Skip to contents |
W3C QAn | QA home

Quality Assurance Activity Proposal

This activity proposal is public.

1. Executive Summary

The Quality Assurance (QA) Activity manages the W3C's QA efforts. The main objective of the QA Activity is to provide W3C, its Membership, and the Web community with the following:

This proposal extends the QA Activity with an important change: the QA Working Group is now closed. The revised QA Interest Group (QA IG) will carry out the work of the Activity; please see the proposed QA IG charter.

2. Background

W3C launched the QA Activity in 2001, following a successful Workshop, with these goals (see previous QA Activity Proposal): to improve W3C specifications by offering guidelines to W3C groups, by reviewing draft specifications for adherence to these guidelines, and by helping W3C groups develop test suites and other tools to promote interoperable implementations.

Since that time, the QA Working Group produced six documents, including the Specification Guidelines Recommendation. By identifying both requirements and "good practices", the Specification Guidelines help both W3C and other specification authors create and describe technologies in ways that make it easier for developers to implement them as intended. The QA Working Group also put together templates for writing conformance clauses as well as full specifications.

In addition, the QA Working Group has published the QA Framework Primer, the QA Test FAQ, the Variability in Specifications Working Group Note, the QA Handbook and Test Metadata. Another document that has proved useful is the W3C Quality Assurance Matrix, a list of over 100 W3C specifications, with links to conformance clauses, implementation reports, test suites and validators.

In August 2005, the QA Working Group reached a significant milestone by publishing "Specification Guidelines" as a W3C Recommendation.

Why is this Activity being extended?

In general, the W3C Membership and community have supported W3C's work in this area. However, Member participation in the QA WG has remained low. This proposal seeks a balance whereby W3C invests fewer resources in this Activity while maintaining a forum for discussion and maintenance of existing QA deliverables. Today, the QA IG mailing list is an active discussion forum with over 100 subscribers.

The extended QA Activity will promote continuity of the QA work already started, in several ways: the QA IG will refine and maintain existing QA deliverables, will help disseminate shared knowledge as W3C starts new groups or after a group closes, will help groups with limited resources improve their outreach to developers, and will help newcomers learn to apply specifications in practice.

An important lesson that we learned about QA during the first phase of the QA Activity is that groups think they don't care about QA. That is, they think they don't care about it until one of two things happens:

  1. They implement some of the recommended practices. In our experience, groups that did were all satisfied with the results.
  2. They encounter common problems of interoperability that cause them headaches they could have avoided by following the recommended practices.

However, we also note that QA practices have become, much more than four years ago, integrated into the daily routine of many W3C groups. The QA IG will need to continue to work to lower obstacles to the adoption of QA practices, to communicate the costs and benefits effectively, and to work with groups (especially early in their process) so that QA practices are integrated into their daily routine.

What is the market within the area of the proposal? Who or what group wants this (providers, users, etc.)?

In many senses, those who implement W3C specifications want most for W3C's QA work to succeed. Developers and other End Users want W3C to produce:

Working Groups are also eager for tools, documentation, and other services to help them carry out their technical work. The QA Activity, in conjunction with the Communications and Systems Team, are in a position to provide this support. Some ways include:

Which community will benefit from this Activity?

Many communities benefit from general quality improvements:

Are members of this community part of W3C now?

As mentioned above, Member participation in QA work has been low to date, but there are and have been Members who are interested in participating in this work. There are additional Members who may not wish to participate actively in this group but who support the mission of the QA Activity.

Experience shows that Web developers comprise an important group of people who provide value to W3C but who do not always fit the traditional Membership model. It is in W3C's interest to engage with these developers constructively, even if they do not participate directly in Working Groups or cannot join W3C as Members.

Will they join the effort?

Yes. Former QA WG Members have voiced their desire to participate actively to the new QA IG.

Some Members of the Web community have been active participants who comment on specifications and contribute to other materials. They will continue in a new QA Activity.

As mentioned above, there is already a strong community built around the W3C Validator Service. It is likely that the QA Activity will be able to increase developer (and user) interest in this Service by adding to it. For instance, work is underway at this time to augment the service with RSS feed validation.

Another way to increase participation in QA work is to provide more opportunities for those outside the Team (whether from Membership or outside of W3C) to author education and outreach materials that support W3C specifications for publication (after review by the QA IG) on the W3C Web site. The QA Activity already has some experience with this idea; the QA Tips have been compiled from contributions from the community.

Who or what currently exists in the market?

There are different evangelization groups (WASP, Maccaws, OpenWeb), weblogs (standblog) and mailing-list promoting Web standards (webdesign-l, xml-dev), but when it comes to providing authoritative answers about W3C technologies,

It is naturally challenging to remain vendor-neutral while trying to improve the quality of a specific implementation but the the QA community at W3C has developed experience in this area. CUAP and CHIPs are documents that have been successful in the community because they explain the relevant technologies in a real implementation context in a vendor-neutral manner.

What competing organizations exist?

Although it may not seem obvious at first, there are a number of forces that compete with W3C's QA efforts:

It is in W3C's interest to create an environment where Working Groups can harness both their energies and those of the dedicated community to develop specifications quickly, with solid supporting materials, and interoperable implementations.

Is the market mature/growing/developing a niche?

There are three topics currently active within W3C where the QA Activity can contribute to discussions:

Are there existing implementations ?

There are implementations of the QAWG's Specification Guidelines Recommendation as described in the implementation report.

This question is not directly pertinent for the QA IG.

What is the scope of the work?

See the scope sections in the Quality Assurance Interest Group Charter.

What are initial timetables?

See the milestones section in the Quality Assurance Interest Group Charter.

Is there a window of opportunity that cannot be missed?

Should new groups be created?

This proposal does not create new groups; it modifies the existing QA IG.

How should this area be coordinated with related W3C Activities?

The QA IG expects to remain a "horizontal group" that considers QA issues across W3C groups. The QA IG may review specifications from time to time. The QA IG expects to meet once per year (during the Technical Plenary week) and to serve as a resource for other groups at that time.

In the previous QA Activity, several people from the W3C Team worked directly with W3C groups on their specifications, test suites, and tools. In this extension of the QA Activity, the W3C Communications Team will take on this role of "in-reach" to W3C groups, through the creation of tools and other resources to help W3C launch groups and to help groups carry out their work.

3. Proposal: Quality Assurance Activity

3.1 Proposed Interest Group

The Quality Assurance Activity should host the Quality Assurance Interest Group. The QA IG charter provides details on the work items.

3.2 Proposed Timeline

It is proposed that the Quality Assurance Activity last through 30 September 2007.

3.3 Resource Statement

The W3C team will contribute 10% of one full time equivalent for the Activity (as co-Chair of the QA IG).

Group co-Chairs Team Contact Charter
QA Interest Group Karl Dubost, Lynne Rosenthal Karl Dubost Chartered until 30 September 2007

Karl Dubost, QA Activity Lead

$Id: qa-activity-proposal.html,v 1.6 2005/11/29 15:24:36 kdubost Exp $
Valid XHTML 1.0!