[rfc-i] Following up from Atlanta

Ted Lemon mellon at fugue.com
Tue Dec 4 14:02:33 PST 2012


On Dec 4, 2012, at 4:46 PM, "John Levine" <johnl at taugh.com> wrote:
>> I believe this is a matter of style and personal opinion.  As a
>> programmer I can't understand why anyone would find variable-width
>> fonts easier to read.
> 
> As a native speaker of English, I can't understand why anyone would
> want their documents to look like they came off a 1970s line printer
> when they can look like they came off a printing press.  (And I've
> read a lot of documents from 1970s line printers.)

I'm going to agree with you, but I think it would be better if people would avoid arguments of this type—as you acknowledged in a subsequent paragraph, it's a matter of taste.

So I agree with your conclusion, but the right argument to advance in favor of it is simply that the current canonical representation _only_ suits the needs of people who share Nico Williams' preference.   Nico asks why we should prefer some other canonical representation, but that's confusing representation with presentation.

The real question is whether we want the canonical representation to be a particular presentation (of which lpr-style plain text and book-style proportional typeset text are two examples), or whether we want it to be a machine-translatable representation that can be presented in both of those ways, as well as other ways (e.g., hypertext).

If the answer is that we prefer a machine readable representation, then the question of which presentation to use falls away, and we can get into the much livelier and more religious discussion of whether nroff or xml2rpc should be the canonical representation.   As you have no doubt gathered, I prefer that the canonical representation be explicitly machine-readable, and that there be a few canonical presentation forms that are made available as well, one of which would be the old standby.



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