Wikipedia talk:Alternative text for images/Archive 3

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Archive 2 Archive 3 Archive 4


Alt and caption interaction

From the examples, it appears that if the image caption is showing, then the image gets alt="" by default. And if the image is in a frame with no visible thumbnail, then the caption serves as alt text. Is this correct? The page doesn't address this, and the “no conflict” text implies that it would work some other way. Michael Z. 2008-12-08 00:19 z

This page may be inconsistent, since I've only had time to re-write the lead and first section. Here's my current understanding. If the caption is specified within the Image tag, the alt parameter may or may not be specified as well. If the alt parameter is specified in the Image tag, that's what appears as the ALT text in the HTML, as you can verify by clicking on "View HTML source" in your browser. If the alt parameter is not specified in the Image tag, the HTML alt text is the empty string by default.
This is new behavior for the Image and math tags. Previously, they had no alt parameter. The HTML alt text of images simply repeated the caption, and I believe that math equations had none. For that reason, screen readers always repeated image captions twice (once for the alt text and once for the caption itself) and, I believe, didn't read LaTeX-formatted equations. I'm not sure whether alt text was introduced into equations and images at the same time.
If the caption is not specified in an Image tag, I assume that the HTML alt text can still be set using the alt parameter. However, I haven't checked whether that's true. Proteins (talk) 05:23, 8 December 2008 (UTC)


Hallo, The article starts by saying "Every image, including math-mode equations, should specify alternative text22, but then later there comes "When alternative text is unnecessary". Needs some tidying of the text (I came here after wondering whether someone was right in deleting alt text for the icon in a stub template on the basis that it was a decorative image and didn't need alt text). PamD (talk) 22:49, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Thanks for pointing that out, Pam; that inconsistency hadn't occurred to me. We've only just begun re-writing the guidelines in response to the software change, and everyone's been rather busy this season, so things are happening slowly. I'll go through the guideline more carefully in a few days, but for now I would encourage the editor to add alt text even to the flag image. Proteins (talk) 14:54, 15 December 2008 (UTC)

How does this work?

When I hover my mouse over the glucose image, I just see the words of the caption in the alternative version. qp10qp (talk) 15:29, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

The text you see with mouse hovers (the "tooltip") is a simple copy of the caption, yes. To see the ALT text, you can right-click on the image, and choose "Properties" or "Image properties". The ALT text is listed as a property.
It might be better for everyone if sighted editors could read the ALT text more easily, for example, to help in checking. But the present system isn't too onerous, and the ALT text is meant mainly for those who can't see the image. Proteins (talk) 10:36, 5 May 2009 (UTC)
Ah, may thanks. Hmm, but when I right click and choose properties, the alternative text is only the fifth part listed in the middle section. And I only get one line of text, which is "The straight chain form consists of four C H O H groups link ..." tailing off there, so that the rest of the text in the example is absent.
More generally, I think a big opportunity is being missed here. A description of the image is not only useful for those who can't see the image. Captions tend to give brief information rather than a description of the image: for many works of art, a description of the image content would be very helpful. Think how useful alternative text would be for, say, Holbein's portrait of the More family or for The Garden of Earthly Delights. The system needs more publicity, though, and the capacity for more words (unless there is more rooom for words than in the average caption, the advantages seem moderate).
By the way, I came here after reading Wikipedia:Image use policy#Rules of thumb, where it says: "Add a good alternative text for images". If this is to be a rule of policy, then we should expect better results and wider benefits. qp10qp (talk) 12:42, 5 May 2009 (UTC)
I agree that it would be much better for the tooltip to reflect the ALT text. I believe Simetrical chose not to do that because the ALT text is not always defined; in practice, it's unfortunately rare. We can ask him to revisit his decision, however. Thanks for your thoughtful and well-meaning note, Proteins (talk) 17:13, 5 May 2009 (UTC)

This page needs major surgery

I only corrected one major issue concerning the alt text. Howewer, this page lacks information about many important topics. I will try to complete it little by little. Since I am french, I apologise for my poor english and all the mistakes I will make. Please correct me and let me know when you do so, this way I will be able to improve my english. Many thanks. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 23:30, 5 July 2009 (UTC)

Thank you very much, Dodoïste! I've been meaning to return and fix up this page, but I've been swamped with other responsibilities. I look forward to your contributions, which I'm sure will be excellent. I'll try to help as I can, and please feel free to write me to ask for any help you need. Merci beaucoup pour votre bonté, Proteins (talk) 17:33, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for mentioning the problems with the earlier version of the page. I've attempted to improve its English and to make it a bit more compact.[1] Further improvements are welcome. Eubulides (talk) 22:08, 6 July 2009 (UTC)

Graphic credits

A recent set of edits introduced this text to WP:ALT #When to specify:

" When you remove the link, be aware that you remove the usual way to get information about author and licence. You should mention the image in Wikipedia:Graphic credits (and this link should appear in Mediawiki:Wikimedia-copyright)."

Sorry, I don't understand this point. First, Wikipedia:Graphic credits is a red link, and it's not clear what it's supposed to point to, or why. Second, Mediawiki:Wikimedia-copyright is not a directory of links. For now, I removed the above quote as being too confusing. If someone can explain here what is intended, I can try to rewrite it in more-easily understood terms. Eubulides (talk) 16:00, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

I am sorry to have confused you. Please wait a moment, I will show you why we need to create Wikipedia:Graphic credits: I have just found a collection of images that do not link to their description page on Wikipedia:Reference desk. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 17:06, 9 July 2009 (UTC)
I have followed up at Wikipedia:Media copyright questions #W3C accessibility guidelines and image copyright notices. Eubulides (talk) 00:56, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Here it is: Wikipedia:Graphic credits. I hope it is clearer now. If not, maybe taking a look at fr:Wikipédia:Crédits graphiques will help.
The second step is to mention this page in Mediawiki:Wikimedia-copyright, along with the terms of use. I suggest to add: "See <a href="">Terms of Use</a> for details, and the "<a class="internal" href="/wiki/Wikipedia:Graphic_credits" title="Copyright of some icons">graphic credits</a>."
Having a page such as Wikipedia:Graphic credits for copyright is common on a website, I think this is the best solution.
Although it would be better to remove the link of most icons, the choice between alt text and an empty link depends on the possibility to make a list of the icons concerned, and credit the authors in Wikipedia:Graphic credits. In cases we can't possibly list them all (i.e. stubs icons), we should prefer the alt text. Dodoïste (talk) 02:12, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, I still don't see why Wikipedia:Graphic credits is needed for copyright reasons, or why it helps. If it were used as you describe, what Wikipedia policy or guideline would it cause the encyclopedia to conform to? Eubulides (talk) 02:25, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
It's the only solution we could come up with on I have red Wikipedia:Media copyright questions #W3C accessibility guidelines and image copyright notices, and you proposal makes much more sens to me. Do not hesitate to ask the speedy deletion of Wikipedia:Graphic credits if you feel that this page is not needed. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 01:04, 11 July 2009 (UTC)


I don't know if this has been asked before, but isn't it redundant to require alt text on every image link, instead of having it directly on the file page? An image that is used in multiple articles will probably have the same alt text everywhere anyway. Jafeluv (talk) 06:45, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

I agree that there's a lot of redundancy. However, it's not always the case that an image used in different places will always have the same alt text. Alt text is written in context. For example, if one image's alt text explains that a pickel helmet is a spiked helmet in the old Prussian style, another image in the same article can use "pickel helmet" in its alt text without bothering to explain what a pickel helmet is. (I just ran across this example in Unification of Germany). I think it'd be good to have a "default" alt text associated with the file, which could be overridden by the editor for a particular use of the file. Perhaps someone with MediaWiki expertise could implement and/or suggest that? But in the meantime we have to deal with the current implementation. Eubulides (talk) 07:11, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, that's what I meant. You're right, of course the exact alt text to be used depends on the context in which the image is used. Jafeluv (talk) 07:15, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Multiple image templates

Are templates such as {{multiple image}}, {{double image}}, {{triple image}}, etc. going to be compatible with WP:ALT.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 14:41, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Yes, of course. {{Multiple image}} already supports alt text. I just now added it to {{Double image}}, {{Triple image}}, and {{Vertical images list}}, and requested that an administrator install the obvious change to {{Double image stack}}. What other templates need similar treatment? Eubulides (talk) 18:00, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
There should be a category with all relevant templates.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 19:42, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

Recommendation to simply this on a grand scale

Recommendation: I would like to recommend that as we implement this we start with the image itself. If we create a standard alt text for an image then a bot, AWB or even a human can ensure that the alt text is 1)associated with the picture and 2)is consistent from article to article for that picture. I admit that it may require a modification to the way that comments are associated to images however I think this is the easiest way that allows us to present a clean and consistent alt text to the readers and editors while at the same time minimizing the manual editing required. If we can come up with a standard wau to document the alt text for an image it shoudl be relatively easy to create a script or bot to populate said image with alt text.--Kumioko (talk) 18:42, 10 July 2009 (UTC)

See File:Moh right.gif as an example. There is also further discussion on Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates pertaining to requiring alt text for Featured articles and Featured lists. --Kumioko (talk) 18:55, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree that the alt text would be the most useful when written on the image page itself. See #Redundancy above. Jafeluv (talk) 23:11, 10 July 2009 (UTC)


What is going on with getting alt text for infobox images?--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 04:33, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

Many infoboxes, such as {{Infobox}} itself, are fine, as their syntax already works for alt text. Others, such as {{Infobox Person}}, have already been modified to support alt text. Generally speaking I've been looking at infobox templates that come up during FAC. They haven't been that hard to convert, in practice. Eubulides (talk) 04:43, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
Someone might also want to start looking at templates, hatnotes and portals. I have cleanup up a couple but there are lots more out there! --Kumioko (talk) 23:45, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
Absolutely. I have modified several of these (but no hatnotes: aren't they typically text-only?). You're welcome to join active discussions at:
Eubulides (talk) 02:22, 12 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I already added alt text support to it. Unless you want it adjusted in some other way? Eubulides (talk) 22:09, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
  • I'm guessing {{Infobox Prime Minister}} hasn't been done yet? I tried adding alt text to the infobox portrait over at Gordon Brown earlier, without any success. I'll take a look at the infobox with a view to fixing it, but I'm by no means a template guru so any pointers (or, better still, offers to do it instead!) will be gratefully received! Cheers, TFOWRThis flag once was red 23:02, 15 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Fantastic - that spares me the horror of wading through template code ;-) Chase me ladies, I'm the Cavalry is an admin who's worked on Gordon Brown, but doesn't seem to have been active in the last few days. If they pop up I'll ping them and see if they'd be up to the task. Thanks once again for fixing the infobox - I realise what a nightmare they are to work on! Cheers, TFOWRThis flag once was red 16:08, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Wikilinks in alt text

Do we need to specify on this page that we shouldn't wikilink items in alt text that are also linked in captions? --Laser brain (talk) 17:43, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Wikilinks don't work in alt text. Neither does any Wiki markup, or HTML markup for that matter. This should be added to the article; I'll do that when some time springs free. Eubulides (talk) 18:43, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Alt text for images in tables

Would alt text be required for images in tables? See, for example, List of tallest buildings in Singapore, which has nearly 50 images for each building entry on the list. Cheers, Raime 13:16, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

  • Yes, I'm afraid so. Screen readers read all parts of an article, including tables, and the W3C accessibility guidelines don't make exceptions for tables.
  • If there are many descriptions that would be similar if the images were in separate articles, it's OK to rewrite some of them to avoid repetition. That is, when writing alt text it's OK to assume that the reader has read alt text of nearby preceding images. (This is the same rule as for ordinary text in the article.) Perhaps you can use that idea to come up with briefer alt text than you normally would. Brief is good.
Eubulides (talk) 15:54, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Okay, thank you. But I'm curious, what would be appropriate alt text? All I can think of to write would be "skyscraper in Singapore" or "Tall building in Singapore", because the images all really only show one building, and nothing else. Cheers, Raime 16:44, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
The "in Singapore" part wouldn't be right, because a non-expert can't look at the image and tell that it's a building in Singapore. Instead, the alt text should describe only the visual appearance of the object being illustrated. For example, for File:OUB Centre.JPG it might say "Ground-level view of 60-story building whose cross section is a square with a diagonal projection from one corner. In the top 10 stories the square is missing and only a diagonal remains". Perhaps you can come up with a better description (I don't know architectural lingo that well) but I hope you get the idea: the point is to explain the gist of the visual appearance to someone who cannot see the image. Eubulides (talk) 16:59, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, that example is very helpful. Cheers, Raime 17:15, 16 July 2009 (UTC)
Just to make sure that I am right about something but is alt text required for the ribbonn displays such as the one on Michael P. Murphy or does that fall under the decorative images rule. My thinking is it does but wanted to clarify. --Kumioko (talk) 19:50, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Image usage count

Got a question, is there someone who has the ability of determining what the say top 1000 picturs used on WP is and the number of pages that its on for each? --Kumioko (talk) 19:52, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

Assistance request

At Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Inauguration of Barack Obama/archive3, there is discussion about the propriety of the current alt text. I am not sure I understand the finepoints at issue here. Does anyone want to help me clean up the alt text in this article.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 13:55, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for looking into that problem.
  • The main issue is that the alt text currently makes claims that cannot be easily verified by a non-expert simply by looking at the image; see WP:ALT #What not to specify. For example, for File:Kenyans observing Barack Obama's 2009 Inaugural Address.jpg the alt text read "Kenyans seated in rows while observing the inauguration from the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya", but just from looking at that image one cannot immediately verify that the people in the image are Kenyans, or that they are observing the inauguration, or that they are in the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. They could just be an audience at a church (say), clapping to a musical performance. I replaced that text with "Audience seated in rows, smiling and clapping"; this can easily be verified by any non-expert.
  • Please go through the rest of the images and look for similar problems. For example, do not assume that the reader already knows what Joe Biden looks like (most Wikipedia readers don't); therefore, do not say "Joe Biden" in the alt text (as that conveys no useful information about appearance). (It's OK, I guess, to assume that the reader knows what Barack and Michelle Obama look like, partly because they are currently icons, partly because their appearance can is explained in the lead image's alt text; so later images can just refer to them by name.) You may also find it helpful to visit the Altviewer page for that article, to review the alt text.
Good luck! Eubulides (talk) 17:08, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
How is it now?--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 17:50, 20 July 2009 (UTC)


Alt text should probably be mentioned in this guideline. Dabomb87 (talk) 17:43, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, done. By the way, what's up with Help:Images and other uploaded files? That page is a disaster: it'd be better for a new user to not read that page than to read it. Should I nominate it for deletion? I doubt whether it's actually used much: WP:Images and WP:EIS seem to cover the territory, no? Eubulides (talk) 18:36, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Just another example of Wikipedia's desparate need to consolidate and simplify its policies, guidelines, and how-to pages. Dabomb87 (talk) 21:17, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Complete sentences

The section "What to specify" currently states: It should be composed of complete sentences and punctuated correctly .... I don't believe that has any consensus, nor do the editors of this page, since only two of the eight main images used as examples have alt text composed of complete sentences - and three alt texts have no closing punctuation. I would simply remove that guidance as it is not helpful. --RexxS (talk) 19:25, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Agree. When there is a picture of a man holding an apple, why use the verbose This shows a man holding an apple when A man holding an apple will do? Dabomb87 (talk) 21:02, 20 July 2009 (UTC)


The lead of this guideline states: The alt text should be brief .... I believe this is inappropriate for two reasons:

  • The lead should summarise the article (per WP:LEAD) and nowhere else in the article is brevity mentioned, let alone justified;
  • Placing of this guidance in the lead gives it far too much weight relative to other more important considerations. Many editors will struggle to produce good alt text and placing a further imposition on them by requiring brevity is counter-productive. It is far better to let everyone learn by producing the best alt text they can first; and then later trying to trim it down.

I suggest that, for the present, this guidance is removed from the lead, pending a more suitable treatment further on in the article (if at all). --RexxS (talk) 19:41, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

The "brief" comes from the discussion in WT:FAC #Alt text in images, in particular Graham87's comment. Graham87 is visually impaired and so his comments weigh more heavily than a typical sighted reader's would. He felt fairly strongly that alt text should be brief, so that he's not burdened with listening to unnecessary text. (I got the feeling that he'd rather have no alt text, than have too much alt text.) I added something in the body to address this issue, changed "brief" to "concise" (surely there's consensus for that), and removed the tag from the lead; further comments are welcome. Eubulides (talk) 21:28, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for taking on the challenge of finding a wording that meets my concerns. I know it's not easy, but you've done a good job, as always. I am also impressed by Graham's remarks - he twice used the word "succinct", but "concise" is as good for me. I have a very good friend who has one-sixth vision, but we manage to design websites together. Consequently, I've been able to see that poor alt text is more hindrance than help when using a screen reader. Nevertheless, even for someone who can see images (but imperfectly), good alt text offers another option to comprehend what that image portrays. My own impression is that my friend would prefer a little more detail, rather than none, as it's the detail that it's difficult for him to pick out. I know that we're trying to meet a spectrum of needs with a crude tool, but it's early days yet, and the progress has been really encouraging. Thanks again. --RexxS (talk) 23:36, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

An obvious question

I understand the idea behind image captions and alttext descriptions for people who cannot - for whatever reason - see the images. What I am concerned about is the relative OR and SYN that arise out of describing these captions.
Case in point:the description of a comic book cover listed in the alttext field of the infobox. Since most of the super-heroes named are not known to the general reader, this alt text relies on the fairly specialized knowledge of comic book readers to identify each of the characters depicted. Last time I checked, we cannot do that. Thoughts? - Arcayne (cast a spell) 03:02, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

WP:ALT #What not to specify attempts to address this issue by saying "Alt text typically should not describe the provenance of an image, or how it was created. Nor should it cite a source for verification. Because alt text should be easily verifiable by a sighted reader, any claim likely to be challenged should instead appear in the caption or other location and supported by a reliable source there. As with all other parts of Wikipedia articles, original research should be scrupulously avoided when writing alt text."
To try to make the point clearer I just now added the following paragraph:
'Similarly, alt text typically should not name people or objects in an image. For example, a typical Wikipedia reader who is not an expert in the subject does not know what Greta Garbo looked like, so an image of her should typically not have "Head of Greta Garbo" as alt text. However, if the same person or object appears in many images of an article, later images' alt text can assume that the reader has already read the first image's alt text and caption. For example, if in the Greta Garbo article the first image has the alt text "Head of an attractive young woman with curly brown hair" and the caption "Greta Garbo", later alt text in the article can simply say "Garbo" instead of repeatedly describing her appearance.'
Further comments and suggestions are welcome of course. Eubulides (talk) 06:17, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
I think there is a subtle problem raised here, which is worthy of further discussion. The first question is how much cultural commonality can we assume when writing alt text? I mean, we assume that the reader recognises words like "a mountain", although it is possible they may never have seen one. Nobody would doubt that much. At the other extreme, I agree that we shouldn't assume that "Greta Garbo" will mean anything to visually impaired readers. But what of the grey areas? Is something like "Superman" such an iconic figure in our culture that we can reasonably assume it will convey a meaning to anyone who can't see the image? I can see that sort of example will always be a judgement call by editors. The second question follows from that - is there an absolute standard across all articles, or does it depend on the subject of the article? May we assume that readers interested in articles on D.C. Comics will be much more likely to recognise "Superman"? I don't know what the best answer to that is, but I suspect such reasoning leads to a slippery slope. Comments? --RexxS (talk) 10:48, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
This important issue comes up in main text too, of course. It all depends on context. I chose Garbo partly because there was a time, back around 1930, when she was one of the most famous people in the world, and a typical reader would know what Garbo looked like without explanation. The same is not true now; fame is often fleeting. Similarly, articles written today can assume that an English-language reader knows what Barack Obama looks like, along with a handful of other iconic people such as Jesus and Einstein; but the exact set of celebrities is a matter of opinion and changes with time (does Tony Blair make the cut right now? Dwight Eisenhower? Roger Federer? Che Guevara?). The same issue comes up for fictional characters like Mickey Mouse, Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants, and so forth. And for objects such as the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the U.S. flag, etc. My suggestion would be as follows:
  • In articles devoted to an individual or object, the first image's alt text should never assume that the reader knows what the person or object looks like. The alt text of the lead image in the Jesus article, for example, should not assume the reader knows what Jesus is supposed to have looked like, but should say something like "Half-length portrait of younger man with shoulder-length hair and beard ..."
  • Remaining images of that article can assume the reader knows what the individual looks like (unless the image is of a greatly changed version, e.g., a baby picture).
  • In other articles, if a person or object is instantly recognizable to a large majority of readers, the alt text need not describe the visual appearance of the person or thing. For example, it's OK to say "U.S. flag" rather that describe the flag's appearance.
  • When in doubt, assume that the person or object is not iconic, and needs description. For example, Vladimir Putin, Roger Federer, and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao are all famous, but they are less famous among English Wikipedia readers than Jesus or the Eiffel Tower. Since it's questionable whether most readers of English Wikipedia know what Putin etc. look like, it's better to describe their visual appearance in alt text when they appear first in an article's images. Eubulides (talk) 17:21, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
So, what is the call on the example I provided - a description of a comic book cover, naming the names of the characters appearing on the cover; does it fit our guidelines for inclusion? Why or why not? - Arcayne (cast a spell) 17:31, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
It's a judgement call with no "right" answer I guess. Personally, I recognise Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Superman. I would have no idea of what Hal Jordan, Green Arrow, and Black Hand look like. It will be different for different readers, so I'd recommend either describing all of them (almost certainly too long) or using shorthand like "five superheros" (probably not very satisfactory). I would describe what I assume is Black Hand as the focal point. I wouldn't call the object he's holding a "power battery" because that conveys information beyond what is visible (your OR concern). I would briefly describe the Black Lantern versions, without stating that's what they are, nor where they came from (back to your OR concerns again). I would suggest that the caption could contain that sort of information. That's because, if challenged, you could try to supply refs to support that in a caption, and that information is actually of interest to all readers, not just those making use of alt text. Now that's just my 2 cents, so please don't take what I say as definitive, but do try to examine the logic I used, and see if it fits. Cheers --RexxS (talk) 21:34, 22 July 2009 (UTC)
It is a judgment call. My feeling is that Superman makes the cut as an icon whose appearance most casual Wikipedia readers are familiar with. The others are more dubious. Here's a better wording of that part of the alt text: "A masked man in green and black bearing a glowing green ring leads four other cartoon superheros, one of whom is Superman". Whether the Black Hand description comes before or after this is a judgment, as the band of five is more colorful and in the foreground, whereas Black Hand is larger. Eubulides (talk) 00:29, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Thanks everyone, for the input. I will link the discussion to the editor who offered the alt text, and see if he might want to edit it down a li'l bit. - Arcayne (cast a spell) 02:58, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

