Lost in spaces

Thomas R. Bruce (tom@begbick.law.cornell.edu)
Mon, 14 Jun 1993 22:21:28 -0400


I had hoped to stay right out of this one, but I think perhaps a dash
of practicality is in order. One for which I will probably be
electronically lynched, but such are the risks.

The current debate over whitespace is a glaring example of the sort of
thing which has disadvantaged HTML vis a vis rougher (and readier)
non-standards like Gopher from the beginning. I have been on the
stump for WWW a good bit lately amongst law schools, many of whom are
looking at putting up some kind of server capability for the first
time, and for whom _any_ move toward new technology is done at the
expense of a primary mission of low-level support for faculty and
student activity. These people are not exactly grabbing pitons and
running out to look for a learning curve to scale, and there is a
general perception that hypertext is hard, it's much easier just to
dump an unformatted file into Gopher and it's almost as good. I
happen not to agree with this, and am devoting a certain amount of
time and effort to weaning them from this attitude. But say SGML in
anything above a soothing whisper and they run from the room.

I sure hope that none of them took my proselytizing at a conference in
Chicago last week seriously enough to subscribe to www-talk in
some hope of finding out what the Web is about. I suspect they would
be a mite bewildered by the religious warfare amongst the Ayatollahs
of Em Space.

I agree that bastardizing standards is a rotten idea and in
the long run complicates implementors' lives a little, maybe. Just
maybe. But something as inherently counterintuitive as taking all
control over whitespace away from an author -- or allowing them to
retain it by creating a tagset the size of the Manhattan phone book --
sure isn't going to put a lot of docs on the Web very quickly,
whatever it may do for the purity of the standard.

Uncharacteristically difficult tonight,

| Thomas R. Bruce tom@law.mail.cornell.edu |
| Research Associate |
| Cornell Law School Voice: 607-255-1221 |
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