Re: Request for Decision: Design Principles

On Apr 18, 2007, at 2:51 PM, Doug Schepers wrote:

> Hi, Maciej-
> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> I don't think anyone has called for treating them as "holy writ".  
>> They are guidelines, not inviolate rules.
> Ah... a non-binding resolution, then...
> If they are guidelines, then they are already there on the wiki to  
> cite.  Why do they need to be official?

An official document would work better as something to show to  
newcomers and people outside the group.

> Are these design principals comprehensive?

No. I'm hoping we keep changing them when/if needed. But even then, I  
doubt any document could capture all possible considerations in  
making a spec.

> If they are made official, what manner do you propose to enforce them?

Same way we would enforce any other group decision -- by counting on  
good faith of the group and letting it stand unless new information  
or arguments are brought up.

> If you don't enforce them, how do they help?

Same way as the TAG's "Architecture of the World Wide Web" and other  
findings help - by informing future decisions on specific issues.

>   I'd like all these issues answered as part of the voting process.
>>> I see no clear benefit in establishing such a rigid stance.  But  
>>> what I think they would be very effective at doing is  
>>> establishing a "power base" at the outset of the group that would  
>>> quash different opinions later on, a practice I find dubious at  
>>> best.
>> These are issues that I expect will come up over and over again. I  
>> think it would be a waste of our time to re-argue the underlying  
>> issues repeatedly.
> It seems to me that introducing them has merely created long  
> arguments about them, distracting from productive discussion about  
> individual issues.  I see no evidence that this will subside.

I've also seen them referred to usefully in discussion of individual  
issues. But we also haven't done that much discussion of individual  
issues yet, since we don't have a spec or an editor.

> I will continue to argue each issue from the view that makes the  
> most sense to me, regardless of whether or not it reflects one of  
> the Official Design Principles.  I hope others will do the same.
> Ideas stand on their own merit, not on the merit of an ideology.

If you really believe that, I think it is a fine reason to vote  
against adopting anything officially. But it's not a reason for the  
group to refuse to vote.

That being said, ideas do not stand in isolation. For example, if I  
proposed adding a declarative retained-mode set of tags for  
structured vector graphics to HTML, that shouldn't be evaluated  
solely on the quality of the proposed new tags, but with reference to  
AWWW's principle of orthogonal specifications, and to the fact that  
most browsers are already implementing such a mechanism in the form  
of SVG or VML.

For a spec to be a cohesive whole, we have to make certain  
assumptions about what kind of change is good or bad. We can  
certainly all make our own personal assumptions and trot them out  
every time a decision has to be made, but I think that will just  
result in talking past each other. Take a look at the versioning  
debate for a prime example of different underlying assumptions  
leading to failed communication. That is why I would rather make our  
assumptions (at least ones we can agree on) explicit.

>> I would be much more sympathetic to disagreement with specific  
>> things in the principles than in disagreement with recording them  
>> at all.
> That's the point.  I don't want to get bogged down in a discussion  
> of whether an idea is RightThink.  That doesn't seem pragmatic.

But above you said "Ideas stand on their own merit, not on the merit  
of an ideology." "Don't discuss abstract principles" is an ideology.

> And your reply doesn't address my issue: I think that any such  
> codification will be harmful to a free and open debate.

On the contrary, I think it will be helpful to a productive debate to  
have shared assumptions that we record. Otherwise, we'll just talk in  
circles and the same points will come up over and over.

> Laws are made up of the people that enforce them.  I think that  
> many people will have opinions and ideas to contribute without  
> knowing 1) these design principals, and 2) more importantly, the  
> agendas of the people that put them forth.
> These ideas are not abstract and unencumbered.  They reflect the  
> methodology of the WHATWG, and have a storied and elaborate set of  
> arguments to support them.  I'm not saying they are bad in  
> themselves; I'm saying that one would have to be familiar with far  
> more than the document you cite to truly understand all the  
> implications.
> To wax cassandric, what this means is, for each given argument  
> against something in the WHATWG spec, there will be a chorus of  
> talking points citing these principals that will drown out those  
> who haven't had time or interest to read the whole WHATWG document  
> *and* the associated mailing list.

That's probably going to happen whether or not the HTML Working Group  
officially adopts anything. And being informed by the history of and  
reasoning behind a decision is a *good* thing. Ignoring history will  
likely lead to worse decisions and to arbitrary thrash. Getting  
informed is something everyone needs to do (incrementally) to be an  
effective participant in this group.

>>> For that reason alone, not any merit or deficit of the principals  
>>> themselves, I would be against making them Official.  I'm in  
>>> favor of using them as "gentle reminders".
>> That being said, if we put them up for a vote, you'll have the  
>> opportunity to express this point of view.
> If it's going to come down to a vote, I'd like to let people know  
> what they're voting for.

Fair enough. I don't think it is out of order for you to state your  
opposition, and I am glad that you have done so and backed it up with  

> Of course, since this list is full of people who have already drunk  
> the WHATWG koolaid, I anticipate that these Design Principals will  
> indeed become "official".  So I'm glad that there is unlikely to be  
> any enforcement.

In general, I don't anticipate beating people up for bringing new  
information or new arguments to the table. I do anticipate pointing  
people who are rehashing old arguments to relevant context.


Received on Wednesday, 18 April 2007 22:26:57 UTC