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Conformance and the WSA document

From: Champion, Mike <Mike.Champion@SoftwareAG-USA.com>
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 14:10:10 -0400
Message-ID: <BDD579D96530CA4BAAAD5D9549BDE779077953@resmsg01.sagus.com>
To: www-ws-arch@w3.org

Following up on an action item from the editors, I'd like to initiate a
discussion: What can / should the WSA document say about its normativeness,
conformance to it, etc.?

We had a short (rather pointed, IIRC) discussion in Rennes about this.  I
can see two extremes, with a lot of reasonable ground in the middle:

A) The WSA document is intended to be a W3C Recommendation, and as such
should prescribe how people SHOULD use its terminology and taxonomy
(ontology?) of Web service concepts and relationships.  One can make
meaningful statements about whether a particular specification conforms to
the WSA or not, and this will be useful information. Thus, the WSA document
should make very clear which pieces of text are normative and prescriptive,
and which are merely explanatory text.  While we clearly don't have time to
develop formal conformance criteria, this should be done by someone,
sometime. [In other words, we're playing Dirty Harry (the cop who acts
without formal authority to clean up the messes) -- "go ahead, make our

Z) The WSA WG cannot realistically hope to tell the big companies (the
largest of whom is not even a nominal member of the WG) how to write their
specs.  All we can do is provide a forum in which a rough consensus on the
definitions of terms, and a loose conceptual framework to relate them, can
be sketched out.  Any attempt to talk about "conformance" would be hubris on
our part.  Thus, the WSA should not embarrass ourselves by pretending that
we are making normative, prescriptive statements. [In other words, nobody
gave us a gun and a badge and told us to clean up Dodge City, they just
hired us as consultants to define criteria by which the good guys and bad
guys might possibly be identified, if anyone has the courage :-) ].

I'll stake out a personal position in the middle:
M)  The WSA WG is chartered to make sense out of the Web services world, and
we'll do our best to find consensus positions that we can plausibly hope
that most parties outside the WG can live with.  If the big guys don't,
they don't, but at least we provide "cover" for those who do. We should act
as if the document will be taken seriously as a normative guide, and make it
clear which sections are intended to be strong suggestions, and which are
merely descriptive, but without obsessing over the distinction between
"SHOULD" and "MUST" except in the most clear-cut cases. [In other words,
we're the Citizens Committee trying to clean up Dodge City by setting a good

Received on Thursday, 9 October 2003 14:13:27 UTC

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