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Re: discretion & the issue tracker (was Re: discretion in adding issues)

From: Michael(tm) Smith <mike@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2008 09:54:34 +0900
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>
Cc: rob@robburns.com, connolly@w3.org, chris.wilson@microsoft.com, www-archive@w3.org
Message-ID: <20080605005431.GI5229@sideshowbarker>

Hi Gregory,

> @2008-06-04 15:59 +0100:
> aloha, mike!
> you wrote,
> cite="http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html-wg-issue-tracking/2008Jun/0002.html">
> Yes. I can see that "mess" may sound like a strong word, but it's
> actually not in this case. A mess in that a number of us now have
> had to spend time on this discussion -- time that would have been
> much more productively spent doing the many other things I'm sure
> we all have to do that are of higher priority than this. A mess in
> that we now have to unwind it and figure out which (if any) among
> these issues ever should have been opened to begin with and which
> (if any) deserve to remain open.
> I'm now thinking that the best way resolve the mess is just by
> summarily closing them all and requiring that none of them be
> re-raised as issues in the tracker unless/until it has been
> demonstrated that they meet the working criteria we have for
> tracker issues (articulated by Shawn above).
> this is an EXTREMELY draconian position for a staff contact to take;

I'm noting that fact that you consider it to be such. Please note
the fact that after spending quite a bit of time considering it
myself, the resolution remains this: It is now the definitive
position with respect to this particular set of issues.

To be very clear about this (and to repeat once again what I've
already said several times in previous messages): The main point
that you need to understand here is that it is my position that
most or all of those proposals should not have been entered into
the tracker to begin with, nor should any other issues that don't
meet the criteria that I outlined in my replies to Robert (mostly
by copying the apt descriptions and examples that Shawn had
already pointed out). And I also want you to understand that I
don't want you to raise any more issues in the tracker for this
group until you can let me know that you accept that criteria and
agree to abide by it going forward.

> the HTML5 draft has been submitted for HTML WG review by the HTML WG,
> and it is in this vein that i offered to add rob burns' issues to the
> issue tracker; all of them have been vetted

They were not vetted. Not properly at least. One reasonable
interpretation of "vetted" in this case would seem to me to have
involved checking with me or with the chairs before you raised 9
new tracker issues, in a very short span of time, that were
demonstrably different in their nature than the majority of open
issues that we have on record in our tracker (the set of which is
itself actually only 9 issues).

> and have been the subject of discussion, many of them are
> documented in wiki pages of long-standing, and all of them are
> germane...

That all makes them relevant for further discussion on the
public-html list. It absolutely on its own does not make them
necessarily make them candidates for becoming tracker issues.

> in doing so, i and rob were attempting to advance the work of
> the WG on issues which have not had as wide an airing as
> necessary, hence their addition to the issue tracker...

That "hence" does not follow. The tracker does not exist for
giving more attention to proposals that have not had as wide an
airing as necessary (whatever you intend "necessary" to mean in
this case). It exists to track real issues that are already under
some notable degree of significant discussion within the group to
merit being clearly important enough to the group as a whole that
we need to more carefully track discussion and decisions around
them. Most or all of issues 42-50 do not meet that criteria.

> it is not your position to arbitrarily police the issue tracker
> in order to simplify your your life and that of a very vocal
> minority

To be clear about a few things:

  - For better or worse, it is my position to "police" the issue
    tracker for this group and to establish and enforce criteria
    for how it is used.

  - I am not setting nor enforcing that criteria arbitrarily nor
    am enforcing in order to just simplify my life, not to
    simplify the life of whatever very vocal minority you may have
    had in mind when you wrote the above.

> -- the main thrust of the complaints about issues 42-50 is 
> that there were "too many" of them submitted at one time...

That's not at all the main thrust of the statements I've made
about it. The point I've been trying to make clear is that they
do not meet the working criteria we have for what type of
proposals merit being raised as tracker issues to begin with --
and that those criteria are the same whether it is one such issue
under discussion, or one hundred.

