Don’t call me DOM

9 July 2004

<cite> obsessions

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Karl has another of his obsessions about the cite element in HTML.

Part of it is a request to improve the semantic extractor (or in fact, its underlying XSLT style sheet) to support the cite element; 10 lines of XSLT later (which I could have linked to if the said style sheet was in W3C Public CVS repository), it does support it, as demonstrated on Karl’s page itself.

But why should one care that much about this element (or its close colleagues blockquote and q, confusingly completed by a cite attribute)?

As Karl remind it, HTML was born in a scientific community, where the citations are a crucial part of any published paper (as a side note, when I look at the data model that the HTML specifications defines with its cite, kbd, samp and other historical artifacts, I always get the impression of looking at a cubist vision of the reality, where some parts of the world gets an incredible amount of visibility where others are simply ignored…)

As a matter of fact, citation analysis is a crucial part of the history of sciences:

Citation analysis is a well-established and widespread technique of assessing the influence and intellectual significance of published research over time. It provides the unique ability to pinpoint exactly when and where a particular paper or author was first cited or discussed. Historiographers of science and technology can use citation analysis to identify the most highly-cited individuals, institutions, and countries over time in terms of their individual or collective publishing records.

The limitations and shortcomings of citation analysis have been addressed by its critics and acknowledged by its proponents. Despite its flaws, no other methodology permits such precise identification of the individuals who have influenced thought, theory, and practice in the history of world science and technology.

No wonder that this same phenomenon has taken a huge importance in the blogosphere (as the 3rd million of blogs registered in Technocrati likely illustrates), where people gain in fame and popularity through the cross-citations that are made between blogs; as a matter fact, the Web itself is built exactly on this idea, where hyperlinks are really a generalization of the citations.

Still, cite, blockquote and q add a useful layer of semantics to the basic <a href, in so that they qualify the link as being a citation, and as such, as being important to the topic you’re addressing; even without a full citations search engine that makes Karl dream, if google were to give more karma to links enclosed in these elements, that would be a nice application of their semantics.

3 Responses to “<cite> obsessions”

  1. Steph Says:

    “Technocrati” — was that on purpose? It give a whole other flavour to the word :-)

  2. Dominique Hazaël-Massieux Says:

    Oooh, nice labsus, indeed :)

  3. WRT: Writer Response Theory » Blog Archive » Citation Footers for Academic Blogging Says:

    […] Are these new concerns? The tag CITE was part of the orginal HTML specification. We could also consider extending the CITE tag for contemporary use, and reflect on the observation that HTML was originally developed to support a citational culture – the circulation of scientific papers. This was pointed out by… someone. The name wasn’t on the posting page. […]

Picture of Dominique Hazael-MassieuxDominique Hazaël-Massieux ( is part of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Staff; his interests cover a number of Web technologies, as well as the usage of open source software in a distributed work environment.