Re: HTML 3: Too many tags! (was re: Psychology and usefulness) (fwd)

Scott E. Preece (
Thu, 20 Jul 95 12:49:10 EDT

From: Ka-Ping Yee <>

| On Tue, 18 Jul 1995, Daniel W. Connolly wrote:
| > If I had it to do over again, there would only be three phrase-markup
| > elements: <em>, <tt>, and <??> where ?? is b or something like it.
| > They're short, almost meaningless worlets that mean, respectively,
| > emphasized, machine-like, and strongly-emphasized. (pretty close to
| > TeX's <em>, <b>, <tt>, though it also adds <sl> and a few others, as I
| > recall...)
| That would have been ideal, i agree.


The problem is that it's virtually impossible to avoid presentation issues, unless you assume you have a style-sheet model that will allow you to map arbitrary (document-defined) types to presentation styles. Which is, I think, the right answer. So the question is, what level of text categorization do you need to have for markup in situations where style-sheets aren't supported. I think the answer is a little broader than three types - real documents often have italics, bold, underscore, and size differentiation. That differentiation represents real content distinctions that you need to be able to represent. If you want to limit the markup to using n types, with non-meaningful names, the inevitable result will be that a convention evolves for the conventional representation of each of those types, and you might just as well have called them bold, italic, underscore, etc.

|   > HTML is a very broad, very shallow, generic SGML application. It
|   > captures common communications idioms, and should not go deeply into
|   > technical documentation strucures -- nor annual reports, nor
|   > advertising idioms, nor legal document structures, nor scholarly
|   > document structures, nor any of the other "vertical" applications
|   > toward which is being pulled.
|   I agree with this statement *absolutely*.  It is with the same mindset
|   that i look at the list of "Information Type Elements" [1] in the HTML
|   3 proposed spec [2] and gasp in horror.

I don't think there's a really happy answer, for the non-stylesheet world. The list in HTML3 is big enough to make you gasp, but it isn't big enough to handle all the cases that many common documents want to distinguish.

|	   * INS and DEL are two prime examples of highly-specific tags
|	       oriented at vertical applications (in this case legalese).
Actually, to any kind of reviewable document, which is a use important
to me.
|   I'm also frightened at the way the list of "Font Style Elements" [3]
|   is growing.  Though i can see a necessity for <SUB> and <SUP> in cases 
|   where they are essential to the meaning, the new <S>, <U>, <BIG>, and 
|   <SMALL> are *strictly* presentation tags, and don't really belong in HTML.  

I haven't had time to get very familiar with the stylesheet proposals; if they map typed elements to HTML3, though, it is important that HTML3 provide the types needed to specify actual presentation styles.

|   As per the discussion above on psychology and usability, the smallness
|   and apparent convenience of <U>, <S>, and <BIG> in relation to more useful 
|   tags like <PERSON> continues to have me worried.

I tend to agree, though I'd like to think we will get to a point where tool support makes the size of a tag irrelevant.


scott preece
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