[uf-discuss] Human and machine readable data format

Jeremy Keith jeremy at adactio.com
Mon Jun 30 10:11:02 PDT 2008

Ben Ward wrote:
> I disagree with this. I don't think it's acceptable for us to define  
> microformats that break with the specified semantics of HTML. Yes,  
> it's frustrating that HTML is spec'd the way it is, but the intent  
> of the HTML title attribute is to be for human data. The intent of  
> the ABBR element is for human expansions.

Yes, and I think that "2008-06-30" is a human-readable expansion of  
"30 June", "June 30th", "6/30", "30/6" or "the thirtieth of this  
month". The expansion clarifies the abbreviated form, as per the HTML  

"The title attribute of these elements may be used to provide the full  
or expanded form of the expression."

> HTML4 made no provision for machine data in those nodes, and since  
> HTML is the foundation on which we are building, I don't feel that  
> we are entitled to shoehorn broken reinterpretations of those  
> semantics to suit our needs.

I couldn't agree more. That's why I'm not suggesting putting machine  
data into the title attribute of the abbr element. I am suggesting  
putting data which is both human and machine readable into the title  
attribute of the abbr element.

> Further, with specific regard to this proposal, whilst the examples  
> being cited are closer to valid, human abbreviation, it does nothing  
> to address the popular practice of ‘5 minutes ago’ and ‘this  
> morning’ or ‘today’ dates, which are not human, text abbreviations  
> of a date, and the expanded form is not always contextually  
> compatible with the abbreviated form.

I disagree. I think that writing:

<abbr title="14:00">5 minutes ago</abbr>

...clarifies the abbreviated form.

"The content of the ABBR and ACRONYM elements specifies the  
abbreviated expression itself, as it would normally appear in running  
text. The title attribute of these elements may be used to provide the  
full or expanded form of the expression."

Of course all of this is predicated on the understanding that values  
like "2008-06-30" and "09:00" are human readable. I believe they are.  
At the very least, they're a lot more readable than the concatenated  
datetime. If you believe that those date and time values are not human- 
readable, then I understand your objections (but I don't agree with  

I'm going to use a bit of reductio ad absurdum here but bear with me...

If the abbr element is going to be rejected because it exposes  
information other than what the author decided to place in the running  
text, then the element should never be used at all! In other words,  
writing something like this:
<abbr title="World Wide Web Consortium">W3C</abbr>
...should be rejected because the author chose not to have the  
expanded form in the running text.

Personally, I think that using the title attribute of the abbr element  
to provide the expanded human-readable form of what is contained in  
the running text is precisely what the abbr element is intended for.



Jeremy Keith

a d a c t i o


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