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Re: WorkGroup Funding - re: HTML WG Face to face meeting call for interest

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2007 14:47:51 +0100
To: work@gavinpearce.co.uk, "'Dan Connolly'" <connolly@w3.org>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <op.tpo4l1y0wxe0ny@widsith.local>

On Wed, 21 Mar 2007 10:41:46 -0400, Gavin Pearce <work@gavinpearce.co.uk> wrote:

> If the large organisations involved want to portray a fair and balanced way
> of creating the new versions we are working on, then everyone has to attend
> the meetings. If it's just those that can afford to, the final spec will not
> (no matter what people may say) be a valid and just portrayal of everyone's
> equal opinions.

This is why the working group uses the mailing list as a place to set up consensus. Face to face meetings are generally valuable for those who can afford to attend them, and valuable to working groups (in my experience and opinion - there are others who disagree). They are also

> Could we not establish some funding from some of the larger organisations
> who wish to show this fair and just image, to enable those of us who's
> company are not funding us for this, to attend such events ?

Speaking for one company with a big commitment already to standards, this would mean I have to cut back somewhere else. And there is no clear way to choose who to support. If you say "sign up as an invited expert and some companies will pay you to travel to a meeting somewhere, I can see the group getting very large, the meetings becoming very expensive to run (there is a direct cost associated with hosting a meeting, and as they get big that cost increases more than linearly), and having so many people that they are not productive.

There are a number of people in Opera who are members of this group. There is no way that we will send them all to a meeting - both because of the cost and because I don't think it's a great idea to have 50 people in a meeting - it means that the participation of those there is reduced, on average, to about 15 minutes. Given that meetings are also generally running IRC and minutes are available and this group works by public mail, I would be hesitant to commit travel budget and someone's precious time, let alone encouraging the situation by putting money in to make it happen.

> That way the final result is what everyone wants, not just what those that
> can 'afford' to want.

This group is open wide to participation, and has a number of checks to ensure it is reasonably accountable. It still works in only one language (a pragmatic decision) and I don't know of any group with the resources to track the discsussion and provide running translation to another language and back - which excludes most of the world already. If it meets face to face or by phone, not all will be able to participate. I think the balance is about as good as it gets...

> I can see people might complain that funding may bias, but if the funding is
> controlled, and a group majority decision is made on the way any such money
> is spent - surely it can only be a good thing.

I hate to be cynical, but I suspect a group of geeks being invited to spend someone else's money on travel by getting majority votes on the purse strings sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. "Those with the money" isn't a brilliant measure of who should be involved, although it does at least imply some kind of commitment that is valuable.

> Only my views (and perhaps a way a few more of us can attend these events).

IRC, especially with the W3C bots running, can make a distributed meeting remarkably efficient (more efficient than most face to face meetings I have been to outside W3C). I am happy about Dan Connolly as co-chair in part because i have been lucky enough to work with him before, and I consider him well-qualified to make these meetings effective and representative of all those who can spare the time, whether they travel to the meeting or not. (Of course there will also be those who complain that they haven't the time to keep up with the mailing list, especially if threads go on and on, and who are therefore not being represented. We make compromises...)

> Many companies do it already.

Occasionally a company will sponsor someone else to attend something at W3C. It is rare, and they often don't advertise it for reasons that should be obvious. I don't see them contributing to a general fund that people who invited themselves into a group can spend on travel. (If it is likely to happen, in my experience it is more likely that people whose contribution is valued wil get a quiet offer of an airfare or something. Mostly it just doesn't happen though - standards are alreay very expensive for companies participating seriously).

cheers

Chaals

-- 
Charles McCathieNevile, Opera Software: Standards Group
hablo español  -  je parle français  -  jeg lærer norsk
chaals@opera.com          Try Opera 9.1     http://opera.com
Received on Saturday, 24 March 2007 13:48:09 GMT

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