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Notes About Notes (was: Let's turn WebDatabase into a WG Note)

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 04:53:27 -0500
Message-ID: <4B07B897.80103@w3.org>
To: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
CC: "Nikunj R. Mehta" <nikunj.mehta@oracle.com>, public-webapps WG <public-webapps@w3.org>
Hi, Folks-

Just a clarification about what the W3C Process Document [1] says about 
one point of this debate...

Maciej Stachowiak wrote (on 11/18/09 1:58 AM):
> Furthermore, stopping work would do practical harm:
> - A WG Note would stop work without producing a test suite, thus harming
> interoperability.
> - A WG Note would leave us with no clear process to fix problems found
> in the spec in the course of implementation.
> - A WG Note is harder to "resurrect" in case of new info than a stalled
> Working Draft; it would require essentially a new FPWD.
> - It's likely that Web Database implementors will at some point want to
> add features, and a WG Note does not provide a suitable path for doing
> that.

I don't see any evidence of that in the Process Document, which actually 
places few requirements on Working Group Notes (the references in this 
email are pretty exhaustive in what the PD has to say).  A Note is 
defined thus [2]:

Working Group Note
     A Working Group Note is published by a chartered Working Group to 
indicate that work has ended on a particular topic. A Working Group MAY 
publish a Working Group Note with or without its prior publication as a 
Working Draft.

In fact, this group (or more precisely, the WebAPI WG, one of this 
group's parents) took DOM3 Events directly from WG Note [3] back to 
Working Draft [4] without going to FPWD (after almost 3 years and a 
change of WGs).  This practice seems to be supported explicitly [5] by 
the PD, regarding possible next steps for a Note:

Work on a technical report MAY cease at any time. When a Working Group 
completes its work on a technical report, it publishes it either as a 
Recommendation or a Working Group Note.
Possible next steps:
  * End state: A technical report MAY remain a Working Group Note 
  * Otherwise: A Working Group MAY resume work on the technical report 
as a Working Draft

If anything, a strict examination of the W3C Process Document would seem 
to support Nikunj's position, if the WG is not going to be actively 
editing the document.  The Heartbeat Requirement clause [6] says,

It is important that a Working Group keep the Membership and public 
informed of its activity and progress. To this end, each Working Group 
SHOULD publish in the W3C technical reports index a new draft of each 
active technical report at least once every three months.
The heartbeat requirement stops when the document becomes a 
Recommendation (or a Working Group Note).

So, technically, we should be more rigorous about publishing each spec 
every 3 months; in practice, we publish when a spec has been updated 
significantly, which may be a defensible policy (in my personal opinion, 
not speaking as the Team Contact).

But if the WebDatabase spec is going to lie fallow for many months or 
years, with no active editor, nor clear plans to update it, nor notion 
of material that may be added to it (such as deciding on a SQL dialect), 
then that is a different matter than specs that are being actively 
worked on by unfortunately busy people who get to it when they can and 
publish in good faith when the spec has been changed.

Just to be clear, I'm not trying to push the group one way or the other 
here, just presenting what strict adherence to the Process Document 
would dictate.

I admit to being concerned that the "landscape" of local 
storage/caching/client-side databases/structured data seems rather 
cluttered at this moment, and would welcome some clarity that indicates 
to developers what they should be paying attention to, and I do think 
that "Web Database" may add unnecessarily to the confusion, amplified by 
having a name so generic.

However, the general tenor of the group seems to be against that.  Is 
this because someone has stepped up to be editor, or because there is 
some anticipation that more material (in addition to any caveats as 
mentioned by Adrian and Chaals) will be added to the spec in the next 6 
months or so?  Or is it simply that folks were fuzzy on what the role of 
a WG Note is, and what it would mean for future options for the group?

I am personally of the opinion that publishing the spec as a WG Note 
until new information comes to light may be a very reasonable course of 
action, which may help shed a small bit of clarity in the wider 
community, and does not in any way prevent this group from taking it up 
again later (even 6 months or so down the line).  Publishing as a WG 
Note would be no more fuss than publishing as an updated WD.

But by the same token, if there is intent to update it anytime in the 
next few months, particularly based on implementation experience, then I 
think it would be premature to publish it as a WG Note, even if that may 
ultimately end up as the course of action the WG decides upon.  (Note 
that unless the spec does settle on a SQL dialect, I suspect it would be 
unlikely to be approved for transition to CR.)

For the record, please be aware that any IP commitments associated with 
Web Database will not be binding unless it progresses to Recommendation 
(not that I know of any).

[1] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/
[2] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/tr.html#q75
[3] http://www.w3.org/TR/2003/NOTE-DOM-Level-3-Events-20031107/
[4] http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-DOM-Level-3-Events-20060413/
[5] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/tr.html#tr-end
[6] http://www.w3.org/2005/10/Process-20051014/groups.html#three-month-rule

-Doug Schepers
W3C Team Contact, SVG and WebApps WGs
Received on Saturday, 21 November 2009 09:53:33 UTC

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