[whatwg] <time>

Jim O'Donnell jim at eatyourgreens.org.uk
Thu Mar 12 02:32:51 PDT 2009

On 12 Mar 2009, at 09:08, Robert J Burns wrote:

> I did follow the suggestion as derived from TEI and I think it  
> could be useful. However, I think an approach that drew on RDFa  
> would allow the data to be preserved in HTML. In that way the date  
> can be placed in the 'content' attribute and the 'datatype'  
> attribute can indicate the form of the date in that attribute.  
> However, the HTML5 'time' element allows prose rather than  
> structured date information to be placed in the contents of the  
> time element. So I think a more faithful treatment of the TEI data  
> in HTML is to have the 'calendar' or 'datatype' attribute refer to  
> the 'content' or 'datetime' attribute value and not the 'time'  
> element's contents (HTML simply has differences from TEI that make  
> more sense to apply qualifiers to the accompanying attributes and  
> not the elements contents). Then all of the information is  
> preserved. Even if an author wanted to include converted date  
> information, the author could provide nested time elements each  
> with a different calendar and corresponding date indicated. The  
> contents of the element could then be any prose the author chose.
> For example:
> <time content="1917-11-7"><time datatype='html:Julian-ru'  
> content="1917-10-25">On the day of the October revolution</time></ 
> time> ...

I wonder about the practicality of this approach when the HTML is  
being generated by an XSL transform from TEI. The code looks hard to  
generate from a simple transform, since the "1917-10-25" date won't  
be present in the original. Taking a pragmatic view, it would be good  
to preserve semantic information in HTML without requiring a burden  
on authors to add extra information beyond that which they're already  
publishing when they digitise a document.

The RDFa approach does capture a large amount of potentially useful  
information about a date, but the overhead for authors seems rather  
high. Shouldn't we just go along with what historians are currently  
doing anyway ie. encoding written dates as proleptic Gregorian dates  
in the form (-)YYYY-MM-DD? RDFa is still available as a further  
option for anyone who wants to go beyond that and capture more  
detailed metadata about a date.

For clarity, when I refer to author here, I'm referring to the author  
of the markup (TEI or HTML). The original text will, of course, have  
been written hundreds of years ago so we don't have any leeway to  
influence the author's choice of text for the date.


Jim O'Donnell
jim at eatyourgreens.org.uk

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