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Subject: RE: [dita] hyphens and file names

On Fri, 18 Feb 2005, Esrig, Bruce (Bruce) wrote:

> > 5. And then there is the issue of files names that turn
> into parts of URNs, donšt get me started!
> This one was the last straw for me, and the reason I raised the
> question. I sent someone a request for a URL with a filename in
> it, and it came out with underscores. It has happened again since.
> Here's a chance for the DITA TC to do something absurdly small    
> yet exemplary ... standardize on hyphens only in identifiers.

Bruce, have a look at the earlier (October 25) draft of the 
"OASIS Artifact Naming Guidelines".  I don't know what you mean
by "and it came out with underscores" but if you're talking
about Kavi or the TC Process tools, I'd bet that these draft
naming guidelines are the culprit, ultimately.  URLs:

http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/chairs/200410/doc00003.doc (main doc)
http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/chairs/200410/doc00002.doc (diff)

Since this draft has not yet been put out for formal review
by the membership (only informally to the Chairs), I would hope there's
a good chance to have some broader input on various topics,
including the notion of converting hyphens to underscores in the
construction of a URL for a URN-based artifact name.

I'm unfamiliar with all the computing history around hyphens
and underscores as name characters (I do recall SGML), but in the
modern context where filenames get used in URLs, the matter
of underscore "disappearing" (as Deborah puts it) feels like
a real problem.  When viewing an address in a typical browser,
or when sending the HTML document to the printer, an
troubling ambiguity is introduced: fromm visual, we don't know
whether the character is SPACE or UNDERSCORE.

There was a famous article about a train wreck and (non) use
of SGML. I can envision a similar article about the time someone
lost a big contact because they had only 20 seconds to
communicate on a cell phone (nearly dead battery), and
told a business partner to look at *this vital information* at
"this URL..."  He reads the URL from the paper printout and
says: 'http COLON [hmmm]-SPACE-[hmmm]-SPACE-[hmmm]-SPACE-[hmmm]-SPACE-
[hmmm]-SPACE-[hmmm]-SPACE (etc)'... <phone dies> but the URL entered as
such failed, and so did the bid for the contract. The Web lookup
fails, and the poor contract writer assumes he made a mistake
writing down the URL. But he didn't: the real URL did not actually
contain any SPACE characters.



> > all the rage in the URN and Unix communities
> One reason to avoid hyphens in Unix was to avoid confusion with the flag convention ("cmd -flags").
> Second, spaces were token delimiters on the command line, so file names couldn't contain spaces, and underscores were the most unobtrusive alternative. At that time, underlining of running text was a novel and underutilized feature that was only supported on certain terminals, so there was no conflict with underscores. And of course, URLs didn't exist yet.
> Rubato,
> Bruce
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Deborah Aleyne Lapeyre [mailto:dalapeyre@mulberrytech.com]
> Sent: Friday, February 18, 2005 3:18 PM
> To: dita@lists.oasis-open.org
> Cc: Deborah Aleyne Lapeyre; dita@lists.oasis-open.org
> Subject: RE: [dita] hyphens and file names
> I know they are all the rage in the URN and Unix
> communities, but I have never liked underscores
> in file names. In vaguely decreasing order of
> importance, I dislike underscores because:
> 1. Lack of distinctness and clarity
> My primary objection to underscore is that in file names
> it is frequently unclear. When you underline text, a space
> becomes indistinguishable from an underscore. The
> underscores can't really be seen.
>    a. Many older websites indicate links by turning the text
>       blue and underlining it. The underscores vanish.
>    b. Some editing packages default to underlines to show
>       change (effectivity) or badly spelled words.
>       Yes, you could change the default but many don't.
> 2. Hard to see - Underscores are (to my eyes) hard to see,
> especially in print with close leading.
> 3. Confusion with commands. I avoid periods in element names
> because they look like classes and mess with the java folks
> heads. Similarly "HTTP_Get" and it's ilk are commands in
> my world. Similarly, underscore is a command character
> in LaTeX.
> 4. Underscore has a history that hyphens lack.
> Underscores has been used historically as an "I can't cope"
> character. Certain older version of both IE and some Adobe products,
> inserted underscores when they could not cope with a character
> in a filename
>           deb.taz.zip ==> deb_tar.zip
> for example, so many people (and some software) treat
> underscore in certain locations in a file or path name
> as errors or artifacts.
> Software like IDEAs converted all characters (such as #,%,
> {,},(,), etc.) to underscore in filenames.
> 4. Accessibility -
> On most modern keyboards, underscore is a shift-click and
> hyphen is a single click. Folks using their feet or a pen
> in their teeth avoid shifting and all double motions.
> (Yes, you can program them to be single, so this may be
> a wash.)
> Pronouncing software folks used to dislike underscore
> (don't know if this one has been solved more recently)
> because:
> a) There were too many different ways to pronounce it.
> b) There was no one-syllable way to pronounce it (whereas
>     hyphen can use "dash").
> c) It was tricky (slower) to indicate in speech the difference
>     between a character underscore that stands alone (or
>     does it underline a space?) and an underscored
>     character or word.
> 5. An then there is the issue of files names that turn
> into parts of URNs, donšt get me started!
> --Debbie


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