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RE: Proposed W3C priorities for education

From: Crispin Weston <crispin.weston@saltis.org>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 10:11:45 GMT
Message-ID: <1424427105106.58660.360@webmail5>
To: "Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH)" <michael.champion@microsoft.com>, "DANET PIERRE" <pdanet@hachette-livre.fr>
Cc: "Sarah Horton" <shorton@paciellogroup.com>, "Jeff Jaffe" <jeff@w3.org>, "Marcos Caceres" <marcos@marcosc.com>, "public-most-important-priorities@w3.org" <public-most-important-priorities@w3.org>
Hello Michael, thanks for the useful comments & questions - my responses are inline below.
Pierre - my apologies: I did not mean to insult publishers in general - there are some very innovative ones around! I think the problem is that people innovate in different (and often commercially sensitive ways) and so consensual discussions generally get reduced to a restatement of the current orthodoxy.


On 19 February 2015, Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH) <michael.champion@microsoft.com> wrote:
> 
> >we also face a chicken-and-egg situation in which innovation is impossible without the interoperability standards required to define the basic infrastructure-content relationships
> 
> “Standards” essentially mean technologies that you can assume will work for a customer or partner, so you can build solutions without having to build and deliver an entire stack. That means that standards generally evolve bottom up rather than being created top down. So it’s not clear to me how standards that would support disruptive innovation in the education sector could emerge except by selection and adaptation of what already exists. How do you suggest W3C could create the pre-requisite standards in this area? And how would those standards get implemented in widely available software?
I am not sure that "bottom up" always means continuity. Sometimes there is a significant degree of discontinuity and disruption that bubbles up from small-scale innovators - though these things are relative and I suspect that people immersed in radical change often tend to underestimate the degree of continuity too. Steady evolution is good for me: it's sclerosis (which noncompetitive markets and top-down bureaucracies tend to produce) which I oppose and which education suffers from.

I like your idea of pre-requisite standards. It is a good description of the sort of schema languages that I am talking about. I would in fact cut the cake into four slices: (functional + pre-requisite) x (specifications + standards). The second division often gets muddled, I think. Standards development needs, almost by definition, to be a consensual exercise but specifications development doesn't - in fact, the smaller and more self-aligned the group the better. I will return to this in my answer on Community Groups. Somewhere between specifications and standards lies implementation, for which you generally need influential stakeholders. In exceptional cases, implementation can be led out of a garage or spare room - but this is probably much harder to do in public sector market. So the creation of specifications is not just about getting together a small group of like-thinking experts - you also need the stakeholders around the table who are going to implement the outputs.

In the case of "functional" standards, these stakeholders will need to be identified depending on the sector you are dealing with. In the case of the pre-requisite standards, the key stakeholder is W3C itself - and other organisations like it. Also, in respect of public sector markets like education, I would include governments, who should be strongly discouraged from doing too much of the heavy lifting themselves, but have an interest in enabling innovation in the market. In some circumstances, it might include people like you: Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Google etc. In relation to the market for ed-tech, you guys want to sell infrastructure and have an interest in encouraging a dynamic market for software designed for the market vertical and which uses your infrastructure, without wanting to compete in that vertical directly.

If it is to be worth spending time on creating these new description languages, we have to be able to map out a scenario in which they are going to be used. The scenarios need to be supported by the sort of stakeholders I describe above.

> >More flexible schema languages will allow people to declare, share, reference and map declarations as their commercial interest suggests,
> > in a way that will allow new semantic meanings to emerge out of market interactions, where new technology has a chance of disrupting the current community orthodoxy.
> 
> That’s an intriguing idea, and I understand that the keepers of the status quo in various existing industries might not be happy about a new technology making their investments and expertise less valuable. But these new schema languages don’t yet exist, do they? Isn’t the first order of business to get people together to invent them, and then worry about how to help them overcome barriers put up by the incumbents? Assuming there is a set of capable and motivated people out there to work on this challenge, I can’t think of a better solution than to work together in a W3C Community Group to build it.

