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RE: Process objections to FPWD

From: Geoff Freed <geoff_freed@wgbh.org>
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2012 00:13:37 +0000
To: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>, "public-html-a11y@w3.org" <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <A3CD72FE7CF8DE4B953A034D1982200C2FF3B83F@WSMBX1.wgbh.org>

A few comments below.

From: Charles McCathie Nevile [chaals@yandex-team.ru]
Sent: Sunday, December 09, 2012 2:08 PM
To: public-html-a11y@w3.org
Subject: Re: Process objections to FPWD

On Thu, 06 Dec 2012 17:01:46 +0100, Charles McCathie Nevile
<chaals@yandex-team.ru> wrote:

Another issue raised by Matt, that I think is partially technical and
partly just process. Proposals (and rationale) for dealing with it:

> ... We agreed last week to pass [process] issues to the HTML WG.

On Wed, 28 Nov 2012 00:00:54 +0100, Matthew Turvey <mcturvey@gmail.com>

> * We haven't addressed the objections from the original HTMLWG poll
> and decision,

The decision was overturned. The question of whether a draft makes a
reasonable FPWD does not depend on it meeting all technical objections,
and therefore it is reasonable IMHO to file a bug for any given technical
issue (as has been done in some cases already) and proceed with publishing.

To provide a task force response to the questions raised, I propose the

>     "ample evidence that longdesc has been so badly abused in practice
> that preserving it gives the pretense of serving accessibility while,
> in fact, not providing it."

This assertion is apparently fundamental to the objections to longdesc.

However, it relies on a particular interpretation of the evidence.
There is no doubt that longdesc is often mis-used in practice. The
important question is whether this is in fact harmful as Matt asserts,
or just sub-optimal as others have asserted in rejecting this argument.

The screen-reader users turned developers who produce NVDA are clearly not
convinced that longdesc is overall harmful - they implemented, after this
debate had been running for several years.

People supporting blind users are not universal in their support for
longdesc. Nor do they universally agree with the interpretation Matt
claims as a given.

Many non-supporters apparently consider longdesc sub-optimal without
being harmful.

I propose the Task Force resolves that it would be very happy to see
a better alternative get implemented, but until such time as something
better clearly has wider traction, we should continue the development of
this specification.

I strongly support this resolution.  As I've said before, the best thing we can do for authors/publishers/educators is to give them a formal, "approved" method of conveying long descriptions to users, even if it is imperfect; then we can (and should) work toward providing something better.

See Geoff's recent emails, or go back to

There is a lot more of this discussion, but it seems not to change

I propose that we the Task Force resolve that we believe Matt's statement
is a matter of opinion that is unproven, and is therefore not a sufficient
reason to stop work.

I support this resolution as well.  I don't disagree that there is misuse of longdesc, but I am loathe to eliminate longdesc just because it is misused.  It probably wouldn't take us long to come up with a list of other elements and attributes that are equally misused.     

>     "no stated reason that this feature will actually be used more in
> the coming 10 years than it has in the past 10 years"

It is true that no reason has been stated. I propose that the Task Force
resolve that we believe the definition of longdesc in a high-quality
specification, and increased implementation, are likely to lead to a
steady improvement in the usage of longdesc - largely as the usage of alt
has improved over the last decade and a half.

I agree with this resolution, too.  Increased/accelerated education efforts, combined with regulations that are coming into effect, will undoubtedly cause an increase in long-description implementations.  The number of image descriptions is never going to be a high percentage relative to the number of images available on the Web or in e-books or other electronic publications.  The major point is simply that the number of descriptions, and the number of people/entities that want to or must produce these descriptions, is highly likely to go up over the next few years. 

Longitudinal study is very difficult - and as we heard from Geoff, some
apparently significant longdesc usage is in environments that are not
open to public search. But it would seem that implementation has moved
slowly toward supporting longdesc over the last ten years - five of them
in the context of a well-publicised debate over the value.

Longdesc usage doesn't appear to have declined despite the active advice
of Matt, w3schools, and their fellows not to use it, and despite its
absence from the upcoming HTML specification" seems equally correct.

Hixie's 2007 survey of dark data quoted in "the longdesc lottery" found
0.13% usage in a billion pages. My dark data survey of 2008 found "a bit
under 1% in around a million pages"[1]. Steve's recent open data survey
found 86 in 8900 pages, or very close to 1%. Laura Carlson's hand-gathered
content[2] isn't a frequency study of any kind, but apparently shows
continued new usage during the time it was maintained, as well as
increasing support in implementations.

None of this is irrefutable argument, but as evidence to consider it
suggests there is a reasonable probability of increased uptake.

>     "Many objected to inclusion of features in the language that have
> proven to be problematic and don't support any known use cases."

Use cases have been provided. I propose that the task force resolves that
this objection is a process question (use cases are a good idea, but not a
formal requirement) that has additionally now been rendered irrelevant.

> http://www.w3.org/2002/09/wbs/40318/issue-30-objection-poll/results
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Aug/att-0112/issue-30-decision.html

These references are great, but seemingly ignore important subsequent
discussion - importantly including the overturning of the decision by
those who made it. I don't see any reason to take them as reference
points, and given that I believe they are not, it appears they are just
random URLs rather than an actual objection.

[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Feb/0061.html
[2] http://www.d.umn.edu/~lcarlson/research/ld.html.



Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
         chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Monday, 10 December 2012 00:14:12 UTC

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