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Example of Good Summary (Was: Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions")

From: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 14:23:15 +0100
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20090624132315.GK4461@stripey.com>
Laura Carlson writes:

> A summary mechanism is needed for the Blind/Non-Visual Use Case
> http://esw.w3.org/topic/HTML/SummaryForTABLE#head-2a3e0996e746aaf82eff0fe4ce9f6477bcaf6036

That page contains this example of a good table summary:

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

Please could a proponent of summary who considers the above to be an
example of a good summary provide the corresponding example table it's
summarizing (or an example of one you had in mind, if the above is a
synthetic example), to show the summary in context?  It would be good to
include other context such as any caption, legend, or heading which
would be encountered next to this table.

Obviously a summary is only any good if its contents actually match its
table (for a table of cricket bowling statistics the above would be a
terrible summary!), but I'm not just asking for the sake of it:

* My main reason is that I'm wondering how much of the above could be
  automatically generated by a user-agent.  HTML 5 defines which headers
  apply to which cells, and obviously a user-agent knows which cells are
  merged, so possibly there could be an algorithmic way of generating
  descriptions of table structures such as the above for any (or at
  least a large proportion of) data tables.
  
  A user-agent could have a 'describe table structure' feature which is
  independent of an author providing a good (or indeed any) summary.

  In terms of getting the information to those users who need it, this
  may have more success than engaging authors to write good summaries:
  user-agent developers seem on average more likely to follow the HTML 5
  spec than most authors, and there are fewer of them.

  If this were possible it would reduce the number of tables which
  require a handwritten summary, reducing the burden on authors.

* The secondary reason why I'm asking is because I tried to do this
  myself -- synthesize a table that matches the above summary -- and
  failed to work it out.  This is slightly interesting because having
  the summary but not the table structure is exactly the position that
  the potential users of summary are typically in (though of course they
  may be much better at working out the structure from the summary than
  I have been; I'm not claiming this sample size of one to be in any way
  representative).

  So I'm intrigued as to what the table is that matches this summary,
  and to see how they match up.

Thanks.

Smylers
Received on Wednesday, 24 June 2009 13:23:56 UTC

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