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Subject: RE: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default Behavior for List Items

I know there have been several posts beyond this one, but this solution seems most practical. Most of my DITA work is moving legacy docs to DITA. Many large corporations have house styles that they are wedded to that make this type of solution ideal. There are real costs for organizations moving to DITA. We need to make that process as painless as possible.


In many cases, the type of markup Michael first gave as an example is really required – not pretty but the best compromise for some legacy doc styles.




Rob Frankland

Sock Monkey Consulting, LLC

Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

From: Michael Priestley [mailto:mpriestl@ca.ibm.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:49 PM
To: Michael Priestley
Cc: Andrzej Zydron; Bruce Nevin (bnevin); dita@lists.oasis-open.org
Subject: RE: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default Behavior for List Items



Given that different groups do have different opinions about the appropriate practice here, there is a feature already slotted for DITA 1.2 designed to allow groups to apply their own constraints, including constraints like disallowing mixed text/block content models. This allows new adopters to get the usability advantages you see while giving others the flexibility they see a requirement for - and without breaking existing content or specializations.

Would it make sense to define a set of constraints for this authoring model as a common practice/capability? That's something we could target for 1.3, since it would take advantage of 1.2 and not break backwards compatibility. And we could make the constraint package available outside the standard as a first demo of the constraints capabilities as soon as 1.2 becomes available.

Michael Priestley
Lead IBM DITA Architect

Michael Priestley/Toronto/IBM@IBMCA

06/10/2008 08:19 PM


"Bruce Nevin (bnevin)" <bnevin@cisco.com>


"Andrzej Zydron" <azydron@xml-intl.com>, dita@lists.oasis-open.org


RE: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default Behavior for List Items




Hi Bruce,

Again I'm not defending HTML in general - but it's still not clear to me why in the two examples I gave the one with the extra tags is actually semantically better. And I'm not talking about text both before and after a paragraph - or before and after any block. Just before, and just some of the time. Does it make sense to require everyone who authors a list to add a paragraph to every list, just because in some cases it's useful?

Please don't think this aspect of DITA happened because of ignorance or lack of thought. A lot of thought and argument went into it. I'm happy to have those discussions again - it's a reflection of DITA's success that people are still interested in these issues. But as I said in my note to Andrzej, there is a tradeoff between being permissive and allowing bad markup and being restrictive and enforcing unnecessary markup. DITA's current positioning is somewhere in the midpoint of two possible extremes - it allows some bad markup (like text after a block) and requires some unnecessary markup (like body for a simple one-paragraph topic). But please be aware of the tradeoffs that each position entails.

In terms of issues with usability etc. - I think there is always room for improvement. But my own assessment is that the confusion caused by a backwards-incompatible revamp of the standard that breaks every existing tool and most existing content would cause a lot more usability problems than our current loose content model does. And you haven't addressed what would happen to all the specializations which would become broken, including ones that have been around since DITA 1.0, such as task.

In terms of lists and tables: believe it or not, we had this discussion too back in the early years. The current design of simpletable reflects an effort to converge the content models at least to some degree (simplifying tables to the point where they could be thought of as multipart lists, unlike CALS tables with spans etc.). And the door is still open to introduce some base classes in the future from which both lists and simpletables could derive (probably in the 2.0 timeframe). But we didn't include it in DITA 1.0 because we couldn't see any usability benefit in doing so. It's a more semantically pure model but doesn't hit the author.

Michael Priestley
Lead IBM DITA Architect

"Bruce Nevin (bnevin)" <bnevin@cisco.com>

06/10/2008 05:06 PM



"Andrzej Zydron" <azydron@xml-intl.com>, Michael Priestley/Toronto/IBM@IBMCA




RE: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default Behavior for List Items




Thanks for the cc to me, Andrej. (Someone please offline point me to the
right help file to learn how to engage this thread properly. Is it a
subscription thing?)

> If it's a relic of HTML, I'm not sure why it's a bad relic. The
> adoption of HTML hasn't exactly been crippled by this approach.

I suspect that on careful consideration, Michael, you might want to
rephrase that. I know I don't have to tell you that HTML browsers have a
much simpler rendering task because they're just about format, so the
HTML spec can get away with ignoring semantic criteria. We can't. That's
why a relic of HTML that is not semantically motivated is a bad thing
for XML, and a bad thing for DITA.

Case in point: To say that the text before a list (which may contain
paragraphs, tables, lists, figures, etc.) is in the _same_paragraph_ <p>
as the text after that list is perverse and contrary to any ordinary
notion of "paragraph". Conversely, if DITA has its own definition of
"paragraph" allowing that, then why not allow <p> as a child of <p>? The
same logic that proscribes that should proscribe anything like it,
including lists.

There is undoubtedly a cost to correcting bad decisions after their
effects have become established. Bear in mind that if not corrected such
considerations may become a barrier to adoption in the future after the
utility of an on-ramp to XML wears off and users want closer semantic
control of their content. We spoke of usability issues in the TC today.
Here is one staring us in the face. Users found it confusing. Very
possibly OT developers found it confusing, whence the disparate
rendering. Making a clean categorization of elements in terms of their
complexity could reduce confusion and simplify OT work. By complexity I
mean something like phrase can only containt #PCDATA, para can only
contain phrase and #PCDATA, "block" = {list, table, ...} can only
contain para and "block", etc.

