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Re: programaticallylocated.doc

From: Al Gilman <Alfred.S.Gilman@IEEE.org>
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 10:58:03 -0400
Message-Id: <p0611040ebd63d3f7627d@[]>
To: "Gregg Vanderheiden" <gv@trace.wisc.edu>, wai-xtech@w3.org

** summary:

Operational Requirements:

Terms -- two  distinct kinds:
- technical usage (there is one and only one correct definition, in 
the author's opinion)
- natural usage (the meaning "is, y'know..." and dictionaries 
document the range of meanings in circulation,
... but approximately and not uniquely)

We need to handle these two cases separately in identifying 
requirements and solution techniques.


The requirement is that the source provide a remotely operable query 
interface which will accept the
spelling of the term as the only information extracted from the use 
in the document and this query
will return zero or more explanations as found for that spelling in 
that source.

Standardizing these query interfaces, which will happen first at 
second order by having the queries
govened by schemas and the schemas cross-related by maps in metadata, 
is beyond what we
need to consider to establish that there is a practical way to 
proceed with these content requirements.

Derived suggested content requirements:
[Note: SHOULD/MUST, or "is this a success criterion and at what 
level" is left to a policy
debate in WCAG WG...]

A. terms in technical usage:
[The author SHOULD:] connect each such term with a unique
explanation, known also as its definition.
The connection must be a definite authority chain, but it may be
indirect through a variety of connection mechanisms:

- associating a specific instance of a term in the current text with 
an explanation somewhere.
[The explanation may be in a note, local glossary, or URI-identified 
utterance somewhere.  But
for external references if the work provides more than one 
explanation the reference shall be
to one in particular, using a #fragment or query-part syntax 
appropriate to the resource.]
- enumerating this term in a glossary for the current document, 
paired with a definition.
- the term appearing so enumerated and defined in a document that
the current document cites as normative, or reached by a chain of 
normative references
of arbitrary length.

- terms in natural usage:
[The author SHOULD:] connect
a) scopes ranging from individual term instances up through the whole
document, with
b) sources of explanations ranging from individual explanation
instances up through published [Dublin Core entity] dictionaries or
Web Services
.. UNTIL the set of terms appearing in this document scope for which
there are zero possible explanations recoverable from the sources
associated above is empty. In other words, there are no terms that
have no explanations. The possible explanations counted for a given
instance of a given term include all explanations recoverable from
any source associated with any [ancestor] scope in the context of the
current term-instance.

* homework items remaining - techniques (feasible first, then maybe 
recommended) for:

- Glossary formats in HTML
- Glossary formats in XML
- Glossary notation in SKOS

- Linking to definitions in HTML
- Linking to definitions in XML
- Linking to definitions in SKOS, extended

- Linking to explanation sources from HTML
- Linking to explanation sources from XML (do we need to be more 
precise?  SVG?)
- Linking to explanation sources via RDF (relationships, reductions)

- Thesaurus information in SKOS
- Thesaurus information embedded in XSD

** details inline below

At 10:15 PM -0400 8/6/04, Gregg Vanderheiden wrote:
>Would you send this to the right people
>This is for part of our discussion next week.  [joint session 
>WCAG:PF:SW et_al -- Al]

-- copied below, with inlines comments.

>Programmatically Located, Meanings and Pronunciations [ Initial draft
>-- thinking out loud]
>Currently there is a problem when reading content whenever a word,
>abbreviation, acronym or phrase is encountered that the reader does
>not know the meaning of. If there was a way for the individual to
>locate the meaning of these semantics units when they occur the
>overall understandability of the content would be greatly enhanced.
>It would also provide a mechanism for people of all reading levels to
>better handle content they don't understand. Although words, phrases,
>jargon, foreign phrases and abbreviations appear to be very
>different, there is a possibility that they could all be addressed
>using the same strategy.

Actually, we need to recognize that the requirements, and hence
the appropriate techniques, are different for two different categories
of terms:

- technical terms and symbols - Terms of Art, acronyms, etc.:
Here there is a unique explanation that the author intends, and the
system should lead you uniquely there. Third-party writings are
acceptable here only to the extent that the author explicitly
mentions them as normative references.

