[Proposal] Making W3C the place for new standards

Status: Draft. This public proposal by the new standards task force seeks to enable W3C to serve and work more effectively with the Membership and broader Web community. Please send comments to public-vision-newstd@w3.org.

This document represents discussion but not necessarily consensus of the new standards task force. Open questions or areas with multiple options for discussion are highlighted.

This work is part of a larger effort to improve W3C as an organization. W3C management expects to present a stable version of this proposal to the Membership in November 2010.

As of October 2010, W3M does not plan to allocate funds to support the community-building, infrastructure, developer portal portions of this proposal. W3C may seek additional funding to support these parts of the proposal.

Objectives

The proposal suggests ways to encourage more people to bring new ideas to W3C (from Membership but also the broader Web community) and improve our reputation among our stakeholders. Robust community support will, in turn, help W3C create high quality, relevant standards and thus strengthen our role as stewards for key Web technologies and best practices. Community-driven processes will enable W3C to do more work, as well as enhance the value of Membership and the importance of staff as technology experts, mentors, and diplomats.

The primary objectives of the elements of this proposal are:

Create a Welcoming Environment

Create a welcoming environment where diverse individuals, companies, research organizations, and other communities choose to exchange ideas about Web technology.

Build Community Trust

Build community trust by emphasizing how W3C can help different communities, and by improving W3C processes, and communications.

Stories / Use Cases

This proposal is designed to help address the following stories and use cases:

See also the task force's early discussion of use cases and scenarios.

Proposals

The proposals for satisfying the above objectives are organized as follows:

Progression of Processes

The following succession of community-driven processes is expected to make it easier for people to bring new work to W3C:

  1. Community Proposal Forum. A single global public forum where anyone may begin to generate interest around new ideas.
    • Inputs: New ideas and proposals
    • Outputs: Broad discussion and proposals about various domains of the Web e.g. new technologies, social implications, etc.; increased participation; community building
  2. Community Groups. When ideas gain momentum, discussion moves to Community Groups for further development. These groups will be created quickly and (by default) allow participation by anyone for no fee.
    • Inputs: Promising, experimental proposals
    • Outputs: Pre-standardization specifications, requirements documents, use cases, draft charters etc. as well as other materials (test suites, demos, etc.) relevant to W3C's mission.
  3. Standardization. When the community determines that standardization will benefit the technology, work moves to the next phase, the "classic standardization track."
    • Inputs: Charter, draft specifications
    • Outputs: Recommendations and supporting materials with strong IPR commitments and community support

See the comparison table for characteristics of participation, etc.

Value Proposition for Each Process

Note: We expect to work more with the Advisory Board on articulating the value propositions. For all IPR-related issues, we plan to consult with the PSIG, asking them for legal advice given a set of requirements.

Community Proposal Forum
  • A single forum within an established and influential community where anyone may draw attention to new ideas (e.g., through public submissions).
  • "E-Z transition" to community group.
Community Groups
  • Infrastructure tailored to specification development processes
  • Mentoring and guidance from experienced full-time staff of technical experts.
  • "E-Z transition" to standardization.
Standardization
  • Vendor-neutral, consensus-based process with public accountability and transparency in decision-making.
  • Opportunity to work directly with the leading companies, organizations, and individuals in the Web world.
  • Tremendous community knowledge about principles of Web architecture (including where there is not consensus)
  • Access to broader community review (including accessibility, internationalization, architecture) which improves quality and integration with other technologies (and thus interoperability).
  • Royalty-Free licensing commitments from organizations
  • Access to other standardization processes (e.g., ISO)
  • Liaisons with governments and other standards bodies
  • Experience ensuring persistence and stability.
  • Mentoring and guidance from experienced full-time staff of technical experts.

Details of Community Proposal Forum

The Community Proposal Forum is a lively online forum where anyone may (constructively) build support for new work.

Proposals made to the forum are called "W3C Community Submissions." There are no style requirements other than they must not resemble W3C standards track documents. W3C will provide style guidelines and may have additional requirements (e.g., status boilerplate).

Community Proposal Forum Mechanics

Strong moderation is one of the keys to success of this forum. The expectation is that there be a small number of moderators (probably combining staff with dedicated volunteers).

Note: To continue the function of www-talk, messages in the Community Proposal Forum should be cc'd to www-talk.

Ideas for ensuring the success of the forum
Transition to Community Group

Discussions are not intended to carry on interminably in the Community Proposal Forum. At any time, those involved in the discussion may move to create a Community Group with an identified scope. Some ideas:

Either way, there is a specified response window (e.g., one week). If a motion to create a group fails, there must be a delay before the next attempt to create the group. (This will impose a cost, e.g., on Community Supporters to watch for this, or to create software that does a reasonable job monitoring.)

Existing groups that form outside the W3C that are hosted informally on other listservs (such as Google Groups) or have their own process may also propose to become W3C community groups and may do so with the help of the Community Supporters.

Details of Community Groups

Community Groups develop ideas as well as community support. Ideas typically take the form of specifications — called "W3C Community Specifications" — but deliverables may also be test suites, tutorials, demos, etc.

Community Supporters
Community Group Mechanics
Ideas for ensuring the success of a Community Group

A Community Group may declare "success" with the publication of a Community Specification. In some cases, there may be a desire to advance the document to the standards track.

Transition to Standardization

One goal is to facilitate the transition from Community Group to Standardization. To that end:

Details of Standardization

In addition to providing an on-ramp to standardization, this proposal suggests that Community Groups replace (after a transition):

For reasons of revenue, the proposal suggests keeping other types of Interest Groups available as a Member benefit.

