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On Consensus

From: Brian McBride <bwm@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Date: Tue, 24 Sep 2002 09:22:32 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: RDF Core <w3c-rdfcore-wg@w3.org>

I was discussing the vote last Friday with Eric yesterday evening and he 
reminded me that W3C process is about *consensus*.

I re-read the  W3C process document


this morning, where I found the following:

The W3C process requires Chairs to ensure that groups consider all 
legitimate views and objections, and endeavor to resolve them. Decisions 
may be made during meetings (face-to-face or distributed) as well as 
through email. The following terms are used in this document to describe 
the level of support for a group decision:

    1. Unanimity: All participants agree.
    2. Consensus: No participants object (but some may abstain).
    3. Dissent: At least one participant objects.

Where unanimity is not possible, the group should strive to make decisions 
where there is at least consensus with substantial support (i.e., few 
abstentions) from all participants. To avoid decisions that are made 
despite nearly universal apathy (i.e., with little support and substantial 
abstention), groups are encouraged to set minimum thresholds of active 
support before a decision can actually be recorded. The appropriate 
percentage may vary depending on the size of the group and the nature of 
the decision. A group charter may include a quorum requirement for 
consensus decisions.

In some cases, even after careful consideration of all points of view, a 
group may find itself unable to reach consensus. When this happens, if 
there is a need to advance (for example, to produce a deliverable in a 
timely manner), the Chair may announce a decision to which there is 
dissent. When deciding to announce such a decision, the Chair must be aware 
of which participants work for the same (or related) Member organizations 
and weigh their input accordingly. When a decision must be reached despite 
dissent, groups should favor proposals that create the least strong 
objections. This is preferred over proposals that are supported by a large 
majority of the group but that cause strong objections from a few participants.

Since the vote on Friday, we have seen both Jos and Jan raise further 
dissent than was apparent at the telecon.

A 6-5 vote with Jos missing and later dissenting hardly represents consensus.

I believe we have to try again to find a consensus.  I am therefore 
suggesting that we put our thinking caps back on, better understand the 
real concerns related to this issue and see if we can find a solution that 
can attract broader support than we have seen so far.

It has been suggested that a way to approach difficult issues like this, is 
to work on agreeing, not on the decision itself, but on the issues related 
to the decision; on the rationale if you like, for why the decision should 
be made one way rather than another.  To that end, I suggest as a start 
towards doing that, I collect and summarize the input we had last week.

Received on Tuesday, 24 September 2002 04:25:07 UTC

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