I am sure you *could* build these solutions in a W3C Community. But so *could* I build the solution round my dining room table with a group of friends. The real question is, what is special about a W3C Community Group and why hasn't this happened already? I have spent the last twenty years in a succession of pointless standardisation talking-shops and I am beginning to think that there are other things I would like to do with my life before I die. That is why I (who am not a significant stakeholder) am extremely reluctant to set up a W3C Community Group.

I think the community group model is sub-optimal because (as I understand it), it offers open membership. I am all for openness in terms of transparency of process and open access to the outputs. But I am sceptical whether open membership is a good formula for getting things done in a detailed, technical sense. Particularly in education, where any new standardisation committee attracts academics, consultants and evangelists like flies, driving away any substantive stakeholder who actually wants to get a practical specification out of the process. I would favour a mechanism for *specifications development* which allowed for self-selecting groups - i.e. by invitation. If I can't join your game, I am free either to observe what you do or to set up my own game - maybe even piggy-backing off the momentum that you create. Then move forwards with the specifications that work (i.e. the ones that are widely implemented) and discard those that don't.

Although I think that would be a preferable model, I do not pin my colours to it. I am sure a Community Group *could* work, so long as it had a nucleus which contained the right stakeholders who were able to keep the show on track. In the case of my pre-requisite description languages, those key stakeholders would be W3C itself, maybe some governmental organisations (maybe the European Commission), maybe some people like Microsoft who operate above these market verticals.

As I say, the key stakeholders would need to think about the implementation scenario. I would propose something along the lines of the self-selecting specifications groups that I propose above. It could be called an "Ed Tech Specifications Incubator" - funded e.g. by the European Commission, with an organisation like W3C providing some sort of branding and management expertise. Governments are interested in this sort of thing in principle. They are just worried about wasting their money on yet another hare-brained or interested scheme and therefore want to partner offering technical leadership that they can trust.Given that the model I am proposing is somewhat different to W3C's existing model, it would probably want to create a certain distance between this and its current operation. There would be lots of ways of doing this. What you get is a plan for creating a process which uses the description language. Only when you have this planned out is it worth sitting down and producing the technical description language, opimising it through an iterative piloting as your implementation process is also launched.
> 
> 
> >power of the individual to topple established interests and orthodoxies by individual innovation. The principle of the community group is inimical to this principle.
> 
> I’m not following how W3C Community Groups are stuck in Web 1.0 think and constrained by the status quo. A CG can be started by 5 individuals, W3C membership not required, all that’s required is a commitment to make their documents available under a very permissive copyright and to make royalty-free patent commitments on one’s contributions to the CG. There’s nothing that stakeholders with antithetical business models can do to stop a CG from collaborating, publishing, and evangelizing its work, yet those activities benefit from exposure to the broad W3C community and alignment with W3C’s “brand.”

I meant to say that the current scope of the Core Priorities Group seemed to me to be overly restricted in sorting out these technical 1.0 issues, important as I am sure these are in their own right. I think I got my two-letter acronyms muddled up!