And that would be me :)
The long and the shor is I was trying to shorten the description as much as possible without getting too simple. Frankly, my fist blush was "Too many characters to give a description of each..." and relied on a logic that needs back links - the character name can be looked up for a description of that character. Sounds like that's something that won't fly.
I like the idea of breaking the image into the 3 focal sets and take it down to generic terms - "grouping of 5 super heroes" instead of listing then or "lantern shape object" instead of "power battery". The only concerns I would have are 1) which characters, or types of characters are "self explanatory", that may wind up being something consensus hits on other levels. And 2) if the alt text still act as a link to the File page, then would the sourcing of the image potentially suffice for naming elements in the image, even if further description is needed?
- J Greb (talk) 03:57, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
  • Alt text should not be this hard. Alt text is not supposed to describe every detail of an image, only its most important visual features. I gave it a whirl by replacing the previous text with 'A masked man in green and black bearing a glowing green ring leads four other cartoon superheros, one of whom is Superman. Behind them and much larger is the top half of a sinister black humanoid holding a dark green lantern, and behind him in the distance is a host of cartoon villains. "BLACKEST NIGHT" is at the top and "DC" at top left.' That's enough for the image's gist. (The alt text for the other images on that page still needs work.)
  • Alt text is supposed to describe visual appearance only. This would be true even if it weren't for the sourcing hassle. Elsewhere in Wikipedia, sources (in a WP:V sense) for what's on a page have to be listed on that page. I don't know if an exception for this could be made for alt text, but I'd advise against this: that sort of interpretation of images should be in captions, not alt text, so that the sighted can see it too.
Eubulides (talk) 05:40, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
In reference to something I read above. I think that in some cases (like lists) it might be acceptable to use a name or something for an image if you have a lot of similarly describable images on a page. For example, if you look at List of Medal of Honor recipients, and descibed the images as "A blick and white image of a man in his military uniform" it would apply to a lot of pictures and be basically useless because it doesn't adequately seperate one image from another. --Kumioko (talk) 20:57, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
I don't know. If all the images basically look the same, then why have them at all? Instead, it'd be better for the alt text to say what differs about each image. It's OK for alt text to depend on the context of other alt text on the same page. Eubulides (talk) 22:17, 23 July 2009 (UTC)


A remark I noticed in a recent FAC prompted me to ask if we have sufficient consensus to include a guideline on using colors in alt text? Where the use of colour makes a strong visual impact on an image, I suggest that mentioning it in alt text is a net benefit. Some people who cannot see an image at present (for several reasons) have a perfectly good sense of color, so the description of a color - where relevant - would seem to me to be advantageous. As examples: a description of the French flag is sorely lacking without the words "blue", "white", and "red"; a landscape may have a strikingly "bright blue sky"; a poster could derive its impact from "fiery red lettering"; and so on. Is this too much instruction or would some guidance be helpful? Comments? --RexxS (talk) 21:13, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Certainly the colors of the French flag would be vital for any alt text for that flag, and this French-flag example is already in the lead of WP:ALT. I tried to add some further guidance by adding the following text to WP:ALT #What to specify, next to an image of File:HH Polizeihauptmeister MZ.jpg:
"Whether a detail is important depends on the context. For example, if the image at right appears in the Blue article, its alt text should focus on the color of the officer's uniform; if in the Peaked cap article, the alt text should emphasize the visual appearance of the officer's hat."
For a film (which I take it is the FAC you noticed), there is a stronger argument for mentioning colors, since color is an important part of the visual aspect of a film. However, there will be lots of judgment calls where reasonable editors can disagree. For example, for File:Godfather15 flip.jpg there is a strong argument for mentioning that Brando is wearing a black tux with white shirt, a fairly strong argument for saying the flower on his lapel is red, a middling argument for discussing the color of the cat, and only a weak argument for mentioning the color of Brando's skin. Whether the cat's color is mentioned is a judgment call. Eubulides (talk) 01:11, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

BOT for alt text

I was wondering if anyone had suggested a BOT for alt text yet. I realize that this cannot be done for every image but I haev found several (such as the Country flags, various Armed forces, rank insignia, etc) that could be rather easily done using a bot. I would be happy to buidl something if knowone has any objections to doing this. Of course we would need to determine which images to start with and what the descriptions should be before going ahead with it but I don't see that as a showstopper. Also, it is possible that the atl text left by the bot may not align 100% with the image in reference to the article but in my opinion having something there to descibe the image is better than nothing. By the way I would probably be using AWB for the BOT if it matters to anyone. --Kumioko (talk) 20:53, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

For certain mindless tasks relating to alt text, e.g., replacing "{{flagicon|Egypt}} [[Egypt]]" with "{{flag|Egypt}}", a bot could be quite useful. I'd be cautious about being too aggressive in guessing what the alt text should be (after all, misleading alt text is worse than no alt text), but surely it'd be OK to have a bot that almost always improves the article. Eubulides (talk) 22:24, 23 July 2009 (UTC)
Ok is that flagicon a real issue or just a suggestion and what image do you suggest we start with. Maybe a USA flag, or one of the service emblems or flags? --Kumioko (talk) 04:22, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
The flagicon pattern was a real issue in one page I edited, yes. The pattern works for any country (Egypt, USA, etc.). I don't know how common that problem is in general. The only other specific suggestion I have is to fix Wikimedia bug 19906; can you do that? if so, it'd be more helpful than the flagicon suggestion. Eubulides (talk) 04:31, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
One thing a bot could do is to flag any alt text containing Wiki or HTML markup. That's not allowed and won't work. Only HTML entities like "&" are allowed. Eubulides (talk) 05:08, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
OK, I can't add a column to the commons or file description table, that would require a mod. A couple things I see that a bot could do:
    1. Remove HTML from alt text
    2. Remove wikiformatting from alt text
    3. Add a Tag to the article or talk page talk page that the article needed alt text. (Although I don't know about doing this yet since most articles don't have it yet).
    4. Rearrange the info contained in an image link to be in the correct order
    5. Add alt text
    6. fix the flagicon to flag.
    7. Also possibly replace Image: with File: (only if another edit is being performed at the same time)

Now 1, 2 and 4 would require regex and or a custom module, all would need consensus before I did them and I would need to get permission to run a bot and do a test run and I think we should address each one individually, but they are all doable. Please let me know if I missed any.--Kumioko (talk) 11:28, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

Also might be a good idea to do some kind of page to let everyone know what the changes and logic are similary to AWB Typos. --Kumioko (talk) 13:35, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for thinking this through. 1 and 2 seem fine. What does 3 mean? (I don't know what a "tag" is in this context.) Why is 4 needed? (I don't know of any "correct" order.) What sort of text would be added with 5, i.e., where would it come from? 6 seems fine. Why bother with 7; wouldn't it be controversial? (I don't know about Image: vs File: controversies.) Doing a page seems like an excellent idea. Eubulides (talk) 20:33, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I through 3 out there as a potential but its really to early but it could be like the banners you see on the page that says references needed or the ones on the talk pages that says Infobox or persondata needed. I agree this aint the time for it yet. The thing with 4 is that I have seen where some folks have put the caption before the alt text and it seems like the alt text should go at the end, although I could see where if you can't see the image it would be more beneficial to have the alt text come before the caption so you can read what the picture looks like before you read the caption. With 5, in order for a bot to work for something like this we would have to decide (maybe here, maybe on a seperate page) what image we wanted to add the text too and what text we wanted to add to that image. It really wouldn't be for the images that are only visible on 1 or 2 pages it would be more for the one thats seen on a thousand pages like the USA flag or the USMC emblem. Basically we would decide what image the bot wanted to do and what text to put in it and it would go and do its work and then if at some time in the future that image was added to another article with no alt text it would add it in much the same way that some bots add the month and date info to a no references banner because the text would be standard for that image (eventhough you could manually change i if the default text didn't fit 100% to the context of the article). I admit I am of 2 minds about 7 but I wanted to through it out there. The old way of doing things called them images but now we can add things that aren't images so they call it files. Eventually we should progressively get rid of calling them images and change that to file. It just seems like since we will likely want to change it eventually anyway we should do it and be done with it. --Kumioko (talk) 22:38, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
It is possible that no "correct order" is required for the parameters of the [[Image:]]/[[File:]] markup. Nevertheless, the markup allows a mixture of parameters: five of the seven are not of the form "parm=..." (type, location, size, upright and caption). WP:Images shows caption as the last parameter. WP:Extended image syntax states that any order is acceptable! Perhaps if the caption begins with a "reserved word" like 'thumb', then it may cause problems for the parser if it is not the last parameter? Just in case such a problem might arise and to let future developers make assumptions about parameters, I'd suggest it may be a good habit to stick to the order given in the examples. Anyway, I doubt it is worth worrying about enough to use a bot to enforce it, unless we find examples of problems caused by a different order of parameters. --RexxS (talk) 23:18, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
Ok thanks, so of the 7 above it looks like doing 1, 2 and 5 are the only ones that might be needed or useful and even then 1 and 2 are cosmetic changes only. In regards to 5 I checked a few images that I know have a high number of links. For example File:Flag of the United States.svg links to over 25000 pages so if we determine a reasonable alt text a bot could do that in a relatively short time, rather than makeing every edit manually. --Kumioko (talk) 00:32, 25 July 2009 (UTC)

Another infobox needing alt text

I would like to add alt text to the main image at Cato June, which uses Template:Infobox NFLactive

This is done should be available shortly, as soon as an admin installs the obvious change to the template. Please see Template talk:Infobox NFLactive #Alt text support. Eubulides (talk) 22:57, 23 July 2009 (UTC)

Now I need Template:Infobox Single converted for use in "Dirrty".--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 01:26, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

Done. Eubulides (talk) 15:59, 31 July 2009 (UTC)

How about Template:Infobox Artist for Vincent van Gogh.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 21:25, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Done. Also please see Template:Infobox Artist/testcases, which suggests some alt text for that image. Eubulides (talk) 07:23, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Should we really be removing link from images?

Is the only reason we are removing image links is that JAWS says "graphic link" before the link? Then we should stop the practice, as the problem is a software design choice and not a problem in page layout. Plus, JAWS has scripting support so we can provide a correction for affected users. — Dispenser 17:49, 24 July 2009 (UTC)

It is a reason, but it's not the only reason. The JAWS behavior is recommended by the W3C, and is common in other screen readers. By removing the link we are following standard practice, designed not just for JAWS but for lots of other uses. Please see WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.1 and WCAG 2.0 Technique H67. Eubulides (talk) 20:40, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I've suggested solving the problem by only using PD images for decorative purposes.[2] It might take a bit of time to do them all, but frankly, it seems nonsensical to me to weigh the need for a link to an author against the value of alt text, when the question actually need never arise. --RexxS (talk) 23:26, 24 July 2009 (UTC)
I've read the reference links, which talk about images having blank alt and title attributes. Thumbnails will always have blank alt attribute. However, Non-thumbnails will contain the file name as the alt text, but this can be overridden by using alt=| to blank the attribute. The title attribute is never used on the image, but only on A elements (links). Which I except should function the same as an empty (textless, i.e. <a href="..."></a>) link. So once again it seems to me that we are eliminating links to work around a software decision. — Dispenser 23:18, 26 July 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, I don't understand the previous comment. Is the comment just about non-thumb images, or all images? Is it a complaint that W3C messed it up, or that MediaWiki messed it up, or that screen readers like JAWS mess it up? If it is a proposal that title-less <A> elements should be ignored by screen readers, then I'm afraid that this disagrees with both W3C recommendations and common practice, and it simply isn't a practical suggestion for getting things to work better for visually-impaired Wikipedia readers. Eubulides (talk) 00:24, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
Here's the HTML produced by [[Image:Flag of France.svg|thumb|alt=Vertical tricolor flag (blue, white, red)|National flag of France]] - the first example on the project page:
<div class="thumb tright"> <div class="thumbinner" style="width: 182px;"><a href="/wiki/File:Flag_of_France.svg" class="image" title="National flag of France"><img alt="Vertical tricolor flag (blue, white, red)" src="" class="thumbimage" height="120" width="180"></a> <div class="thumbcaption"> <div class="magnify"><a href="/wiki/File:Flag_of_France.svg" class="internal" title="Enlarge"><img src="/skins-1.5/common/images/magnify-clip.png" alt="" height="11" width="15"></a></div> National flag of France</div> </div> </div>
(ec) Clearly, thumbnails do not "always have blank alt attributes". The default for the [[Image:]] markup (for thumbs or non-thumbs) is always blank alt text, so there is no need to override it. Wiki markup actually sets the title attribute of the <a> tag to the caption! - about the worst possible choice. We do our best to compensate by providing good alt text, but the link remains a problem for purely decorative images. --RexxS (talk) 00:43, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
Ok let me correct that "In the default mode (i.e. without |alt=) tThumbnails will always have blank alt" — Dispenser 14:04, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

The wiki markup followed by the corresponding HTML output:

<a href="/wiki/File:Example.svg" class="image" title="File:Example.svg"><img alt="File:Example.svg" src="" width="600" height="600"></a>

<a href="/wiki/File:Example.svg" class="image" title="Example.svg"><img alt="" src="" width="600" height="600"></a>

<img alt="" src="" width="600" height="600">

We know that first example is obvious bad alt text. The second example still contains the link, but the image has blank alt text and no title attribute thus complying with WCAG 2.0 Technique H67. At least that’s how I read it. The final example eliminate the link from example 2. I do not favor this as it makes the image inaccessible to sighted users who want to reuse the image. — Dispenser 14:04, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Leave aside thumbs (especially as the caption complicates the issue). For a decorative image, rendered in-line, I would agree that your second example seems to fit best. Looking at H33: Supplementing link text with the title attribute, the WCAG 2.0 indicates that current Assisted Technology allows feedback of the title attribute to be turned off, so it may be set to ignore the filename given as the title attribute in the <a> tag. It would also allow CC-BY-SA attribution via the link.
The question now is, does this still fail WCAG 2.0 Guideline 1.1 and WCAG 2.0 Technique H67? --RexxS (talk) 17:05, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
If we really wanted to [[File:Example.jpg|alt=| ]] blanks the title attribute. — Dispenser 17:54, 27 July 2009 (UTC)
Please see #H30, H33, F89 below. Eubulides (talk) 21:31, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

H30, H33, F89

  • H33: Supplementing link text with the title attribute is designed for "additional" info, not "alternative" info, the distinction being that "additional" info is not a replacement for the image (in the sense of WP:ALT) but is merely extra info that can be presented to either a sighted or visually impaired user on request (a tooltip being a common method for this, for sighted users). The H33 technique is not supposed to be used for info that the user should know before following the link.
  • H33 suggests two other techniques are preferable: C7: Using CSS to hide a portion of the link text and H30: Providing link text that describes the purpose of a link for anchor elements. However, C7 is also controversial due to its clunkiness and chattiness and because it makes harder for experienced users to control it. H30 is by far the most accepted and standard way to address the issue.
  • I'm afraid that F89: Failure of 2.4.4, 2.4.9 and 4.1.2 due to using null alt on an image where the image is the only content in a link is fairly conclusive that the |alt= approach does not address the accessibility problem. For example, with JAWS the user can type "A" to go to the next link in a page. The suggested variant [[File:Example.jpg|alt=]] has a link, so JAWS and other screen readers will have to do something to indicate it to the user, I expect with something like "example dot jay pee gee link". The other suggested variant [[File:Example.jpg|alt=| ]] would, I think, generate something worse, e.g., "file example dot jay pee gee link". I haven't tested these guesses, as I don't use JAWS; however, as F89 suggests, behavior like this is common in screen readers.

Eubulides (talk) 21:31, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

  • H33 was only referred to in order to show that the title attribute need not be spoken, eliminating one of the concerns.
  • I think we need to actually get some feedback from JAWS users. Using Fire Vox, the second example - [[File:Example.jpg|alt=]] - is completely ignored. --RexxS (talk) 00:25, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  • JAWS feedback would be good.
  • Screen readers have lots of configuration settings. With the good ones, one can disable the reading of title attributes. This is to be expected: the title attribute is only optionally displayed, for everybody, including sighted readers. It would be nice, though, for Wikipedia to work well with the default settings of commonly-used screen readers; H33 suggests that one can't assume that "title" won't be read by default.
  • I have verified that Orca as shipped with the latest version of Ubuntu 9.04 (latest stable version) with the bundled Firefox and with the default settings all set to "y" (except for Braille), treats "[[File:Example.jpg|alt=]]" as I guessed: it says "File" and "Example". So even if the "|alt=|" method works for some screen readers, it is not portable. In contrast, the "|link=|" method is portable.
Eubulides (talk) 02:57, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Modification query

Is this edit kosher?--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 22:49, 26 July 2009 (UTC)

No, obviously not. I reverted it with a pointer to WP:ALT in the edit summary. But since this is a political article, who knows what will happen? Eubulides (talk) 00:24, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Pavel Bure

I have submitted Pavel Bure for FAC and received comments that the alt text for both images in the article are inadequate. I looked over WP:ALT but am unsure of how I can improve what is currently written. Would someone be willing to have a look and help me out? It'd be greatly appreciated. Here are the comments I received if that would be any help: Wikipedia:Featured article candidates/Pavel Bure/archive1 (first comment). Orlandkurtenbach (talk) 22:59, 27 July 2009 (UTC)

Request for example

One type of image for which I struggle terribly to write alt text is a portrait, such as those in List of female United States Cabinet Secretaries. What aspects of the subjects in the image should be emphasized? An example would be helpful. Dabomb87 (talk) 16:30, 2 August 2009 (UTC)

This will always depend on whether a particular detail is germane to the reason for the image. Otherwise, I'd recommend describing what "hits" you at first glance. This will inevitably be subjective, but other editors can always improve it. For example, the alt text for the first three images in List of female United States Cabinet Secretaries seems fine to me, although it's not what I'd have written. I never spotted Madeleine Albright's eagle badge until I read the alt text, and I wouldn't have described Condoleezza Rice as "dark-skinned". I noticed her huge smile first, and would have probably commented on their hairstyles before mentioning details like a patterned blouse. But that's just my impression. You shouldn't worry too much about finding the "perfect" alt text - in any single edit we ought to be satisfied with "good enough". We can usually rely on another editor to later provide the mot juste --RexxS (talk) 17:03, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
I added some advice about portraits, and an example. Thanks for the suggestion. Eubulides (talk) 20:48, 2 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks, the inserted advice is very helpful. Dabomb87 (talk) 20:36, 3 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text for outline maps and image labels

I'm currently working on List of tallest buildings in the United States, which as {{United States buildings}} as it lead image (in the form of template containing an image map). Since the outline map shows up on the Altviewer, I assume it needs alt text as well? And if so, what would be appropriate text to describe the outline of the United States? Also, can alt text be added to {{Image label begin}}? Thanks, Raime 18:20, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

It shouldn't have to be long or tricky, as we can expect readers to know what such maps look like. How about "Map of U.S. state outlines"? I added the obvious alt text support to {{Image label begin}}. Eubulides (talk) 19:22, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
P.S. Surely that outline map is being used to display some other stuff? If so, the other stuff should also be in alt text, either in that image, or in a parent HTML element. Eubulides (talk) 19:23, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
It is being used to display the names of 21 cities that have buildings over 700 feet (213 m), with links to their respective tallest buildings list. Would "Map of U.S. state outlines with 21 cities highlighted" be acceptable? Thanks again for all of your help regarding alt text - we are lucky to have such an expert :-) Raime 20:24, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
How about giving a bit more of the gist, referring to the article body for the details? E.g., "Map of U.S. state outlines with 21 cities highlighted. Most are in the northeast, with a few scattered over the south and west. For details please see below." Eubulides (talk) 20:41, 4 August 2009 (UTC)
Okay, I changed the text to the above. I was thinking about listing the city names and trying to describe their approximate location, but I think that would get far too confusing. Thanks for your help. Cheers, Raime 20:45, 4 August 2009 (UTC)

It's all in the eye of the beholder

The problem I have with alternative text for images is the fact it relies too heavily on POV, as evidenced in the "What to specify" section in this very article. The suggested alternative text for the image shown is "Half-length view of a smiling, sixtyish policeman. He has a well-trimmed gray mustache, carries a two-way radio, and wears glasses and a dark blue uniform with police hat." What is irrefutable is that the man pictured is a policeman with a well-trimmed gray mustache who is carrying a two-way radio and wearing glasses and a dark blue uniform with a police hat. What is open to debate is whether he is smiling and sixtyish. To my eye, his expression is fairly neutral. There's a glimmer of what could be construed as either a smirk or a smile, but I would hesitate to say definitively it is either. As for sixtyish, I know people in their 40s who are completely gray and as a result look 15 to 20 years older than they actually are. I think the man pictured here could be in his 50s just as easily his 60s. I think editors need to be very cautious about imposing their own perceptions on alternative text and strive to keep it as factual as possible. LiteraryMaven (talkcontrib) 17:06, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for the comments. I think (a) there's no way that policeman is in his forties: look at his jowls and the crinkles round his eyes, (b) the phrase "sixtyish" refers to appearance, not age, and (c) it's clearly a smile underneath that formidable mustache. But you're right that it's better to be cautious, and at any rate this is not worth haggling over, so I replaced "a smiling, sixtyish" with "an older". More generally, there will always be issues as to whether a particular choice of alt text is POV, just as there are choices for every other bit of text in a Wikipedia article, and editors need to use their best judgment here as elsewhere. I fully agree that editors need to be cautious in alt text, particularly because it cannot contain citations. Eubulides (talk) 18:29, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

A thought about the implementation of ALT text

I'm new to this whole process, but from my little experience with alt text I feel like it could be more logically implemented. My suggestion is this: instead of implementing the alt text on the page-level (ie as part of and the embedding tag), why not do it on the file-level instead? So in other words, why not provide alt text on the image page itself, which is then pulled up and onto the page from there if/when needed. This could be useful in many situations, but most of all for images used on multiple pages. Instead of having to add alt text to every tag that uses it, it is only added once, which then in effect, provides alt text for the image on all of the pages it exists on. If the image is added to another page, no further work would be necessary. Since there are clearly more instances of images being embedded than there are actual images, this would also lighten the work-load of alt-texting as many images as possible. Ideally, since the alt text is a description but not a caption, the alt text wouldn't really change depending on the context (page) it's being used in. I see this has been brought up before (see discussion above), but it seems the example provided only attempts to make copy+pasting the alt text simpler, but still implements the actual text into the embedding tag. Whereas my suggestion would be to never include it on the page-level at all. Thoughts? Drewcifer (talk) 00:15, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

I think this has been proposed in Wikimedia bug 19906; you might take a look there and see if it matches what you want, and vote for it if you think it's a good idea. Eubulides (talk) 07:23, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

== Related templates == Template:Alttext missingTemplate:Alt text missing

I have just added Template:Alttext missing which can be used to flag articles needing alt text provided. It is part of an updating for Template:Infobox UK place. Does something need to go into the project page? Twiceuponatime (talk) 08:16, 6 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks. The arguments to that template are specific to geographic locations. Can it be made more generic, so that it can be used by any article? Of course a more-specific template can also be useful. Eubulides (talk) 18:29, 6 August 2009 (UTC)
I see what you mean. I copied it from Template:coord missing which is obviously place specific. If no arguments are given it will go into Category:Unclassified articles missing image alternate text, or do you want something more specific e.g. people, buildings etc. Twiceuponatime (talk) 07:46, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
OK. How about simplifying the template so that it takes only one argument, the article type X? It can then put the article into Category:X articles missing some image alternate text. The default for X could be "Unclassified", as now. (Currently the template takes two args, but I don't see why.) Also, how about if we remove the "metadata coord-missing" stuff? That doesn't seem relevant for a general template. A special-purpose variant can do the metadata. Eubulides (talk) 08:58, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
Having spent a little time thinking about it I have basically come up with the same solution. It is not the template that is wrong - it is the document that needs rewriting. I have changed it to allow three parameters (that may be overkill but doesn't cause any problems) - as I am working on Template:Infobox UK place it makes sense to allocate them to country/county/unclassified and then editors can select which block they want to deal with. I left the metadata alone as I thought a common style might be appropriate, but I have no strong views. Twiceuponatime (talk) 11:58, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

Template:Alttext missing is now working as intended. I have added it to Template:Infobox UK feature which now flags any article without alt text and adds it to Category:Unclassified articles missing image alternate text. Is there anything else I need to do with it; and could this usefully be added to the other templates? Twiceuponatime (talk) 14:25, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, I added it to the See also section. Would it be OK to rename it to Template:Alt text missing, with a space between the "alt" and the "text"? For some reason that missing space bugs me; however, I wouldn't want to step on any naming conventions. Eubulides (talk) 16:59, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Ok I will have it renamed - I thought alttext was a bit clumsy. It will have to through Cfd to maintain the links. Twiceuponatime (talk) 08:57, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Added to requested moves - should happen quickly. Template:Alttext missing Template:Alt text missing. Twiceuponatime (talk) 09:15, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Is Image: prefix preferred to File:?