- hard words -  this includes infrequently-used terms, foreign terms,
and figurative usage which is a stretch or may not communicate
with second-language speakers of the current language:
Here there is no exact definition, but the senses in which the word
is current in the language are explained and these explanations
collected in dictionaries.  In this case the most common error mode
is that the user is able to recall zero meanings, not the wrong
meaning.  Here third-party assistance is the standard operating
procedure.  Dictionaries are developed by lexicographers, not
by authors.  They summarize the range of meanings in use, neither
only nor exactly what any one speaker means.

>If we think of all ambiguous words, phrases, abbreviations, etc. as
>basically consisting of a string of characters whose meaning is
>unknown to the user, providing a common mechanism to look up the
>meaning of a string of characters would allow the reader

The other problem is where the user can recall with *no* meaning for
the term.  Not just can't fathom *which* meaning that they recall is
the one to use.  That's the more common event that sends us
looking for a dictionary.

>If the EXACT meaning of the string of characters could be easily
>found (programmatically DETERMINED) , then it would be possible to
>provide a mechanism to automatically determine the meaning of the

Here is the key.  For technical terminology, the author intends for
the term to be interpreted in terms of one specific explanation.
We could argue as to how EXACT that explanation is, but there is
at least one explanation that uniquely meets the author's expectations
as to what the term is meant to mean.

When people use terms in conversation other than these technical
terms in technical conversations, they mean what they expect their
hearer or reader to understand, but even the 'definitions' given
in the dictionary are not exact, nor does the speaker expect the
hearer to apply any specific explanation in understanding the term.

For technical usage we have existing glossary practice that we need
to fold into our bag of tricks.

For terms not uttered in a technical context, there is no single
appropriate explanation of what they meant.   But you can go
to a dictionary and finger the one entry that best fits this use
of the term.  Indicate that this entry should be preferred to the
others when interpreting this term in the cited context.  That
can be one appearance of the term or a whole website.

For help to people with more trouble reading than the general speaker
population, we will look to apply techniques that are intermediate
between the existing technical-glossary and dictionary-lookup
patterns of practice, borrowing as much by way of parts and assembly
patterns for our techniqes as we can from the existing practice.

>Doing so however would require that the specific meanings of
>many words would have to be individually marked.

No.  That assumes that all words bear the same requirements.

It is reasonably easy to estimate the likelihood of a given term
being mis-understood or not understood at all.  The terms most
at risk should be given priority in documenting their appropriate
interpretation and not assume that there is an all-or-none
standard for word help.

Technical terms should all be documented.  That is to say, there
should be a machine-followable path from uses of technical terms
in a technical writing to *the unique explanation* that the author
expects to govern the use of this term in their writing.  This doesn't
mean that each use of such a term in the text has to be marked,
but there has to be a clear indication that in some document scope,
that term is used in accordance with the explanation given in
[the glossary, some normative reference, or so forth.]

>A simpler task would
>be to provide the user with a list of possible meanings for the

Yes, this is the method that describes current-day dictionary-lookup
screen services such as Atomica and [what was the free one that
was discussed on WCAG list?].

In this situation, the user most likely comes up with *no* interpretation
of the term that they can recover even when they see the term spelled
out before them.  In this case the user reviews some candidate explanations
that explain senses that are in circulation among the speakers of this
language.  Usually only one of these (or two near-synonyms among them)
fit in with the context of the term as it is used in this place in the text.
The user is able to resolve, to dis-ambiguate, the multiple candidate
explanations with the benefit of their understanding of the situation set
up by the surrounding text and the user binds to this sense and moves on.

>Although, this is not as useful as being able to point to the
>exact, correct meaning, it still would be of great benefit. In
>addition, in many cases, the string would be unique and so the
>mechanism to 'programmatically locate' the meaning would by default,
>be a mechanism to determine the exact meaning. For example, a common
>foreign phrase, such as "c'est la vie".

The meanings of natural terms, even idioms, are fuzzy when you look at them
closely enough.  I would not suggest we put much faith in the above
line of reasoning.

>It is proposed that a mechanism based on reverse-cascading
>dictionaries be defined that would allow user agents to quickly
>locate the definitions of words or phrases (character strings)
>specified by the user.

The ordered list is overkill.  We should definitely look at mechanisms
that revolve around scoping, where an explanation bound to an inner
scope takes precedence over an explanation bound to an outer
scope.   But the idea that the author specifies a precedence order
among dictionaries, and that the user agent stops on first match,
is over-design and bad design.

For natural terms, it helps to have the sundry interpretations,
available from different sources, all available; to help the user
recognize which of these matches the current individual use best.

