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Re: Grounds for Formal Objections

From: fantasai <fantasai.lists@inkedblade.net>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2019 19:15:27 -0700
To: public-w3process@w3.org
Message-ID: <ac1fcf3c-47f5-153d-da0d-1cd7dfd2dbf6@inkedblade.net>
On 3/19/19 2:50 AM, Florian Rivoal wrote:
> This is veering off topic, so I'm changing the title, but I think it is an interesting topic.
>> 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 :)
> Currently, the process allows for that sort of FO. Do they happen often (or at all)?

They have happened in the past. IIRC there's a case of a CSSWG FO before my time
in which the Director overrode the WG in favor of the participant filing the FO.

There have been cases where e.g. i18n and the CSSWG disagreed on an issue because
the i18n's position would be better for usability and the browser reps' position
would be better for perf. In that case i18n did not raise an objection, but they
could have. There was no process violation. Would you disregard the i18n's FO in
such a case just because there was no process violation?

Formal objections for process violations are only necessary if the chair is not
doing his/her job correctly. In a well-chaired group, they will only happen on
technical grounds. If you don't allow them to happen on technical grounds then
there is no technical escalation path: each WG is the ultimate authority on its
specs, and there is no means of appeal.

> 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.

WGs are allowed to reject feedback. Any work mode in which rejecting feedback is
seen as a failure is inherently dysfunctional, and I would formally object :) to
adopting such a Process.

If the idea is the TAG is the formal arbiter of technical decisions, that's fine.
You can put that in the process, and the formal objection goes up to them for
arbitration. Any decision they make is binding, and the WG has to follow their
advice. Since you're not proposing to do that, the TAG has no formal authority
over technical decisions, and their feedback can be rejected by the WG after
careful consideration. There's no process violation. There's still a formal
objection. Now what?

Received on Wednesday, 20 March 2019 02:15:51 UTC

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