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Style Working Group has gone into purely reactive accessibility mode

From: David Woolley <forums@david-woolley.me.uk>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 08:39:25 +0100
Message-ID: <488048AD.8080208@david-woolley.me.uk>
To: Web Accessibilty <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Recent (about a year ago) narrow interpretations of the www-style 
mailing list charter mean that any attempt to discuss the philosophy 
behind web standards is suppressed.  A consequence of this is that 
accessibility only becomes an issue when there is an obvious 
accessibility problem with a particular proposal (and then only on the 
specific aspect of the proposal), or if an issue becomes significant 
enough for W3C management to intervene.

Off list communication with the de facto moderator of the list indicates 
that one reason for this was opening the low level technical discussion 
to the public.  Whilst this is desirable, I don't think it should be at 
the expense of strategic philosophy discussions.

The official line tends to be take such discussions to an appropriate 
other list.  This list would probably be the one that applies for strict 
accessibility, but the philosophy issues also include things like the 
balance between consumer and publisher (my impression is that the 
original intent of the web was an equal balance, and an environment 
where consumers where also producers, however I think that www-style 
attracts people interested in the central control of information, the 
traditional commercial model (I'm summarising heavily here)).  I'm not 
sure what list actually covers the high level philosophical framework.

Whilst I suspect many of the current www-style contributors would not 
have followed the old style www-style, I think that very few indeed will 
monitor lists like the current one being one which tends to be populated 
by people who strongly believe in accessibilty and people in the 
accessibility industry.  Consequently, directing discussing to an 
approriate list basically means:  talk amongst yourselves and don't 
bother us.

A slight improvement might result if www-style were split, but I suspect 
that most contributors would just stay with the narrow focussed list.

One of the reasons I'm raising this here is that even meta discussion 
about the nature of the list is strongly discouraged on www-style.  One 
tends to be encouraged to go off list to Fantasai, but she is one of the 
people enforcing the current nature of the list.

The immediate trigger for this was when a well known personality, known 
for stretching W3C list charters, and who actually dropped out of this 
list because it wasn't following his line, strayed into www-style on a 
cross post, but my feeling that that the charter is being used to limit 
relevant debate on the philosophy behind the web goes back further than 

David Woolley
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Received on Friday, 18 July 2008 07:38:17 UTC

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