[whatwg] on bibtex-in-html5

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Sat May 23 14:35:33 PDT 2009

On Sat, 23 May 2009, Simon Spiegel wrote:
> Sorry, for my intrusion on this list. I realize that it's cheeky to come 
> to a list only to rant about a specific detail, but I feel that more 
> support for Bruce's position is needed. Just a bit about my background: 
> I don't have any technical training or expertise in software or 
> programming. I'm a scholar in humanities (film studies and German 
> literature) and wrote my PhD thesis in film studies using LaTeX. 
> Although I'm not a programmer by any means, I consider myself an 
> 'advanced user' and quote well informed in terms of bibliographic 
> software. There aren't a lot of bibliographic softwares or other 
> solutions I haven't had a look in the last couple of years.
> After this introduction, let me just state one thing: To base any kind 
> of future software on BibTeX would be really like using ASCII instead of 
> UT8. Yes, it's really that bad. BibTeX is now almost 20 years old and 
> its shortcomings are well known and have been discussed endlessly. It 
> has an extremely limited model which basically only covers English 
> speaking sciences. As soon as you leave this area (like I have to do 
> daily), you're out of luck with traditional BibTeX. Sure, there are all 
> kind of extensions, but most of them are limited as well and none of 
> them is standardized. I just say ‘bookauthor’. Until recently, no BibTeX 
> supported this field, although it's really a basic thing for humanities 
> (Now, if anyone asks why you would need a 'bookauthor' field, I have 
> only one thing to answer: Find out what is needed in different 
> disciplines before settling on a standard).
> It's a sad fact that the same mistakes are repeated over and over again 
> in the area of bibliographic software. It seems like a natural law that 
> every new software solution dealing with bibliographies always has to 
> start with an extremely limited set of fields like BibTeX. It took 
> nearly two decades until biblatex got rid of most of the basic 
> shortcomings of BibTeX, but somehow other projects don’t seem to learn 
> from this. It doesn't have to be this way. The problems of the existing 
> solutions are known, alternatives do exist. So please hear my plea: 
> Don't go with an ancient model whose shortcomings are well known but use 
> something modern instead. If you absolutely have to use BibTeX, please 
> use at least biblatex which covers most of the problems of traditional 
> BibTeX.

I agree that BibTeX is suboptimal. But what should we use instead?

(The biblatex vocabulary seems unnecessarily incompatible with BibTeX's, 
and the latter appears to have more deployed support, which was one of the 
primary concerns that led to its vocabulary being picked.)

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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