[sword-devel] OSIS markup for gen books and devotionals

Karl Kleinpaste karl at kleinpaste.org
Wed Oct 8 11:33:05 MST 2014

Longish ramble.

I'm still finding our lack of attention or interest regarding consistent
output somewhat disappointing.  David wrote a lot a couple weeks back
about this, but some of it just plain bugs me, and no one else followed
up at all.  Some of the bugs-me is non-specific, some is very specific.

On 09/23/2014 02:32 PM, David "Judah's Shadow" Blue wrote:
> Now all this might sound pedantic and that front-ends should just
> render what the engine sends, but imagine a frontend that sends the
> text through a TTS engine for visually impaired persons. This frontend
> would have no use for HTML formatting, but it would care what the
> underlying markup that this HTML represents is.
I have 2 reactions to this observation.

1. I don't know if any other frontends are capable of it, but Xiphos has
been TTS-friendly for ~8 years.  (Cf. Read Aloud in the View menu for
walking straight through a Bible, or using mouse-swept regions + context
menu invocation.)  And indeed, as noted, I don't care what the markup
looks like, indeed I ship the text through a tag stripper before it goes
out to Festival.  There is no consideration at all to what was there, it
is all blindly removed and simply shipped for speaking.  Yes, one could
hypothetically say that a change of voice could be used in the TTS case,
but -- this is important -- _nobody cares_.

You see, for as long as I've been around, there has always been a huge
amount of talk within Sword about The Wonderful Things That Could Be
Done.  But the real world's bottom line is that the five-9s proportion
of our actual user base has a straightforward goal: Good, productive
Bible study using quality tools.  Precious few are deaf or blind, and
almost none are interested in full-tilt syntactic analysis tools.  So
all the "see, the markup could let Joe Handicap have the text delivered
in his Special Way" really doesn't mean squat in the real world.

2. I'm not arguing against OSIS.  Not all, in fact.  Nor against
handicap support.  But what I'll say about this sort of over-attention
to the hyperactive extremes of what could be done routinely leads us to
miss, or deliberately avoid, the underlying problem.

That problem, as addressed by Laurie Fooks' experimentation, is that
collectively we do a kind of poor job of consistent rendering of what's
under there.  For the five-9s crowd, what they want is good, consistent
display of textual content.  For the moment, ignore the potential blind
or deaf user of our apps.  The problem is that we, the frontend
developers, have a pronounced tendency to produce /different things/ for
the /same text/, as displayed in the usual panes of our apps.  Is that
because of the frontend itself, or because of what the frontend gets
from the engine?

That is where Laurie's experimentation reached, and where we
collectively fall over the cliff.  We are accelerating at 32f/s^2 toward
going */splat/* on the canyon floor below while blandly discussing how
nifty a more extensive TTS would be.

As far as the "not a Bible-reading program at all" crowd...I absolutely
do not care.  The syntactic analyzer portion of our userbase is past the
nine-9s crowd.

It occurs to me that my "N-9s" nomenclature may be unclear or unknown. 
Five-9s is 99.999%.  Nine-9s is 99.9999999%.  I use these in mild
hyperbole.  When I say that the five-9s crowd wants just to see good
Bible textual display and whatever features can readily go with that, I
mean that out of a hundred thousand users, just one of them is outside
that usual space.  Now, I said it's hyperbole, and someone will tell me
that they have a whole community of users for whom TTS is
crucial...totalling all of 10 people, or even 100 people.  Well, fine,
you've moved the issue from five-9s to four-9s, 99.99%, and ...
whoopie.  You have done nothing to make me feel better.

Besides, as noted, Xiphos has TTS, it's proven to be quite a bit more
welcome than I ever intended it to be -- it was my first significant
hack on then-GnomeSword, /which //I did //as an exercise /for code
familiarity's sake -- and to my knowledge there exists not one Xiphos
user who is a Xiphos user /because of /TTS.  They are Xiphos users
because there are other aspects they like, having to do with workflow or
presentation or search capability or whatever else, and prefer these
aspects over other Sword apps, and TTS is a pleasantly useful side
capability they are happy to put to use.


The problem is that, for given OSIS constructs, the user -- and, let us
not be remiss, the publisher -- cannot be assured that what arrives at
the user's eyeballs is even readable, much less provided as intended.

