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Adobe Blog: The W3C Updates Process for More Agile Standards Development

I just happened on this post on the Adobe Blog, The W3C Updates Process for More Agile Standards Development, posted a few hours ago by Steve Zilles, who gives an overview of the purpose of the W3C updates to its Process Document to make Standards Development more agile.

Here are a few selected bits, but I recommend reading the whole short piece:

[[ The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has undertaken updating its process to allow more agile standards development. Over the last five years, the W3C has opened up much of its standards work to public participation on a daily (if desired) basis. But, there are aspects of the current W3C Process that act as barriers to more agile standards development. One of these is the assumption that all parts of a potential standard will progress at the same rate; that is, all parts of a standard will be accepted and reach deployment at the same time. ]]

[[ So, the W3C is proposing that (where possible) standards be developed in smaller, more manageable units, “modules.” ]]

[[ With these changes, it becomes much easier to develop all the aspects of a standard – solid specification, wide review, implementation experience and interoperability demonstrations – in parallel. This will help shorten the time from conception to reliable deployment. ]]

A proposal for a new Recommendation Track

W3C gave their permission to publish a derivative of chapter 7 – the chapter that defines the recommendation track.

I wrote a proposal as a heavily edited version. it fails to identify what is removed (sorry – I’ll try to find time for that) but it does show to try what has changed or been added. Since we apparently can’t publish plain files HTML in the Community Group (or I haven’t worked out how to do that), I’ve put it where you can download it (with a bonus Russian lessson: “Скачать” means “Download”).

The main changes are

  • Last Call and Candidate Recommendation are merged into a single step
  • Proposed Recommendation is automated (effectively it is still there, but not as a seperate stage, and it begins at the same time as LCCR)
  • There are some clearer obligations for W3C to address dissent, before publishing a Recommendation
  • There are some changes to the requirements for editing a Recommendation – it no longer suggests that errata can somehow just be incorporated by reference.
  • Some MUSTS are now SHOULDS (e.g. identifying editorial changes), and vice versa
  • Requirements for explaining testing are a little stricter

The new Last Call Candidate Recommendation stage was the main motivation to develop this draft. It tries to achieve several goals:

Make the transitions matter

Last Call is very important in terms of Patent Policy, and used to be a vital step in the Process, when CR didn’t exist. But it is a trivial step for a Working Group, and there is a sense that making multiple last calls is an easy way to get review. Review should happen as bits of the spec are solidified, in what I have called Heartbeat Working Drafts.
Meanwhile, Candidate Recommendation was a serious step process-wise, yet shouldn’t change as much as it does – people should be building test implementations earlier, so their last call comments can be backed by reality instead of imagination.

Focus on interoperability

The requirement for exiting LCCR has changed. It seems somewhat wishy-washy as written “must show that independent implementations of the specification are extremely likely to be highly interoperable”. The idea is to avoid cases where two implementations is clearly not going to produce the desired result (e.g. WebSQL), or where there is good reason to believe the specs will be implemented increasingly better (e.g. because there is an active process of making a next one and the one after…)

Don’t depend on changing the Patent Policy

Actually, I would like to change the Patent Policy. I just think don’t want to depend on that in order to make a useful improvement.

Other considerations

I also tried to frame it in terms of requirements on who does what. It is currently about half the size it was. But some things that were good advice have been removed and perhaps should be re-added.

The Advisory Board saw a slightly different draft already, and have made a couple of comments. They suggested this draft be published to gather wider input for their work of revising the Process.

Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are very welcome on the mailing list.

Results from TPAC 2011 session on “Revisiting how W3C creates standards”

At TPAC 2011 a session was held on potential problems and solutions regarding the W3C process.

There was much participation and active discussion.
Due to the number of points brought out it was decided to keep the session to brainstorming, record the points made and delegate dealing with the points to another opportunity.

That opportunity is this community group.

Following is a partial repost, for the sake of having the information visually available, of the summary at
http://www.w3.org/wiki/TPAC2011/Revisiting_how_W3C_creates_standards

 

Results of the TPAC session

General

  • specs are too large
  • the process is too long and too complex
  • process documents do not match the development model we use
  • process itself is fairly old fashioned as evidenced by ad hoc spec development elsewhere
  • stakeholders need stability
  • there is tension and conflict between needed stability and a dynamic environment

Early phase

  • ideas that the group might have might not fit the charter, but amending the charter takes too long
  • finding intersted parties to work on a given problem
  • getting input from necessary but uninterested parties
  • in the charter the deliverables are fixed, but not the true goals
  • a large scope may inhibit participation due to IPR concerns

Mid-process

  • the draft in TR space is continuously out dated
  • within a spec it is not possible to distinguish between different types of changes
  • suitable stability points are not clearly identifyable. Need to be metrics based (see also CSS WG)

Late phase

  • many reviews happen only at LC and not before
  • LC often is far too late in the process
  • LC often is not truly the last call
  • LC is in general overloaded with communication efforts, actual comments, prop. edited CR
  • LC contains intense and lengthy communication with other groups
  • CR phase is like a 2nd review phase, breaking the intent of LC
  • a single, large document should not be the only thing we publish

IPR

  • patent protection kicks in only after REC status has been achieved
  • LC is an IPR milestone that takes long to pass

Proposed solutions

  • In order to address these issues the suggestion was made to form a community group that can find solutions for the individual points
  • create small, clean, orthogonal specs