W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > January 2001

RE: WWW: Interoperability Crisis?

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 2001 02:11:45 -0800
To: "'Wilbur Streett'" <WStreett@mail.Monmouth.com>, "'Brian Milloy'" <bmilloy@interlog.com>, "'Aaron Swartz'" <aswartz@swartzfam.com>
Cc: "'Sean B. Palmer'" <sean@mysterylights.com>, <www-talk@w3.org>, <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <009601c0845b$ba62a050$0100a8c0@aries>
Wilbur Streett wrote:

> Perhaps if you checked out the technology that I'm working
> on, it'll be
> very clear to you that there is no way that it could ever
> come to a point
> of not being any use, for the simple reason that it's a move
> to the more
> intrinsic nature of humanity than the written word is.

But of course I did check out the technology. Or rather I tried to. On
arriving at your page I discovered that I'd seen it before... one, maybe two
years ago. I tried it then but it crashed my system. So, taking a risk I
wouldn't normally take, I overrode all my security precautions and
downloaded and installed your plugin again. But when I try to run it, it
just crashes my browser. So I guess I'm not going to learn about your

But that's beside the point. Despite your evident status as a genius, you
were too angry to understand the point of my original post. When I wished
you luck, I meant it. It sounds like interesting technology - from what you
said I gather that it interprets a web page and then responds to queries
from the user interactively in spoken word. Personally, I find the talking
head a bit unnerving, but for others it might be just the thing. So good
luck. Really.

What I *did* and *do* object to is your rudeness, your self-righteousness,
and your selfishness masquerading as concern for humanity. Look at what you
write. To begin, we have your sarcastic comment above. You presume that I
didn't bother to look. But I did - I'm sorry that I don't have time to
figure out why it won't work for me. I'll take your word for it that it's
good stuff.

Then this:

> The burden of having other people think that they know what
> is best for me
> when they dont' know who I am?  Yes, I've suffered that
> ridiculas burden
> most of my life.  When I was in forth grade I was rated at a
> college level,
> but they decided that putting me into college wasn't a good
> thing, because
> it wasn't the convention of the time.  So I got to sit in classes and
> listen to teachers pretend to being doing things for my own
> benefit while I
> wondered why the world was screwed up.

Interestingly, that is almost exactly my experience. Except it was third
grade, and they didn't want to push me directly to college, but to put me in
an accelerated program. My parents thought that it would be harmful to me,
so they said no. In retrospect, it was the biggest mistake they ever made in
raising me. But luckily, it didn't fill me with anger as it has done to you.

Then you state:

> Information about visual images isn't relevant to the blind.
> But you keep
> pretending that you know better what the blind want, and what
> I should do
> in defining my web site, than either the blind or me.  But
> you ignore the
> larger issue of literacy all the while.

I keep pretending? I sent one reply to your message, how can I keep doing
anything? And where did I claim to speak for the blind? Not being blind, I
have no idea what the blind want except for what they tell me. So I would
never presume to speak for them. I speak as a citizen of the world, and I
believe that everyone is entitled to equal access to the public areas of our
society. And I believe that when you connect your page/site/intranet to the
public Internet, you incur an obligation to make that site accessible.
Evidently, you feel differently. That's your right, but if I have my way,
you'll be required to make your sites accessible before you connect them to
the Internet. Of course, I'm only one vote - it will take more than that and
it may never happen. But I'll keep working for it.

And speaking of blind people, several of them have told me that "information
about visual images" *is* "relevant to the blind." So I don't know which
blind people told you that, but I'd sure like to meet them. Or better still,
to have them meet the blind people I know.

> I guess you've never heard of individual rights either?

Of course I have. And I am a staunch supporter of individual rights as well,
especially the right to privacy. But we must co-exist on this planet and I
understand that for the sake of all, I must occasionally acknowledge the
individual rights of others... such as the right to participate equally in

It is interesting that the biggest advocates of "individual rights" always
seem to mean their own rights, and not the rights of others. If public
property is held in common trust, then decisions regarding the use of that
property must be made by consensus, or as close to it as possible. The
Internet is public property, even if the means by which it is maintained is
not. Thus, by consensus, we (not me personally or some elite group, but
human beings acting in concert) can decide what is appropriate and what is
inappropriate for that property. And yes, we (society) can enforce those
requirements on you. That is the trade off you make for being a part of
society and reaping the benefits of it (such as people to use your software,
not to mention grow your food, make your clothing, etc.)

