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RE: [html4all] HTML5 Alternative Text, and Authoring Tools

From: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Date: Thu, 1 May 2008 16:33:57 -0700
To: "'James Graham'" <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Cc: "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>, "'HTML4All'" <list@html4all.org>, <public-html@w3.org>, "'W3C WAI-XTECH'" <wai-xtech@w3.org>
Message-ID: <00a701c8abe3$d3e70e00$da3142ab@stanford.edu>

James Graham wrote:
> I should just point out that *no one* has presented
> data from a useful alt study yet. That applies equally to people who
> believe the balance of arguments weigh in favour of allowing alt to be
> omitted where no reasonable alt test is available /and/ those who
> believe it must always be present in conforming documents.

Agreed.  As Steven Faulkner has pointed out, we require a "...proper
scientific study that is based on scientific method."
[http://www.paciellogroup.com/blog/?p=63]  

However in absence of such study, the mandatory requirement for @alt
currently exists within HTML 4.01 as well as XHTML 1.0, and the editor's
decision to reverse precedent and remove this requirement has not been
substantially proven to be the right solution.  More-over, the W3C body
entrusted to make decisions and recommendations regarding "web
accessibility" has come forward with the official position of maintaining
the status quo, and continue to insist on the mandatory inclusion of @alt:
"<summary>

1.  By the principles, HTML5 wants to support accessibility

2.  By their charters, WAI groups (here WCAG) are the go-to
experts in matters of accessibility

3.  WCAG requires @alt (WCAG1) or the function that in HTML4
is provided by @alt (WCAG2)  [editorial note -- add links]

4.  By the principles, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

5.  Conclusion:  barring the introduction of new, good
reasons for a change, the failure of the HTML5 draft to make
@alt on <img> an across-the-board requirement (even if sometimes
it has the value of &quot;&quot;) is a bug.

</summary>"
[http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Feb/0082.html]

While the editor claims in fact that there are "new, good reasons", he has
not been able to successfully prove that they are good, never-mind reasons
(this requires proof), and are in fact seen by many as simply excuses to
forgive poor authoring tools/authoring environments.

Thus, in light of current fact, I would suggest that the editor is wrong
here, and must revisit the Draft, rather than attempt to close this item as
"resolved" as currently written (which is what he tried to do). 
[http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-xtech/2008Apr/0030.html]
 
> Furthermore there is no reason that people with one of these opinions
> needs to provide data whilst people with the other opinion do not. In
> particular there is no reason to believe that because something was in
> HTML 4 or is in some other spec it should be subject to less scrutiny
> than new ideas.

There is no argument here, however what has happened is that the editor has
unilaterally made a change - embraced a new idea - without proving that the
new idea is better than the old.  Experts in the field have questioned this
move, and have asked for specific proof that the new idea is indeed better,
and this proof has not come forward.  Given that one of the design
principles of HTML5 is "...if it ain't broke, don't fix it", and the editor
is allegedly "fixing" something, then proof that it is indeed broken should
be required, and it should be delivered by the person making this claim -
the editor.  

The current justifications in the Draft do not stand up to scrutiny by the
experts - they are excuses for one or more contributors not fulfilling their
responsibility, but not technically "impossible" scenarios to address: they
confuse "won't" with "can't".  Further, as I continue to point out, the
final arbitrator of conformance is left to the content creator's "honor
system" - it cannot be measured by mechanical means alone - which is not
how/what a Standard should be.

I for one do not question the basic premise of the assertion - in fact I am
starting to come to terms with it - but the simple fact is that the proposed
"solution" has emerged, not from the expert community or from study or
survey, but rather from internal discussions between a small group of
authors and the editor (the now infamous HTML5 cabal), none of whom are of
the "official" community of expertise (W3C PFWG) or even recognized as
expert from within the larger community. I have repeatedly asked for a
recognizable name from within the accessibility field with whom they have
consulted, and have even suggested names of people with whom they might
consult, but have never been answered.  It is for *this* reason that the
burden-of-proof rests with the editor to prove his position.

> Lastly, I do not understand why it is perceived as the responsibility
> of the editor to do any study that other members of the group feel is
> required. That expectation will not scale.

It is the responsibility of the editor to listen to the groups chartered by
the W3C as "expert", and accept their guidance unless the editor can prove
that those recommendations are wrong, which requires study and proof.  If
Ian Hickson wishes to ignore the specific recommendation of the W3C PFWG
(who reached their position based on internal discussion and consensus),
then yes, it is his responsibility to provide justification and proof for
directly going against this recommendation - why should it not be?

I personally believe that if we are to truly examine the issue, then both
sides must be prepared to abandon entrenched ideas and have an open mind.  I
also believe that I am pretty much there, and have floated some alternative
ideas - again, untested ideas, but possibilities beyond what we have now.
Finally I suggest that the thoughts of Al Gilman are apropos and should be
required reading by both sides of this discussion.
[http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/wai-xtech/2008Apr/0367.html]

However, the basic fact remains: the editor must prove that the officially
recognized experts are wrong, and not just say that they are.

JF
Received on Thursday, 1 May 2008 23:34:45 GMT

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