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If I could walk that WAI I wouldn't need the guidelines - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
If I could walk that WAI I wouldn't need the guidelines
Since the Understanding document ['Understanding WCAG 2.0'] is more than double the size of what it purports to explain, this itself may indicate a problem with WCAG 2.

Is it just me, or is an exposition of something often longer than what it's explaining? Particularly (one might even argue necessarily) when you're translating from technical specifications into more generally-accessible language, i.e. from high to low information density?

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marnameow From: marnameow Date: June 21st, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the person that wrote that article was having a strop because they'd not been listened to.

(I have no idea how well the new guidelines will work, mind - I've not had a chance to look at them properly.)
j4 From: j4 Date: June 21st, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me either -- sniping at the snipers is always easier than reading and understanding, let alone doing a better job of it. ;-)
marnameow From: marnameow Date: June 21st, 2006 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
The current guidelines were fuzzy enough in places, anyway. The new ones seem to be more centred around the user's 'experience', and less around the mechanics underneath the pages. I have no idea whether I'll spend more time, or less, crying over checklists as a result. (And whether they'll give me further ammunition to get the more jarring elements of the site cleaned up, and get a section up for people with learning disabilities, and all the other things I want to do. I suspect not, because we have no time nor money.)
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: June 21st, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
It depends. I spend a lot of my job turning technical information into customer documentation. Sometimes, I can turn huge documents into a tiny paragraph of warning. At other times, it's the other way round. It very much depends on the target audiences for the two documents, and their relative backgrounds.

Techie language isn't necessarily high-density information that the user cares about - it can just be wordy. For example, I sometimes see things which specify exactly what and when can happen where - what actions you can take, what functions you can use, what programming language constructs will work here. From the techie point of view, there's a lot of information there. From the user point of view, summarising this the other way around can be a lot of more useful ("It works on everything except...") or they've specified a lot of things that are exactly how you'd expect them to be. Other times, the technical documents are badly structured (from a user point of view) or repeat themselves a lot.

Some technical documents can be exactly the other way round, though. They assume high level of knowledge in the reader. The explanation of the document is having to provide enough gloss so that it makes sense to a layman (e.g. a business executive who's expected to nod and smile at appropriate points, and know how the buzzwords inter-relate), or to cater for a variety of concerns (e.g. a document that's shared between, and aimed at, technical people and marketing people).
j4 From: j4 Date: June 21st, 2006 03:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
All jolly good points -- and I think this document should fall into the latter category (assuming high level of knowledge, requiring gloss). Though I'd have to look more closely before committing myself to that opinion.

A lot of the tensions in the world of web seem to boil down to the fact that everybody uses the web, and a lot of the people who use it know a little about it (and as we know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing). It's such an interdisciplinary (bzz!) field that you're invariably going to have lots of people with different backgrounds, expectations, priorities, and languages -- and all too often people don't realise the extent of what they don't know.

Documentation can bridge those gaps, but how often does it actually just introduce another layer of misunderstanding, trying to be all things to everyone and ending up being nothing to anyone?

This post brought to you by the mood 'cynical'. (Tomorrow's scheduled to be a 'positive' day, so I might feel better about it then. You have to alternate, otherwise you either become an evangelist for things that don't work or you sink into the Slough of Despond.)
addedentry From: addedentry Date: June 21st, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
everybody uses the web

So not only are there are as many opinions as web users, but they're all experts. It sounds like linguistics (everybody knows how to speak) and education (everybody was a child).
j4 From: j4 Date: June 21st, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Quite -- except that not only do they not realise the depth of the subject, they don't realise its breadth (i.e. that it encompasses a lot of other subjects) as well.

IMO the person with a narrow field of real expertise is worse than the person who doesn't know much about anything. The graphic designer with a fearsome paper portfolio (but who doesn't know anti-aliasing from his elbow) is harder to argue with than the enthusiast who just wants it to look shiny; the BOFH assumes that if it's got computers in it, he automatically knows better than the ponytailed NuMeeja 'professional', and so on through the list of tedious stereotypes.

Me, I know I'm only just beginning to learn just how much I don't know. But in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man will probably be asked to do all the web-browsing.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: June 21st, 2006 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's like something might be better expressed in French, others in German, but if you don't speak French but do speak German, then you'd rather here the things in the former category expressed in the German.
j4 From: j4 Date: June 21st, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Indeed, and that's fair enough (we only speak the languages we know!) -- but the problem comes when you have to speak to people who only speak a language other than your own, and both sides are too proud to compromise on some sort of pidgin. And there aren't usually the resources to hire a simultaneous interpreter. :-/
sion_a From: sion_a Date: June 21st, 2006 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
It depends.

Exactly. I've been asked to take the same piece of base documentation and both expend it out into excruciating detail for people who can't be bothered reading the code and summarise it for a non-technical audience. Both are "explanations" of the original. (Hmm. This might suggest that the reason no-one seems to read my documentation is that I'm pitching it between two acceptable levels.)
ewx From: ewx Date: June 21st, 2006 04:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
People don't read documentation because they are lazy, no matter how appropriately it's pitched...
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: June 21st, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are two ways forward.
  1. Have two documents.
  2. Have an executive summary, followed by a more thorough explanation.
One of the difficulties with some of the work I do is that the same manual goes to customers who can, at one end, be high-tech engineers who've been working with the relevant technology all their life. All they need to know is how our gadgets map to the previous generation of technology and they're away. At the other end, we can, quite literally, be giving the same product to a husband and wife company who work with it in their spare time. (I've heard tales of one piece of hardware being in a room with a tablecloth on it...)

This leads to a number of problems, which become more obvious when we have to add new bits and pieces to any given section of a document. Some people don't want, or care about, all the warnings we need to give to another group of customers, because it's bloody obvious to them. The best effort we can muster here is to have sub-sections that can be easily skipped over when the techies realise it's just explaining the differences between two perfectly obvious components.
simont From: simont Date: June 21st, 2006 03:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Business executives are expected to know how technical buzzwords interrelate? I think I'd class any high-level executive who reliably knew things like that among the top 10% for knowledgeability. (Which is not to say it wouldn't be a jolly good thing if the rest did as well.)
j4 From: j4 Date: June 21st, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think they are (or at least should be) expected to know what fields the buzzwords pertain to, so that they a) don't make a tit of themselves in front of people who do know what they're talking about, and b) know where to delegate the details.

[FX: hollow laughter from all information professionals]
caramel_betty From: caramel_betty Date: June 21st, 2006 06:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
When I say "inter-relate", I mean in the same way that Arthur Weasley understands how muggle artefacts inter-relate.
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