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Refining the Draft Notice

From: Jonathan Mayer <jmayer@stanford.edu>
Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 20:05:50 -0700
To: W3 Tracking <public-tracking@w3.org>
Message-ID: <BABAE7B8C84D468BB192C2FFD8F31CDF@gmail.com>
In the course of the Internet Explorer 10 vs. Apache debacle, I've noticed a concerning trend: many developers who are unfamiliar with the group's deliberations are reading the white sections of our drafts and treating them as finalized, coherent gospel.  The issue is further compounded by participants in the working group misrepresenting the status of the text and the points on which the group has arrived at consensus.

As we all know, the drafts are very much a work in progress.  Some sections remain a set of boxes with possible options or OPEN issues.  Many white sections for PENDING REVIEW or CLOSED issues have text that is vague, self-contradictory, or imprecisely reflective of the group's consensus.  An increasing number of white sections, perhaps most now, address PENDING REVIEW or CLOSED issues with text that the group is comfortable with.

I think it would be beneficial to expand on the "Status of This Document" notice, explaining that even the white sections of the draft text may be unclear or imprecise in how they address a particular use case.  Developers should recognize that it's quite possible the group didn't consider the use case or hasn't yet decided how to address it.  In particular, I'd change this:
> Text in white is typically [CLOSED]: we have reached a consensus decision.

To something like this:
> Text in white is typically associated with a [CLOSED] issue. When an issue is [CLOSED], the Working Group has made a substantive decision and drafted text that attempts to accurately reflect that decision. In considering an issue, the Working Group may not have anticipated a particular use case, may not have made a decision that addresses a particular use case, or may have inadvertently drafted text that inaccurately reflects its decision. Readers are encouraged to seek clarification in meeting minutes and mailing list archives. Feedback to the group is always welcome.

I don't mean to suggest we should treat CLOSED issues lightly.  Where the group has actually reached consensus, we shouldn't reopen discussion without very good cause.  But we also have to be realistic: we've now moved a number of issues to PENDING REVIEW or CLOSED where the group isn't in complete agreement or the text doesn't quite capture the state of the group's thinking.

Jonathan
Received on Friday, 14 September 2012 03:06:17 UTC

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