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Re: W3C TPWG Process Follow UP

From: Aleecia M. McDonald <aleecia@aleecia.com>
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2012 15:57:07 -0700
To: "public-tracking@w3.org (public-tracking@w3.org)" <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-Id: <ABF86715-5BA9-47B2-8989-C82F2D28CB5E@aleecia.com>

> On Apr 4, 2012, at 6:52 PM, Marc Groman wrote:

> Dear Aleecia, Matthias, Nick, and Thomas:
> 
> I thought that today’s conference call was very helpful and I am looking forward to participating in next week’s face-to-face meeting in Washington, DC.  In fact, we are now W3C members!  Over the past few weeks there have been several offline discussions about the W3C process generally and the specific process to be used in our Tracking Protection Working Group.  Notwithstanding those conversations and other efforts to respond to specific issues raised by different participants, I am concerned that there remains considerable confusion around the process and procedures for this Working Group. 
> 
Welcome to the NAI and to Marc! It's great to see you as members. Thank you for your thoughtful note. 
> I see that process is on the agenda for next Tuesday morning and you mentioned during today’s call that we may be receiving an email on this topic in the near future.  I certainly appreciate these efforts but given that the meeting is Tuesday and we have an aggressive agenda and timeline, I would respectfully suggest that more written clarification in advance of our meeting would be really helpful.  Thus, with an eye towards an efficient and productive process at our  DC meeting, I would like to highlight some questions and outline our understanding of the process based on a review of the Working Group charter, the W3C process, and the more recently proposed “getting to closed” document.  I believe that it would be helpful to all the stakeholders participating in our group if you would please confirm that this is your understanding and address any remaining questions.  If I have it wrong, I apologize.  Moreover, I apologize if our emails cross in cyberspace and you've already addressed these issues.  
> 
I hope the message I recently sent out clarified a few points, but I think I may not have directly responded to all of the points you raised, so I am erring on the side of possible redundancy here. 
> Consensus
> 
> As I understand the process, our objective is to seek group consensus on each issue and the documents to be released by the TPWG.   According to the W3C Process Document, consensus means a substantial number of individuals in the TPWG (which I am guessing means voting members in good standing as listed on the W3C public website) support the decision and no one in the set registers a Formal Objection.  
> 

Agreed.
> In Brussels there was a proposal to revise this process - "if the chairs can identify solutions that fit an 80/20 solution, we can close the issue."  Under this proposal, I believe consensus is reached when 80% of the voting members present support a solution.  Many participants are unclear if that indeed became part of the process.  Some of the confusion may stem from the recently released document titled, "Tracking Protection Working Group: Getting to Closed," which doesn't appear to mention the 80/20 solution proposed at the meeting. Is it correct that consensus used to be reached by the support of a substantial number of individuals but was clarified in Brussels to more specifically mean 80% of the voting members support the decision? 
> 

Thanks for raising this. No, there is no change to an 80/20 rule, and there is no 80% threshold. My apologies for any confusion there from the chairs being imprecise. I think I've addressed this in the note I sent yesterday, but I just wanted to be very explicitly clear here. The idea of 80/20 was a rough ballpark idea to convey the idea that unanimous agreement is not needed, but also we should not move forward without fully discussing issues if there is something more like an even split. That is all. There is nothing magic about 80%. 
> Formal Objections
> 
> I'm not sure this is relevant for next week but it is worth clarifying the process since it is referenced in the "Getting to Closed" Document.  According to the W3C Process Document, the group must follow procedures to manage dissent.  Formal objections may be raised at any time and must be addressed.  Please clarify when and how Formal Objections would be filed and documented during next week's meeting and throughout the TPWG process. 
> 

Yes, formal objections are worth discussion. Here is the relevant text in the W3C process document [1]

	"In the W3C process, an individual may register a Formal Objection to a decision. A Formal Objection to a group decision is one that the reviewer requests that the Director consider as part of evaluating the related decision (e.g., in response to a request to advance a technical report). Note: In this document, the term "Formal Objection" is used to emphasize this process implication: Formal Objections receive Director consideration. The word "objection" used alone has ordinary English connotations.

	"An individual who registers a Formal Objection should cite technical arguments and propose changes that would remove the Formal Objection; these proposals may be vague or incomplete. Formal Objections that do not provide substantive arguments or rationale are unlikely to receive serious consideration by the Director.

	"A record of each Formal Objection must be publicly available. A Call for Review (of a document) to the Advisory Committeemust identify any Formal Objections."

The "e.g." in the first paragraph can mean at a publication milestone. See [2]. It can also mean in response to a decision made by the group. Again for the sake of providing an example of format, here is a list of decisions and corresponding Formal Objections from some work in HTML 5 [3]. As mentioned, Formal Objections must both state a technical argument and propose a change to the document that would remedy the objection. There is slightly more information in the voting section [4].

When a Formal Objection is filed, there is an opportunity for the group to respond to it. In some cases this resolves the issue, and the WG member(s) who filed the Formal Objection may withdraw it. If not, a review process begins within W3C and ends with a decision from the Director, Tim Berners-Lee. 