Here we want the union of the dictionaries mentioned in the
ancestor contexts of this text block, not only the innermost
or the first-listed where some explanation is found.

For technical terms, one wants to borrow from multiple sources
and there is no need for a precedence order.  In technical
writing if there is a conflict between the senses of one spelling
between two of your normative references, you just use a
different term that is not the victim of such a conflict.  If one
is writing for the general reader and wants to use a technical
term in its technical sense, this calls for a glossary entry to
introduce the technical sense to the general reader, which can
then link directly to the intended explanation.

>In practice, an author would specify a list of cascading dictionaries
>that should be used with particular page, or section of a website, or
>website. This could be done by either embedding an ordered list of
>dictionaries in meta-data associated with the page itself, or by
>putting an ordered list in a specific document (e.g.,
>dictionaries.html) at the root of the URI for the page (or at any
>apparent level of the URI). For example the dictionary for the web
>page www.mycomp.com/docs/sales/plan/easternplan.html could be located
>at www.mycomp.com/dictionaries.html.
>Once the user agent has fetched the ordered list of dictionaries, it
>would search for the word, starting at the highest level of the
>dictionary and then working through the cascade. For speed,
>simultaneous queries could be made to all, or if they were on a
>single site, a compound request might be issued. The definition
>presented to the user would be either the one in the most "local"
>dictionary or the results could be presented to the user with the
>most "local" dictionary definitions presented first.
>By using cascading dictionaries, the meanings of abbreviations or
>acronyms can be defined differently for different pages or different
>areas of a website.

Substitute 'scoped' for 'cascading' and this virtue holds just the same.

Where this breaks down, you get specific about which terms [which
spellings] follow which source.

>The user experience
>To the user, this might look like an individual right-clicking on a
>word, (or highlighting a phrase and right-clicking on it) and
>selecting "dictionary" or "meaning" or "look-up" from the drop-down
>menu. The user agent would then provide a results display of some
>type, with the meaning(s) of the word or phrase displayed. For
>different types of user agents, different mechanisms could be used to
>provide an equivalent functionality appropriate to the medium being
>used (visual, auditory, etc.)
>(The right-click menu could also provide opportunities for the
>individual to look up the meaning or symbolic or other forms, if they
>are available or if a converter was available to turn the text into


This keys off two things. The user's HTTP-equivalent
'accept-language' preferences, and optional or attached
cross-language and thesaurus resources.

There is another user of the word-explanation resources and
word-disambiguation metadata.  This is the language translation
process, whether automatic or semi-automated.

>Author experience
>For a page to qualify as meeting the success criteria dealing with
>"programmatically locatable", it would be necessary to have all of
>the words or phrases in the document be programmatically locatable.
>An author would start by simply associating some major online
>dictionary with the page using their author tool. Immediately, most
>of the words in the document, would be covered, and only those words
>that were not in the dictionary would be highlighted and provided in
>a list to the side.

No.  The author would 'start by' spell-checking their document.
This may be a command or it may be done automagically and
continuously as the user types.

That is to say, this what the most authors would do.

Authors knowing that they meant to use terms in technical senses
are a separate case.

But start with spell-checking.  Words not in the spell-checker, the author
should find a good external source of explanation for, or add a
glossary entry.

Words in the spell-checker used in the office desktop are the
responsibility of the webmaster and network manager to make sure that
they are covered. If there are terms that the spell-checker accepts
that one can't look up, either the network manager kills them out of
the standard dictionary or the webmaster comes up with the dictionary
where they are explained and adds a script to the check-in process
that adds this link to pages that use that term on check-in.

External sources would be linked somehow to the context, and then
the user would be allowed to add these terms to a personal spell-check
dictionary so they would no longer raise red flags on spell-check.

This check is repeated at check-in to the web content management
system, where the content is scanned for coverage by dictionaries.

Terms that are either technical or genuinely obscure should be dealt
with on a term-by-term basis.

This can be guidelined in terms of word frequency.  Words with a
frequency below some threshold would be (by house rules today,
by universal guidelines tomorrrow) expected to be bound to
specific interpretations or at least to explicit references to sources.

