W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > August 2008

Re: Images and alternative text

From: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2008 01:39:55 +0200
Message-ID: <48A613CB.8090505@malform.no>
To: Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>
CC: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>

Boris Zbarsky 2008-08-13 05.02:

> Leif Halvard Silli wrote:
>> Btw, saying that the code is TeX would not help me understand it 
>> (though it could help the UA).
> 
> Sure, but there are plenty of people whom it would in fact help (at 
> least more than saying nothing).


I don't contest it.

 
>> It only meant that I could find a method to understand it. Wheras 
>> uncommon words does not have this problem. I know that it is a word. 
>> And I know several ways to learn words.
> 
> I don't see how that's different, honestly.  A lot of "words" (most 
> technical terminology, say) aren't covered by the common ways to learn 
> words.  I fact, finding information on TeX is significantly easier, in 
> my experience, than finding information on various math terminology.

You missed my point. When I see a word, then I know it is a word. 
It may simple or difficult to find its meaning. But I know that it 
is a word. That makes a starting point.

When I stumble upon TeX in the @alt, however, then the problem is 
that I might not know that it is TeX, and that there is no rule 
which says that it (likely) /is/ TeX.

Some of the trouble with this use of TeX is what others have 
described as its advantage: It appears to be quite readable. So 
why is it that I don't understand it? Did I loose some hours in 
school, is that why I don't get it? (I have experienced this 
myself. I have looked at the @alt of equations in Wikipedia. But 
only in this thread did I learn that what I was looking at was 
TeX. Btw, I have used LaTeX briefely. But only for non-math texts.)

Finding TeX code in the @alt is more like having to deal with a 
unknown language than having to find the meaning of one single word.

> This is not to say that the "TeX in alt" case is particularly 
> accessible.  It's just better than nothing, and widely used.

And therefore I wish there were a way to specify that it /is/ TeX.

>> The similarities are these: When @alt is lacking, one must apply the 
>> heuristics directly on the image. When the @alt contains TeX, one must 
>> guess what the source code contains (or remain baffled).
> 
> You're assuming the UA needs to understand what's going on.  The 
> audience is really key here.  Using TeX as alt text in an article aimed 
> at a general audience is not a good idea at all.  Using it in an article 
> aimed at mathematicians isn't so bad, perhaps.


He he. The similarities I saw had to do with heuristics. 
Heuristics can be applied by the human or by the UA. In this case 
I compared UAs applying heuristics on the graphic in order to 
create a lacking @alt text (which is something some has suggested 
we should rely on) with humans trying to guess what a TeX text is 
or means.

I think the question of audience is not the right one. That is 
merely a question of "using words that the audience understand". 
That question is an important thing. Yet it is an issue which is 
very different from the question frome the real issue here.

You also seem to forget, when you only focus on audience, the 
option that screen readers able to understand TeX can read it in a 
meaningful way. For them to be able to do that, there must be 
something which tells them that it is TeX.
-- 
leif halvard silli
Received on Friday, 15 August 2008 23:40:42 UTC

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