> >It is true that literacy is a greater ill, but literacy is curable.
> We're at less than 5%, and you want to claim that it's curable?  3,500
> years of the cult of the scribes, and you want to claim that
> it's curable?
> 12+ years of basic education and the US Government will only accept
> material written for a 10 year old at a 4th grade literacy
> level and you
> want to claim that it's curable?

Yes, I do. It is curable on an individual basis, and to those individuals
who learn to read, that cure is quite wonderful. That we have yet to make
much of a dent worldwide is an indictment of our terrible political systems
(and, perhaps, of our unenlightened minds), but it does not make it
incurable. You really remind me of the stereotypical mad scientist who is so
misunderstood but who is going to show us all by saving us from ourselves.
It would be a pretty amusing picture if what you were advocating weren't so

> But then I've been told that the technology that I'm creating
> has a killer
> application, that of teaching reading.

Great! I hope it works.

> >Blindness is not. Luckily, it is not an either/or
> proposition. We can help
> >both the blind and the illiterate by properly coding our sites.
> Only in the way defined by you.

Says whom? I have not in any way attempted to discourage you from pursuing
your dream. Just the opposite, in fact.

 How about making a browser capable of
> descerning the page and converting into something that can be
> comprehended
> by someone that is blind, without requiring extra burden on
> the author of
> the web page.

You make it sound as if creating an accessible web page was an onerous task,
or that it would only benefit some tiny portion of blind users. Actually, it
is quite easy if you care enough to do so - that is if you put your
obligation to serve the public (since you're using the public Internet)
above your desire to make your site as flashy as possible. In fact, as many
companies are learning, accessible sites are good for business. So perhaps
it's not really a burden at all. Have you had trouble making your site
accessible? I'm sure that the folks at the WAI IG list would be willing to

If the image isn't clear enough, and someone that is
> actually blind wants to know what it is, then they can ASK
> someone to spend
> the time to define what the image is.  On the other hand,
> demanding that
> everyone burden themselves to your idea of reality, means
> that everyone
> wastes time.

So if I'm in a wheelchair, I can just *ask* someone to carry me up the steps
to the post office? If I'm deaf, I can just *ask* someone to transcribe the
nightly newscast? Or are you suggesting "separate but equal" accommodations?
Too bad if you're deaf - read the paper tomorrow morning.

I'm sure that many businesses think it's a "burden" to add restrooms,
parking spots (usually the best ones, too), and other facilities that are
accessible to people with disabilities. So should they not bother? And
everyone with a disability can just stay home and depend on their friends
and relatives (if they have any) to take care of them?

But if it's OK to burden the local restaurant owner by requiring a larger
toilet stall, why is it unfair to "burden" the local web site owner by
requiring him to make his code and content accessible? Or do you feel that
*all* efforts to provide access to people with disabilities are misguided?

> >Making
> >images and other non-textual elements available to a screen
> reader is just
> >as useful for an illiterate user (assuming he or she is not
> deaf, too) as
> >for a blind user.
> So care to explain Dali's work with a screen reader?

I'm a big fan of Dali, so that would be fun. And I don't think it would be
too difficult, either, though, of course, something is always lost in the
translation. What I'd like to see is the creation of databases with
descriptions of all sorts of art, preferably written by experts, that pages
could link to in order to provide local descriptions. It seems to me that
the Internet is a good way to promote such interchange of data.

> A screen reader doesn't expand the communication channel.
> Writing a page
> for less than 1 out of 1,000 readers isn't good business.
> Wake up already.

I don't think you understand what's required for accessibility. If you're
writing extra pages, then you're probably doing something wrong. Again, I
recommend the WAI IG list for advice. Or there are lots of other resources
on-line. And 1 out of 1000? Where do you get your figures?

>  If someone says something actually worth translating into a
> format for the
> blind, then the groups of people that are interested in
> transgressing the
> media boundaries inherent in being blind will make it happen.

So it's every man for himself, is it? You take care of your group and I'll
take care of mine? This is the enlightened world you're working to realize?
Of course, you have a solution, and if they'll just be willing to pay you
enough, you'll help them out.

>  But to claim
> that everyone has to design their page to your whim, and add
> burden to the
> task of expression, is a farce.

Not my whim, by a long shot. In fact, although I participated in peripheral
ways, I had virtually nothing to do with the development of the WCAG. On the
other hand, a great many other people and groups *did* have a hand in it,
many of them either disabled or working with/for the disabled community. And
the best thing is, it was all done in public and anyone can participate.
Yes, including you. So if you think that they went about it all wrong, why
not join the WAI IG list and tell them how to fix it. Then maybe they'll
stop making you so angry.

