Re: [html4all] HTML5 Alternative Text, and Authoring Tools

On 16/05/2008, Henri Sivonen <> wrote:
> On May 15, 2008, at 12:46, Gez Lemon wrote:
> > This is the real point of contention for which we're unable to reach
> > consensus. I find it equally bizarre that an incomplete structure
> > should be considered valid output from an authoring tool, despite the
> > fact that the incompleteness means the resulting output cannot be
> > perceived by some people.
> >
>  It's only bizarre if you ascribe a different meaning to "valid" than what
> its meaning in the markup context is. It doesn't mean that the page is
> generally good. It only means that the page passed a machine-administered
> syntax check.
>  Being valid that doesn't mean that the page can be perceived by people. A
> valid page can be totally useless for everyone. I usually don't like
> comparing market languages to programming languages, but I think DanC's
> point that a C compiler doesn't and can't check that the program has no bugs
> was a very apt analogy. You can have a syntactically correct C program that
> is absolutely useless.
>  It is a bit problematic that the general English meaning of the word valid
> may suggest something more than merely passing a machine-administered syntax
> check. However, changing the word at this point after being used this way in
> the markup context since the 1980s would be tilting at the windmills.
> Moreover, it is something that we already tried (albeit we tried changing
> the connotation into the other direction). A couple of years ago the WHATWG
> was avoiding the use of the word "validator" and was using "conformance
> checker" instead. When I told people who were into computer science and who
> had already used an HTML validator that I was working on a conformance
> checker, I got blank looks until I mentioned the word "validator". (Except
> one time a Semantic Web guy said "oh you're writing an HTML5 *validator*"
> when I had said I was working on a "conformance checker".)
>  In general, people intuitively assume that validity doesn't cover all sorts
> of goodness. For example, that it doesn't cover grammatical correctness,
> family-friendliness, content making any sense or other such evaluation axes.
> Unfortunately, since *one* accessibility issue was masqueraded as a syntax
> issue in the HTML 4 spec cycle, people don't necessarily unconflate the
> syntax and accessibility evaluation axes intuitively. I think this may
> actually be a problem when telling people to take care of accessibility if
> they thought they already did when they took care of syntactic correctness.

I complete agree with you, Henri, and I am guilty of using the term
"valid" here, when I meant "compliant":

I find it equally bizarre that an incomplete structure should be
considered compliant output from an authoring tool, despite the fact
that the incompleteness means the resulting output cannot be perceived
by some people.

> > I don't understand your point here. If an author chooses not to
> > provide alt text, it's the author's fault that the resulting output
> > doesn't conform to the specification - not the authoring tool's fault.
> >
>  That's not how (a non-trivial subset of) software developers think. You can
> always write your software to pass a machine-administered syntax check, so
> if you are the kind of software developer who cares about the correctness of
> the code you put out there, you make sure that the data streams your
> software emits always pass a machine-administered syntax check.

Authoring tool developers have their own guidelines they should be
following that disallow this practice. Sure, there are some amazingly
poor developers out there, but lowering conformance constraints in the
markup to exonerate these poor developers is not the solution.
Regardless of whether poor authoring tool developers proudly output
bogus alt text in an attempt to make the content valid, or good
authoring tool developers assist authors in providing good alt text,
and do nothing if nothing useful is provided, the end result is that
the content will not be accessible to some users, and neither should
be considered compliant.

At best, exonerating poor authoring tools by removing the requirement
for alt text, which is essential for the resulting structure to be
perceivable to some users, *may* result in some software developers
refraining from doing the wrong thing, although that is unlikely, as
these are poor software developers with little regard to guidelines
they should be following (if it works, why change it?). Lowering
conformance requirements to cater for poor software developers that
already fail to generate accessible content is not a solution; it's
abandoning the problem.


Supplement your vitamins

Received on Saturday, 17 May 2008 09:44:15 UTC