Proposed W3C Process Document

3 General Policies for W3C Groups

This section describes general policies for W3C groups regarding participation, meeting requirements, and decision-making. These policies apply to participants in the following groups: Advisory Committee, Advisory Board, TAG, Working Groups, Interest Groups, and Coordination Groups.

3.1 Individual Participation Criteria

There are three qualities an individual is expected to demonstrate in order to participate in W3C:

  1. Technical competence in one's role
  2. The ability to act fairly
  3. Social competence in one's role

Advisory Committee representatives who nominate individuals from their organization for participation in W3C Activities are responsible for assessing and attesting to the qualities of those nominees.

See also the participation requirements described in section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy [PUB33].

3.1.1 Conflict of Interest Policy

Individuals participating materially in W3C work MUST disclose significant relationships when those relationships might reasonably be perceived as creating a conflict of interest with the individual's role at W3C. These disclosures MUST be kept up-to-date as the individual's affiliations change and W3C membership evolves (since, for example, the individual might have a relationship with an organization that joins or leaves W3C). Each section in this document that describes a W3C group provides more detail about the disclosure mechanisms for that group.

The ability of an individual to fulfill a role within a group without risking a conflict of interest is clearly a function of the individual's affiliations. When these affiliations change, the individual's assignment to the role MUST be evaluated. The role MAY be reassigned according to the appropriate process. For instance, the Director MAY appoint a new group Chair when the current Chair changes affiliations (e.g., if there is a risk of conflict of interest, or if there is risk that the Chair's new employer will be over-represented within a W3C Activity).

The following are some scenarios where disclosure is appropriate:

Individuals seeking assistance on these matters SHOULD contact the Team.

Team members are subject to the W3C Team conflict of interest policy [PUB23].

3.1.2 Individuals Representing a Member Organization

Generally, individuals representing a Member in an official capacity within W3C are employees of the Member organization. However, an Advisory Committee representative MAY designate a non-employee to represent the Member. Non-employee Member representatives MUST disclose relevant affiliations to the Team and to any group in which the individual participates.

In exceptional circumstances (e.g., situations that might jeopardize the progress of a group or create a conflict of interest), the Director MAY decline to allow an individual designated by an Advisory Committee representative to participate in a group.

A group charter MAY limit the number of individuals representing a W3C Member (or group of related Members).

3.2 Meetings

W3C groups (including the Advisory Committee, Advisory Board, TAG, and Working Groups) SHOULD observe the meeting requirements in this section.

W3C distinguishes two types of meetings:

  1. A face-to-face meeting is one where most of the attendees are expected to participate in the same physical location.
  2. A distributed meeting is one where most of the attendees are expected to participate from remote locations (e.g., by telephone, video conferencing, or IRC).

A Chair MAY invite an individual with a particular expertise to attend a meeting on an exceptional basis. This person is a meeting guest, not a group participant. Meeting guests do not have voting rights. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that all meeting guests respect the chartered level of confidentiality and other group requirements.

Meeting announcements SHOULD be sent to all appropriate group mailing lists, i.e., those most relevant to the anticipated meeting participants.

The following table lists requirements for organizing a meeting:

Face-to-face meetings Distributed meetings
Meeting announcement (before) eight weeks* one week*
Agenda available (before) two weeks 24 hours (or longer if a meeting is scheduled after a weekend or holiday)
Participation confirmed (before) three days 24 hours
Action items available (after) three days 24 hours
Minutes available (after) two weeks 48 hours

* To allow proper planning (e.g., travel arrangements), the Chair is responsible for giving sufficient advance notice about the date and location of a meeting. Shorter notice for a meeting is allowed provided that there are no objections from group participants.

3.3 Consensus

Consensus is a core value of W3C. To promote consensus, the W3C process requires Chairs to ensure that groups consider all legitimate views and objections, and endeavor to resolve them, whether these views and objections are expressed by the active participants of the group or by others (e.g., another W3C group, a group in another organization, or the general public). Decisions MAY be made during meetings (face-to-face or distributed) as well as through email. Note: The Director, W3C Chair, and COO have the role of assessing consensus within the Advisory Committee.

The following terms are used in this document to describe the level of support for a decision among a set of eligible individuals:

  1. Consensus: A substantial number of individuals in the set support the decision and nobody in the set registers a Formal Objection. Individuals in the set may abstain. Abstention is either an explicit expression of no opinion or silence by an individual in the set. Unanimity is the particular case of consensus where all individuals in the set support the decision (i.e., no individual in the set abstains).
  2. Dissent: At least one individual in the set registers a Formal Objection.

By default, the set of individuals eligible to participate in a decision is the set of group participants in Good Standing. The Process Document does not require a quorum for decisions (i.e., the minimal number of eligible participants required to be present before the Chair can call a question). A charter MAY include a quorum requirement for consensus decisions.

Where unanimity is not possible, a group SHOULD strive to make consensus decisions where there is significant support and few abstentions. The Process Document does not require a particular percentage of eligible participants to agree to a motion in order for a decision to be made. To avoid decisions where there is widespread apathy, (i.e., little support and many abstentions), groups SHOULD set minimum thresholds of active support before a decision can be recorded. The appropriate percentage MAY vary depending on the size of the group and the nature of the decision. A charter MAY include threshold requirements for consensus decisions. For instance, a charter might require a supermajority of eligible participants (i.e., some established percentage above 50%) to support certain types of consensus decisions.

