Re: Missing geometric shapes

From: Philippe Verdy <>
Date: Sat, 10 Nov 2012 02:53:53 +0100

Why then stars ? Any symbol, even any Unicode letter could be repeated
and half-filled. Even logos (I've seen Apple logos used this way) or
pictograms (I've seen film rolls for cinema rating, or trumpets for
rating music, or beds for rating hotels, or forks/spoons/knives for
rating restaurants, or flowers/leaves for rating a natural environment
or its preservation, or seals for rating quality of documents, or
diploma hats for rating universities and schools, or academic palms
for rating researches, or droplets of water for rating the quality of
waters, or fishes for rating fishing sites, or camps/teepees for
rating campings, or open hands for rating welcoming acceptance, also
various figures of hands with raised fingers, or street fires with a 0
to 3 lamps lit, or just one at the position of green or orange/yellow
and red, or various road navigation signs. Also various fors of
checkmarks or votes).

All of these are graphical substitutes for digits. All of them
frequently have theur own local graphic design, local color
conventions, local sizes. Even more frequently today, these
prictograms display rich color and light effects. Using fonts for
trying to display them is in fact the worse solution, and it will be
just simpler to represent the existing digits (that are more precisely
recognizable, even if they are not "beautiful"), and then leave a
rich-text or graphic renderer using non-plain-text styling to perform
the necessary substitutions (most often using a site-specific or
document-specific choice of icons). The problem is clearly not that of
encoding : the encoding is already solved with digits. You're just
trying to add geometric shpaes to allow display poor icons that don't
even match the need for colorful and beautiful, and distinctful icons.

Even today, using the existing Unicode for the WHITE STAR character
allows performing styling on it to render an empty, full, or partially
filled star. This will be done via a stylesheet converting digits into
styled stars. You don't need new Unicode characters for that. And the
most interchangeable form for plain-text encoded in Unicode will
remain the use of standard digits (now nothing prohibits us of using
existing Unicode characters, but none of them have not been encoded
for this derived use : don't complain if this does not work properly
or if readers don't have a font to render them if all what they have
is a renderer capable of displaying standard text with classic
letters, digits and punctuation used in their language, with variable
glyph design matching their own preferences, and their own requirement
on font sizes for accessibility).

If you start encoding a document using uncommon characters, automated
Braille or aural readers won't know what to do with them : it may look
smart for non-blind people reading your document visually, buth there
should be a clear alternative way where the actual intended semantic
is stored in the document and numeric figures are certainly best :
they are accessible). It will be better and to read "3 stars" rather
than "symbol, symbol, symbol" (where the same term "symbol" may be
used for automatically reading distinct symbols occuring in the
document, so loosing compeltely the semantic differences expected and
making the document completely unusable). Now suppose that a smarter
text reader tries to use the Unicode character name (in English) will
it be understood in another language than English? Will it be smart
when it will read "BLACK STAR, BLACK STAR, BLACK STAR" ? Will the
reader need to detect these repetitions to infer "3 BLACK STAR(S)" ?

Now what will happen if stars are becoming different ? "BLACK STAR,
WHITE STAR", vs. "BLACK STAR, WHITE STAR", etc., when the actual
meaning was a more compact and understandable numeric figure (here:
6/6, 5.6, 4/6, 3/6...)... I wonder how a reader for accessibility or
automated parser will infer the correct meaning.

In some fancy documents you may even use random symbols of roughly the
same displayed size (apples, pears, peaches, bananas, raspberies,
oranges, tomatoes... just chosen within a common family, and sometime
using real photos rather than icons) : what will be significant is
their presence or absence, or their total count. Not the glyph, and
not the colors used visually...

For me all the graphical substitutions of numeric figures are NOT
plain text, they are presentational features for visual rendering, and
part of the styling of a rich text document support (even when it is
not electronic but engraved on a stone, metal or plastic/resin plate,
or on the leaver of a precious book cover or printed on a T-shirt).
Received on Fri Nov 09 2012 - 20:01:10 CST

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