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

Re: Is Flickr an Edge Case? (was Re: HTML Action Item 54)

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 26 May 2008 17:56:38 -0700
To: John Foliot <foliot@wats.ca>
Message-Id: <AE34AAB7-D45C-4D0D-9932-629139C04750@apple.com>
Cc: 'Karl Groves' <karl.groves@ssbbartgroup.com>, 'Andrew Sidwell' <w3c@andrewsidwell.co.uk>, public-html@w3.org, 'W3C WAI-XTECH' <wai-xtech@w3.org>, wai-liaison@w3.org, 'HTML4All' <list@html4all.org>, 'Matt Morgan-May' <mattmay@adobe.com>


On May 26, 2008, at 5:17 PM, John Foliot wrote:

> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>>
>> Word Wide Web traffic is widely believed to follow a power law
>> distribution (looking at the "reach" statistics for the top 100 sites
>> is consistent with this hypothesis). This means that the top few  
>> sites
>> likely get as much traffic as the remaining 165 million combined.  
>> Keep
>> in mind also that flickr is a site with billions of pages. It is  
>> clear
>> that by any measure, photo sharing is one of the most popular
>> activities on the Web. Only search, video sharing, social networking
>> (which very often includes an aspect of photo sharing), blogging  
>> (also
>> sometimes including an aspect of photosharing) and online shopping
>> appear to be more or equally popular, as far as one can tell from the
>> most popular sites and their reach. If one of the most popular
>> activities on the internet is an "edge case", then what would you
>> consider to be a valid use case?
>
> Given that "photo sharing" is one of the most popular activities on  
> the
> internet, all the more reason to not leave open the door that  
> suggests that
> sometimes an image without @alt is "conformant".  The constant  
> refrain from
> the working group is that this would be a rare instance, yet you now  
> suggest
> that it will be the majority, and not a rare instance at all.  If 10  
> of the
> top 100 websites on the WWW have this magic get-out-of-jail-free  
> card then
> surely others will seek to claim the same status.  The precedent being
> suggested here is staggering.  This is supposed to "help"  
> accessibility?

I am not sure it is in good taste to liken accessibility markup to  
being in jail. That being said, the current draft allows alt to be  
omitted based on the nature and context of the image (i.e. does the  
person or tool generating the HTML know what the image is), not based  
on the nature of the site.

>>
>> No, that's not the real issue. Accessibility standards are a means to
>> an end, not an end in itself. The real issue is: what HTML document
>> conformance requirements are likely to lead to the best accessibility
>> outcomes, considering all the use cases and possible unintended
>> consequences and second-order effects?
>
> Exactly!!  What unintended consequences and second-order effects do  
> you
> think will emerge once you make @alt optional for a class of sites  
> that
> claim "special status"?

I don't believe anyone has proposed site-based special status.

> One possible outcome will be that more sites will
> seek to claim this status, and the overall quantity of images with  
> @alt will
> diminish.  This is a real possible outcome, and to suggest otherwise  
> is
> simply disingenuous. More and more, we are seeing a new way of  
> "publishing"
> to the web that removes any actual "coding" by the content author:  
> CMS tools
> such as Drupal and Joomla (which have embedded editors such as Tiny  
> MCE or
> FKCEditor), wikis and their kin, and social networking sites such as  
> MySpace
> and Facebook.  If all of these "sites" and authoring methods get to  
> claim
> "special" status because they have the author upload images (be it  
> 1, or
> 3,000 vacation photos), where goes accessibility, and how exactly is  
> this a
> benefit?

Regardless of the markup used, it is not reasonable to expect an  
ordinary person to provide alternative text when bulk-uploading  
thousands of vacation photos. In the real world we accept that it is  
reasonable to place accessibility burdens on public accomodations,  
such as places of business, sidewalks, or public broadcasts, but not  
on private individuals. That is the legal and moral standard that most  
accept. The remaining question, then, is what to do when a user does  
not provide such information, and how the spec can best encourage  
whatever is the best practice in this situation.

>
>> Several ways to mark in image in such a manner have been proposed.  
>> The
>> current spec draft proposes:
>>
>> <img src="photo.jpg">
>
> Which significant numbers are rejecting as not acceptable so far.   
> Can we
> accept that as a truth? (Or do we need to conduct a public campaign  
> and
> gather more dissenting voices to "prove a point"?)

Number of people complaining does not affect the truth or falsehood of  
a proposition.

>
>
>>
>> Other alternatives that have been proposed:
>>
>> <img src="photo.jpg" noalt>
>> <img src="photo.jpg" importantimage="importantimage">
>> <img src="photo.jpg" alt="">
>> <img src="photo.jpg" alt="*">
>> <img src="photo.jpg" alt="_">
>> <img src="photo.jpg" alt=" ">
>>
>
> Interestingly, 4 of the 6 above maintain @alt (and  fifth uses alt,  
> as in
> "noalt").  You also left out the possibility of reserved values for  
> @alt, or
> my suggestion that should an <img> have one of a possible many means  
> of
> directly associating a textual equivalent to an image that  
> conformance could
> be considered - if @alt is not the best solution in a given  
> scenario, is
> there a different solution that could/would work besides just saying  
> "leave
> out the @alt"?

I personally prefer the noalt attribute, although it technically  
"leaves out the alt". I think it has a small advantage (harder to  
accidentally forget to indicate anything about the status of the  
image), but also some disadvantages. Which choice is best should be  
decided on technical merits, not whether the three letters A-L-T  
appear in that order, as if that were some sort of magical talisman  
automatically granting accessibility.

> Once the WG comes to the conclusion that optional @alt as proposed  
> is a
> non-starter and starts really discussing a different approach, this  
> debate
> will continue to churn and go round-and-round 'till the cows come  
> home.
> There have been many off-line comments within the working group about
> "dogma" emerging from the accessibility camp, but the responses from  
> the
> other side are equally immobile and dogmatic - simply stating that  
> <img
> src=""> will improve accessibility will not make it true, no matter  
> how many
> times you say it.

Ironically, a number of proposals other than simply omitting alt have  
been made, including by the Editor, and they have been completely  
ignored by the accessibility camp, as far as I can tell.

Regards,
Maciej
Received on Tuesday, 27 May 2008 00:57:32 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Wednesday, 9 May 2012 00:16:17 GMT