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RE: Mandatory and Important

From: Justin James <j_james@mindspring.com>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 20:52:59 -0400
To: "'Matt Morgan-May'" <mattmay@adobe.com>
Cc: "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <068201c903f1$6c508df0$44f1a9d0$@com>

Note that I've substantially reduced the CC list.

Going through this, the more and more I believe that you are mis-reading my
words, for whatever reason. You keep responding to things that I never once
said (for example, I've never said that I support making @alt optional). I
am not going to help you do this by responded point-by-point.

I will say, though, that if you truly believe that we support the same
things, it would be appreciated if you tried a bit harder to really
understand what I was saying a build a constructive argument from there,
instead of mis-reading my words and then assaulting me with sarcasm, and
making political comments which are not appropriate to this list. A common
theme in the discussions regarding accessibility is the attacking of members
of the HTML WG by people who believe in spec where accessibility is
mandatory. I understand that for many people who fall into that category,
this is an extremely personal and emotional issue. But at the same time,
assaulting people who could be your allies not only turns them off, but
makes the by-standers less likely to support your cause either.

J.Ja

> -----Original Message-----
> From: public-html-request@w3.org [mailto:public-html-request@w3.org] On
> Behalf Of Matt Morgan-May
> Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 5:46 PM
> To: Justin James; 'Laura Carlson'; 'Doug Schepers'
> Cc: 'Karl Dubost'; Ian Hickson; 'HTML WG'; 'W3C WAI-XTECH'; wai-
> liaison@w3.org; 'John Foliot'; 'Gez Lemon'; Al Gilman; w3c-wai-
> pf@w3.org
> Subject: Re: Mandatory and Important
> 
> 
> On 8/21/08 1:00 PM, "Justin James" <j_james@mindspring.com> wrote:
> > Then you need to re-read Laura's message. She seems to be under the
> > impression that making @alt mandatory will create a huge surge in its
> usage.
> 
> Nobody's arguing that @alt usage will "surge". I expect that it will
> tread
> water. What is being argued is that it would drop precipitously among
> those
> who validate, if it were optional.
> 
> > Experience with HTML 4 has shown that this is *clearly* not the case.
> A
> > large problem with this, is that authoring tools don't demand @alt.
> 
> False, and false. Many leading authoring tools in various segments
> (WYSIWYG,
> text-based, even CMS) have been prompting for @alt for years. And if
> you
> think it's bad now, lower its importance and see what happens.
> 
> > Indeed, what I
> > wrote was that tool vendors will not make their tools require @alt,
> > regardless of whether or not the HTML spec requires it, because this
> will
> > annoy *users of the tools*. World of difference. Tool vendors do what
> their
> > users want and demand.
> 
> I do happen to be one of those tool vendors, you know, and you're half-
> right
> here. Tool vendors do what their customers demand, and many of our
> customers
> demand tools that enforce their policies for creating content, which
> includes validation, which includes (ta-da!) mandatory @alt. How
> efficiently
> they do that is not a consideration for the language spec, but a
> function of
> market pressure to create a usable product. Companies are competing on
> this,
> today.
> 
> > If the tools are a hassle to use (like endless
> > prompts for @alt), people will use other tools that are less
> annoying. So
> > what is going to happen? Tool vendors will *not* require that their
> users
> > provide @alt content, and just silently inject an empty @alt.
> 
> ATAG was designed to minimize the hassle involved on the part of the
> user.
> Have you read it?
> 
> http://www.w3.org/TR/ATAG10-TECHS/imp3#check-provide-missing-alt
> 
> > Given the absence of @alt on the Web today, it is clear that
> mandating @alt
> > is not the solution to this problem in the slightest.
> 
> The only way this is going to be proven one way or another is by making
> @alt
> optional, and witnessing the dramatic decline in compliance. I'm not
> interested in codifying a test case in a Rec. But I am confident you're
> completely in the wrong on this.
> 
> > The *entire* point of <img> is to... display an image.
> 
> And the point of displaying an image is to _communicate information_.
> In
> that sense, @alt is as necessary as @src.
> 
> > In fact, in many cases
> > (such as decorative images, or [shudder] "spacer" images), @alt makes
> life
> > miserable not just for sighted users, but those with accessibility
> needs
> > too.
> 
> I fail to see how alt="" causes misery.
> 
> > The people who write code by hand are a minority compared to those
> using
> > tools. Those who then run their code through a validator are even
> less. Look
> > at the stats on the amount of valid HTML 4 code on the planet. People
> can't
> > even get doctype correct, do you honestly think that making @alt
> mandatory
> > will lead to a sudden surge in @alt usage?
> 
> Remember that @alt _is_ mandatory, and that most if not all of the
> texts on
> HTML (even the ones that don't equate @alt with a tooltip) indicate
> that
> it's required. I'm saying we've gotten this far in large part _because_
> of
> @alt being mandatory, not that we can get much further.
> 
> > Why do you (and Laura) seem to believe that the HTML 5 spec carries
> the same
> > weight with people as laws? What do you think happens to people who
> violate
> > the spec, the police come and arrest them, or fine them? Please stop
> making
> > comparisons to actual laws, and please stop thinking that making @alt
> > mandatory will mean it suddenly gets used.
> 
> My example wasn't about the law, but human behavior. Opt-out causes
> more
> performance than opt-in. Simple.
> 
> But since you mentioned the law, it _is_ the law for the US and
> European
> governments, and all of the UK and Australia, at a minimum, that @alt
> be
> populated in a meaningful way. And by the time HTML5 reaches Rec, that
> legal
> requirement will be applied more broadly in the US and EU, and take
> effect
> in more countries and, at this rate, any new planets we've colonized by
> then. So if you care about adoption of HTML5 in those arenas, it's
> going to
> need to be seen as a step forward for accessibility compared to HTML
> 4.01 to
> gain traction, particularly in governmental circles.
> 
> > Indeed, many of my objections to things in HTML 5 are based around
> the idea
> > that it promotes development techniques like AJAX that are extremely
> > accessibility unfriendly.
> 
> This is already being handled elsewhere. (That's not an accident.)
> 
> > But I am also a realist who has been around the block quite a few
> times, and
> > I'm telling you, just because @alt is mandatory does not mean that
> > accessibility will be there, it just means that you are going to get
> a bunch
> > of empty @alt's all over the place, at best.
> 
> Simply repeating your mantra doesn't make it true. (Unless you happen
> to be
> president, apparently.) The web, or at least the small portion we have
> influence over, has responded positively (if grudgingly) to mandatory
> @alt
> text. And nobody has provided anything above anecdotes arguably
> reflecting
> the indifference around them to suggest that @alt is broadly misused.
> And
> _if_ it's being this broadly misused, then to make it optional is
> merely to
> sanction doing nothing instead.
> 
> > And this is *precisely* why I support Karl's suggestion that we make
> @alt
> > mandatory (despite the fact that I feel that it is a meaningless
> gesture),
> > bring @role into force across the board, and refer HTML authors to
> the WCAG
> > for accessibility guidance.
> 
> Swell. Thanks for venting about how stupid it is to advocate more or
> less
> the same position as you do.
> 
> -
> M
Received on Friday, 22 August 2008 00:54:11 GMT

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