Thanks again for the questions and opportunity to expand my thoughts.
> 
> 
> From:Crispin Weston [mailto:crispin.weston@saltis.org]
> Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2015 2:06 AM
> To: DANET PIERRE; Sarah Horton
> Cc: Jeff Jaffe; Marcos Caceres; Michael Champion (MS OPEN TECH); public-most-important-priorities@w3.org
> Subject: Re: Proposed W3C priorities for education
> 
> I agree with Pierre and Sarah that it might be helpful to address the education vertical with a separate reflector and wiki.
> 
> At the same time, this should not be used to avoid the challenge from other members of the Core Group. So I thought it might be useful if I restated our argument (originally written for an education audience) in more general terms.
> 
> It seems to me that the the Core Group's perception of its own scope is too narrow. One could talk about thinking inside and out of the box; or whether employees of ExxonMobil see themselves as working for an oil company or an energy company. In respect of W3C, I think it is about perceiving whether the end goal is about browsers being able to load and process quickly and efficiently online content of the right sort, or whether it is about supporting connectivity more generally. People talk about Web 1.0 as being about connecting and distributing documents, Web 2.0 as being about connecting people, and Web 3.0 as being about connecting concepts and data - yet it seems to me from our discussion that the CG is thinking of its role purely in terms of Web 1.0.
> 
> The problem from an education point of view (and others that I am aware of, like public health) is not a technical problem but a semantic problem. The current recognized solution to this problem is to form a community group. I agree that this might work in many situations - however, there are many in which it does not.
> 
> For a successful non-W3C example, take schema.org: a collaboration of the 4 top search engines, which have come together to achieve a degree of standardization in the semantics of microdata in their common interest. The base technology is mature, the key stakeholders are clear, their interests coincide: the model works.
> 
> But many sectors are not like that at all. In education, the market has not yet emerged, the technology does not exist, the key stakeholders have business models which are largely antagonistic to the emergence of the new technology. The power of such antagonistic interests is often particularly hard to dislodge in public sector markets, where public tendering processes tend to re-enforce established models of operating. Education has never been short of standards-talking-shops - but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and in twenty years, the model has produced nothing of any significance (even SCORM, which in our paper is referenced as the best effort to date, was only created by top-down action by the US DoD). In public health, the UK government spent the last fifteen years engaged is a massively expensive and totally disastrous attempt to harmonize the systems for personal healthcare records across our state-run national health system. The basic problem was not that there was any special requirement for one system rather than many. The problem was the lack of semantic interoperability.
> 
> The sociological problem was best expressed, to my mind, by Niccolo Machiavelli in The Prince: "And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as the leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.''
> 
> This is the reason why standards organisations operating the community group model often inhibit innovation rather than encouraging it - which is a particular problem because, for reasons outlined in our paper, we also face a chicken-and-egg situation in which innovation is impossible without the interoperability standards required to define the basic infrastructure-content relationships that are fundamental to so many markets (railways, recorded music, electrical appliances, software...). You get together a community of horse-drawn carriage drivers and ask them to design the next form of transport and you get a horse-drawn carriage with a more comfortable driving seat. You set up a community of publishing houses and ask them to design the next big thing for education and you get... a digital textbook format. Did you expect anything else?
> 
> If W3C sees itself as supporting innovation in a connected world, then this is one of its most important challenges, in my view. The solution that we proposed in our paper was to look at the process of establishing new sorts of consensus in the light of a technical, social networking problem. More flexible schema languages will allow people to declare, share, reference and map declarations as their commercial interest suggests, in a way that will allow new semantic meanings to emerge out of market interactions, where new technology has a chance of disrupting the current community orthodoxy. Not where new market opportunities can effectively be vetoed current stakeholders. The essential dynamic of the Western liberal model (which the web seeks, surely, to super-charge) lies in the power of the individual to topple established interests and orthodoxies by individual innovation. The principle of the community group is inimical to this principle.
