W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-tag@w3.org > July 2014

Re: A proposal for revising the rules on TAG Participation

From: Alex Russell <slightlyoff@google.com>
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:40:01 -0700
Message-ID: <CANr5HFWHTzApzSFUCf9b8hhw==nfs4xHNMYN3kXXYcY+1U2O+g@mail.gmail.com>
To: David Booth <david@dbooth.org>
Cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, Marcos Caceres <w3c@marcosc.com>, Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>, Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
On Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 8:53 AM, David Booth <david@dbooth.org> wrote:

>
>
> On 07/16/2014 10:34 AM, Alex Russell wrote:
>
>>
>> On 15 Jul 2014 23:21, "David Booth" <david@dbooth.org
>> <mailto:david@dbooth.org>> wrote:
>>  >
>>  > 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>
>>  >> <mailto: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>>
>>  >>         <mailto: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>>
>>  >>         <mailto: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./
>>  >
>>  >
>>  > Right.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >> The
>>  >> consequences of that change seem like predictable outcomes from where
>>  >> I'm sitting.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  > Agreed.
>>  >
>>  >> 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
>> differently.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >> 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.
>>
>> I'm asking you to mark your beliefs to market: do we have experience
>> with "TAG stacking"? Did that experience cause this rule to come into
>> being? It doesn't seem so.
>>
>
> Not as far as I know, but we certainly do have vast general experience
> about the harms caused by permitting one or two players to dominate.  We
> cannot ignore harms that have been intentionally prevented, just because
> they haven't been observed in this instance.


I wish to sell you elephant repellant. I know it works because there are no
elephants in the trees near my house, nor within 1000 miles! And don't say
you don't need any, because we cannot ignore harms caused by branches
breaking and dropping on people's heads. I submit that they have been
intentionally prevented in the San Francisco area thanks to my liberal
application of elephant repellant.


> Instead we *do* have experience of membership-thrashing caused by this
>> policy. We both seem to acknowledge that this isn't great and in all
>> observed cases, the individuals have the integrity we would hope for.
>> That is, the membership elected reasonable people who are acting
>> reasonably.
>>
>> Asking who you think should have acted differently in these situations
>> is how we weigh counterfactuals. It's entirely appropriate. Making a
>> case that policies are useful even when we can't turn up evidence of
>> their utility needs to stand up to this.
>>
>> There was no move to change the policy the first time it caused harm.
>> Now that we are experiencing a pattern, there is a move to compensate.
>> This seems healthy to me.
>>
>
> I agree.  But in weighing the best choice of action, it's important to
> remind ourselves of the harm that the existing policy has prevented,
> specifically because it is less visible than the harm caused by membership
> changes due to affiliation changes.
>
> David
>
>
>
>
>>  >>         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 can think of cases where this isn't true.
>>
>>  >>       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.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  > Sure.
>>  >
>>  >
>>  >>
>>  >>     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.
>>
>> What? I just said you haven't made a strong case and pointing out why
>> it's weak. Didn't say you claimed anything.
>>
>>  > 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?
>>
>> This reads an old mode of work into the TAG and perhaps is part of the
>> basis for your concern. We have moved away from issuing findings.
>> Instead we are doing much more hands-on spec-review work. See, e.g.:
>> https://github.com/w3ctag/spec-reviews/blob/master/2013/07/WebAudio.md
>>
>>  >>     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 23:40:59 UTC

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