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Re: several messages relating to the alt="" attribute

From: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2008 07:26:43 +0200
Message-ID: <47FEF693.6060300@malform.no>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: public-html <public-html@w3.org>, wai-xtech@w3.org

Ian Hickson 08-04-11 00.11:   ­  
> The HTMLWG's ISSUE-31 is "Should img without alt ever be conforming".
> alt="" in all cases  except [... snipping to examples: ] photo upload site,
>  In the former case, the image is generated automatically and 
> the program simply does not have enough information to provide alternative 
> text.
There is no necessity in that an automatically generated photo site 
cannot have  alt texts which are helpful enough.

> In the latter case [a Rorschach  inkblot test], _any_ description
> would miss the point of the test (which is to see what descriptions
> people come up with).

If we, as you say here, are discussing a Rorschach test presented via 
web pages (I cannot really come to that conclusion, reading the spec), 
then: Some User Agents might repair images which are lacking the alt 
attribute, by adding "image" or similar as alt text. In fact, Henri and 
others have foretold us what advanced heuristics etc should do for users 
in such cases.

Hence a Rorschach inkblot text, if the point is to not have any 
description, would need to add alt="" to each image in the test to avoid 

> Here are some answers to other issues raised on the topic:

( Referencing 15 comments from before the HTML wg opened and 7 since then.)

> On Wed, 11 Apr 2007, Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
> > 
> > This topic came up on #html-wg today.
> > 
> > Mail.app and other mail clients don't put alt attributes on images 
> > generated in email. They could add alt="", but there are two reasons it 
> > might be better to allow no alt attribute at all, at least for email 
> > clients.

Thunderbird allows you to add alt text to images in HTML mail - and asks 
for it if you forget to say that you don't want i. And despite this, it 
is used by many users, who prefers it over preinstalled mail programs 
from the Operative System vendors.  The Alt text will also be included 
in the pure-text version of the same message (when you include both a 
text and a html version in the same message).

> > 1) A mail message is often sent to a restricted audience, so the 
> > accessibility, media-independence and machine-understandability benefits 
> > or alt are not nearly as great. And adding alt="" as a cargo cult 
> > talisman does not give these benefits in any case.

Strange to read this after the MatML debate. Then there were much talk 
about what happens - in private - when you copy from  e.g. MathML to 
HTML and vice versa. Will it work etc. HTML should be kept interoperable 
with HTML - even if it is private.

Since E-mail is a mayour transfer tool for things that lands on the web 
- it can be copied and pasted online. Clearly, if the message is 
properly alt-ed, this increases the chance that the online version will 
also have a workable alt.

Therefore it is far from irrelevant whether e-mail programs allows you 
to include alt-text in messages sent in private.

> > 2) WYSIWYG editors in general can't be expected to enforce proper alt 
> > attributes. Users can add images in all sorts of ways (paste, drag and 
> > drop) that don't have a natural affordance for entering alternate text. 
> > And I doubt WYSIWYG editors that popped up a box for typing in text 
> > whenever the user inserts an image would be competitive

Crossing back to what you, Ian, started your message with:

> It isn't clear from this issue what exactly the problem with the current 
> spec text is. The current text in the spec requires alt="" in all cases 
> except when the page is generated in a manner where alternative text is 
> not available, or when there is no possible way to provide text that is 
> in any way a replacement for the image.

Your/the spec's "very strong wording" is not enough  if it is seen as a permission to say that pasting and drag and drop of images are examples of when "alternative text is not available" or impossible to provide.
leif halvard silli
Received on Friday, 11 April 2008 05:27:24 UTC

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