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Contribution to ACTION-61: Propose notes for both 'user agent' and 'content' to clarify software usage + M376 harmonisation

From: Michael Pluke <Mike.Pluke@castle-consult.com>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2012 07:13:53 -0400
To: "public-wcag2ict-tf@w3.org" <public-wcag2ict-tf@w3.org>
Message-ID: <5735ED0D92A3E6469F161EB41E7C28A81D5F84A056@MAILR001.mail.lan>

During the last meeting an ACTION-61was created  for Peter to "Propose notes for both 'user agent' and 'content' to clarify software usage; work with Gregg, Loic, and Mike".

There has been a lively email thread on this. As part of this thread Loc and I have tried to indicate how notes that we believe that we need to add to the M376 standard may largely meet the needs of ACTION-61. Peter has asked me to share some of these thoughts with the group.

The note for content should state the following (or similar):

NOTE: Content exists as a separate entity that requires a user agent in order for it to be presented to users. Some examples of content are documents that have an associated document reader/editor, media files that are played in a media player, etc. See also "user agent".


NOTE: What distinguishes content from software is that content requires some additional software (a user agent) in order for users to view and interact with it. Some examples of content are documents that have an associated document reader/editor, media files that are played in a media player, etc. See also "user agent".

Note to WCAG2ICT only: these definitions are based very firmly on a direct interpretation of both the WCAG 2.0 definition of content which is: "information and sensory experience to be communicated to the user by means of a user agent, including code or markup that defines the content's structure, presentation, and interactions". Note also that "document" (interactive or otherwise) now only appears as an example of content.

User agent
If the above note is included, and maybe a "see also" link to "content", I do not think that a note is needed for user agent. The WCAG user agent definition still works fine outside the Web. Maybe a "see also" link back to "content" might help to reinforce the beneficial circularity between the two definitions.

Definition of terms
In WCAG2ICT we talk variously of "an electronic document or a software user interface" or "electronics and software" as combined grouping. However none of these terms are defined and we have received several comments in the review of the Working Draft that highlight this. This clustering of the two terms helps to avoid the need to precisely define these two or three concepts. However it does not hide the fact that we have, in reality, had many discussions where we say that "we can see how this works for documents but we don't think it works (or we can't understand it) for software".

I think that the audience for WCAG2ICT will continue to be dissatisfied if we fail to define the terms that we use repeatedly throughout our work i.e. electronic document, software, software user interface.

Harmonising between WCAG2ICT and M376
In M376 we wanted to divide between content (which we should now call "non-Web content") and "software" when directing people to appropriate understandings of how to apply WCAG (in two separate clauses 10 and 11). We clearly totally failed to clarify the logic of our approach.

I believe that the WCAG2ICT agreed (WCAG) definition of content together with the above notes (or similar) works perfectly for both WCAG2ICT AND for M376.

When considering the application of WCAG 2.0 to software we in M376 say that it should be applied to "software that provides a user interface".

In M376 we  are thinking of adding a note to clarify exactly what we mean by the above term, and help to distinguish it from "content" in the other clause. A possible note is:

"Software that provides a user interface" includes both applications that act as a user agent for separate content and also applications where it is not possible to separate the content from the rest of the application.

Examples of software that provides a user interface include stand-alone self-running eBooks and most of the software user interfaces that are built into hardware ICT."

Maybe we would also do better to refer to "non-Web content and software that provides a user interface" when saying how to apply SCs in WCAG2ICT.

Best regards

Received on Tuesday, 18 September 2012 11:14:27 UTC

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