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Re: FAQ - where are the FAQs for this list?

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 14:34:25 -0800
Message-ID: <3C76C771.3050805@munat.com>
To: WAI IG <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Al Gilman wrote:
 > Munat would balance the FAQ somewhere around 15% street language, 85% 
tech lanaguage.

Not at all. This is a gross oversimplification of my views. There is a 
wide range of "tech language." On the one side, I think that "tag," 
"element," and "attribute" are so basic and ubiquitous that they are 
hardly technical anymore. I argue for precision because I don't like 
further confusing people. Be consistent, I say. So I'm not arguing for 
15% "street language" (whatever that is -- sounds like the lingo of 
gangbangers). I'm arguing for defining terms clearly and then using them 
properly. Pick a name and stick with it.

On the other end of the scale are words like "ontology." This is a word 
that should never, in my opinion, be used outside of arcane academic 

What I would like is for the FAQ to be written as simply and *clearly* 
as possible. To say sometimes "tag" and sometimes "text" and sometimes 
"attribute" is (IMHO) *not clear*.

I think we should say up front, "This is a tag.. this is an element... 
this is an attribute..." and then use those terms consistently 
throughout. It's not about "educating" people, it's not about converting 
them into geeks, and it is most certainly NOT about "inducting them into 
the corps of the cognoscenti" (and frankly, Al, I'm a bit offended that 
you would even suggest that as my motive), it is about CLARITY.

 >>For most people (IMO), this is a tag: <tag>
 > But not for most people _who need the FAQ_.  The FAQ should be tilted
 > in favor of the newbie.

The newbies are exactly who I was talking about. When I was new, I 
thought of tags as the things between the angle brackets. I never 
thought of an attribute as a tag. I've had numerous students, and not 
one of them has ever referred to an attribute as a tag. And in several 
years of working on the Web and with accessibility, I've never heard any 
other attribute except alt referred to as a tag. The "id tag"? The 
"width tag"? Not once.

So my point is that when you say "alt tag" it is the newbies that you 
confuse, not the old timers. The people on this list are the ones who DO 
know what you mean by alt tag. It is the newcomers who deserve more 
careful speech.

 >> Remember also that the FAQ is really an introduction to the WCAG,
 >> where terminology is (usually) used more precisely. It should be
 >> warming people up for that.

 > This view should not be accepted without some question. Something
 > like 80% of the people who consult the FAQ should get what they
 > need there without recourse to the definitive, technical stuff
 > such as the guidelines Recommendation.  If it's working, it is
 > more self-contained than dependent on the long form, in terms
 > of successful trips through it.
 > People who apply the FAQ advice with success will come back and
 > read more deeply. This is your audience for technospeak. Not
 > first-time visitors to the FAQ.  We need to be able to deliver
 > the goods with the minimum detour into technospeak to make the
 > FAQ fill its highest and best role. [But on the other hand, see
 > what I do in the example below.]

But "attribute," "element," and "tag" are *not* "technospeak." This 
things need names, and they have them. It is certainly easier to refer 
to the P element than it is to call it the P thingy. We are not talking 
about some sort of arcana here. These are the fundamental elements of 
HTML. Kind of like "noun" and "verb."

When I spoke of "warming people up" I did not mean for technospeak, I 
meant for precise use. In the WCAG, words are used carefully. They 
should be used carefully in the FAQ, too.

This is not a slipperly slope! There are three terms I'm discussing. I'm 
not advocating dumping the whole vocabulary of SGML into the FAQ!

Let's get these basic terms right.

So I guess I'm standing my ground, too.

 > Form fields in tables is a good example.  The technical situation is 
a long, sad story.  But the FAQ entry needs to start short and sweet:
 > Q: How do I make form fields laid out in a tabular form accessible?
 > A: Us the TITLE attribute on the INPUT element itself.

My point exactly. Use the title ATTRIBUTE on the input ELEMENT itself. I 
couldn't have said it better.

 > The preponderance of FAQ-consulters will get what they need from 
that.  > We need to write in a journalistic style where there is a succinct
 > summary and the rest of the story is optional.

I am in complete agreement.

(Frankly, if it were up to me, the guidelines would have a lot less 
"technospeak" in them, too. In fact, I'd rather abandon the guidelines 
altogether in favor of a more FAQ-oriented approach with layers of 
increasing technicality. And put it all into an interactive web site. 
But that's another post...)

Charles F. Munat
Seattle, Washington
Received on Friday, 22 February 2002 17:33:08 UTC

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