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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  

> 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  

> 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
Received on Monday, 8 June 2009 07:49:58 UTC

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