Additional ideas for process changes follow.

Process Tweaks
More Substantial Process Changes that may be Easy to Implement
Operational Improvements
Longer term Operational Improvements
Not covered in this proposal

About the Process Proposal

The task force identified some goals for the processes:

Furthermore, the task sought to adapt existing processes (possibly rebranded) rather than add processes. It also had in mind to reduce the total number of W3C processes.

Why these proposals differ from previous proposals

Some of these ideas are not brand new:

Some differences that we anticipate will improve the chances of success of the new proposals include:

Process Comparison Table

The following table compares the three processes. The "values" provided for the new processes are sample values.

Community Proposal Forum Community Group Standardization
Scope of Discussion Unlimited Focused (but broad deliverable range) Focused (on specifications and guidelines)
Statement of Scope None (or defined by proposal) Short statement of topic scope Traditional Charter (with scope, milestones, deliverables, participation expectations, etc.)
Who may participate Anyone Anyone (though other policies may affect who has write access to various resources) Members, Invited Experts
Access privileges Public Public Public or Member
Participation fee None None Membership or invited expert
Chair N/A Required. Selected by group. Required. Appointed by Director.
Patent license requirement None See draft IPR policy. See also the note on non-member participants at transition time W3C Patent Policy
Document license requirement Grant allows W3C to republish (what license?) See draft IPR policy W3C Document License (or its replacement)
Software license requirement Determined by software authors. Determined by software authors. W3C Software License
Discussion visibility Public Public Public or Member
Discussion moderation Initially: Small number of volunteers including staff; then develop process. None by default; Chair if present; contact Community Supporters in case of disruptive behavior. Chairs and staff
Expectations of architectural consistency None None (but may smooth transition) Yes (e.g., Web Architecture Document, TAG)
Expectations of consensus within group about proposals None None (but consensus facilitates transition) Yes
Expectations of coordination with people outside group None None (but doing so smooths transition) Yes (through reviews)
Expectations regarding competition with similar technology Competition ok Competition ok Groups should strive to find a single solution
Ongoing reporting requirement N/A Yes (to be defined; e.g., two summaries per year) Heartbeat rule of W3C Process
Publication requirement Specs must not look like TR document; will need to establish persistenc policy and probably minimal style requirements. Specs must not look like TR document; will need to establish persistenc policy and probably minimal style requirements. Traditional Publication rules
Staff participation (other than administrative, sysadmin) Yes, in various capacities (new ideas, moderation, outreach) Yes (Community Supporters) Staff Contacts
Creation process N/A Voting or endorsement (to be explored). Notes:
  • Create manually at first; automate with experience
  • Suggested constraint: automatic creation only when proposal initiated in Community Proposal Forum.
AC Review
Duration requirement N/A None. Chartered duration.
Termination process N/A Several ways: Self-closure, Community Supporters close due to inactivity, Director may close Several ways: Charter expires, Director closes

Relation to existing processes

This proposal takes elements of both Incubator Groups (XGs) and Interest Groups, unifying, opening, and simplifying so that communities currently not participating in W3C can do so. Community Groups thus share elements of both Incubator Groups and Interest Groups.

Community-Building

Note: W3C Management did not approve this piece of the proposal in October 2010. It may still be possible to carry out this work if W3C secures additional funding, or parts that do not require funding (e.g., task force).

W3C engages in a variety of liaisons with a number of communities; these liaisons vary in activity and formality. Strengthening our outreach can help W3C develop its reputation among new stakeholders and raise awareness within W3C of innovations.

High-level Goals

Outreach to Developers Outside W3C

Improved Communications Short-term

Developer Portal

Note: W3C Management did not approve this piece of the proposal in October 2010. It may still be possible to carry out this work without explicit W3C investment (e.g., in a community group) or if W3C secures additional funding.

W3C should foster community creation of resources useful to developers and designers. W3C offers experience, expertise, and an established community, and by creating services useful to designers and developers, can rebuild trust. In turn, this will increase the likelihood of awareness and connectivity that may translate into people considering W3C as a venue for new work. Members have also indicated that W3C will be of greater value to them when W3C is perceived as relevant to the developer community.

Goals

Value Proposition from W3C

Initial Focus of the Portal: Web Best Practices

Future Portal Ideas

Infrastructure

Note: W3C Management did not approve this piece of the proposal in October 2010. It may still be possible to carry out this work if W3C secures additional funding.

Below we document short-term infrastructure requirements and medium-term ideas (that will evolve with experience). The following is a quick view of top priorities for the first 3-4 months:

These are further described below.

General requirements

Short-term general requirements

Account Creation
Straw poll

Short-term Community Proposal Forum requirements

Short-term Community Group requirements

Group creation
Base group tools/infrastructure

Groups may also use external mechanisms such as a twitter hash tag.

Join/participate process

Medium-term ideas

On the Importance of Public Discussion of Infrastructure

It will also be valuable and necessary to open a public discussion on infrastructure. We can start this conversation in the Community Proposal Forum.

We conducted a public survey where the results suggested, for instance, that spam-controlled mailing lists are considered important, along with wikis. We also asked a question about additional infrastructure, which suggested that issue tracking tools, version control systems, comment handling, and test suite harnesses are also considered important.

Revenue Notes

References

The new standards task force has based these recommendations on diverse sources:

Needs Work


Ian Jacobs, Head of W3C Communications, Editor
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