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other constituencies for the discussion [was Re: certificates of anonymity]

From: Dailey, David P. <david.dailey@sru.edu>
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2009 09:48:21 -0500
Message-ID: <1835D662B263BC4E864A7CFAB2FEEB3D01EAB9A9@msfexch01.srunet.sruad.edu>
To: <public-html@w3.org>
In [1], I raised a particular question. I don't know if this is the right group to which to raise the question. On occasion, I have found that a question would better be raised with the CSS working group, or with the DOM working group, the Forms working group, the events working group, the spec-splitting working group, the spec-combining oversight working group, or some other of the amazing number of working groups all concerned with things webbish. For the occasional tourist in spec-land, it is hard to know where to go to find all the fun attractions that might appeal to one's mood at the moment.


That question was originally posed in [2] as one of two examples to help clarify my own uncertainty about when it might not be appropriate to raise a question here. I'm a member of one of those marginally enfranchised constituencies that Michael Smith seems to refer to in [3], specifically the final paragraph of that which begins:


"I think there are some people who have stayed away from getting

involved productively in discussions in this group -- or about

HTML5 at all -- because they are not happy with the limits or

scope that we have thus far mostly confined our work too."


The discussion in threads entitled "Who is the intended audience...?", " HTML is a declarative mark-up language", "Plan to publish a new WD",  "voting, surveys, juries, spec-splitting" and the like, which have utterly clogged my email inbox over the past few weeks, seems to share a few common themes that to me, as an occasional tourist,  are actually of interest:


a.       What is and isn't within the scope of what we are trying to do?

b.      What are the constituencies this group seeks to serve?

c.       What constituencies does the group wish to enfranchise?

d.      What is the social and linguistic protocol (overtly or covertly stated) for contributing?


At times during the past two years, in this group, I have observed, on a socio-emotional level, the level of mistrust and interpersonal antagonism rather accelerate and decline in waves generally related to the approach of an impending vote on a controversial issue.  It seems to have settled into a survivable level of harmonics, with occasional self-imposed exiles,  public rants, or hurt feelings, but by and large the work of the WG has continued, and I think, most would agree, considerable progress has been made. This is thanks in very large part to the people, who as Dan is fond of pointing out, have stepped forward to actually do the real work. (As opposed to folks like me who like to grouse and fuss from the sidelines!)


But my sense is that there really might have been more people doing the work, if issues like a,b,c and d above had been addressed more directly from the beginning. The sense of disenfranchisement that Michael alludes to is very real, and yes I could find hundreds of messages from dozens of people in the corpus of this two year discussion to document that claim. 


This is not to raise fault with the way any one, or any group of people have conducted themselves. I think this WG (with its early history in WHATWG and the early dialogue between W3C and WHATWG) has constituted a remarkable, and probably unprecedented experiment in opening the process of creating a specification. What we are spec-ing is huge, and the number of voices has been huge. As such who would have known how it might have evolved?


But I think an unfortunate side-effect of how it has evolved is that some authors, creators and corporations have defected from the process, because the discussion is too "X" for a large set of adjectives, X, varying a bit,  from observer to observer.


A specific question I posed in [2] is 


"given the fact that the overall volume of the list has stabilized [...] and given that the amount of frivolity, flaming, joking, irrelevance and irreverence, has developed its own rhythm, are we still so concerned about bandwidth?[...] Is there another place to which such questions like 'does the spec currently handle topic X'should be funneled?"
Are we really still so concerned about wasting the time of the "real workers?" (the RWs) with misdirected or na´ve questions, when some of us could easily dredge up a few thousand messages from the public record that, already have served to distract the RWs with what is perhaps no measurable productive end. (I would, in fact, not have it otherwise, since the sociology, is itself an intrinsic part of the process, and I am still thinking of all those dissertations that can be written about analyzing this particular corpus.)
I would like to know that it will be possible in HTML5 to do a whole bunch of things. My shopping list would probably be a couple hundred items long. Some of the things (little JavaScript/HTML things: like client-side manipulation of user-selected pictures) that I used to be able to do across browsers in 1999 no longer are possible in ANY browser. Other things I wanted to do in 1999 (like client-side vector graphics) are now possible across most browsers. There are hundreds of things I want to be able to do that I don't think I can consistently do across browsers at the present, but a) I may be wrong and I don't want to waste people's time if I am and b) I don't really know if the spec addresses them at present, since those other documents, the how-to's the tutorials, and the guides, that we talked about writing for people like me haven't been written yet. 
In the meantime, is this the right place for people like me to raise questions about things like "certificates of anonymity" [1] which might be either better routed elsewhere or which might be so incredibly na´ve that they shouldn't be raised anywhere?




(oh and by the way, I do think we should begin planning, now, the social process to enable HTML6 to come forward after HTML5 is finally wrapped up, since to do it right, we will need to write a few grant proposals)


[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Jan/0614.html 

[2] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2009Jan/0021.html 
Received on Friday, 30 January 2009 14:49:33 UTC

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