> but, how else is one to register them?

How else is anybody without write access to the tracker expected
to bring initial proposals to the attention of the group and to
encourage discussion of them? Is that not exactly what we have
have mailing list for? And as far "registering" them as issues
that we need to track, the appropriate time to do that is only
after it's been clearly demonstrated and agreed that they actually
merit the time and resources needed to more carefully document
the discussions and decisions around them than we do any other
proposals that get brought up on the list.

To put it in other words, the tracker is an issue tracker, not a
proposal tracker.

> there has NEVER been a decision to review the HTML5 draft in a specific
> sequence (although that might have been a more sane approach at the 
> outset of the endeavor), and one person's issue is always bound to be 
> another's irritation, but the issues themselves are all valid and worthy
> of discussion and consideration by the working group

I am no disagreeing with on that point. The fact remains that that
does not necessarily mean those discussion topics should
automatically become tracker issues.

> -- many of them 
> date back in origin to the early days of the WG, when many a formal 
> proposal from individual WG members were either ignored or debated and
> ultimately dropped from view due to the daily deluge of email from 
> public-html and the self-declared importance of other issues (many of
> which i would argue are tangential to HTML5 development per se) -- if 
> WG members are not allowed to add issues to the issue tracker,

General WG members are in fact not allowed to add issues to the
tracker. Only a handful of people in the group are allowed to.

> then what recourse do those WG members have?  absolutely none;

Not true. The same route is open to everybody in the group: the
route of posting to the public-html list to promote any proposals
they choose to, and to encourage discussion of those. The issue
tracker is not a means to short-circuit that route and prematurely
escalate proposals that have not gone down that route.

> and, by arbitrarily deleting issues 40 to 52, you would
> effectively stifle contributions to the WG from all but a
> selected few...

Oh, come on.

> you are staff contact -- you are the intermediary and facilitator of
> the mechanics of the working group; if this (non) "issue" isn't a 
> high priority, then what precisely rises to that level,

I don't understand what issue you're referring to. As far as what
precisely rises to the level of being a suitable tracker issues,
I'll repeat what I've already written:

  The tracker does not exist for giving more attention to proposals
  that have not had as wide an airing as those who have proposed
  them might like for them to have received. It exists to track real
  issues that are already under some notable degree of significant
  discussion within the group to merit being clearly important
  enough to the group as a whole that we need to more carefully
  track discussion and decisions around them.

> and how are individual WG members to participate fully in the
> drafting process?

I will be working over the next few weeks on laying groundwork for
facilitating increased participation from a wider set of members
of the group. But this current discussion about issues 42-50 is
not helping me get there. Trust me on that.

As far as the current process for the development of the HTML5
spec is in part something that we as a group essentially inherited
when we agreed to adopt the HTML5 spec (and WF2 spec also) as our
basis for review, and is something that existed for three years
before the HTML WG was created and that not only led to there
actually being a spec ready for us to review to begin with, but
that has also led to a number of key parts of the spec having been
implemented and shipped in browsers during the last 15 months
since the HTML WG was created.

That said, I'm not claiming that process is perfect nor that it's
impossible for us at this point to discuss ways to improve on it
or to maybe even actually make significant adjustments to it.

But part of what I really need right now to help make that happen
is some significant time without distractions. And reading and
exchanging mail about issues 42-50 has now literally cost me
several hours that I could have spent doing that instead. So I'd
really like to ask you to carefully consider laying off on this.
I've already noted the general concerns that have been expressed
in this discussion. But we are not going to get a resolution to
those general concerns from this discussion, and I have said
several times all that I have to say about the specific problem
with issues 42-50 and the way they were raised.

> without further discussion of this issue by the chairs and the WG, i 
> will formally, loudly, and broadly object

I don't encourage you to do that, though of course there's nothing
I can do to stop you from doing it. But I do have to say that I
don't think that formally, loudly, and broadly objecting to
whatever decision I do end up making is going to be a very
productive use of your time. Because whatever decision I do make
will stand. I promise you that.

