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Normative in UAAG10 (and other W3C TRs)

From: Harvey Bingham <hbingham@acm.org>
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 22:48:04 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>
Cc: w3c-wai-ua@w3.org

I suggest a paragraph in UAAG10 giving definition to "Normative" and to
either "Informative" or "Non-normative." Some readers won't be familiar
with the technical meanings of these words.

Such paragraph seems useful boilerplate for all WAI Technical
Recommendations that use normative.

In UAAG10 need to explain in context how normative applies to checkpoints.
I do not find such. Since they are not used within the checkpoints
in section 2, the "sometimes normative, sometimes not" qualification
from section 3 Conformance can be confusing.


I note that XML refers to  Normative and Non-Normative, but doesn't define
them. The ISO convention was Normative and Informative.

1. Dictionary searches on normative:

 From the Random House dictionary:
   "normative, adj,
   1. of or pertaining to a norm or standard.
   2. tending or attempting to establish such a norm,
   exp. by the prescription of rules: normative grammar."

That definition doesn't seem strong enough.

 From Webster's Collegiate Dictionary online:

Main Entry: nor·ma·tive
Pronunciation: 'nor-m&-tiv
Function: adjective
Etymology: French normatif, from norme norm, from Latin norma
Date: 1878
   1 : of, relating to, or determining norms or standards <normative tests>
   3 : prescribing norms <normative rules of ethics> <normative grammar>

Main Entry: norm
Pronunciation: 'norm
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin norma, literally, carpenter's square
Date: 1674
   1 : an authoritative standard : MODEL
   2 : a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and
       serving to guide, control, or regulate proper and acceptable behavior

2. Elucidation in the ISO/IEC version of HTML:

User's Guide to ISO/IEC 15445:2000 HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

   "NOTE: In an ISO/IEC specification, a normative reference has the effect
   of including all the provisions of the referenced text into the referencing

   The W3C Recommendation itself contains normative references, but it is
   implicit that the effect is not one of "total normative inclusion". The W3C
   normative references appear to be closer in spirit to ISO/IEC informative
   references defining good practice, and we recommend that they should be
   treated as such. "

The ISO clarification is interesting: W3 has watered down the meaning
of normative. That leaves much to interpretation. Won't lawyers have
fun arguing at our expense.

3. Clarifications in UAAG10:

I believe that in section 2 early you should indicate that applicable
checkpoints are normative (some as qualified in section 3.) Notes are
informative. You do only state the latter.

In UAAG10 Section 3. Conformance

   "This normative section defines what it means to conform to this document."

[Here put meaning of normative (and contrast it with non-normative or

In it is reference to [RFC 2119]. In that reference there is no mention
   of either Normative or Informative.

In Subsections 5.2 Normative References and 5.3 Informative References

Normative only applies to References, not to checkpoints.

4. Once burned:

33 years ago I worked on a multi-million dollar proposal effort. We couldn't
afford the bid, but couldn't afford not to. Our submission was rejected
as the design had not considered a requirement indirectly found in the
request for proposal to a normative document that itself had a normative
reference to yet another document. A costly lesson.

5. Effect of normative references:

Are we sure that there is nothing in the Normative References
that can burn any implementor of UAAG10?

Regards/Harvey Bingham
Received on Saturday, 10 March 2001 22:56:26 UTC

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