W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

Dan Brickley Daniel.Brickley at bristol.ac.uk
Mon Sep 20 00:18:28 BST 1999

On Mon, 20 Sep 1999, Rick Jelliffe wrote:

> Before I start, I should say again that I hope that we can keep this
> away from sounding
> like attacks on individuals.  Already some W3C people apparantly think
> that people
> raising serious questions are "agitated" or conspiracy theorists (though
> of course
> GBS's aphorism along the lines that "Every profession turns into a
> conspiracy against
> the public" should be salutory to us all).
> From: Dan Brickley <Daniel.Brickley at bristol.ac.uk>
> >On Sun, 19 Sep 1999, Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
> >> [...] The W3C is a software vendor consortium; people (including W3C
> >> members) who believe otherwise are deluding themselves.
> >[...]
> >
> >I'm sorry, I can't let this one just slip past. As Bristol University's
> >Advisory Committee representative to W3C, I can assure you that agendas
> >other than software vending are represented. Bristol University may be
> >many things, and there are many groups here who do produce saleable
> >software, but we're not software vendors. We joined W3C to participate
> >in the development of specifications that affect teaching, learning and
> >research applications in our *.ac.uk environment. And we're not alone
> >in this...
> (My employer, Academia Sinica, has also recently joined W3C.) It is
> clear from (public) member lists that non-commercial interests do not
> dominate numerically or financially.

This is true. Non-commercial organisations rarely dominate financially.
I would also be suprised for non-commercial organisations to dominate a
forum such as W3C. But that wasn't the point I was responding to.
Although vendors dominate, W3C isn't a vendor-only forum. There are a
number of us from other environments. I guess I'm just reacting against
the word 'delusional' above which seemed a little too strong.

It is expensive to put resources into any standards process. When
Bristol joined W3C, it cost us roughly the same as buying, equiping
and maintaining a PC. I think we've had a good run for our money. 
While I didn't (and don't) like paying membership fees for this work,
when looking at the budgets, it's not so vastly different
from what it would cost us to participate in other activities eg.
flying off to biannual IETF meetings or whatever. 

My only point here is that it is quite possible for organisations such
as ours to have a voice, and that in my experience the financial cost
of membership fees is overshadowed by the cost of having researchers'
time dedicated to working on this stuff (either in a W3C context or
simply in a research / product development context). By characterising
W3C as a vendor-only environment, this sort of involvement by other
balancing voices is discouraged. Personally I would like to see a lot
more *.ac.uk and *edu organisations play an active role in W3C work.
While the fees are_ a barrier, a bigger barrier is the self-fulfilling
notion recently circulated here that W3C is vendor-only.


Daniel.Brickley at bristol.ac.uk                  
University of Bristol,  Bristol BS8 1TN, UK.   phone:+44(0)117-9287096

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