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RE: Simplicity of Authoring and Accessibility Tools

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2001 03:35:11 -0500 (EST)
To: Kynn Bartlett <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>
cc: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0101190330200.12725-100000@tux.w3.org>
I don't know if there is a misrepresentation of the views that Charles Munat
expressed, but it seems pretty likely to me that you are trying to push some
of them into corners that they were not intended to fit in.

I agree that it is not possible to get everyone to learn HTML, but I also
don't think it is a bad thing if we enourage people to learn. I do think we
can, and should, get people to understand the principles behind HTML - this
is a different exercise, although with such a simple language the difference
is mainly whether you show the pointy brackets or talk in more specific user
interface terms about a particular method for generating them (such as using
DreamWeaver). (I also agree that this is not an argument that goes anywhere -
I can happily support either side with anecdotes, and neither with anything
better but a hunch).

Charles McCN

On Thu, 18 Jan 2001, Kynn Bartlett wrote:

  At 5:03 PM -0800 1/18/01, Charles F. Munat wrote:
  >Yes, but since one doesn't yet exist, what's needed is for those who
  >assemble web pages to read the instruction manual. The instruction manual is
  >HTML, and it's a lot easier than programming your VCR. But just as most
  >people won't read the instruction manual before they start to assemble their
  >new ACME rocket-powered scooter, they won't learn HTML.

  Charles, I beg to differ.  While you and I may find HTML to be
  painfully easy, the vast majority of people who barely know how to
  write email are not going to be able to understand it as easily.
  Especially when are you talking about a school full of teachers or
  other people whose jobs do not involve web design at all.

  >But why on earth would we be condoning this? Why would you pat someone on
  >the back for being too lazy to do even the smallest bit of preparation
  >before setting up a web page? Why do we continue to act as if putting
  >together a web page is as simple as using a photocopy machine?

  Because it _should_ be.  This is 2001, a round 10 years since the web
  was created.  It's not the fault of the people who have never created
  a web page that there's not the software ready; it's the fault of _us_,
  the people who have been creating web pages since sometime last
  century who haven't make it that much easier for them to do.

  >I honestly believe that the average person could learn basic HTML and CSS,
  >enough for the vast majority of tasks on the web, in the *same* amount of
  >time as it takes to learn how to use FrontPage. Funny how we have the time
  >to learn the software, but not to learn this VERY SIMPLE MARKUP - NOT

  I'm sure you believe that.  I very strongly believe that you're wrong,
  Charles.  I know I won't be able to convince you, though, and I suspect
  you'll have anecdotal evidence to counter everything that I might
  say (such as "I taught 5 people who didn't know a thing and they
  learned it easily").  I still don't buy it, though, Charles.  The
  average person doesn't want to learn a new programming language -- oh,
  I'm sorry, "markup language", but what is that distinction to anyone
  who doesn't know the difference? -- in order to be able to communicate
  on the web.

  >I think we should say clearly: Well, you can use FrontPage, but it will
  >cause problems with accessibility, so you'll need to learn a little HTML to
  >correct them. But if you're going to do that, why not just skip learning
  >FrontPage and just learn the HTML? It's not difficult.

  Different approaches work for different people.  I'm amazed that you
  deny that and claim that your way of learning works for everyone.

  You're also ignoring the fact that WYSIWYG tools are designed to
  leverage one's existing experience with word processors.  If someone
  has never used Word then, yes, they will find FrontPage pretty hard
  to use.  If someone has prior experience with markup, then yeah, it
  will be pretty easy.  Now tell me which is more common out there?
  People with markup experience which can be leveraged, or people with
  Word experience?

  >Of course it would help if there was a simple HTML tutorial (I mean SIMPLE)
  >that didn't teach all sorts of bad coding practices and proprietary or
  >deprecated code.

  There are many such tutorials now, but I daresay that it hasn't solved
  the problem yet.  Sorry, Charles.

  Charles, here's an additional question for you:  Anne has been a
  participation in this question, and she works with cognitively
  impaired children.

  I submit -- you may disagree, but let's agree to defer to Anne's
  judgment on this -- that a well-made, simple WYSIWYG editor which
  is usable by children would be much easier for them to use to
  express themselves on the web than just learning XHTML directly.

  Do you agree or disagree?  Can you see the value in "hiding" XHTML
  from users as a way of allowing _more_ people to use the Web as
  it was intended, as not merely a one-way communication stream?

  What would you say to an accusation that an insistence that "they
  must learn HTML if they are going to publish" is elitist and
  exclusionary?  Or am I misrepresenting your views?


Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
Location: I-cubed, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
until 6 January 2001 at:
W3C INRIA, 2004 Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Friday, 19 January 2001 03:35:18 UTC

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