W3C and 'small vendors'.

Paul Tchistopolskii paul at qub.com
Sun Sep 19 02:27:20 BST 1999

To whom it may concern.

I hope that this letter wuld not be considered 
abstract, because it is actualy an explanation 
of one particular problem and suggestion for 
working that problem around.

I'm not blaming the W3C, I just want to make 
things better for  all of us with pointing to 
some particular problem. The problem  
could be solved with publishing just one 
paper on W3C site.

My letter is a request for paper :

"If you have no $15K and/or you have no 
ability and/or need  to travel across 
the world, but you want  to provide 
a feedback to W3C you have the 
following ways to participate in the 
activity of  W3C:  ... "

I would never write this letter months before, 
because at that point I was thinking that W3C 
is doing realy great and the process is 
reasonable and efficient ( of course, nothing 
is ideal, but I saw no critical problems). 

Our ( www.renderx.com) 
particular experience with W3C shows that 
there *is* one ( realy, I think there is just one) 
problem with W3C.

The problem is: "W3C does not care about 
small vendors / independend developers, and 
ignoring those groups of people usualy causes 
significant problems on a long run".

Those of you who are reading XSL mailing list 
may know that for last months our group 
( www.renderx.com)
handled a big work in the area of  XSL FO WD.

We are one of  top experts in that particular area, 
because we simply wrote ( at the moment ) 
the strongest  implementation of that standard. 

More. We have published the "Validating DTD" 
with  many  comments ( because such a DTD 
was a show-stopper for many people, including 
ourselvs and the only feedback from WG was 
"we'l include it into the next WD")  ( when???). 
As a result some developers wrote us that  
"shame on W3C - you are doing their work".

Unfortunately, so far we got no feedback from 
W3C at all. I can not count a private email : 
"keep posting to the XSL-list" as a reasonable 
feedback on our materials, because we have 
spend days and weeks preparing our materials.

I'm not concerned too much about this particular
problem ( our DTD ). Probably, with some 
hidden/political steps we may establish some 
kind of relations with XSL WG. Maybe not.  Does
not matter.

Also, I'm *not* saying that we have something 
very special with XSL FO working group. I have 
some e-mails that show that the same situation 
happens with almost every group in W3C. It's 
easy to understand - people are bisy with their 
work, there are some ( unknown ) procedures
for making the descisions, there is a 
(maybe reasonable - I don't know)  'conspiracy' 
angainst the outher space e t.c.

Once again - I greatly respect W3C efforts 
and the efforts of  XSL WG in particular. The 
April draft of XSL FOs was a *great* step.
However, it  is the end of September now. 

The problem is that if W3C will  threat us 
the way it is now - it  could  be easier  for us 
to decide at some point : 

"OK, we don't care about your standard stuff. We 
are the only one who have the working implementation 
and we'l add our own proprietary  workarounds to 
the problems you are ignoring for months. Well - 
maybe you are not ignoring - but with zero feedback 
from you and our real clients who want our engine 
right now - it would be OK for us to start with 
Netscape-alike 'spacer' tags  e t.c. "

Again - it is not the worstest thing. The worstest thing 
is that it appears that *many* small 
vendors / intependend developers are having the 
same problem with W3C. I got emails
from different persons and it appears that most 
of people who are 'outside the W3C' are having 
the similiar problems. 

For years I was thinking that damn vendors who are 
introducing some proprietary extensions to some 
standards are doing it  because of some 
political / marketing reasons. 

After vain attempts to get any  feedback from W3C 
for months, following the procedures suggested by 
W3C ( posting to the XSL-list is the suggested procedure, 
right? ) now I think that  I was just naive and perhaps 
some marginal whoes in comp.text.xml are not actualy 

I think that if  it will go as it is going now with W3C
and 'ordinary  people' outside, it would  cause  
some vendors to start with their own 'Linux' for XML 
and I don't think that it will be good.

If asking me personaly: 

"whould you like to start with "Linux for XML"?"

3 months ago: 

My answer would be  "Of course, no. It's stupid."

If asking me about the same thing today
my answer would be: 

"Can I get your e-mail / url? Just in case."

It is a sad story. 

If after 3 months my answer would be: 

"OK, let's start a mailing list on it,  we have our 
part ready, you have your part ready, we need to 
hack this and that place to make it work together - 
let's do it right now, it'l take us forever  to understand 
when they will come with the next version of  WD, 
because they are silent for 2 months again".

