[html4all] Unready and social engineering Re: several messages about alt
chaals at opera.com
Sun Apr 13 23:49:54 PDT 2008
On Mon, 14 Apr 2008 02:44:02 +0200, Dannii <curiousdannii at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 1:33 AM, Leif Halvard Silli <lhs at malform.no>
>> Those are different evaluation axes. But experience has shown us that
>> the only validation that authors care about is the general CSS and HTML
Hmmm. Experience shows that there are people who care about other stamps,
including accessibility ones. It also shows comprehensively that all of
these together are still, with teh Web almost two decades old, things that
only a small minority of developers care about.
>> Therefore, we must (continue to) incorporate social consciousness into
>> the general stamping tools.
Henri and others have made it clear that they do not think the necessity
for this is clearly established. So at the very least there is no
consensus on this point.
Personally I look at the question slightly differently. The HTML
specification determines what needs to be done to make a document
interoperable. For some known classes of users, interoperability relies on
(and for some more classes is greatly improved by) being able to strip the
document down to a non-graphic interpretation. This should be clarified by
How that plays out in terms of what "validity" means is still an
unanswered question - at least in the sense that we still appear to have
violent disagreement in the working group on the issue (far more
disagreement than with the principle that I stated above about non-graphic
representation being necessary to interoperability, for example).
> For an unready stamp to be successful I think all of the following would
> need to be ensured. Can you provide any evidence they would be?
> 1. It really would have to be used by only a small number of pages
No, I don't see why this matters. Validating HTML is still a minority
activity (very minority) and yet is clearly of value, or we wouldn't have
> 2. The public would have to continue seeing it as undesirable, rather
> than accepting and even preferring it to the full spec. Even if the
> validators gave warnings or errors those might soon be regarded as flaws
> of the validator... for example, does anyone actually pay attention to
> the CSS validator messages about not providing both fore and background
Yes. Furthermore, do you have any evidence that people actively regard
these warnings as bad?
The fact that people often don't do what they consider to be "the right
thing" accords well with everything we know about people, and the fact
that sometimes they attempt to rationalise that by claiming that somehow
"the right thing" isn't actually right does too.
So the question boils down to evidence that the stamp is seen as a
desirable thing overall. Anecdotally, validation of HTML is seen as a
desirable thing, but is generally held as secondary in priority to pages
actually working in browsers. For an example, see Ben Buchanan's
discussion  of getting part of "The Australian" (a major Australian
news site) to validate - and note that almost all of the site still
doesn't, since it is more important that it actually work, and that is
defined differently by the people responsible for the site.
> 3. People would actually need to work actively to fix pages with the
I don't think this is the critical thing, I think that it is more
important that what the stamp conveys is seen as something worth working
Which means you would expect an increase over time in the proportion of
content that merits the stamp. The alt case may be instructive here. A
decade ago, when WAI was first working, use of the alt attribute was far
lower and far worse than it is today. The common response to the statement
that things needed an alt attribute, then as now, was that this was
unrealistic, or bad for [insert wierd edge case here], or unnecessary for
[insert current draft's email/document case here - and discussion of it].
In the intervening decade, despite ongoing discussion about whether it is
necessary, despite many development tool chains still making it very hard
to achieve, and despite the fact that it can often seem like an acitvity
with little real return, my observation is that the prevalence of alt
attributes, and the quality of use, has increased massively. Again, this
is anecdotal, based largely on the sites I use everyday or every month,
but it really is a significant level of change. Almost none of those sites
actually claim conformance to accessibility guidelines (and nor should
they since the generally still have major problems) but they have all made
substantial progress towards being able to do so. Additionally, the
ability to provide alt has become far more widespread - although there are
still glaring examples of failure in this area there are also far more
tools that have improved their "level of conformance" to ATAG  and
> 4. That the stamp wouldn't be used in more cases than intended. Yes it's
> intended for CMS', but what's to stop it being used on any pages where
> the author is too lazy to add alt attributes?
Nothing - so we should be realistic about the use cases for any stamp, and
reckon on the overall cost/benefit from this. Ian asked elsewhere what
would be the benefit in making a private email between himself and his
partner non-conforming, but equally it could be asked what possible
benefit is tehre to them in knowing that their private email *is*
conforming? In either case I suspect the answer is "none whatesoever", so
looking at the cost becomes worthwhile...
As a thought exercise, then, if we had such a stamp, what would be the
drawback of extending its use from CMS' to any lazy author? Personally, I
see none - and actually some benefits in doing so. I find it very
difficult to understand why the current draft is prepared to allow some
classes of tool to claim conformance while being second-rate. But this
goes to the fact that a lot of the validation discussion is really about
social engineering, and howto achieve an outcome that is desirable for
technical reasons but cannot simply be specified into being...
Charles McCathieNevile Opera Software, Standards Group
je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals Try Opera 9.5: http://snapshot.opera.com
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