wrote:
>> Ian Hickson wrote:
>>> ...
>>> So far based on my experience with the Workers, Storage, Web  
>>> Sockets, and
>>> Server-sent Events sections, I'm not convinced that the advantage  
>>> of getting
>>> more review is real. Those sections in particular got more review  
>>> while in
>>> the HTML5 spec proper than they have since.
>>> ...
>> So you are putting stuff you're personally interested in into the  
>> HTML5
>> spec, so that people read it?
> Calling it stuff Ian is "personally interested in" seems unnecessarily
> inflammatory. This are all use cases that other people have put
> forward.
> However, as others, I'd prefer to see these things developed
> elsewhere. Mostly because the group of people with expertise in
> developing a better version of bibtex is not the people in this WG.

I completely agree with this conclusion. I also think that it would be  
a big mistake to include bibtex and then extend it later as Ian has  

Let me give a concrete example, take the following biblipgraphic  
entry: Doe, John: Foreword. In: Doe, Jane: The Book. Middle-Earth 2008.

What we have here is a chapter by an author in a book by someone else.  
This someone else is not the editor though, but the author of the  
book, This kind of text is fairly common in my field but it cannot be  
expressed in bibtex since bibtex originally only has fields for  
'author' and 'editor ', but not for 'bookauthor'.

According to Ian, something like this could be covered by extending  
the bibtex vocabulary. For me, two problems pop up here:

Who will decide how the vocabulary gets extended? And on what will  
these decisions be based?

Now lets say that some kind of process to extend the bibtex vocabulary  
can be established  and that the addition of a 'bookauthor' field will  
be decided. The problem then is that something gets added to bibtex  
which no existing bibtex style (and no other tool which can import  
bibtex) knows about. AFAIK only biblatex has a 'bookauthor' field. In  
other words: We then have data which is not useable with the  
traditional bibtex tools (they don't break, they just  wont process  
the new fields). If bibtex gets extended (which would be absolutely  
necessary since all kind of additional fields are needed), we  
unavoidably end up with some kind of superbibtex which no tool in the  
world can process. In other words: We then have a new format which  
looks like bibtex but which cannot be used in a traditional bibtex  
workflow. At this point the whole argument why bibtex should be used  
in this spec breaks down. Ian is in favor of bibtex because it is  
widely used; but if we unavoidably end up with an unuseable  
superbibtex, this argument becomes moot.

If compatibility to existing formats is the main objective, we simply  
can't extend an old format like bibtex. If the goal is to cover  
substantially more than bibtex does, we need a different format.

Simon Spiegel
Steinhaldenstr. 50
8002 Zürich

Telephon: ++41 44 451 5334
Mobophon: ++41 76 459 60 39


„In a world getting more and more democratic, film directing is the  
last resort for dictators.“ Francis Ford Coppola

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