Re: Separation of presentation and structure

Greg Kostello (
Mon, 7 Aug 95 01:56:42 EDT

>>I think that you have raised a number of valid points. People see little
>>value in creating structured documents unless there is a payoff. It is fine
>>to say that separating structure from style is valuable, but to what end?
>>What benefit does the creator of those documents receive? People want to add
>>style to their documents. It is what visually distinguishes one document
>>from another. People are much more likely to be drawn to color vs black and
>>white and to graphics vs text. So, the extensions that are added to HTML
>>give people what they want, today.
>Well, I'm not sure what your model of a document is, but mine focuses
>more on information, and how it is both represented, and presented.

My prejudice (I thinks it's always good to explain my biases) is towards
documents where both form and function are valued. As I see it, the web is a
medium which incorporates both content and visual display.

>I would say that there are two major classes of documents: those for
>which appearance is of the utmost concern, and those in which
>information is of the utmost concern. In the latter category,
>technical manuals, novels, journals, etc. all fall in. Most of
>the data in these cases is long-lived, and fairly static. In such
>cases structural markup (read SGML) has many benefits.

This is probably a nit, but technical manuals, journals, etc, could all
probably benefit from an elegantly designed stylesheet. Combining a
structured document with a model which automatically lays out the document
with a pleasing amount of whitespace, incorporates an appropriate typefaces,
and automatically places figures in the appropriate space would be a boon
for both the author and the reader. In my working with members of different
documentation groups, they have lamented at the tedium at which they must
repetively place page elements when the belief is that this is just the kind
of things that computers would be good for. I also believe that the world of
structured and unstructured documents could be joined, where the structure
could be largely hidden from the novice and revealed only at the users request.

It is my belief that we ALL want good looking documents and many people are
willing to spend inordinate amounts of time massaging their information into
the appropriate display. I base on experience -- people around me spend an
enourmous amount of time futzing with their documents to get them "just so."
And they spend this time of internal documents, financial reports, status
reports, etc. This time is spent when the form of the document is not
terribly relevant. I also remember reading this in the Wall Street Journal
some years back, that people who use word processors spend up to 50% of
their time formatting the document. So much for computers adding to

>Admittedly, this is not the major focus of the WWW *now*, but the
>focus will change over time: not only change to support SGML, but
>change to support other visually oriented formats as well.

That would be great, but for now, HTML is the lingua franca of the web. I
look forward to the day when I can incorporate VRML, Hot Java code,
Postscript, etc inline in any document on the web and be guarenteed that 98%
of my audience can view the document without a glitch.

Sun took the position that if Hot Java was to succeed, they would have to
get the leading browser vender on-board, so they immediately got Netscape to
agree to incorporate that technology into their browser. Furthermore, they
made the technology open and available. I'm curious, have any of the current
leading browser vendors aggreed to fully incorporate SGML into their
browsers? I believe that the rate of adoption will be much higher with the
widespread availabilty of such a tool.

Greg Kostello
VP Product Development
Digital Style Corporation