W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > June 2009

Re: Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions"

From: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>
Date: Wed, 24 Jun 2009 18:27:33 +0100
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20090624172733.GN4461@stripey.com>
Shelley Powers writes:

> I am less concerned about the summary attribute -- or SVG, or RDFa --
> then I the fact that a small, non-diverse group of people is using
> data haphazardly collected from the web, as justification for
> designing a web that suits the purposes of, basically, a small,
> non-diverse group of people.

There seem to be three groups of people involved in this discussion with
entrenched views:

 1  Those who believe that HTML 5 should be accessible to all (including
    having data tables which are understandable by those who use
    speech-based interfaces) and that the advantage of diligent authors
    being able use summary usefully is so beneficial that it outweighs
    the downside of the widespread summary misuse.

 2  Those who believe that HTML 5 should be accessible to all (including
    having data tables which are understandable by those who use
    speech-based interfaces) and that the widespread summary misuse is
    so detrimental that it outweighs the benefit of diligent authors
    being able use summary usefully.

 3  Those who want HTML 5 not to be accessible to all, and have their
    own (unstated) reasons for wanting particular features to be in, or
    not in, HTML 5.

As a general generalization there seems to be two main thrusts to the

* People in group 2 pointing out problems with the group 1 position.
* People in group 1 pointing out problems with the group 3 position.

That asymmetry creates a disconnect which makes it very hard for those
of us not in any group, and open to persuasion, to form a coherent view.

I also get the impression there isn't actually anybody in group 3.  At
least, any view which is attacked as being the group 3 position could
also be accounted for as a group 2 position.  So criticisms of group 3
positions are basically strawman arguments.  It seems that at least
several people in group 1 perceive that those who are arguing against
summary in HTML 5 must be against accessibility (that is, in group 3;
and therefore that group 2 couldn't exist, because those against summary
couldn't possibly be in favour of accessibility).

At my university there was a debate as to whether the lines painted on
the edge of steps, to make it easier for those with poor sight to spot
them, should be white or yellow.  There were people arguing for each.
Each side obviously believed the other side to be mistaken.  But both
sides were genuinely arguing for the best colour to help those with poor
sight; neither side secretly wanted those with poor sight not to be able
to walk safely around campus, so were purposefully suggesting a colour
most likely to make them trip up and go splat.

Similarly, every view expressed here seems to be from somebody genuinely
trying to find the best way to make <table> accessible to all.  We can
respect that while still disagreeing with people.

At worst some arguments could come across as an attempt to force through
a particular position on legalistic, rather than technical, grounds; or
as trying to misrepresent others' views to discredit them.

And at worst attacking a position nobody has is at best a waste of
effort.  And arguing for accessibility is redundant, as a design
principle mandates that anyway.  The original wording would have been
sufficient to bar a group 3 view.  After removing "where possible"[*1]
it's still barred.  If we strengthen the wording, it's still barred:


Let's get the best possible accessibility for tables by discussing
technical merits.

Shelley Powers writes:

> Seems to me that this working group's underlying practice is more to
> take the path of least resistance, than to create a new version of
> HTML that meets the needs of all people, not just a small group
> remarkable for the lack of diversity of its members.

The path of least resistance would surely be to acquiesce to any
forcefully made demands -- even if you believe them to be misguided --
because that would require less effort than engaging with them and cause
these threads to end much sooner.  It's pretty clear that isn't being


[*1]  Does that mean we now have to do things even if they aren't
possible?  Does our charter allow us to break the laws of physics?
Received on Wednesday, 24 June 2009 17:28:15 UTC

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