It would be the worstest possible scenario for
me and W3C,  because I'l start working 
*aganst* W3C, but not *for* W3C. Of course just 
one small case is nothing. What I'm saying is that 
the *probability*  of this scenario increases every day. 

More and more  'ordinary people'  are gaining more 
expertize in XML, more and more small companies 
are coming with 'some' implementations and the last 
but not the least, it appears that  most of W3C 
memebers realy think that keeping silence 
makes things better, blaming the 'rest of the world' 
with : "hey, we are doing important things - don't 
bother us". 

After constantly receiving such answers people 
like Linus usualy say: 

"OK. If you don't care about me, I'l kill you with 
my implementation. It's *not* a big deal to put 
together a bunch of code to get my own version 
of UNIX - I don't have  to be a *very*big*structure* 
to make some temporary descisions, because 
the task itself is *not* that complex to spend
years with designing it".

The biggest problem  and maybe the the only 
reason of  Lunix was that a *lot*  of FreeBSD 
developers decided that it's not worth their 
time to spend their *free* efforts to support 
the group of persons who are simply ignoring 

I don't think that at the beginning of Linux, advicing 
Linus with "Just spend $15K and join our FreeBSD 
team" could work. 

We should learn from Linux. We are geting closer
to the same situation. There was one letter 
where the man told: "Hey! Give me one million and 
I'l invent the better XML". I don' think it'l work. The more 
probable scenario is:

"Hey! Just give me 5-10  teams, like renderx.com 
who are frustrated with W3C - constantly rejecting 
them - and we'l invent the lXML ( for free, like Linux 
was created). lXML will *not* conform to W3C 
specs but will *work*right*now*".

It may become  possible.  It's not a good thing to 
ignore 'ordinary people'.

Just imagine what may happen if the army of people 
who were supporting Linux  would join FreeBSD  
community. We could definately have the best 
possible Free OS.

Unfortunately we have what we have.  The
reason was: 

rejecting ordinary people  ( like Linus ;-) 
who are outside the 'elite'

I predict that if  W3C would not care about 
'ordinary people'  like it  *is*  doing now it  
may result in  'Linux of  XML'  initiative.  
The descision is up to W3C.

The approach:  "become an expert and everything will 
be fine with you" does not work with our group. 

We *are* experts in XSL FO, but we have no time for 
face-to-face meetings ( however, we spend 
a *lot* of time writing down our suggestions) 
and it appears that we don't  want to spend  

If  W3C cares about 'ordinary people' it looks 
reasonable to publish some FAQ for those people.

If  W3C does not care - it may be better to be prepared 
for  "Linux for XML" initiative.

Maybe "Linux fo XML"  would not be a bad thing. 
I don't know.  

For me it  could be better ( and it was possible ) 
to have a perfect Free UNIX, if not splitting efforts 
and rescources between Free BSD and Linux.

BTW - many  ( if not the majority ) Linux participators 
came from 'non-English' world. English spelling is not 
the most important thing when it comes to applications.  
It *is* when it comes to writing papers. I respect both 
activities greatly. 

Your mileage may vary.


PS.  My idea was not to start a discussion, because 
actualy there is nothing to discuss in my letter.  

I just told about my experience with W3C. I am an example 
of  'ordinary person'  who has not enough time for politics, 
travel e t.c. because  I need to write code. Actualy, this 
posting appears to be my  last posting to  this list, 
because I need to write a *lot* of code next 2 weeks.

I came to the XML world in a hope to make things better. 
I tried hardly to prepare reasonable materials
( if you'l look at the comments to our DTD, you may 
understand what do I mean), instead of spending too 
much time on writing abstract things in mailing lists 
( even I did posted some abstract things, but most 
of materials were not abstract ). 

Most of things have been ignored by W3C. 
However, the same things were  greatly 
appreciated  by  'ordinary people'.  Also 
I had a chance to compare the efficiency 
of my working group with the efficiency of 
W3C working group, but it is another story.

I consider our story  to be the prefect 
experiment with  W3C and 'ordinary person' . 

The experiment  took more than 4 months. 
I already got some understanding and it 
would help me with planning my future steps. 

Now I'm providing W3C with the results of my 
experiment it hope that it would be useful for W3C.  

It is the only  purpose of my letter.

 paul at pault.com   www.renderx.com   www.pault.com
 XMLTube * Perl/JavaConnector * PerlApplicationServer

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