[uf-discuss] Human and machine readable data format

Dan Brickley danbri at danbri.org
Thu Jul 3 02:04:10 PDT 2008

Breton Slivka wrote:

> I offer the challenge to those developers: If you sincerely believe
> that simple internationalized date parsing is an unsolvable or
> difficult problem (which, as I have pointed out has been solved
> numerous times already, with two examples), please present your
> evidence. Why is avoiding this work more important than Accessibility?
> Why is avoiding this work more important than avoiding hidden
> metadata?

The examples you gave (ecmascript, spreadsheets) relate to the 
interpretation of a single simple date string. Much of the discussion 
here has instead been about the interpretation of marked up paragraphs 
of natural language prose where dates are mentioned. The former is a big 
enough job, as you point out. But the latter is a substantially larger 

Imagine the English language permutations of "Tuesday the forteenth of 
July, next year" in terms of word order. Then allow for all natural 
languages (in all written scripts). And don't forget we use a variety of 
calendars. Big job. In theory it could be attempted; but the culture 
around here is averse to 'theoretical' solutions.

While there is value in minimising "hidden metadata", this isn't an all 
or nothing decision. Having the data within the HTML document itself is 
   already a big win in many cases, compared to putting it in a separate 
XML file. Having the data local to the paragraph within the HTML 
document (rather than in the head section) is also a major achievement 
w.r.t. maintainability. Both of these factors reduce the hiddenness of 
data; putting info in an attribute is not the end of the world. Given 
the other tradeoffs, I think it should be seriously considered.




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