The easiest way to get an image into an article is to copy and paste its file name followed by |thumb| etc. This gives, for example File:Herminium monorchis (plant).jpg|thumb|right]]. The guidance at WP:PIC consistently uses Image: as the prefix, as in Image:Herminium monorchis (plant).jpg|thumb|right]], but says nothing about any need for changing from the File: prefix, a rather tedious task. In the past copying the image title worked, but this seems to have been changed by Bug 44 (Rename the "Image" namespace to "File"). Changing File: to Image: when copying image names to an article seems a superfluous step for sighted users, but presumably there may be an advantage for those using screen readers. If so, it would be worth spelling this out at the start of WP:PIC and in MOS:IMAGES. . . dave souza, talk 10:01, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for bringing this up. It's purely a matter of editorial preference. I added this to WP:PIC. MOS:IMAGES is about the style of what viewers see, not about the style editors use in their markup, so I'm not sure it needs to mention this issue (it doesn't say "Image:" or "File:" now, and perhaps it's better to leave the issue out, as MOS:IMAGES is already pretty long). Eubulides (talk) 16:59, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
Thank you for that clarification. Since it appears that either prefix is equally acceptable for those using text readers, I'll leave the prefixes alone, but won't object if they're changed as happened in this instance. . . dave souza, talk 09:18, 12 August 2009 (UTC)


Sorry if this has been asked before, but I'm new to this issue. Can someone say what this means exactly, and in particular how the word "decoration" is being defined? "Every visible image should have alt text, unless the image is used only for visual formatting or decoration." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:57, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

"Decoration" means that the image does not convey additional useful information to the reader. It's just there for looks. Eubulides (talk) 06:32, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Can you please give a very clear example? I've asked this many times, and still don't know what you mean, so I'd appreciate it very much if you'd clarify. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 16:32, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
In WT:FAC #Summing up I gave Australia at the Winter Olympics as an example of an article in which most of the images, including the lead image in the infobox, are purely decorative. They are purely decorative because they (1) do not convey any useful information that is not already conveyed by nearby text, and (2) they have no function, that is, nothing happens when you click on them. Another example of a purely decorative image is the common use of the {{flag}} template, e.g., "{{flag|France}}" in a sports article to generate " France", in which the little French flag conveys no useful information that is not already present in the adjacent text "France". Eubulides (talk) 05:25, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Order of viewing

There has been a lot of studies showing that the order of viewing varies from culture to culture. Right now the text just says in order of viewing, but does not define by what criteria leaving this very subjective as even within the same nation different subcultures may tend to focus on different elements in different orders.Jinnai 06:50, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Yes, quite true. Since this guideline is for English Wikipedia, one would expect the order of viewing to be appropriate for an English-language culture, but even there, there is a very wide range. However, this problem is no different for alt text than it is for article text. For example, in article text, one is supposed to summarize the most important aspects in the lead; but the decision about what is "most important" depends on the editor and the editor's culture. In cases like these one must trust one's best judgment as to what constitutes the "most important" part of the article, or the most striking visual aspect of an image, and trust that if one's judgment is too parochial that this will be caught by another editor. Eubulides (talk) 06:57, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Is there any evidence that what we are doing is actually helpful?

I look at this page, and I see a wonderful dream of making Wikipedia even more accessible to visually impaired readers - but absolutely no indication that any of this has been tested to see if it meets their needs. Can anyone produce any studies that show that what is being done here is actually useful? That it is giving descriptions that can actually be read? (I note one of the examples uses Greek letters, which the two text readers I looked at did not appear to be able to handle.) Does anyone who is participating in this project have acquaintances who regularly use text readers, and could give us an opinion as to whether or not we are actually providing something useful and appreciated by our vision-impaired colleagues? The one person I know who uses a text reader regularly found the alt text to be unhelpful (I'm paraphrasing, he was much more harsh) but I don't think it is fair to make a judgment based on one review, so I'd really like to hear about the experiences of others who use text readers. One thing I have learned over the years of dealing with people who have various types of disability is that providing them with "accesibility aids" that are poorly executed or not particularly functional causes more resentment than not providing those "extras" at all. Risker (talk) 04:47, 7 August 2009 (UTC)

  • It's been tested by Graham87, a blind Wikipedian who uses a screen reader. He has given feedback and strongly supports the use of alt text; see WT:FAC #Alt text for portraits. There is also widespread support in the scholarly literature for the use of alt text, including scholars who have written specifically about blind access to Wikipedia; see the initial comment and list of sources in WT:FAC #Alt text helps the visually impaired.
  • None of the above sources address the issue of Greek letters in alt text. Which text readers did you use (including version info if known), and what happened when you used them?
  • Which alt text was found unhelpful, and why? Details about this would be useful feedback.
Eubulides (talk) 07:43, 7 August 2009 (UTC)
My reading of what Graham87 wrote is that he supports alt text in a very small number of examples e.g. with logos, but otherwise doesn't see it as terribly valuable, and wouldn't want it to be mandatory. [3] Can someone provide evidence that the alt text on Wikipedia really is helping people? SlimVirgin talk|contribs 17:24, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
I don't see any evidence that Graham87 supports alt text only "in a very small number of examples", or that he "otherwise doesn't see it as terribly valuable". On the contrary, he has expressed strong support for it. The main reason he doesn't want to require it for all images is that he doesn't like conflict with editors who are opposed, which is hardly evidence for the opposition. Graham87's comments provide evidence that alt text on Wikipedia helps him. For example, after I added alt text to Chelsea Bridge he reviewed it and responded "Wow! Good work. I checked out the Chelsea Bridge article; it was interesting to hear descriptions of things that sighted people would take for granted, such as the Battersea Shield." (see quote in WT:FAC). Eubulides (talk) 06:32, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
In response to Eubulides, I went back to my vision-impaired colleague whose screen readers I "borrowed" - we spent a bit of time in his office while he played excerpts from a couple of FAs I'd pulled up that had alt text. He uses JAWS as his main one (he said it was 2 versions back, whatever that is), and he also pulled up NVDA, which he uses sometimes for web browsing. His overall impression was that the alt text wasn't particularly helpful, because it was either repeating something in the main text, or it was including information that should be in the caption for sighted visitors too, or the information being provided he considered relatively trivial. The one comment he made that is perhaps more useful for FA writers to consider is that they should read their articles out loud; even I noted awkward juxtapositions of sounds that could easily be missed if one is focused on the "written" word. Risker (talk) 17:55, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
Which FAs were those? If they predate the recent improvement to WP:ALT then I'm not surprised. Otherwise, I'd like to know exactly what they are, so that we can improve the process in the future. In particular it would be helpful to know what info he would have preferred to have in the alt text. The comment about reading alt text and captions out loud is a good one; WP:ALT #What to specify was already mentioning reading aloud, but I added this suggestion as well, to underscore it. Eubulides (talk) 06:32, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
Eubulides, he doesn't want people reading alt text and captions out loud. He wants people to read the entire article out loud. This is called asking the target customer what activity will make the greatest difference to his satisfaction. I am getting concerned at this extreme focus on alt text to the point that a comment on featured content generally is only being reviewed with alt text in mind. As to which articles they were, I sent him the list of new FAs from the first two weeks of August, and he made the choices; I wasn't reading for content here either and wasn't really paying much attention. Now, Eubulides, I have to ask you to step back and look at the way in which you are responding to this issue. Your last questions read as "tell me which articles so I can fix it" and have essentially missed the entire point of my comments in this section: First, that there is something else that a visually impaired reader thinks would actually be valuable in improving the usability of the encyclopedia; and second, that he doesn't think alt text is all that useful. Fixing the alt text he didn't think was useful is like putting a bandage on a leaking dike. There's no way a one-person quality control process is going to ensure that all of the alt text in the encyclopedia meets "standards", particularly when the "standards" are unclear. Risker (talk) 11:21, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Thanks for catching that problem with WP:ALT; I reworded it to emphasize reading the whole article instead of just alt text and caption.
  • "a comment on featured content generally is only being reviewed with alt text in mind" I don't observe this. Most FAC reviews contain many comments, and talk about many issues. It's true that my comments are mostly about alt text, but I'm not alone in reviewing just some aspects of a featured article (another editor checks images for sourcing and permissions, for example), and there's nothing wrong with editors specializing in reviewing some aspects of articles. Recently, as editors gain experience with alt text, I am finding more articles don't need my comments at all, which is an encouraging sign.
  • "As to which articles they were, I ... wasn't really paying much attention." That's too bad, as that would be useful information. If memory serves, some of those articles predate stricter alt text review at FAC; if so, your colleague's comments are not responding to recent common practice. Regardless of whether alt text is required for FAs, it would be helpful to provide specific examples of alt text that is not that useful, so that we could improve the WP:ALT guideline and alt text review process.
  • "there is something else that a visually impaired reader thinks would actually be valuable" I'm well aware that good alt text is not the only thing needed for improving Wikipedia's accessibility. Different visually impaired readers no doubt would list things in different order. However, we have good evidence that good alt text is at or near the top of the list.
  • "he doesn't think alt text is all that useful" He doesn't think that alt text is useful in general? Or he doesn't think that the alt text that he read in that one session was that useful? This is a key question. If the latter, then presumably we can improve the alt text, which is prompting my questions about what actually was the problem. If the former, then alt text for him is a waste of time, period, and there's no point asking these further questions.
  • The first comment in WT:FAC #Alt text helps the visually impaired lists three scholarly publications supporting the claim that good alt text is a significant benefit to visually impaired readers. One of these publications, Buzzi & Leproni 2008 (doi:10.1145/1368044.1368049), is specifically about blind access to Wikipedia, and it listed lack of alt text as the first obstacle to use. We also have comments made by a blind Wikipedian, Graham87, who favorably reviewed alt text generated by the new guidelines and strongly supports the use of alt text in Wikipedia articles. Compared to this, the comments made by an anonymous colleague, who may or may not have been looking at alt text meeting the guidelines, is relatively low-quality evidence.
  • "There's no way a one-person quality control process is going to ensure that all of the alt text in the encyclopedia meets "standards" I quite agree. If this were just me, the process would fail. Luckily, it's not just me.
  • "particularly when the 'standards' are unclear." This problem can be fixed by clarifying the guideline, when questions come up. This is a natural process for any Wikipedia guideline. Please bring up any such questions here. It's helpful when asking such questions to give specific examples of why the questions come up.
Eubulides (talk) 05:25, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Well, all the articles I gave him had been promoted in the previous month, so I would imagine they were using your new standards. I did go back and ask him when alt text was useful, and not useful; he identified useful alt text as that providing the words that may be present in an image (what's written on a protester's sign, captions for cartoons) in particular, but said that alt text describing a scene tended to contain information that ought to be in the caption proper to assist all readers (he identified the material of which a building was made and the identification of other landmarks visible in the image as information that should be in the caption proper). Eubulides, people are adding this information in a way that meets your approval in large part because the FAC/FLC/FPC they may have taken weeks or months to create will fail if they don't include it to your satisfaction. That doesn't mean they are actively supportive of this; it just means they're doing it. Making this mandatory when we have little concept of what is actually useful for our target audience is just not right. The concept of alt text is a good one; but we have no evidence that the way that we are implementing it is useful to the end users. I have no objection whatsoever to people adding alt text; I just don't think that what's being actively promoted as good alt text is meeting the needs of either our sighted or blind readers. And on that note, I will drop the stick, and simply make a mental note of what to avoid in the future. Risker (talk) 01:26, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "Well, all the articles I gave him had been promoted in the previous month, so I would imagine they were using your new standards." Those articles were coming out of a long pipeline. I did not check articles that were already in the pipeline for the new standards. So it's possible these articles predate the new standards.
  • "he identified the material of which a building was made and the identification of other landmarks visible in the image as information that should be in the caption proper" Certainly the names of landmarks should not be in alt text, unless perhaps they're something like the Eiffel Tower which should be instantly recognizable to a non-expert. If this was an issue in the articles he read, that's a problem that should be fixed (and it suggests that the articles predate the new standards). It's not so clear that a visual detail of whether a building is made of brick belongs in the caption; that would depend on the context. If it's obvious to any casual viewer that it's a brick building, it's possible that the detail belongs in alt text rather than in caption. Again, it would be helpful to have details of which articles and images are at fault here; speculating based on a vague report is probably not all that helpful.
  • "Eubulides, people are adding this information in a way that meets your approval in large part because the FAC/FLC/FPC they may have taken weeks or months to create will fail if they don't include it to your satisfaction." This comment unnecessarily personalizes the process. I am not the only editor who is asking for alt text in FAC comments. I don't watch FLC and comment there only when asked on my talk page. I don't even know what FPC is, and I'm not commenting there. No doubt I have an influence, but your comment seriously overestimates it.
  • "That doesn't mean they are actively supportive of this; it just means they're doing it." This is a consensus process, and consensus was reached that alt text was helpful. I understand and appreciate that some editors disagree with this consensus, and I don't expect universal agreement on it. I am trying my best to make the process as painless as possible, not only for the editors who support it, but also for the editors who oppose it and for the editors who don't care that much one way or another.
  • "Making this mandatory when we have little concept of what is actually useful for our target audience is just not right. The concept of alt text is a good one; but we have no evidence that the way that we are implementing it is useful to the end users." Sure we do. We have the comments of Graham87, a blind reader of Wikipedia who has stated his strong support for alt text after viewing its results in a sample article (see Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39). We also have multiple scholarly sources attesting to the value of alt text, and even one or two such sources that talk about alt text on Wikipedia in particular; for example, see Buzzi & Leporini 2008 (doi:10.1145/1368044.1368049).
Eubulides (talk) 03:03, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

Why not duplicate captions in alt text?

"Alt text should not repeat the caption or other nearby text. A screen reader will say both the alt text and the caption."

Alt text should not repeat nearby text, we agree on that. But what about the caption? According to H33: Supplementing link text with the title attribute, techniques for WCAG 2.0, the current screen readers does not support the title attribute in links. Since the source code produced by Mediawiki has its caption inside the title attribute of the link, it may not be red by most of the screen readers. If this is the case, what should we do?

Maybe Graham87 could help us with this issue? Dodoïste (talk) 00:51, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

It's not a problem.
  • For thumbnails this is not an issue, since a thumbnail caption is repeated below the thumbnail as separate text, not as the title attribute. For example:
A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop.
The Wikipede edits Entomology.
[[Image:Wikipedesketch1.png|thumb|alt=A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop.|The Wikipede edits ''[[Entomology]]''.]]
Here a typical screen reader will read the image's alt text, skip the image's title text, and will then read the image's caption, resulting in something like "A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop. link The Wikipede edits Entomology link." Skipping the title text is OK since it's a duplicate of the caption.
  • For plain pictures the title text is ignored but that's OK. For example:
[[Image:Wikipedesketch1.png|50px|alt=A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop.|The Wikipede edits "Entomology".]]
generates an image "A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop." where a screen reader will say something like "A cartoon centipede reads books and types on a laptop. link", thus skipping the title text. However, this behavior is OK, since the title text here is meant to be optional: most browsers do not normally display it to readers unless the reader specifically requests it, and this is true for both sighted and visually impaired readers.
Eubulides (talk) 03:03, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
You're right, I've just noticed this behavior. Thanks. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 03:15, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

Practical matters

Now, my sympathy goes out to the visually impaired, and I don't think wikipedia should ignore them, but this entire "solution" turns itself into just another chore for editors to perform, introduces a subjective assessment of what an image "should" be described as (with far too many variables), and ignores the fact that wikipedia simply can't address all problems. I'm not much interested in carrying out a debate about this, because if people didn't yet realize the core problems that their solution poses, chances are they never will - so I'll be posting all for nothing. But let me ask you just how an alt text is supposed to fit in with infoboxes - also a fad, but a fad which has caught on and became a requirement (and, btw, I would be much interested to learn if anybody thought about how an infobox or a template must sound to a blind person...).

As far as I can tell, this is turning out to be another case where the solution is less practical than the problem. Talk about The Terrible Trivium... Dahn (talk) 09:08, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

