[foaf-protocols] W3C WebID review

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Fri Aug 20 03:03:06 CEST 2010

On 08/19/2010 04:19 AM, Henry Story wrote:
> As a community we need to perhaps build some structure here so that
> we know how to deal with future situations such as this. I have
> always conducted all conversation in the open, from this mailing list
> to the blogs I produced to the wiki at http://esw.w3.org/foaf+ssl .

Henry, I really don't like the tone in the last several e-mails that you
have sent. Whether intentional or not, you seem to be implying the

1) That we don't intend to be "open" about the process when moving
2) Creating an undertone that there is a "situation" here when there is
   not, and
3) That certain WebID interests aren't being properly represented.

I don't know what structure you want to build to "deal with future
situations such as this" because I don't understand what "this" is at
the moment, other than not extending the courtesy to Doug and some of
the other folks at W3C before generating a great deal more work for them.

Point #1: Openness

As far as openness, you are no stranger to W3C and I'm surprised that
you insinuate that the process is going to be anything but open. So,
since you have doubts, and since others that are not familiar with W3C
may take away the false impression that the W3C process is a closed
process, let me re-iterate a few points:

I say this having worked in the W3C RDFa Task Force, W3C Semantic Web
Coordination Group, W3C HTML Working Group and W3C RDFa Working Group
for the past several years - the current process is public and wide
open. I've also participated in the Microformats community and other
online standards-making communities, but none has generated the same
quality of specification as the W3C process.

I'm currently an Invited Expert to W3C - I was invited because I had
done a great deal of work in the Microformats community and wanted to
help push RDFa forward. I have, and continue to do a great deal of
chairing, spec writing and development work at W3C. All of it is open to
the public, all publicly accessible. The only barrier to entry is
producing solid work and demonstrating that you bring something to the
Working Group... and that's only if you want to participate in every
single WG meeting.

For those that don't have the time, energy or skill to do that, you can
always comment via the mailing list - which is no different than what
we've been doing on this mailing list. Speaking as a chair of a W3C WG,
it is irritating to see someone that has spent time in a W3C group
insinuate that public comments are not taken very seriously.

To give you a single example, of which there are thousands, the RDFa WG
has spent the past three weeks addressing a single set of public
comments provided on the RDFa API by Nathan Rixham (who is also active
in this group). I have personally combed over every sentence that Nathan
has written to ensure that we have addressed everything that he raised
in one way or another. Others in the group have also painstakingly
reviewed responses to Nathan by the WG. We are required by W3C to do
this, it's part of the process... we have to prove that we responded to
every unique public comment before we can publish a specification via
the W3C process. Public comments are taken VERY seriously.

Contrast this with what has happened to people like Seth Russel on this
mailing list... I feel that some of his concerns are repeatedly being
downplayed or ignored. Other bugs and comments aren't being tracked at
all. I have also spoken with some others at large companies over the
past several weeks that feel like their concerns about WebID have not
been taken seriously and therefore, they've chosen not to participate in
this community.

The W3C's process is in place to prevent these things from happening...
it's not perfect, but to insinuate that it's not open is very far from
the truth.

Point #2: The "situation"

The only situation that I can see is one where Doug - who is a champion
for openness at the W3C and is fantastically gifted at seeing the
importance of new technologies and getting things done at W3C was placed
in a very uncomfortable position. He had no choice but to use his
precious time correcting a mis-informed invitation to the general public
to join a project review meeting that he had put together in order to
help WebID become accessible to a wider audience.

Doug's really helping WebID out here and the repayment for his
generosity was that more work was dumped on his lap. It would have been
good to extend him the private courtesy to see how we could have made
his life easier, not more difficult.

Point #3: WebID interests not being represented

As Doug mentioned, the project review meeting is on identity on the Web,
not specifically WebID. I think WebID is the best solution out there,
and I'll push that point, but that's not for me (nor W3C management) to
decide... it's for W3C's membership and the general public to decide.
I'm merely presenting the myriad of solutions to W3C to demonstrate that
this is an area of interest, should they have the time and resources to
pursue it at the moment (which they very well may not). As I mentioned
previously, I have been getting in touch with a number of people that
are concerned about identity on the Web - the OpenID folks, people at
big companies that have an interest in this technology, and others that
have had criticisms about WebID.

We should not only be concerned about WebID being represented well
(which it is - you'll be there, I'll be there), but also the WebID
alternatives such as OpenID and WebFinger as well. To ignore those
solutions would do a great disservice to the openness of specification
creation. We need to bring the OpenID and WebFinger communities closer
together when working on this stuff... not marginalize them by packing a
meeting with people that only represent WebID's view of the world.

> It is remarkable that the WebId protocol - the protocol to help
> people conduct business in private - is the one that we would never
> have discovered  had we not conducted our work in public.

This seems to insinuate that the "conducted our work in public" part is
going to go away. You know better than that, Henry.

> At our next WebId meeting we should discuss the issues of how we can
> legitimately represent the WebId community.

You seem to be implying that the WebID community is not being
legitimately represented at this point in time? Could you please
elaborate on that?

I'd rather keep discussions like this on the mailing list and spend the
precious time we have on the telecon discussing technical issues. Others
may feel differently, but discussions that are not purely technical in
nature, without a strict measurement of success, are rarely good
candidates for discussion on a telecon.

Speaking of which... we need to get together an agenda for the next
telecon, which is this coming Tuesday.

-- manu

Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny)
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: WebID - Universal Login for the Web

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