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Re: A proposal for revising the rules on TAG Participation

From: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2014 02:21:37 -0400
Message-ID: <53C619F1.3030402@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>
On 07/16/2014 12:30 AM, Alex Russell wrote:
> On Tue, Jul 15, 2014 at 8:37 PM, David Booth <david@dbooth.org
> <mailto:david@dbooth.org>> wrote:
>     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>
>         <mailto: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>
>         <mailto: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.
> Again, it's really strange way of looking at it.

I don't think so, but we seem to disagree on this point.

> His change of
> employment /caused a change in his membership on the TAG./


> The
> consequences of that change seem like predictable outcomes from where
> I'm sitting.


> I'm not sure why you're phrasing this as something that
> Mozilla did, it's *something /the W3C did/* and which had predictable,
> negative outcomes.

That's a backward view of responsibility for one's actions.  I'm 
phrasing it as something that Mozilla did because it *is* something that 
Mozilla did.  The W3C's rule pre-dated Mozilla's business decision by a 
*long* time!  Mozilla's business decision was made **in spite of** the 
W3C's rule.

Obviously Mozilla's business decision was more important to Mozilla than 
Marcos's participation in the TAG.  That's normal for any organization.

> What do you think Mozilla should have done differently?

Nothing.  I'm not claiming that Mozilla should have done anything 

> Why do you have
> an expectation that they should support travel to meetings for employees
> who are not members of the groups in question?

I don't.  Please stop suggesting that I do.

> Or is the point that
> Marcos and Dominic shouldn't have taken a better jobs at a different
> member firms in order to avoid this situation from occurring?

No, that is not my point either.  My point is exactly what I said -- no 
more and no less.  Please stop reading things into my statements that I 
did not say (and do not mean).  My point is that, regardless of how well 
intentioned and capable any individuals are, there is still a danger in 
making a change that could cause one company to dominate, or appear to 
dominate, the TAG.

>         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.
> This is absolutely about individuals and specific firms. The set of
> people who can be competent TAG members is, as others have noted, quite
> small. The set of sponsor firms is fixed at the set of members. So if
> this isn't about specific individuals and companies...well, then I don't
> know what we're even discussing.

We're discussing a *rule* change.  W3C rules last a lot longer than 
individuals' involvement.

>       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;
> Web architecture is also not a cloistered pursuit. I can assure you that
> being close to implementers is an asset when discussing the set of
> likely and possible solutions.

Of course!

>     (b) companies can and do manipulate the good intentions of their
>     employees, whether or not such manipulation is consciously intended;
> As does all other life experience. The members elect TAG members, one
> hopes, for the judgement which is a product of said experience.


>     and (c) even the *appearance* of domination by one company could be
>     harmful to the W3C's work.
> That argument demands a discussion of why this is somehow more true for
> the TAG than for WGs where specs are actually written and who have
> nearly all the power in any specific design discussion.

I made no such claim.  I don't know who you think did.  But I do think 
it's reasonable to compare the differences between the TAG and WGs.  The 
WGs generally have more members; the TAG has higher stature (in some 
ways); the WGs turn out specs that have much more immediate 
consequences; the TAG's documents have much deeper and farther reaching 
consequences; there is only one TAG, while there are many WGs; the TAG 
requires much broader web expertise and insight.  Others?


>     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 integrity:
>              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
>     Thanks,
>     David
Received on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 06:22:06 UTC

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