To the elegant web

What to write on a nightmarish Monday full of web servers hiccups? May be you can dig a content mine, such as Paul Ford's late night thoughts. Some nuggets extracted for your reading pleasure, though not to be discussed "in polite or easily bored company":

Why is emph better than i? When I'm publishing content from 1901 and it's in italics, it's in italics, not emphasized. Typography has a semantics that is subtle, changing, and deeply informed by history. The current state of web ignores this more or less completely, and repeatedly seeks to encode typographic standards and ideas into tree-based data structures, like in a (quote) tag.

I know at least one or two persons who will like this, one arguing that the web is not here to perpetuate print typography, the other who cares about typographic purity regardless of the medium.

Why are some semantic constructs more privileged than others? Why are the blockquote, emph, strong, and q tags more essential than the non-existent event, note, footnote, or fact tags? Because HTML tried to inherit the implied semantics of typography, that's why! And those semantics are far more subtle and complex than most people (outside of the TEI folks, and their text-aware kind) will acknowledge. But sticking with them means we have a typographically and semantically immature web...oh, it is madness, madness.
If links are to be given semantics, so that you don't just say, "link to this page," but "this page is a broadening of page," or "the author of this page is a resource named X," what do we do with that? I mean, what does that actually get us, really?

Better PageRank in Google!

Paul wants the web to be elegant:

I care about all this because, you know, it can be beautiful. It isn't, right now. After countless hours setting up databases, tweaking CSS, and defining schemas, learning RDF so that I can borrow ideas from it, and thinking about what a link actually is, I can say with confidence that the web is not beautiful. In terms of the maturity of a technology, which can be measured as being a technology's ability to reflect the actual skills and awareness of the individuals it seeks to serve, the web is about equivalent to a IBM PC Jr.

Although it is a long way to go:

That is what is most painful about a new medium, is how much the work is about the medium itself. Weblogs are a pure example: there is a significant percentage of weblogging that is about weblogging, as people figure out what to do with the new forms, much as when people, faced with a microphone, will say “I am talking into the microphone, hello, on the microphone, me, hey, microphone. Microphone. Hey. Me. I'm here. Talking. Hi there, on the microphone. That's me, talking. Please check out my blog.” As any toddler's parents will tell you, narcissistic self-consciousness is a part of early growth, and it will take years before we get it out of our collective systems, but eventually people will realize the value of saying something besides saying “I am saying something,” and we can go from there. The medium may be the message, but the message is also the message.

[via Frownland]

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