3.3.1 Managing Dissent

In some cases, even after careful consideration of all points of view, a group might find itself unable to reach consensus. The Chair MAY record a decision where there is dissent (i.e., there is at least one Formal Objection) so that the group may make progress (for example, to produce a deliverable in a timely manner). Dissenters cannot stop a group's work simply by saying that they cannot live with a decision. When the Chair believes that the Group has duly considered the legitimate concerns of dissenters as far as is possible and reasonable, the group SHOULD move on.

Groups SHOULD favor proposals that create the weakest objections. This is preferred over proposals that are supported by a large majority but that cause strong objections from a few people. As part of making a decision where there is dissent, the Chair is expected to be aware of which participants work for the same (or related) Member organizations and weigh their input accordingly.

3.3.2 Recording and Reporting Formal Objections

In the W3C process, an individual may register a Formal Objection to a decision. A Formal Objection to a group decision is one that the reviewer requests that the Director consider as part of evaluating the related decision (e.g., in response to a request to advance a technical report). Note: In this document, the term "Formal Objection" is used to emphasize this process implication: Formal Objections receive Director consideration. The word "objection" used alone has ordinary English connotations.

An individual who registers a Formal Objection SHOULD cite technical arguments and propose changes that would remove the Formal Objection; these proposals MAY be vague or incomplete. Formal Objections that do not provide substantive arguments or rationale are unlikely to receive serious consideration by the Director.

A record of each Formal Objection MUST be publicly available. A Call for Review (of a document) to the Advisory Committee MUST identify any Formal Objections.

3.3.3 Formally Addressing an Issue

In the context of this document, a group has formally addressed an issue when it has sent a public, substantive response to the reviewer who raised the issue. A substantive response is expected to include rationale for decisions (e.g., a technical explanation, a pointer to charter scope, or a pointer to a requirements document). The adequacy of a response is measured against what a W3C reviewer would generally consider to be technically sound. If a group believes that a reviewer's comments result from a misunderstanding, the group SHOULD seek clarification before reaching a decision.

As a courtesy, both Chairs and reviewers SHOULD set expectations for the schedule of responses and acknowledgments. The group SHOULD reply to a reviewer's initial comments in a timely manner. The group SHOULD set a time limit for acknowledgment by a reviewer of the group's substantive response; a reviewer cannot block a group's progress. It is common for a reviewer to require a week or more to acknowledge and comment on a substantive response. The group's responsibility to respond to reviewers does not end once a reasonable amount of time has elapsed. However, reviewers SHOULD realize that their comments will carry less weight if not sent to the group in a timely manner.

Substantive responses SHOULD be recorded. The group SHOULD maintain an accurate summary of all substantive issues and responses to them (e.g., in the form of an issues list with links to mailing list archives).

3.3.4 Reopening a Decision When Presented With New Information

The Chair MAY reopen a decision when presented with new information, including:

The Chair SHOULD record that a decision has been reopened, and MUST do so upon request from a group participant.

3.4 Votes

A group SHOULD only conduct a vote to resolve a substantive issue after the Chair has determined that all available means of reaching consensus through technical discussion and compromise have failed, and that a vote is necessary to break a deadlock. In this case the Chair MUST record (e.g., in the minutes of the meeting or in an archived email message):

In order to vote to resolve a substantive issue, an individual MUST be a group participant in Good Standing. Each organization represented in the group MUST have at most one vote, even when the organization is represented by several participants in the group (including Invited Experts). For the purposes of voting:

Unless the charter states otherwise, Invited Experts MAY vote.

If a participant is unable to attend a vote, that individual MAY authorize anyone at the meeting to act as a proxy. The absent participant MUST inform the Chair in writing who is acting as proxy, with written instructions on the use of the proxy. For a Working Group or Interest Group, see the related requirements regarding an individual who attends a meeting as a substitute for a participant.

A group MAY vote for other purposes than to resolve a substantive issue. For instance, the Chair often conducts a "straw poll" vote as a means of determining whether there is consensus about a potential decision.

A group MAY also vote to make a process decision. For example, it is appropriate to decide by simple majority whether to hold a meeting in San Francisco or San Jose (there's not much difference geographically). When simple majority votes are used to decide minor issues, the minority are NOT REQUIRED to state the reasons for their dissent, and the group is NOT REQUIRED to record individual votes.

A group charter SHOULD include formal voting procedures (e.g., quorum or threshold requirements) for making decisions about substantive issues.

Procedures for Advisory Committee votes are described separately.

3.5 Appeal of a Chair's Decision

Groups resolve issues through dialog. Individuals who disagree strongly with a decision SHOULD register with the Chair any Formal Objections (e.g., to a decision made as the result of a vote).

When group participants believe that their concerns are not being duly considered by the group, they MAY ask the Director (for representatives of a Member organization, via their Advisory Committee representative) to confirm or deny the decision. The participants SHOULD also make their requests known to the Team Contact. The Team Contact MUST inform the Director when a group participant has raised concerns about due process.

Any requests to the Director to confirm a decision MUST include a summary of the issue (whether technical or procedural), decision, and rationale for the objection. All counter-arguments, rationales, and decisions MUST be recorded.

Procedures for Advisory Committee appeals are described separately.

3.6 Resignation from a Group

A W3C Member or Invited Expert MAY resign from a group. The Team will establish administrative procedures for resignation. See section 4.2. of the W3C Patent Policy [PUB33] for information about obligations remaining after resignation from certain groups.