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Re: Why I don't attend the weekly teleconference (Was: Input on the agenda)

From: Shelley Powers <shelley.just@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 23 Jun 2009 18:30:55 -0500
Message-ID: <643cc0270906231630m2c48394n9cf5244c01230acf@mail.gmail.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: public-html@w3.org
On Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 5:03 PM, Ian Hickson<ian@hixie.ch> wrote:
> On Tue, 23 Jun 2009, Shelley Powers wrote:
>> Ian, are you part of a team, or a one man show?
> The WHATWG list has over 1000 subscribers, and the public-html itself has
> several hundred, and the HTML5 spec has well over 300 names on it, so I
> think it's quite obvious that I am but a tiny part of a huge team of
> people working on HTML5.
>> If you're part of the team, get with the team. If not, let's end all
>> pretense that this group is doing anything effective [...]
> I don't understand what this has to do with meetings. Could you elaborate?

When issues come up in the teleconferences, they're usually put on
hold because you're not there to provide either opinion or answer.

And if you are part of the team, that means that you have to,
sometimes, participate in a manner that the team chooses, unless the
choice is cost or otherwise prohibitive.

Is that the problem? Google is not willing to let you have time for a
meeting? They won't let you use the phone? Don't take offense, but are
you hard of hearing? I can understand not wanting to do a
teleconference if you're hard of hearing.

> Teleconference calls and face-to-face meetings simply don't work when the
> team has thousands of people as this one does. I want to make sure
> _everyone_'s input is taken into account, not just the few people who
> happen to be in the right timezone and happen to think it is worth their
> time to spend 90 minutes trying to figure out who forgot to mute their
> phone. (Teleconferences are basically exclusionary.)

Thousands of people, most of whom have probably forgotten that they're
supposedly part of this 'team". The email lists exist for the silent
majority -- it is not a question of either/or.

There is a group of people willing to attend the meeting, either as
teleconference, or via the IRC. If you weren't part of the critical
path, probably no one would care if you don't show up. But at this
time, you are the sole author of what's going into HTML5. How many
times have the meetings ended up with questions only you can answer?

So in some ways you're generating a self-fulfilling prophecy:

You: The meetings are not useful

The meetings frequently generate questions only you can answer
You're not attending the meetings
The questions are not answered
Therefore, the meetings are not useful.

> people are not put under a time pressure to have an opinion immediately
> but are instead able to actually go and do research and figure out what
> the right answer is.

And that's what people are doing. And then they are coming back and
reporting on their researches.

> Teleconferences when used for issue resolution are possibly the single
> worst possible form of decision making system.

People who have not
> studied an issue are presented with a topic and the expectation is that
> the issue will be resolved right there. This leaves no room for research,
> no room for pondering designs, no room for studying possible solutions.

There are any number of people who do the research, check with other
parties, and provide both proposals and results at these meetings.

> Face-to-face meetings are better in that they at least provide a good
> environment for small groups of people to brainstorm ideas. We have used
> these in the past for HTML5 for particular topics, when a small group of
> people happen to be in the same geographic location and happen to have
> strong opinions on a particular topic, to brainstorm some ideas. This
> works IF and only if the group is then willing to go back and put forward
> a proposal for the group as a whole.
> Face-to-face meetings also work well for social interaction, in that they
> help people get to know each other, which can help them work better by
> e-mail. (This is no panacea; in practice I have found this really can only
> make existing good working relationships better. I have never seen this
> take two people who have radically different viewpoints and make them work
> well together.)
> Face-to-face meetings when they involve large groups of people (say, 5 or
> more) are useless because they either devolve into very long debates that
> would be better handled by e-mail, or they devolve into small group
> discussions where most people are ignoring the discussion (except that at
> the end everyone is asked for an opinion, even those who don't have an
> informed opinion).
> Finally, face-to-face meetings are also exclusionary, with an even higher
> barrier than teleconferences, since attending them is expensive (and with
> the W3C's new policies, even if you don't need to pay airfare and a hotel
> you STILL need to pay to attend the meeting, further limiting who can
> attend and take part in the discussions).
> I have attended literally hundreds of W3C meetings, both teleconferences
> and face-to-face, hosted by dozens of chairmen including many who claimed
> that they were unusual and were able to keep meetings productive, and I
> have uniformly found them to be a waste of time.

Then I believe it is in your best interest to work with the chairs of
this group to come up with an alternative, or a way to make the
meetings useful, rather than disrespect those who spend time and
effort trying to make these meetings work.

> HTML5 has progressed faster than any other working group specification
> I've been involved with, and I attribute that largely to the asynchronous
> development process we have followed.

I believe you have attributed this to your role as benevolent dictator.

> I will continue to operate by e-mail as our charter allows. If other
> people wish to talk by phone, then that is their right, and I have no
> objection to people doing that, so long as they do so within the limits
> put forth by our charter (which requires that all decisions be made
> asynchronously to allow for broad participation).

>> and you can go do your asynchronous HTML5 thing, and the W3C will begin
>> fresh with a different set of editors.
> I've been looking for more editors for literally years; if there is anyone
> who would like to help out there are dozens of specs waiting for editors.
> Please, if you know of anyone who can edit specs, have them step forward.

OK, I hereby volunteer to be the editor of the specification related
to HTML Tables, and to the part of the specification supposedly
addressing issues of semantic metadata.

I'm serious -- where do I sign up, and when can I get editing rights?


> --
> Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
> http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
> Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 23:31:30 UTC

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