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RE: Request for editing guidance

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2010 11:28:02 -0700 (PDT)
To: "'Tab Atkins Jr.'" <jackalmage@gmail.com>
Cc: <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <01ca01cb0801$7e610c70$7b232550$@edu>
Tab Atkins Jr. wrote:
> I was on the "winning" side of several of the most recent issue
> decisions.  However, I'm still fairly unhappy with the result.  While
> I *still* haven't gotten a straight answer about it, it appears that
> the decision method was "whatever seems to have the lowest chance of
> causing a Formal Objection later on".  This is far removed from
> "whatever seems to be the best choice for users, authors,
> implementors, and the web in general".  If this is indeed the decision
> process used, then it's a glorified straw poll, and we should admit
> such rather than wasting frankly ridiculous amounts of time and effort
> pretending that technical arguments actually matter.

Hi Tab,

I'd like to examine something you said here, and work through it a bit 

You said "the best choice for users, authors, implementors, and the web in 

What if we had multiple solutions to a "problem" that worked out like this:

	Users - excellent solution/outcome
	Authors = workable solution
	Implementors = costly and technically complicated solution


	Users - average solution/outcome
	Authors = complex, difficult and confusing solution
	Implementors = great technical solution


	Users - good solution/outcome
	Authors = workable solution
	Implementors = achievable but tricky solution

Now it is no longer a binary choice, and further, the best technical 
solution does not serve all the other constituents equally.  Here, sadly, it 
is the lowest common denominator (choice 3) that must be chosen as it is the 
best over-all solution, and not necessarily the *best* technical solution 
from an engineering perspective.  The problem we have is when decisions are 
made at WHATWG (in what we must honestly agree is a mono-culture setting - 
engineers talking to engineers) that misunderstands or mis-interprets the 
needs/impact on the other groups. It is further compounded by the autocratic 
decision process that is employed at WHATWG.

There is no disagreement that, as we are talking about technology, the 
technological solutions should be as sound and robust as we can make them, 
and the input of the engineers in the over-all discussion is critical. 
However, it is critical to also understand that theirs is not the only 
voice, nor community affected. And while I do appreciate that the engineers 
*do* try very hard to understand those other perspectives, they can miss 
subtleties as much as the non-engineers might miss out subtle engineering 
perspectives. That's just life.

> At this point I'm wondering if just threating an FO on every decision
> I disagree with would be a better use of my time.  It would certainly
> be easier than actually gathering arguments and attempting to cogently
> present them.

I think personally that this would make very little actual difference, 
because even at the FO stage, the best technical solution will still likely 
be weighed against other factors beyond technology. It has to be, because 
(and I know this rankles the engineers) this *is* a political process as 
well: with billions of dollars at stake, and impacts that are truly global 
in scope to stakeholders with varying agendas, (plus not everyone is an 
engineer), and so for whatever reason if another stake holder disagrees with 
a solution for whatever reason, no matter if it is the best technical 
solution or not, that stakeholder can also issue a FO based on legitimate 
factors outside of engineering. So yes, finding solutions that are least 
likely to attract a Formal Objection later is the only prudent path to 

Just my $0.02

Received on Wednesday, 9 June 2010 18:28:36 UTC

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