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RE: A "one size fits all" personalized web page?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 02:57:08 -0500 (EST)
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
cc: unagi69@concentric.net, WAI GL <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.20.0001120231380.25431-100000@tux.w3.org>

Let us first examine areas where we all seem to be agreed:

1. Something that is helpful to a group of people, and does not cause a
problem for others, is good, and should be everywhere. It is particularly
important for such a thing to be where those people are or are trying to be.

2. Different people have different needs, and one of our basic goals is to
work out how to meet those needs, in particular with respect to using the

3. Doing something that meets people's needs is good, even if it is possible
to do something better that meets people's needs. But doing something better
is better (by definition)

Now, consider a couple more propositions that I think will meet agreement,
but I'm not certain:

1. Where it is possible to meet those needs by making one thing that everyone
can use, instead of making differnt things for different people, that is

I suggest that this is true substantially because people are social, and want
to be able to share their experience with other people, and in many cases do
not want to be constrained to sharin them with other people who have the same
set of needs. In addition, people don't live to work - they want to do what
is necessary and be done with it. This gives rise to a risk of the "good
enough" solution that works for "enough" people, in place of an actual
solution, that solves the problems people face.

2. In producing material for the web, presentation and semantic content
should be as separate as possible.

I accept this on faith from computer scientist and information scientists,
but it seems to make sense as a basic requirement for being able to represent
information in various different types of system.

(I'm still trying to tease out what I think are a lot of issues you initial
questions raise, and so I'm trying to home in by establishing some common
ground or at least some reference points).

Charles McCN

On Tue, 11 Jan 2000, Scott Luebking wrote:

  Hi, Gregory
  Please forgive my not responding sooner.  The flu had me for a couple of
  weeks and I'm plowing through the built up email.
  Look at the issue of what would make web pages easier to use for people
  with upper arm limitations like myself.  While it may not be possible to
  solve the problem for all people with upper arm limitations, there can
  be enough in common that providing appropriate features on web pages
  could be useful.  I believe denying everyone with upper arm limitations
  because not all is provided is not reasonable.  Would you want to go
  into a room of people with upper arm limitations and tell them that you
  believe they would be better served by denying them all the benefits of
  such features since not all people with upper arm limitations will
  benefit?  (Personally, I would be as pissed as hell.)  Does this really
  make any sense?  Would people be opposed to web pages saying they have
  special features for people with upper arm limitations?
  The assumption seems to be that all blind people are so uniquely
  different that they have few common needs.  Well, quadriplegics can be
  both very individualistic and often share many key needs.  I haven't
  seen anything in the blind community which would indicate that blind
  people are that dissimilar from quadriplegics in these ways.
  There are features that could be put on web pages which could help many
  blind people.  However, if the standard is that the features must help
  all blind people, does that also apply to other access techniques used
  by blind?  There are many access technologies which are not useful to
  all blind people, though they may help many blind individuals.
  The more sensible approoach would be to list the disability attribute
  followed by a description of what special features could be activated
  for that disability attribute.
  PS  I haven't seen many people do much research on exactly what features
  are desirable on web pages designed specifically for blind people.  This
  is actually been surprising to some blind people I've talked with.  How
  is it possible to know that NO key features could be useful on web
  pages for a significant number of blind users without doing some tests?
  (Have you checked out my demo pages?)
  > aloha, scott!
  > the argument isn't over content, it's over presentation...  you can have a
  > database driven site that creates what to the user appears to be straight HTML,
  > XHTML, or XML in an unlimited range of presentational options (provided, of
  > course, you can actually find a browser with full support for stylesheets),
  > thereby endowing the individual user with the ability to choose (or create) the
  > presentational mode that is most suitable for that individual in whatever
  > situation that individual happens to find his or her self at any particular
  > time in any particular place... 
  > i don't think that any of us who have been discussing this issue with you
  > support a "one size fits all" approach -- as a matter of fact, i know for a
  > fact that i, jason, bill, marja, chuck, and charles are adamantly opposed to
  > such an approach...  what we have been arguing against is the imposition of a
  > one size fits all solution to tailoring the presentation of content to a user
  > based upon a profile as generic as "blind", "low vision", "deaf blind", etc....
  > it is nearly as indiscriminate a way to tailor content as is browser sniffing
  > based on a Mozilla declaration...
  > you are correct, though, scott, in bringing up a subject close to al gilman and
  > len kasday's hearts -- the necessity of encouraging authors to use semantically
  > sensible class, file, and object names, so that semantic information can be
  > gleaned from even the most conservatively coded pages...
  > i wish you and everyone else on list a happy, healthy, and semantically
  > sensible new century!
  >         gregory.

Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
21 Mitchell Street, Footscray, VIC 3011,  Australia 
Received on Wednesday, 12 January 2000 02:57:12 UTC

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