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ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)

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"ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)" <[log in to unmask]>
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Barry Caplan <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Tue, 29 Oct 2002 14:03:34 -0000
Reply-To:
Alastair Campbell <[log in to unmask]>
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From:
Alastair Campbell <[log in to unmask]>
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Barry Caplan
>
> You take what you need
> from what you get and you feed it to a reformatter. It
> happens a trillion times a day on the web without anyone even
> knowing about it.

But when it happens on the web, (I assume you mean back-end?), it is a
known input being transformed to a different output.  It isn't taking
any old input, which is the current state of HTML.

> If a browser can do it and the output is visual, then there
> is no reason why the same thing can't happen with audio out
> put, or a different visual output,

The reason I don't believe this can be done, is that most HTML code is
only given presentational markup.  The only way you could know there is
navigation on the left, is because it is the first column of a table
with lots of links in.  But depending on the particular site, it could
be anything. Pages are just to arbitrary, with no *meaning* implied in
the code.

> I wouldn't deny the availability of the 90% (or whatever)
> that could be easily translated just because 10% are hard. Do
> the translation, and if one is tricky, then just say so. The
> user benefits in both cases.

The proportion of sites on the internet using structural markup is
probably less than 1%.  Even with good algorithms to guess what part of
a page means what, without a standard I don't believe you can make a
logical document from presentational markup.

Take the newly popular RSS feeds for example, this is one way of taking
someone else's content and displaying it elsewhere in whatever format
you like (within reason).  The only reason this is possible is because
it has a standard way of defining itself (I believe using XML).

It would be great if you could make a user agent that could translate
any web page into other useful formats, but I can't see any way of doing
that with the current state of web pages because there is nothing useful
to work with.

I'd love to be proven wrong, but I guess that would be very difficult
and expensive to do!

-Alastair

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