The W3C Quality Assurance Activity has completed its work, part of which was to engage in a closer dialog with those who are making the Web a reality, the Web community. Its achievements included helping W3C groups learn the value of test suites in specification development. The Activity has evolved into the Q&A Weblog, and spawned new projects.
The mission of the QA Activity was fourfold:
In 2000, W3C began discussions on how to improve the quality of its specifications and the challenges associated with doing so. It became clear from these discussions that the culture of W3C groups would have to evolve in the direction of more support for specifications in the form of test materials, use cases, and other tools to improve quality. In particular, one of the challenges faced by the QA Activity was to be able to make a convincing case that investing up front (in test cases, for example) pays off in terms of successful interoperability and deployment. One conclusion by observation is that groups have agreed that the investment in test cases, for example, is well worth it.
A successful Workshop, hosted by NIST, in January 2001 led to the creation of the Quality Assurance Activity and two groups: the Quality Assurance Working Group and the Quality Assurance Interest Group.
The Quality Assurance Working Group published its work in August 2005. W3C Working Groups are now using a framework to achieve quality in the form of these technical reports:
The remainder of this Activity Statement puts these resources in context and explains the suite of resources created as part of the QA Activity to foster a culture of quality inside W3C.
To give a general orientation to the whole of the QA Framework, the QA Working Group created a Primer & User Scenarios. The guide helps group Chairs understand the goals of the QA Technical Reports and how to reach them when starting up a Working Group. The QA Handbook complements the guide by providing more in-depth guidance for planning, committing and staffing.
Technical specifications are W3C's main product. Though there are many ways to design a technology, the QA Activity was able to work with diverse groups to understand their needs and to articulate common themes to help address frequently asked questions. The QA Specification Guidelines that resulted from these discussions is a step by step guide for writing specifications. The guidelines explain how to construct a specification in a way that promotes deployment, including issues of writing testable assertions, and how document organization helps usability. Each guideline is accompanied by techniques to help speed up the development. Variability in Specifications addresses some topics such as complexity and conformance variability in more detail.
Finally, there is no good technology development without test cases. Each Working Group may have its own approach to developing test cases depending on their resources, constraints and the type of technology itself, but all these share the same basic concepts, described in Test Metadata. A Test Development FAQ provides answers to questions about test suite development.
The Quality Assurance Framework became part of the life of W3C. It is an ongoing effort. W3C WGs have integrated this new mindset as part of Web technologies design.
From the start, participants of the QA Activity recognized the importance of tools as vectors of the quality message. Besides pushing for more and better testing of the implementations of W3C specifications, the QA Interest Group and Staff adopted a number of W3C tools and services, including:
The QA Activity also helped in the maintenance of the RDF Validator and other tools.
In parallel with the maintenance and development of these existing tools, the QA Activity was behind the creation of new tools: the Log Validator, as an application of the step-by-step Web quality process advocated by the QA Interest Group, and the Unicorn Project, as a means to give Webmasters the big picture about the quality of their sites.
One of the orientations followed during these years was to provide not only reliable, but usable quality testing tools. Better User Interfaces and documentation, as well as localization in several languages other than English, helped make the tools more popular and widely used, hence spreading the concepts of quality among Web designers and developers.
Early on, development and maintenance of the QA tools involved volunteers in an open source project management style, under the auspices of the qa-dev task force. After a few years, the effort grew to include large communities of Web professionals and amateurs, with dozens of developers coding, patching or reporting bugs, experimented users providing support to others and improving documentation, and hundreds-strong mailing-lists for discussions about the tools.
This involvement of the community of Web developers and designers not only helped leverage its energy, it also spread within its ranks the concepts of quality, conformance, creating more demand for ways to author on the Web in a consistent and reliable manner.
W3C plans to continue maintenance and development of quality tools through a collaboration between the W3C Systems and Communication staff, with a community of users and volunteers continuing to play a crucial role.
Building tools was one facet of the effort made within the QA Activity to raise awareness about Web quality. Special attention was given to also producing documents and resources.
This first took the form of a number of writings, articles and tutorials, short and efficient Tips for Webmasters. Many of these articles have been widely adopted, and are regarded as useful references by Web creators.
In the later years of the Activity, production of education and introduction material on W3C technologies took the form of the Q&A weblog, engaging W3C staff and participants, beyond the realm of QA, in an active dialogue with the public. W3C also plans to continue this successful, informal, and active forum after the closure of the QA Activity.
The Quality Assurance Interest Group also fostered better knowledge of Web technologies by supporting other efforts in Education and Outreach, notably through a liaison with the Web Standards Project's “WaSP asks the W3C” and Education Task Force.
W3C has engaged in a larger dialog with the Web community. Staying in touch, creating more contacts, sharing work is one of the major goals of W3C platform in the near future.
Quality remains a high priority for W3C, and an ongoing project. Through the dedication of the community, the QA Activity made great strides towards its mission, and quality through testing, etc. has been adopted as part of W3C Working Group culture. During this effort it has become clear that W3C needs to re-engage with developers and the Web community, to listen, and to understand user needs more clearly. In the medium-term, W3C will be reallocating staff resources to make this happen and engage in a closer dialog with those who are making the Web a reality.
If you are interested in contributing to this effort, please contact us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
W3C has these expectations for QA Activity mailing lists:
The communities around both mailing lists that will remain open are important, if not always active.
The QA Activity would not have been successful without the support of individuals and their companies. It has been a mesmerizing experience to work with people of high human quality. W3C would like to thank