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W3C Change: Introduction

When I posted about the W3C, a few people responded with, “All right, fine, you’re angry with the W3C.  So what’s your alternative, smart guy?”  A fair enough question.

While I applaud the efforts of the WHAT WG and the microformats community, I’m not advocating a complete dismissal of the W3C.  The basic role filled by the W3C, that of being a central meeting place and coordinating body, is an important one.  It’s also potentially damaging.  Think of it like a central file server at work.  As long as the server is fine, your work can continue.  If it goes offline or, worse, its contents get corrupted, you’re in a very bad position.

When I point to the WHAT WG and microformats, I’m not holding them up as saviors or replacements.  I’m simply drawing attention to effects of the basic problem.  Both communities arose because of the nature and (lack of) speed of the W3C and its work.  We could argue about whether or not they should replace the W3C, but the simple fact is that had the W3C been more responsive and in touch with developer needs, they would never have existed in the first place.  They wouldn’t have had to exist.

If the W3C can get back on track, I wouldn’t want to see it replaced.  If it can’t, then it will be replaced, no matter what I or anyone else has to say.  That doesn’t mean it would cease to exist, of course.  It would simply become less and less relevant.  I have some ideas about how the W3C might avoid such a fate, but they aren’t things that I can cover in a single post.  Instead, I’ll do it in three parts, and the three topic areas I’m going to address are:

No small potatoes, those.  It will be interesting to find out what people think of my proposals for each.

Eight Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Thu 14 Sep 2006
    • 1352
    Gregor J. Rothfuss wrote in to say...

    Seems to me they should seriously look at the IETF model. No private mailing lists, no pay to play, all decisions made on the mailing list, not on expensive F2F

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Thu 14 Sep 2006
    • 1437
    pauldwaite wrote in to say...

    First, I’d like to propose a whip-round to fund the purchase of a flame-retardant suit for the good Mr Meyer. The guy’s got a child to bring up, we don’t want to lose him to Firey Internet Death.

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Thu 14 Sep 2006
    • 1442
    John Smith wrote in to say...

    Expell microsoft and its cronies (and their ‘donations’) from the W3C and it will get back on track. microsoft is the only one interested in slowing down progress on the web.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Thu 14 Sep 2006
    • 1449
    Ben Tremblay wrote in to say...

    If you get blown off … what happens to those of us with considerably less “star power”? *shakes head* Personality politics … social pathology … HeyHo.

    Eugene Kim posted an interesting letter written by Frank Lloyd Wright, about his (Wright’s) relationship to professional associations. I’m thinking about “Leaving W3C QA Dev“, of course. I’ve never been one to suffer fools gladly (which cost me) and now, in my later years, I’m even less willing to bend and take it with a smile (if you know what I mean). And yet entities such as associations and committees are the bullwarks of civil society. Until and unless we synthesise alternatives, which isn’t likely any time soon.

    My work started with using punched cards to create a database (No, not COBOL, no computer involved: sorted and searched by running knitting needles through holes along the cards’ edges.) and continued through VRML and Indymedia. Today I’m grinding away like Spinoza working a lens … there’s just nothing simple about “drawing attention to effects of the basic problem”. With all the tech we’ve marshalled it’s still (and always?) a matter of discourse. So I’m betting on “People of good will sharing deeply about simple things”.

    To become “less and less” relevant … that’s merely evolution, no? And evolution is the process of selecting adaptive processes, yes? So I suggest it falls to the charismatic and gifted individuals in the community to stand fast as principled practitioners as we create means to reduce the noise (I did DSP for fun … ham radio, yuh know?) and methods that enhance the signal. More: I’ll suggest we’ve good will enough.

    I can just hear the voices … you’re just mad, and Joel has gone mad … yoiks!

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Thu 14 Sep 2006
    • 1746
    Michael Martin wrote in to say...

    Cant wait to see what you actually have to say on each topic. Should make for some very good reading. :)

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Fri 15 Sep 2006
    • 0331
    Peter Goddard wrote in to say...

    As someone who has read and admired pretty much everything you have published (and this site) for over 6 years, I’m eagerly anticipating your views.

    A small entreaty – please (Mr Smith et al) lets not turn this into an opportunity to bash Microsoft. That’s just sad.

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Fri 15 Sep 2006
    • 0458
    Asbjørn Ulsberg wrote in to say...

    It’s just as important to have Microsoft on board of W3C as it is for grassroot guys like you and me to be able to contribute. What roles each of us should have, what it should cost and in what way we should be able to contribute is a subject open for lot of discussion, but dismissing Microsoft is stupid. If Microsoft can’t play with us in the W3C, they will still play, but not on anybody’s terms but their own, and that will hurt the web and the standards created for it.

    I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming entries with excitement, Eric.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Wed 27 Sep 2006
    • 2343
    Miguel wrote in to say...

    Thank you Asbjørn Ulsberg. The comment on Microsoft was a little hasty and not thoroughly thought out, in my own humble opinion. Simply removing Microsoft’s input from W3C would set us back some 3-4 years in web standards. IE would go back to proprietary technology and we (as developers) would be left all alone in this mess. Let us read what Mr. Meyers has to say on the subject before saying anything we’ll regret. :) Looking forward to a little extra time off to read these. Thanks in advance.

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