This is representative of a larger issue. Another example is the
decision to make lists and tables semantically distinct. That is
properly a rendering distinction. Any table can be rendered as a list
whose list items (the row elements) are parallel in structure. Any list
whose items are parallel in structure (such as a list of steps) can be
rendered as a table. Development of adaptable facilities for semantic
tables is one of the unresolved challenges and potential benefits of
XML, and that decision to sunder lists from tables obscures the means.

That's a digression from the current thread, so we ought not to pursue
it here. I just mention it to indicate that this is part of a larger
issue of relics of HTML format markup that may be lurking, which should
have been put in question relative to the SGML standard during the
inception of DITA, but which for whatever reason were not.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andrzej Zydron [mailto:azydron@xml-intl.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 4:05 PM
> To: Michael Priestley
> Cc: dita@lists.oasis-open.org; Bruce Nevin (bnevin)
> Subject: Re: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default
> Behavior for List Items
> Hi Michael,
> Your example failed to highlight the real problem, which is:
> <li>Do something.
>       <p>One of three things happens:
>           <ul><li>A</li>
>                   <li>B</li>        
>                   <li>B</li>        
>           </ul>
>         that really screw up segmentation, translation and any sane
>         form of linguistic processing.
>       </p>
> </li>
> The problem is that HTML was a VERY BAD IMPLEMENTATION of
> SGML. It concentrated on form rather than structure (mixing
> up both which is, if not a sin against humanity, then
> definitely one against common sense ;) ), which is why we
> needed XML. Basing an XML vocabulary on HTML (which would not
> even parse in SGML terms after about version 2.0) was, at
> best IMHO a dubious choice.
> Rather like <b>, <u>, <i> and translatable attributes this
> should all be consigned to the DITA 'deprecated' bin of
> history (BTW the same should be true of CONREF for individual
> nouns or noun phrases), and good riddance to it all. Anybody
> who has had to cope with translating such documents will
> testify to the difficulties involved therein.
> Best Regards,
> AZ
> Michael Priestley wrote:
> >
> > A few points:
> >
> > - This would be a backwards-incompatible change. That is, it would
> > render invalid a large proportion of the existing DITA content out
> > there. I think we could consider this for 2.0 if the cost of
> > converting all back-level content was justified by the
> benefits (I'm
> > not currently convinced myself, but that would be the
> timeline to make
> > the arguments)
> > - This would also render the current task specialization invalid,
> > since it specializes a <ph> element as the first child of
> <step>. As
> > an exercise, see what any of the list specializations would
> look like,
> > if only block-level elements were allowed (I suspect it would break
> > most of them).
> >
> > Finally, and leaving aside the pragmatic reasons not to make a
> > backwards-incompatible change to the schemas and DTDs at
> this point,
> > I'm still not sure why this:
> >
> > <li><p>Do something</p>
> >        <p>One of three things happens:</p>
> >        <ul><li><p>A</p></li>
> >                <li><p>B</p></li>        
> >                <li><p>B</p></li>        
> >        </ul>
> > </li>
> >
> > Is better than this:
> >
> > <li>Do something.
> >       <p>One of three things happens:
> >           <ul><li>A</li>
> >                   <li>B</li>        
> >                   <li>B</li>        
> >           </ul>
> >       </p>
> > </li>
> >
> > If it's a relic of HTML, I'm not sure why it's a bad relic. The
> > adoption of HTML hasn't exactly been crippled by this
> approach.        
> >
> > Michael Priestley
> > Lead IBM DITA Architect
> > mpriestl@ca.ibm.com
> > http://dita.xml.org/blog/25
> >
> >
> > *"Bruce Nevin (bnevin)" <bnevin@cisco.com>*
> >
> > 06/10/2008 12:22 PM
> >
> >                  
> > To
> >                  <dita@lists.oasis-open.org>
> > cc
> >                  "Bruce Nevin (bnevin)" <bnevin@cisco.com> Subject
> >                  RE: [dita] Proposal for Consideration: Default Behavior
> for List
> > Items
> >
> >
> >
> >                  
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > [Not sure if this is the right way to contribute to this
> thread, but I
> > don't see any contributor hooks on the page or in the Help.
> Responding
> > to
> _http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/dita/200804/msg00060.html_.]
> >  
> > I agree that rendering is an OT issue.
> >  
> > The real issue IMO is that <li> permits #PCDATA and phrase-level
> > elements. These should only be permitted in paragraph-level
> elements,
> > and any element that permits paragraph-level or "larger"
> elements as
> > children should not permit #PCDATA and phrase-level elements. This
> > behavior seems to be a relic of the HTML standard.
> >  
> > It is easy for OT and vendors to insert <p> by default, and if <li>
> > begins with some other child element it is only a minor nuisance to
> > delete <p> or insert that child ahead of <p>.
> >  
> > This would simplify the work of rendering and remove the
> ambivalence
> > that is the topic of this thread.
> >  
> > Perhaps this is already being considered for 1.3 or 2.0.
> >  
> >     /Bruce Nevin
> --
> email - azydron@xml-intl.com
> smail - c/o Mr. A.Zydron
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