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Re: Requested addition to section 7.1

From: Florian Rivoal <florian@rivoal.net>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 2016 12:39:44 +0900
Cc: Daniel Glazman <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>, public-w3process@w3.org
Message-Id: <02F7FC0E-C58A-4AF2-9EB9-10397665A86C@rivoal.net>
To: Jeff Jaffe <jeff@w3.org>
Jeff Jaffe <jeff@w3.org> wrote:
> I believe that the sentence in the charter that you are referring to is: "The CSS WG may incubate speculative new work in the WICG, and may adopt promising CSS work developed in WICG, provided that RF patent commitments are in place for such work."
> Having the statement in the Charter does not prevent CSSWG people to inform each other and debate about different choices for incubation.  Go ahead and do so!  By making this statement a "may", as a practical matter CSS can do whatever they want on this point.

Without this addition to the charter, everybody always had the possibility to start working on things wherever they want, and to bring their proposals to the CSSWG (or not) whenever they want, and RF patent commitments to contributions were already expected (enforcement may be a separate question). So for people who want to incubate their own work in another forum, this addition is effectively meaningless.

What it does though is open the door for the CSSWG to push for incubation in an external group even when that is against the wishes of the person making the proposition, and the feature is considered good and in scope. Sure, it says MAY, not MUST, but what is supposed to happen in case the CSSWG is not unanimous about that is left as an exercise to the reader. In case of no consensus, do we fall back on internal adoption, or external incubation, or process bickering? If you think I'm dramatizing, see the second half of this mail.

>  Which is probably the reason that the Team naively did not expect that this would have changed the review for you and Daniel.

I find it confusing that anyone at this point expects incubation to be uncontroversial. Just as clearly as the fact that it has very strong proponents, there is a broad range of opinions on the topic, and they surface about every time we have a discussion in the AC that anything to do with incubation. I am sure that even the most enthusiastic fans of WICG would readily agree that not everyone is in on board. They probably think those who disagree are mistaken, but certainly not that they don't exist.

Jeff Jaffe <jeff@w3.org> wrote:
> Daniel Glazman wrote:
>> We have a major issue arising from a big mistake
> Imho, we have your assertion of a major issue arising from a big mistake.
> I have not heard an outcry from CSS, and as I said in a companion email, if they were to take a position on this issue - that this causes them harm, or that they want a new Charter, that would be very impactful.

Various members of the CSSWG were shocked and surprised during TPAC when Google attempted to use this part of the charter to prevent a feature proposed by someone else to be added to an existing CSS Editor's Draft and pushed for it to be done in WICG instead, against the wishes of everyone else in the WG.

I do not blame Google here. They have their views and priorities, and they're well within their rights to ask for things that the charter allows for. But this aspect of the charter was discovered by the WG on that occasion, the which was the first meeting after the charter had been renewed. It caused quite a ruckus:

* A session on a feature everybody in the room was enthusiastic about (variable fonts) deadlocked on a process question that nobody had heard from beforehand.

* We had to have two follow up sessions during TPAC, one to overrule this objection from Google, one for Google to defend its position.

* Alex Russel and Chris Wilson (is it fair to describe them as Google's top Standards people?), both of whom are not a regular participants of the CSSWG, joined the third session in an attempt to diffuse the crisis and to win over the room to their views. Regardless of whose view one sides with, this was not an ordinary occurrence.

* Select quotes the first session:

   “(applause)” — from everybody

   “(applause)” — from everybody again, the feature got 2 separate rounds of of applause

   “I would like to decide now to keep it in the group” — Chair

   “I object” — Google

   “We have to recharter” — Team Contact

   “We had a proposal. We had an objection. We are going to do nothing.” — Chair

   “Nobody likes this. Nobody in the whole world thinks this is a good idea.” — Apple
   “So Google is stalling progress until we change the process to be the way Google wants.” — Invited Expert

Minutes to the first & second sessions: https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-style/2016Nov/0075.html (see "CSS Fonts: OpenType Variations")

Minutes to the third session: https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-style/2016Nov/0077.html

Why didn't you hear about the situation, or why didn't objections and appeals come forth? Not sure. I'll just speak for myself.

When due process appears to have been ignored or creatively twisted, and requests by one of the largest companies on earth get added to the charter without public discussion and without addressing the explicit opposition from an AC Rep who is the former chair of the Working Group, and then two of the top people in our field representing that powerful company come to suggest that “the new normal is that everything should start in incubation”, then it seems likely the best possible outcome of appealing is to be ignored, and the worst case is to make powerful enemies.

And yes, I hesitate to write these lines for the very same reasons. How well are we doing when fears and worries are guiding what we dare say? Maybe not everyone is as much of a pessimist or of a paranoid coward as I am. But I got multiple people coming to me after the session and praising me for standing up to the big guys, yet none of them raised a formal complaint either. I believe I can have a reasonable discussion with Google, but should we fail to agree, I am increasingly expecting to be silently steamrolled by "the process".

And I want to be clear again: emotions during these tense sessions aside, I do not blame Google here. It is perfectly reasonable for them to push for what they believe is in their interest, and to take action within the limits of the charter W3C approved. I actually agree with them on a number of concerns, though I have a different view on the best way to address them. But this undiscussed addition of an obviously controversial item to the charter has made people in the Working Group feel that they were powerless against sneak attacks by Google, and Google frustrated that (some people in) the Working Group were stalling their well meaning attempts to move the web forward faster.

Received on Monday, 19 December 2016 03:40:28 UTC

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