The way alt text works with infoboxes now is that it's tied to images in the infobox. If an infobox has no images, it has no alt text. If it has two images, there are two alt text entries, one for each image. As a screen reader reads the infobox, it says the text in the infobox in the order it appears; it reads any images' alt text aloud when the image is encountered. I've listened to the result; it's not at all as nice as the visually composed infobox, partly because vertical relationships are lost; but it's better with the alt text than it is without. It is true that editorial judgment is needed to write alt text, but that is true for all aspects of a Wikipedia article, so there's nothing new there. Eubulides (talk) 16:01, 14 August 2009 (UTC)
"but it's better with the alt text than it is without" - I just hope that you'll be the one to fill out all the alt texts for any future FA candidates I may have. If you think it's that feasible and practical, and since this appears to be the main focus for your editorial attention, do it yourself instead of imposing it on others. In any case, I deeply resent how this was turned into an FA requirement (was it?), and, in general, I find it perplexing that new tasks are imposed on the content contributors with each passing day - in this case for the sake of some utopian project. Dahn (talk) 14:35, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
And no, this is not the same as all other "aspects of a wikipedia article": this is tantamount to WP:OR, and presumes that we will all understand and describe all the elements of a picture in the same way, that we share the same vocabulary, that the descriptions we personally think are accurate actually are. An editorial decision taken elsewhere implies choosing from a number of finite alternatives, which most often rely on info already formulated, in the way that it was formulated (WP:V, WP:CITE, WP:POV). There may be subjectivity in these areas, but it's minimum if the existing and explicit policies are applied consistently.
What your pet project does instead is to rely entirely on subjective criteria - which accounts for why even some of the samples of how alt text should be applied (on the project page here) are ridiculous. Let's see. "He is in his late twenties and has an expression of deep concentration". Or: "Closed eyelid with several tiny white skin bumps" (as an explanation for milia, as "readers typically do not know what milia looks like", when milia is defined by its article, which the reader is understood to be reading, as "are benign, keratin-filled cysts" - in other words, "an eye with milia, which is tiny bumps, in an article about milia, which is tiny bumps", so as not to say "an eye with milia"). And, after all the philosophy about how not to assume that the reader of an article about milia has understood how milia is: "Carbonated hydroxyapatite enamel crystal is demineralized by acid in plaque and becomes partly dissolved crystal. This in turn is remineralized by fluoride in plaque to become fluoroapatite-like coating on remineralized crystal." And I note that one of the pictures carries the legend: "A three-year-old with autism points to fish in an aquarium, as part of an experiment on the effect of intensive shared-attention training on language development." It also carries the alt text: "Color photograph of side view of a young child pointing. Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction." What does the alt text really add here, and for whose benefit? Who really wants or needs to know that a photograph of something that he or she can't see is colored? Who really wants or needs to know that "Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction"? If you're on that, why not describe what color of skin the woman has and what comparative size or sex the child has, why not say what clothes they wear or speculate about their race? And users are supposed to follow this lead... Dahn (talk) 14:52, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
We all know the edition is becoming more and more complex every day. But please, trust the Wikipedia Usability Initiative. When many other tasks will be easier to perform, user will have more time to spend on Web accessibility. Please be patient.
Web accessibility is a very important criteria for the quality of a website (and Wikipedia is the seventh most viewed web site), and is not only useful to the visually impaired but to people disabling images as well (for example beacause of a low connection). In countries such as Japan, North America and Western Europe it's usually O.K., but other countries may have a very low connection, and their inhabitant may disable images. In those cases, alt text is really helpful. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 15:31, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
a) as per my message, I don't see how "explaining" that a photograph one can't see is in color helps anyone, or how saying that the head of a statue has "furrowed brow and unruly hair" improves the understanding of anything - when it's already clear from the legend what these photos are of, clear for people who are blind as well as for guys with bicycle-powered computers. What "access" is this and to "what"?; b) presenting my grievance as one about "complexity" misconstrues my point - it is not about complexity, it is about frivolousness; c) Dodoïste, I live in and am currently writing this from Romania, which is not in Japan, North America or Western Europe. Dahn (talk) 15:56, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
You're right, I totally missed your point, please ignore my previous comment. Dodoïste (talk) 16:17, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "I just hope that you'll be the one to fill out all the alt texts" Sorry, but that's impractical. I've certainly done more than my share of adding alt text, but one cannot reasonably expect a single Wikipedia editor to handle all the alt text for all the articles. The work must be distributed to be practical.
  • "do it yourself instead of imposing it on others". This is not something that I am imposing on others. It's a consensus guideline, not only within Wikipedia, but outside it. Please see WP:ALT #Sources for some of the details. It was made an FA requirement as part of a consensus process as well. Please do not personalize the discussion with phrases like "do it yourself" and "your pet project".
  • "An editorial decision taken elsewhere implies choosing from a number of finite alternatives" Only in the trivial sense that all Wikipedia articles are finite, and therefore there are only a finite number of choices to make when writing a Wikipedia article. In practice, of course, the number of choices explodes exponentially with the length of an article. It's much, much harder to write the main text of a Wikipedia article, where there are many choices of material, sources and presentation order, that it is to write the alt text for an image, which is brief and is constrained by WP:ALT.
  • 'some of the samples of how alt text should be applied (on the project page here) are ridiculous. Let's see. "He is in his late twenties and has an expression of deep concentration"'. This example is taken from the "Flawed alt text" column of WP:ALT #Flawed and better examples. That is, it is an example of what not to write in alt text. So here, we seem to be in agreement.
  • "in an article about milia". No, actually, that image was in List of cutaneous conditions #Epidermal nevi, neoplasms, cysts, which contains no other description of what milia looks like, and for which the alt text is appropriate. But this does raise the point (already made in WP:ALT) that the appropriate alt text for an image depends on its context, which means that the examples should specify what context they're appearing in. I'll add this to my list of things to do.
  • "Carbonated hydroxyapatite enamel crystal is demineralized by acid in plaque and becomes partly dissolved crystal. This in turn is remineralized by fluoride in plaque to become fluoroapatite-like coating on remineralized crystal." I take it that the criticism is that alt text should not presume expertise on the part of the reader, and that this alt text presumes expertise on the part of anybody viewing Image:Enamel-fluoride-remineralization.svg? If so, the criticism is misdirected, as the alt text in this case merely recites the text that's in the diagram, almost word for word.
  • "Who really wants or needs to know that a photograph of something that he or she can't see is colored?" Again, this is criticizing the "Flawed alt text" column of the example, so again, we seem to be in agreement here.
  • 'Who really wants or needs to know that "Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction"?' The woman's pointing and smiling is an important part of the autism therapy in question. Again, perhaps specifying the context for the alt text examples will help clarify this sort of thing.
  • "why not describe what color of skin the woman has and what comparative size or sex the child has, why not say what clothes they wear or speculate about their race" Certainly speculation would be out of place, of course, as alt text is supposed to be verifiable by someone who is looking only at the image. The other topics you mention are either not relevant to the context (e.g., race, clothing) or are somewhat duplicative to what's already in the alt text (e.g., size, which duplicates the "young" already present).
  • 'how saying that the head of a statue has "furrowed brow and unruly hair" improves the understanding of anything' The context of that image is a caption saying that the statue illustrates a particular style, which is realistic and idealistic; the furrowed brow and unruly hair exemplify this comment. Again, it appears that the examples can be improved by specifying their context, and I'll look into doing that.
Thank you for your constructive comments. Eubulides (talk) 00:02, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I see: someone comes up with an impractical concept that's not even up for scrutiny, and then all editors stand at attention. If you figure "that someone else will do it", why can't I do the same? After all, it's demeaning for someone to expect me to comply with a "guideline" that doesn't make any sense to me, and that I have argued against.
  • Whose consensus? What I see on this page is anything but consensus. And regardless of consensus, this requirement is impractical, for reasons that are glaring but very few editors have bothered taking into consideration. And, after all, it is your "pet project", so please don't make it seem generic by referring to it as something produced by the elements.
  • No, not at all. In the sense that all alternatives given for a certain situation are finite, regardless of how infinite the situations themselves are. In any context, what the sources say is what guides editorial work, and I think that only limited text editing experience can produce comments such as "In practice, of course, the number of choices explodes exponentially with the length of an article." Sure, that may be somewhat true for an article about the Universe, but it is not so in most other articles. And, in all articles existing or conceivable, the choices made individually by editors are actually based on outside judgments, which is patently not the case here.
  • No, it isn't. As was writing that and as I am writing this, the text in the "better alt text" column says "He is in his late twenties and has an expression of deep concentration."
  • It's actually in the article about milia, but regardless of where it was found, the legend that goes with the picture plainly says it's an eye with milia. It's unreasonable to expect that someone would like wikipedia editors to describe that in lay terms on every page where it appears.
  • Maybe my point did not come across: this comes after an example of how we should "explain" milia, for fear of people who do not already understand that it's a cutaneous condition etc. Inconsistency at its best.
  • You're right. I got comnfused with the "colored photo" part. But do read the "better" alt text: "A young child points. Behind the child a woman smiles broadly and points in the same direction." Then read the legend for the picture: "A three-year-old with autism points to fish in an aquarium, as part of an experiment on the effect of intensive shared-attention training on language development." How much more descriptive can you get? (and there's still the "smiles broadly" part to make this go downhill.)
  • "The woman's pointing and smiling is an important part of the autism therapy in question." That's subjective hermeneutics, and doesn't play any part in what the picture is supposed to illustrate. It's like saying "the color green of their shirts plays an important part in therapy". So "perhaps specifying the context for the alt text examples will help clarify this sort of thing" doesn't really make any practical sense.
  • "Certainly speculation would be out of place, of course, as alt text is supposed to be verifiable by someone who is looking only at the image." Aye, but here's the deal: those who can see it can plainly understand that the woman and child are of different races, but can't and shouldn't really speculate on what races those are. In other words, we all see something that we don't describe. This is purely to say that the ambition of accurately describing the picture has some pitfalls, and the legend already covers the essentials. Especially since, btw, nobody would see a problem in "describing" the picture of Martin Luther King as "a black man etc." It's also because such comments would be on par with "who smiles and how". The ambition to describe anything beyond a proper legend is full of such absurdities, but one has to get down from the "this is helping people" high to see them.
  • Really? For one, where is that context? In Antikythera wreck? In National Archaeological Museum of Athens? Oh, I see, it's in Philitas of Cos, where the legend already tells us what it's supposed to illustrate (and, assuming people understand what realistic means, one could just ass to the legend saying that the style is realistic). And since when is the regular wikipedia editor expected to be or become an art critic?
  • Let me be even more clear: a (properly written) legend tells us what the picture is of; any description beyond that becomes subjective, and any attempt to do that will open such pitfalls. Its only consequence being that it will give us all something to do for no precise reason other than that people who can see think that it helps people who can't. The only consequence of this fool's errant is that it will give us a chance to expose our individual and cultural differences on a large playground with no conceivable norms or benchmarks. Now let's focus our work on a parallel wikipedia for the illiterate. Dahn (talk) 08:11, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
  • 'If you figure "that someone else will do it", why can't I do the same?' This sort of argument is not an argument against the alt text guideline in particular; it is an argument against all guidelines and requirements.
  • "Whose consensus?" The industry-wide consensus for alt text was reached by the W3C group, which publishes the WCAG guidelines (currently at version 2.0); see Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The Wikipedia consensus for alt text has been at WP:ALT for quite some time. The consensus for requiring it for featured articles was arrived at a few months ago: you can see the (long) discussion for it in multiple threads at Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39. The consensus is by no means unanimous, but that's normal in the Wikipedia consensus process.
  • 'I think that only limited text editing experience can produce comments such as "In practice, of course, the number of choices explodes exponentially with the length of an article."' We'll just have to agree to disagree here. I think that for any article of reasonable length (Autism say, or Daylight saving time) there are way, way, waaaayy more choices in the article text than there are in alt text. It's absurd to claim that article text is so constrained by outside judgments that a Wikipedia editor has relatively few choices to make when writing an article.
  • "He is in his late twenties and has an expression of deep concentration." I stand corrected on the location of that alt text, and so I was wrong that we agree on that point. We disagree. I think the player's age and facial expression are relevant to the article.
  • "It's unreasonable to expect that someone would like wikipedia editors to describe that in lay terms on every page where it appears." I did not say that the alt text would be suitable for every page where the image appears or could appear. I said it was appropriate for List of cutaneous conditions, where it is indeed appropriate.
  • "How much more descriptive can you get?" The alt text shows that you can get more descriptive than the caption, in that case. In the context of the article in question, the alt text gives useful information that the caption does not.
  • "That's subjective hermeneutics" A Wikipedia editor can use subjective hermeneutics (whatever that is), or any other aspect of editorial judgment, to decide what text to write. There's nothing wrong with using editorial judgment to choose words.
  • "The ambition to describe anything beyond a proper legend is full of such absurdities" There is no such thing as "a proper legend" in isolation: what makes a legend (or caption) "proper" depends on context and on editorial judgment. The situation for alt text is similar. Obviously one can criticize a particular choice of alt text, no matter how good it is, just as one can criticize a particular choice of caption or legend.
  • "it's in Philitas of Cos, where the legend already tells us what it's supposed to illustrate" The caption in Philitas of Cos does not tell the visually impaired reader that the statue has a furrowed brow and unruly hair. The alt text does. Without the alt text, the visually impaired reader would not be aware of this important detail.
  • "And since when is the regular wikipedia editor expected to be or become an art critic?" Nobody is expecting that. But when alt text conveys subtle and useful information to the visually impaired reader, that is a good thing.
  • "a (properly written) legend tells us what the picture is of; any description beyond that becomes subjective" I'm afraid that this oversimplifies matters greatly. There is subjectivity in every aspect of Wikipedia: in article text, in choice of images, in caption, and in alt text. Editorial judgment is required in all these aspects. A criticism of alt text, on the grounds that it requires editorial judgment to write and is therefore "subjective", applies equally well to most aspects of writing Wikipedia articles. There is nothing new or special about alt text here.
Eubulides (talk) 08:58, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
  • That's like saying that if I have a contract with you and you change its terms tomorrow, I should never have signed a contract with you.
  • What does that have to do with wikipedia consensus and FA requirements? Nothing, you just make it look like something validated, and energetically cover that with an "industry-wide consensus" that lacks transparency to the layman's eye. I don't see how that sort of documentation begins to have regulatory power over here.
  • Again, Eubulides: my entire comment was not about the number of choices one faces in an article, but in the number of alternatives one has with each situation. The number of situations may be large or indeed larger (the text is also larger), but in almost every case the choice is objectively defined by the preexisting content guidelines. Whatever varies beyond that may allow individual choice, but that choice is also insignificant (I can't cite a source in that many ways). Whereas alt text only exists within that thin margin of subjectivity that other situations permit.
  • Ah, so now that it's in the "good example" column, it's to stand by... as I have said with my first comment, perhaps I shouldn't expect editors who have not seen the problems in such approaches in the first place to ever see them. But here's to trying: what do you think allows a wikipedia editor to determine what a facial expression stands for, and how "deep" that state is? As for the age thing, I happened to notice this and this - edits which I think say it all about one's capacity to judge and the overall relevancy of this task.
  • No, you haven't said any such thing. You haven't even said the most important thing: what is the alt text for the same picture supposed to be in other articles, and how you plan to make all editors using that picture see and abide by this ambitious distinction in the future. Again: "Can't someone else do it?"
  • I see you claiming over and over that it is useful, but you don't specify how and for what. The legend, we all find useful. The alt text with "the woman is smiling" and "the guy has an expression of deep concentration" can't be useful unless a person is trying to relate to those people.
  • Of course there is: we're supposed to minimize that, remember?
  • I hold the legend subject to the definition I mentioned: you will find descriptions of the object in outside sources, and they will follow a condensed pattern that will work for all of us (seeing or blind). And even when they don't, a caption saying "who/what, where, when" is really not subjective at all, and is generally the proper way to write a caption. Subjective choice will therefore fold into the "insignificant margin" I mentioned. Alt text not only thrives on the subjective, but it claims to describe things not in the legend, "para-"legend, and is therefore outside the "who/what, where, when" area. But maybe I shouldn't expect editors who have not seen the problems in such approaches in the first place to ever see them.
  • "this important detail" - "important" has no place in that phrase. You have decided on it because you have decided this whole thing is important. I can agree that it's a detail not available to a visually impaired person, like other details - the color of bronze, the race of the woman smiling in that other picture, the number on the on the hockey player's shirt etc. - all of which are things you do not consider "important", and advise against including here. The only difference betweem, say, "a patch of a black letter "A" on the top right side, a patch of a stylized maple leaf with two hockey sticks on the top left side etc." and "bearded man with furrowed brow and unruly hair" is your use of the word "important".
  • Actually, that's exactly what you expect: "The context of that image is a caption saying that the statue illustrates a particular style, which is realistic and idealistic; the furrowed brow and unruly hair exemplify this comment." If this isn't a way of saying that editors should start drawing personal conclusions linking an art object to its context (i.e. "art criticism", "hermeneutics"), then it's special pleading for detail that you yourself would otherwise agree it's insignificant.
  • Yes, we've covered that - and I told you why I believe your image of text editing is very much distorted. Dahn (talk) 09:40, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
I am having trouble understanding the previous comment and its relationship to earlier comments, due to the previous comment's size and lack of obvious connection. I will follow up on the points that I did understand in #My sympathy goes out to the visually impaired below. Eubulides (talk) 03:03, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

My sympathy goes out to the visually impaired

"Now, my sympathy goes out to the visually impaired, and I don't think wikipedia should ignore them, but[…]" Statements like this often have a "but". Perhaps Dahn is confident that he will never be blind, no matter how long he lives. Or perhaps he thinks that if he does lose his sight, he will be content to be patronised in this way. Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing); Andy's talk; Andy's edits 10:16, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
Excuse me, but what? I can only see two reasons for producing such a statement: 1) You have not read the long parts of the above dialogue, in which I explicitly state that this "system" you ladies and gentlemen kick-started here can't possibly help anyone, blind or seeing. And no, it's not that hard to extrapolate, in fact I was repeatedly told that it "helps" people who can see as well (in case where they don't have the picture options turned on). I am repeatedly calling attention to the fact that such claims may be utopian and untenable. In fact, you could try to quote the part after the "but", and maybe note how it still stands unchallenged: "this entire "solution" turns itself into just another chore for editors to perform, introduces a subjective assessment of what an image "should" be described as (with far too many variables), and ignores the fact that wikipedia simply can't address all problems." 2) You have read and understood my points, but you want to mask them by building yourself a straw man, commenting ad hominem and appealing to a tearjerker sensitivity. What's more, it's patronizing, self-righteous and immature to assume that one's basic ability to describe how he or she feels about things in a picture provides any assistance to anyone.
And I'm quite sure it's none of your business how I imagine my eyesight will be over the years. Dahn (talk) 10:50, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
'this "system" you ladies and gentlemen kick-started here can't possibly help anyone, blind or seeing.' This claim is contradicted by the comments of the blind Wikipedian Graham87, who repeatedly stated in Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39 that good alt text helps him and that he strongly supports its use. The claim is also contradicted by reliable scholarly sources who have commented on the use of alt text. For example, a 2008 paper on blind access to Wikipedia listed lack of alt text as the first obstacle. See Buzzi M, Leporini B (2008). "Is Wikipedia usable for the blind?". Proc 2008 W4A. Beijing. pp. 15–22. doi:10.1145/1368044.1368049.  For more scholarly sources on the subject of alt text helping the visually impaired, please see the first comment in Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39 #Alt text helps the visually impaired. In contrast, no reliable sources have been proffered to support the speculation that alt text does not help the visually impaired. Eubulides (talk) 17:50, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
You keep dragging me in circles, Eubulides. From what I have seen, what Graham actually said is the following: "I think alt text should be encouraged in FA's, but not required where their use would be impractical." And: "I find alt text helpful when it describes properties of an image that are easy to discern for sighted people but aren't appropriate for a caption (e.g. roughly what a logo looks like, the text of a cartoon)." That approach is something I can agree with, for some cases where it would really make a difference. That, not a ceremonious and ultimately nonsensical requirement to describe a second time what a picture contains so nobody will "miss" the trivial details (facial expressions, irrelevant positions of bodies etc.) - which is proclaimed with retroactive consequences, and is imposed on all of as for passing the FAC. Even when we can see what's illogical about doing it everywhere, we're supposed to bow our heads in acceptance. Sure, make the alt text available; sure, I'll add it myself where I can see a point for its use (an image with text etc. - somewhere where there's something important and definable that the blind person is missing). But to imagine it works in any instance, and to impose it on all other editors who want to see their work promoted is simply tyrannical.
The entire argument you've concocted about scholarship saying whatnot is an ignoratio elenchi, as is the requirement for us to present "proof" against it. Nobody is debating that there are areas where it may prove helpful, but there's no way it can prove useful in any case. And I'm yet to see anybody but the enthusiasts on this page making the point that it is helpful in any situation. I also don't for the love of me understand why it's a requirement; you want to see it used and you think it's feasible? then implement it yourselves. Again, I can't help but note the irony of references to the Terrible Trivium. Dahn (talk) 18:06, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
I somehow agree with you, Dahn. There are two kinds of images:
  1. Images containing information necessary to understand the article, suh as File:Enamel-fluoride-remineralization.svg. This kind of images need to have an alt text, we all agree on that. The example of alt text you gave here is excellent, Eubulides.
  2. Pictures that are included in the article because it's cool. In those cases, we only need alt text so the screen reader won't read te filename. In order to do so, we might only need to copy the caption in the alt text, or to provide a short alt text.
On my opinion, we have to rework our examples of good and flawed alt text, with the help of Graham87. Yours, Dodoïste (talk) 19:25, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
I would imagine somebody who really wants to help the visually impaired would have come up with a way to block screen readers from reading the file names. I'm not sure what you mean by pictures used "because it's cool", but I gather it's the same distinction I make. As for "enamel fluoride": yes, I see a point for alt text there (note that I commented on it only to contrast it with the inane text endorsed for milia). However, even in such cases, I don't see it as something that should be enforced as a project policy. That's for three reasons: 1) it's not a reasonable expectation to have from all other editors (unlike sourcing info, neutral language, balanced representation etc.). It should be done voluntarily - and I assure you that I would then do it myself in cases where I do find a point for it; 2) the distinction between where it's needed and where it's not needed may be too subtle, and if you take the debates around it into each and every FAC, you'll never see the end of it; 3) once it's established that it's only a requirement in a limited number of cases, it can be managed by creating a task force aware of that distinction, that can then at the very least comment on individual FACs if not simply edit the alt text into the articles. The majority of pictures I've seen on wikipedia in my 4 years of editing would not need an alt text, so this shouldn't be so hard. Dahn (talk) 19:46, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
Please see #What Graham actually said below. Eubulides (talk)

What Graham actually said

  • "From what I have seen, what Graham actually said is the following:" The contents of WP:FACR and WP:ALT were in part derived from the comments from Graham87. Graham87 said that alt text should not be "required where their use would be impractical", which is why WP:FACR says images should have alt text "when feasible". And Graham87's comment "I find alt text helpful when it describes properties of an image that are easy to discern for sighted people but aren't appropriate for a caption" is reflected multiple times in WP:ALT, e.g., when it says "Alt text should not repeat the caption or other nearby text."
  • "That, not a ceremonious and ultimately nonsensical requirement to describe a second time what a picture contains so nobody will "miss" the trivial details" This completely misstates WP:ALT. WP:ALT never suggests that, or anything like that. On the contrary, WP:ALT repeatedly says that alt text should not repeat the caption.
  • "But to imagine it works in any instance, and to impose it on all other editors who want to see their work promoted is simply tyrannical." First, there is no assumption that alt text works in any instance. On the contrary, WP:ALT explicitly gives examples where alt text is not required. Second, there are no tyrants here. This was and is a consensus process.
  • "The entire argument you've concocted about scholarship saying whatnot is an ignoratio elenchi, as is the requirement for us to present "proof" against it." This is not an argument about Aristotelian logic. It is an argument where both sides are presenting their best evidence and drawing conclusions from it. One side has presented evidence in the form of scholarly publications and talk-page comments by a blind Wikipedian. The other side hasn't.
  • "And I'm yet to see anybody but the enthusiasts on this page making the point that it is helpful in any situation." Perhaps you could try reading the sources cited in the first comment in Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39 #Alt text helps the visually impaired.
  • "Pictures that are included in the article because it's cool." Yes, and the technical term for such images is "purely decorative images", which WP:ALT says do not require alt text.
  • "we have to rework our examples of good and flawed alt text" It's quite clear from this discussion that the examples need improving, at the very least to specify their context. This is on my list of things to do. Other contributors to this process are welcome.
  • "it's not a reasonable expectation to have from all other editors (unlike sourcing info, neutral language, balanced representation etc.)." There is no requirement that "all other editors" must provide sourcing etc. The requirement is that an article should be properly sourced, not that all editors must provide sourcing info. As long as some editors do the work of sourcing, other editors need not do that work. The situation with alt text is similar: editors who don't want to write alt text don't have to.
  • "the distinction between where it's needed and where it's not needed may be too subtle" No, it's not subtle. Alt text is not needed when an image is purely decorative. Otherwise, it's needed. This is discussed in some detail in WP:ALT #When to specify.
  • "it can be managed by creating a task force" I'd be all in favor of a task force to add alt text. The more help, the merrier.
  • "The majority of pictures I've seen on wikipedia in my 4 years of editing would not need an alt text". It depends on the article. In some articles the vast majority of images are purely decorative and do not need alt text. Perhaps these are the articles you tend to edit. Rather than speculate on this, it would be helpful to give one or two examples of actual images in actual articles, images that you feel quite clearly should not have alt text.

