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Re: Recommendation to move WCAG Techniques out of TR, concerned about Failure Techniques loosing authority

From: Michael Cooper <cooper@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2015 10:52:20 -0400
Message-ID: <556DC324.3060506@w3.org>
To: David MacDonald <david100@sympatico.ca>, Eric Eggert <ee@w3.org>
CC: WCAG <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
I would like to offer a different interpretation of the meaning of TR 
space - without disputing David's claim that it is *perceived* to have 
greater vetting, which I'll circle back to.

TR stands for Technical Reports and was set up to publish formal 
specifications from Working Groups - both Working Drafts and later 
maturities. There were procedures and culture that Working Groups would 
have vetted what appears that and only published with consensus. While 
Working Drafts weren't final, they were at least supported by the 
Working Group.

In recent years there has been a concerted move to devalue this role. 
Publishing to TR was costly enough that editors did not consider it 
feasible to publish to TR as often as they made significant changes, so 
they began putting flags in TR publications that essentially said "you 
should ignore this version, go look at the editors' draft instead". 
Working Group vetting of public Editors' Drafts has been variable but 
generally significantly less than it was for TR documents. So basically 
editors (and Working Groups that authorized publication of those 
documents) were saying TR has no value at the Working Draft stage. The 
stable snapshots of a specification in development came to be seen as a 
liability rather than a benefit of the TR space.

W3C has basically rolled with this and now allows content to published 
to TR with very little vetting, just some minimal automated checking. In 
particular, the level of Working Group vetting is not measured, and it 
has been apparent to me that, on average, it is greatly less than in the 
past. So basically, W3C has said "TR has no special meaning any more". I 
disagree with this trend, but that's they way it is. (W3C Recommendation 
still has special meaning, but because of other procedures, not by 
simple virtue of being published to TR. Working Group Notes - which the 
Techniques are - have very minimal extra procedures distinguishing them 
from Working Drafts.)

So for the Working Group to publish Techniques to TR brings very little 
inherent assurance that that content is carefully vetted and publicly 
reviewed. The only assurance is the Working Group's own assertion and 
careful procedures, which now go far beyond the W3C Process requirements 
of TR publication. Meanwhile, however, the constraints of TR 
publications still apply - structure and style requirements that were 
designed for technical specifications, not guideline support materials. 
We have bent those rules as much as we could but still have a lot of 
feedback that the documents are not working well for their consumers. 
The high cost of TR publication also makes us less agile in adding new 
content than people want us to be. So it has come to be that the 
benefits of TR publication no longer exist, but the costs still weigh us 

Now, circling back to David's concern, I certainly can see that people 
outside of W3C might believe, partly because of history, that URIs 
beginning with http://www.w3.org/TR/ have more gravitas than other W3C 
URIs. But that is just a perception, and one we should correct. I think 
it is better to work on addressing that perception than to continue with 
the increasingly unfavorable cost / benefit ratio of publishing 
Techniques to TR. What we should do instead is tell the world that URIs 
beginning with http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/Techniques/ have the 
gravitas formerly expected of our TR publications. We should explain the 
procedures required for something to appear at that URI, which include 
careful Working Group vetting and public review. Meanwhile, we would 
gain the agility, style, and structure benefits of not being constrained 
by TR rules. And keep in mind that the proposal still involves 
publishing an index of techniques to TR, so if extra gravitas is assumed 
for what appears there, the index will exist, just pointing to our 
non-TR resource.

To address a concern raised by Gregg later in the thread, we should have 
procedures that content published to 
http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/Techniques/ has the same level of WG 
vetting and public review as we currently apply to our Note 
publications. I don't think much has to change there. It's already that 
the case that public review drafts are published to a different URI - 
http://www.w3.org/WAI/GL/YYYY/WD-WCAG20-TECHS-YYYYMMDD/. We might adjust 
the URI we use going forward, but content would not go straight to 
http://www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/Techniques/. We will probably want to 
adjust our procedures for soliciting public review - for instance, if 
we're adding a technique, requesting review of *that technique*, not an 
entire republication of 500 pages, will probably generate better 
results. Because we'll be doing this more than twice per year we should 
explore other channels than formal WAI IG announcements - perhaps a 
Twitter feed to start, maybe a Working Group blog, short announcements 
to a wider set of mailing lists, etc.

