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Decision Policy [was: Intended Audience]

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2009 08:30:23 -0500
Message-ID: <4984526F.5080405@intertwingly.net>
To: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
CC: public-html <public-html@w3.org>

Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
> The W3C's HTML WG has the following decision policy:
> - Issues are raised and discussed; the editor(s) of relevant documents 
> make an initial judgment on the best resolution and spec text.
> - The first stage of escalation, if the initial decision does not 
> satisfy, is to re-raise the issue and have a second group discussion.
> - The second stage of escalation, if rough consensus on the issue is not 
> visible and there continue to be serious objections to the spec 
> language, is to hold a formal group vote to overrule the editor.
> - The third stage of escalation, if the editor(s) refuses to abide by a 
> group vote, is for the Chairs to discuss the matter with them and if 
> necessary appoint new editor(s) (preferably with input from the group).

The W3C HTML WG has not been operating like any other W3C working group 
ever.  I expect that to continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

What I am about to say doesn't directly conflict with what Maciej is 
saying above, but IMHO represents a significantly different perspective. 
  It also doesn't exactly match how we are currently working in that it 
includes a few places where I describe what I would like to see this 
group evolve towards.  It may also differ from the way that the working 
group has operated in the past.  Simply put: this work group has been 
and continues to be more than a bit dysfunctional, and I believe I was 
named as co-chair as it was felt that I could help address that.

With those caveats in place, here goes:

1) Editors have wide latitude in what they put in their drafts.  If they 
wish to put something in their document which does not meet with any 
objections from anybody in the work group, they are free to do so.

2) Contributors may work with editors however they see fit.  The 
public-html mailing list is preferred, but IM, other mailing lists, and 
face to face are all acceptable.  If this results in the editor making a 
change, the rules in #1 above apply.  In particular, note that no change 
to a document based on input that takes place exclusively off of this 
W3C public-html mailing list can be considered a decision of the W3C 
Working Group.

3) Members of the working group may raise issues at any time.  Issues 
are to be raised on the public-html mailing list, need to be specific 
and contain an actual proposal to be considered OPEN, and will be 
indexed by the http://www.w3.org/html/wg/tracker/issues list.  Until 
resolved, if three independent members of the working group agree that 
this is an issue, editors are expected to include a brief summary of the 
issue in subsequent working drafts until the issue is resolved.  The 
people who raised the issue are encouraged to produce the wording for 
such notes.

4) From time to time, people will have different visions.  It happens. 
When that occurs, those people are encouraged to produce their own 
draft.  Again, three independent people participating in the development 
of such a draft is generally considered a minimum requirement for such 
to be considered a product of the working group, but this will not be 
evaluated or enforced on documents which are perceived to be 
non-controversial (example: the HTML5/HTML4 differences doc).

5) When a group decision needs to be made, for example on an issue or on 
publishing a draft as a product of the working group, it is the 
co-chairs role to assess whether or not there is "sufficient consensus" 
in the working group to proceed.  The co-chairs have wide latitude on 
ways to access such consensus.  Identifying three independent 
supporters, placing a message out on the mailing list soliciting 
objections, waiting a sufficient period of time, and noting for the 
record at a later date that no objections were produced is an example of 
how things work in a healthy working group.  At other times polls or 
even votes may be used, but these approaches will tend to be avoided, at 
least by this co-chair.

6) All Chair actions are appealable to W3C management at any time.  This 
is particularly true for actions that differ from the charter.  Which 
means that even if every member of the working group and both chairs 
agrees that we should add, for example, data storage APIs, it still 
could be appealed due to charter concerns.

