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Re: Example of Good Summary (Was: Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions")

From: Simon Pieters <simonp@opera.com>
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 04:38:32 +0200
To: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>, "HTMLWG WG" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <op.uv31mi0hidj3kv@simon-pieterss-macbook.local>
On Wed, 24 Jun 2009 15:23:15 +0200, Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com> wrote:

> Obviously a summary is only any good if its contents actually match its
> table (for a table of cricket bowling statistics the above would be a
> terrible summary!), but I'm not just asking for the sake of it:
> * My main reason is that I'm wondering how much of the above could be
>   automatically generated by a user-agent.  HTML 5 defines which headers
>   apply to which cells, and obviously a user-agent knows which cells are
>   merged, so possibly there could be an algorithmic way of generating
>   descriptions of table structures such as the above for any (or at
>   least a large proportion of) data tables.
>  A user-agent could have a 'describe table structure' feature which is
>   independent of an author providing a good (or indeed any) summary.
>   In terms of getting the information to those users who need it, this
>   may have more success than engaging authors to write good summaries:
>   user-agent developers seem on average more likely to follow the HTML 5
>   spec than most authors, and there are fewer of them.
>   If this were possible it would reduce the number of tables which
>   require a handwritten summary, reducing the burden on authors.

Looking at the algorithm for forming a table in the spec, the user agent  
has at least the following information at hand:

   1. The number of rows and columns.
   2. Where the header cells are.
   3. Whether there are any merged cells.
   4. Whether there are slots without a cell, or slots with overlapping  

It seems entirely possible to expose this information to the user.

(1) and (2) should give the user an idea about the overall structure of  
the table. I might be useful to announce (3) so that the user is prepared  
that there will be merged cells when navigating the table. (4) might also  
be useful to announce since it indicates an error and that it might be  
confusing to navigate the table.

It might be non-trivial to expose (2) in a good way, or at least it would  
probably require some thought and studying of tables. For a simple case,  
it could be something like "The first row consist of header cells.".

Simon Pieters
Opera Software
Received on Friday, 26 June 2009 02:39:17 UTC

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