> to an arbitrary deletion of issues from the issue tracker
> without anyone advancing a legitimate reason why they should not
> be considered issues...

If and when they are closed, it will not be arbitrary, nor will it
be for lack of anybody having advanced legitimate reasons why they
should not have been been raised to begin with. Because I've
already documented the reason in this message and in previous ones
I've posted in this thread. Again, you're free to formally,
loudly, and broadly object to the reason I've given. But I would
prefer that when you do, you actually cite the reason I've given,
and at least not claim that I never put a reason forward.

> all of this begs the question, what function does the WG serve in the
> HTML5 drafting process?  are WG members intended to raise and work on 
> issues in their particular areas of expertise,

We come again to the distinction between proposals (or topics)
that are suitable for raising for further discussion on the
public-html list, and those that are suitable for becoming tracker
issues. While most or all of issues 42-50 are not suitable for
having been raised a tracker issues to begin with, they are all
suitable for raising for further discussion on the list.

> or are WG members simply glorified graduate students, performing
> research and grunt work for the editor, chairs and staff contact
> only on topics approved by the editor, chairs, and staff
> contact?

Neither I nor the editor is preventing anybody from spending their
time on any topics they care to invest their time it. But the fact
that any particular person has spent a large amount of their time
on documenting a particular topic or proposal and encouraging
discussion does not mean that it somehow earns having the
attention of entire group automatically focused on it, nor the
particular attention of the editor, chairs, or staff contact.

What earns a higher priority are the merits of the proposal or
discussion topic itself -- and those merits are demonstrated by
letting discussion about them take place (or not take place) on
the group's mailing list and seeing if what amount of significant
support or objection to that proposal which that produces.

> that is not the collaborative dynamic i have experienced in my
> dozen years participating in W3C as an invited expert, nor as a
> former member of an domain coordination group

This is a very different group, in many way, and has been from the
time it was first created. And I think it is never likely to
become quite like the other groups you've been involved in
previously, though I will say it can change in some ways that may
help to bring it closer.

> in either event, none of this can be simply and safely swept under the 
> rug through a mass deletion of issues, nor a stifling of individual WG 
> members

Closing issues 42-50 would not be a mass deletion of issues; it
would a rectifying of a mistake. And it would have little do do
with anything else being simply and safely swept under the rug,
and that's really not the discussion we need to be having right
not. The only point that needs to be made clear here from this
discussion is not about issues in general (which we can and will
continue to discuss) or about any other issues at all except
issues 42-50.

> -- issue tracking policy and the feedback dynamic of the WG
> MUST be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity -- if the HTML 
> WG is playing by different rules than other W3C working groups, those 
> differences MUST be explicitly spelt out,

No, none of that is actually a must, especially if you mean for
me to make time right now to do it -- because it would effectively
mean I'd need further put aside the other work I need to be doing
right now, and I'm not actually going to do that.

> and formal guidelines, rather than merely opinion,

The reasons I have given are not opinion, and for the time being
until I have time to document them elsewhere, you can safely
consider them formal guidelines.

> should govern what is an "appropriate" issue and 
> what is a "long term/lingering concern" -- and, perhaps, the tracker 
> system needs to be ternary, rather than binary...
> either the WG respects the expertise and points of view of individual 
> WG members, or it is a sad farce masquerading as a collaborative 
> process

It's not clear to me that group doesn't actually respect the
expertise and points of view of individual members. As far as
being a farce, maybe at times. I think some people might consider
this current discussion around issues 42-50 a bit of a farce. Sad,
though, I'd have to say No. Masquerading as a collaborative
process, yeah, there's some definitely some room for arguing that.
But in the particular case of issues 42-50, having raised them as
tracker issues has not helped the group get any closer to be being
a more genuine collaborative process. At this point, it's pretty
much at best distracted from that goal.


Michael(tm) Smith

Received on Thursday, 5 June 2008 00:55:12 UTC

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