W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

Michael Champion mike.champion at sagus.com
Sat Sep 11 16:27:17 BST 1999

----- Original Message -----
From: David Megginson <david at megginson.com>
To: XML-Dev Mailing list <xml-dev at ic.ac.uk>
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 1999 9:12 AM
Subject: Re: W3C's 'Moral Majesty'
> Face-to-face meetings are
> generally more useful for working out political problems than they are
> for technical problems, precisely they tend to make it even easier for
> a minority of fast-thinkers and loud talkers (like me) to dominate the
> discussion: often the best ideas come from quiet, thoughtful people
> who need to mull over a new idea for a couple of hours (or days)
> before stating an opinion

I used to believe this too .... until I got involved in the W3C. My
has been that face to face meetings provide the collective *focus* that is
necessary to move the technical discussions to closure.  The ideas
may come from quiet thoughtful people and get thrashed around in e-mail,
but when it comes time to make a DECISION, keeping 10 or 20 people
together until they figure out what they can really live with and what they
really can't compromise on is a very effective process.  In fact, the
thing that kills progress in coming up with specs is "OK, we've agreed
in principle, now let's hammer out the little details in e-mail."  People
caught up in their obligations back at their day jobs, go on the road,
discussion threads get broken, promises forgotten .... until the next face
to face meeting
forces everyone to focus on drafting the spec again.

I certainly agree with the underlying notion that specs could be developed
with more diversity of perspective if face to face meetings could be
avoided.  The keys, I think, are to facilitate the kind of focus and level
of commitment that a face to face meeting engenders without forcing people
onto airplanes.  There's gotta be a way to harness some combination of text
editing/revision control, email or instant messaging, and project
management/workflow software to make this work better "asynchronously", or
at least via shorter, more frequent "synchronous" electronic meetings.  It
would be fun an illuminating if some IETF or W3C workgroup, or for that
matter the xml-dev list, could put something together that proves that the
concept works, then maybe that process will start to replace the face to
face meeting culture of the W3C.

Mike Champion

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