To Hell With People Saying To Hell With Joe Clark

Friday, September 1, 2006 22:27 | Filed in Accessibility, Blogging, Language, Standards

I came across a post today, which was commenting on Joe Clark’s article To Hell With WCAG 2. This article was to my mind was the first major piece of any kind to take an in depth look at the WCAG 2.0 documentation and present it to an decently sized audience outside those who spend days poking around all of the WAI.

I myself have commented on WCAG 2.0 more than once: like Joe I’m probably one of a limited number of people who has actually read all the documentation — and most of the comments on it, at least apart from the ringtones ones. It was Joe’s article which inspired me to look at WCAG 2.0 in the first place, and I thank him for it.

Sure, Joe can be an argumentive so-and-so at times, but so can we all. So he swears now and again. So fucking what? His posts are entertaining, and he cares passionately about accessibility — that’s why he gets fed up with people who aren’t doing their job properly.

So, as I say, I came across this post entitled To Hell With Joe Clark and yes, he has noticed it — where someone disagrees with some of the things Joe is saying and then goes on to perpetuate an Ad hominem attack on him, saying that he has an egocentrical, cynical and often insulting style. He makes the point that Joe hanging up on a conference call doesn’t help matters — and he may well be right — but Joe doing this in no way invalidates his point of view or his argument.

I can see why someone might agree with some of these points as Joe’s not exactly famous for his softly-softly approach, but even if you think that, it doesn’t invalidate his argument. And personally I wouldn’t say he’s out and out insulting: brusque, yes: cynical, sometimes and egocentrical sometimes — but to me that’s part of the man’s quirky charm. For a start, you’ve got to be egocentrical to have a blog. Basically, what we’re all saying is: “My opinions are great; the stuff I do is interesting; come and hear me talk!”. And I like his style. On the other hand, I’ve not been in the Joe Clark firing line … yet, which I suppose could change my opinion!

Then Martin goes on to imply that Joe was bound to be set against WCAG 2.0 in the first place:

Joe Clark was dubbed the king of closed captions, so from his point of view WCAG 2 must be a step backwardsMartin Kliehm

This is another ad hominem argument; known as ad hominem circumstantial it seeks to say that someone would be bound to take that point of view because of their circumstances. This is irrelevant in a logical debate: either the argument is right, or it’s wrong, regardless of the personal circumstances of the individuals concerned.

He even attacks Joe when Joe is clearly right, such as over the fact validation is no longer required:

How was it possible that Joe Clark missed such an important point? Had he actually read his printouts, or was he just summarizing his correspondence with the working group?Martin Kliehm

He then takes the personal attack a bit further, with these beauties:

But there are more important issues. That’s a typical Joe Clark.

Joe Clark takes some points, but on a closer look his article leaves a bitter taste as another tool for enforcing his point of view […]Okay, probably most of us who care about web standards today have been nerds as teenagers. But then again most of us have quit playing Dungeons and Dragons and got some social life. We don’t spend hours in front of our TV and write angry nitpicking letters to the CBC.

Martin Kliehm

Okay then Martin, so Joe has an insulting style, does he? And that diminishes his argument, does it? Besides which, I don’t see how you can play Dungeons and Dragons without some form of a social life, it’s not exactly a one-player game, is it?

And then, in a comment at the bottom of the article, in response to a comment from Joe, he adds:

I don’t have anything against you as a personMartin Kliehm

… I pity the poor bugger he has got something against.

As it happens my own personal viewpoint is somewhere between Joe’s and Martin’s. On the points Martin picks out of Joe’s article, I agree with Joe on:

  • Validating code is not a requirement of WCAG 2.0. Having code that parses unambiguously is, for which you may choose to validate, although this goes further than the current requirement
  • Being able to define your own technology baseline, meaning anyone without that technology has little recourse. Martin suggests that hard-to-find technologies may not be a reasonable part of the baseline, but unless there’s someone wandering round enforcing what’s reasonable and what isn’t, you can pick what you like. Okay, it’s likely that Public Sector sites may have certain baselines set for them in some countries, but that still leaves the large private sector that can choose its own Target.
  • Martin thinks the WCAG 1.0 conformance claim by using a logo is less clear than the WCAG 2.0 conformance claim of having to write a big long paragraph of text. Joe disagrees. So do I, because frankly who is your accessibility page for? Is it to impress other technology workers with how clever you are, or is it to help make your site more accessible?

