W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

Len Bullard cbullard at hiwaay.net
Mon Sep 20 05:44:36 BST 1999

It is a hard thing to be the moral authority standing between 
the king and the object of his desire.  No sane man wants the 
job, and if by proclamation, he gets it, he would do well to 
find some means to let the king have his kate and edith too. 

The crux of the issue is that technical rationale for changes 
to the specification should be made public.  Not the discussion 
itself, but the rationale.  Talk to the ISO editors about how they 
handle it.  If I were you, I'd have a long heart to heart with 
Charles Goldfarb as well.  He has a rather good record for making it
work and 
keeping his skin throughout.  I have found him to be a deep and 
very resourceful man and he has an excellent stereo.

If we are involved this deeply in a discussion of morality on 
a technical list, we cannot deny the depth of the concern of 
the community.  We can recognize:

1.  SGML made for years in face of disregard.  XML has to 
survive a little too much regard.  That's the job.  It can't 
be avoided.

2.  The W3C WGs can't do it all.  The coalition of vendors large and
multiple standards groups (IETF, ISO, MPEG etc) all have a stake and a 

3.  It is impossible for one man to be the focus of that much firepower 
for a long time.  To paraphrase Byron, the sword wears out the scabard.

Any long term solution to these problems require a long term view to the
of specifying and getting the contracts in place which get the system
phase to phase.  If there is a need for a vision, it is not the
vision, but the vision of how these contracts will be made and
executed.  It 
is dry work.  It is a great achievement, one for which some are
long after the current issues are forgotten.

If this discussion is to suggest a goal, Mr. Berners-Lee, perhaps it is
to stop, take some of the MacArthur money, go to whatever refuge,
Mom's garden, wherever you contemplate best, and draw up that vision of
the W3C can work with the lists, the vendors, and the leaders of the
standards and specifications organizations to prepare for the time when 
the W3C and the web must evolve without need of a Director.  This is not 
to say that you, personally, have not achieved something of worth, but
the best leaders eventually solve the problem of their own press.

Then, you get to go fishing and let the prarie dog farm do its thing.


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