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Re: Data and Expertise (Was: Issues of @summary and use of data for "decisions")

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Thu, 25 Jun 2009 11:31:45 +0200
To: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>, "HTMLWG WG" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <op.uv2p270wwxe0ny@esws31067.es.deloitte.com>
On Wed, 24 Jun 2009 16:50:20 +0200, Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com> wrote:

> However what should be irrelevant when considering a recommendation is
> the expert's expertise.  Obviously his expertise has a great impact in
> influencing his recommendation and making it what it is -- so it's
> likely to be far superior to recommendations made by those ignorant of
> the domain.  But once it has been formed, it should be judged purely on
> its merits; its success should be identical to that if submitted
> anonymously.
> If the recommendation really is superior then that will be apparent from
> its technical merits.  It will have no need of special pleading because
> of its authorship.

Nonsense. You can't anonymously be an expert, and the weight attached to
the expert's opinion derives directly from a recognition of their
expertise. If you're not an expert, then the argument may not be clear to
you (although this suggests that the expert in question is clearer on
their own speialty than on expliaing it to others, which is a problem).

> An expert's recommendation should be justified with an explanation as to
> why it is the right course of action (with data, ideally!), just like
> anybody else's.  It would be a dereliction of this working group's
> duties to give any proposal a 'free pass' just because of its
> provenance.


There is of course an important difference between a 'free pass' and
believing statements made by experts which influence the interpretation of
part of the input that leads to an overall decision.

It's not nearly as clear cut as you make it out, unfortunately. If two
experts disagree, it isn't the smartest course to just pick the one you
like - you actually ahve to work out how to weigh their expertise and
objections - and because this is phenomenally hard for people who aren't
experts, W3C favours a process whereby the expets are expected to find a
consensus - and not through the various tactics collated (from "Yes
MInister" and some US government publication, apparently) at
http://ian.hixie.ch/bible/handling-people or everyone settling for
whatever gets them to lunch, even though it is unacceptable, but an actual
consensus on what is the right decision.

It's hard to do, and requires a lot of goodwill. But done properly it is
far better than a bunch of people with no idea picking options because
they understand one, or like the proponent, or any other of many ways to
select a winning proposal.



Charles McCathieNevile  Opera Software, Standards Group
       je parle français -- hablo español -- jeg lærer norsk
http://my.opera.com/chaals       Try Opera: http://www.opera.com
Received on Thursday, 25 June 2009 09:32:31 UTC

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