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Re: emotica, ASCII art and accessibility - some suggestions

From: Charles F. Munat <coder@acnet.net>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 11:56:41 -0600
Message-ID: <002801be40b0$6aa3e420$291172a7@acnet.net>
To: <waz@easynet.co.uk>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Wayne wrote:
"A special kind of PRE
tag would be good, with an ALT of some sort, and then we
could use ASCII
art, and would have some way of making it accessible and
dealing with
the large online legacy of currently
inaccessible-due-to-ascii-artwork
documents."

You can already accomplish this for some browsers by using
the TITLE attribute with the PRE tag. I tested this in
pwWebspeak 2.5 and it worked well, although it tried to read
some of the "punctuation." At least you could currently give
a warning such as TITLE="ASCII art: Picture of a baby's arm
holding an apple."

I suppose you could also use a SPAN tag. And it might be
wise to put something at the end of the artwork to indicate
that it was complete, like an empty span tag with TITLE="End
of ASCII art."

Of course, neither of these will work with plain-text email,
so my simple solution for that is: WRITE ENGLISH. I, for
one, don't have much patience with people who rely on
"emoticons" to express their feelings. Somehow, we managed
to make it through a thousand years of English literature
without them. I consider the emoticon simple laziness.
Worse, they are often used, in my opinion, in a deceptive
manner. "You are all a bunch of idiots. :)" There. Did the
smiley face make it all ok?

Frankly, I wish there were a way to remove emoticons
completely. I refuse to use them and I am disgusted when I
receive them in email from people I would otherwise consider
to be sane and intelligent. I think that writing (smile)
would be a much more accessible alternative, although I
still have a problem with the whole IRC shorthand making its
way into everyday language. If you are in a happy mood,
can't you just write "I'm in a happy mood"? It doesn't take
a degree in English to do that. Consider what might have
happened if we'd devised emoticons a couple of hundred years
ago:

Moby Dick:
Call me Ishmael. :(

Gravity's Rainbow:
A screaming comes across the sky. :O

Or consider this:
When in the course of human events... :(

Take that, King George.

The whole thing makes me ill. But, if one must use them, you
could add a span tag with the title set to "Stupid smiley
face" or something like that. In plain text messages you
could put it in plain text [stupid smiley face] next to the
emoticon. That way we avoid the big arguments sure to come
over what the "official" meaning of the emoticon will be.

Which brings up another point. Taken out of context, can we
really define these emoticons? Sure a smile and a wink is
pretty easy, but some are pretty complicated. And even the
smile can be misinterpreted. Consider all the discussion
about "universal symbols." Are any symbols truly universal?
And who gets to decide which one is which? Do we have an
international standard (ISO maybe?) or will this be a W3C
recommendation or maybe just an American thing?

I shudder at the implications. For my part, I simply refuse
to participate, and I ask those who communicate with me
regularly to avoid them in messages to me.

Final note: Business is business. A study showed that
waitresses who drew little smiley faces on the backs of
their checks got higher tips than those who didn't. Just to
be safe, I've added little smiley emoticons to the back of
all my web pages.

Charles Munat
Puerto Vallarta
Received on Friday, 15 January 1999 13:06:37 GMT

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