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Re: Proposal for issue 321: alternative?

From: Harvey Bingham <hbingham@acm.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 00:01:18 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>, Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Cc: w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
At 2000-10-29 21:08-0500, Ian Jacobs wrote:

HB: Comment by Harvey Bingham. Much snipped at end.

>Ian comments prefixed by IJ:
>Al Gilman wrote:
> >
> > At 08:32 PM 2000-10-27 -0400, David Poehlman wrote:
> > >I have never really liked the word alternative in this context but I
> > >suppose that any symbol would end up standing for the same thing.  I do
> > >feel that we should attempt to develop a sense of parity rather than a
> > >relationship of either or especially due to the fact that some
> > >disabilities and situations will require as we state in the guideline
> > >that all the equivalancies be available at the same time.
> > >these are my thoughts.  Thanks for illucidating the issue.
> >
> > AG::
> >
> > I want to explore this a little.
> >
> > On the one hand it is true that the symmetrical view, as Ian put it 
> "looking
> > down on the range of choices, rather than sideways from one to another" 
> is in
> > some ways a superior understanding of what is going on.  It deals 
> better with
> > the fact that which one is better depends on who is the user of the moment.

HB: Which one is better -- is also a function of current situation (too
bright or dim to see, too noisy, enforced quiet, too much vibration, etc.)
It is also a function of the available equipment, including assistive devices,
bandwidth, and conscious user choices currently in force. It is also a
function of user familiarity with whatever equipment is available, and the
assistive technology that is available thereon.

> > Which is better is not something that can be discerned from the content 
> alone.
> >

HB: Right: alternative content permits user choice, even though the user may
not be able to use all of the range of choices. We hope that some one or more
of those choices will suffice. For example alt-text and longdesc pointer (or
d link) are individually useful, and possibly a user may wish to get more
information that the longdesc or d links provide. Sometimes the need for
the expansion is only realized after the surrounding text has been absorbed,
and presumably found insufficient. That "progressive revelation" brings in
the sequential learning to whatever detail the user may wish. How the user
becomes aware of such alternatives is unclear.

> > On the other hand, historically there have been a lot of people confused by
> > talking about 'equivalents,' here.  Mostly on the basis that the tend to
> > assume
> > 'equivalent' should indicate a closer correspondence than what is often 
> found
> > in our cases.  In our cases the correspondence can be pretty rough.  So
> > readers
> > may stumble a bit if we just say 'equivalent' in the sense of "conveys 
> some of
> > the same information" and leave it at that.

HB: Agree, so prefer to not use "equivalents".

> >
> > The word 'alternative' gets used in both polarized and un-polarized or
> > symmetrical settings.  We talk about giving someone an alternative when 
> we are
> > talking about giving them _another_ option; with implication that there 
> is an
> > existing or status_quo option already.  But the word is also used in the
> > 'looking down' sense as "having a range of alternatives to choose among."
> >
> > In this particular situation (checkpoint 2.3), it is not necessarily 
> important
> > to rub the reader's nose in either a looking-down or a looking-sideways
> > perspective on the situation per se.  Whether one views it as "there are
> > multiple options available" or "there is another option available" the
> > point is
> > that the user needs, at their choice, to be able to gain access to any 
> of the
> > options.  Note that the checkpoint does not require symmetrical handling of
> > the
> > various options,
>IJ: I disagree that the checkpoint does not require symmetrical handling
>the various options. It reads: "For any element, provide easy access
>to each of its alternatives through at least one of the following

HB: For some users (and equipments for that matter), easy access is impossible
to some of the alternatives. Ian, are you asserting even such are required
to "each of its alternatives"?

>Of a given set of elements, you can pick any one to start with and find
>the others. But the checkpoint does not prejudice one choice over the
>It is in fact intended to be entirely symmetric. However, editorially,
>is very hard to write the checkpoint other than singling one element out
>(I tried and I am more satisfied with the formulation that reads: for
>ANY element chosen by the user, ensure access to all of its

HB: I do not expect a user to need access to all of its alternatives. I
believe what you mean is that the user has choice to use any or all of
the alternatives, each of which are self-sufficient to convey the information.

> > in that various forms of unequal treatment are included in
> > the
> > list, any one of which is credited as meeting the checkpoint.
> >
> > There are many situations in W3C formats where the options are treated
> > asymmetrically in the rules of the format.
> > The ALT attribute and OBJECT
> > element are conspicuous examples.  Then again there are other cases 
> where what
> > the format offers you is pretty symmetrical, such as text versions in
> > different
> > natural languages.
>IJ: I belive that 2.3 as proposed covers both cases.
> > So while talking about "an alternative or alternatives for something in the
> > current view" may not be precisely the highest and best theory for the
> > situation, it gets the user oriented adequately to understand what the
> > checkpoint has to say.  More or less.  So it seems.

HB: "Current view" seems prejudiced toward visual. so does "current window".
How about "current context" or "content currently in consideration."

>IJ: So is that agreement with the proposal?
>  - Ian
> > Other thoughts?
> >
> > Al
>Ian Jacobs (jacobs@w3.org)   http://www.w3.org/People/Jacobs
>Tel:                         +1 831 457-2842
>Cell:                        +1 917 450-8783

Regards/Harvey Bingham
Received on Monday, 30 October 2000 00:27:18 UTC

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