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Re: "maybe even in the fact that you use words as all," (sic)

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2008 01:15:36 -0400
Message-ID: <4886BE78.7010204@w3.org>
To: www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>

Hi, Jonathan-

> On 22 Jul 2008, at 18:26, Doug Schepers wrote:
>> As usual, you are twisting the facts to suit your claim.
>> Your claim was that 20% of people in the UK are functionally 
>> illiterate (I think that figure is high,

Jonathan Chetwynd wrote (on 7/22/08 4:43 PM):
> regarding the claim that 20% of people in the UK are functionally 
> illiterate may I refer you to the very well respected report 'A Fresh 
> Start' by Lord Moser for the UK Government:
> http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/

Once again, you've cut quotes short.  Misquoting is effectively fabrication.

You imply that I deny the 20% figure, while what I actually said is that 
though I've seen conflicting figures, I was willing to grant your claim 
for the sake of argument, but thought you were misusing the statistics.

> Improving Literacy and Numeracy
> A Fresh Start
> The report of the working group chaired by Sir Claus Moser.
> Chapter 1: The Problem and Our Strategy
> 1.1 Something like one adult in five in this country is not functionally 
> literate and far more people have problems with numeracy.

Yes, again, you've cut the quote short.  This study actually states:

"Some 7 million adults in England - one in five adults - if given the 
alphabetical index to the Yellow Pages, cannot locate the page reference 
for plumbers. That is an example of functional illiteracy. It means that 
one in five adults has less literacy than is expected of an 11-year-old 
child. These figures - based on official surveys - are inevitably 
estimates, and may be a little on the high side: but the order of 
magnitude is certainly right. [...] One in sixteen adults, if shown the 
poster in Figure A, cannot say where the concert is being held."

So, te study itself says pretty much the same thing I said... that the 
figures are probably a little high.

Again, you dodge the issue that you claim that these are the same people 
who can't use alternate media.  Can you offer any evidence to that 
claim, or will you again conveniently drop this point in your next email?

> I have referred in the past to this report in emails to the www-svg list.

I don't believe that's correct.  I searched for references to emails 
from you with the keywords "literacy", "illiteracy", "illiterate", 
"Moser", "lifelonglearning", "read", and other keywords, but no 
references to that study.  Perhaps you alluded to it in passing.  I've 
also read about a UN survey that came to a similar conclusion.

> Communication and literacy rely on both reading and writing.

Note that this survey is about "functional literacy", not the ability to 
read... it's about the ability to use reading skills to solve daily 
problems.  The examples in the survey are more than simple reading 
tasks, they involve reasoning skills as well.  I don't know if these 
same people would have an easier or a harder time finding and using 
resources on the Web, using a search engine.

Note that this study doesn't discuss that many of the functionally 
illiterate may not be native speakers... they may be perfectly 
functionally literate in their own culture, but still fail at tasks in 
the less familiar UK language and culture.  Almost 8% of UK's 60.5 
million residents are overseas immigrants, with another approximately 
half-million illegal immigrants.

None of this is to downplay the rather dire situation.  But the great 
majority of these people, contrary to your claim, could use a phone (or 
VOIP, if available) or watch a TV (or follow a link to a video), or 
benefit from voice browsers.  This is the essential question... how are 
the needs of these people, vis-à-vis the Web, best met?  What are the 
specific needs identified.  Finally, in what way is the Web most 
relevant to these people?

These are tough questions, and honestly, I don't know the answers.  You 
suggest that it is W3C's mandate and responsibility to devote 
substantial resources to solve this problem, based on this statement:

  W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential, which it does 
by developing technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and 
tools) that will create a forum for information, commerce, inspiration, 
independent thought, and collective understanding.

Today this universe benefits society by enabling new forms of human 
communication and opportunities to share knowledge. One of W3C's primary 
goals is to make these benefits available to all people, whatever their 
hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, 
geographical location, or physical or mental ability.

The key here is the statement on the means we employ to reach those 
goals: "developing technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, 
and tools)".  So, in short... W3C provides a technological foundation 
onto which other groups or individuals can build applications and 
resources that reach and improve the lives of as many people of wide 
variety as possible.  There are already organizations that concentrate 
on addressing all manner of social ills (e.g., literacy; accessibility; 
feeding the poor; education in general; stopping war, crime, and 
violence; supporting freedom of expression; etc.), and W3C provides a 
forum for those organizations and individuals to come to terms with one 
small aspect of their task: technical standards.  Don't underestimate 
the importance that this plays to the big picture.

You talk in the abstract about wanting us to "engage with this 
community" directly.  What evidence do you have to suggest that they 
want to engage with W3C?  (I know my girlfriend gets bored senseless 
when I talk about Web standards with other geeks... even other geeks get 
bored talking about standards!  What rational person would want to spend 
time talking about Web standards?)  What makes you think W3C (that is, 
the Team and the Members) are the best people to engage with that 
community directly?  If we did spend more time with that community 
directly, would we be serving the needs of the larger community, and 
accomplishing tasks that we are particularly well-suited for?

No, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion), W3C needs to work with 
other agents who represent the wider constituents that you want us to 
reach.  Those organizations and individuals need experts in technical 
standards to help them reach their goals.  I wouldn't hire a plumber to 
fix the wiring in my house, and I wouldn't hire an electrician to fix a 
leaky pipe... they might be able to do it, but they wouldn't do as good 
a job and it would take longer.  This is kind of a fundamental principle 
of society, you know... division of labor.

> Current W3C web specifications are being developed by developers, for 
> developers and the corporations that employ them.

Yup.  And also by the non-profits and governments and foundations and 
charities that employ them.  And for the independent developers that are 
interested in coding for other reasons than money, like starting 
communities, providing services, or just for fun.  And for application 
developers who wrap the technical specifications in user interfaces so 
that average users who neither know nor care about the technical 
underpinnings can do things that do appeal to them, that are useful to them.

Most of my family has probably never heard of HTML, much less RFC2646, 
but they all use the Web, and we talk via email.

Received on Wednesday, 23 July 2008 05:16:12 UTC

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