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Re: Marking up links to alternative versions of content (was: Re: conflation of issues or convergence of interests?)

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2007 11:32:03 +0300
Message-Id: <F8C76CD9-4274-41B2-ADC3-62F10BCC8E2C@iki.fi>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
To: Sander Tekelenburg <st@isoc.nl>

On Aug 2, 2007, at 00:09, Sander Tekelenburg wrote:

> Reality dictates that not everybody in every situation *can*  
> consume all
> equivalents. I'm trying to get us to deal with that reality.

In another message:
> I don't know who is arguing for "mutually exclusive". Not me.

Later in this message:
> Exactly. That's why it is being argued that UAs should provide  
> access to all
> equivalents.

Later in this message:
> I don't see exactly what of an image a blind user would need, when the
> textyal alternative is a good equivalent. Possibly it is useful to  
> know that
> the text is the equivalent for an image (although that would seem  
> distracting
> to me). But UAs can indicate that, provided equivalents are marked up
> explicitly as equivalents.

I'm confused about what it is you are advocating as the behavior that  
browsing software should exhibit based on markup that designates  
"equivalent" alternatives, which is why I'll try to avoid debating  
further with my own assumptions about what I though you meant.

Are you advocating that sometimes browsers should offer all  
"equivalent" versions to the user (not "mutually exclusive") but  
other times browsers should pick one of the "equivalents" and  
suppress the alternatives from the presentation (what I meant by  
"mutually exclusive")?

> That aside, I don't see how "letting authors suggest a relationship  
> in the
> prose" could possibly give you any more certainty that what is  
> claimed to be
> an alternative in fact is one.

Prose is human-to-human communication. What that prose says  
communicates (dis)confidence about the nature of the alternative to  
another human more effectively than a necessarily simplified machine- 
readable markup assertion.

>>   * Prima facie, I trust software performing the selection for me
>> based on said labeling even less.
> Do you not trust your anti spam filter?

Not fully.

> Do you not trust your browser to block pop-ups?

I don't need to, since mine tells me when it blocked a pop-up, so if  
the indicator appears in response to an event generated by me, I can  
easily identify a false positive.

>> My distrust of the markup labeling and automatic choice comes from
>> translations. I become annoyed when a site offers me a translation
>> automatically when I know (or can guess) that the original is written
>> in a language that I can also read, because from experience I expect
>> to be better off reading the original if it is in a language that I
>> can read.
> Exactly. So it should be possible for you to [1] request a specific  
> default
> language and [2] override that when you want another language.

Accomplishing this with plain links and different URIs for different  
languages is much simpler than anything that involves machine- 
readable labeling specific UA UI.

> HTML should allow authors to provide such prose when they feel it  
> is needed.
> But as I pointed out before, very often such prose will distract  
> from the
> actual content. So we should not *require* authors to provide such  
> prose --
> it would only discourage them from providing equivalents.

I would assume that editing some invisible metadata is a bigger  
hurdle than writing text and making a plain link.

>> Moreover, there have been
>> suggestions that in some cases pieces of content designed to be
>> mutually exclusive alternatives should be presented side-by-side
>> nonetheless.
> Yeah, it can for instance be useful to consume audio and its  
> transcript
> simultaneously. For that particular case, the user could load the  
> audio file
> into an extrenal player.

In the external player case, browser being too smart is worse *in  
practice* than relying on the user's knowledge of what files (s)he  
can play outside the browser.

>> Making sense of content without explicit associations is the core
>> competence of successful search companies.
> Of course there are ways to make some sense out of non-structure,  
> but it'll
> always be easier to make sense out of structure. The result will be  
> better,
> the work will be easier, the cost lower, etc.

Actually, that's not necessarily true when people have an incentive  
to lie in their metadata/markup for SEO purposes.
See also: http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm

>>> - Not a tool that helps authors judge the universality/
>>> accessibility of their
>>> document.
>> I'm a developer of a checking tool (not specifically for
>> accessibility) myself, but I think that features should be designed
>> to suit the communication of authors and users first and machine-
>> checkability should come second instead of being a design constraint.
> Agreed. Authoring should not be made harder just to aide tools that  
> help
> authoring :) But such tools *are* to be considered. When we can choose
> between two solutions that are equally hard/easy for authors, the most
> machine-checkable one should be favoured.

Sure. I just don't think adding metadata and making plain links with  
normal text are equally easy/hard.

>> as a user I don't trust that they are truly equivalent if
>> there's more than one thing, so I want to know a word of two about
>> what and why.
> Why would you have reason to trust that word or two?

Because I expect that people are less likely to lie when they make a  
situation-specific natural language assertion to their human users  
than they are to deliberately or inadvertently mislead in their  
metadata. Google assumes this too when it uses prose instead of  
author-supplied keywords.

Henri Sivonen
Received on Thursday, 2 August 2007 08:32:32 UTC

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