[thelist] Re: Hn tags

Techwatcher techwatcher at accesswriters.com
Mon Jun 24 07:41:01 CDT 2002

> > Yikes -- I guess you're not primarily a writer!
> > Heading tags are the exact equivalent of
> > headings and subheadings off-line.
> that's hardly an endorsement

> here's my classic example -- it's a page that shows the three
stooges, so
> the h1 will say "the three stooges" and then i want an h2 for curly,
> and moe
> i also want to place the subheading "the funniest comedians in
history" and
> a paragraph of introduction right under the main title
>    the three stooges
>         the funniest comedians in history
>            actually there were six of them, but the
>            "real" ones were curly, larry, and moe,
>            and the three that followed, all replacements
>            for curly, were never as funny
>     curly
>       born jerome k howard, curly was...
>     larry
>       larry fine, besides being the slappee or recipient
>       of most of the violence, was an accomplished violinist...
>     moe
>       moe howard, jerome and shemp's older brother, was the
>       undisputed leader of the team, and...
> like i said, this is a religious war, so please try to follow
along   ;o)
> since i want "the funniest comedians in history" to be a heading, i
have a
> right to choose a heading level for it (rather than a styled <p> --
> but i've already decided i want curly, larry, and moe to be h2's,
> so the "h1's must be used in sequence" fanatics will require that i
> h3's to curly, larry, and moe, and give h2 to the subheading under
the main
> title
> which, by the way, also forces me to do all sorts of awkward crap in
> style sheets to get the h2 looking smallish and the h3's for curly,
> and moe biggish
> when in actuality, if i go h1-h3-h2-h2-h2, everything's hunky-dorey,
> looks the way i want and what's more *it has the depth of importance i
> want* because another thing the w3c says, in addition to "don't skip
an hx
> number or the sky will fall" is that the heading level is supposed to
> represent the *importance* of the material it sits in front of, and
in the
> page i've constructed, that paragraph under the title is not as
> as the three paragraphs about curly, larry, and moe
> see?  and it doesn't help if you say "oh, just move that intro
> down to the bottom of the page and *place* it at the top using
> because then it would belong to moe, n'est-ce pas?  see the problem?

Hi, again...
> >how 'bout this?
>  > <h1>the three stooges</h1>
> > <h2>introduction</h2>
> > <h3>the funniest comedians in history</h3>
> > <h2>curly</h2>
> > <h2>larry</h2>
> > <h2>moe</h2>
> >
> >Again, I'm not arguing; just trying to understand your perspective.
> my perspective is
>  - yank <h2>introduction</h2>
>  - go to validator.w3.org and run it through strict (yes, it does)
>  - fuggedaboutit
> the worst part is, the paragraphs that "follow" the headings don't
> "belong" to them -- that's only an illusion provided by our linear
> the headings and paragraphs are all just content blocks
> and all your blocks are belong to <body> -- equally
> (to see what i mean, grab the parse tree from the validator)
> so in the above, the h3 is actually structurally the same as the h2's
> this harkens back to my earlier remark about how headings don't nest
> if there were some way to "nest" the paragraphs "into" the headings
> they "belong" to, then we'd be getting somewhere
> i suppose one could do all kinds of shit with nested divs, but why?
> browsers don't gain anything from that anyhow
> the whole structure thing with headings is badly, badly b0rken, and
it does
> not bother me one whit that some people think the hx's have to be
> down and up neatly

There is nothing wrong with using all h2's, even if the content might
seem to nest -- many newspapers only allow one or two types of
subheadings, for example. Imo, the following is a problem, however:
> the worst part is, the paragraphs that "follow" the headings don't
> "belong" to them -- that's only an illusion provided by our linear

The problem is that (as you said!) our brains -- rather, our MINDS --
ARE in some sense linear. As a writer (poet, playwright, novelist, even
journalist, etc.) I proclaim that, despite McLuhan, despite
the "nonlinear" art forms some of us profess to like (and actually, the
nonlinear structure of most art films, for example, simply makes them
inaccessible to many folks who love films), despite everything... the
human mind wants and IMPOSES linear structure. In fact, as we develop,
we actively develop strategies making this MORE possible (i.e.,
chunking, which is a strategy children use as their "vocabulary of
chunks" develops).

