W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-archive@w3.org > February 2009

Re: Moving past last call for HTML5

From: Sam Ruby <rubys@intertwingly.net>
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 20:39:15 -0500
Message-ID: <499E09C3.6050106@intertwingly.net>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: www-archive@w3.org
-cc: dev-platform@lists.mozilla.org

Ian Hickson wrote:
> 
> Realistically speaking, we'll never have complete consensus on everything 
> in HTML5. At the simplest level, there are contradictory opinions on the 
> very fundamentals of the work -- some people want error handling defined, 
> some don't; some people want a schema, some don't; some people want APIs 
> defined, some don't; the list is long.
> 
> So consensus -- unanimity -- isn't an interesting goal.

Some people want a pony.  That's not what consensus is all about.

I've been directly involved in a number of ECMA and IETF committees in a 
number of roles, and indirectly involved with a number of other 
standards committees.  I also have a background in a large number of 
open source projects, particularly with the Apache Software Foundation.

All intend to be consensus based.  While I have seen some bad examples, 
I have also seen consensus work numerous times.  With documents bigger 
than this one.  With groups more diverse than this one.  While each 
group is unique, I believe something approaching consensus can be made 
to work here.

Furthermore, I believe I've made some modest progress in the past 6.5 
weeks towards that goal.

> The next step down in terms of opinion-based progress is majority 
> agreement, and I am confident that with the exception of things that need 
> changing and will be changed in time for the next milestone, we have a 
> majority agreement on everything in HTML5.

I disagree on several things before I even get to the first comma in 
that paragraph.  For starters, there is an interesting gap between 100% 
and 50.000001%.  Second you've introduced the term "opinion" into this 
mix which for the sake of time I will decline to go down that rathole. 
Third, one can't even begin to access the concept of majority without 
untangling all of the potential conflicts of interest that might be 
perceived to exist here, another rathole that I desperately don't want 
to go down.

> Majority agreement in a self-selected community like an open working 
> group is worth less than it would appear, though, because there is a 
> selection bias: only people who are interested in both the technology and 
> in standards development are going to take part. In the W3C working group, 
> there is a further bar: we only allow people who are willing to put up 
> with an inordinate amount of bureacuracy (to join) and noise to be part of 
> the group whose opinion is measured.
> 
> Statistically, therefore, the opinions of the working group almost 
> certainly don't match the opinions of the whole Web community.

The above is a fair observation.  To the extent that the document you 
are editing accepts input from places other than the public-html mailing 
list, the concern about the "inordinate amount of bureaucracy" doesn't 
fully apply.

The "noise" concern does.  In spades.   The "noise" has been 
"chroniqued" widely.  At this time, I don't want to go down that rathole 
either, other than to note that I believe that progress is starting to 
be made here too.

> An alternative approach, the one which the WHATWG (and by extension the 
> editor's draft in the HTMLWG) has been using, is to use the "vote with 
> your feet" approach: things that aren't implemented or used get thrown 
> out, things that _are_ implemented or used get adopted. For new features 
> this means that browser vendors have, as a group, the ability to veto 
> anything, but that's true anyway, whether we admit it or not. For the 
> direction the Web is going in, it means that authors that write content 
> that gets crawled and measured in the studies we do get a vote. In this 
> model, users get the ultimate vote by deciding whether or not they adopt a 
> particular browser and whether or not they visit particular sites; 
> browsers without adoption end up with less ability to veto, and sites with 
> fewer users tend to die earlier and fall off the statistical radar.
> 
> I understand that it would be controversial to use this method in the W3C, 
> however.

I don't believe that that is a full description of the process employed. 
  For starters, Rob could argue that is employing the same process, but 
ends up at a different result.  But beyond that there are issues where 
browser vetos aren't a relevant concern.

Who are the implementers of the summary and property attributes?  Again, 
I don't want to rathole here, I've seen countless hours wasted on the 
alt attribute alone; and I've seen but a small fraction of the 
discussion that you have had to endure (and for the sake of 
completeness, some would say have caused, something again I don't want 
to rathole on).

For now, I will simply point to one paragraph as an example of something 
that is the product of consensus:

http://www.atomenabled.org/developers/syndication/atom-format-spec.php#rfc.section.4.1.1.1

If you scroll to the top of that page, you might find that you recognize 
the names of the two editors.

> Given the goal of publishing a Last Call draft in October, what approach 
> do you think we should take to achieve that goal in the W3C? Should we 
> start having votes to ask people which sections they won't support? Should 
> we start collecting "formal objection"-type comments on the list? What bar 
> will you be looking for when I say "ok there is no outstanding feedback, 
> let's publish a Last Call draft"?

I don't have the full answer for that question, but let me start with 
this: no, I do not believe that votes are something we should employ 
except as a last resort.

For the moment, my biggest concern is the "noise" factor as I fear that 
that has caused us to not collect but a small fraction of the input we 
all want and need.  I know a number of good people who have written this 
group off.  I know a number of good people who haven't given up yet, but 
feel like they are banging their head against the wall.  I want to win 
them all back.

In the process, I have been quietly accumulating actions associated for 
all of what I think of as the "impossible" tasks.  At the moment, there 
are six officially on my list, and at least three where I there are 
owners who are still pursuing it but I sense that they are near their 
wits ends.

And that doesn't even count the following issues:

   http://www.w3.org/html/wg/tracker/issues/raised

My plan on these is to continue to collect them; seek guidance from the 
W3C members are the AC meeting next month, brainstorm with you and 
others in SF a few days later, and then explore the ideas produced on 
public-html when I get back.

For the near term the low hanging fruit is as follows: getting Mike's 
and Rob's drafts to FPWD and for you to consider Rob's approach to 
@summary, @profile, and @alt.  Doing so would allow me to focus on 
problems like license and charter issues.

Oh, and if it were up to me, I'd 86 section 1.5.4.

- Sam Ruby
Received on Friday, 20 February 2009 01:39:29 UTC

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