The most ironic thing is that you speak of expression as if it occurred in a
vacuum. Expression to whom? If your web site is only for your own pleasure,
why connect it to the Internet at all? But of course you really don't want
to talk to yourself all day, do you? Else why post to this list? Why connect
your site to the Internet? But when you do speak to others, you insist on
doing so only on your own terms (which seem to include ignoring their
"individual" rights and being downright rude). That may be a form of
expression of a sort, but I certainly wouldn't waste my time worrying about

> >So you are to set yourself up as arbiter of what is good and
> what is not?
> So who else is supposed to decide for me what I find of value?
> Who made you King?  We got rid of him a long time ago.

A strange leap here. I suggest that you wish to control the experience of
your users: you will provide a service, but with strings attached. People
are free to use it (well, if they pay you) and then you will decide which
sites they can visit and which they can't. But suddenly *I* am the one who
thinks he is king? Are you *certain* that you are a genius? Maybe your logic
is simply beyond me...

> >The future of the web is one of cooperation, but that is not
> really your
> >thing, is it, Mr. Streett?
> Gee, you couldn't even be bothered to read what I wrote, and only
> selectively take what I wrote and attack me on it.  That
> doesn't strike me
> as cooperation.

That I did not quote your entire letter does not mean that I did not read
it. Actually, I read it several times through because I couldn't quite bring
myself to believe that this sort of attitude still persisted or that it
would manifest itself on the www-html list.

As for attacking you selectively, I think attack is a pretty strong word,
better suited for what you are doing to me and to those members of this list
and others who've worked very hard to improve the web in myriad ways. What I
did was to respond with dismay and sadness to the parts of your post that
were offensive to me (and I would think, to a great many others). Since the
other parts didn't offend me, I didn't respond to them. But anyone who is
worried that I might have twisted your words is free to look in the archive
and read them for himself.

> I notice that you didn't bother to follow my .sig and find
> out what sort of
> technology I'm working on.  I only notice that you
> selectively take what I
> write and attempt to twist it to your own limited agenda.

You are repeating yourself.

> >You insist on walking your own path, doing only
> >the things that you want to do and only the way you want to
> do them. Fine.
> So why are you attacking me on it?

I'm not attacking you, nor am I directing my comments at your project. As
you pointed out, I know little about it. But even if it cures cancer *and*
the common cold, that does not excuse the rudeness of your original post (or
of your reply). It was your attack on the efforts of the WAI and of people
with disabilities in general to ensure that their needs are given equal
weight (not preferential, but equal) on the web that I responded to. I am
responding to your rude comments.

> >Build your own Internet, and you can have it any way you want to.
> You have no idea what I have created, and what I am doing,
> but try to claim
> that you know better how to aid others.  Pretty ironic.

I claimed nothing of the sort. I disagreed with your view of the importance
of accessible code and interoperability in general, which you attacked in
your initial post. I said nothing about whether your creation was inferior
or superior. As you say, I have no idea what you created, so how could I?
The only comment I made was to suggest that you were angry because you
feared that it would be obsolete before you finished it. It was only a
guess, and I based it on your description of what you software will do. From
what little I could gather, it sounds to me like those are the same problems
others have been working to solve through better code. Hopefully, your
software will help.

> BTW, Wilbur was the name of the HTML 3.2 specification.  But
> it doesn't
> just come from Wilbur the Pig in Charolette's Web, or Wilbur
> the man that
> invented the airplane, it's also Willi Boore, the first
> walled in city.
> The creation of the bourg, the royalty.

This is apropos to what exactly? What on earth brought this up? Still, it is
interesting that you've named your software after the first *walled* city.
Are you building walls, or removing them?

> >But unless
> >you are willing to do that, I don't think you are in any
> position to tell
> >the rest of us - the rightful owners of the Internet
> Oh, I see, so you admit that you are the King.

Well, put that way, yes, I am. But I share the throne with approximately 6
billion others, so my one second in charge doesn't show up for about another
ten years. I plan to use it well, though, and don't think I won't remember

> >- what we can do with
> >it.
> I tell you that if you want to do something then go ahead and
> do it.  But
> don't pretend that you know better than I do what I should do.