> 
> Our paper also raised the question of data sharing and privacy - another critical problem for a connected world which the Core Group ought in my view to be addressing as a matter of urgency.
> 
> Crispin.
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On 18 February 2015, DANET PIERRE <<pdanet@hachette-livre.fr>> wrote:
> > I do agree but we need to be educated on the use of this wiki..
> > 
> > Pierre
> > 
> > Le 18/02/2015 15:33, « Sarah Horton » <<shorton@paciellogroup.com>> a écrit :
> > 
> > > My impression is that there are opportunities to expand the current
> > > platform that would benefit all areas and opportunities to address the
> > > education vertical specifically.
> > > 
> > > On the subject of brainstorming, I seem to remember some mention of a
> > > wiki page for this brainstorming activity? That would be helpful for
> > > sharing, building on, and keeping track of ideas.
> > > 
> > > Best,
> > > Sarah
> > > 
> > > Sarah Horton
> > > UX Strategy Lead
> > > The Paciello Group
> > > 603 252-6052 mobile
> > > 
> > > > On Feb 18, 2015, at 8:53 AM, Jeff Jaffe <<jeff@w3.org>> wrote:
> > > > 
> > > > I probably find myself in agreement with Pierre, Crispin, and Marcos;
> > > > even if they seem to disagree with each other.
> > > > 
> > > > There is no question that the heart of W3C is the core Open Web
> > > > Platform. And if the Education vertical informs us that we need to
> > > > change that platform, that is of primary importance.
> > > > 
> > > > For standards that are limited to a vertical, W3C has also been
> > > > involved in many areas in the past. We've worked on Open Government
> > > > Data (for government), HLCS vocabularies (for healthcare), streaming
> > > > media requirements (for both general Web as well as specific needs of
> > > > entertainment companies), etc. There are also other verticals which
> > > > have required Web standards and have found better communities elsewhere
> > > > such as XBRL (accounting), XML impacts on HL7 (health care).
> > > > 
> > > > In this task force we are exploring standardization needs for the
> > > > education vertical. If we end up with concrete ideas that fit well with
> > > > W3C's technology and community we might start some new work in W3C. If
> > > > we come up with other ideas which seem far from W3C, we might recommend
> > > > that it go elsewhere. Or if it is in between these two extremes,
> > > > starting in a CG and transitioning later to a WG could make sense.
> > > > 
> > > > For now, let's continue the work to brainstorm and narrow down the
> > > > specific recommendations we want to make about educational standards.
> > > > Once we get final recommendations, we can better assess whether it fits
> > > > with W3C (technology and community) and belongs in a WG, or is too far
> > > > afield and better fits elsewhere or in a CG.
> > > > 
> > > > Jeff
> > > > 
> > > > On 2/18/2015 5:04 AM, DANET PIERRE wrote:
> > > > 
> > > > > Hello all,
> > > > > 
> > > > > Thank you for your feedbacks.
> > > > > 
> > > > > My opinion on that. I will be a little « pushy".
> > > > > 
> > > > > Open web Platform can, as we say in French, « dormir sur ses lauriers
> > > > > » (To rest on its laurels). Job done, everything is available, let¹s
> > > > > see.
> > > > > 
> > > > > In this case, i can tell you, Education will be in proprietary and
> > > > > closed formats in x years.
> > > > > 
> > > > > I understood that as W3C members , we also had in mind other visions
> > > > > around citizenship (Concept of webizen), privacy, accessibility and
> > > > > interoperability.
> > > > > And this is the subject. Crispin¹s descriptions of previous failures
> > > > > are very interesting.
> > > > > 
> > > > > Community Group is surely a good approach but it gives the impression
> > > > > that you gather experts from a domain in a room, you close the doors,
> > > > > and then you let them discussing a long time. Sometimes, you open the
> > > > > doors and you take one new need for basic technos and again job done.
> > > > > This is just for smiling, i i do respect all community Groups. And may
> > > > > be i¹m wrong in my vision on that.
> > > > > 
> > > > > So our idea was more to show to the world that Education is in the
> > > > > vision of a WWW open, accessible,Šetc..
> > > > > 
> > > > > To discuss,
> > > > > 
> > > > > Warmly
> > > > > 
> > > > > Pierre
> > > > > 
> > > > > De : Crispin Weston <<crispin.weston@saltis.org>>
> > > > > Répondre à : "<crispin.weston@saltis.org>" <<crispin.weston@saltis.org>>
> > > > > Date : mercredi 18 février 2015 10:19
> > > > > À : Marcos Caceres <<marcos@marcosc.com>>
> > > > > Cc : "<public-most-important-priorities@w3.org>"
> > > > > <<public-most-important-priorities@w3.org>>, "Michael Champion (MS OPEN
> > > > > TECH)" <<michael.champion@microsoft.com>>
> > > > > Objet : RE: Proposed W3C priorities for education
> > > > > Renvoyer - De : <<public-most-important-priorities@w3.org>>
> > > > > Renvoyer - Date : mercredi 18 février 2015 10:20
> > > > > 
> > > > > Thank you Marcos.
> > > > > 
