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

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Sun, 4 May 2008 13:20:00 +0000
Message-Id: <61E4850F-9F9C-4FE9-89E1-D129C8C5C14C@robburns.com>
To: "HTML Working Group <public-html@w3.org>" <public-html@w3.org>

Hi Smylers,

On May 4, 2008, at 2:27 AM, Smylers wrote:

>
> Robert J Burns writes:
>
>> On May 3, 2008, at 1:56 PM, Smylers wrote:
>>
>>> 1 This webpage conforms to the HTML 5 standard except that it
>>>   includes unknown images from external sources for which we are
>>>   unable to provide alterternative text.
>>
>> Few should ever be authoring a page where they do not know why they
>> included an image on the page (perhaps this is part of the same
>> misconception I'm already trying to dispel).
>
> Yes, I was thinking of the bulk-photo upload we've discussed elsewhere
> in this thread.

But you're not understanding the differences in the way @alt is used  
today and the way metadata mechanisms (suach as aria:described-by and  
@longdesc) are used today. Once you understand those differences, the  
bulk upload case is no longer a use case for missing alt. It is only a  
use case for missing alt if we first try to make alt do ALL OF THE  
WORK of the other diverse descriptive mechanisms the web already has  
(which is what you say you're reading of the current draft calls for  
us to do; I would instead say that we just haven't added the other  
mechanisms to the draft).

>> All anyone has to do is remove the image from the page, decide  
>> whether
>> the page is missing something important in not having that image
>> there.
>
> In the case of a page which exists to display a photo, I think  
> everybody
> would agree the photo is an important part of the page.

Yes, but the web already has other mechanisms to deal with the photo  
as an important part of the page. The @alt attribute is left only for  
that indispensable role on the page (unless the WG later decides to  
drop the other semantic mechanisms for description).

>> If it is, put the image back and briefly describe what was missing
>> without the image.
>
> But that involves looking at the image, something which the HTML  
> author
> isn't doing in the bulk-upload case.

Not necessarily for the @alt attribute.  I gave an earlier example  
where the author has no idea what the image looks like but instead  
conveys the purpose for the image in the alt (so that a subsequent  
editor can add an appropriate image). This might also be done with a  
description of a photo where I describe the photo I want to see and a  
photographer or media librarian finds it for me. But with alt it is a  
more abstract operation. For example <img alt='print this page'  
src='to-be-filed-in-later' >.

>
>
>> Perhaps you or someone could point us to a real world example of a
>> page where you think the purpose of the image on the page is
>> inexplicable.
>
> It isn't inexplicable; it's just unknown, being from an external  
> source.

But alt in this case is the responsibility (and within the  
capabilities) of the authoring tool developer (except in the current  
draft where the implementor would be required to provide information  
unavailable and in contrast to current practice with alt where the  
implementor would have all of the information necessary to provide a  
conforming alt value).

The actual photo used is immaterial in the iPhoto / .Mac example.  
Instead the non-graphical user simply need to be oriented to what kind  
of web page they're using. They might further make use of description  
metadata, but that does not belong in the alt attribute value nor does  
it provide and alternate textual equivalent to orient the user to role  
and meaning of the image in the present document.

>> That way we could continue the dialog and demonstrate that it's not
>> the case.
>
> Asking me to provide some information so that you can examine it and
> consider whether it's persuasive seems a reasonable way to continue  
> the
> discussion; but asking me to provide some information which you have
> already decided to dismiss as "not the case" -- pre-deciding that
> whatever I saw will be wrong! -- doesn't seem a scientific way to
> conduct a discussion.

I'm not trying to be scientific here; you misunderstand what I'm  
saying. I'm saying after a careful reading of this thread, it is my  
understanding that some  including you  are not understanding the  
way alt is being used, and that is why they misunderstand how it can  
easily be mandatory. The best way I can think of to underscore that  
misunderstanding is to say that there are other mechanisms to describe  
a photo: so that is not what alt is for.

You haven't understood what I and so many others have been saying with  
just that example. So, I'm suggesting a series of concrete examples  
(like the iPhoto / .Mac example I raised), would help further. For  
your examples, I'm not planning to dismiss as "not the case". I'm  
suggesting that either you'll find an example I hadn't thought about  
(which propels the discussion forward but is still no more worthy of  
the term scientific), or you'll see what difference is being made by  
me and others between the role for alt and the role for descriptive  
metadata mechanisms (which also will propel the discussion forward).  
However, from reading this and related threads, it's pretty clear to  
me that you (and possibly our editor) are misunderstanding how alt is  
used now and therefore advocating an entirely unworkable and unwieldy  
@alt attribute for HTML5 (where accessibility tools will be less  
useful to their users).

Take care,
Rob
Received on Sunday, 4 May 2008 13:20:40 GMT

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