It’s just data

Contributions Welcome

Shelley Powers: Frankly, you seem to have a very narrow sense of what a contribution is.

Again, I must confess that from my perspective you are reacting to something I did not write.  I didn’t use the word contribution anywhere on that page, and the closest I do is in the following paragraph:

A corollary to this is that people who desire to contribute need not limit themselves to any notions by any other individual as to how specs should be split out.

If you want to write tutorials or example applications or libraries, by all means do.  But that’s not the immediate problem I am trying to solve.

The problem I am trying to solve is that we don’t have the benefit of voices such as yours on the mailing list.  The W3C’s mailing list barrier to entry, while not non-existent, is dramatically better that prior W3C efforts.  The WHATWG’s mailing list allows everybody to subscribe.  But in many ways I suspect that that’s not the real barrier to entry.

One problem is that the existing mailing lists and IRC channels are firehoses of opinions from a rather rough and tumble crowd.  Places where people debate the merits of being grandiose rather than what specific changes are required.  Places where, even when a specific request is made asking people to review four specific proposals and indicate which of them they can’t live with and why, only two actually follow instructions.

Instead of picking on somebody else’s sacred cow, I’ll pick on my own, one that I gather you share: Decentralized Extensibility.  That’s certainly a flag we can proudly wave.  But in the current working environment, this quickly gets ignored and discussions on something we can all agree on replace it: the fact that Microsoft is Evil.  We all know that Microsoft steals school kids lunch money, dips little girls pigtails in inkwells and puts “kick me” signs on little boys backs when they aren’t looking.  And Google is no better.  OK, actually they are a little better in that they distract us with big red, blue, green, and yellow balls on the playground while they tie little boys shoelaces together and then look the other way and giggle when they trip.

Where was I?  Oh yea, decentralized extensibility.  From time to time I use inkscape which puts all sort of useless things in my SVGs that cause no harm and presumably helps inkscape do its job better.  Somehow we manage to survive.  In IRC, somebody mentioned a site that puts all sort of useless (from a narrow, browser implementer’s perspective) RDFa into a page.  I’d post a link, but is down right now.  I suspect that Henri will never allow his validator to accept such markup, which he refers to as namespace porn.  Hopefully someday he figures out a way to detect hints of cleavage and can flag such too and really make his validator useful.  Either way, it doesn’t bother me much as I think it is likely that olivier will find a way to fill this gap (the RDFa one, not the cleavage one - focus people!).

And as to the mailing list: comments that the spec are too grandiose aren’t anywhere near as effective as comments that the DOCTYPE is unnecessarily pejorative which aren’t anywhere near as effective as comments that tools other than XSLT have the same problem, and SYSTEM solves this problem better than PUBLIC does.

What I wish to do (on the list!  what you do on your own blog is up to you!) is dampen the first kind of interaction, and encourage the third.  I’m still very far from where I would like to be on this.

If I ever solve this issue, we should be able to reap the benefit of many more voices.  Perhaps that’s not enough to get you to point out a specific issue in the spec and describe how it could be addressed.  If not, then I’ll simply figure out what the next barrier is, and address that.  Maybe that will never be enough, but I am committed to try.