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Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions"

From: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2009 10:06:02 -0500
Message-ID: <643cc0270906230806sf72fa71ha33ff598d131d1f5@mail.gmail.com>
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Before the teleconference this week, since @summary is the top agenda
item, one of the issues associated with @summary is the fact that the
HTML 5 sole author, Ian Hickson,  based his decision on pulling
@summary (or I should say, collapsing it into caption) on data queries
he made against Google's index.

Though CSSquirrel addressed this issue humorously(1), several of us
have expressed concern about decisions being made on proprietary data,
especially since the use of proprietary data is counter to independent
verification (2). I've been lectured on how HTML5 is derived from the
use of scientific methodology(3), yet independent verification of data
is an underlying component of true scientific research.

Other data sources have also been queried, and the results have been
used to challenge @alt, @longdesc, @summary, and other accessibility
attributes. Focusing specifically on @summary, data queried from a
couple of different sources, neither of which is all encompassing,
shows that the @summary attribute is used incorrectly a significant
number of times (4). This is then used as some kind of empirical proof
that the @summary attribute should be pulled.

Yet the same data also demonstrates that HTML tables are, themselves,
used incorrectly. However, a decision wasn't made to eliminate HTML
tables. Instead, text was added to the HTML 5 specification to clarify
how HTML tables are used, in order to hopefully increase the accuracy
of HTML table use. One then has to ask, why this same practice wasn't
applied to @summary? Why wasn't clarifying text added to HTML5 in
order to facilitate more accurate use of @summary.

That's the problem with this process, and this practice: it is applied
inconsistently, and used more to justify personal opinion than as a
basis for a "best practice".

The problem is compounded because the data is waved, like a flag of
victory, in the faces of people who express concerns, or attempt to
interject other opinions. More importantly, it is used to override
those who are a), chartered by the W3C to specifically deal with the
issues, and b) to undercut those with experience and expertise in
accessibility. In fact, such experts are typically treated either with
thinly veiled disdain, or out and out derision, if not directly in
these lists, passively, and indirectly, in the WhatWG IRC(6).

I don't understand the WhatWG disdain for people with years of
experience and specialized training. Hubris comes to mind.

Regardless, when moving forward on the topic of @summary, and the
issue of "data" is brought up again, I hope that people keep in mind
that the use of "data" as justification for decisions in HTML5 has not
been without challenge, or controversy. A reference to "data" should
not be used to end the discussions, nor should the reference to
"data", by itself, continue to be sole justification for overriding
other's concerns.

Shelley


(1) http://www.cssquirrel.com/2009/06/22/comic-update-who-really-is-the-wizard-of-html5/
(2) http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Jun/0204.html
(3) http://krijnhoetmer.nl/irc-logs/whatwg/20090604
(4) http://philip.html5.org/data/table-summary-values-dotbot.html
(5) http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jun/0026.html
(6) http://krijnhoetmer.nl/irc-logs/whatwg/20090623
Received on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 15:17:18 UTC

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