Why is this?  Xiphos uses straight engine output from XHTML filters. 
BibleTime uses the engine but with its own filters.  JSword apps have
their own entire separate engine, and JSword is now driving almost half
of all Sword apps out there.  Within apps using the C++ engine, BibleCS
uses a different set of filters (RTF) which evidently do not produce the
same visual result as the XHTML filters.  Consistency is lacking because
the end result of all these widely differing filtrations cannot be
counted upon.  Is BibleCS' visual display different because of inherent
limitations or differences from Xiphos vis-a-vis RTF vs. HTML display
targets?  I'm not in a position to render an opinion on that.

But I can say that module authors like Laurie are stuck: They are forced
to use a least common denominator set of features of OSIS, being the
preferred markup methodology, because the interpretation of that markup,
as rendered into a display window, is not consistent, cannot be counted

> >If we don't have a high level of commonality then I am concerned that
> >we are losing the purpose of having a common "engine"
> Well, no not necessarily, the purpose of the engine is to read the
> modules and then provide the content in a way that the front end can
> meaningfully use for its purpose.
This makes me want to throw things.

The purpose of the engine is to produce the text according to the
filters which its client, the frontend, has chosen, and from which that
client expects consistency of output result.

That's all.

Anything else avoids the question.  A frontend's "meaningful use" is
irrelevant if the engine's product is not in line with what the module
author wanted.  Cf. Laurie's experience with tables and so forth.  The
filters are supposed to produce output from an OSIS table spec, however
that looks in the original markup, into something that makes sense in a
frontend's HTML or RTF or WhateverElse widget.  When those filters don't
do that, crud gets displayed, crud like Laurie found.

> You can look at it this way, if the engine determined how frontends
> should display the text, what would the point of multiple front ends be?
Wow, David, can you say "red herring"?

The reasons for picking a particular frontend have precious little to do
with that.  What drives Xiphos users?  Historically, for as long as I've
been involved with the code, it's been user interaction features and
visual quality, especially for user-created and -editable content, which
is why Xiphos has user annotations and editable genbooks and
tree-structured bookmarks and multi-bookmarks and verse highlights and
dynamically resizable images and a bunch of other things.  That's what
users on the mailing lists have asked for, so that's what we've produced.

That the frontends should display the same text in closely the same way
should be axiomatic, and is precisely what Laurie is looking for.  And
David whistled right past it.  It's not textual display that
differentiates today's frontends, it's their other features far beyond
"can it display text properly?"  We haven't even achieved that
level-zero axiom.  We should be ashamed.

Besides this, I believe a hug/e, //HUGE/ aspect of this is bound up in
an issue that is nearly rejected outright, when it's given any attention
at all: How does The Publisher want it to look?  Do we even bother to
ask?  If we ask, do we listen to the answer?  Laurie wants OSIS tables
to behave a certain way, namely, according to its own spec.  Has anybody
taken her thoughts to heart?  Have any filter fixes been done in the
name of accommodating what she perceives as bugs?

> But until people need the additional features, they won't be added.
> Images are a good example, this is very new to the code, but wasn't
> put in until someone felt the need.
Images have been supported in the engine for as long as I've been
around, again about 8 years.  This is not new by any reasonable meaning
of the word.  By comparison, the XHTML filters are less than 2 years old
and are already in wide use.  There has been an ImageSampler module
since long before I was around.

> >I do feel that the system / project would benefit
> >from establishing (or publishing/clarifying same) minimum standards
> >for markup functionality
> This is a laudable goal (with caveats for for the aforementioned cases
> where presentation is not visual or doesn't care about formatting for
> other reasons). But this is very difficult to do.
You might as well have said "we can't fix bugs."

The fact that Laurie can report that Feature X (such as table display)
doesn't work consistently in OSIS markup as rendered in all the
frontends means that the engines, both C++ and JSword, are buggy. 
Mothing more and nothing less.  They need to be fixed so that they do
what they're expected to do, so that they behave according to spec. 
There /is/ a spec, y'know, a document that says there are minimum
standards for markup functionality, just as Laurie asked immediately
above.  Once that's done right, if any further frontend bugs remain in
the resulting output as displayed, then we in frontend development will
have our own bugs to fix.  Until then, it's an engine problem.

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