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RE: Betsie and other text only conversion applications

From: Jamie Mackay <Jamie.Mackay@cultureandheritage.govt.nz>
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001 15:32:27 +1300
Message-ID: <21E9A6F96222D311882700508B2C47EE298E42@MCA-NT1>
To: "'Wayne Myers'" <wayne.myers@bbc.co.uk>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Thanks for this response Wayne

I guess my main worry about something like this is that it is an 'easy fix'
that will stop people from making the effort to make their websites properly
degradable and accessible. A New Zealand government web forum group I am
part of is currently considering recommending Betsie for its members- yet I
know for sure that most of these members are ignorant of the requirements
for accessible websites and there is a real danger that they will decide
that using Betsie is enough.

Not your problem I know, and I agree with your argument that Betsie provides
a real-world solution right now for people relying on text only rendering of
pages and is therefore generally a good thing. 

My only suggestion would be that you could make some explicit disclaimer on
the Betsie site about how this should not be seen as a  total solution for
making sites accessible and perhaps state some of the other things people
need to consider.

Jamie Mackay
Web Editor
Ministry for Culture and Heritage

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Wayne Myers [SMTP:wayne.myers@bbc.co.uk]
> Sent:	Saturday, 27 January 2001 01:59
> To:	w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
> Subject:	RE: Betsie and other text only conversion applications
> Jamie Mackay wrote:
> > >Just wondering on what people on this forum think about applications
> like
> > >Betsie which convert webpage content to text only on the fly.
> I'm glad you asked this, Jamie, since I wrote Betsie, and I've kind of
> been wondering myself. The feedback I get from users has been almost
> entirely positive, but then why should I get feedback from users who
> have not had positive experiences?
> > >It seems to work as far as I can tell and is a solution to the problem
> of
> > >people not updating their text only pages - the code is very ugly, but
> is
> > >presumeably fine for a screen reader?
> The code may be ugly, but so is the code it can deal with.
> Kynn wrote: 
> > It does solve the problem; the best general solution, however, is to
> > have either:
> > 
> > (a) Gracefully degrading web pages [an approach which has some
> >      limitations], or
> > (b) Server-generated web pages [an approach which requires a bit more
> >      work and overhead]
> As it happens, Betsie also pretty much requires the pages parsed through
> it to be gracefully degrading. Betsie just moves the goalposts slightly,
> for environments where there simply isn't going to be a way,
> politically, to get an organisation to lose the requirement for certain
> intrinsically inaccessible design decisions, such as huge compulsory
> left hand nav bars.
> In terms of server-generated web pages as a solution in the context of
> Betsie, I am reminded of an old joke about a guy lost in the countryside
> somewhere. Eventually he finds a local character leaning over a fence,
> who he asks for directions to his destination. After much humming and
> hawing, the rustic sucks his teeth, spits out his chew of... whatever it
> was he was chewing... and says, 'Well, sorr [imagine the accent of your
> choice at this point], if I was you and I wanted to get there... I
> wouldn't
> start from here.'
> Sure, if you can throw away everything you've got and start again with a
> proper server-generated solution, you don't need Betsie. While you're
> waiting, Betsie can provide an interim solution.
> Kynn also wrote:
> > Note also that text-only pages only meet the needs of one or two
> > very specific user groups and don't provide a path to general
> > usability and accessibility -- both of the techniques listed above
> > (a) and (b) do much better at meeting a broader range of needs.
> I don't wholly agree. Meeting a broad range of needs requires a
> multi-level approach from the outset; a properly constructed set of
> gracefully degrading pages could very well meet a broad range of needs,
> either with or without Betsie. The difference is that without Betsie,
> there are more limits on what kind of gracefully degrading pages you can
> produce.
> In terms of server-generated webpages, I have seen many that do not
> degrade at all and are not accessible at all on any level. There is
> nothing intrinsic to server-generated pages that imply the result will
> be accessible. It's just that you *can* construct architectures in this
> way, using multiple stylesheets and so on, that will meet a wide range
> of accessibility needs without recourse to a hack like Betsie.
> And in terms of the way in which Betsie could be improved in order to meet
> a
> wider range of needs, I am extremely open to suggestions, criticisms, and
> ideas
> for new features and so on that could meet these needs.
> Please do email me directly if you know of a specific need or need that
> Betsie
> is not, but could be, meeting.
> > >Is anyone aware of other applications that do this better?
> Yeah. Betsie II, which also hasn't 'shipped' yet. Since my current
> work schedule does not leave me very much time to work on it officially
> (to my great regret), I am instead working towards being given
> permission by my employers to put all work in progress on Betsie II on a
> publically available source control system such as  Sourceforge, and open
> up the rest of the source and development path before it is ready to
> 'ship'.
> This should happen Real Soon Now, and I'll make sure to post a note to
> this list when it does.
> Source code to the existing Betsie has been available for a good while
> though, and the multiple contributions from actual Betsie users
> worldwide have already substantially improved the quality of the output.
> If there are substantial needs that are not being met, I can't know about
> it
> if no-one tells me and I don't happen to think of it myself. So, once
> again,
> please do write to me and let me know about them.
> Cheers etc.,
> Wayne
> Wayne Myers
> Betsie Project
> BBC Factual and Learning Interactive
> http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/betsie/ 
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Received on Saturday, 27 January 2001 21:35:50 UTC

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