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User / Author responsibilities Re: [WAI-IG] Serving my page in the right language

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@sidar.org>
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 2004 15:50:40 +1000
Message-Id: <D8625AA3-807B-11D8-952E-000A958826AA@sidar.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
To: Marjolein Katsma <hgnje001@sneakemail.com>

Summary: People have lots of opinions on what users should be expected 
to do, or not. Unfortunately there has been little attempt to get some 
kind of consensus, so the issue just keeps going in circles.

Some more extensive rambling...

There are clear issues where people simply don't know what the tools 
they have do. It is obvious to me that a computer is capable of 
changing languages. So with a little looking around when I got my new 
computer home I set it up to use my preferred languages in order for 
internet and general interface features, set up my keyboard to swap 
between several european layouts, hebrew, arabic, japanese and 
vietnamese easily, and some other stuff that I wanted.

But that isn't how it works for everybody. I have explained to lots of 
people that they can have things work more like they want them to. From 
language changes to font styles, these things should be simple. But 
they aren't always, even if you understand that they "must be 
somewhere" (occasionally you find a system designed so it doesn't have 
such basic features).

On the one hand, it is helpful to have something people run into that 
helps them solve their instant problem. If what I want is to buy a 
train ticket, I would prefer not to learn about the ins and outs of a 
browser first. On the other hand, if I am going  to use the web every 
day, it is probably helpful if I do learn how to get the system to work

Products that are a pain to use are not, in a natural market, good 
sellers. But we don't live in a natural market. People have a browser, 
and often are loath to change, or unable to change, however good or bad 
it is. Others change browsers regularly. Some people use expensive 
systems they cannot afford to upgrade, because of licensing or 
compatibility issues. Others use high-performance free software, or 
have the capacity to rewrite code as necessary to cope with their 

Where do we draw the lines? It seems that this question hasn't been 
very satisfactorily answered, except in the sense that WAI guidelines 
make a few determinations on specific points (as do other guidelines, 
not always with the same results). Without some kind of agreed answers 
I think both authors and users are suffering from confusion, and from 
different people giving and following differing advice. This forum 
doesn't seem to have much mechanism for establishing agreement or 
resolution - it is a feeder for the WAI working groups, which do have 
such mechanisms, as well as a place for general discussion...



On 22 Mar 2004, at 21:25, Marjolein Katsma wrote:

> At 09:17 2004-03-22, Nick Kew wrote:
>> In the first place, even in the absence of explicit user choice, the
>> browser already has a clue based on the language set in the operating
>> system and desktop.
>> In the second place (and in the real world), ISPs and system
>> administrators will pre-configure language preferences to local
>> norms on behalf of users.
> In my real world there live a lot of people whose native language is 
> not that of the country they live in. (In Amsterdam alone, 45% of 
> residents are of non-Dutch origin.)
> In that real world, people go to a store to buy a computer for 
> themselves; what they get is a machine pre-configured with an 
> operating system and browser set to the (main) language of the country 
> they live in (often preconfigured to use a particular ISP as well). No 
> administrator in sight.
> My downstairs neighbor, who is Mexican, never had a clue she could set 
> her *keyboard* to use Spanish instead of Dutch. She shares the 
> computer with her daughter who is more fluent in Dutch than in 
> Spanish. Even if they know they can set the browser to a language 
> preference - which would they choose? Their browser certainly doesn't 
> have a clue what their preferences are.
Received on Sunday, 28 March 2004 00:53:37 UTC

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