Eubulides (talk) 03:03, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

  • But then it makes it a requirement...
  • Yes it does. The legend of a photograph will say that it's "x and Y hockey player" perhaps "in Z game, in W year". The legend will say that he has "an expression of deep concentration". The function of saying "who, what, where" is covered by the legend. The rest is nonsense.
  • Again: there is such an assumption, because most of the examples on the ALT page don't need any form of alt text when they have a legend.
  • No, you have evidence that alt text is helpful in a number of circumstances, which, judging by the ALT page examples, you extrapolated to make it "useful" for a hockey player to be deeply concentrated - all of this beyond the legend. Otherwise, nobody is debating your point, which you repeat ad nauseam, that scholars suggest alt text is helpful in situations where it can work. Most of the examples you present on this page, however, are neither feasible not desirable.
  • sorry, I mean t to say: "in every situation" - my Romanian lexis gets in the way sometimes
  • (not addressed to me, but let me note again that most pictures the ALT guideline uses for illustrations, do not need alt text, as opposed to legends - the alt text does not add anything relevant)
  • (not addressed to me)
  • I'm talking about all editors who submit their work for review. Regardless of the quality of their work, you have imposed a filter on it that was not there to begin with, whose many problems you have not even fixed (nor acknowledged until about a couple of hours ago). As we all know, the task of meeting up to the shifty FA standards is up to the editors of the article, not to the reviewers - which basically means that all other editors have to potentially agree to the guideline, no matter how absurd the implications may prove.
  • again, it's not needed in most examples on this page. The only one I can think of so far where it has some relevancy is the diagram, and even there it's not gonna be very descriptive. The diagram also sets a benchmark for the level of detail one can expect to find in such alts - since it merely describes the text in the image, with no further explanation (though perhaps it should have some more explanation), it does not fall and cannot fall into the ridiculousness of a philosopher having messy hair or a hockey player being concentrated.
  • as opposed to making this a guideline, Eubulides. It's not fun to take things out of context.
  • well, I can't help but repeat myself: the distinction is not established by this very page, where most examples would fit in with the "don't need" category. It's also what I meant about this being a subtle distinction: manifestly, you yourself struggle with its implications. Dahn (talk) 09:46, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "you have imposed a filter on it that was not there to begin with" Again, please, let's not personalize this discussion. This is a product of consensus, and I am not personally imposing anything. No matter what the FA standards say, some will argue that they're too strict and others that they're too loose; we decide these issues by consensus.
  • "manifestly, you yourself struggle with its implications" I don't see much of an internal struggle here. Obviously editorial judgment is required, and reasonable editors can disagree about exact wording or level of detail in alt text, just as they can disagree about captions or article text. The recent changes I installed to make the examples briefer are all in this gray editorial area: none of them are that big a deal, really. But the overall thrust of WP:ALT is quite clear.
  • 'The legend of a photograph will say that it's "x and Y hockey player" perhaps "in Z game, in W year". The legend will say that he has "an expression of deep concentration".' This appears to be advocating a style where all textual information about a thumb image is in the caption, and where the alt text is merely a placeholder such as "See caption". Although this style is not common in Wikipedia, it conforms to WP:ALT and you're welcome to use it in the articles you maintain. I plan to add an example along these lines. Does this address the main thrust of your objection?
Eubulides (talk) 18:28, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry: the elements/the powers that be have imposed this extra criterion at this stage. By imposing I mean: made it a requirement. And, again, I see anything but consensus.
  • Nothing in this policy is clear, and the reworked examples are almost just as bad, only shorter. At this point in time, I sorry I ever brought up the "expression of deep concentration" thing, since it seems to have made you adamant that it must needed because it's there. As said by others, most pictures don't need to describe what you claim they ought to describe - meaning that the legend on those would suffice for most intelligent people, blind or not.
  • Oops, my bad: I mistyped and forgot an essential "not". What I meant to say was that The legend of a photograph will say that it's "x and Y hockey player" perhaps "in Z game, in W year". The legend will not say that he has "an expression of deep concentration". Nobody should try to assess the expression, because it serves no purpose whatsoever, goes way outside what wikipedia is set to provide, and only condones editorial subjectivity. By changing that line to "serious face" or whatever, you really don't improve on anything. Dahn (talk) 19:11, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
"it serves no purpose whatsoever" I'm afraid that we'll just have to agree to disagree on the subject. At this point we have considerable practical experience that alt text serves a useful purpose and that it can be written with no more subjectivity than the rest of a Wikipedia article. Eubulides (talk) 01:51, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Automatic alt text for images on commons

Why not pull the alt text from the description field (for the images that are actually on commons). This would have the affect of eliminating the redundancy of having multiple descriptions in multiple places. It would also force people to fix/improve the templates on commons for the articles in question. Dave (talk) 21:21, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

As an addendum to the original suggestion, Bug #19906 should be given consideration for this. It'll simplify things and allow the back-end systems to handle the duty of inserting ALT text, with local overrides at the author's desire. Win-win.Kumba42 (talk) 21:41, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
I generally provide detailed explanations for images I upload on commons, where I find this is necessary. In cases of images with texts, of which I can remember this one, I have rendered the text verbatim and provided a translation. Dahn (talk) 22:23, 22 August 2009 (UTC)
Really bad idea: the same image might need different alt text, depending on the context of its usage in different articles. Andy Mabbett (User:Pigsonthewing); Andy's talk; Andy's edits 19:47, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
Worse, a lot of images better not have alt text. But with Mediawiki images are links, so we need to provide some short alt text to thoses images. What we really need to do is to ask developers to rethink entirely how Mediawiki produces thumbnails images. I hope I'll do that soon. Dodoïste (talk) 20:10, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
Please let us know here if you ask the developers. Eubulides (talk) 01:51, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text duplication with captions

A couple of recent edits had some problems.

One edit changed some examples and added commentary like "The caption should be duplicated in the alt text, since the interesting content is not in the image itself but in the caption." This edit appears to be based on a misunderstanding of how screen readers work: they read both the caption and the alt text in cases like these; they do not skip the caption. This topic is further covered in #Why not duplicate captions in alt text? above.

The other edit went to the other extreme, replacing alt text with extremely short phrases like "Child with autism" and again saying that alt text should duplicate the caption, albeit much more briefly. Again, this seems to be based on a misunderstanding of how screen readers work. Alt text is not there simply to prevent a screen reader from saying a file name: it's there to give visually impaired readers a brief sense of the useful info conveyed only in the image. Certainly "Child with autism" is not good alt text for an image whose caption already says that the image is that of a child with autism, as this alt text conveys no additional useful info. The change log for this edit cited this reference but the examples in that reference are not appropriate here, as they're famous images of George Washington, where an ordinary reader can be expected to know what Washington looks like and where "George Washington" in alt text is appropriate.

These errors have already apparently caused confusion in a template developer; see Template talk:Jct/shield #Shields and alt text. For now I've reverted them. Please comment here if there's any further interest. Eubulides (talk) 07:09, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

"The alt text should be concise and should emphasize the image's most important visual aspects: it should summarize the gist of the image rather than describing every detail." Well, that's at least what the first paragraph of the page says. But I don't consider any of the given examples to be concise and in terms of the second half of the quoted sentence I think they do more of the latter than the former. – TMF 07:16, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
"Concise" is a relative term, of course, but you make a fair point. I reworded the examples to make them more concise. If you have a specific suggestion for further improvement, please let us know. Eubulides (talk) 07:48, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
This was indeed a misunderstanding, but on how thumbnails work in Mediawiki, not on how a screen reader works.
I totally agree that "Child with autism" is not a great alt text. My point was: in this case, all the relevant information is already in the caption. So the alt text should normally be empty. But we can't have an empty alt text, because the image is the only content in a link. So, we should provide an alt text as short as possible. And "Child with autism" was the first idea that popped into my head. Dodoïste (talk) 13:54, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
You seem to be confused on something. The alt text should only contain information useful to understand the article. Decorative images, such as the picture of Pavel Bure, does not need to be described. That's the reason why I pointed to this reference.
"The examples in that reference are not appropriate here, as they're famous images of George Washington, where an ordinary reader can be expected to know what Washington looks like and where "George Washington" in alt text is appropriate." You are totally wrong here. We should not describe what the person looks like, whether he is famous or not. See Example 4 for further explanations. Dodoïste (talk) 14:10, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
I'm with Dodoïste on this one. And, may I add, in case we would describe any person, which we shouldn't, I find the rationale for not describing Washington as inconsistent, Americanocentic and inane. Dahn (talk) 14:26, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "all the relevant information is already in the caption" No, it's not. Not at all. The image conveys important extra information that's not in the caption, information about how the therapist and child interact via shared attention and reinforcement. This is an important point in the context of the Autism article, and it's obvious to someone who can see the image, but not obvious to someone who can only read the caption. (This, by the way, underscores the need to revamp WP:ALT to specify the contexts for the examples.)
  • "Decorative images, such as the picture of Pavel Bure" The image of Pavel Bure might be decorative in some contexts, but it is not decorative in the context of being the lead image in the Pavel Bure article. In that context, the image provides valuable information on what Bure looks like. That's the point of the image: to depict Bure's visual appearance. Lead-image portraits in biographies require and deserve alt text describing what the depicted person looks like, because that information is otherwise unavailable to the visually impaired reader. (Again, this underscores the need to improve WP:ALT's examples to specify contexts.)
  • "We should not describe what the person looks like, whether he is famous or not. See Example 4 for further explanations." Example 4 in the WebAIM article is about some other site linking to a Wikipedia article. In a case like that, it is appropriate for the alt text to warn the reader that the image will link them to another web site, and for this to be the focus of the alt text, as it's a somewhat unusual thing. The situation within Wikipedia itself is much different. In Wikipedia, images normally link to a page that further describe the image. This is the normal and expected use of images in Wikipedia, and readers (including visually impaired readers) expect it. In this environment, it does not make sense to waste valuable alt text in relatively useless placeholders such as "Link to file description page for George Washington". Instead, by a Wikipedia tradition so long that it dates back nearly to Wikipedia's birth, the alt text conveys the image's useful info that is not already in the caption or nearby text. This tradition is a logical consequence of how screenreaders work and how visually impaired readers use Wikipedia's "thumb" images. Other web sites work differently and have more freedom in how they use their alt text; also, even within Wikipedia one can use extended image syntax to achieve special effects using non-"thumb" images, which allow much more freedom about what should go into alt text. But for an ordinary portait of a person, the important info that it conveys is what the person looks like, and so that info should be in the alt text (unless it's already in the caption or nearby text).
  • "I find the rationale for not describing Washington as inconsistent, Americanocentic and inane". There's no inconsistency here. The same argument would apply for any globally recognized figure, such as Gandhi or Mao or Napoleon. Furthermore, the WebAIM page is written for an American audience and so the argument about Washington applies even more forcefully to it.
Eubulides (talk) 18:28, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • No, that's what you repeatedly claim is relevant. If the caption is the "what, where, when", that's the "how", and wikipedia don't do "how", for people who can or cannot see.
  • Yes it is decorative, even there. The rest is frankly like saying that all of us who can see will "get" the same info on Bure by watching his picture. Also, if it's supposed to help people who see in any way, it's because they can then recognize Bure if they see other images of him. Let's not kid ourselves: blind people can't possibly "benefit" from that sort of info by definition. Or else what's next? We describe sound samples for the deaf?
  • Same as above.
  • Oh yeah? Well who is the authority to tell us where this "circle of familiarity" is supposed to end? Do Indian people using wikipedia know what GW looked like? Do most Americans know what Ceauşescu looked like, as most Romanians do? It's one more inconsistency that would be addressed simply by not going into such details at all. After all, it matters not that Ceauşescu was curly to anything he did. While some say that it matters that he was short (which isn't apparent from most pictures), this is on par with the cliché about GW's wooden teeth - if it's important, you'll find it mentioned in the article if it's of FA quality. But I'm sure that these alternatives mean little to someone who is set on claiming that describing how Ceauşescu looks is vital to the article. Dahn (talk) 19:27, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
Again, I am having trouble following the connections between the previous comment and earlier ones. But to try to address the points that I can follow: Certainly Ceauşescu has nowhere near the recognition of Washington, Gandhi, Mao, or Napoleon in the English-speaking world, and I would expect a typical reader of English Wikipedia to not know what Ceauşescu looks like. And I strongly disagree with the claim that "blind people can't possibly 'benefit'" from alt text. Clearly they can benefit: we have evidence from both a blind Wikipedian who strongly supports this sort of alt text, and from reliable scholarly sources. The claim that blind people can't benefit from alt text is purely unsupported opinion. Eubulides (talk) 01:51, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
Now you're just twisting my words. Here is what I have said: "Also, if it's supposed to help people who see in any way, it's because they can then recognize Bure if they see other images of him. Let's not kid ourselves: blind people can't possibly 'benefit' from that sort of info by definition." Here is what you produced from that phrase: "blind people can't possibly 'benefit'" from alt text". I'm afraid your obstinate claim that describing the facial appearance of guy in a 2D image to someone, using subjective terms, is "useful" to anybody is by now a question of logic (nb, "useful", not "nice", not "sweet" etc.; I'm saying this because you seem to get the two confused, and because wikipedia doesn't work with "nice" and "sweet"). Maybe you'll find the connection between my comments when I tell you this: go ahead and alt texts diagrams, facsimiles, and anything where the picture conveys relevant information that the blind reader may actually miss, and that is typically not covered in the legend; but alt texting something that that adds nothing to the article (and making it a requirement to do so for others to do the same) is a ridiculous experiment in how not to go about doing things.
And you keep repeating that old slogan about endorsement from users and how sources agree with you, when, let's face it, they agree with alt text in general, not to what you claim it should be used for. Your unwillingness to acknowledge that would really not be worth this much time, were you not the person who basically drafted this thing, useful and nonsensical parts alike. Without that claim that absurd things such as a "serious face" on a hockey player really help anyone, and without the repeated argument that one at all need to describe how a person looks in a portrait, this would be a shorter and much more applicable policy that I would endorse myself.
As for the "personalities": again, who is the authority? Let me rephrase that: who can possibly be the authority? Dahn (talk) 03:52, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
The best authorities we have are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, scholarly sources such as Buzzi & Leproni 2008 (doi:10.1145/1368044.1368049), and feedback from blind Wikipedia editors and readers. On the last front, after I made this edit adding alt text to Chelsea Bridge, a blind Wikipedia editor responded "Wow! Good work. I checked out the Chelsea Bridge article; it was interesting to hear descriptions of things that sighted people would take for granted". And yet the alt text that I added was not just about diagrams or text: most of it was the sort of text you're calling "absurd": text like "Suspension bridge crossing a wide river. A few buildings can be seen behind the bridge." Feedback from real users like this weighs a lot more heavily than abstract theorizing over why alt text is a "ridiculous experiment". Eubulides (talk) 06:14, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
That's being "nice", not being "useful", and the implications are still ridiculous (as per the descriptions offered on this page). Now let's have the same with descriptions of sound samples. But again: when I'll have an FAC, I expect you to fill in those for me, since you seem to know what is and isn't useful way better than me; I won't do it myself unless there's a diagram around. Dahn (talk) 09:15, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
Oh and, incidentally: a proper article on a structure, any structure, should include somewhere in the article text a description of the thing. In Chelsea Bridge, both the legends and various quotes seem to fulfill and even overdo that task already, even if granted it's better to have most such details in one paragraph. To push an unsourced and unsourcable additional description in the alt text for an image is almost the equivalent of a content fork. Dahn (talk) 09:44, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
Please stop right there. You're not being constructive anymore. Eubulides and I are going to improve the guidelines for alt text, as soon as we "get some time free from these debates (:-)". So please, let us work for a while, and we'll continue the debate afterwards. ;-) Yours, Dodoïste (talk) 11:58, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
I can only encourage that. If it was a problem of my posting, I would have refrained from doing so earlier, but I noticed that Eubulides is both adamant that the guidelines could only use cosmetic changes, and would rather discuss the flaws than remove them. sorry I took so much space here and so much of your time, and I'm glad there's at least one more editor who sees the problems this project has and has not given up on persuading Eubulides that they exist. Regards, Dahn (talk) 12:11, 24 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "The image conveys important information about how the therapist and child interact via shared attention and reinforcement." In that case you are right, of course. But then we should clarify two issues:
    1. "A woman smiles broadly" has nothing in common with "A therapist and child interact via shared attention and positive reinforcement". The first is unuseful alt text and the second is an important information.
    2. When we provide guidelines about what kind of alt text to provide in a specific context, we should not forget to mention the context. In this case, we should mention that this alt text and picture are in the context of the Autism article.
  • "The image of Pavel Bure might be decorative in some contexts, but it is not decorative in the context of being the lead image in the Pavel Bure article." Exactly the same as the previous issue.
  • "Example 4 in the WebAIM article is about some other site linking to a Wikipedia article." You have mistaken example 3 with example 4. I am talking about the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River.
  • In conclusion, we already agree on many things. I'm looking forward to continue the discussion. :-) Dodoïste (talk) 19:44, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
  • "we should not forget to mention the context" Absolutely. When I get some time free from these debates (:-) that's first on my list for improving WP:ALT.
  • '"A woman smiles broadly" has nothing in common with "A therapist and child interact via shared attention and positive reinforcement". The first is unuseful alt text and the second is an important information.' This comment is based on the assumption that "A woman smiles" is not useful. But that assumption is incorrect. The fact that the woman is smiling conveys important information about autism therapies. Many non-experts think of behavioral therapy for autism as being an unpleasant business involving electric shocks or whatever. This image helps to show that modern behavioral therapy does not have to be that way. Here's another way to put it: like the image itself, the alt text conveys information that is useful in more than one way. It's not just about shared attention: it's about the overall gestalt of what the therapy looks like. And the alt text here is the only thing that is conveying that gestalt to visually impaired readers.
  • "You have mistaken example 3 with example 4." Ah, sorry, I looked at the 4th image in the WebAIM article rather than at the image labeled "Example 4". But the Example 4 image is not relevant to this discussion, since it has no link. From the WP:ALT point of view, it's OK if the Example 4 image has no alt text. (It should have alt text anyway, but discussing this would be a digression as Wikipedia images typically do not work like the Example 4 image.) Anyway, the point remains that the longstanding Wikipedia tradition for thumb images is that the alt text describes visual aspects of an image that are not mentioned in caption or adjacent text, and we should not be attempting to overturn this longstanding tradition, which is used by the visually impaired, without some very good reasons.
Eubulides (talk) 01:51, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Major rewrite

In response to #Practical matters and #Alt text duplication with captions above, as well as the long discussions of alt text in Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39 and WT:ACCESSIBILITY #Unicode characters and screen readers, I have rewritten much of WP:ALT. This is a bit of a work in progress but I figured it was time to get something out the door. Changes include:

  • Alt text is no longer required for math mode formulas, and the suggestion in many cases is to not supply it. For these formulas, the default alt text generated by the Mediawiki software is often good enough.
  • Examples have been scattered throughout the guidelines rather than being segregated into a single section.
  • Each example supplies a context.
  • Many more examples have been added.

Comments are welcome. Eubulides (talk) 09:09, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

It's great, really. Well done! :-) That's a huge improvement. Dodoïste (talk) 09:31, 27 August 2009 (UTC)


I filled a bug about <gallery> some time ago, asking to allow to add an |alt= parameter for every single image in the gallery. You might want to look at it: bugzilla:18682. Yours, Dodoïste (talk) 10:07, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for bringing up galleries; that was a gaping hole in the project page. I added a subsection that discusses them and mentions that bug report. Eubulides (talk) 19:02, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Template:Infobox rail line

Could you please fix {{Infobox rail line}} so that it is alt compatible at Washington Metro and other places.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 17:38, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

I fixed the template so that it should work for that example, anyway. The template's documentation talks about WP:Route diagram template but I didn't see Washington Metro using that stuff so I left it alone. Eubulides (talk) 18:08, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

Also, please fix {{Infobox Skyscraper}} so that it accepts the double image alt text at Trump International Hotel and Tower (Chicago). It seems that the documentation may not clarify the use of two images properly.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 21:08, 27 August 2009 (UTC)

You can simply add the alt text to each parameter. Parameter values contain extended image syntax, so there's no need to modify the template. Please see WP:ALT #Writing the text's discussion of {{Infobox}}. Eubulides (talk) 22:54, 27 August 2009 (UTC)
I did not notice that the image were not really a part of the infobox code.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 02:43, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

Longdesc attributes

As explained in Creating Accessible Images, long descriptions, images containing too many important informations to be described in one or two sentences - such as graphs - need a link to a long description. MediaWiki does not currently support the longdesc attribute. What should we do, and how? Do you have any idea? Dodoïste (talk) 04:04, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

The simplest suggestion I can think of is to put the long description in the file page itself. For example, File:Oktadrachmon Ptolemaios II Arsinoe II.jpg #Summary contains a "Description" entry, which could contain the long description. Eubulides (talk) 06:08, 23 August 2009 (UTC)
From what I understand, there should be a sign to the screen reader that there is a longdesc somewhere. Plus, the longdesc may be hard to locate in the description entry of the file page.
Mediawiki's way to handle images and thumbnails is a pain, we should work on that, and prepare a few suggestions to the developers. Dodoïste (talk) 22:08, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Alt text for video clips

When doing alt text for video do we just describe the first still image shown or try to describe the entire video clip? -- œ 04:44, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

The latter. Please see the video clip in International Space Station #Assembly and structure for an example. I'll add a section to WP:ALT about this; thanks for the query. Eubulides (talk) 05:23, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Sigh. Must I? :) The video clip I'm having trouble with is Ribbentrop#Trial and execution. I don't know how to describe this without it taking up a lot of text, and since it's a newsreel there's already accompanying audio commentary, so I was thinking I could just do something like "See commentary" in this situation, as mentioned in the Wikipedia:Alternative text for images#Placeholders section.
One cannot assume that the reader can hear the video. The reader could be hearing-impaired. As it happens, I am currently using a browser with no audio capability whatsoever; my display device doesn't even have a speaker. I can see the video, though, and it does communicate useful info that's not in the adjacent text. For starters, it has a prominent text title "21 NAZI CHIEFS GUILTY" that should be in the alt text as per WP:ALT#Text. I suggest a brief summary of the video's contents (say, 40 to 60 words, including the title; 100 words would definitely be too much). Also, it would be helpful to put into the file description page a text transcript of the video; I realize this will be some work and goes well beyond what WP:ALT requires, but you did ask, and in my current state of not being able to hear the video I can attest that it would be quite useful. I added a paragraph to WP:ALT#Videos about this. Eubulides (talk) 20:03, 31 August 2009 (UTC)


So how are you ladies and gentlemen making this "guideline" more applicable? The only thing I see so far is more self-assured absurdities about furniture being "elegant" and people gazing "commandingly", and now the utterly absurd command to textualize audio clips. I therefore have to assume that the technique applied here is "ignore all objections and keep at it as if nothing happened". Which means that, at this point in time, applying the "guideline" is not only unintelligent, it's also demeaning. Dahn (talk) 21:23, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