And so we *are* proceeding to build an interoperable, standards-based,
accessible web. Care to join us? No-one is telling you what to do. But if
you run a public web site and someone wants access and can't get it because
you've made it inaccessible to them, then they might decide to insist that
you change it. That is the price of entering the public realm: you become
obligated to meet the standards set by the public (just as you intend to set
standards for the users of your software).

> >And if we as a group decide that web sites shall be accessible, then
> >they shall be.
> So you speak for "we" with your own voice?  How is it that web site's
> aren't accessible now?  The internet provides accessability
> to the blind
> without your claims to the contrary that it doesn't.  There
> may be an image
> on a page that doesn't explain itself in the text on the page, but the
> reality is that there is more than enough material for any
> blind person to
> spend a lifetime engaged.  Check out Project Gutenberg for an example.

The operative word in my comment was "if." It's not up to me alone. But if,
as I hope, the general agreement is for accessibility standards (it appears
to be heading that way), then yes, those standards will be enforceable. How
big a dent they will make is anyone's guess, but I think that they'll help.

I've seen Project Gutenberg. But what does that have to do with
accessibility? Are you saying that if the McDonald's in town is accessible,
then the Burger King doesn't need to be? That some material is accessible to
all means that it's OK to lock users with disabilities (it's a lot more than
the blind, you know) out of other sites?

> >Just as we have the right to demand that every other public
> >conveyance - from buses to television - be made accessible as well.
> Sorry, blind people are already on the internet.  Just
> because a bus might
> have a wheel chair lift doesn't mean that it's accessible.
> Just because
> you think that a blind person can do a job doesn't mean that
> he can.  Just
> because you want to claim that access for the blind shoudl be
> a burden for
> all of the page designers on the internet doesn't mean that
> it ever will or
> ever should be.

At this point you appear to be raving incoherently. I'm not sure what to
make of this. But one thing is clear: you have greatly overestimated the
"burden" of making sites accessible. In fact, from the things you've said in
your post, I suspect that you don't really know much at all about the
efforts to make the web accessible. Most of your comments concern issues
that were laid to rest long ago. Have you read anything lately? Have you
even tried to make your site accessible? What problems did you run into?
Maybe we can help (though the right place for such discussion is really the
WAI IG list or similar).

> >So as I said, good luck to you. I am always happy to see a
> man who suffers
> >from blindness raise himself up and succeed, especially so when his
> >blindness is a blindness of the heart - so much more
> debilitating than
> >blindness of sight. I hope that in your efforts to help
> others - if it is
> >indeed other whom you hope to help - that you may overcome
> your disability
> >and regain the true "face of humanity" you seem to have lost.
> There are none so blind as those who can not see.

My point exactly.

> I pointed out that my own grandmother was blind.  You know
> nothing about
> me, but claim to see enough to know who I am and what I'm doing, even
> though you haven't bothered to access the web site which
> explains what I'm
> doing.  How telling.

The only thing that I claim to know about you is that you posted an
off-topic message to this list filled with rude comments and untruths and
that you followed it up with a largely incoherent rant which seems to center
on what a misunderstood struggling genius you are (but don't worry, you'll
show us). All my comments relate to that. Beyond that, for all I know you
are a midget with bad teeth, a glass eye, and a propensity for farting.

> But then the face of humanity resides on every human, not
> just the one that
> you see in your mirror.  Too bad I know that and you don't.

Come out of your cellar, mad scientist, and meet a few of us then.

> The reality is that individual effort is what brings about
> change.  Not
> group norms, not group edicts, but individual efforts.
> Please define a
> technology that was created by a group?

Spoken like a true egomaniac. My dear Wilbur, you ask "please define a
technology that was created by a group? [sic]" Well here is the answer: ALL

And that includes your software, Wilbur. Unless, of course, you did it all
yourself... Gave birth to yourself, fed yourself, clothed yourself,
discovered all of the facts about the universe that you depend on to build
your software, invented computers and the Internet, etc.

Every piece of software builds upon the work of others. Working in C++? Did
you invent it? Didn't think so. Even people who have done extraordinary
things in their lifetimes are almost always willing to acknowledge the help
of others. Isaac Newton, a far brighter man than you or I, had this to say:

"If I have seen farther, it is only because I have stood on the shoulders of

Why not rejoin humanity, Wilbur? We won't hold you previous antisocial
behavior against you.

If you wish to discuss this further, I suggest we take it off-list. We've
probably tried the patience of this list enough for one day.

Charles Munat
Received on Monday, 22 January 2001 05:04:55 UTC

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