Thursday, August 02, 2007

Citing with Quote and Blockquote

There as been a lot of debate about the quote tag (<q cite="http://willcode4beer.com">my quote</q>). Many are upset that Internet Explorer doesn't render it correctly, others argue, "who cares". Though semantic mark-up is often at the center of the debate, often missed is, why have a quote tag in the first place.

To render quote marks doesn't really make a strong argument. The rendered quote characters can depend upon a user's language. Doesn't it make more sense to render quotes with the language of the article being read? Besides, the rendering can be fairly easily dealt with using behaviors or javascript (as my page on fixing quotes in IE shows).

Back to the semantics. There is an attribute of the quote tag meant to refer to the source of the quote. The specification says that the attribute should be a URL. However, none of the browsers, including those that render quote characters, do anything with the CITE attribute.

The blockquote tag doesn't suffer from the debate. However, its cite attribute is still unused.

So, we have this wonderful piece of contextual, semantic information but, the browser provides no way for a user to make use of it, and the average user doesn't even know the information is available.

I built a citation tool-tip script to make floating tool-tips with the cite attribute hyper-linked and with the tag title as a title in the tool-tip. But, isn't this really a work around of what the browser should be doing anyway?

Maybe the next step should be a browser plug-in/extension that can show a "citations" sidebar. This could easily show what is cited and provide navigation to the citation.

I wonder, how many people actually use the "cite" attribute anyway...

--Paul

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