W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > July 2008

Deciding in public (Was: SVGWG SVG-in-HTML proposal)

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 08:41:10 +0000 (UTC)
To: Justin James <j_james@mindspring.com>
Cc: 'HTML WG' <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0807310535280.3295@hixie.dreamhostps.com>

On Thu, 31 Jul 2008, Justin James wrote:
> 
> [...] if a *decision* was made, that it be done *in public* and *with 
> public input*.

I don't really know what it would mean for the decisions to be "done in 
public" any more than already happens. I mean, every single edit is done 
in public with diffs sent to public mailing lists, every non-editorial 
change is Twittered, I'm always on IRC while editing...


> Therefore, any decisions made before the formation of a public group, 
> were not "open".

Actually even before we had an actual mailing list to archive the 
discussions, everything was already being written in public. We soon set 
up a list, though, I mean, everything's been done really in public since 
2004 already.


> So if those decisions were going to be made outside of the public view, 
> than you need to accept that the "open" and "public" debate is going to 
> challenge those decisions from time-to-time, and if you are working for 
> this spec to have been developed in an "open" and "public" manner, then 
> you need to be willing to seriously consider challenges to decisions 
> that were made prior to the formation of this group.

As I said to Sam, nothing is set in stone. Decisions are regularly changed 
in the face of new suggestions, evidence, etc.


> It seems that at least once a week, someone gets fairly upset over 
> something in the spec, and the response is typically along the lines of 
> referring to one of these pre-public working group decisions. I think 
> that this is a strong indicator of a serious problem. The common 
> denominator here is the way in which these decisions were made. I really 
> don't see people getting upset over decisions that were made since this 
> group was formed.

People in the HTML WG have gotten upset over all kinds of things, 
including:

 - things that were decided before we even were a "we", e.g. that we 
   should extend HTML4 forms instead of using XForms

 - things that were decided well in the open, in the WHATWG context, well 
   before the HTMLWG was created, e.g. the inclusion of <canvas>

 - things that were decided well in the open, after the HTML WG was well 
   under way, e.g. that we should support cases where a site wants to 
   include an image but doesn't know what kind of image it is

 - things that were decided by the HTML WG through consensus, e.g. that I 
   should be editor

I really don't think it has mattered when the decisions were made. There 
just seems to be a tendency for some people in the HTML WG to get upset. :-)


> Documenting the base assumptions is not the same thing as developing 
> them in an "open" and "public" manner. I think that this is the 
> fundamental problem that myself, and a great number of other people on 
> this list are having here. Decisions were made behind closed doors, and 
> now people challenge them and the response is, "but this was 
> documented."

When people "challenge" decisions and provide new ideas or insight, 
decisions change to match. e.g. the change to <a>'s content model today.

Just saying "reconsider this decision" doesn't cause the decision to be 
reconsidered. It doesn't matter when the decision was made. What matters 
is whether new information has come to light.


> It may have been documented, but it was not discussed by *this group*.

As I've said with abundant clarity before, as far as my edits go it 
doesn't matter which groups discuss things. I'm operating on the basis of 
technical arguments, research, data, etc, from all sources I have 
available to me, including this mailing list, other lists, blogs, personal 
discussions, my contacts inside browser vendors, IRC, etc.

If you want to discuss something in this group, then discuss it. If new 
information or arguments come to light, I'll be happy to consider them.


> It was discussed by you and a few other people, all of whom seem to work 
> for a very small group of companies and organizations. I am not one for 
> conspiracy theories, but if you take a look at things from the 
> outsider's perspective, I think you would agree that there is certainly 
> the *appearance* that a few major organizations are having their voices 
> heard and that this group gets ignored when those ideas are challenged.

Look at the acknowledgements section in the HTML5 spec. It lists everyone 
who has said something that has directly resulted in a change to the spec. 
It's not a short list, and it's certainly not just a list of people in 
"a few major organisations".

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that a number of 
people who originally took part in the HTML5 effort completely 
independently and on their own time have, since the start of the effort 
four years ago, ended up getting hired by various browser vendors.)


> [...] we as a group need to see that our input is actually valued, even 
> when it is contrary to the assumptions and decisions that were generated 
> before the formation of this group.

It's not clear to me who "we" is here. Do you mean the 388 participants in 
the HTML working group? Are you really saying that I'm ignoring all the 
input of all the people in the HTML working group and just doing things 
that disagree with all the opinions of members of the group? Could you 
give an example?


> And the way we can see that our input is valued is for it to actually 
> get into the draft, above and beyond us finding typos or minor 
> inconsistencies.

Could you give an example of something in the draft that is explicitly 
_not_ based on input from HTML working group members? Or of some decision 
where I rejected all the suggestions of people inside the HTML working 
group and only accepted suggestions from people outside the HTML working 
group? Even when taking input from a huge number of people outside the 
HTML working group (e.g. the 892 subscribers to the main WHATWG list), I 
still go out of my way to make sure that I'm giving serious attention to 
the HTML working group feedback.


> I joined this group in the hopes of having the chance to reverse the 
> course of HTML 5, which when I read the initial public draft, I was 
> absolutely appalled by. Indeed, you invited me to this group in response 
> to my public comments on that draft. But if the decisions and 
> assumptions made before the creation of this group are considered 
> immutable, then I really can't see what the purpose of this group is.

Nothing is immutable. Any decision can be reversed in the face of strong 
reasons and arguments and evidence.


Looking at the last few e-mails you have sent to public-html, they seem to 
fall into the following categories:

   Thanking me for fixing something in the spec .......... 1

   E-mails to which I didn't reply but that the spec's
     current text agrees with, or which no longer apply
     given decisions that have since been made ........... 3

   E-mails that I replied to describing decisions on
     specific topics and giving reasoning where the
     decisions contradicted your requests ................ 2

   E-mails that I did not reply to, which I could believe
     you consider examples of your input being ignored ... 4

   E-mails that are still in my queue .................... 3

   Complaints about me and my behaviour .................. 2

   E-mails addressed specifically to other people, or 
     suggesting proposals that are out of the scope of
     things that are my problem (e.g. new WGs) ........... 4

(I intended to categorise 20 e-mails, but the numbers add up to 19. I'm 
not sure what happened. Oh well, never mind.)

If we ignore the last three categories, which I don't think really tell us 
anything about whether I'm ignoring you or not, we end up with ten 
e-mails. The first two categories are e-mails showing examples where I 
clearly didn't ignore your opinion, since the spec agrees with you. The 
third category also shows a case where I didn't ignore you, since I gave 
you detailed responses. For the fourth category you have but my word that 
I didn't ignore your e-mails. (For what it's worth, I just reread them all 
again, and in all four cases it was things where I'd either already 
replied to similar comments in other threads, or where as far as I can 
tell we have no choice.)

So at worst, I'm ignoring 40% of your e-mails, and at worst, disagreeing 
with 60% of your ideas. That means that -- again, at worst -- I'm 
accepting 40% of your ideas.

That's a far bigger percentage than the percentage of ideas _I_ come up 
with that I accept. If you're expecting a greater percentage, then there's 
a problem, because a lot of your ideas contradict ideas that other people 
put forward, including browser vendors (who, by virtue of being the people 
actually implementing the spec, get the very real and literally undeniable 
privilege of having the final word). There's simply no way for everyone to 
always have their ideas accepted when people are putting forward 
alternative ideas. (Well, one way to do better is to do what zcorpan does, 
and come up with a wide array of contradictory proposals, so that whatever 
I pick, I end up picking something he came up with...)

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Thursday, 31 July 2008 08:41:50 GMT

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