Position Statement for W3C I18N Workshop

Chris Lilley, W3C

Experience in the areas covered by the workshop scope

Since Internationalization, like Accessibility, is a horizontal activity that affects all other activities at W3C, I believe that it is the responsibility of all W3C Chairs and Staff Contacts to ensure that their area of work pays adequate attention to Internationalization and Accessibility, right from the initial drafts of a requirements document through to the issuing of the final Recommendation including public promotional materials, test suites, examples in the specification, and public promotion work at conferences etc.

I have tried to take this responsibility seriously. First with WebFonts and CSS, and later with SVG, I have tried to champion Internationalisation and to promote it as an integral part of specification design rather than an add-on to get a group through last call ;-) In support of this I have presented talks at a number of Unicode conferences and also at W3C AC meetings, XML conferences, etc that have always included material on Internationalization and have often specifically featured it. I have ensured that I18N features in examples and in the test suite - not just in an 'I18N test' but in regular tests such as the font and switch tests of the SVG test suite. It is also a process of education, and I have endeavored to have adequate knowledge of I18N issues so that I can spot where they might be trampled in early design of a specification and call in more specialized help as appropriate.

I am now a member of the program committee or paper review panel for the following conferences and (as appropriate) attempt to ensure that internationalization is adequately covered on the programs of those conferences.

Needs of W3C in the area of internationalization and localization

Since I am employed by W3C, I will attempt to speak on the needs of W3C as I see them. These views are not necessarily endorsed by other W3C staff but represent my own analysis of need based on six years of experience working at W3C and a couple of years working in Web-related areas before that.

The primary product of W3C is specifications, with supporting test-suites, implementation reports, implementations, and promotional or expository material to ensure real-world uptake and use of these specifications in an interoperable way. If my premise in the first paragraph of section1 is true, then there is a need for adequate training of W3C Chairs and staff contacts in the area of I18N. I and others happen to have got by in this area by a combination of personal interest and luck; this is not a dependable method and I believe there is a need for some formal training of Chairs and staff contacts such that they recognize the basic issues and know when to call for early review, discussion, or advice. Not all chairs can be I18N experts; it should be possible to ensure that none of them are entirely unaware and that all of them have at least basic training in this area.

To complement this initiative, I believe that it would be beneficial for the I18N WG to assign, for each Working Group in W3C, a particular person from the I18N WG to oversee development of that specification. This will help ensure continuity of review, ensure early awareness of possible I18N problems while ther eis still time and fluidity to solve them, and help share the workload among the members of the I18N WG. naturally, yhe designated person should issue periodic reports on progress, issues solved, issues still remaining to the plenary I18N WG so that the whole WG has an awareness of how things stand.

Topics to be addressed in the workshop

Adequate time should be given to discussion and to agreement on some general conclusions. Whilst mutual education and discussion is beneficuial, the workshop will achieve most impact on those not attending if it comes to one or several conclusions.

Expectations on the final outputs of the workshop

A report, made available to the public, summarising the issues raised and the conclusions reached, and stating how the I18N WG plans to address the unserolved issus in the future.

Potential contributions to the discussion, related ideas, and suggested solutions

I can contribute experience over the years as a Chair and as staff contact of three W3C WGs (WebFonts, CSS, SVG) and member of some others (HTML, XSL) in terms of needs for education on I18N issues.

My plan is that Chairs should, across the board, be able to prevent early I18N blunders and to be able to recognize when to call in additional help. Having a designated I18N expert for each WG who is learning about the work of that WG and advising them on I18N issues will deal with the slightly harder problems or those already solved in another context. This leaves the full i18N WG free to concentrate on particularly hard, pressing, contentious problems that will have the maximum impact.

Clearly, if this proposal is adopted, there will need to be some training materials put together, examples of good and bad practice, and time set asside to conduct training workshops suchas a half-day session at technical plenaries. While some of this is additional work, there is existing material which can be adapted and the result of doing this training is expected to be less firefighting and less dealing with basic blunders.

Another idea of I18N outreach - translations of W3C Recommendations are currently ad-hoc, have no formal statusm, and are horted on a variety of third party servers. Uptake of W3C Specifications in areas of the world where English is not a primary language is clearly helped by availability of specifications in a variety of languages. The I18N WG could:

The I18N WG should press for a status btween 'the authoritative English version' and 'random rubbish' for translations which are well done and have recieved review by other native speakers. Such well reviewed translations should be hosted o the W3C site; they have at least as good a claim to being there as, for example, submissions. Each W3C Recommendation should have a link to a translations page, which is kept up to date and lists reviwed, unreviewed and in-progress translations.

Lastly another, unrelated idea: W3C has Members from a wide variety of countries. Having people from multiple countries take part in developing a specification will of itself tend toraise awareness earlier of I18N issues. The I18N WG should thus, as part of an outreach program, actively solicit participation from W3C members in countries which are currently under-represented in W3C Working Groups, and raise awareness that speaking multiple languages, reading multiple writing systems, and being aware if IT and Web trends in other countries is a valuable skill that WG members should ensure thir Chairs are aware of and can call on when necessary.