Specific suggestions for improving the guideline are welcome. The only thing I gleaned from the previous comment is a criticism of the alt text suggested for Image:Jacques-Louis David 017.jpg in WP:ALT#Verifiability; if this can be turned into a specific suggestion for improving the wording example there, that would be helpful. Eubulides (talk) 22:12, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
This answer is precisely an illustration of the "ignore all objections..." system I outlined above. I do believe I have repeatedly told you that even attempting this kind of description veers into the trivial and subjective. You want a specific suggestion beyond that? "A portrait of Napoleon" or, at most, "A portrait of Napoleon standing" should do. The rest is testing the limits of what wikipedia is all about, and creating a playground for users who want to say how images make them feel. Dahn (talk) 23:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the specific suggestion. I changed the example wording in the brief version to "Full length portrait of Napoleon standing", which is pretty close to what you requested. In the longer version that edit also removed the "commandingly" and "elegant" that you objected to earlier in this thread. Eubulides (talk) 23:34, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Am I going to have to do this with and for every picture, or do we now both see the slippery slope that comes with letting users apply this indiscriminately? Btw, version 2 is still outside reasonable limits, however you define those. Dahn (talk) 00:15, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
There is no slippery slope here, unless by "slippery slope" one means the sort of freedom that always exists under editorial judgment. The new alt text is somewhat terse but it is not unreasonable. Eubulides (talk) 00:53, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Nope. All other editorial judgments, which are not as loose as you would have us think, fold back on sources, not on the eye of the beholder. We've been through this. Dahn (talk) 02:19, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Like I told you before, this kind of comment is destructive.
There are still issues to be fixed, but they can't for now because Mediawiki is bad at producing accessible images. So we still have the hard part of the work left, which is to improve Mediawiki itself. If we do it right, the caption could actually be enough for most of the thumbnail images, and the decorative thumbnail images could finally have an empty alt. But of course, in order to do that we need to remove the link on the images, so we have to think about another way to link to the description file. I've been thinking about that for a while now, but I haven't got the right idea yet. Dodoïste (talk) 22:29, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
"Destructive"? Anyway: since these are supposed to be the exception, and not the rule (unless this is something which just surfaces in conversation from time to time), surely you could replace this whole pointless and unfathomable "guideline" with a non-binding small project/taskforce, where you could simply work on each and all example of where alt text "should" be applied, and just stop thinking about it as a default option for regular images. This provided the "essential" info users are missing is not that Napoleon has a commanding gaze or whatnot (people, we've been through this). Dahn (talk) 23:18, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
Yes, we have been through this, and the task force suggestion is a reasonable one. I'm not much of a task-force person; I've never been a member of one and don't particularly want to start now. However, any editors who which to form one are certainly welcome to. Wikipedia could definitely use the help. Eubulides (talk) 23:34, 31 August 2009 (UTC)
No, you're missing the main part of the point. This, the page we're discussing, is a guideline. This means that, defiant of objections, it stands as a requirement for FAs (and is was already questioned there and here, over and over again). That in turn means that, if one has an FA coming, someone can block the FA nomination by simply invoking this admittedly shoddy guideline, until it fits a specification that can be stretched to mean anything. This happens while the very people who came up with this guideline have no clear idea of what and how they would want applied.
Now, instead of this constrictive and self-contradictory guideline, which is effectively imposed on all of us for the possible benefit of a few (at best, on principle it may help some in some cases), and which seemingly relies on some esoteric knowledge of what is necessary and where (namely, your esoteric knowledge), I have proposed to turn this vision into a project. A non-binding project, where you and like-minded individuals can start sorting out the minority cases where this is actually needed (as opposed to proclaiming that it's needed as a rule, which it patently isn't), and begin doing it yourselves instead of spending eternity defining inapplicable generic criteria that some 98% of wikipedia could actually do without. The other 2% is actually manageable by a task force. (And I'm gonna refrain from commenting on the irony of you disliking taskforce work but creating a new "guideline" midway through the project.) Dahn (talk) 00:15, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Objections were raised when alt text was made a requirement for FAs, as they were raised for pretty much every FA requirement, but a consensus process was followed and they were eventually added by consensus. There is no need to replace the WP:ALT guideline with the task force; it would be helpful to have multiple ways of supporting the same goal of WP:ACCESSIBILITY. The comment "on principle it may help some in some cases" seems to ignore the evidence presented in Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates/archive39 #Alt text helps the visually impaired. I suggest avoiding wording like "your esoteric knowledge"; talk-page comments should be about content, not the contributor. I am becoming inclined to agree with Dodoïste that this thread is not helping the encyclopedia. Eubulides (talk) 00:53, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
Consensus can change, and I do believe that what you call consensus only reflects part of the debate.
"There is no need to replace the WP:ALT guideline with the task force; it would be helpful to have multiple ways of supporting the same goal of WP:ACCESSIBILITY." Do you really not see the need? And, at long last, would you stop misconstruing my words to read like I'm suggesting ways to proliferate this "guideline"? As for the tedious link to the discussion page, it proves just that "on principle" - as stated, the one example you could find of a person citing this as helpful is for an article where the appearance of the bridge should have been mentioned, in plain terms, within the article itself.
I am not commenting on contributor, I am stating facts: this page looks like it does because you think it should look like this, things are claimed to be helpful when you claim they are helpful, and subtleties are decided upon by you. Don't worry: it could be just about any user, attempting the same futile task in whatever way, with similar results - because there is something innately flawed in how this guideline was conceived and is defended, and it will be flawed as long as humans will be humans. In plain terms, this is pushing a square figure through a round hole, and the only rationale yet for why we should even attempt that is your esoteric knowledge. Your esoteric knowledge about why it's important to say that a woman is smiling, your esoteric knowledge about the importance of hockey players having "serious expressions", your esoteric knowledge about the significance a "Brutus haircut" must have for a blind man, etc. I cannot but personalize this, as long as it's you who added the absurd descriptions, you who kept them, you who defend them, and you who will change some but not all. Yes, it could be just about anyone else performing the same experiment, but it so happens that it's you.
And I'd thank you for not ignoring this point this time around as well: transforming this into an FA guideline has effectively made it everyone's business to follow up on your arbitrary and non-transparent decisions of what is and isn't necessary, of what is good and what is better, but you won't even create a system in which the burden falls on those who want to apply this. No, it falls on everybody, even those who see its manifest problems (and, no, this is not the case with any other guideline).
"I am becoming inclined to agree with Dodoïste that this thread is not helping the encyclopedia." As opposed to shutting all windows and doors and going on with this experiment, I suppose. Dahn (talk) 02:19, 1 September 2009 (UTC)


well I haven't been in Wikipedia in recent times but this is really, really new to me. I always knew that there was a vauge guideline to add alt text to images but making it mandatory was off the charts for me. My syphomies go to the visually impaired but as mentioned before it seems like another chore in many ways. A few questions:

  1. Is there going to be a push to try and get all pages alt-ized?
  2. When exactly did this become?
  3. Most importantly, at least for me, can a FA or FL be failed because it contains no alt text? Is this now a cross-wiki guidline for all pages?

In my opinion this usability initiative thing going on is pushing the envelope a little o_o. A Wikipedia fork and new guidelines is a bit much to take in at once. ResMar 18:22, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

Oh my. I don't like the direction this is going. You want to change Wikimedia so that it works better with this? And admittedly no one will, sorry to say, give a crap about this guideline, because unless you're doing an FA or FL, it doesn't matter as Wikipedia guidelines are mostly non-binding.

...But its a guideline...a binding guideline...ResMar 18:31, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

BTW. For this to work you're going to have to change 90% of the templates on Wikipedia. And can we make it so that the alt only displays when the image fails instead of when you put your cursor over it? Cause that's just plain silly. ResMar 18:42, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Support for alt text was added to the MediaWiki software last October, the WP:ALT guideline was updated a couple of months later, and it has been required for FLs since June 23 and for FAs since July 1.
  • In theory an FA or FL can be failed purely because of missing alt text. As far as I know this has never happened for FAs. (I don't follow FLs much.) Generally speaking, editors have been willing to add alt text and the issue hasn't come up. For example, if you take a look at the five featured-article nominations just before yours, three had alt text before being nominated, and two editors added alt text soon after being asked (I presume they also didn't know about the newer requirement). It's not a big deal in practice.
  • As far as I know there is no systematic effort to add alt text to all 5,367,598 articles in English Wikipedia. It'd be quite a large job to do it all at once. However, alt text is being added to many articles; the effort is certainly not limited to featured articles and lists. And please bear in mind that featured articles are supposed to represent the best of what Wikipedia can do, including the best accessibility for visually-impaired readers.
  • Every template used by recently featured articles has already been updated to support alt text (assuming it didn't support alt text already). It's not that hard to update templates in this way; please see WP:ALT#Writing the text for more.
  • Unless you're running IE7 or earlier (which has a bug that is fixed in IE8 or later), the tooltip displayed when you hover the mouse over the image is the title attribute, not the alt attribute. So your request to improve the behavior will be granted once you upgrade your browser. For more on this, please see WP:ALT#Appearance.
Eubulides (talk) 18:50, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
So the point here is to ignore the historical and anecdotal reference and focus on describing the image? (for example, "Napolean standing at his desk" no, but "An aged man in his thirdies with blah blah style haircut standing at a desk (I know that's a bad example but I don't feel like writing a good one). With this type of model i simply do not see how one can be pressed to elaborate as well. In addition this seems to be geared almost comepletely towards screen readers; how useful is "man-in-his-thirdies" when your image doesn't load? Or if your images are off? If this is to work it should focus on all three of its goals instead of the one that is of the greatest minority. I do not find this model to be insanely useful. While its obvious that my argument was lost I must question how useful "a three story building" or "a middle aged man" really is. ResMar 23:46, 4 September 2009 (UTC)
  • "So the point here is to ignore the historical and anecdotal reference" No, useful historical or anecdotal info should not be ignored. The point is that useful info like that should be put into the caption or other adjacent text, so that sighted readers can see it too. Another way to put it is that alt text should not be the only place containing a useful piece of information.
  • "focus on describing the image" Yes, alt text should focus on the visual impression given by the image; please see WP:ALT#Essence.
  • "I know that's a bad example but I don't feel like writing a good one). With this type of model i simply do not see how one can be pressed to elaborate as well." The best examples are real images in real articles. In your 00:29, 5 September 2009 comment below, you give a real example (thanks); I'll follow up there, to help illustrate how this is done.
  • "In addition this seems to be geared almost comepletely towards screen readers" Please see #Ah, but this isn't all about the visually impaired is it? below.
Eubulides (talk) 05:21, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

Ah, but this isn't all about the visually impaired is it?

The only question is whether editors should bother to aid the visually impaired. Eubulides (talk) 17:43, 5 August 2009 (UTC)

Graham87 was saying that alt text is useful in describing a logo, for example. But in many of the examples we've seen of alt text, if not most, the descriptions are often quite unhelpful. The example I gave above was describing Immanuel Kant as a man in a wig looking to his right, or Clare College Cambridge as a three-storey building. It's hard to see how that would help someone, and yet this is what you're arguing should be essential for FA. The issue is that it's yet another stylistic burden on FA writers, when people are arguably already overloaded, and in an article with a lot of images that are tricky to describe well, it adds quite a bit of extra work. -SlimVirgin

Ah, but this isn't all about the visually impaired is it? The greater majority of those who this is useful to are those whos images don't load or who turn off or have no images on their browsers. I have to agree that it's another stylistic load on FAers, and that it should be relagated to a less important role, like "you are required to add appropriate alt texts to your images" instead of "you will add alt texts to your images and we will oppose if it is not satisfactory enough."

It's quite vauge what you want to get out of this, exactly. And it's obvious that you're playing by Graham's assesment to make this is a blind-man thing when the guideline itself states in its goal that It should also make sense in a graphical browser with images turned off, and it should fit with the surrounding text when viewed with a text-only browser. I cannot fathom this focus on the visually impaired. (by the way this paragraph is a seperate argument, not against the guidelin-ability of this but against the stess put on the visually impaired). ResMar 00:07, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

3D rendering showing the seamount's oblong shape.
3D rendering of the Seamount.
And since you stress examples so much and your defense argument will most likely rest on how I present no evidence, here's some evidence for you. Now on my FAC you tell me that several of my alts are copied from the captions. True enough. Although I was never very good at debating I see a fatal flaw in your arguments. You told me that I best change the caption to the following: A north-south ridge, trending slightly east of south. Pele's Pit, at its peak, is about 1000 meters below sea level; further south the ridge gradually descends about 3500 meters to the sea floor. My problem with that is that this advice goes against the guidelines you yourself wrote. For the flag of Mali the page recommends that you alt it Vertical tricolor flag (green, gold, red). So in your first guideline you write that I must elaborate on the image further with information that is unique, not copied from the article or the caption, but in the guideline itself you require one to describe the image itself not give any information about it? Bull. you follow a conflicted line of argument that changes with the image and there are no, and should be no, direct guidelines on what's what. I remain to understand wether you want us the describe the image or to give information about it. And skwirm your way out of the vise as you may try, it is an impossible and impractical line of thought to follow. Decide upon one or the other. You seem to adapt from one to the other when the situation seems fit. So tell me:which one is which? What do we follow? ResMar 00:29, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
Ah I never stated what I meant with the image. The caption is a simple word combination that gives a basic description of the image. There is no anecdotal or historical signifigance to discuss otherwise, and it does not draw any geographical conclusions. Thus one is hard-pressed to come up with an alt that is both unique from the article (I do not like witholding information from the text body, we do it enough with captions already, which are far more important then alts) yet states the exact same basic thing without being simalar to the caption, and I am hard pressed to push past making a "different enough" version. In addition I am to question wether you want to "link" the two, as you said on my FAC that it must "elaborate" upon the image, WHICH THE CATPION ALREADY DOES. ResMar 00:35, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
...However, its changes to the other alt text entries did not address the repetition problem. For example, for Image:LoihiBathemetric.jpg a screen reader will read the alt text and caption aloud, resulting in something like "Link Bathymetric mapping of Lōʻihi, with an arrow pointing to Pele's Pit in the center. Link Bathymetric mapping of Lōʻihi; the arrow points to Pele's Pit." (alt text italicized); the repetition obviously is not helping the visually impaired. (Please see WP:ALT#Repetition for more details about this.)...Eubulides (talk) 22:32, 4 September 2009 (UTC)

You're right. It's not useful at all. Here your solution was to give geological points of the image. Strike two for the anti-guideline. Now I get what you want. you propose two different systems for two different types of images. For those that already do the alt's "supposed job" you want us to add "unique" information, whilst fot those like a potrait caption, only mentioning the potrait's name and year of creation, you want us to describe in extensive detail the potrait. Please tell me how that is NOT contrary. In addition I am to think that perhaps just not leaving an alt with my first example is better since the caption already does the job. ResMar 00:44, 5 September 2009 (UTC)

  • "Ah, but this isn't all about the visually impaired is it?" Correct. Although visually impaired readers benefit the most, other readers also benefit. For example, as you mention, people on low-bandwidth connections can look at the alt text to decide whether to click and retrieve the image. These other usages for alt text benefit from the same alt text that screen readers benefit from.
  • "I cannot fathom this focus on the visually impaired." The impression I got from earlier discussions on this topic, as well as from reliable sources on alt text, is that support for visually impaired readers was the most important reason for alt text.
  • "'you are required to add appropriate alt texts to your images' instead of 'you will add alt texts to your images and we will oppose if it is not satisfactory enough'" The featured article criteria merely require "brief and useful alt text when feasible", and this is all that is being asked for. Please don't assume the worst about the process. I don't know of anybody who has ever opposed a featured article nomination purely on alt text grounds. The requirement is not that much work in practice.
  • "It's quite vauge what you want to get out of this, exactly." The stated objective for alt text is in WP:ALT#Goal. What is vague about that section, exactly? Can you suggest specific wording that would make it less vague?
  • "this advice goes against the guidelines you yourself wrote... So in your first guideline you write that I must elaborate on the image further with information that is unique" No, WP:ALT never says that the information must be unique. On the contrary, WP:ALT#Brevity explicitly says "As it is not meant to be a unique identifier for an image, alt text typically does not supply enough information to characterize an image unambiguously." However, I see now that WP:ALT's first example, which used the flag of Mali, was a bit too simple, and gave the reader the misimpression that alt text should uniquely characterize the image. I have tried to address the problem by substituting a more real-world example, a photo of a Danish flag flying, taken from Flag's lead. I hope this helps to clear up the confusion that is evident in the "two different systems for two different types of images" comments above. There is just one system, not two.
  • Much of the commentary above is about Image:LoihiBathemetric.jpg, and yet the image shown above is File:Loihi 3d.gif, a different image. It's not clear to me why the mismatch is present; perhaps you intended to show the former image instead of the latter?
Eubulides (talk) 05:21, 5 September 2009 (UTC)
  • Flag: better I guess; see below.
  • FA reviewers are forceful to death that's why. <(o.0>) I see now its actually CLEAR what you want. Null point.
  • Yes but you're more likely to see a low-bandwidth or text browser user so I STILL don't like that it focuses on the visually impaired, with these two as a secondary thing. They should at the least be equal.
  • Ah, well actually it doesn't matter because this image is follows the same point as that image, but I just read See caption so ok this is a null point.
Better. ResMar 12:34, 5 September 2009 (UTC)


Should every image of an article have an alternative text? Felipe Menegaz 16:22, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Purely decorative images should not have alt text (or a link); other images should all have alt text. Please see WP:ALT#Purely decorative images for details. Eubulides (talk) 19:17, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Identifying articles with images without alt & getting them into cleanup listings

I suspect there are hundreds of thousands of articles with millions of images lacking ALT text. Would it be possible to get a bot (or similar mechanism) to label them in some way (not visible to readers - similar to the way User:Erik9bot tags article lacking references) and them puts them into a category, or using Template:Alt text missing to put them in Category:Unclassified articles missing image alternate text. If the article is also tagged by a wikiproject this should enable them to be included in project cleanup lists and may encourage editors to add alt text to images in areas in which they have an interest/expertise.— Rod talk 10:43, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

I'm sure a bot like that could be written. However, I'd guess the vast majority of articles would be in the new category: would such a category be useful? Eubulides (talk) 13:51, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Since I suggested it, User:Erik9 has submitted a bot request for approval to do this at Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval/Erik9bot 12 for discussion. I think it would be useful as the wkiproject banners would enable the mega category to be parceled up to relevant wikiprojects - it would also give a better idea of the scope of the task.— Rod talk 18:46, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

Garbo descriptions in ALT text

I was not under the impression that when writing ALT text, we should be inserting POV wording such as "breathtakingly beautiful" or "beautiful". These descriptions should be as neutral and descriptive as possible without interjecting our POV interpretation of someone's beauty. Garbo may be breathtakingly beautiful, but it is not for an encyclopedia to determine. I also have a bit of a problem with one person rewriting the description to match his or her own POV wording in policies/guidelines. This tends to endorse the POV wording officially. That's simply a no-no. Wildhartlivie (talk) 00:36, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

It seems pretty picky to argue over whether Garbo should be described as "beautiful", but I couldn't resist following up in Talk:Greta Garbo #Was Garbo beautiful?. Eubulides (talk) 01:17, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
I posted this here in order to generate discussion regarding the description being used. It may seem picky to you, but I do stand by my statements. Using a description that references great beauty, breathtaking beauty, etc., is POV. I understand that you are very active in promoting and including ALT text for images, but it needs to be neutral. Your arguments about her beauty on the Garbo talk page are POV and including such descriptions in an encyclopedia in this way are simply not neutral. Was she breathtakingly beautiful? Perhaps, perhaps not. Beauty is POV, describing someone in such glowing terms is POV. And as an aside question, does saying that actually explain to a visually impaired person helpful? The Garbo article indicates that she was once considered the most beautiful woman who ever lived by Guiness Book, but that is POV. Wildhartlivie (talk) 01:44, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
I have followed up at Talk:Greta Garbo #Was Garbo beautiful?; there's no point having the same discussion in two places. Eubulides (talk) 03:36, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
The consensus there was to avoid "beautiful" and similar peacock terms, so I added that here. Eubulides (talk) 22:19, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

"Deep-set eyes" is not peacock

In response to the "avoid peacock terms" change described in the previous thread, Dahn (talk · contribs) immediately made a series of edits removing phrases like "deep-set eyes". None of these phrases are listed in WP:PEACOCK and none of these obviously-controversial changes have been discussed recently on this talk page. Perhaps there are some peacock phrases in there, but that doesn't justify installing obviously-controversial changes that go far beyond peacock terms. Please follow the Wikipedia:BOLD, revert, discuss cycle and discuss controversial reverted changes, to gain consensus, rather than simply reinstalling them without comment here. Pending further discussion I have reverted to the longstanding wording. Eubulides (talk) 22:46, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

Actually, I recall having discussed these issue of your subjective and irrelevant assessments several times by now, and, granted, I'm not about to do so every time you come up with a new example that fails the test of consistency. Passing your opinion and personal preference into texts is surely not the way to go here. In fact, I recall (and can cite from above) examples of exactly the same kind of wording that you have agreed to remove - is a new comment on every single example the only way of introducing some neutral wording on this page, or do you aim to exhaust me by pretending it is?
And there's not much "longstanding" about your version: the example keep changing again and again, and you seem to appeal to "tradition" and "consensus" only when it allows you to preserve a flawed version. Dahn (talk) 22:54, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
The addition of the advice about peacock terms was by consensus. This is distinct from the older discussion about more-general issues, a discussion that did not reach consensus. The example alt text discussed in this thread has been in place since the August 28 version, with no controversy when it was added and zero comments about it since then. Further comments in improving the alt text are welcome, but installing controversial changes without discussion is not likely to lead to consensus improvements. Eubulides (talk) 23:09, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
I have objected to at least one section that was unchanged in between the versions, as you can read from above. What's more, I have repeatedly called attention to the principle of not doing that, with completely random responses for you (between removing some POV wordings and stonewalling with claims that others are justified) and then a veiled invitation to leave this talk page because my comments are no longer constructive. And, in all honesty, I had grown tired of pointing out manifest flaws to be met by your indifference. In the meantime, I note several users raised similar objections, though it doesn't seem to me that anyone other than me has so far looked over the entire page, to see how many more of the "better alt text" examples are outside the scope and meaning of encyclopedic information. Again, expecting users to comment on all the versions you edit some POV into and claiming that new consensus should be created just because you believe an exception should be made for those terms is just unrealistic. Dahn (talk) 23:26, 15 September 2009 (UTC)
IMHO, a point of VIEW would be essential in describing an image to a blind person. What better way to paint an image in ones mind than to use descriptive words such as "beautiful" where they can then imagine a beautiful woman in their mind. That's the whole goal isn't it? Not to inform with facts but describe from the point of view of someone who can actually SEE the image. So I don't see how the POV policy would apply here. -- œ 01:05, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
So you're telling me a blind person would find useful that you regard x or y person as "beautiful", "commanding" whatnot, and I assume you imply that all of us who can see relate to these things in the same way. I'm sorry, but I for one find nothing objective in that argument. (And, btw, in cases where such attributes are in any way relevant to the articles, nobody is opposing their mention in the article text, where they could and should be based on quotes and citations.)
You're also telling me that this induction of subjectivity is "the whole goal". I fear you may be right. I fear this entire project revolves around subjectivity and (paradoxically condescending) claims that describing one's subjective impression is relevant to blind people. That is the laudable ambition of poets, but it has nothing to do with writing an encyclopedia. At least not a modern encyclopedia.
I also fear that the opposition to removing subjective assessments from alt samples is motivated not as much by the "need" to "explain" something (I can't honestly believe that editors can be as self-righteous as to assume their personal opinions help an entire category of people), but by the awareness that, once that sort of clutter is removed, the questionable use of most alt texts is exposed in its nakedness. For instance, once we remove the descriptions of the impression a woman's face makes on a user and the extraneous details, we are very often with one-liners that repeat info which is or could be detailed in the text/caption. (Btw, note how the alts go into describing facial features, around the naive notion that this is info someone would be looking for, but drop in a "Brutus haircut" and "Edwardian collar-cameo", like these automatically mean something to a blind user.)
Lastly: the policies and guidelines are clear, regardless of opinion. Asking that we make an exception to them on grounds that blind people can be enlightened by our POV is simply not worth considering. Dahn (talk) 03:47, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
Please see #The policies and guidelines are clear below. Eubulides (talk) 04:34, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

The policies and guidelines are clear

  • "the policies and guidelines are clear, regardless of opinion. Asking that we make an exception" Nobody is asking for exceptions.
  • "I have objected to at least one section that was unchanged in between the versions, as you can read from above." Sorry, I don't see that objection, which your comment did not specifically identify. But this justification would apply to only part of the change, no? And an objection weeks ago, which did not reach consensus, and has been followed by many edits and other discussion, hardly counts as an adequate justification now for abruptly and controversially changing examples.
  • "I have repeatedly called attention" Yes, and those comments have not reached consensus. Repetition is not consensus.
  • "a point of VIEW would be essential in describing an image to a blind person" Exactly. There is no such thing as not having a point of view. WP:NPOV does not require that alt text be written from no point of view, or that it must eliminate subjectivity, or anything like that.
  • "So you're telling me a blind person would find useful" Yes, we have had feedback from a blind person saying that this sort of alt text is useful. We've been through this.
  • "we are very often with one-liners that repeat info which is or could be detailed in the text/caption." That way of writing alt text is perfectly acceptable to the guideline; please see WP:ALT#Placeholders. Please feel free to write alt text that way, when you write an article. But please don't impose this style on every editor, as most editors seem to disagree with you.

