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Re: Grounds for Formal Objections

From: Jeff Jaffe <jeff@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2019 11:12:00 -0400
To: Florian Rivoal <florian@rivoal.net>, Michael Champion <Michael.Champion@microsoft.com>
Cc: "Siegman, Tzviya" <tsiegman@wiley.com>, Chris Wilson <cwilso@google.com>, fantasai <fantasai.lists@inkedblade.net>, public-w3process <public-w3process@w3.org>
Message-ID: <72f82b44-ab58-7c02-c719-34e08f038c64@w3.org>

On 3/19/2019 5:50 AM, Florian Rivoal wrote:
> This is veering off topic, so I'm changing the title, but I think it 
> is an interesting topic.

Thanks for changing the title.

I agree it is an interesting topic.

I think that if someone wants to change W3C rules when people can raise 
Formal Objections, I would advise them to raise a separate issue in 
github so we can organize the discussion there.

>> On Mar 16, 2019, at 2:46, Michael Champion 
>> <Michael.Champion@microsoft.com 
>> <mailto:Michael.Champion@microsoft.com>> wrote:
>>  Likewise I think W3C could learn from the WHATWG’s extremely limited 
>> ability for contributors to file “formal objections” to the Steering 
>> Group if they think their expert opinion is being buried in 
>> groupthink.  (It exists on paper, but has never been used, and the SG 
>> cannot make a technical judgment but only a procedural decision that 
>> the Editor hasn’t respected the various WHATWG policies.)
> In another mail, fantasai was arguing for the opposite, and supporting 
> the existence of Formal Objections on non procedural grounds
> Quoting here here for convenience:
>> I think there's also cases where the WG might be intentionally 
>> disregarding the FO
>> because its choice of design principles disagrees with the FO, and 
>> that's not an
>> issue of process but of technical architecture. In such cases a 
>> review of the issue
>> by a higher technical authority representing W3C's technical values 
>> and expertise as
>> a whole is warranted. A qualified Director, in consultation with the 
>> TAG and other
>> experts, should be able to adjudicate such issues on technical 
>> grounds: it's not
>> always and only about process.
> I'm leaning towards agreeing with Mike rather than fantasai, but I'd 
> like to talk through it some more, as disagreeing with fantasai is 
> highly correlated with being wrong :)
:).  And here I agree with Fantasai.
> Currently, the process allows for that sort of FO. Do they happen 
> often (or at all)?

I don't think that the frequency of FO is an overly relevant data point.

Everyone agrees that the desired situation is to have a functioning 
group that makes their decisions by consensus without formal 
objections.  Absence of formal objections is an indication that an 
organization is successful in deciding by consensus.  It might be an 
indication that the process does not require FOs.  Or it could equally 
indicate that the existence of the escape valve (the FO) drives people 
towards consensus.

> Could this be handled differently? For example, people can always ping 
> the TAG (which includes the Director so long as we have one) on any 
> issue they want feedback on, and we could include the TAG  in the 
> mandatory horizontal reviews (which is de-facto the case already, 
> given that intent-to-ship requires it). Then, if the TAG tells a WG 
> they're going against some web-wide architectural principle, that 
> doesn't give them the authority to order the group to change their 
> spec in a particular way, but the group nonetheless needs to handle 
> that feedback one way or another. And if they brush that feedback off 
> (or feedback from other horizontal review groups), now there are 
> grounds for procedural objections.
> The advantages I see to that sort of approach is that it keeps the 
> discussion and consensus wrangling closes to the group that owns the 
> spec, does make sure that we can insist on web-wide higher principles, 
> but doesn't invoke some higher authority who can disregard consensus 
> (and who may not be as well versed in the details of the topic at hand).

I don't support having a higher authority who can willy nilly disregard 
consensus, and with our current Director I don't think we have one.  He 
wisely hears issues; offers insights; and often sends issues back to the 
WG.  When the Team acts for the Director (notably at Charter reviews), 
they use the FO process to go back and find ways for consensus.

The AB is looking at evolving the role of the Director over time; 
perhaps replacing a Director person with a series of review committees.  
I would expect that if that happens they will insist on similar wisdom 
and due process from the committees.

Committees who are not well versed in the details of the topic at hand 
(whether the Director, the TAG, or anyone else) should be required to 
bring in the expertise that is needed.

> —Florian
Received on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 15:12:05 UTC

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