confidentiality in W3C WGs

Lisa Rein lisarein at
Fri Sep 10 20:50:59 BST 1999

You know, I would think that the conversations that have been taking
place on this list over the last week or two are making a pretty good
case for why we DON'T want everyone and their mother at working group
meetings, wasting valuable time, holding up progress over what
ultimately amounts to an individual's confusion regarding the technical
issues that are involved.  

In a public forum, we'd really NEVER know for sure whether an individual
was just acting on his or her own behalf, or who's larger agenda was
being followed, when they launch a debate for the umpteenth time over a
now-historical issue of record.  (Hey, while we're going back in time,
how 'bout we take a bullet for Kennedy and convince NASA to take an
extra round of X-rays on the Challenger's O-rings while we're at it!) 
-- And all this just because they "can", because this is a public
mailing list.

Such hypothetical debates may be amusing, in small doses, on public
mailing lists when nothing is at stake but an overfilled in-box, but at
a face-to-face WG meeting, where people have flown in from all over the
world, often on weekends, on their own time, with their own money, and
on top of whatever else they are expected to keep going back home, such
tactics are not appreciated.

It amounts to "filibustering", which is a purely POLITICAL maneuver. If
the WG meetings were held publicly and every step of the whole process
were placed completely out in the open, that's all that would ever take
place in them: politics.  There would be no incentive to work together
with your competitors to ensure that little discrepancies don't get in
the way of technology moving forward. 

It is only because of the existing confidentiality agreements that the
members of a working group are able to, in some capacity, put their
cards on the table and trust that the group will try as a whole to find
a realistic solution to fit everyone's needs.  Without such agreements,
every working group meeting would become a press conference. 

Member companies would soon be basing their votes on the popular opinion
of their constituencies.  At which point there would be no reason for
these companies to even continue participating in the standards
process.  And the whole thing would be over.  All of the software,
hardware, telecom, cellular, satellite, microwave and whatever other
companies that have actually been working together can and will go back
to developing their own technologies in their own smoke filled rooms.   

And we'll end up with a VHS version of the World Wide Web.

Now I better stop before somebody accuses me of filibustering, but this
has been building up for weeks, and I just couldn't hold it in any

Suffice to say that I think some of you need to seriously reconsider
this little standards upheaval you keep going on and on about, before
you undermine the very process that got us up to this point in the first

Don't worry, I won't be going on any more about this or writing back to
say it over and over again.  I've said my peace.



<uncontrollable rant>
Do you think it's fun or something being on one of those groups?
It sucks!  You spend hours and hours working very hard on something
that, if all goes well, no one will even notice or appreciate, because
it will be working quietly in the background. We'll know you did it,
maybe, but the this "public" at large that many on this list keep
suggesting is somehow being cheated out of participating in the
process... All they're going to know is that the web don't work so well
no more.  

If you want to "participate" so badly, pay the money like any other
company or individual, and participate, or just lurk around, enjoying
your member privileges. If you don't have the money, become a real
expert, not just someone who plays one on TV, and participate in one of
the Sig groups or something, out of your own sheer dedication, and who
knows, maybe you'll be invited in as an expert!   

But don't even, for one minute, take the current unprecedented level of
corporate inter-monolith interest in web standards for granted, or
you'll be watching it go "poof!" and it'll be defacto heaven all over
again.  Sheesh!  It's only been three years!  Have you forgotten the
good old days before standards already?
</uncontrollable rant>

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