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

From: Shelley Powers <shelleyp@burningbird.net>
Date: Mon, 08 Jun 2009 07:11:10 -0500
Message-ID: <4A2CFFDE.4020003@burningbird.net>
To: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
CC: Jonas Sicking <jonas@sicking.cc>, John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>, public-html@w3.org
Henri Sivonen wrote:
> On Jun 6, 2009, at 01:44, Shelley Powers wrote:
>
>> Well, I can understand the folks who are against pulling the 
>> attribute. They've spent, what seems to me, a lot of time promoting 
>> this attribute, and accessibility in general.
>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_cost_fallacy#Loss_aversion_and_the_sunk_cost_fallacy 
>
>
>> And now, a few people just want to yank it because "it's not being 
>> used right".
>
>
> As far as I can tell, that's not the reason for wanting to yank it. 
> Instead, the reason is that having authors expend effort on an 
> accessibility feature that by and large doesn't work is a net loss for 
> Web accessibility due to the opportunity cost of the misplaced effort.
>
Again, this is my personal opinion, based on my experience as a web 
developer, DBA, et al, rather than being an accessibility expert.

Henri, your reasoning is a little flawed here.

A statement has been made that the attribute isn't being used, but then 
you're saying that authors are expending effort on the attribute, which 
is the same as saying, it is being used. Which is it? Is it being used, 
or not?

As for @summary being used incorrectly, one doesn't have to spend days 
on Philip's list to see that neither is the table element, itself, which 
makes the whole thing a wash.

And the methodology used to determine that the attribute supposedly 
isn't being used, is primarily anecdotal, and not particularly 
comprehensive. Either it's based on Ian's queries in Google's index, 
which can't be validated because there is no non-Google party access to 
the raw data used in the queries, or it's based on one movie 
interviewing one person. Philip's data has shown that there is a direct 
(observed, not statistically measured) correlation between incorrect use 
of the summary attribute, and incorrect use of the table element. 
Frankly, I would have to assume the same can be said of Ian's own results.

Then the argument is given that those who want to keep the summary 
attribute have to perform research far beyond anything being done with 
any other aspect of HTML5, when the argument should be that the onus of 
proving one's point rests on the party wanting the change, not the party 
advocating against the change.

I also pointed out that basing proofs on counts of web usage isn't 
necessarily the best way of determining whether @summary is useful or 
not. I used the handicap parking slots in a later email, as an example 
of support for accessibility that doesn't stand up well to pure 
empirical observation and statistical measurement.

Then there's the issue of redefining the caption into something new: an 
element that has been around since the release of HTML 3. An element 
that, as far as I can see, has been used correctly, and therefore 
changing its meaning now to include this additional effort is, in 
effect, taking a working HTML construct, and breaking backwards 
compatibility.

Lastly, I would like to point out to the HTML WG the text in the 
charter, which states:

"The HTML Working Group will cooperate with the Web Accessibility 
Initiative to ensure that the deliverables will satisfy accessibility 
requirements. Coordination with WAI will be primarily conducted through 
the Protocol and Formats Working Group, but direct coordination with 
other WAI groups, such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working 
Group and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, will also 
be done when appropriate."

The Protocol and Formats Working Group has formally issued a statement 
in support of maintaining @summary, per 
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0026.html:

"The following consensus was reached by Protocols and Formats Working Group
during its teleconference of Wednesday, 3 June 2009:
http://www.w3.org/2009/06/03-pf-minutes.html

We request the table summary tag be restored in HTML 5 as per previous 
communications:
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Aug/0213.html"

Though technically, just the request should be sufficient, but the group 
also detailed its rationale.

Frankly, those who wish to remove the @summary attribute have not 
presented a strong enough case in order to violate this specific clause 
of the HTML WG Charter. Not to my mind, as a professional working with 
web technologies, and a fellow scientist. And since Ian has stated to me 
in the #whatwg IRC that he will honor the processes which govern this 
working group (http://krijnhoetmer.nl/irc-logs/whatwg/20090604#l-974), 
which are based on the HTML WG charter, I'm not quite sure why we're 
still having these discussions.

Shelley
Received on Monday, 8 June 2009 12:11:59 UTC

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