A few notes:

a) I've made a number of references to 'independent'.  I recognize that 
that is entirely subjective, and up to the chairs to evaluate. 
hsivonen, maciej, and lachy often agree on things, but generally are 
considered independent.  By contrast, if an issue is raised by jonas and 
ONLY endorsed by rsayre and dbaron, depending on the issue at hand, that 
may not be recognized by the chairs as sufficient.  That is not to say 
that independence is assessed exclusively on company boundaries: Ian, 
for example may have a different view than other employees at Google, 
and should the WHATWG start coordinating their votes, that will tend to 
reduce the independence of such votes.  I don't mean to belabor the 
point: I truly don't expect this to be a problem in practice.

b) The 'three independent' rule is often necessary but generally not 
sufficient, whether it be in matters of deciding whether an issue is to 
be raised or if a draft is to progress.  For example, a draft may be 
developed in good faith by three upstanding members of the working 
group, but not have sufficient support to warrant progressing.  Three 
people may raise an objection that has no coherent proposal and not be 
recognized by the chairs as being OPEN.

c) A subtle point that merits further explanation: it never is a goal of 
the chairs to replace an editor.  However chairs can recognize that the 
draft produced by an editor fails to have the support of the working 
group, resulting in that draft failing to meet its heartbeat 
requirement.  Additionally, other members of the working group are free 
to produce drafts which contain substantial portions of text from the 
original draft, and such drafts may later be recognized as products of 
the working group.

d) For the above to work effectively, chairs must earn the trust of the 
working group, and members of the Working Group must make a reasonable 
effort to give each other the benefit of the doubt.  If you see 
something surprising, consider asking a question rather than imputing 
that nefarious motives are at play.  It also means noting issues and 
moving on instead of attempting to stop the work of others, no matter 
how deeply you might disagree with that work.

And finally, a few words about this mailing list.  For this to be an 
open process, it is necessary that we establish the mailing list 
simultaneously as a place where everything of importance occurs, and as 
a place where everybody who has an interest in doing so can keep up by 
reading every message.  These requirements conflict at times.  So a few 
more words on an already too length note.

On Thursday, I'd like to lift any and all moratoriums, but before doing 
so would like to take this opportunity to give everybody a vocabulary 

The first word is "filibuster".  This is where one person or a group 
creates a denial of service attack on the mailing list by repeatedly 
posting on a single subject, often with varying ideas.

The second word (ok: phrase) is "ad nauseum".  It differs from a 
filibuster in that it focuses on repetition of the same ideas.

The third word is "strawman".  It involves raising and addressing an 
issue that bears only a superficial resemblance to the topic being 

Keep a watch out for these three, and call them out when you see them. 
And yes, by all means call me out too if I happen to stray.  If called 
out, either back off or clarify.  In general it not necessary to either 
acknowledge or refute the claim, as doing so tends to decrease the 
signal to noise ratio on this list.  Bogus claims reduce the credibility 
of the person making the claim, and defending oneself doesn't generally 
change anybody's mind.

If you look at the current mailing list, you can see that it is 
dominated by a few voices:


The clear leader is Ian, and that's by virtue of him participating 
constructively in so many different discussions.  I may differ with Ian 
on a few technical issues, and on what is an appropriate decision making 
process, but I will say this: his participation on this mailing list 
this month has been truly exemplary.

At the moment, I have a slight lead over a few others.  I attribute this 
to my initially clumsy and now increasingly confident attempts to reduce 
the amount of dysfunction in this Working Group.  In a properly 
functioning working group, voices of chairs should be rarely sought out 
and infrequently heard.  I really really really want to get to that point.

I'll leave the remaining analysis to others, and will suggest that if 
anybody does the data crunching that they refrain from posting the 
results of any data prior to this point in time.  What's done is done, 
lets move forward.  But if necessary the chairs will consider options 
ranging from splitting this mailing list to requesting either individual 
or group throttles on specific topics or even the whole mailing list.

A corollary to the above is that if you agree with what you see in this 
email, either keep that opinion it to yourself or share your opinions 
off list.  But if you don't understand or don't agree with something, 
please bring it to Chris and my attention, and include this mailing list 
if you feel that such is warranted.

- Sam Ruby
Received on Saturday, 31 January 2009 13:31:03 UTC

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