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Re: Request for editing guidance

From: Charles McCathieNevile <chaals@opera.com>
Date: Wed, 09 Jun 2010 13:34:31 +0200
To: public-html@w3.org, "Ian Hickson" <ian@hixie.ch>
Message-ID: <op.vd06ftcmwxe0ny@widsith.local>
On Wed, 09 Jun 2010 04:21:35 +0200, Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch> wrote:

> I'm having trouble consistently applying the reasoning that is cited as
> supporting the various working group decisions.

How about applying the process "implement decisions of the working group"
on top of the process you use for adding things to and removing things
 from the spec as you see fit?

> So that we can keep the specification coherent, I feel it is important
> that decisions be applied consistently. For example, if we removed all  
> the words with the letter "z" in one section, on the basis that the
> letter "z" is bad, then it would be inconsistent to not apply that rule
> to the rest of the spec, removing all the words with the letter "z".

This would make sense if everything were done for exactly one reason. But
that simply isn't the case, unless you accept "Ian decided this was best"
as the definitive rationale for everything. While I have a great deal of
respect for your understanding of the Web, and your hard work and good
intentions, I don't consider that the best decision process for HTML 5.

Many decisions have some political aspects, some technical aspects, are
some part based on "facts on the ground" which are being created and
re-created by various implementations, some part based on what we
*believe* authors and implementors will think makes sense, or what they
will do more or less naturally, and often some part completely arbitrary
decision about what colour the bike shed should be. Pretending that there
is some completely consistent mechanical approach to deciding what is in
and out denigrates the role played by the participants in the various
discussions, and even more so your central role in so many of the
decisions, to the level of brainless automata, and would be misleading to
the point of dishonesty.

One reason for working within the W3C is that we (Opera) believe that
overall the collective wisdom of W3C is superior to your individual
ability to judge what the future of the Web should be. This is not to say
that W3C always gets it right - often it doesn't. The same applies to
WHAT-WG, to Ian and me and various other individuals. (See the word
"overall" in the first sentence of this paragraph.)

[... various over-simplified examples snipped ...]

> I feel like the W3C version of the HTML draft is turning into a block of
> Emmentaler.

/me wonders what on earth that means, but assumes it is meant to suggest
something vaguely unsatisfactory.

> This opinion is especially reinforced by the way people keep
> e-mailing me to ask me why this or that section has been removed, to  
> which I've ended up just answering "I don't know, but if you use the
> WHATWG version of the spec you won't have to worry about that".

You could try "I am the editor who puts the text together for a large
group of people who are trying to agree on a standard. Sometimes I don't
understand their decision, but here is a pointer to the discussion so you
can see if you are cleverer than me and can interpret it". You could try
"the working group is stupid, but I agreed to work with them anyway". Or
"a standard works best when it is based on a consensus that has a
realistic chance of being adopted by a diverse community with competing
interests, so HTML 5 is developed using a consensus-based process". Or
"W3C process document says the document reflects what the WG decides".
There are a lot of ways to explain things - how far you politicise the
answer and in what direction is up to you, of course.

Pointing to a different document that does not reflect what W3C apparently
intends to publish as HTML 5 is not helpful to building a standard. It
increases fragmentation, uncertainty over the future, and comes across as
political game-playing rather than an honest attempt to help improve the
standards the web is based on, and adherence to those standards.

The creation of WHATWG was an overtly political act. The value (IMHO) of
its continued existence lies in the fact that a number of fairly like-
minded and intelligent individuals seem to feel more comfortable with its
free-wheeling approach than with the process that makes many organisations
trust W3C, not in WHATWGs ability to produce FUD and fragment emerging
standards. There is sufficient confusion over what HTML5 is already.

> Since my name is the name on the draft, people assume I understand the
> decisions that went into the draft. If my name is to continue being on
> the draft, if I'm to continue editing the spec, then I need to
> understand these decisions.

Why? You are the editor, not the sole author of the spec - that role is
held by the Working Group, whose names are also clearly associated with
the spec. Your role is more important than almost anyone other
individual's since you put together the words that implement the decisions
(and because of your particular approach to editing you also make at least
the first version of most decisions), but your role is a servant of the
group, and not vice versa.

> So again I ask:
> Could you please write a coherent statement of editing guidance that I  
> can consistently apply to the spec to make it consistent with the
> working group decisions throughout?

I suggest:

"Where the working group disagrees with the editor, implement the working
group's decisions. Do not attempt to undercut those decisions by further
editorial shenanigans".

A person of your evident intellect and industry should find that simple
enough to carry out.



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 Wednesday, 9 June 2010 11:35:11 UTC

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