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

Re: Forced Resignation

From: Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:12:27 -0400
Message-ID: <53B18C6B.3060908@arcanedomain.com>
To: Alex Russell <slightlyoff@google.com>, Melvin Carvalho <melvincarvalho@gmail.com>
CC: "www-tag@w3.org List" <www-tag@w3.org>
On 6/30/2014 10:14 AM, Alex Russell wrote:
> I think that the AC and AB need to decide if the TAG -- which writes no
> specs and wields no direct power, and which elects individuals and not
> organisations -- should be organised around member organisations in the
> first place.
>
> Do you have reason to think the TAG should be organised this way?

I am not trying here to take a position on the merits of this policy, but 
since Alex has eloquently stated the drawbacks, I think it's worth looking 
a bit at the positives and the history.

This is not a new occurrence or a new concern. When I was invited to join 
the TAG in 1994 it was to fill an opening created by (as I recall) the 
similarly "forced" resignation of Tim Bray, someone who in my opinion was 
viewed by all as an extraordinarily insightful, productive, and deserving 
TAG member. I'm fairly sure this happened other times too (Norm maybe?). 
So, the costs of the policy have been seen and discussed many times.

The intention in the W3C is that the TAG indeed be a very influential body: 
one of it's formal roles is to advise Tim in his role as director regarding 
technical policy decisions. As a working group and especially as one with 
the remit to look out for Web architecture, it's been assumed that concerns 
raised by the TAG will be taken very seriously. If a significant number of 
TAG members were to subvert the work of the group in service to some 
particular employer, there could indeed be real costs to the W3C and the Web.

There was at least in the early days, and I think still, a very great 
concern that large well-funded organizations would have undue influence at 
the W3C. It's often hard for small companies to support employees working 
on groups like the TAG, and it's all too easy in principle for large 
companies to sponsor multiple candidates.

Yes, all TAG members who do their jobs right put the needs of the Web as a 
whole ahead of the desires of their employers. When such members can't 
serve on the TAG something very important is lost. On the other hand, the 
policy avoids the temptation to "stuff" the TAG with multiple members who 
might not be so pure in their motives. Yes, the election process offers 
some defense as well.

Again, I've been conflicted about this for many years. I am not saying that 
on balance the policy is a good one. I do think it's important to note that 
everyone has been well aware of the costs for quite a long time, and that 
valued members have lost their seats before.

All of that said, losing Alex would be very unfortunate in my opinion. The 
importance and quality of his contributions was crystal clear during my 
time as chair, and I have no doubt of his ability and desire to put the 
needs of the Web first. (Not news to TAG members, but perhaps worth noting 
for other readers of this list who may not have had the privilege of 
working with Alex directly).

Noah
Received on Monday, 30 June 2014 16:12:54 UTC

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