[foaf-protocols] W3C WebID review
schepers at w3.org
Fri Aug 20 21:41:32 CEST 2010
Henry Story wrote (on 8/20/10 6:24 AM):
> not sure what all the fuss is about.
> (But Doug, please don't feel obliged to read through this)
See, you say that... but then you make misleading statements I feel
obliged to correct. Sigh.
> Well what is clear is that tensions are high in the W3C about WebID.
> I tell the list something and people feel everything is about to
> crumble over there.
(Okay, Henry, just so you know: alarmist statements like this is what
all the fuss is about.)
No, tensions are not high about WebID at W3C. It's barely on anyone's
radar at all. That's what we're trying to change.
>> 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
> That is a misunderstanding. Though in an odd way this whole email
> thread would seem to suggest that this is a bit of a problem, since I
> was told not to tell the list about a possible meeting.
No, you weren't. Stop spreading FUD. You were asked not to invite
other people, which you did anyway. You explicitly brought me in on
this thread by name.
> Same here :-) Though we don't have a barrier to entry at all, which
> is more in the IETF mould I suppose, and creates its own types of
The only barrier to entry in participating in the W3C mailing lists is
an agreement to allow your emails to be archived, and if you participate
as a full member of a WG, to grant Royalty-Free license agreement for
>> Other bugs and comments aren't being tracked at all.
> We have a public wiki, and there is a section bugs and issues there.
> It is not very formal that is true. And it is true that we have very
> little process. But we did build a large enough community without
> process. The web itself by the way emerged without the existence of
> the W3C. Process was added later.
To be clear, most groups at W3C try to use process as little as
possible, other than the formal review process of progressively maturing
documents (the "Recommendation Track"). We only need process when there
is conflict, or ambiguity about licensing (which is also tied into the
Rec Track). But as you add stakeholders, more process is needed, it
seems, to resolve small and large conflicts.
As a side note, most W3C Working Groups start off very loose and easy,
with rapid iterations of specs and ideas and very little process, and as
those specs mature, and get wider attention, more process comes into
play. So, really, it's not very different from these sorts of
community-organized efforts (though there is a formal step at the outset
to decide amongst the W3C Team and Membership if there is value in
starting the work in the first place, for resource allocation purposed).
> Don't you see the slight weirdness of the situation here? I tell the
> group about a meeting at the W3C, then get told off for saying so and
> wasting people's time, then I suggest we have a process, then people
> write huge emails about how W3C process is great and open and how we
> have no process, and ???
I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing that you are light on
process. That seems very natural to me, for the beginning stage of a
But again, it was not about you telling this community about the
meeting, it was the *way* you told this community. I understand that
you feel put upon, and maybe a little slighted; I apologize if I came
off as heavy-handed. I was trying to put something lightweight and
simple together, and it's snowballed into much more of a time
commitment; I think you can sympathize why I'm also feeling put upon.
You might say that I don't have to respond to these emails... except,
unfortunately, that's not the reality of the situation. If I hadn't
responded, suddenly it's on some public list somewhere that W3C is
holding "secret meetings" and is refusing to talk to the community and
is trying to take over WebID or is ignoring WebID or whatever. It's the
whole "have you stopped beating your wife" conundrum; it costs you very
little to leave a wrong impression (whether you mean to or not), and
costs me much more to address the issue. And then, suddenly, I'm seen
as speaking for the W3C as a whole, which is also the wrong idea. You
see my dilemma?
> Furthermore it was I who went to the W3C a few months ago to suggest
> that WebID be taken on by the W3C. One issues was if we had
> implementations. Well we do, and we would not have had any had we
> started off with the process.
> So there is a place for process, but usually it is not in the
> birthing stages of an idea. Just imagine me going to the W3C with
> WebID and no implementation and asking them to standardise it. Do you
> think we would have even had a hearing?
I could go into detail about what makes an idea more or less likely to
be taken up by W3C, but that would be a long conversations. The short
version is: people, and momentum.
Individuals are what make or break a technology. Without the right
person at the right time applying just the right amount of time and
focus on something, it will almost certainly peter out and fade away.
Obviously, it takes many such individuals, each with their role. As
Lucille Ball said, "If you want something done, ask a busy person to do
it." You can't just go to W3C, tell one person an idea, and expect it
to be immediately taken up; you have to find the right person to
overcome the natural momentum of other things that are being done.
Which leads to momentum. W3C is more likely to pick up work that
already has a spec and/or implementations, because it's more likely to
have a successful outcome; and in fact, W3C is more likely to pick up
work that has competing, conflicting implementations, because there's
more need for standardization. It's also more likely to pick up work
that large companies are behind, even if there's only one company doing
it; on the surface, that may seem unfair, and may seem like favoritism
toward large companies, but in fact, that's not the motivation... the
metric is that if some idea has already been through the ringer at a
large company, it's already been vetted by a fairly sizeable, critical
audience, and that the company has decided to put resources behind it,
so there is a higher chance of success... and a larger risk to the
community if that company doesn't get all the details right, because
large installation bases tend to spread mistake irrevocably. Obviously,
that heuristic doesn't always work (big companies can also have stinker
ideas, or good ideas spoiled by overthought, just like the rest of us),
so we need people to assess the soundness of the idea and the benefits
of standardizing it. That's where it comes back to individuals.
Where do community projects like this come into it that dynamic?
Clearly, the larger and more cohesive the community, the greater the
momentum. But without a central driving force, there's also a wider
spread of the odds. A dedicated individual can often have greater
impact, because they are often working out of passion, not just because
they are paid to (frequently, they aren't paid at all); they might make
a really great implementation that pushes the idea over the top, and
small communities have a "street cred" that large companies usually
can't evoke; so, a good idea might spread more readily. But in the long
haul, or without those initial firebrands, the project might sizzle out,
and lose its momentum. From the W3C perspective, probably the optimal
time to get involved (if we do so at all) is just before the peak of the
momentum, just before the project really makes it (or fails); that's
where W3C can help boost the momentum to reach critical mass, and also
to help ensure that the efforts stay unified and interoperable.
(Yes, that was the short version.)
> There was no invitation. I told people this was probably a private
> meeting and that the person to make such a decision was Doug. Perhaps
> indeed I could have gone the other way and first asked Doug.
The outcome of that seems obvious to me. Was it not predictable to you?
> Did Doug get a lot of emails? Sorry. It is true we are a vibrant
> community here... I'll be careful next time.
See above. It's not how many emails I got, it how much I had to work to
correct mistaken impressions.
> - We worked in public in order to discover the best way to create
> privacy. - The W3C group, a public standards body of the highest
> quality, requires privacy to reduce the workload of its members. - In
> the shadows unexpressed issues lurk - for fear of making them
It's not clear to me what you're saying here, but it sounds very scary.
For what it's worth, W3C used to work more privately, but over the past
few years, it's become much more public in how it conducts its technical
work; that may *seem* like it increases the workload, but I would argue
that it offsets the workload from the future to the present, thus
improving the leverage. Bad implementations because of mistakes in
specs cost the community a disproportionate amount of work, and
ultimately force the groups who've produced successful (but flawed)
specs to make a lot of difficult errata and corrections (when the
mistake can be corrected at all), so addressing potential mistakes
earlier in the standards process, with wide community review, actually
saves everyone time... even the working group. (Note: it's still
frustrating as hell for the WG, don't get me wrong.)
Now, aren't you sorry you brought me into this? I've taken your nice
clean technical discussions and muddied them with icky standards gunk
(believe me, it doesn't come off in the wash), and I'd guess to no-one's
W3C Team Contact, SVG and WebApps WGs
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