ATTN: Please comment on XHTML (before it's too late)

Steven R. Newcomb srn at
Sun Sep 5 21:04:42 BST 1999

[Paul Tchistopolskii:]

> PS. I guess if voting would become  more popular procedure
> than it is now we'l get more efficient movement, because
> the nature of maling-list or any newsconference does not
> provide enough statistics. Definately, namespaces are *so*
> important  that manking 'not perfect' desision in this area
> would affect  many ( if not all of)  XML applications, so
> I think that  voting on issues like this is reasonable.

Interesting idea.  A straw poll of stakeholders and developers,
regardless of whether they have a voice within the W3C process, might
influence that process.  To be effective, all voters would have to
make their votes public, as well as the rationale behind each vote.

As it happens, because of W3C procedures, the voting done *within* the
W3C is just a straw poll, anyway.  It can only be a good thing to have
one more straw poll available, especially if it is a poll of
knowledgable, passionate individuals, rather than vested business
interests.  Such a poll might even become additional input for the
W3C's Director's decision-making process.  (That would be completely
up to him, of course.  I gather that he is allowed to consider or
ignore anything he likes.)

The voting idea appeals to me for several other reasons.  I find these
discussions in xml-dev extremely valuable, but I'm often left
wondering who convinced who about what, if anything.  I sometimes need
to know that somebody's point (which I may not have fully understood)
was or was not answered to that person's satisfaction.

In the play "Twelve Angry Men" (all of which takes place in a jury
room), the characters repeatedly vote on whether to convict the
defendant.  They can't leave the room until they're all lined up on
the same side of the issue.  In the first vote, it's 11-1 in favor of
conviction.  This excellent and demanding play is about how each of
eleven votes are changed, one by one.

In any important deliberation, one can easily imagine people going for
one side or the other just to get an issue decided, usually by voting
with the majority.  (One of the votes in "12 Angry Men" changes
exactly when the majority changes, to the unanimous disgust of the
other 11 voters, regardless of which side they were on.)  One can
easily imagine passionate and unresolvable disagreements on any given
issue, resulting in the technical-committee equivalent of a "hung
jury".  My 13 years of service on various ISO committees tells me
that, in such a case, *both* sides are invariably *right*, and the
real problem is that we're attempting to resolve the wrong issue, or
to resolve several issues in the wrong order.  A "hung jury" situation
is neither to be feared, nor to be swept under the rug by any sort of
administrative fiat; it is to be learned from and acted upon.

It's very worthwhile to sort things out carefully, and it can be done
if everyone has the goal of making a good standard, rather than
meeting some private goal.  There are no substitutes for shared goals,
honesty or tenacity.  For example, one has to be obedient to the muse
of good design, when necessary, and say, "You have destroyed my case.
You are right.  Congratulations!  Let's move on."  I have seen this
kind of graciousness repeatedly on this xml-dev list.  One also has to
stick to one's guns, until one's point is understood and answered.
Some would call this rude behavior; in standards deliberations, I call
it "working".  I see this less often on this list, and I think that
voting would make it more commonplace, by identifying those who need
to be convinced.  Some readers might not like the passion, and some
writers might run out of patience.  That happens.  *shrug*

Who would pay for the voting and publication machinery?  Maybe a voter
should pay $10 for the privilege of voting on a given issue, and
certify that it's his or her own personal money that is being spent in
this way.  That would tend to indicate that votes would not be made
lightly, and keep the ballot box from being bought by any given
business interest.  It would also pay for supporting the publication
of votes made by people who may need to change their minds, and to say
why they changed their minds.


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at

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