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Re: the meaning of the term document in WCAG2

From: gregory j. rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 01:56:17 -0400
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>, <wai-xtech@w3.org>
William Loughborough wrote, in reaction to a citation contained in my post:
>>Elements may include content
>So might documents.
>Also documents might include content.
>It is possible that content could include elements and documents.
>Files could include any/all/none(?) of the above.
>And of course all these are objects (which also might include

all of which are compelling reasons why we need to (a) define, and then use,
the following terms, and (b) answer the questions their use raises...  to
that end, here are some initial (very sketchy) comments and observations on
a few key terms:

1. document -- is it the end result of the application of a rendering
process to a collection of things (files, images, fragments, scripts, etc.)
that combine to form a cohesive whole, or the collection of things
themselves?  is the archived version of WCAG as much a document instance as
is the rendered version of WCAG?  if not, why not, for--in combination--the
individual objects contained in the archive form a cohesive whole, and that
cohesive whole is "the document"

2. content -- the Authoring Tools WG went through a stretch of time (as i
know you remember all too well, bill, in which it used, for the purposes of
discussion, the working terms "content with a big c" and "content with a
little c" in order to distinguish between the common usage of the term
"content" (the stuff outside the angle brackets, the output of scripts,
conditional content, etc.--the sort of thing you might obtain from a
"content provider") and the more technical definition of the word "content"
(meaning the pieces of the puzzle that you put together in order to
construct a document); in the end, ATAG stayed clear of defining the term
"content", but did use the terms "Web content" (signifying the output of an
authoring tool--anything destined for the web or which uses technology
traditionally thought of as being web-based) and "content", which was used
to signify objects (be they strings of text, blocks of text, images, audio
files, etc.) which are intrinsically intended to convey meaning to the

3. elements -- use of this word should be strictly limited to its use in
Technical Recommendations; i'd have to trawl 'em all in order to discover
the specifics of who's using the term and how, as well as if it is defined,
but i think that the WAI guidelines use this word in the SGML/HTML/XML

4. document object -- is this a concrete descriptor or an abstract concept?
i'd say the latter, as the concept of "the document" (at least as i
understand it) is specific enough to cover the morphing of the document due
to conditions which are either: (a) set by the user (through configuration
of the UA, CC/PP, etc.); (b) imposed by hardware restrictions; (c) imposed
by software restrictions; (d) the result of parsing by a transformation
engine; etc. -- an "object" therefore, can be defined as a specific instance
of a document, and/or the document as it appears to the user, no matter how
the user obtained it, in a particular circumstance...

5. object -- again, this is a word that has a practical, prosaic meaning
(each individual object that combines to produce the user's experience of a
document instance) and an abstracted meaning (the document as an object; the
document as a collection of specific objects)... perhaps for a term such as
"object" we need a normative, or at least stable, definitional reference --
anyone know of any pertinent nomenclature-related RFCs?

as an aid to reflection, i'm ending this post with an intriguing snippet
from ian jacob's analysis of his review of the User Agent Accessibility
Guidelines with tantek celik, a developer of IE for the mac at Microsoft,
and owner of (amongst others) the User Interface module of CSS3, which is
archived at (long URI warning):

Rendered content is the part of content capable of being
perceived by a user through a given viewport (whether visual,
auditory, or tactile).

Rendered content is the part of content that the user agent makes
available to the user's senses of sight, hearing, or touch (and
only those senses for the purposes of UAAG 1.0). Any content that
causes an effect that may be perceived through these senses
constitutes rendered content. This includes text characters,
images, style sheets, scripts, and anything else in content whose
effect when processed may be perceived.

At first, I was nervous about this model, but I am unable to draw
a line between style sheets, text content, and binary image
formats: they all require processing to create an effect that is
perceived by the senses. It's easiest to say that when they cause
an effect that may be perceived (by some users, but not
necessarily by all), they are rendered content.  Some examples of
content that is generally not rendered: comments. They may be
rendered in the source view.

The only checkpoints that have requirements related to rendered
content are 2.3 and 10.9, and this model is consistent with those
requirements. The definition of "point of regard" refers to
rendered content and is used in 9.3; the usage is also consistent

As sheer casual reading matter, I still find the English dictionary
the most interesting book in our language.       -- Albert Jay Nock
Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
 Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
  VICUG NYC: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/vicug/index.html
   Read 'Em & Speak: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/books/index.html
Received on Sunday, 20 May 2001 01:55:00 UTC

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