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The Semantic Debate

From: John Foliot - WATS.ca <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Mon, 7 May 2007 08:03:43 -0700
To: "'Anne van Kesteren'" <annevk@opera.com>, <www-html@w3.org>, <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <004401c790b8$e903efc0$6501a8c0@bosshog>

Anne van Kesteren wrote:
> We have to remain realistic as well. If people more often incorrectly
> use something it may be that just need to accept that. The language
> should be 
> designed for as many people as possible, uninformed or not. Ivory
> tower viewpoints don't really improve the web.

I'm truly sorry, but this is just wrong.  I routinely see automobiles parked
in spots reserved for those who are handicapped, even though the vehicle's
owner clearly is "in the wrong".  Would you suggest then that I should just
accept that too?  This is exactly the wrong position to be taking.  Using
inflammatory language such as "ivory tower" (and earlier "zealots") only
serves to prove a closed-minded approach on your behalf.

If garden variety web authors (in the requisite underwear in Mom's basement)
want to ignore or flaunt an emergent "STANDARD"'s ability to do more than
just have a pretty design, there is little we can do about that.  For large
businesses, governments, academic intuitions, etc. who want or need to do
better, we are arguing that the appropriate means does not exist, and/or
that the suggested method (using reserved @class values) is wrong.

Look, this is not a criticism of the work that the authors have done to
date; it *is* however new opinion and insight being provided by any number
of people who have worked in the web accessibility space for a long time -
specialized in it in fact, and we are all saying that there is something
amiss.  Jukka Korpela, Tina Holmboe, Patrick Lauke, David Woolley, and
(humbly) yours truly are all trying to say the same thing.  If you choose to
ignore us wholesale, then good luck; seems this is all pretty much wrapped
up and outside of any real debate or discussion.  If on the other hand, you
wish to remain true to the ideals that formed WHAT WG in the first place,
then for the love of Mike, start listening to what we are saying!  You've
got a problem, we're trying to help fix it, and you keep shouting us down.

> 
> # Are the semantics defined solely by the specification
> (Prescriptivism) # or informed by actual use (Descriptivism)? For
> human languages, # linguists generally take the Descriptivist
> approach. This turns out to # be a more productive way to interpret
> artifacts in human languages such # as English.    

To which I can only say I've already seen both Finnish and Chinese added to
this discussion.  This argument sounds akin to saying that since once upon a
time we drew pictures on cave walls, that we should continue to support and
encourage that as an effective means of communication.  

What *exactly* is wrong with providing a new means for Prescriptivism?
Surely this would be a "Good Thing", and a move forward?  Besides, HTML is
not *really* a Human Language, but a machine language: we use HTML to mark
up written text to give it structure and meaning - heck, that's HTML 101.

JF
Received on Monday, 7 May 2007 15:04:03 GMT

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