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Re: Update on Technical Architecture Group

From: Janet Daly <janet@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 08 Jul 2001 23:24:43 -0400
Message-ID: <3B4923FB.4DEC69EE@w3.org>
To: Aaron Swartz <me@aaronsw.com>
CC: www-talk@w3.org

Aaron Swartz wrote:
> On Sunday, July 8, 2001, at 08:54  PM, Janet Daly wrote:
> > Four weeks ago, Aaron Swartz introduced a thread [0] based on a topic
> > presented at the W3C Technical Plenary [1], a meeting that was
> > open only
> > to W3C Working Group members, but considered open;
> A correction: The meeting was open to members of the public, as
> I was neither a W3C Member, nor a Working Group member at the
> time I attended. (I attended as a member of the RDF Interest
> Group, whose membership is completely open.)

Yes, Aaron, you are a member of the RDG IG, which had its first
face-to-face meeting during the week. People who belonged to the WGs or
IGs who had face-to-face meetings scheduled during the week were welcome
to register and attend the Technical Plenary day.

Another correction - it was eight weeks ago when you sent your first
message regarding the TAG.

> > The first ideas for the TAG actually preceded the creation of the
> > xml-uri mailing list [3] [...] However, it's safe to
> > say that many of the participants, regardless of the position(s) they
> > held, left with a wish for a different way to produce a solution.
> I apologize if I've misunderstood you, but it sounds like you're
> saying: "We tried being open with xml-uri and it didn't work, so
> now we're going with something different." I'd suggest that this
> is not the best decision.
> xml-uri seems to have been the first time the W3C tried to build
> consensus among the public. I think that it should be expected
> that things didn't go perfectly the first time. Furthermore,
> while I did not participate at the time, but from my
> understanding, xml-uri was tackling some difficult issues
> (relative URIs in namespaces) for which there was no quick and
> easy answer. To make things even more difficult, this is an
> issue that many of the participants felt quite passionately
> about.
> While it didn't work out that time, the Web, and indeed the
> entire Internet, has a long history of building things through
> public consensus. The IETF, whose open process does have some
> flaws, has built practically all of the important Internet
> standards in use today. I don't see why the W3C needs to turn in
> the opposite direction and I hope that it does not.

Perhaps a better try at explaining: There have already been many
discussions on public W3C lists and elsewhere about the need for
concerted efforts in discussing, describing, and defining Web
architecture. In the early days of W3C, there was some measure of
understanding about HTTP, HTML, and URIs (even if there was some dispute
about what U, R, and I should represent). There was understanding that
these should work, regardless of one's chosen operating system, or
culture, or the graphics capabilities of a device. As the demands of Web
users have grown in subtlety and complexity (not to mention scale), the
technologies required have grown in complexity as well. Consensus, at
the core of W3C work, is worthwhile, but it is not easy to find. 

Given that there were already ideas for something akin to an advisory
group which might produce explanatory documents, the TAG seemed like an
idea worth pursuing. This is a growth effort, at making explanations and
answering questions that all of us would like to see solved. 

It doesn't mean ruling out public comment or openness: the XML Protocol
Activity was proposed and launched after the xml-uri discussions; the
Technical Plenary was the first meeting of its kind in W3C. In their
ways, they are contributing to better public and inter-WG communication,
which is essential for the growth and thriving of the Web.

> > As W3C has grown, there have been more frequent requests for
> > documentation of architectural principles that cross multiple
> > technologies. People ask, "How do W3C technologies fit together? What
> > basics must people know before they start developing a new technology?"
> While I understand that this is an important problem for the W3C
> to face, I hope that it does not forget its motto: "Leading the
> *Web* to its full potential" (emphasis added). While W3C
> technologies are often interesting, and sometimes important,
> lets not lose site of their goal: to build a better Web. I, and
> I think many others, would rather know how the technologies that
> for the Web fit together. Whether these technologies are made by
> the W3C or some other standards organization, makes little
> difference to me.
> I hope that the W3C recognizes the importance of this
> Web-centric view. Let's not miss the forest for the trees.

We are conscious of this, Aaron, though your reminder is appreciated.
> > It is my (personal) hope that we will have a document to share soon; at
> > the time we post the TAG charter, we will also be sending out a call
> > for nominations for the TAG.
> I hope that these events do not occur at the same time, although
> your wording implies that. I would not want the TAG charter to
> be released when it is too late -- when members are already
> being nominated and the process is fully underway. That is why I
> feel this is so urgent -- the charter must have public review
> before it is put in place.

The history and approach we've taken with the W3C Process document is
somewhat similar to what we're doing with the TAG. Back in 1996, when
people inside and outside of W3C wanted to know how we did our work, we
produced a process document internally, and published it without
Membership review. Beginning in 1999, the Proposed revisions of the
Process Document receive a member-review before it is published

A history of changes is available:
> > In addition to Q&A on the www-talk mailing list, you are also welcome
> > to talk with the Working Group members you know (if you belong to a
> > Working Group) or to your Advisory Committee representative (if you are
> > a Member).
> But this is exactly the problem! I do not want this discussion
> to happen behind closed doors, I want it public because the
> public should have a say about their Web. I don't think I can
> overestimate the importance of this issue.

I think there will be much valuable public discussion; this is just one
example. If I may say, I think it's important to understand that the TAG
is intended to provide an Advisory role, which was discussed at the
Technical Plenary.

The second review of the TAG charter is nearly complete; provided there
are no major issues raised in this last review, the document will be
available shortly. I will make a point of sending an announcement to
www-talk with the URI as soon as it is available.
> I thank you graciously for coming out and commenting about this
> in public, but let's continue the conversation. I understand
> that you are somewhat limited by W3C process, but I wish that
> major decisions like these were worked out with the public at
> large, not sprung upon us as a surprise.
> As you may have noticed, this is an issue I feel extremely
> passionate about and I may tend to overstress my concerns.
> However, I ask that you take this in the right way -- I
> appreciate the W3C, and want to try my best to make sure it does
> the right thing.

Aaron, I don't believe that you are alone in your concerns that the Web
continue to thrive in a way that meets its full potential, which means
serving the Web community at large. Inside or outside of the W3C
membership, it's likely a point on which we may establish consensus. As
W3C evolves, I hope that the discussions continue.

Best regards,



World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Janet Daly, Head of Communications
MIT/LCS NE43-363
200 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139

voice: 617.253.5884
fax:   617.258.5999 
Received on Sunday, 8 July 2001 23:24:41 UTC

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