W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > June 2009

Why I don't attend the weekly teleconference (Was: Input on the agenda)

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2009 22:03:58 +0000 (UTC)
To: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.62.0906232145070.16244@hixie.dreamhostps.com>
On Tue, 23 Jun 2009, Shelley Powers wrote:
> Ian, are you part of a team, or a one man show?

The WHATWG list has over 1000 subscribers, and the public-html itself has 
several hundred, and the HTML5 spec has well over 300 names on it, so I 
think it's quite obvious that I am but a tiny part of a huge team of 
people working on HTML5.

> If you're part of the team, get with the team. If not, let's end all 
> pretense that this group is doing anything effective [...]

I don't understand what this has to do with meetings. Could you elaborate? 

Teleconference calls and face-to-face meetings simply don't work when the 
team has thousands of people as this one does. I want to make sure 
_everyone_'s input is taken into account, not just the few people who 
happen to be in the right timezone and happen to think it is worth their 
time to spend 90 minutes trying to figure out who forgot to mute their 
phone. (Teleconferences are basically exclusionary.) I want to make sure 
people are not put under a time pressure to have an opinion immediately 
but are instead able to actually go and do research and figure out what 
the right answer is.

Teleconferences when used for issue resolution are possibly the single 
worst possible form of decision making system. People who have not 
studied an issue are presented with a topic and the expectation is that 
the issue will be resolved right there. This leaves no room for research, 
no room for pondering designs, no room for studying possible solutions.

Face-to-face meetings are better in that they at least provide a good 
environment for small groups of people to brainstorm ideas. We have used 
these in the past for HTML5 for particular topics, when a small group of 
people happen to be in the same geographic location and happen to have 
strong opinions on a particular topic, to brainstorm some ideas. This 
works IF and only if the group is then willing to go back and put forward 
a proposal for the group as a whole.

Face-to-face meetings also work well for social interaction, in that they 
help people get to know each other, which can help them work better by 
e-mail. (This is no panacea; in practice I have found this really can only 
make existing good working relationships better. I have never seen this 
take two people who have radically different viewpoints and make them work 
well together.)

Face-to-face meetings when they involve large groups of people (say, 5 or 
more) are useless because they either devolve into very long debates that 
would be better handled by e-mail, or they devolve into small group 
discussions where most people are ignoring the discussion (except that at 
the end everyone is asked for an opinion, even those who don't have an 
informed opinion).

Finally, face-to-face meetings are also exclusionary, with an even higher 
barrier than teleconferences, since attending them is expensive (and with 
the W3C's new policies, even if you don't need to pay airfare and a hotel 
you STILL need to pay to attend the meeting, further limiting who can 
attend and take part in the discussions).

I have attended literally hundreds of W3C meetings, both teleconferences 
and face-to-face, hosted by dozens of chairmen including many who claimed 
that they were unusual and were able to keep meetings productive, and I 
have uniformly found them to be a waste of time.

HTML5 has progressed faster than any other working group specification 
I've been involved with, and I attribute that largely to the asynchronous 
development process we have followed.

I will continue to operate by e-mail as our charter allows. If other 
people wish to talk by phone, then that is their right, and I have no 
objection to people doing that, so long as they do so within the limits 
put forth by our charter (which requires that all decisions be made 
asynchronously to allow for broad participation).

> and you can go do your asynchronous HTML5 thing, and the W3C will begin 
> fresh with a different set of editors.

I've been looking for more editors for literally years; if there is anyone 
who would like to help out there are dozens of specs waiting for editors. 
Please, if you know of anyone who can edit specs, have them step forward.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 22:04:37 UTC

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