Humans think within time, we try to find cause-and-effect. This is not
coincidence -- we survived on a largely hostile planet for a hundred
generarations because we valued/learned to do cause-and-effect. (Jung,
among others, postulated that aspects of mind could fall within the
Darwinian paradigm; he was profoundly misunderstood as meaning
something mystical, but that's what he meant by the "collective

Sequential timing (apart from a few speculative models in physics at
quantum level) is part of our mentally built-in cause-and-effect model
of the way things work. If your heading doesn't lead to a better
understanding (or act as a setup for) the following paragraph(s), it's
probably a bad heading. (As referent for the word "bad," use
readability studies; it's not some moral judgment by an individual.
A "bad" subheading causes the reader's mind to stutter, reparse, etc.)

I value, greatly, the hypertext-ness of the Web. But I have to admit, I
value it primarily because it allows me to structure digressions (and
re-refer to them at all relevant points) within my linear thesis or
structure. (Example: If I'm talking about theology and need to define
terms for part of the proposed audience, the rest of the audience
doesn't need to wade through stuff they already know, because I can
encapsulate it and refer it off-page.) It doesn't matter that such a
page (a digression for its author) may be the main content for some
visitors who found just that page because they wanted it and searched
for it!

Foucault, et al, are just plain wrong -- authors DO structure content
according to their purposes; "good" understanding (on the part of the
reader) DOES require (to some extent) that the reader follow that
structure, or at a minimum, perceive it, however dimly. (The whole
deconstructivist position reminds me of a very amusing article
titled "Salt Passage," written pseudonymously by a graduate student I
knew... Among other ridicuous theoretical positions he satirized was
the notion that sometimes a speaker happens to emit the words "Please
pass the salt" and someone down the table just happens to pass the salt
to the speaker -- purely as a coincidence, you understand!)

This might seem to be wandering into off-topic areas, but I'm really
just trying to explain, again, that Hn tags are exactly what they ought
to be. They have great value. I like being able to format them
elegantly in CSS (largely because I prefer sans-serif for headings),
but I can't conceive of a good replacement. And it doesn't matter if
you would like to provide a preview (overview) -- which might better be
treated as a list -- of the 3 stooges before actually refering to them
in their own high-level subheadings. Go ahead! Headings are Good Things
(for readers), and we (as writers) will normally want to use them in
order "going down" but NOT in order coming back up.

A big break in format between a level-4 subheading and a level-2
subheading SHOULD BE a big format change, since it helps the mind grasp
the fact that we are jumping back to what was [previously] structured
as a major division, from some level of detail.

Btw, if you want to structure your work from detail out to general
principles, that's fine, too. Just clue in your readers with the
contents of the heading tags! For example, you might start with a large
heading something like "important observations" and move towards
smaller headings like "hypothesis one" and "alternative hypotheses," as
academic/professional writers in the sciences do.

> about your problem...
> >camilio.accesswriters.com/prop_ad1.shtml
> don't float the logo
Ah, yes -- that reminds me of my other question. I floated the logo
right but within the body's "containing box." Just as I floated the
navigation UL (without bullets) right BEYOND the normal margin (with a
negative value for margin-left), however, I would LIKE to float the
logo right, slightly. If I assign to the floated logo something like
margin-right: -20PX; will it float a bit left of the body's assigned
margin position? I put off experimenting with the right border change
until I could get the left one fixed.

In general, other than specific textual changes I'll have to get from
the client, the site camilio.accesswriters.com (its temporary location,
so the form won't work) is done, really. Would anyone like to tell me
about any problems in other browsers/platforms? It's meant to be
degradeable CSS. (-8

Cheers --
Carol Stein
techwatcher at accesswriters.com

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