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Re: Summary of Thursday's IRC conversation about @summary

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Mon, 8 Jun 2009 10:49:19 +0300
Cc: "'Jonas Sicking'" <jonas@sicking.cc>, "'David Singer'" <singer@apple.com>, <public-html@w3.org>
Message-Id: <7D02A5D5-8F72-4B9E-A77E-5673FFF1CAF4@iki.fi>
To: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
On Jun 6, 2009, at 02:58, John Foliot wrote:

> If you cannot grok the difference between the two, is it a failure  
> of the attributes/elements or
> a failure of developer comprehension?

It's a failure of both. You can attribute the failure of the feature  
to the failure of developers to comprehend, but the feature still  
failed.

> At what point must we stop holding
> the hands of professionals and demand that they understand what it  
> is they
> are dealing with and working with?

It's not about demanding understanding but about whether people-- 
professionals and amateurs--actually do understand in practice.

> <table summary="Rows contain destinations, traveling dates, and grand
> total. Columns contain expense category and total. The first column
> contains merged table cells.">
> <!-- Remainder of table -->

[...]
> The specific functionality it
> seeks to address it delivers in spades: as the PF WG noted, "Summary
> serves a need, and serves it well. It is familiar to users. It is
> supported in browsers. It is properly utilized on many web sites which
> strive to be accessible."

What's the "serves it well" conclusion based on? The evidence at http://philip.html5.org/data/table-summary-values-dotbot.html 
  doesn't appear to support the conclusion at all.

 From the evidence, it seems that:
  1) @summary mostly contains bogus data
  2) when it does contain non-bogus data, the data it contains is  
short and caption-like and not of the kind shown in the example I  
quoted from your email above.

> (and again: "The wider web is not an example of good practice.")

Is there a less wide web where @summary actually serves it's purpose  
well?

> Herein lies the other half of the problem - nothing has been  
> adequately
> proposed that replaces the specific functionality that @summary  
> currently
> delivers.

If @summary is indeed a net waste in practice, removing it even  
without a replacement would be a net win.

Reasoning from evidence gleaned from existing content (http://philip.html5.org/data/table-summary-values-dotbot.html 
) should overwhelmingly support the notion that @summary is a net harm  
to Web accessibility. It seems to me that this conclusion can't be  
countered with any amount of reasoning without further evidence, and  
the only convincing counter-evidence would be evidence of the  
constituency of @summary in practice opting to read it nonetheless,  
which would show that value of the occasional non-bogus summary  
outweighs on average all the bogus summaries.

(If @summary were a prospective feature, mere reasoning could be  
convincing. However, @summary should be considered retrospectively  
given that it has existed already for years and we can use evidence of  
its actual track record instead of mere prospective reasoning.)

-- 
Henri Sivonen
hsivonen@iki.fi
http://hsivonen.iki.fi/
Received on Monday, 8 June 2009 07:49:58 UTC

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