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Re: Workshop and meeting requirements

From: David Singer <singer@mac.com>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2014 18:34:00 +0200
Message-id: <13FA3BB6-4B45-4B96-BD92-12139C4041EF@mac.com>
To: "public-w3process@w3.org" <public-w3process@w3.org>
There are a lot of inter-related concepts at play here, and some of them are in conflict.

Even if the process formally says that decisions made at face to face meetings are not final, there is strong social pressure — and indeed, for meetings to be effective, there needs to be strong social pressure — to allow the meeting to set a direction and move ahead.  “Look, maybe you have a point, but we discussed this for two days in Uttar Pradesh, and we need very convincing arguments to re-open the discussion.”

I think if you really want a workshop with an open-ended international attendance, on a subject important enough to warrant international travel, it really ought to be possible to plan 8 weeks in advance, be clear about the subject and agenda of the workshop — and prioritize attendance based on demonstrated interest and ability to contribute (statements of interest, position papers, and so on).

Travel starts to get expensive as periods shorten; we’re not all rich (and the rich didn’t get that way by being careless about money, either), and visa requirements and so on can be time-consuming. If “all X have the right to attend” but not the opportunity, how strong are the rights?

But at the opposite extreme, sometimes a question comes up in a working group, and a subset volunteer “look, let’s get together around a whiteboard and in a place we can experiment, and we’ll report back” that clearly doesn’t need nearly as much planning (and it’s done all the time). Perhaps it’s worth stating as a principle that the strength of an outcome is roughly proportional to the opportunity to be involved in it; so a formal vote of all members of a WG is stronger than a consensus at a face to face meeting, which is stronger than the outcome of an informal get-together, and so on.

Remote participation is better than no participation; but in-person presence is still vastly better than remote participation. We only have to look at the WebRTC meeting in Shenzhen and Seattle to realize that one group (as it happened, in the official location in Shenzhen) felt that they were in second class by virtue of being remote from what transpired to be the main meeting.

WG meetings, and sub-meetings, really are different from open events. The list of candidates for a WG meeting (the members) is known in advance, and can self-indicate a desire to be involved. Open workshops have no such advantage; indeed, often a major point of them is to help locate appropriate talent and expertise we were previously unaware of.  That takes time.

If it’s worth holding a meeting, it’s worth keeping and publishing a record (I doubt anyone disagrees with this, though people tend to get lax after a meeting has happened and the excitement has passed).


Dave Singer

singer@mac.com
Received on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 16:34:41 UTC

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