Progress in Lyon – TPAC 2010

W3C met in Lyon, France 1-5 November for an annual W3C gathering we call “TPAC” (for Technical Plenary and Advisory Committee, pronounced “T-pack”). This was my first TPAC. Based on what I saw and what I heard it was a success – but with room for improvement.

Overlapping meetings – overlapping objectives

TPAC consists of several different meetings:

  1. Working group face to face meetings – where groups resolve coordination issues in a flurry of activity
  2. Technical Plenary day – when we air concerns and look to the future
  3. Advisory Committee meeting – strategic planning for W3C with the Membership
  4. Hallway conversations – the key community-building ritual

Working group face to face meetings

This is the heart of TPAC; the reason that people come. Overall I was quite satisfied with participation and progress. With over 300 attendees and over 25 Working Groups meeting face to face, were roughly on par with years past and there was a good deal of technical progress. I could not participate in all of the working group meetings, but I did sit in on several of them. I had a good set of discussions with the accessibility team; and had several off-line meetings with the HTML5 chairs.

I wish more people could have attended, but we all suffer from the tyrannies of the calendar. The week after TPAC was a Semantic technologies conference in Shanghai, and that undoubtedly lowered participation from our strong Semantic Web aficionados and working groups. Also there was an IETF meeting in Beijing which had a modest impact.

Technical Plenary Day

I chaired the program committee for technical plenary day and felt really good about the agenda the committee produced. Well, until the critical blogs came. Actually, even after the critical blogs came.

The program committee objective was a balanced agenda. We had talks about the Semantic Web, IETF, XML convergence with HTML, and accessibility. We had a session on different use cases and perspectives for television broadcast. There was also quite a diversity in Lightning Talks: Emotions, the Social Web, Speech, Semantic Web, Relational and RDF, 3D, Points of Interest, XML Performance, Privacy, and Philosophy. So I think we achieved balance. The plenary minutes are public.

Underneath that, we examined our work from different points of view. The first panel, organized by Noah Mendelsohn was about “integration”. We looked above the level of a working group into how pieces fit together from a broader product perspective. W3C is designing an Open Web Platform with a lot of moving parts, and discussions such as those at TPAC help ensure that the parts work together.

We devoted a great deal of attention to HTML. With HTML5 approaching Last Call (May 2011) and many features already in browsers, our attention paralleled the industry’s current level of enthusiasm, making this an appropriate focus for this TPAC. Many people have different perspectives about HTML5 – but many perspectives will only come into fruition at .next. HTML Working Group co-Chair Paul Cotton led a great panel which examined different views of what comes after HTML5. We also saw lots of eye candy – HTML5 coming to life in real implementations.

I also want to mention how vibrant our community is. Sixteen lightning talks and a panel of diverse views on Web and television suggested some new areas for W3C attention in the near- and medium- term.

Then came the blogs. Michael Kay and colleagues made several good points abut what was missing from the plenary agenda – but in reality one day cannot possibly address every single aspect of W3C. My conclusion in the posting that I made to that conversation was “Let’s use this thread as a prompt to work together so that the next TPAC agenda is more representative of all the work going on at the Consortium.” Always room for improvement.

Advisory Committee Meeting

W3C’s Advisory Committee (AC) also met to discuss the strategic direction of the organization. I have previously blogged (June, June again, July) about our organizational vision task forces. Those task forces have completed their work and we reviewed the results. W3C management has approved 17 new projects that address technical priorities (new work in privacy, WebID, security, testing), participation and inclusion (easier to bring standards work, better support for a diverse global community), and financial matters. For the latter I reported that the last several months had seen an increase in new members for W3C.

Thursday and Friday the W3C Advisory Board (AB) met for a “post- game analysis” of the AC meeting, diving into the task force recommendations. One piece of advice from the AB was to support our current policy of having dues paid in three currencies; even as they advised that this should be reviewed on a regular basis.

Hallway Conversations

For many people, it is the casual or unexpected meeting or discussion at a break that can have the greatest impact. I can’t comment on the thousands of discussions that took place, but let me at least mention the most visible and formal of these “informal” discussions. Thursday night Marie-Claire Forgue organized a meetup with the Lyon developer community, providing an opportunity to showcase W3C and Web activities in Lyon. Over 200 people attended session and together enjoyed practical and whimsical advances in technology, systems, and games. A good capstone for a great event.