Eubulides (talk) 04:34, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

    • Nobody is asking for exceptions. Yes, they are. Above, I'm even being told (and that's what I was answering to): "So I don't see how the POV policy would apply here."
    • those comments have not reached consensus No. Those comments have been ignored by you, and you kept repeating yourself that they are important (they must be, because you wrote them). Even when Dodoiste agreed with me and removed them, it was you who reverted. Not that surprising, since it took you forever to even acknowledge that clear peacock terms should not be used, and since now you claim you haven't even seen those comments. Masquerading that as consensus is mockery.
    • WP:NPOV does not require that alt text be written from no point of view, or that it must eliminate subjectivity, or anything like that. That argument is a joke. For one, as you know full well, NPOV applies to each and every aspect of writing an encyclopedia, without cause for ruling on every little (and novel) aspect. It is outside common sense that you sit here and tell me your playground, created in the meantime, is not subject to a policy/guideline because you were able to write it in the meantime.
    • Yes, we have had feedback from a blind person saying that this sort of alt text is useful. Please don't insult people's intelligence. The feedback you had was not for peacockery, and it's a logical, not empirical, argument that the usefulness of your poetic sense to a blind person is zero. We've been through this.
    • That way of writing alt text is perfectly acceptable to the guideline For one, I'm getting pretty tired of seeing you cite yourself. This is not a question of style, it's a question of applying policies - once the policies are applied, the redundancy and (at times) puerility of alt texts is exposed. As for writing alt text "when I write an article" - I simply won't write it all, unless the image does indeed provide abstract info, and I urge all editors to do the same. most editors seem to disagree with you. - yeah, right... Dahn (talk) 12:11, 16 September 2009 (UTC)
  • "NPOV applies to each and every aspect of writing an encyclopedia" Yes, WP:NPOV is a policy about everything that appears in articles. But this does not contradict what I wrote. Again, WP:NPOV does not require that alt text (or anything else in an article) be written from no point of view, or that all subjective information should be removed from alt text (or anything else in an article), or anything like that.
  • "The feedback you had was not for peacockery" That's correct. I was not referring to peacockery. I was referring to the feedback we've had, which has been positive.
  • "'I don't see how the POV policy would apply here.'" That is not asking for an exception. It is saying that he doesn't see how POV policy would apply to the specific point in question. Even though WP:NPOV is policy about article content, it does not govern every aspect of an article. As a trivial example, WP:NPOV doesn't care whether an article uses inline citations or general citations; it simply doesn't apply to that question.
  • "This is not a question of style, it's a question of applying policies" We're all in agreement that policies should be followed.
Eubulides (talk) 17:59, 16 September 2009 (UTC)

Default Alt text

I understand that the alt text depends on the context (article) in which the image is used. However in many cases the same alt text could be used in different articles. Not sure if it is technically possible, but I propose to have a default alt text which is connected with the image (on commons or wikipedia). This default should be over-writable with an "|alt=" directive in cases where the default does not match the context.

A problem could appear if somebody changes the alt text on commons, which could affect many uses of the image on wikipedia and could mess up the context. To avoid this, either have the default text included automagically at the time of adding a picture to a wikipedia article, or allow for the option of having multiple default alt texts on commons which could be selected from. What do you think about this proposal? bamse (talk) 13:46, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

It's a good suggestion, and is briefly discussed at the end of WP:ALT #History. Eubulides (talk) 17:49, 20 September 2009 (UTC)
I see. Hope it will be implemented. bamse (talk) 18:59, 20 September 2009 (UTC)

Template needing formating

Template:Infobox college football player needs alt text formating for use at Tate Forcier and many other places.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:LOTM) 00:40, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

done. Eubulides (talk) 03:05, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Some problems and suggestions

Firstly, where am I coming from? I have a blind parent, have worked as a house parent to blind children, and have many years of experience writing and conducting cultural tours for blind (and sighted) people. If alt captions are written for the blind, then they really need to meet their needs.

  • Although Wiki strives to be neutral and factually accurate and dismisses descriptive language as "Point of View" and "Peacock", this type of language is often exactly what a blind person needs in order to "visualise" or comprehend the image. To say that a photo potrait of Vincent van Gogh shows a "Black and white image of a man with curly hair seen from the shoulder up wearing a suit and tie" is meaningless. To say that a "formal portrait of the artist shows him with ill-kempt hair and a wary, watchful expression" is interpretive, but it also useful because it conveys a picture. That is what we are about, in writing alt captions.
Several very poor examples are cited on this project page as "good examples". The staircase in the Vatican is a very poor example. The writer has merely attempted to give the dimensions, with no real description of the object itself. The measurments convey very little to many sighted people and even less to most blind ones. To say that the spiral staircase is of "vast size" is much more useful, because most spiral staicases are very narrow indeed. In this case "big" or even "enormous" are not enough to convey the impression of this very unusual structure. "Vast" is a single word that conveys the sense of the photograph.
Engraving of Charles Dickens
Mezzotint of Ada Lovelace
  • Editors need to really "look hard" before they attempt to describe anything. I have deleted some absolute twaddle from alt descriptions, simply because the editor had mistaken a blob or a scratch on the image for an object, or had attempted to decribe something they knew nothing about.
  • In the case of a symbolic object getting the description exactly right is important. If the editor writes that an angel is handing a saint a "small branch" or "a bunch of leaves" or "some foliage" then the meaning of this interaction is lost to any blind person. If the angel is handing the saint a "palm frond" then this is what needs to be said. I urge editors to look hard and identify things accurately. If you can't identify the symbolic object yourself, then ask another editor, or look it up.
  • Wikipedia has experts in almost everything. Descriptions of the hairstyles and costume worn by people in photos are often inadequate or wrong. If in doubt, go to a page about the costume of the period, find an appropriate editor and ask for help. This applies to many other areas of expertise.
  • If you are going to attempt to write alt captions about historic subjects then you need to be able to recognise the medium used for a particulr image. Both in Wikimedia Commons and in alt captions I repeatedly find printed pictures described are "drawings". The most common type of black and white image from the 18th and 19th centuries are steel engravings. They were used in papers, books and maps and are very common as text illustrations in older encyclopedias. Because they are linear they may be mistaken for a very careful and detailed drawings. These images are always linear. There was no way to print a largish flat black area by this technique. For this reason, all areas that in a photo or painting would appear black, in an engraving appear striped or hatched. I have just corrected two edits at Marshalsea that stated that men were wearing "a tweed jacket". The likelihood of their jackets being tweed rather than black broadcloth is remote. The mistake was caused by the writer's interpretation of the limitations of the printing technique by which the original image was created. Mezzotint is a printing technique that is particularly confusing because they can appear very smooth and photo-like.
  • Because the alt caption is "normally read before the picture caption", then the alt caption also needs to clearly state the subject.
Full length picture of man of about 35 in military uniform standing in interior followed by David's portrait of Napoleon is less useful than Full length portrait of Napoleon aged about 35, in military uniform standing in interior followed by David's portrait of Napoleon. Yes, it is a little repetitious, but it means that the blind person knows from the outset who is being described and doesn't have to wait until the end to find out which one of a hundred million people the military man might be.
  • Know when to omit a caption. Two men seated on a couch with two younger men seated on another couch (another "good example" drawn from the project page) is such a useless description that it would be better to leave it out altogether and let the quite lengthy picture caption stand alone.
  • State what the medium is. Is it a fresco, an oil painting, an altarpiece, a woodcut, an engraving, a drawing, a news image, a photo, a formal photo, a snapshot? Don't trust Wikimedia Commons to have the description correct for black and white images.
  • Images of artworks and complex subjects may require quite lengthy description.
  • Colours are important. Most blind people have been sighted. Many "clinically blind" people have residual sight. Many people who are totally blind from birth understand that different colours are associated with different concepts, and that a black jacket, a grey jacket and a bright yellow jacket all convey different things about the wearer. As do a grey sky, a blue sky and a red sky.
  • Don't treat blind people like fools. Presume that they will apply the information in the body of the article to an understanding of the pictures. If the article says that a beam engine has a pivotted horizontal beam at the top and a large flywheel driving a gear, then the alt caption to the accompanying picture does not need to describe the beam and the wheel again. It is sufficient to say that the photo shows a beam engine operating in a 19th century factory.

Amandajm (talk) 02:07, 10 October 2009 (UTC)

Thanks very much for your well-thought-out comments. I agree with most of them, and I'd like to use them to improve the project page. To help get started, is Image:VincentVanGoghFoto.jpg the van Gogh image mentioned in the 1st bullet? and is its context the Letters section of Vincent van Gogh? I'm asking because I'd like to use this as an example in the project page. Eubulides (talk) 06:49, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
Actually there are two photos of Vincent, one further down the page of him at thirteen.Amandajm (talk) 11:56, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
OK, but the alt text in your 1st bullet seems to be talking about the other one. I used that one to add a new subsection Neutral, not superficial that attempts to address the point raised by the 1st bullet's 1st paragraph. Does it do the job? Eubulides (talk) 02:16, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
  • "Several very poor examples are cited on this project page as "good examples". The staircase in the Vatican is a very poor example." Could you specify the other examples that are "very poor"? that would help improve the page. These examples are merely cited as being "better" than "flawed", which does not necessarily mean "good"; that being said, the "better" examples shouldn't have serious flaws. Anyway, the Vatican spiral example is one that I contrived merely to show lots of examples of unnecessarily tricky lettering. Ideally, of course, we'd have an example that is high-quality except for the lots-of-tricky-lettering cruft. I see that you've rewritten that alt text greatly in Vatican Museums, which makes it much better for the article it's in, but renders it unsuitable as an example of tricky lettering. I took the liberty of finding another occurrence of the same image, in Stairway, for which a briefer alt text with those numbers might be appropriate, and switched to that example, rewording the alt text to start with "Vast". Perhaps someone can think of a better example for illustrating the tricky-lettering point, if this is not good enough.
  • "Editors need to really "look hard" before they attempt to describe anything." I added a section Accuracy paragraph about accuracy to WP:ALT#Verifiability along those lines. The example there is perhaps not the best: do you have a specific example of an image with saints and palm fronds?
  • "State what the medium is" No, for most Wikipedia images mentioning the medium will cause more trouble (by wasting the reader's time) than it will cure. In the current featured article The Time Traveler's Wife, for example, the medium is irrelevant for three of the four images. The only image it's relevant for, File:Leandro Bassano - Penelope.jpg, is a 16th-century painting where medium is part of the artistic effect and is arguably important; the other images are all contemporary photographs and the phrase "Photograph of" wastes the reader's time. Even paintings do not always need to have their medium mentioned, if the focus of the article is on the object being painted and not on the style or painting. For example, it's fine that the alt text for the lead image of the featured article Battle of Grand Port focuses on the action depicted, and does not bother to mention that it's a painting, much less that it's oil on canvas.
Thanks again for the comments; I'll follow up later on some of the other points the comments raised. Eubulides (talk) 09:09, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
  • "Full length portrait of Napoleon aged about 35, in military uniform" WP:ALT#Verifiability already says that this alt text is OK, because Napoleon is iconic: most readers can be expected to know what he looks like. However, a more typical case is an image like this (taken from Daylight saving time):
Fuzzy head-and-shoulders photo of a 40-year-old man in a cloth cap and mustache.
G.V. Hudson invented modern DST, proposing it first in 1895.
[[Image:G.V.-Hudson-Auckland-Islands-Party.jpeg |thumb |107px |alt=Fuzzy head-and-shoulders photo of a 40-year-old man in a cloth cap and mustache. |[[George Vernon Hudson|G.V. Hudson]] invented modern DST, proposing it first in 1895.]]
The sighted reader will see the image first and won't know who it is, but will see the mustache, the cloth cap, and the approximate age of the illustrated person. The alt text is supposed to substitute for the image, so it replicates the experience of the sighted reader by repeating the information that the sighted reader sees. The sighted reader won't know the identity of the man in question, so the alt text shouldn't include the identity either. The man's identity is given in the caption, which the sighted and visually impaired reader both encounter after the image or its alt text.
More later. Eubulides (talk) 22:34, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
  • "I repeatedly find printed pictures described are 'drawings'" I attempted to address this by adding "do not call an image a drawing if it is actually an engraving or a woodcut". Further improvements are welcome. Eubulides (talk) 07:55, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
  • "Know when to omit a caption." I assume that you meant to write "Know when to omit alt text." However, the example you gave is of an image that has a function (namely, if you click on it something happens), and as per the W3C guidelines, it has to have some alt text, even if it's very brief and is a placeholder.
  • "Two men seated on a couch with two younger men seated on another couch (another "good example" drawn from the project page) is such a useless description" I attempted to improve this by replacing it with "Four men in suits, two middle-aged and two in their thirties, sit smiling around a glossy wood table. A photographer hovers in the background." The idea is to convey to the visually impaired reader the gloss of success that Bure achieved. Further suggestions for improvement are welcome.
  • "Images of artworks and complex subjects may require quite lengthy description." I added to WP:ALT#Brevity the qualifier "Although images of complex subjects may need long descriptions" before the general statement "alt text should be considerably shorter than a hundred words for all but the most detailed images".
More later. Eubulides (talk) 07:55, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
  • "Wikipedia has experts in almost everything." I added brief coverage of that topic to the 2nd paragraph in WP:ALT#Verifiability.
  • "Colours are important." Sometimes they are, sometimes they're not. I more often find that editors mention color when they shouldn't, than when they should. For example, the alt text for an image might say that it's a map where London is marked with a "red dot"; here, the color is irrelevant. Currently, the text in WP:ALT#Context says "For example, the alt text of the image at right might focus on the color of the officer's uniform in Blue, on the officer's hat in Peaked cap, and on the stone lion in Public art." This briefly mentions color as sometimes being important; if it would help to say more here, suggestion for specific wording improvement would be welcome.
  • "Don't treat blind people like fools." The example in that paragraph seemed to be pretty much a duplicate of the point made in WP:ALT#Repetition. If there's something deeper in there that I missed, please let us know.
Eubulides (talk) 06:51, 18 October 2009 (UTC)


I'm completely stumped as to how to write alt text for a graph like File:GFCrecord.jpg - how do I describe it? Would something like "A graph with X-axis values from 1 to 92 and Y-axis values from 1950 to 2008, with a line ranging from as low as 91 to as high as 31" really mean anything to a person who couldn't view the graph itself?

Yes, the point is not that alt text is a complete substitute for the image; it is that it is a partial substitute that is better than nothing. For that graph, the alt text you gave is OK. However, if the context is Gillingham F.C. #Statistics and records, it's better to use alt text that explains the graphical information in a form that is more useful textually for that context. So, something like "From 1950 to 2008 the position, on a scale from 1 to 92, was usually in the third quartile from the top. In three periods around 1960, 1970, and 1990 it was in the fourth quartile, and in one period around 2000 it was in the second." might be a bit better. Eubulides (talk) 19:53, 15 October 2009 (UTC)

Assistance request at World War I

None of the images in this article currently have ALT text. We're expecting very high readership over the next two weeks. Would an adept please consider helping us out? Thanks, LeadSongDog come howl 16:48, 30 October 2009 (UTC)

I took a brief look and fixed the only tricky bit that I saw, a gallery of videos. I also fixed {{World War I}}, which included some icons indirectly. The remaining images look fairly routine, but if you need help with a particular problem please drop a line here. Eubulides (talk) 17:21, 30 October 2009 (UTC)


I was wondering if someone could take a quick look at List of Parliamentary constituencies in Hertfordshire. Reading through the maps section here, I'm not too sure whether the maps would be considered as useful additions (not decorative but not essential, and therefore requiring very basic alt text), or if they assume readers' access to the map/knowledge of the area, and therefore need a comprehensive description. If its the latter, I was wondering if someone would be happy to do one or two as examples from which I can hopefully learn. Thanks in advance, WFCforLife (talk) 06:03, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

I think those little maps are useful, as most people won't know where the locations are without maps. Please see List of counties in New Jersey for some inspiration. Those alt text descriptions are relatively simple but give non-New-Jersey-experts a brief feel for where each county is. Please don't forget the alt text for the lead image. Eubulides (talk) 06:49, 8 November 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the link, that's a good inspiration (and not just for the alt text!). I've added a very brief alt text for the lead image. A longer alt text would normally be desirable, but I intend to substitute it for a prettier one in the near future anyway. Thanks again! WFCforLife (talk) 21:14, 8 November 2009 (UTC)

Gadget for jumping to file page

I would like to have a gadget that would let readers go more directly from an image to its file page, regardless of whether the image uses "|link=" to disable the link or to link to a different page. Is that something anyone reading this could contribute to? I've never written a gadget myself. Eubulides (talk) 23:47, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

It might be better to write a gadget that delinks decorative images. The only reason why we are delinking images is because of how some screen readers handle alt-less images. — Dispenser 05:51, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Yes, but the problem here isn't delinking the images, it's how to find the file page of an image that's already delinked. Suppose a reader sees a purely decorative image and wants to visit its file page. Currently they need to ask their browser for the image's URL, snag the URL's penultimate file name component "Flag_of_France.svg", manually construct the URL "", and go visit that. That's awkward; it'd be nicer if there was a simple interface to do that. Eubulides (talk) 06:00, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Delinking decorative images

I understand the problem that linked images cause for screen readers, but I don't like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How is one supposed to reach the image description page without a link? By viewing the page source and copy/pasting the file name into the search bar? Powers T 22:05, 16 November 2009 (UTC)

That's one way, but it's pretty awkward. I typically ask the browser to copy the link location and then paste from that. Or you can ask the browser for the image properties. Please see #Gadget for jumping to file page below for another possibility. Eubulides (talk) 23:47, 16 November 2009 (UTC)
There is no link with a location to copy; that's my whole point. And the image properties still require you to copy+paste it into the search bar. Powers T 13:12, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Maybe it's browser-specific? I was talking about Firefox. You mouse over the image, hold down the right mouse button, and select "Copy Link Image Location". Or, you mouse over the image and type "a" "o" while pressing the right mouse button. Admittedly it's not as convenient as it should be, which is why I proposed a gadget in the next thread. Eubulides (talk) 20:07, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
With Opera and Firefox: Mouse over the image, hold down the left mouse button, and move the image in the url bar. It will paste the url of the image, and bring you on the page. Dodoïste (talk) 22:58, 17 November 2009 (UTC)
Ah, but I don't want the URL of the image; I want the image description page, so I can see who created the work and what its licensing is. Powers T 15:16, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
  • To do that, you copy the link (using any of the techniques described so far). You'll get something like "". Manually remove all but the penultimate file name component, and replace "" with "en.wikipedia/wiki/File:"; this results in a URL to the file page "".
  • The problem is not limited to purely decorative images, by the way. It's also quite common in functional images. For example, {{Commons}} (used in 170,000 articles) uses an image File:Commons-logo.svg, but you can't get to that image's file page without using the technique described.
  • Admittedly the technique is awkward, which is why I propose a gadget in the next section. The idea is to handle the general problem, including {{Commons}} etc,, in a general way.
Eubulides (talk) 20:22, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Awkward to say the least, and as has been noted, problematic when the image is not public domain. I don't see "well we have that problem elsewhere too" as a legitimate argument in favor of the practice. Powers T 15:02, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
The licensing issue is discussed in WP:ALT. The argument in favor of the practice is WP:ACCESSIBILITY. There is no perfect solution here, but we shouldn't sacrifice the real needs of visually impaired readers to gain a minor advantage for editors. Eubulides (talk) 17:48, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
You're linking me to the very guideline I'm here to discuss. So now we're back to the beginning again: "I understand the problem that linked images cause for screen readers, but I don't like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How is one supposed to reach the image description page without a link?" (emphasis added) Powers T 19:51, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
I've described the procedure above. It is awkward, but it works. A less-awkward procedure is proposed in the next thread. Eubulides (talk) 05:55, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
I don't think either of those things is an acceptable substitute. Powers T 12:31, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
I'm using Firefox. If the link is removed, there is no link to "Copy Link Location". Look at the example in Wikipedia:Alternative text for images#Purely decorative images. I right-click on the Japanese flag, and because there is no link, there is no option on the right-click menu for "Copy link location". Powers T 15:16, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
Sorry, I should have written "Copy Image Location", not "Copy Link Location". I've corrected my comment above. Eubulides (talk) 20:22, 18 November 2009 (UTC)
This is still nonsense. Despite what you said, delinking the image violates the CC license if the author's identification DOESN'T appear in the image or metadata, which is often the case. One could argue that delinking the image may violate the license even if the licensing information does appear in the image or metadata, if relevant licensing is on the image's talk page. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 16:11, 22 November 2009 (UTC)
The previous comment appears to be based on a misunderstanding. Nothing in this discussion is about delinking images with a CC-BY-SA license. Furthermore, Purely decorative images does not say that such images should be delinked, unless the images themselves contain proper attribution, so I don't understand why the section was tagged. What wording in that section is being disputed? Is there some specific wording change you'd like to see installed? Eubulides (talk) 02:50, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Actually, when I added the "disputed" tag, your new recommendation was to delink "purely decorative images", regardless of license. The recommendation to delink is what I consider disputed. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 08:25, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
It appears I misread the text; it may have been set invisible (or screen-reader-only) at the time. A later paragraph does state that the link should be present if it's a CC-by-SA image, and the license requires it. Your (personal) semi-automatic removal of links doesn't check whether the license allows that, but that may just be your personal mistake, rather than an error in the document. I still think the recommendation is disputed, but it's not necessarily a license violation. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 08:33, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
That section has never set text to be invisible or screen-reader-only, as far as I know. I don't know what the phrase "Your (personal) semi-automatic removal of links" refers to: I don't have any bot or semiautomated tool that removes links. Anyway, whatever that phrase refers to, surely it has nothing to do with what's on this page. If there's a dispute, can you please state the dispute? Which wording in the page is incorrect, and what wording do you propose to replace it with? Eubulides (talk) 08:39, 23 November 2009 (UTC) (updated 09:04, 23 November 2009 (UTC))
The dispute is over the assertion that "link=" is to be preferred for "purely decorative images". It improves readability for screen-readers (but not for text-based browsers such as Lynx), but makes it more difficult to verify licensing problems, possibly leading to automated tools, such as Betacommandbot, removing the images in case of a licensing dispute. Furthermore, it's not at all clear to me that the authorship being in the metadata is adequate for the CC-BY-SA license, even if the required licensure is only the author's name. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 09:28, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
Please see #Delinking purely decorative images below. Eubulides (talk) 10:01, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Delinking purely decorative images

  • 'The dispute is over the assertion that "link=" is to be preferred for "purely decorative images".' That part of the guideline reflects wide consensus, established by the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, that purely decorative images should not be linked to. For example, please see section 1.1.1 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
  • "It improves readability for screen-readers (but not for text-based browsers such as Lynx)," It improves readability for Lynx as well. I just now checked it with Lynx by looking at the examples in the Purely decorative images section.
  • "possibly leading to automated tools, such as Betacommandbot, removing the images in case of a licensing dispute" Has that ever happened? If so, can you give an example? If not, can you explain why it might happen? (Sorry, I don't know about Betacommandbot.) (P.S. I just now looked into it, and User:BetacommandBot is blocked indefinitely, so this can't be a problem now. 10:10, 23 November 2009 (UTC))
  • "it's not at all clear to me that the authorship being in the metadata is adequate for the CC-BY-SA license" Nothing in CC-BY-SA requires that attribution must be via a URL to a file page. The license doesn't even mention attribution via URL. All it says is that attribution must be done somehow. Attribution within the image itself clearly satisfies this requirement. In fact, it satisfies the requirement better than a file page does, because it works even in the presence of other random links to the image (which need not be links hosted by Wikipedia). For example, if some other Web site has a URL to <> then Wikipedia servers will deliver up that image to whoever visits the URL, in clear violation of that image's license. Attribution within the image's metadata would fix that problem.