Work continues within the WG while the Formal Objection is reviewed. If the Formal Objection prevails and the proposed change is adopted, the chairs may re-open related issues, as the decision is itself new information. 

> Voting Process 
> 
> It is my understanding that voting is used to resolve issues when consensus can't be reached.  So, under the Brussels revision, if 80% of the Voting Members do not support a position or a Formal Objection has been issued, then a vote is taken.  The Tracking Protection Working Group Charter does not define these voting procedures.  The "Tracking Protection Working Group: Getting to Closed" document states chairs have the discretion to use a straw poll to call for objections with the chairs judging consensus and explaining their reasoning in writing.  It would be helpful to know in more detail when it is appropriate to call a straw poll instead of using the formal voting procedures and how the Group anticipates this would work next week. 
> 

Thank you again for raising this -- I had not realized this was the impression, and the chairs need to do a better job of communication here. Again, there is no 80% bright line. 

As mentioned in detail in my recent message, we are trying to avoid voting for the decision process. Instead, as we discussed in Brussels, we are looking to find consensus around the proposal with the least strong objection. If my recent note was not clear, please let me know what is not making sense so we can make sure we are all clear in DC.

I'm starting to think at least part of the confusion is terminology. Voting, straw poll, and polling the group all mean three different things, and are used differently. Perhaps this will help:
	- Voting: a formal process. A vote has two written components, what is being voted on, and then the votes of the participants.  Votes are rare. The TPWG has never held a vote. We should hold a formal, recorded vote to move to Last Call. Otherwise, I hope not to take votes at all.
	- Straw poll: a highly informal process. This is just a quick "hey, what do you all think?" and can be done as a show of hands in person. The analog on phone calls is people indicating a preference with +1. A related tool is a hum, where people indicate their support for a proposal by humming, and we get a quick sense of where people stand based on how loud or quite it is in response to a proposal. These are all good ways to get an idea of where the discussion is, and are not binding. 
	- Polling the group: I know I've used this phrase informally to describe the process of gathering written objections to proposed texts, as part of the chairs' attempt to understand consensus, which is the proposal that draws the least strong objections. This is the "Call for Objections" as a formal step where we ask for objections to the possible alternatives in writing, in writing and is at a decision point. 

Please do me a favor -- not just Marc, but everyone -- and please let the chairs know if anything is confusing in real time. I want to make sure we all have clarity on what we are doing and the implications. I had not understood how potentially confusing this could be until writing this right now. Nick has offered to add clarifications to the Getting to Closed document, and there may be new points of confusion that surface from our discussion in DC. Let's find them and fix them.
> Voting Participation
> 
> The ability to vote is based on Working Group Membership.  Members may join the Working Group at any time and there's no distinction between new and old members when it comes to voting.  Do I have that right?  
> 

Yes, this is correct. We will accommodate as many stakeholders as choose to join. We hope to have a wide variety of views and perspectives represented, to help the WG members make informed decisions.

Related: in our first meeting in Boston, we elected not to enforce Good Standing / Bad Standing [5]. If we chose to enforce standing, newly joined Participants could obtain Good Standing with their second consecutive meeting, so in that regard there is would be an element of difference with new members. We left open the possibility of revisiting our decision not to enforce standing if we had problems. So far we are making progress without needing that level of formality; we do not take attendance or label someone in Bad Standing for not completing deliverables on time. Again, we are erring on the side of being more inclusive of more stakeholders, even when it means there is overhead to having WG members who participate only sporadically and are not always as fully informed as WG members who are able to attend every meeting and every call.
> Are members those individuals currently listed as participants on the TPWG website?  
> 

Yes, members are linked from the TPWG website under the participants link [6]. 
> Finally, the Working Group charter does not address whether or not invited experts may vote.  Can you please clarify that as well?
> 

Yes, Invited Experts may vote. We could have elected to bar that by charter, but did not. Since the charter is silent, we look to the W3C process document, which states in section 3.4 [7]

	"Unless the charter states otherwise, Invited Experts may vote."
> Please forgive this very long email post.  The goal here is transparency both around the process and how procedures are developed.  Thank you in advance for your  assistance.  I am looking forward to working with you and all of the participants in the TPWG. 
> 
Marc, I appreciate this very much. I know it takes considerable effort to write things up, and I have a new appreciation for where we are losing people. Thanks for your help. This is important. And welcome, again, as a formal WG member.

Also thanks to Nick for proof reading. 

	Aleecia

[1] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/policies.html#WGArchiveMinorityViews
[2] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/tr.html#rec-advance
[3] http://dev.w3.org/html5/status/formal-objection-status.html  Not all of these are necessarily good examples. But the second Formal Objection correctly attempts to provide technical arguments and proposes what changes could be made to remove the Formal Objection, see http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2011Feb/0188.html
[4] http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Process-20010719/groups.html#WGVotes
[5] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/groups.html#good-standing
[6] http://www.w3.org/2000/09/dbwg/details?group=49311&public=1
[7] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/policies#Votes
Received on Friday, 6 April 2012 22:57:38 UTC

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