So in summary this means:

  * We set up a URI for formal Techniques publications that has the same
    level of vetting as we currently apply to our Note publications;
  * We clearly message to the public that this URI has the same gravitas
    as TR might be (incorrectly) assumed to have automatically;
  * We more nimbly publish new and updated content;
  * We more effectively solicit public review, normally *just of the new
    or changed content* for better focus;
  * We continue to publish an index of techniques to TR so that resource
    still exists for people who want it.

With all these steps in place, moving Techniques off of TR should bring 
us significant benefits in quality and agility, and not cost us in 


On 29/05/2015 2:52 PM, David MacDonald wrote:
> Hi Eric
> I don't think it is a misconception that TR documents are more 
> official than documents that are put up by a working group outside of 
> TR. Many  TR documents are not normative, but they still have higher 
> status than our wiki's and other working documents which have not yet 
> reached TR. I think that is what is at issue here, and the Government 
> of Canada is saying is OK to be outside of TR as long as they know 
> they are the working group's failures and techniques which have been 
> vetted in public.
> Cheers,
> David MacDonald
> *Can**Adapt**Solutions Inc.*
> Tel:  613.235.4902
> LinkedIn <http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmacdonald100>
> www.Can-Adapt.com <http://www.Can-Adapt.com>
> /  Adapting the web to *all* users/
> /Including those with disabilities/
> If you are not the intended recipient, please review our privacy 
> policy <http://www.davidmacd.com/disclaimer.html>
> //
> On Mon, May 25, 2015 at 7:08 AM, Eric Eggert <ee@w3.org 
> <mailto:ee@w3.org>> wrote:
>     One comment, inline…
>     On 23 May 2015, at 18:29, David MacDonald wrote:
>         Below is an exchange with the Government of Canada on the
>         question of
>         TR. We don't discuss anything about the logistics of link
>         addresses
>         etc. which Gregg brought up and I think we need to consider
>         carefully
>         separately. This exchange is just about the question of scrutiny
>         before publication and authority of the techniques. I think
>         the main
>         take away is they don't perceive a proposed move to TR as
>         something
>         that would mess up their existing policies.
>         ====
>         Government of Canada question: Hi David, So the techniques and
>         failures would continue to be updated but there potentially
>         could be
>         less rigour? What would be the difference in the vetting process
>         between the two scenarios?
>         =========
>         David response: I think in practicality it would be the same
>         scrutiny,
>         they would still be put out for public review, but with the
>         advantage
>         of being able to fix bugs quicker etc...... we usually don't
>         get many
>         people commenting during our public calls for review.
>         =======
>         Government of Canada: Okay, then I don't think it would be
>         much of an
>         issue for us, as the Standard on Web Accessibility would
>         require the
>         techniques to be used and the failures to be avoided regardless of
>         their official status at the W3C. Being maintained and updater
>         quicker
>         would be a good thing.
>     I think this shows the common misconception: The status of
>     techniques and failures won’t change (at least that is my
>     understanding): They are non-normative information, that are
>     published as “Working Draft Notes”, which means they are under
>     /TR/. After the change, they would be published somewhere else
>     (non-/TR/) but still be non-normative.
>     My take away is that people think everything in /TR/ has some kind
>     of non-informative status, which is not the case. In that light,
>     the move of the individual techniques could clarify this common
>     misunderstanding.
>     Cheers,
>     Eric
>         Cheers,
>         David MacDonald
>         CanAdapt Solutions Inc.
>         Tel: 613.235.4902 <tel:613.235.4902>
>         LinkedIn
>         www.Can-Adapt.com <http://www.Can-Adapt.com>
>         Adapting the web to all users
>                  Including those with disabilities
>         If you are not the intended recipient, please review our
>         privacy policy
>         On Fri, May 22, 2015 at 10:45 AM, Gregg Vanderheiden
>         <gregg@raisingthefloor.org <mailto:gregg@raisingthefloor.org>>
>         wrote:
>             On May 22, 2015, at 8:55 AM, Michael Cooper <cooper@w3.org
>             <mailto:cooper@w3.org>> wrote:
>             So I hope everyone understands that accepting the charter
>             as proposed does
>             not force us into a particular decision with our
>             resources. And I hope
>             everyone can see the value in building flexibility on that
>             into the charter,
>             since we have to close the rechartering process up now, so
>             that we can
>             continue the discussion on our publications without undue
>             constraints.
>             Yes that is a good idea.    and yes - I see that building
>             in the flexibility
>             does not commit you either way.
>             Gregg
>     --
>     Eric Eggert
>     Web Accessibility Specialist
>     Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at Wold Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Received on Tuesday, 2 June 2015 14:52:24 UTC

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