>The author would then associate any other
>dictionaries that were common to the type of material that they were
>generating (e.g., they might associate a medical dictionary if they
>were using a lot of medical terms, or they might associate a W3C
>glossary if they were using a lot of web terms). Instantly, all of
>those terms would disappear from the "un-locatable" listing. Authors
>would usually have two or three dictionaries or glossaries that they
>commonly used with their content. In addition, a company may maintain
>a dictionary of its own that it uses frequently or terms that it has
>defined itself. In order for a page to qualify, it is not necessary
>for proper names to be locatable,. However, companies may want to
>provide a short description to their product names as well as their
>jargon. By attaching this list to the "local" end of the cascade,
>they can make it easy for individuals to find those definitions,
>understand those terms, identify those products or get the proper
>expansion for an acronym that has many different definitions in
>different fields.
>If the website has a set of cascading dictionaries at its root, then
>the author may find that all of the words on the page are already
>"locatable" without them doing anything at all. If there is a
>peculiar word on the single page, it is also possible for the author
>to put a set of dictionary words directly inside the page.
>Implementation Techniques (Programmatically located) Handling
>dictionaries with different query formats
>It would be good if there was a standard mechanism for the dictionary
>so that a simple command with the source string could be sent to any
>of the URIs and it would return the block of text for that term.

This goes far beyond the realm of the content guidelines:

- identify specific definitions for technical terms, acronyms, and the like

- identify sources for explanations for your remaining terms

SKOS would appear to have all the tools we need to meet the
requirements for sources and linking to sources for the second case,
for natural usage. On the other hand, it does not appear to have
everything we need for the first case, for technical terms and the
like. There is no notion of a *unique proper* explanation in SKOS as
it stands, the uniqufying quantifier on a relationship would have to
be drawn in from elsewhere in the RDF cluster of commonly-used RDF
names for long-standing concepts like unique.

For the first case we still need to introduce some terms from the
vernacular of technical documents and their terminology.  I expect
that we can steal this from the work on terminology in the accredited
standards world, but I have not yet dug it out.

>However, URIs having different search query forms could still be
>used. The URI in the document would simply take the form of the full
>URI, including the query text with a placeholder where the word or
>phrase to be searched would be inserted. Thus, a set of cascading
>URIs could access a set of cascading dictionaries, each of which had
>a different query form. They would do it by simply including the
>query form in the list of URIs.

This is 'protocols' business.

The approach to take is via the schema behind the query language with
which one queries the resource. [compare with the work on the 'info'
URI scheme, where the schemas are public and all publishers of URIs
that cite that namespace for their query fields agree to abide by the
published schema.

There are approaches both with XQuery for XML resources and
RDF Query for resources connected references uttered under RDF conventions.

The point here is that the query exist per resource, not that it has to
be standardized in order for us to have a technique that supports the
feasibility of a guideline.

[The general architectural principle violated in what Gregg
brainstormed above is that for robustness and evolvability, we don't
tie our format to format in external modules. We tie our format to
function in external modules so that multiple external modules can
interoperate with our format so long as their format provides the
needed function in some way.]

>Alternate ways of associating the list of dictionaries with the
>Content may not always be of a form that it is easy to attach other
>information. A number of methods might therefore, be used. Some were
>described above. Another might be to have a page with the cascading
>dictionary list at the same URI, except the ending would be some
>standard ending, say ".dict".

Don't compete with the Web.  There are some technical disagreements
being hammered out, we hope, in a 'linking' task force in W3C.  But there
are too many ways that exist and are not tainted by these controversies.

In particular, typing resources by file extensions is "not cool" per 
the Architecture

For dictionaries the first thing to try is schemas and thesaurus relations
across the metadata of different schemas.  [This is where Eric has been
living for years, professionally.]

A given dictionary document or Web Service would explain what it offers
with a schema.

In this schema or in a separate writing referring to this schema, the
relationship between their concepts and terms and those of
lexicographical standards should be set out in metadata serving the
function of a data thesaurus. SKOS is an example of a notation for
this thesaurus information, and Topic Maps is another framework
capable of integrating this information.

>In the end, we probably do not want to have a million different
>formats and options. However, we should have a selection of options
>that are very robust and allow the author to be able to handle the
>full range of web content types.

This is where we don't want to be in competition with the W3C.

The broad architectural principle is that "anywhere you can use a URI,
you should be able to use any URI."

So the varieties of URIs that can cite a document or a section in a
document is not for us to specify.  Other than we could join with
web users in general in measuring what forms are well supported and
sharing that information with authors.

Received on Wednesday, 8 September 2004 14:58:39 UTC

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