And I agree with Martin that:

  • You won’t need to check your DOM outputs in multiple browsers
  • You still have to provide transcriptions for audio-only files unless the information is available elsewhere
  • I don’t believe that offscreen positioning is banned under WCAG 2.0

And on most of the other points it appears that Martin agrees with Joe’s interpretation of WCAG 2.0 but puts a different emphasis on it or sees the consequences differently. I just wanted to to be clear that I’m not criticising Martin’s interpretation: I agree with parts of it; but I also agree with parts of Joe’s. Likely, both of them would disagree with parts of my interpretation, but I’d hope they’d not feel the need to get personal.

I know some people will probably think Joe is big enough to look after himself — and he is — but he shouldn’t have to put up with this sort of personal attack. It’s mean-spirited and vicious and it benefits nobody. But by all means, disagree with his arguments and opinions as much as you bloody well please…

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8 Comments to To Hell With People Saying To Hell With Joe Clark

  1. Mike Cherim says:

    September 2nd, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    I agree. Joe expressed dissatisfaction with a proposed specification, and he’s mostly right on with his views in my opinion. But the guy that wrote that post turned it into something personal. If his views differed (which they did but not by much), he should have focused his post on those views instead of disrespecting a man who succeeded at enlightening many of us who didn’t actually read the whole thing. I know I didn’t. To me it was like a multi-page contract with lots of legalese and fine print. I’d hire a lawyer to read it for me and put into a summary form. As Joe kindly did. And he didn’t even ask me for a retainer (thanks Joe).

  2. Martin Kliehm says:

    September 4th, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Joe Clark’s personal behavior would have been irrelevant, but the tone within the working group is part of the critique. He was an invited expert and thus part of the working group, and his tone on the mailing list didn’t improve the manners for sure. That’s why I had to address it with links to relevant sections of the mailing list archives for citation, so you can build your own opinion. Alas the sources were not recognizable here since none of the links were included.

  3. JackP says:

    September 4th, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    thanks for your comment. I think I’ve now got a better understanding of whaqt you were meaning – which was it’s your opinion, based on the various references you provide, that Joe Clark’s personality wasn’t helping the cause. However, this came across to me as though it was an attack on Joe the man, and saying that his arguments should carry less weight because of this personality – which would obviously be a logical fallacy. I don’t neccessarily share your opinion, but I do understand it better now.

    Incidentally, I tried to post to your site on Sep 1st but I thought it had got lost in your moderation queue otherwise I wouldn’t have written my post [NB on checking now it's obviously been found and released]. I deliberately didn’t replicate your sources because I would expect my readers to read your article themselves, and check the sources out for themselves. I’m a firm believer in not just taking anyone’s word for it.

    Incidentally, I hope I didn’t offend you (or at least too much) because it’s important to remember that we’re all really on the same side here, despite our disagreements and I’d always rather make new friends than new enemies.
    Alll the best!

  4. Martin Kliehm says:

    September 5th, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Jack, no offense taken. I’m looking forward for the promised D&D game, though I think we should select a game where it is allowed to have trolls as player characters. ;-) Is there any other rule system apart from Swordbearer where you can have that? Maybe Warhammer FRP?

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    September 3rd, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Telerik claims WCAG 1.0 surpopt, but it is barely that I have used their stuff for a few years now and it is beginning to do my head in as I get more and more into web standards and CSS based layout (yeah I am a bit late to all that as I have started to realize how being stuck in the MS world means you are quite behind on web stuff )

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