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Working Group Decision on ISSUE-31 / ISSUE-80 verbiage survey

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 2011 16:51:43 -0400
Message-ID: <4DACA45F.40908@intertwingly.net>
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
The decision follows.  The chairs made an effort to explicitly address
all arguments presented in the Change Proposals on this topic in
addition to arguments posted as objections in the poll.

*** Question before the Working Group ***

There is a basic disagreement in the group as to what text should be
used for the img element definition.  The result was an issue, four
distinct change proposals, and a straw poll for objections:

http://www.w3.org/html/wg/tracker/issues/31
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Jul/0050.html
http://www.w3.org/html/wg/wiki/ChangeProposals/ImgElement20100510#Correcting_the_Definition
http://www.w3.org/html/wg/wiki/ChangeProposals/ImgElement20100504#Correcting_the_Definition_to_Provide_Equality
http://www.w3.org/html/wg/wiki/ChangeProposals/first_2_paragraphs_of_definition_of_img#Rationale
http://www.w3.org/2002/09/wbs/40318/issue-31-80-verbiage-objection-poll/results

These Change Proposals are numbered 1, 5, 6, and 7 in the analysis
below.  Note: other aspects of these issues included other Change
Proposals and led to separate polls.

Additionally, we received input from the HTML WG's TPAC 2010 Face2Face
meeting:

http://www.w3.org/2010/11/04-html-wg-minutes.html#item12

== Objections

First, from the Change Proposals themselves.

 From change proposal 1:

   The <img> element intrinsically is intended to be used for displaying
   visual images, whence the name of the element. The specification
   previously claimed that the element was to display content that had
   both a textual version and an image version, but feedback indicated
   that this was not realistic: in practice, authors use it to display
   images, and the alternative text is not a first-class citizen in
   comparison; ignoring this in the interests of political correctness
   is unrealistic. Thus, the specification should define the <img>
   element as representing primarily an image.

The argument on the basis of the name of the element was found to be
weak.  The two separate statements that that any requirement that the
the alternative text be a first class citizen was "unrealistic" was
also found to be weak as the only evidence put forward to support it
was unspecified "feedback".

Both change proposals 5 and 6 cited the following from a weblog entry:

   The HTML5 spec defines the <img> element as an element that
   "represents an image". The spec then defines alternative text
   (textual content) as "fallback content". What's wrong with this?
   These definitions suggest that the visual content (the image) is
   more important than the textual content. As a result, to many
   people, if the primary purpose of embedding an image is achieved,
   the secondary or fallback purpose (textual content) can be skipped
   or given cursory effort.

This argument provides a solid rationale, but lacking any evidence to
support the conclusion was only found to be moderately strong.  This
can be seen as an objection to change proposal 1, but not to any of the
remaining proposals.

Change proposal 7 cited the HTML WG meeting above, from which we glean
that there were objections to anything that doesn't say that alt text
is equivalent primary content.  This objection was weak in that it
captured what was preferred, only gave an indication as to why that
might by, and nothing in the form of evidence.  This objection would
apply to change proposal 1, isn't obvious how it might apply to change
proposal 5, and does not apply to proposals 6 or 7.

Next from the survey:

On proposal 1, we have objections on the basis that the word fallback
is not accurate, and is used in a manner radically different from the
usage of that word in the context of other elements.

On proposal 5, we have objections on the basis that the wording is
wrong in that it may not be displayed, or that it can contain symbols.
That it inappropriately links display of the alt text to whether or not
the image is displayed rather than on whether the alt text is needed or
desired.  And finally that it inaccurately suggests that both cannot be
displayed.

On proposal 6, we have objections on the basis that the text is wrong
in that the URL is a reference and the contents of the alt attribute
might not be textual.  These specific claims are disputed, but the fact
that this proposed text is inaccurate is not.  Additionally, we have an
objection on the basis that the text uses the word 'must' for something
that is neither testable.  Finally, we have an objection that it "seems
likely" that there are additional useful visual renderings that would
be restricted by this definition.

On proposal 7, we have an objection on the basis that the statement is
incomplete in that there may be other benefits or uses than the one
described.

== Evaluation of Objections

While we have some specific claims that are disputed, the strongest
objections to proposals 1, 5, and 6 are that they are inaccurate.  The
strongest objection to proposal 7 is that it is incomplete.

The word "incomplete" can have a range of meanings from "inaccurate by
omission" to "suitable for an introductory paragraph".  Lacking any
evidence that the additional possible uses are either common or
substantially different in their impact from the purpose as described
in the short version, this objection was found to be weak.
Additionally, this objection would apply equally to other proposals,
including proposal 1.

*** Decision of the Working Group ***

Therefore, the HTML Working Group hereby adopts the following text for
the first two paragraphs of the img element definition:

   An img element represents an image.

   The image given by the src attribute is the embedded content; the
   value of the alt attribute provides equivalent content for those who
   cannot process images or who have image loading disabled.

Of the Change Proposals before us, this one has drawn the weaker
objections.

== Next Steps ==

A new bug is to be OPENED with the results of this decision, and that
bug will be marked as WGDecision.

The editor is hereby directed to make the changes in accordance with
this decision.

== Appealing this Decision ==

If anyone strongly disagrees with the content of the decision and would
like to raise a Formal Objection, they may do so at this time. Formal
Objections are reviewed by the Director in consultation with the Team.
Ordinarily, Formal Objections are only reviewed as part of a transition
request.

== Revisiting this Issue ==

This issue can be reopened if new information come up. Examples of
possible relevant new information include:

* Evidence that there are additional possible uses are either common or
   substantially different in their impact from the purpose as described
   in the adopted proposal.

=== Arguments not considered:

The following objection was not considered:

   my 'objection' is in lieu of my ability to actively indicate support
   Proposal #7 as my preferred choice specification language.

All we will look at is the objections and rationale presented.
Comments that are NOT actual technical objections to material in the
change proposal ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE and WILL BE IGNORED.
Received on Monday, 18 April 2011 20:52:10 UTC

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