[uf-discuss] human readable date parsing

victor jalencas victor at carotena.net
Thu May 3 01:40:16 PDT 2007

Looks to me that we have these goals:

 * Specify a date in a format that a machine can understand (i.e. the
ISO8601 format)
 * Stash it somewhere where it's legal to do so, and is not apparent
to human readers

I'm still undecided whether a full ISO date is abbreviable as a normal
date, but looks like it won't matter in the end. Since the baseline is
the HTML4 spec, I have been re-reading it to look where else we might
put it. I know Tantek did so back in the day, but it's still a good
exercise for the rest of us. Perhaps what I'm about to say doesn't
make much sense, but for the sake of brainstorming, and perhaps
because it might spark an idea on someone else's head, I won't refrain
from chiming in ;)

 Since using ISO8601 is a w3c recommendation, I wondered where
specifically they were recommending its use. Looks like there is an
element (a couple of them, actually) with an attribute that can
legally contain an ISO datetime: INS and DEL. Furthermore, the spec
says "deleted text may not be shown at all ", which makes it sound
like screen-readers should ignore it --however this might make them
skip the human readable text as well. I know it's semantically
dubious, but perhaps we might write

<span class="dtstart">Friday the 13th <ins datetime="20070713" /></span>

Another idea, that would make a bit more semantic sense perhaps, but
wont' be acceptable to screen readers, would be something like CODE
(after all, we are speaking about machien-readable text) or DT/DD
(where the short form is the term and the ISO datetime is the
definition). They don't exactly hide the information intended for the
machines, but mark it up as such, so that it's easily ignorable.

 Other parts of the spec that look interesting, and that I had
forgotten long ago, are script macros [1]; and perhaps even specifying
datetime info as script data, put on an event handler (in the ABBR or
SPAN element) that we know we won't trigger normally (for example, an
onblur on an empty element).

 Just my 2c.


[1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/appendix/notes.html#notes-specifying-data

Victor Jalencas <victor at carotena.net>

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