Tags: article

3

sparkline

Responsive readlist

I’m in Madison, Wisconsin where myself and Aaron are wrapping up three days of workshopping with Shopbop. It’s all going swimmingly.

This last of the three days is being spent sketching, planning and hacking some stuff together based on all the things that Aaron and I have been talking about for the first two days: progressive enhancement, responsive design, HTML5, JavaScript, ARIA …all the good stuff that Aaron packed into Adaptive Web Design.

We’re also assigning some homework: reading material for the Shopbop gang to read at their leisure after we have departed Madison. Aaron created a readlist called Adaptive Web Design and I’ve made a readlist called Responsive Enhancement.

Feel free to peruse the links contained therein and send them all to your Kindle or download them all as an epub file for the iPhone/iPad/Readmill/whatever.

Article of doubt

A Day Apart in Seattle was more like a seminar than a workshop. Rather than being an intimate gathering in a small room, it was more lecture-like in an amphitheatre setting. But that didn’t stop me interacting with the attendees. There were plenty of great questions throughout, and I also had everyone complete an exercise.

I reprised the exercise I gave at dConstruct back in September. It isn’t a test of the audience. Rather, it’s a test of how well the new structural elements in HTML5 are described:

I then asked the attendees to match up the definitions with the element whose name sounded like the best match. To be clear: this wasn’t a test of knowledge. I was testing the spec.

The results from September’s test were quite revealing. There was some confusion between footer and details. Since then, the definitions in the spec have been updated and I’m happy to report that the Seattle audience—a much larger sampling—were almost unanimous in correctly matching element names to their definitions.

With one glaring exception.

The section and article elements were, once again, confused. This happened back in September at dConstruct. It happened again at A Day Apart in Seattle. I didn’t get exact numbers, but from the very web-savvy audience of about two hundred people, I would say there was a 50/50 split in matching up the definitions of section and article. About 50% of the attendees thought that the definition of section applied to article and visa-versa.

Historically, article and section were more distinct. The article element used to have optional cite and pubdate attributes. Now their content models are identical (apart from the fact that the article element can take an optional time element with a pubdate attribute).

The only thing that distinguishes the definition of article from the definition of section is the presence of the phrase self-contained. A section groups together thematically-related content. An article groups together self-contained thematically-related content. That distinction is too fine to warrant a separate element, in my opinion.

The existence of two elements that are practically semantically identical isn’t a harmless addition to HTML5. It’s causing a great deal of confusion. I’ve spoken to authors who incorrectly assumed that articles had to be within sections or that sections could only be within articles. The truth is that you can have sections within articles, articles within sections, sections within sections, articles within articles, or any other combination you can think of.

This isn’t helpful. Authors are confused. Yet, according to the HTML Design Principle of Priority of Constituencies:

In case of conflict, consider users over authors over implementors over specifiers over theoretical purity.

I don’t understand why Hixie is still clinging to the addition of the article element when he has repeatedly stated that he wants to keep the number of new elements to a minimum. Here’s the perfect opportunity: merge section and article into one element. Personally, I would keep section, with its more generic-sounding name.

We’ve been here before. The abbr and acronym elements were responsible for years of confusion amongst authors unsure of which one to use. The use-cases and the definitions of both elements were just too similar. That particular problem has been solved in HTML5: the acronym element is now obsolete. The abbr element works well enough for both use cases.

Let’s not repeat the mistake of abbr and acronym with article and section.

The audio of place

Last year, the good people at Web Directions asked me if I would like to write an article for the second issue of their Scroll magazine—an honest-to-goodness dead-tree publication. I told them I would be delighted.

The theme of the issue was “place.” I took the word and ran with it, delivering an over-the-top pretentious piece about language, wormholes and virtual worlds. An edited version appeared in the magazine as Disrupting the conceptual metaphors of the web.

I’ve published the raw, unedited version here in the articles section under its original title of There Is No “There” There. I also recorded an audio version, which clocks in at just over eight and a half minutes.

There Is No “There” There on Huffduffer

Feel free to huffduff it. Feel free to anything you like with it: it’s licenced under a Creative Commons attribution license.