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Re: Structure Again!

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@crosslink.net>
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000 18:20:17 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
    I understand you are writing "Tongue in Cheek" here ...

At 09:03 PM 11/27/00 -0000, Sean B. Palmer wrote:
>But surely if I had written something that I wanted to make available to as
>many people as possible, I would want to add in as much presentation as I
>can. Langauge doesn't mean anything, it's just there to be presented, like
>art. When I want people to read my text I don't want them to understand it,
>I just want them to see "well that bit of text is bold, and this bit is
>italic, and this bit is both". It doesn't matter what the meaning of the
>text is.

The whole purpose of presentation is to make the meaning of the site
apparent. That's why merely marking up text and allowing user control of
background and fonts doesn't make much of a real difference in
"accessibilities for disabilities". That's also why it doesn't matter what
commands to use to create the presentation, just that you do it.

 In 20 years time or whatever when there are no formatting browsers
>left, people will still see things like:-
>"I <b>really</b> do <i>believe</i> that the current economic..."
>And understand that "really" should have been in bold, and "believe" should
>have been italic (even if they don't understand what <b> and <i> are: they
>should look it up in a history book).

Most likely, they can look it up in any word processor, since that is the
standard way that word processors present these options. But more important
is that your sentence is a lousy example. There is little reason to markup
either "really" or "believe" unless you are trying to duplicate the
emphasis you use in speaking (which is never interpreted to your listener,
they have to guess what you are doing ... 

 Why should I instead write actual
>logical and semantic systems that tell the reader *why* "really" should have
>looked bold, or whatever. That's just a waste of my time, I'm sure you'll
>agree...people should be able to automatically understand what my text
>means, even if I haven't actually hard coded the meaning into it and
>presented it later.

Historically, there hasn't been much of a precedent for "hard coding
meaning" in anything. It's always been, "here it is for now" ... and if
3,000 years later it becomes cryptic, that isn't the problem of those
buried in the sands of time. Why do we need to "hard code meaning" into
text now? The meaning should be conveyed in the text itself, if it is to
stand the test of time. If "meaning" is  "hard coded" into the web now, and
20 years down the road folks are trying to read the text and stumbling over
the "meaning codes", does it really matter if they stumble over "b" or over
"important", when the matter is no longer important anyway.... 

Sean, the more I learn about and ponder on the Semantic Web the more I
think it is a passing fancy. What are we going to do about all the text
that is currently on the web, as unadorned text? Go back, and try to
discern author's "meaning" and apply "mark-up" to it? If we did, it would
certainly be wasted since the next generation of readers of the text will
see different "meaning" and use different "markup" to explain it to their

In your example: "I really believe the economics ..." the addition of the
adverb "really" is already the "markup" for the word "believe"... Instead
of making "really" bold, the author could just double the word: "I really,
really believe the economics ..." Use of italics for "believe" deprecates it.

Languages all have their own "markup", commonly referred to as adjectives
and adverbs, and the use of specific nouns and verbs instead of general
ones. Markup such as <b> or <i> should be used when, either, when explicit
wording makes a text too wordy, or it is intended for readers with less
than perfect skills. 

Which brings us back to accessibility for the DISABLED ... it's less
important HOW you markup the text, as long as you DO IT. Future browsers
will use <important></important> as well as the standard <b></b>. Or they
won't sell. Put you money on the users, not the web architects, to drive
the direction of the web. The web architects have to sell their ideas now,
just as architects have had to sell their designs in the past. And users
really don't give a flying flip whether <b></b> or <important></important>
makes their browser show the stuff right, just that it does. 

And all of this is just about the text accessibility of the web, not the
accessibility of the web in general. Text is but one format on the web, one
which is inaccessible to huge portions of the world-wide potential user
base. Text is a depricated format for many of the people with disabilities
that we are supposed to be crafting guidelines to assist. For people with
text difficulties, the <b></b> is easier to understand than
<important></important> because you are using fewer symbols to convey the


Anne L. Pemberton
Enabling Support Foundation
Received on Monday, 27 November 2000 18:24:05 GMT

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