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Re: Followup to "Supergroups" message to AC Forum

From: Florian Rivoal <florian@rivoal.net>
Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:03:25 +0900
Cc: Daniel Glazman <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>, "Carr, Wayne" <wayne.carr@intel.com>, Revising W3C Process Community Group <public-w3process@w3.org>
Message-Id: <8A030222-D3F9-4BD2-A4FB-C07045D40490@rivoal.net>
To: Michael Champion <Michael.Champion@microsoft.com>

> On Jun 21, 2016, at 06:27, Michael Champion <Michael.Champion@microsoft.com> wrote:
> 
>> Again, there's the theory and there's the WG practice. The practice
>> is that WGs work around the blockers in the Process, on Membership's
>> firm request.
> 
> As others have pointed out, the “blockers in the process” are there to make sure that the WG is operating within the boundaries of its charter, which is necessary under the patent policy. 
> 
> As I see it, we’ve already worked around the problem by creating the Community Group IPR policy which allows people to collaborate on new things so long as they commit to RF licensing any patents that cover their own contributions to a discussion. So the way forward isn’t to change the Process or Patent Policy to match the practice of mixing standardization and incubation in a WG, but to change the practice so that WGs have one or more affiliated CGs where incubation takes place under an IPR policy designed for that purpose, then specs can move to a WG where broad patent commitments are made for work that is in the scope of its charter.  That’s what Web Platform / WICG have done.  

Let's see if we can bring CGs into this conversation without going off the rails :)

I agree that the CG's IPR policy is better than the kind of limbo that not properly chartered EDs live in.

However, I think there remains very strong doubts about whether CGs themselves are a good solution to the problem we're discussing now.

Before I dive into why I think that's a bad idea in this situation (because that's somewhat long), here's an alternative proposal:

Explicitly charter WGs so that they can take on **as ED** any topic that falls within their scope without rechartering, and apply CG-like IPR rules to such drafts. Recharter (with a deliverable addition) only when you want to publish FPWD, and switch to the old fashioned WG IPR rules at that point. This isn't that far off what we do in practice already, but would get rid of the gray area for not-yet-chartered EDs.

I think incubation CGs are a good fairly good way to start working on something for which no existing WG would be a good home. They are also a good place to work on things that members of a WG have rejected when you want to try and prove them wrong.

However, I think that pushing work out of WGs into GCs when the membership of the WG is not a priori opposed to that topic (as evaluated by the usual informal consensus process rather than by rechartering) is risky.

 * There's no guarantee that the membership of the WG and that
   of the CG will stay synchronized, and given the different
   conditions for becoming a member of either, they are actually 
   quite likely to diverge. If a WG and its CG do have
   significantly different memberships, moving a spec from the
   CG to the WG when several (or all) of its key contributors
   or editors are not part of the WG is going to be a pain. It
   is not clear that there will be much motivation for the CG
   to hand off its work early to the WG when clear signs of
   traction appear.

   - If the WG takes it over early anyway, this introduces a
     significant risk of fork, and history has shown we're not
     particularly good a dealing with forks with TR track on
     the one side and live standards on the other.

   - If the WG waits too long, there won't be much else
     to do other than dotting Is, crossing Ts, and rubber
     stamping. This would still be useful from an IPR point
     of view, but it is not clear how many people would be
     motivated to work in such a WG, and even if that would
     work out, we'd have thrown out the consensus approach to
     spec building by moving most of it out of the WG.

 * If the WG and its CG do have largely the same membership,
   then the argument that moving exploratory work out to CGs
   saves the membership time and resources is void. People
   who do not care about a particular topic which is discussed
   in a group they are part of can ignore it just as well in
   a WG as in a CG. Having started the draft in a CG 
   actually creates more administrative work: all the overhead
   needed to publish the FPWD in the WG is still there, but
   in addition, you now need to document that the spec fulfills
   the the CG->WG graduation criteria. This may or may not be
   a lot, but it is a non-zero addition. This additional hurdle,
   even if small, also increases the risk that CG specs do not
   graduate into WGs early and spend a large part of their life
   outside of the consensus process, leave the WG mostly rubber
   stamping, or never make it to TR at all.

And if we alleviate all that by making sure that incubating CGs
have the same membership as WGs, the same consensus process,
the same editors, and a zero-effort transition between CG and WG,
then why have a CG in the first place? We'd be better off
applying CG-like IPR rules in the WGs to EDs that do not yet have
a FPWD.

 - Florian
Received on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 03:03:53 UTC

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