> > > > > I understand what you are both saying about the Core Group, in which I
> > > > > am not myself participating. However, I am now somewhat confused about
> > > > > what the Education Group is meant to be doing.
> > > > > 
> > > > > My paper was intended for the Education Group, which appears to share
> > > > > a mailing list with the Core Group. I assumed that the existence of
> > > > > this group presupposes that W3C is interested in getting involved in
> > > > > the education vertical. I understood that the scope of the group was to
> > > > > look at what education needs from the web. If I was wrong in that and
> > > > > the scope of the Education Group is just to bring recommendations for
> > > > > modifications to the underlying Web Platform, then, as you suggest, it
> > > > > seems unlikely to me that it has anything of substance to contribute.
> > > > > Or maybe we just have a case of crossed wires?
> > > > > 
> > > > > 
> > > > > 
> > > > > 
> > > > > 
> > > > > On 18 February 2015, Marcos Caceres <<marcos@marcosc.com>> wrote:
> > > > > 
> > > > > > Hi Crispin,
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > To be clear, I'm not trying to discourage you, or anyone in the Edu.
> > > > > > community, from participating. The CG model really does work. For
> > > > > > inspiration, please see how the responsive images community group
> > > > > > leveraged the W3C's CG standardization model to add some great new
> > > > > > features to HTML5 (of which every sector of society will greatly
> > > > > > benefit, particularly the education sector - which makes extensive use
> > > > > > of visual media):
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > <http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/09/how-a-new-html-el>
> > > > > > ement-will-make-the-web-faster/
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > Please see this document that the CG put together outlining how HTML5
> > > > > > was failing the developer community - and how standardized solutions
> > > > > > were insufficient:
> > > > > > <http://www.w3.org/TR/respimg-usecases/>
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > As a community, we proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was
> > > > > > a huge problem and something needed to be done in the Web Platform. As
> > > > > > a result, we were able to convince browser vendors and the W3C to make
> > > > > > changes to the web platform to address our use cases.
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > I again want to encourage you to take the same approach. Come back
> > > > > > showing clearly limitations of what "you CANNOT do" (and not what you
> > > > > > would like to do - which is what you currently have).
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > Hope that helps!
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > On February 18, 2015 at 4:47:22 PM, Marcos Caceres
> > > > > > (<marcos@marcosc.com>) wrote:
> > > > > > Hi Crispin,
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > I'd like to echo what Michael said. There doesn't appear to be
> > > > > > any need for new foundational work to be done as part of what you
> > > > > > described below: that is, nothing that can't be done with
> > > > > > HTML5/CSS/Web
> > > > > > APIs, RDFa, XML, etc. already. The challenges you outline below
> > > > > > are very (education) domain-specific, which is fine, but not
> > > > > > anything the web platform can really help with (apart from providing
> > > > > > the formats and protocols onto which you can standardize something
> > > > > > that helps solve the problems you outline).
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > As such, I would also strongly urge you to form a community group
> > > > > > (CG) and begin the work you propose there (for the IPR reasons
> > > > > > Michael mentioned) and so you can find limitations in practice.
> > > > > > If, as part of that work, the CG discovers they can't do something
> > > > > > with HTML5/CSS/Web APIs, RDFa, XML, etc., then we can look at
> > > > > > addressing that as part of a larger standardization process.
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > My concern with doing this work as part of the W3C "priorities"
> > > > > > banner is that it might distract us from finding more immediate
> > > > > > limitations in the Web Platform. So far, nothing has been presented
> > > > > > that would require amendments to HTML5/CSS/Web APIs, RDFa,
> > > > > > XML, etc. within the context of education. Hence, it would be
> > > > > > best for you to begin standardization of the things you describe
> > > > > > below within the W3C's Community Groups framework, together
> > > > > > with members of the education community, and see how far you get
> > > > > > before you all hit limitations (if any!). If you don't hit any,
> > > > > > then we are golden :) Otherwise, please do bring them back to the
> > > > > > priorities list for evaluation so we have a better idea what we
> > > > > > need to add/fix.
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > Kind regards,
> > > > > > 
> > > > > > 
> > > > 
> > > 
> > 
Received on Friday, 20 February 2015 10:12:23 UTC

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