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Re: Recent ERB votes

From: Len Bullard <cbullard@HiWAAY.net>
Date: Thu, 14 Nov 1996 22:40:17 -0600
Message-ID: <328BF431.5CE6@HiWAAY.net>
To: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
CC: W3C-SGML-WG@w3.org
Tim Bray wrote:
> At 11:20 PM 10/11/96 -0600, Len Bullard wrote:
>  ... a whole bunch of stuff that deserves a reaction. ...
> I know Len quite well and respect his opinion on all sorts of
> things, so at this point, I am going to discard diplomacy and say:
> Len, you are right out to lunch on this one.


> 1. Microsoft and VRML and XML
> First off, your attempt to draw a parallel to the VRML war stories
> is bogus.  I was there too.  

Yes, I remember.  I have the archive.

> In VRML, Microsoft ignored the process,
> did not even listen to the discussions, then dropped a violently
> incompatible, radically weird, technology from a great height, and
> was [deservedly] rejected.  

It was also a good design in many ways.  Failure to participate 
publicly was the public reason for rejection, IMO.  Brutality in 
the private sessions was reported by those who were there.

> Len also conveniently ignores the fact that
> a small panel of self-appointed experts, the VRML architecture group,
> once the basic framework was selected, made essentially all the crucial
> detail decisions about what was in, what was out, and the
> technical details.  Many members of the VAG never said a word on
> the public mailing lists.

True but not forgotten.  But for every major decision, a list vote 
was held and enforced.  It was as open a process as one could 
have hoped for.  Probably the only one I've seen of that magnitude.
> Microsoft has been on board, since day 1, and has subscribed to the basic
> design goals that we pretty much all share. 

The interesting thing is that there were several who were on board 
from day one and have been at work for a while now.  A self-chosen
VRML did not start that way. It was a list that eventually spawned
a VAG, also self-appointed but selected as well by the moderator.
Same results, different and open process.

> I would also have been happier
> to  see Jean outline some of his positions to the WG; but if you look at the
> brutal ERB meeting schedule, it becomes clear why only unemployed layabouts
> like myself and James Clark, and those who can type faster than 3 people
> can talk, such as Michael S-McQ and Eliot Kimber, can really afford to pitch
> in there and also carry lances in WG-land.  

This is a bit too important for such excuses.  Sorry, Tim, but a lot 
of us have brutal schedules.

> The main role of the ERB was to
> listen to the WG, and to vote.  We did those things.

> 2. Role and Transparency of the ERB
> I think that if we could have had a much larger-scale, slower, more
> collegial process, we would have had a better XML.  But we would
> have had it in 1998, with luck.  The ERB was the only way to make this
> happen in Internet time.

Interesting.  Self-appointed panic as well.
> Secondly, all the votes of the ERB are a matter of public record.  You
> can certainly find some trends there (Bray voting for minimalism at all
> costs, Maler for SGML micro-consistency, Kimber for a larger subset,
> Sperberg-McQueen for a richer authoring environment) but you can *not*
> find evidence of any sleazy corporate machinations.  Because there
> weren't any.

I didn't say there were.  You are making up things, Tim.  I point 
out that in the case of grandfathering HTML, you serve the economic 
interests of two corporations who are the only serious contenders 
in the HTML browser industry.   That is not conspiracy.  That you 
serve the interests of the HTML authors is also true, but this 
is not about HTML or any specific SGML application.  If it is, then 
it is time for many of us to go on to other more important work.
There are many SGML applications.   Your own feelings about that 
are clear and a matter of record.  So are mine.  We can leave it 
at that.

> Consider the makeup of the 11 voting members.  5 have no vendor
> affiliations (Bray, Clark, Kimber, Magliery, Sperberg-McQueen) 3
> come from established SGML vendors (DeRose, Maler, Sharpe), 2 from
> big system vendors (whose SGML plans if any are opaque to me at
> least) (Bosak, Hollander), and Paoli from Microsoft.  If you think that
> Jean, even if he had been pushing a diabolical corporate agenda, could
> buffalo this collection of obsessive-compulsives, pedantic purists, and
> get-it-done-now engineers... gimme a break.

I am not attacking Jean.  I am saying, let microsoft make some 
contributions to this working list.  Otherwise, let the HTML 
justifications for bad design go because the owner of the 
application is not interested in contributing.

 > 3. On the nature of appropriate debate
> It is perfectly reasonable to disagree with the selection of predefined
> attributes (I do) and politico-technical design compromises (as Lee and
> Bob Streich do) and deviations from 8879 no matter how minor (as Charles
> does).  It is not appropriate or useful, at this point, to start sliming
> the process because it producec some results you didn't like.

You are over the mark, Tim.  I am not sliming this process.  I am
to it.

> This conspiracy soapbox is unworthy of you, Len, and has no basis in fact.
> Climb down.

Take the obnoxious reading elsewhere, Tim.  You are talking conspiracy
that is a charge unworthy of you.  I am talking bad design being
by mediocre justfications, and noting that such things are being 
voted into the spec.  That isn't conspiracy.  It is poor judgement.

Len Bullard
Received on Thursday, 14 November 1996 23:40:04 UTC

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