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Re: @headers issue resolved - allowing a td to be referenced by a header to be in the HTMl5 spec.

From: Robert J Burns <rob@robburns.com>
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2008 17:18:22 +0300
Cc: Steven Faulkner <faulkner.steve@gmail.com>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>
Message-Id: <D620ECAD-916D-4E13-AA9D-1FD08258A162@robburns.com>
To: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>

On Aug 29, 2008, at 2:36 PM, James Graham wrote:

> Steven Faulkner wrote:
>> At yesterdays HTML WG issue tracking telecon [1], the issue of  
>> headers
>> not being allowed to reference a td (in the current version of spec)
>> was discussed.
>> It was decided by the Chair (Chris Wilson) after discussion and
>> consideration of the pros and cons that the current spec should be
>> changed to allow headers to reference a td element.
>> Chris "took action item assigned to josh and will figure out how to
>> ensure edit gets made in timely fashion" [1]
> "As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will  
> seek to make decisions when there is consensus. We expect that  
> typically, an editor makes an initial proposal, which is refined in  
> discussion with Working Group members and other reviewers, and  
> consensus emerges with little formal decision-making. However, if a  
> decision is necessary for timely progress, but after due  
> consideration of different opinions, consensus is not achieved, the  
> Chair should put a question (allowing for remote, asynchronous  
> participation using, for example, email and/or web-based survey  
> techniques) and record a decision and any objections, and consider  
> the matter resolved, at least until new information becomes  
> available." [1]
> It seems to me that several aspects of this procedure have not been  
> followed:
> * There is no need for a decision to be made for timely progress. As  
> far as I can tell not resolving this issue is not blocking other  
> parts of the spec nor is it blocking implementors.

It is a very serious problem if it is NOT blocking implementors. The  
current draft has an abysmal headers association algorithm right now. 
[1] Any implementor seriously trying to implement that algorithm is,  
at best wasting their time, and at worst doing serious damage to  
accessibility of existing documents.

> * It is not clear that all the different opinions were adequately  
> considered. For example, I can see no evidence to suggest  
> consideration of my point that marking up the example table with  
> <th> for all the cells which the UA should treat as headers, and  
> modifying the automatic association algorithm to cope, is easier for  
> authors to understand and more likely to be done by authors not  
> specifically interested in accessibility [2]. Therefore, taking this  
> alternative approach will do more to improve overall accessibility  
> of the web than simple to spec, hard to author, solutions like  
> @headers pointing to <td> (this is related to our "Priority of  
> Constituencies" design principle [3]).

Whatever the HTML5 draft says for document conformance, the use of the  
headers attribute to point to a TD cell is long established and much  
existing content will be broken if the HTML5 headers association  
algorithm does not support it. The question of whether document  
conformance should permit a headers attribute to reference an TD is a  
separate matter. Personally, I'm finding it difficult to come up with  
an example where the approach you advocate wouldn't work. The question  
is how important is it for authors to distinguish not only data from  
header, but also data acting as header (or header acting as data to  
put it another way). Also I think the hierarchical headers (where a  
TH@headers points to another TH@id) is much more valuable than the  
legacy approach. In any event the draft should either remove the  
current headers association algorithm (which is an embarrassment to  
this WG) or replace it immediately with the algorithm you and Ben  
implemented (or better with the legacy @headers -> TD support that we  
cannot drop and still follow our design principles).

> * A telecon does not allow for asynchronous participation.

Agree, but the editor has said he also has no interest in following  
the policies and procedures of the WG (saying deliberations of the WG  
are merely advisory in the editor's view), so I think WG members and  
the WG chairs are struggling to find a way to be effective in the face  
of a defiant editor. It makes the co-chairs appear weak if there is no  
way for them to direct the process: neither through the WG email list,  
nor the teleconferences. The W3C process depends on strong chairs  
(especially with an uncooperative editor).

Take care,

[1]: <http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/#header-and-data-cell-semantics 
Received on Friday, 29 August 2008 14:19:06 UTC

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