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Re: A proposal for revising the rules on TAG Participation

From: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2014 23:37:19 -0400
Message-ID: <53C5F36F.8050304@dbooth.org>
To: Alex Russell <slightlyoff@google.com>
CC: Marcos Caceres <w3c@marcosc.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>, Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>, Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>, Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>
Hi Alex,

On 07/15/2014 09:12 PM, Alex Russell wrote:
> > On Fri, Jul 11, 2014 at 9:50 PM, David Booth <david@dbooth.org
> <mailto:david@dbooth.org>> wrote:
>     On 07/11/2014 07:37 PM, Marcos Caceres wrote:
>         On July 10, 2014 at 8:32:38 PM, Charles McCathie Nevile
>         (chaals@yandex-team.ru <mailto:chaals@yandex-team.ru>) wrote:
>                 I would be interested to hear of things that Marcos
>                 would have
>             done but didn't because he was required to resign, and whether
>             anything would have mitigated the situation except changing the
>             rules.
>         Well, let see. I set up the TAG GitHub account and was happily doing
>         API reviews. I was also starting to rewrite the architecture of the
>         Web document with Henry, but had to stop. I couldn't justify the
>         time
>         and travel commitment to my employer (Mozilla) if I wasn't
>         officially
>         on the TAG.  [ . . . . ]
>     That's an interesting data point.  Thanks for sharing it Marcos.
>     But apart from demonstrating the obvious loss of a good person
>     making good contributions, at the same time it demonstrates the fact
>     that your employer's agenda trumped your personal desire to do good
>     and contribute to the Web.
> That's an incredibly strange intepretation. Mozilla continues to do good
> and contribute to the web. Mozilla continues to support TAG members
> (Dave and prevously Anne). But they're not funding Marcos' travel to TAG
> meetings as a part of that and, thanks to membership, ahve no reasonable
> expectation that his travel would be effective if they /did/ fund it.

Agreed.  I do not dispute any of that.  But the fact remains that his 
employer's agenda trumped his personal desire to contribute to the TAG: 
Marcos stopped contributing to the TAG because of his employer's decision.

> Put another way, if an employee came to you and said "I'm going to keep
> going to these meetings but can't really participate as an equal" what
> would you do?

I'm not blaming Marcos, nor am I blaming his management.  That wasn't my 
point.  I certainly would have done the same as Marcos, and I probably 
would have done the same as his manager if I were his manager.

>     No matter how well-meaning one is, it simply is not possible to
>     maintain neutrality (or the appearance thereof) when one's food and
>     mortgage are paid by one's employer.
> You appear deeply unfamiliar with both Mozilla and Google.

I specifically said that I was not singling out any specific company or 
individual.  We are discussing a proposed general rule change -- not a 
special exception for Mozilla and Google employees.

> More to the
> point, I'd go out on a limb and say that if you think the people you
> elected to be on the TAG are, in general, sock puppets, I recommend you
> work to strip the TAG of even its ceremonial authority.

I do not think that at all!  Quite the opposite!  My comments were about 
the dangers of making a *rule* change -- not about any company or 
individual.  I have personally seen the highest levels of integrity in 
many of the individuals I have come to know on the TAG and in other W3C 
circles.  And I think the TAG's rule *has* caused a visible loss to the 
W3C's work.  But I think the dangers of a rule change, which could cause 
a different, less visible harm (but not necessarily less damaging), 
still exist and must be considered.

> If, on the other hand, you look at our body of recent work, you'll see
> it's largely the TAG putting the breaks on (and constructive comments)
> towards MOZILLA AND GOOGLE sponsored work in various WGs.
> Categorical statements that can't be reckoned with reality deserve to be
> ignored categorically.

Reality is that: (a) no individual can be expected to be completely 
neutral when being paid substantial sums by his/her employer; (b) 
companies can and do manipulate the good intentions of their employees, 
whether or not such manipulation is consciously intended; and (c) even 
the *appearance* of domination by one company could be harmful to the 
W3C's work.  Regardless our good intentions, let's please not ignore 
that reality in our desire to address the loss of a good contributor.

FWIW, individuals I have known on the TAG -- and in other W3C roles -- 
have had some of the highest personal integrity that I've seen.  (And in 
my experience, those with such high integrity also freely admit that 
they *cannot* be entirely neutral in such situations.)  The W3C -- and 
the world -- have certainly benefited as a result.  But that does not 
eliminate the danger that I'm pointing out.

Again, I apologize if any of my comments sounded like any sort of 
personal slight.  They were *not* intended that way.  They were simply 
intended as a reminder of the inherent dangers that must be considered 
in contemplating such a rule change -- dangers that do not disappear 
even when the individuals involved have the highest dedication and 

>     Companies routinely manipulate the good intentions of their
>     employees to benefit the company's agenda.  (And I do not mean to be
>     singling out any particular company or individual here.)
>     Stacking a decision-making body with very likable, talented and
>     well-meaning individuals is the most effective way to do it.  The
>     fact that those individuals may honestly attempt to be neutral does
>     *not* mean that the net effect is neutral.  And again, I'm not
>     saying that any particular company is consciously trying to stack
>     the TAG.  But conscious or not, that can be the effect.
>     Personally, I think it would be okay to relax the TAG's rule
>     slightly to allow two individuals from the same organization to
>     serve temporarily and/or with the approval of the AB.   But beyond
>     that I think there would be too much danger of undue dominance by
>     one organization, regardless of how well meaning the individuals are.
>     David Booth

Received on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 03:37:52 UTC

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