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RE: Why I don't attend the weekly teleconference (Was: Input on the agenda)

From: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2009 15:17:30 -0500
Message-Id: <5.1.1.6.2.20090628130512.0b7ce238@mail.muzmo.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: Murray Maloney <murray@muzmo.com>,public-html@w3.org
At 12:33 AM 6/28/2009 +0000, Ian Hickson wrote:
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>On Sat, 27 Jun 2009, Murray Maloney wrote:
> > At 01:10 AM 6/24/2009 +0000, Ian Hickson wrote:
> > > On Tue, 23 Jun 2009, John Foliot wrote:
> > > > Ian Hickson wrote:
> > > > >
> > > > > (The browser vendors are the ultimate gatekeepers, of course, in
> > > > > that they get to decide what actually gets implemented. It's our
> > > > > role as editors to make sure we do what they want, otherwise our
> > > > > documents are nothing but rather dry science fiction.)
> > > >
> > > > Actually Ian, the end users are the ultimate gatekeepers, because if
> > > > the browser, no matter how 'superior' it might be technically, does
> > > > not support the end users, then they will not use it.
> > >
> > > Yeah, to some extent that is true. However, I think that is reflected
> > > in what the browser vendors implement, since they are motivated to
> > > make sure they don't ignore their users (since, as you say, they would
> > > then lose market share).
> >
> > I, for one, do not trust the browser makers to get it right any more
> > than I trust the banks to get it right.
>
>You don't think that users would pick another browser if a browser vendor
>were to take an approach that was counter to the user's wishes?

I note that you removed my Greenspan quote. Perhaps you missed my point. 
Greenspan got it wrong. The public didn't have a chance of understanding 
what was really going on with the financial system. They/we had to trust 
that the Fed and the banks would not act against their own interests 
thereby creating the mess that we are currently experiencing on global 
financial markets.

I think that the public is largely stuck with whatever the browser makers do.

Like the banks, browser makers are motivated by big money. They are in the 
business of maximizing return on investment, so one can hardly blame them 
for not wanting to waste time and effort on features which can't be 
leveraged into greater profits.

So, the little guy, without deep pockets and lacking a lucrative market, 
has little recourse. We can join associations and working groups to try to 
influence the decision makers, or we can vote with our feet by
picking another browser, as you suggested.

Our ability to influence the decision makers seems, to me and others, to be 
immeasurably small. Our ability to sway the market smaller yet.

Lots of little guys have been justifiably concerned about banking 
practices, but we have not been able to make that market behave in a way 
that ensures sustainable growth, steady employment or dependable retirement 
funds. We cannot trust our governments, banks, regulators, investors and 
borrowers to manage their/our money well enough to guarantee a stable world 
economy. Yet, you are suggesting that the market will guide the browser 
makers.

[...]

> > Ian, I don't think that it is fair to imply or assert that longdesc and
> > summary do not work in practice.
>
>All the evidence we have collected indicate that they are in fact complete
>and utter failures. I'm not sure how "fairness" enters the discussion;
>this is an observation backed up by every objective study that has been
>cited so far. We do the aforementioned population a serious disservice by
>pretending otherwise.

Fairness as in "fair dinkum". Your "utter failure" assertion is your own 
assessment of a set of data which I am given to understand is in fact a 
private collection. Moreover, the proponents of both summary and longdesc 
disagree with your assessment. So, I don't think that in a reasonable 
debate that it is "fair" to assert that longdesc and summary do not work in 
practice. I could agree that the publishing market has not yet adopted 
these features as fully as the AT market and its supporters would have 
liked. I could agree that the technology
is immature. But the technology does work when useful content is provided.

> > Since you argue that browser makers are the ultimate gatekeepers for
> > visual representation of HTML, why do you not allow the same role for AT
> > makers?
>
>AT vendors do have that role. It's not up to us to "allow" or "disallow"
>it; it's a fact. Implementors have the ultimate veto on any implementation
>requirements we put in our specs not because we allow them to, but because
>in every literal sense if they don't want to do what we tell them to do,
>then they don't have to.

I would never suggest that it is up to us to allow or disallow. I have 
been  consistent on that with regards to HTML. In fact, I have long been a 
supporter of employing attributes, like longdesc and summary, to convey 
ancillary information to applications which care to employ it. I am fairly 
liberal when it comes to attributes in markup because they are so much 
easier for an application to ignore if they so choose.

>Specification authors -- the W3C, the IETF, the WHATWG, you, me -- have
>_zero power_ to enforce implementors to do what we put in our specs. We
>only get what we write to be implemented if what we write is what
>implementors are willing to implement. (This is why I work so closely with
>browser vendors and other implementors to find out what they want.)

Again, I am not suggesting enforcing anything. Rather, I am suggesting 
enabling and empowering AT implementors. Proponents of longdesc and summary 
simply want to be able to use two attributes to convey useful information. 
It is true that those attributes will be misused on some/many/most HTML 
pages, just as other HTML attributes are often misused. But that doesn't 
mean that it won't be useful when it is. That may not seem like a very 
satisfying engineering solution, and it isn't. But so what? If it only 
helps a few people to read a good book or a newspaper or their company 
newsletter, then haven't we made the world a better place.

And at what cost? Some HTML attributes that most browsers will ignore and 
some will support.

>For requirements that apply to ATs, the AT vendors have ultimate and
>absolute power.

So, are you suggesting that you would listen to guidance directly from 
representatives of the AT vendors but do not consider the W3C's own experts 
to be adequate representatives?

> > Isn't it up to the AT people to say what works for them?
>
>I have encouraged AT vendors to contribute to the HTML5 effort many times
>over the past few years. So far the only AT vendor who has spoken on this
>issue (namely Apple) has indicated that longdesc has failed [1], and that
>the state of summary="" is similar [2].

Again, I have to take issue. David Singer's lone voice does not merit more 
weight than the voices of the W3C's  accessibility experts. I am sure that 
he had an opportunity to try to persuade other accessibility experts of his 
view in those forums.

I do understand and appreciate his perspective. Don't get me wrong. But we 
are being asked to patient while a small community of under-funded 
associations and companies build the critical mass of technology and 
content to enable people to read or listen to an increasing volume of 
useful content.

>If you can encourage other AT vendors to contribute to this discussion,
>that would be very helpful. Most helpful would be documentation explaining
>what the algorithm used for determining layout tables is, since that would
>allow us to more accurately collect data regarding what summary="" values
>users would see in actual use.

I can't speak to why such an algorithm has not been made available, but I 
suspect lack of resources or IP issues may have something to do with it. 
For good or ill, most AT companies are commercial enterprises operating 
within our capitalist system. Because they represent a small market with 
smaller margins, they do not necessarily have the freedom to give away 
their stock in trade.

As far as discovering useful content on the web, I am not in a position to 
comment. I am willing to believe that longdesc and summary are not used 
correctly in some/many/most pages today. But if we drop these attributes 
and then adopt a new approach, the AT developers will be set back again. 
They will have to expend scarce resources to adapt, if they even can, and 
will likely be discouraged by us having moved the target again.

Regards,

Murray
Received on Sunday, 28 June 2009 19:17:25 UTC

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