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Re: The meaning and value of telephone conferences

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 5 Dec 2002 21:03:22 -0500 (EST)
To: Jonathan Chetwynd <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>
cc: W3C Web Content <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0212052044340.18596-100000@tux.w3.org>

The quality of minutes is a critical part of a process that relies on
distributed meetings and on participation on an international scale. Some
time ago (around Septemer 2001) this group re-affirmed that decisions taken
on teleconferences would be considered as proposals for consensus, subject to
not being appealed from the wider participation of the mailing list. It is
not entirely clear to me if that is still the process, or if teleconference
participation is currently an obligation that confers the right to try and
overturn a group consensus.

Although dial-up teleconferences exclude people (so does the fact that the
work is only in english) and face to face meetings exclude people further, my
experience is that they provide the impetus for faster work, that allows
for a useful compromise.

On the one hand it reduces universal presence at all decision making
occasions, which strikes me as only symbolically desirable and in practice
often undesirable. But more importantly if (and only if) there are good
minutes and a good feedback mechanism (effective both in the technical and
social sense) it allows all people with relevant expertise and with the
commitment to participate to actually provide genuine and accepted input to
the outcomes, which strikes me as critical to the success of the project.

It is true that in order to get global participation, some people should be
subsidised from groups that are not "natural W3C members". It is not at all
clear that W3C should take the responsibility for this - they currently leave
it to organisations who represent such people to do so, since those
organisations have relatively more skill and resources for identifying and
supporting relevant participants. This is not perfect either, but resources
can only go so far to covering the quest for perfection. (Would it be more
useful to the world to stop WAI altogether and return to year zero, until
agricultural production and equitable distribution have been universally
achieved? I tend to believe not...)

People who are dedicated and committed can be found in all walks of life.
People who are rude and bloody-minded and bloody-minded in addition may not
be the only ones who have expertise in an area and are prepared to
participate in a productive process and a working culture that insists on
treating people as peers and showing simple respect. (Although in my
experience such people often claim they are indispensable, they are
surprisingly and often refreshingly easy to replace with people who have the
same skills and some additional ones in understanding human behaviour and
communicating effectively).

People who are perfect and unfailingly lovely are of course only found in
fairy tales - so a little tolerance and understanding of the amazing cultural
gaps even between native english speakers - a small minotrity of people -
goes a long way to keeping the molehills as molehills and not making them nto
mountains. A large group of people moderating their particular trends to
excess may seem a little bland, but if it achieves a lot more than an
exciting group that alienates people it may be worthwhile...



On Thu, 5 Dec 2002, Jonathan Chetwynd wrote:

>Various members consider that what was actual said has some higher
>merit than what was recorded.
>The whole concept of dial-up telephone conferences is highly elitist
>and objectionable on those grounds alone.
>minutes are important, and time should be spent approving them,
>otherwise the whole exercise is that much less worthwhile.
>If members think that those who have the time, means, respect and
>ability to participate are naturally the right people to contribute
>they are very sadly mistaken.
>There are very good reasons for believing that subsidised or sponsored
>places be made available.
>How on earth do you suppose you will get contributions from the
>unemployed, disenfranchised, ill-educated?
>Rude and bloody minded people come from all walks of life, however
>there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Charles McCathieNevile  http://www.w3.org/People/Charles  tel: +61 409 134 136
SWAD-E http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/Europe ------------ WAI http://www.w3.org/WAI
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Received on Thursday, 5 December 2002 21:06:27 UTC

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