Simon St.Laurent simonstl at
Wed Sep 15 14:18:35 BST 1999

At 05:14 AM 9/15/99 -0400, Daniel Veillard wrote:
>Having a serious debate on technical facts about a specification is useful
>it occurs at various level within W3C, in the working groups, outside of
>the group like in xml-dev, and basically this refinement process is the
>best gard against flawed design. Taking into account public feedback is
>part of our process, all public drafts have public, archived  mailing-lists
>for that exact purpose, and the Working Group has to provide feedback
>on points raised there. If they don't, they are at fault. I guess Ann
>and other members of that working group did explain the reasons of
>their technical decision.

Er - a large part of the problem is that the working group did _not_
explain the 'reasons of their technical decision' - all we've gotten in any
even vaguely 'official' sense is that the W3C HTML WG reached consensus on
the 3-namespace draft.  No rationale from the WG, no explanation of how it
happened or why it changed from the previous 1-namespace draft.

Without that rationale, 'public feedback' doesn't have a whole lot to work
on.  We've made up some pretty good technical (and other) stories to
explain it, but have no real rationale.

Perhaps we non-members should demand that rationale on the W3C's own lists,
but it doesn't sound like we'd have any better luck there than we have had
on XML-dev.

> W3C staff didn't ignore the issues raised. Members of the Working Group
>didn't either, and I guess a large number of people generally involved
>in the XML activity took part ot the debate so the awareness is high
>withing the W3C member organization. A specification which would get
>fairly negative feedback from member won't get Recommendation status.
>The feedback loop exists, and from what I see, it is active.

>From here, all I see is dead silence.  That may mean that the W3C is
percolating internally, but there is no return loop for public feedback
other than whether or not the document progresses to recommendation status.
 An informed public would likely be a happier public.  

As it stands now, I think discouraged is about the friendliest word I can
find to describe my own feelings about W3C process and communication with
non-members.  While everything said above sounds good, I'd much rather see
action from the W3C - provision of rationales for decisions, especially
when they come into question, and response to public feedback that actively
tells non-members that their concerns are in fact being addressed.  Writing
to the W3C comment lists is currently like writing to a black hole, in most
cases, with no official response of any sort and only rarely even an
unofficial response.

Perhaps the W3C needs some sort of public information auditor, an employee
without access to the member areas.  That might help get through to the W3C
how little the public actually sees.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer (2nd Ed - September)
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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