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RE: How to Complain to a Webmaster

From: Ben Canning <bencan@microsoft.com>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 11:00:47 -0800
Message-ID: <60A2A60977EC0744BF7A9FEC4417261D01176017@RED-MSG-14.redmond.corp.microsoft.com>
To: "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
>Maybe so.  Is it fair game to ask you why Microsoft's sites, such as
>MSNBC and others, aren't valid yet, Ben?  Certainly they're at least
>as high profile. [*]

Absolutely fair, and it shouldn't be that way. It's also fair to say
that MS is no different than most companies in that there are probably
300 different teams working on various web properties with differing
levels of expertise, resources and awareness of these issues, and that
we don't have a cadre of crack web developers running around making sure
that we're doing the right thing on all these sites. That's not an
excuse, and we should do better, but it's reality.

Parenthetically, it's really misleading to think of MS as the Borg. The
notion of a single hive-mind is really amusing to anyone who works here.
We're more like Canada, but with 5000 provinces. I would bet that you
have more pull with MSNBC than I would.

> If the intent is to improve those sites, well, it's possible that
> this sort of terrorism may actually work in some cases.  "Fix your
> site or I expose you to the WAI list!" could be a credible threat,
> but in all honesty, I think it would just make me laugh at the WAI
> site and their work.

Again, don't you think 'terrorism' is a little over the top given the
tenor of this thread (and a little tacky, given current events)? I don't
think I've ever said that we should threaten anyone. In fact, I've
agreed with you that threats aren't useful (remember I started this with
'I agree with 90% of what Kynn said'?).

Here's what I'm saying in a nutshell:
1. Discussion of specific, real world accessibility problems with high
profile sites is a good use of the WAI lists. It's informative to the
designers who lurk in this group, and it's a good use of the skills of
this community

2. Ad hominem attacks on web designers, threats against sites and
hostile behavior are not helpful to the cause of improving the
accessibility of the web. This community should be a resource for
education, not a lynch mob.

3. Public exposure of high-profile sites that are inaccessible can be an
excellent tool for increasing the visibility of accessibility issues,
and a reduction in the number of inaccessible sites as designers and the
people who set up these sites become more aware that there is a vocal
community out there who expects them to meet a certain bar and that
there's a PR penalty to pay if that bar isn't met. (MS just paid such a
penalty for blocking non-IE browsers from MSN.Com). Note that by
'public' I'm not talking about the WAI list. You're pretty much
preaching to the choir in here. I'm talking about the real press (e.g.
Cnet, ZDNet)

4. 'Outing' sites need not and should not take the form of aggressive
'lynch mob' tactics. It's helpful to say to the press 'We're
disappointed that www.foo.com blocks access to blind users by doing X, Y
and Z'. It's not helpful to say 'These people should be prosecuted for
criminal negligence'. See point 2 above. 

Anyway, I agree with everything you said in your original mail, I just
think that publicizing these failures, when done correctly, is a very
important thing for this community to be doing.
Received on Wednesday, 31 October 2001 17:36:00 UTC

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