I have a question on Skeptics.SE that prominently features an image. To improve accessibility and searchability I included the text from the image as the image description. This description is included as alt text and everything works as expected when viewing the question on the website.

However I have noticed that this image and description are omitted from both:

  1. The Weekly Newsletter:

    Screenshot from the Sceptics.SE Weekly Newsletter showing a question summary that omits an image description

  2. The SE search abstract:

    Screenshot of a Sceptics.SE search showing showing a question summary that omits an image description

Furthermore the content of image description appears to not be considered when when searching:

Screenshot of a Sceptics.SE search showing 0 results for the search term 'Ding Zilin'

  • @ShadowWizard Thanks! – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 6:42

It would be nice to see it, but there is an issue with this...

Very few people add meaningful image description text. The search could look like this:

On Meta SE (here) there are 8098 with the default of "enter image description here" - which is quite a lot.

  • I agree the "enter image description here" issue is a problem. Interface (instructions for the author) is leaking into content (stored with the markdown) and pushed through to presentation (displayed when viewing a question). Ideally the cause would be addressed (e.g. change the authoring interface) and then the symptom (e.g. batch process to change existing images with default alt text, or filter it out when serving the page). – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 12:59
  • I have run a query (based on Michael Mrozek's work) that indicates that Meta.SE may contain as many as 10854 posts with meaningful alt text. – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 13:26

I don't think this is a bug.

Google (or Bing) doesn't find your post when I use the words from the image description. If I use the word tiananmen your question is my first result.

So even Google considers alt text not as content that is important enough to be indexed. Given the fact that the Stack Exchange Search engine doesn't even try to be better as Google explains why your post doesn't turns up in search results.

If the image description is that important you could consider adding it to the body post, if needed decorated with markup <sup> to make the text smaller or maybe even a spoiler.

For your first two points, I don't see what you would expect instead? Does the image need to be included? Does the text of image description need to be included? The last one would give a lot of noise given the fact that 99 out of 100 the image description is the standard boiler plate text.

Those are more feature requests that have some negative sides that needs to be addressed carefully if proposed.

text that is very small to carry some info that doesn't attract attention at first

text not visibly only on hover

  • Thank you for your response, and suggestions for workarounds. – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 9:56
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    Regarding the google comparison I would like to point out the search engines are in the business of indexing web content, and most have settled on a model where they filter by content type (web/image/video/etc). When performing an image search the alt text is brought into consideration. As SE search is not filtering by media type I see little need for this content to be ignored. – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 9:56
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    Regarding the summaries, I understand they are a text only representation of the content. It is for this reason that I expected the alt text to be used; it's stated purpose is to be an alternative for when the image is inappropriate. – Kelly Thomas Jun 13 '15 at 10:00

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