Eubulides (talk) 10:01, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

Betacommandbot was not the only WP:NFCC-enforcing bot. I don't know the status of such bots; it's possible that should a bot would remove those images where the licensing information (not the author's name) is not contained in the image metadata. The author's name (which is what would usually appear in the metadata) is clearly not adequate licensing information.
W3C is not Wikipedia, and there are clearly some W3C guidelines which are in violation of Wikipedia policies, so should not be done here. You would need to establish Wikipedia consensus for those parts of the W3C guidelines you want to include in Wikipedia guidelines, not just assert there is W3C consensus or a general Wikipedia consensus for the W3C guidelines. The present state of Wikipedia debate is that you added the guideline and have argued in favor, and I object to the removal of link=. Powers seems to have weighed in against it earlier in the above thread. No one else seems to have weighed in yet. That is not consensus in favor of overriding the default linkage by placing "link=". — Arthur Rubin (talk) 11:48, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
I agree that it is not at all clear that "attribution in the metadata" is sufficient. I certainly have no idea how to access that metadata to determine authorship. And it doesn't help the situation where a delinked image is encountered, anyway, as I, as a reader, have no way to determine whether the image is freely licensed or not, and if it is, under what license, without jumping through an unreasonable number of hoops. In other words: given the presence of image description pages, following the W3C guidelines in this case is not practical. Powers T 12:12, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
It was previously discussed at Wikipedia talk:Alternative text for images/Archive 3#Should we really be removing link from images?Dispenser 14:01, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
  • The idea that all media must go directly to the file page when you click on it, with no exceptions, flies in the face of many features that are commonly used in Wikipedia, and clearly does not reflect consensus on Wikipedia. If that idea were taken seriously, then <imagemap>'s default feature could not be used; nor could {{Pronounced}} be used; nor could <div style="position:..."> be used as is commonly done in navigational templates; nor the [[Media:]] feature; nor the |link1= feature of {{Multiple image}}; nor any of lots of other common usages in Wikipedia. Millions of uses of media files in Wikipedia do not go to their file page when you click on them: it simply cannot be that all these uses violate copyright, or violate Wikipedia consensus.
  • "it's possible that should a bot would remove those images" I suppose it's possible that a malfunctioning bot could do anything. But that's not a practical argument against purely decorative images.
  • "there are clearly some W3C guidelines which are in violation of Wikipedia policies" None of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines violate Wikipedia policies. And no such conflict is discussed in Wikipedia:Accessibility: on the contrary, that page cites the WAI guidelines, in multiple places, without mentioning any conflicts.
  • "You would need to establish Wikipedia consensus" That was done here, in earlier discussion. And consensus clearly exists for many other Wikipedia features, as described in the first bullet of this comment. The argument for supporting visually impaired readers is a strong one: it is not overcome by these relatively weak arguments about difficulty of auditing for copyright compliance.
  • "I, as a reader, have no way to determine whether the image is freely licensed or not" Any delinked image must be freely licensed. Nobody is arguing that non-free images should be displayed without links, and Wikipedia articles never display non-free images without links. If you like, we can add explicit text to that effect on this page, to address these concerns.
  • "and if it is, under what license, without jumping through an unreasonable number of hoops"" It's not an unreasonable number of hoops. It's a very simple process, which (as a result of this discussion) was recently documented in Help:File page #File page location.
  • "I certainly have no idea how to access that metadata to determine authorship." Copyright licenses such as CC-BY-SA do not require that attribution must be done in such a way that any reader can see the attribution without doing any work whatsoever. (If such were required, attribution via link-to-file-page would not suffice either, as many readers are completely unaware of these links.) All that's required is that attribution be done so that anyone seriously interested in finding out the author can do so, which is clearly the case when there's attribution in (say) a JPEG file's comment field.
  • Auditing images for proper attribution is much simpler than the process of auditing the text in a Wikipedia article for copyright compliance. Take, for example, the following sentence randomly chosen from today's featured article, Grover Cleveland: "Having succeeded in reversing the Harrison administration's silver policy, Cleveland sought next to reverse the effects of the McKinley tariff." This sentence was contributed under the CC-BY-SA, which requires attribution. OK, which Wikipedia editor contributed it, and when? To find that out, one must search through all 3,636 edits to that page until one finds the edit that contributed that sentence. This is a much more cumbersome process than the simple procedure documented in File page location for images.
  • "given the presence of image description pages, following the W3C guidelines in this case is not practical" This argument is backwards. File pages provide one way to attribute images; they are not the only way. The existence of one way to attribute images and satisfy W3C guidelines does not make it impractical to use other ways to achieve the same goals.
Eubulides (talk) 20:16, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
  • No comment on whether W3C guidelines are contrary to Wikipedia guidelines. I don't think they are, but I think you're misinterpreting Wikipedia guidelines (other than the one to which you just WP:BOLDly added the recommendation not to link.)
  • I should have said that it's likely a bot would correctly remove images where the license was found (even incorrectly) to be invalid. Not removing the link would make it easier to fix the problem.
  • The earlier discussion clearly did not establish consensus for removing the link for decorative images. The only arguments presented in favor or statements presented in agreement with it were by you.
  • A minor point; the author's name being in the image metadata does not mean that the licensing information is there. I tend to agree that anything in the metadata can be considered "attributed", but CC-by-SA may not appear in the metadata even if the author's name is. You seemed to be saying that the author's name in the metadata would be adequate licensing.
  • File pages provide the Wikimedia-preferred way to report licensing information; other links or URLs may be suitable attribution, but I don't see how a rewrite rule could be allowable unless it was specified somewhere in Wikipedia's licensing documentation.
  • Not here; describing the method in WP:CC-BY-SA or an equally visible page would be adequate.
  • Not there, either. The section you recently added, even if accurate, does not seem to provide an adequate pointer.
I suppose it needs to be said at least once; that I did not state that I disagreed with one of your statements does not mean that I agree with it. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 21:41, 23 November 2009 (UTC)
  • "You seemed to be saying that the author's name in the metadata would be adequate licensing." Sorry, I did not mean to imply that. The metadata should also contain a pointer to (or copy of) the license, if we want to support links from other web sites directly to a CC-BY-SA image. However, if all we want to support are links from Wikipedia pages, then it's OK for the metadata to omit the pointer to (or copy of) the license, since every Wikipedia page already contains a pointer to the CC-BY-SA license, and this satisfies that part of the licensing terms.
  • "No comment on whether W3C guidelines are contrary to Wikipedia guidelines. I don't think they are" OK, so (if I understand your comment correctly) we're in agreement on that point.
  • "it's likely a bot would correctly remove images where the license was found (even incorrectly) to be invalid" Sorry, I don't understand the scenario. At any rate, this appears to be a theoretical issue, as no such bot is in operation.
  • "The earlier discussion clearly did not establish consensus for removing the link" Sorry, I was referring to different discussions. Wikipedia:Media copyright questions/Archive/2009/July #W3C accessibility guidelines and image copyright notices established a consensus that it's OK to attribute via metadata in the file, and that public-domain images do not need links. I'm sure there are other discussions as well; there is longstanding consensus that public domain images do not need attribution links.
  • "I don't see how a rewrite rule could be allowable unless it was specified somewhere in Wikipedia's licensing documentation". That argument implies that attribution via file pages is not allowable because file pages are not specified anywhere in CC-BY-SA-3.0 (which they are not). But that would be an absurd conclusion, because that sort of attribution is obviously allowable. Thefore, the argument is not a valid one.
Eubulides (talk) 05:54, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
  • OK, concur that the image metadata is sufficient attribution, provided that all the required attribution is there. It seems to me that any URI required by the author per provision 4(c)(iii) would have to be included in the attribution we have, somehow. "To the extent practical" overrides W3C accessibility guidelines.
  • Immediately after BetacommandBot was banned, a version enforcing another (disputed) interpretation of WP:NFCC was created and run by non-controversial admins. However, it appears to depend on whether the licensing information properly appears in the File: section, rather than in the pointer, so it's not relevant to this discussion. My mistake.
  • It appears that we are finding fewer disagreements as time goes by. Perhaps you're correct. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 07:57, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
OK, thanks, I clarified the point raised above about non-free images, and removed the tag. If there's any further wording improvements that could help, please let us know. Eubulides (talk) 19:13, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Template:Infobox Theatre

Template:Infobox Theatre needs an alt text parameter for use at Jay Pritzker Pavilion.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:FOUR) 06:17, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Done. Eubulides (talk) 06:37, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

Image maps

How does one add ALT text to image maps? Jay Pritzker Pavilion and all the Millennium Park articles all have the same image map, which needs ALT text. Thanks in advance, Ruhrfisch ><>°° 05:46, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

I added a section Image maps to answer this question. Thanks for finding the hole in the guideline. Eubulides (talk) 10:11, 29 November 2009 (UTC)

Describing a book or publication

Several of the articles I've worked on contain the front pages of out-of-copyright books, newspapers, and pamphlets. How should we describe these with alt text? For instance, on Dick Turpin? Parrot of Doom 16:09, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

I added a suggestion for that to the Text section. Eubulides (talk) 20:06, 2 December 2009 (UTC)

Solution for WP:ROUTE diagram

As ALT text is growingly becoming the standard for FA. Transport articles which use the Wikipedia:route diagram template (WP:ROUTE or RDT) to draw the map got the problem that we have no solution for how to display the well written ALT text for the diagram. Simply put, the WP:ROUTE is a series of templates to build up a table by applying the proper icon images out of 3000+ and joining them cohesively which resembles a line map.

Should we consider the whole map is a "single image" and repeat the same ALT for each icon image or write different ALT text for each icon image individually? Thx -- Sameboat - 同舟 (talk) 02:19, 1 December 2009 (UTC)

I am following this up in Wikipedia talk:Route diagram template #Alt text in route diagrams. Eubulides (talk) 08:18, 1 December 2009 (UTC)
Today there seem to be only two railway icons which show what they represent when moused over, STR gives "Straight track" and HST gives "Stop". All the rest give "Unknown route-map component 'aAAa' " where aAAa is the icon. This is a new effect introduced without general notice and I think that, despite the WP rule "Do as you please", it should not have been sprung on users, even in such a limited experimental mode; it's no reply to say that it was discussed in the talk of some not generally read article. It may very well be a Good Thing to have alt text on these icons for some people but not at the loss of the icon name which can be useful when editing a map. Whatever might be the coding difficulties, to display either alt text or the icon name should be an option for the individual reader of the map. Of course given the ever increasing number of icons and their complexity and their ever changing names it looks as tho any alt text implementation would never be fully up to date. What succinct wording would describe xkKRZo+xl? "Straight track bridged over a crosswise straight track with a wee filling quasi-triangle of disused line in the driver's 'left hand' lower corner"?--SilasW (talk) 17:11, 19 December 2009 (UTC)
This issue is really more a matter for Wikipedia talk:Route diagram template, which as I understand it is standard place where such things are discussed; if this is incorrect, could you please let me know where it should have been discussed, so that I can put a notice there? Anyway, I am following up at Wikipedia talk:Route diagram template #Today there seem to be only two railway icons. Eubulides (talk) 18:26, 19 December 2009 (UTC)

Using "caption" attribute for alt text in infoboxes

Hey folks,

So {{infobox lake}} uses a hack which means that if either of the images included in the template don't have alt text specified, then this is derived from the image caption. I'm pretty sure that this is a bad idea (as caption text isn't likely to be useful as alt text in this case, and because it's going to result in duplicated text for screen readers) but I've been unable to convince Docu (talk · contribs), who is watching said template. I've implemented a compromise which at least allows for proper alt text to be specified for now, but any further input would be helpful. Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 09:39, 4 December 2009 (UTC)

Does alt text need to adhere to WP:ENGVAR ?

Some time ago, I added alt text to the images on John Lennon, noticing that they had none. Idly checking it again a few days ago, I noticed, a bit amused, that my "color"s and "center"s had become "colour"s and "centre"s.

I really don't care. I don't have need of alt text, and only see it occasionally when checking it on pages to which I've added it. But were these changes correct and/or necessary? Nosleep (Talk · Contribs) 21:48, 27 December 2009 (UTC)

I'd say alt text should follow WP:ENGVAR, if only to avoid pointless arguments. It's not as big a deal with alt text, since its primary purpose is to be read aloud. Eubulides (talk) 00:02, 28 December 2009 (UTC)

How to view alt text when editing?

Would it be appropriate to give or link to instructions about how to turn off images in popular browsers when editing alt text? Non-techy users might appreciate the advice. (Viewing the image properties is all very well, but turning off the images gives instant feedback.) It's pretty easy in Firefox and IE, but you do have to know what to look for.

EdJogg (talk) 10:48, 17 December 2009 (UTC)

Thanks, it can't hurt to give it a try; I added instructions for the latest Firefox (instructions for IE would also be welcome). Eubulides (talk) 17:25, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
I seem to be finding you plenty to do at present! I can't be certain about the most up-to-date versions of IE, as we are restricted to version 6 at work. Instructions for other common browsers are described below, although IE accounts for about 75% of total usage and Firefox about 20%. (Haven't got current figures.) In all cases it is necessary to refresh/reload the page to see the alt text.
  • For IE 6: Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced -> (uncheck 'Show pictures', then 'Apply')
  • SeaMonkey: Edit -> Preferences -> Privacy&Security -> Images -> (check 'Do not load any images' then 'OK')
  • Apple Safari: Edit -> Preferences -> Appearance -> (uncheck 'Display images when the page opens')
  • Opera: Tools -> Preferences -> Web Pages -> Images ->(select 'No images' then 'OK' and the page will update immediately). Unlike the other browsers (IE, Firefox, SeaMonkey, at any rate) the ALT text does not wrap within the image border, so it's of limited use for this purpose.
  • Google Chrome doesn't have an obvious way of doing this.
Hope this helps!
EdJogg (talk) 18:59, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
IE6?!? Yeowch. (Do you work for the Institute of the Dark Ages? :-) Thanks, there should be a good home on Wikipedia for these instructions, perhaps a new page that Wikipedia:Alternative text for images could link to? Maybe we should create a new page Help:Browser settings and link to it from here and from Help:Preferences? (Or does something like that exist already, and I couldn't find it?) And perhaps IE7/IE8 users can chime in with more up-to-date instructions? Eubulides (talk) 19:09, 17 December 2009 (UTC)
It's a legacy thing. All our online tools are written to only allow IE use...!
For this, IE7 is very similar to IE6. Under 'Advanced', the 'Show pictures' option is under 'Multimedia' section (can't remember what it was for IE6) but the option is a similar very long way down a long, scrolling list of options. As for an official help page, I'll leave that to you as it seems to be your thing. But I think we have identified the absence of something useful here. EdJogg (talk) 03:10, 18 December 2009 (UTC)
Whoops! I made a change to the Firefox navigation sequence to match the version of Firefox I'm using under Vista. I thought what was in the article were instructions for some crufty old Firefox version that had been forgotten about. Now, too late, I see it's a very recent edit! My apologies. I see that my changes were removed minutes after I added them so I don't have to revert them myself. I should have checked the history and talk pages first before diving in, in any case. --Itsfullofstars (talk) 19:16, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
I have written a script that puts the alt text in a box below the image. It still has some bugs, like poor support for the {{Location map}}s, alt contents overtaking the available in space for small images, no detection of default alt text. Eventually, I hope to fix each of these issues to release it as a gadget. — Dispenser 02:42, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Lots of shortcuts

Recently several shortcuts have been added to this page, or to parts of it. Are any of these really needed? Surely WP:ALT is good enough for the entire page (we don't need lots of aliases for that such as MOS:ALT, MOS:ALTTEXT, and WP:ALTTEXT). Also, surely WP:ALT #Purely decorative images is enough for the section; we don't need WP:ALTPDI and MOS:ALTPDI, which are unrecognizable nonce acronyms, and anyway the issue of purely decorative images goes beyond alt text, so it's not clear that these shortcut names should have "ALT" in their names even if they were needed.

Anyway, none of these shortcut names are used in practice, and I'm inclined to remove them from the page unless they're really needed. Eubulides (talk) 03:00, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

I believe shortcuts are extremely helpful, that's why they are added. And having shortcut for WP:ALT #Purely decorative images is helpful, at least to me. I hate to type out the long and clumsy section name every time I want to refer to the section. But anyway, feel free to delete them all.—Chris!c/t 19:36, 22 December 2009 (UTC)
It is possible using {{anchor}} to add anchors such that links like WP:ALT#DI could work. — Dispenser 02:12, 15 January 2010 (UTC)

Template needing updating

Can you please update Template:NCAATeamSeason for alt text.--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:FOUR) 01:38, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Created {{NCAATeamSeason/sandbox}}. I've added {{{ImageAlt}}}. Alternatively, {{{Collapse}}} (yes for hiding the whole infobox) and {{{ImageCaption}}} right below the image. You can only copy the row for Image and ImageAlt to the formal template if you don't prefer the other 2 additional parameters. -- Sameboat - 同舟 (talk) 04:58, 17 January 2010 (UTC)
I didn't quite follow the other stuff, so I added just |ImageAlt= to the template. The hard part (as usual) was documenting it. Eubulides (talk) 08:37, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Transcribing text

A recent edit inserted the following:

"It is not necessary to attempt to replicate non-semantic typographic effects, such as all-capitals for visibility. Typographic emphasis (stressing) should certainly be preserved, with <strong>...</strong> for bold emphasis and <em>...</em> for italic emphasis, respectively. Underlining and small-capitals for emphasis should be rendered in <strong> and <em> markup, respectively. Boldfacing or underlining for titles of publications, names of ships, etc., should be done as non-emphasis italics, e.g. ''...'' (<i>...</i> is equivalent). Color changes for emphasis may also use <strong> or <em> markup, as appropriate. Non-emphasis, non-title boldfacing ('''...''' or <b>...</b>) should just be ignored. Likewise do not attempt to describe or replicate unusual typeface effects such as mid-word font changes, large initial letters, decorative color shifts, and the like, unless doing so is crucial the the purpose (e.g. describing a company logo)."

Most of this advice is completely incorrect, since alt text cannot contain HTML elements (see WP:ALT#Markup). While the primary purpose of alt text is to be read aloud (so capitalization is largely immaterial), a secondary purpose is for text-only browsers, and for that use the alt text should preserve the capitalization of the original text as much as possible. I don't see any good reason to change the text while transcribing it. It is good advice not to focus on font changes and the like unless that's significant, but the guideline already said "omit details such as color or font unless the images focus on these details" and I don't see anything in the recent edit that adds significantly to that. Eubulides (talk) 07:57, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Clickable maps

How does a map's clickability (c.f. lead image at List of National Historic Landmarks in Indiana), affect alt text? I could not find any advice at WP:ALT. Dabomb87 (talk) 15:29, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

There should be alt text describing the overall gist of the map, and for each clickable item, there should be an indication to the reader that there's something clickable there and what happens when you click on it. If the clickable item is text and has a wikilink, as is the case in {{Indiana NHLs map}}, then it's fine. If the clickable item is an image, then the red dot needs alt text. I attempted to address this with a new paragraph in WP:ALT#Maps. Eubulides (talk) 16:20, 18 January 2010 (UTC)

Another template request

Please update {{Infobox college coach}}--TonyTheTiger (t/c/bio/WP:CHICAGO/WP:FOUR) 06:59, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

I've made an {{editprotected}} request for the fix at Template talk:Infobox college coach #Alt text parameter. Eubulides (talk) 08:46, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
The fix is done now. Eubulides (talk) 17:19, 26 January 2010 (UTC)

Templates needing alt text

Template:US Army navbox and Template:USMALists. Thanks, Dabomb87 (talk) 17:18, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

Done. For purely decorative images like that it's best to add "|link=|alt=" as per WP:ALT #Purely decorative images. Eubulides (talk) 20:06, 31 January 2010 (UTC)
Thanks; I wasn't sure if they could be considered purely decorative or not, but I guess it's pretty clear now that I look at them. Dabomb87 (talk) 20:37, 31 January 2010 (UTC)

Centralized alt text

Though I appreciate the need for alt text, it can be somewhat tedious to have to add it every time a new image is added to an article. Would it be possible to add the alt text to the Image file itself, so that whenever that image is then used, the alt text is added automatically, from a central location? That way if an image is used on 15 articles, it doesn't require all the related editors scrambling around trying to figure out how to describe it. --Elonka 21:14, 14 February 2010 (UTC)

That's been proposed; see the last paragraph of History. Eubulides (talk) 21:17, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
Thanks, I'll go ahead and add an endorsement. --Elonka 21:19, 14 February 2010 (UTC)
What we could do is rig Altviewer to suggest alt text that its seen previously. But, considering that there isn't much image reuse on enwiki it doesn't seem worth the effort. — Dispenser 05:05, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Is there data on re-use? I'd think that there would be quite a bit (at least from what I've seen working in the topic area of medieval history). --Elonka 05:15, 15 February 2010 (UTC)
Just for the hell of it, I hacked together (with four for loops) tools:~dispenser/cgi-bin/, let us know if its actually useful in the history area. We could probably should add to the bug to have a default description pulled from the image page. — Dispenser 06:22, 16 February 2010 (UTC)