On Thursday, I travelled down to the swanky Mozilla offices in London to an open invitation to meet the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG), who were in town (presumably for this week’s Bilderberg meeting). I’ve met many of them before, and they’re all jolly good people, but I’d never met them as an entity.
I’d lugged my laptop down to take notes, as I’d anticipated some sort of relaxed presentation and then a public Q&A (by “relaxed” I mean, not live streamed and in front of the small 30-strong audience enjoying Google’s beer donation). It was unstructured, however, with TAG people mingling around and presumably answering the same questions repeatedly. (I’ve given this feedback to the co-chair, Dan Appelquist, already.)
I asked “What does the TAG do?” after Dan introduced the evening. Dan and TimBL answered that the TAG is an oversight body that ensures W3C specs kind of cohere, and kind of stay within the Architecture of the World Wide Web that TAG defined. Jo Rabin followed up with the question “how does TAG measure its success?” to which there was a less definite response. (However, the Web continues to do rather well, so arguably they haven’t broken anything.)
It’s good that the TAG want to meet developers. Tag member Jeni Tennison asked me what my pet peeve with the TAG is. I answered that there isn’t a representative of jobbing web developers on the team. Sure, there are some people who represent browser vendors on the team, but people like me don’t make web sites every day any more (if they ever did). I’m starting to feel that although lip service is paid to the needs of developers in the Priority of Constituencies, it’s pretty hard for a developer to get his/her voice heard.
Matt Marquis wrote recently
working in web standards is incredibly frustrating. It involves no small amount of interaction with people who seem to have graduated from the Hacker News Commenter School of Diplomacy. We “authors” don’t hold much weight in standards discussions; at least, nowhere near as much as browser representatives do.
Now, do I think more full-time designers and web developers should get involved in standards, after all this glowing endorsement? Absolutely. The fact is, we don’t have the kind of voice we ought to have because we’re not there. “Author preference” is very often used to argue for or against something in a standards discussion, but very few of us are around to agree or disagree. We’re a talking point more than we’re active participants.
The question is, what to do about it? Six years ago, the CSS Eleven announced with a fanfare that it was an organisation “committed to helping the W3C’s CSS Working Group to better deliver the tools that are needed to design tomorrow’s web”, made itself a lovely website and then promptly disappeared. I’ve certainly heard from developers and designers that it’s hard to do a full-time job, keep up with all the new developments and get actively involved in the time-consuming minutiae of standards development.
Perhaps we wound the Web Standards Project up too early. But I don’t think so. Perhaps we need someone embedded in the TAG who is paid by a benevolent employer to devote 50% of his/her time to standards while continuing to work. Perhaps we need someone paid by the W3C full-time to represent developers.
I don’t know. What do you think?