W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > December 2007

Re: Dissatisfaction with HTML WG

From: Ben Boyle <benjamins.boyle@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2007 13:25:28 +1000
Message-ID: <5f37426b0712261925n7f869558h81f29eac110c9524@mail.gmail.com>
To: "Daniel Glazman" <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>
Cc: "Charles McCathieNevile" <chaals@opera.com>, public-html@w3.org

On Dec 27, 2007 6:01 AM, Daniel Glazman
<daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com> wrote:
> Precisely. I would like to remind all the readers of this thread that
> W3C members commit to 20% FTE participation in the WG. It's just plain
> impossible to follow the massive flow of data coming out of the mailing-
> list and IRC if you're not working full-time or almost full-time on

This is very true (and unfortunately another email to the list isn't
helping that situation).

I thought I would reflect -- as another author (aka "self-invited
expert") -- on the original points of this thread: the concern that
issues raised are being dismissed out of hand. W3C opened the doors
for us to contribute (and this is fantastic, thank you), but I don't
think anyone really knew how it would work.

As a self-invited expert... you don't have the backing of W3C
membership behind you, you don't represent your company (which is
probably not one of the big "web" companies anyway) -- you are here
alone, not with a small group of peers from the same company. You are
probably not well known, you likely did not get in early to the WHAT
WG. You may have developed internal web guidelines (reinterpretations
of the "web standards" - including HTML) but very likely have not been
involved in a spec development on this scale before. And all of this
makes you feel something of an outsider (with little or no established

On the flip side, outside the HTML WG in your work as an author, you
are probably quite experienced, pretty passionate about HTML, a
professional, and an expert within your own circle of peers. Your
profession, and your personal life, are pretty demanding without
adding HTML WG on top. I mention this, because work is not allowing
you 20% of their time to be here... you're here on your own time.

You came here to help and experienced massive culture shock. There's
no induction. There's little feedback on what you're doing (if you can
decide what to do) is of any use. In a group of experts, you're no
longer The expert. You're not even An expert. And the emails keep
rolling in, on topics as diverse as this post and the detailed
algorithms of determining table headers. And when you find something
that must absolutely and immediately be fixed (usually XHTML or
accessibility) then you you write that email, confident in quick
resolution. It's established best practice so everyone will agree.

It's no surprise to me that our enthusiastic and strangely timed
emails on these topics appear dismissed. It could be a question of
patience. Expecting instant action is unrealistic. I've been here
months and have yet to see any clear action on a number of issues.
This sounds a criticism, but it isn't. We still have time. The spec is
a draft (not even at first draft) and it does not need to be perfect
here and now. I would like to see progress on some issues though, and
patience is hard (especially for those who enjoy the fast pace of the
web industry?)

The other "dismissing", the replies to emails that request more proof
or more explanation, etc. Those are difficult to manage. It's hard to
know how to present one's case effectively. But everyone needs to be
aware: this is the place to challenge assumptions. We (authors) may
have assumptions that particular aspects of HTML are (or will be)
essential. That may have been an intent at some point, but that may
not be working and there may be other/better options. Maybe. It's hard
to support this without a practical example of where this process has
been used successful e.g. have we got a better solution to table
headers yet? Are we confident in it? As an author I know I need to
test things out a lot before I'm confident they work. I think I will
need to implement most of the HTML5 features before I get that
confidence for our spec.

So anyway, you get the replies that challenge your assumptions. It's
almost become an initiation/hazing or rite of passage ... only I
haven't seen anyone pass! It might earn you some respect and
credibility, but one must still be patient to see how this ultimately
affects the HTML5 spec.

Sometimes I wish we self-invited expert authors were more cohesively
and coherently organised, to better engage with this WG.

I liked chaals' post: sounds like he acts as a mentor for those in
Opera who contribute here (and in other groups). That's what I want, a
"chaals" just for us authors.

I'd also like some cues on what to do, for example, when to read and
comment on particular sections of the spec. Hopefully in a timely
manner that suits the editors, so we are then able to see and
participate in the review/action resulting from that feedback soon
after. That would help with feeling reviewing the spec was a useful
contribution. It's useful (for yourself) reviewing the spec just to
get familiar, but I can't say I feel it is useful to the WG at this

I think I'll just read mails for now. In 2008, I'd like to try
tutorials. I don't know if that will be more useful but it feels like
it could be productive. We've got Lachie's ALA article, are there any
others out there? Are we keeping a list?

Enjoy the rest of 2007!
Received on Thursday, 27 December 2007 03:25:36 UTC

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