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

Re: alt crazyness (Re: alt and authoring practices)

From: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>
Date: Sat, 3 May 2008 10:11:16 +0100
To: "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20080503091116.GA23967@stripey.com>

Daniel Glazman writes:

> The least I can say is the following : I'm shocked.

Sorry to hear that, Daniel.  But I suspect it'd help if we stuck to
looking at technical merits rather than competing to see who is most
distressed by somebody else's proposal.

> 1. making alt optional in HTML 5 is ridiculous

I don't think that's really an argument.  But if it is then I'm going to
rebut it with:

  Making alt compulsory in all circumstances is ridiculous.

In particular, it doesn't make sense to mandate that the HTML author
provides alt text for an image she doesn't know what it is.

> 2. basing conformance on AUTHOR'S INTENT is even worse than
> ridiculous, I just don't understand how anyone can accept that in a
>    so-called "specification" !

How can it be otherwise?  Consider:

  <p>The <dfn>gte</dfn> was the holiday home where they'd spend the
  next fortnight.</p>

It's correct if the author's intent is to define the word "gte".
However it's _incorrect_ if the author is trying to italicize "gte"
because it's a foreign word.

Even something as simple as:

  <h1>Warning</h1>

is either correct if it's genuine a heading, and incorrect if the author
just wanted to make text bigger.

> 3. when I read something like "When the alt attribute is missing, the
>    image represents a key part of the content. Non-visual user agents
>    should apply image analysis heuristics to help the user make sense
>    of the image.", I can't believe my eyes...

Why?  That sounds entirely plausible to me.

> 4. basing the spec'd definition of alt on common practice on the web
>    is crazy, absolutely crazy.

I agree that would be a poor choice, since alt is so often used badly
(or omitted when it should be provided).  But I don't think HTML 5 _is_
doing that.  Many existing web pages won't be valid HTML 5 specifically
because they _don't_ provide alt text.

>    Smells like "89% of citizens don't like to pay taxes, let's get rid
>    of taxes".

Possibly it would be like that if HTML 5 were to say "alt is optional;
only use it if you want to".  But given that HTML 5 makes alt compulsory
in nearly all circumstances, far over 89%, that isn't the case here.

> This whole story is just unbelievable. And what's even more
> unbelievable is that most of you don't seem to see it.

I'm not sure that claims like that are helpful.  I would've expected alt
to be compulsory in HTML 5 until I read the spec and saw why it makes
sense to omit it in situations where it's impossible to know what it is,
and was persuaded that was the right thing to do.

I could be persuaded to change my mind by arguments on merit; but merely
stating that you can't believe why other people don't agree with you
doesn't really move us on.

Smylers
Received on Saturday, 3 May 2008 09:12:09 UTC

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