A Touch of Class


Thoughts on the W3C’s May 2019 Advisory Board Election

The W3C Advisory Board is electing 7 of its 11 members this May. Votes are cast by the Advisory Committee representative of each Member Company. As you may have noticed, I'm running this time!

What's this election about?

The role of the AB is to provide “ongoing guidance to the Team on issues of strategy, management, legal matters, process, and conflict resolution”. Candidates nominated to the board are expected to participate in their individual capacity (rather than as a Member company rep) and to “use their best judgment to find the best solutions for the Web, not just for any particular network, technology, vendor, or user”.

By reading the candidate statements, particularly Tantek’s, you can get a little bit of an idea what this particular election is about. There are major issues and major projects the Advisory Board needs to tackle over the next few years, that are critical to W3C’s existence. To quote Tantek, the Advisory Board needs members who have “experience, commitment, and bold participation”. That includes dedicating some significant amount of time to doing actual work on these issues, not just showing up to the meetings and offering opinions in the context of the discussion.

Major projects the Advisory Board needs to tackle over the next few years include:

And there's of course also the ongoing issues of W3C’s seriously dysfunctional finances (we've nearly lost critical staff members, and in some cases W3C can't even fund the travel of its own employees to W3C meetings); improving opennness, transparency, inclusion, and (consequently) recordkeeping; and improving diversity of involvement—not just across personal demographics, but across regions of the world, sectors of the industry, and types of participants from large corporations to individual contributors.

How to elect a great team

Doing all these things, and doing them well, needs a really good team: of different people with complementary skillsets. The election method (STV using Meek’s method) isn't optimized for electing a team, however: it's optimized for electing representatives of different factions. Each AC rep submits one ranked-choice ballot, and their vote counts, essentially, for one candidate. (This is technically a violation of the W3C Process, which prescribes one vote per open seat; however the W3C refuses to course-correct, and the AB refuses to clarify.)

So who to vote for? Well, since we have to factionalize, choose your faction when choosing your first-place candidate... and if debating between candidates, bias your top choice towards the one who doesn't have a clear constituency, because without enough first-place votes, that candidate will get eliminated. Think of it like a group-dinner menu: who are you contributing to the table? Remember you really only get one vote: your ranking is really just a list of fallbacks, with second and third place votes coming into play only if your top candidate has either an overflowing amount of support, or less support than anyone else (and is therefore eliminated). Therefore, order of ranking matters incredibly much. So intentionally choose your own ordering: we’ll need a variety of ballot rankings, and a variety of first-choice picks, to place a capable team. And encourage other ACs to vote! The more Members vote, the less the Board will be dominated by small but well-organized factions and the more it will represent W3C’s interests as a whole.

The Menu of Candidates

Given the current challenges facing W3C, here are the people I'd most like to see added to the Advisory Board team:

Elika Etemad (W3C Invited Expert)
Of course, you can vote for me! Top reasons to vote for me:
  • Deep, deep, deep on-the-ground experience with W3C and its Process as a very prolific 15yrs specification editor—important because the AB maintains the W3C Process, which defines how we develop and maintain specs.
  • Longstanding interest in open source, governance topics, and making organizations more open, transparent, and collaborative.
  • Excellent at synthesizing feedback from a variety of sources into a single coherent proposal, believing in and practicing wide review and consensus processes as a way to ensure quality and fitness for purpose.
  • Great organizational and recordkeeping skills, and appreciation of the value of doing the tedious tasks that actually get things done.
Read more about Elika (fantasai)
Tantek Çelik (Mozilla)
Top reasons to vote for Tantek:
  • Open Web radical who unabashedly pushes W3C past its comfort zone into being more open, participatory, and “Web-y”.
  • Past experience on the Advisory Board plus decades in the industry (and at W3C specifically): brings long-term perspective and institutional knowledge.
Read more about Tantek
Eric Siow (Intel)
Top reasons to vote for Eric:
  • Extensive background in corporate finance and organizational structures—experience that would be seriously useful in handling the legal entity transition.
  • High-level role in a large, traditional corporation: helpful for impressing people, as well as digging up useful contacts, experts, and other resources.
Read more about Eric
Avneesh Signh (DAISY Consortium)
Top reasons to vote for Avneesh:
  • Lots of relevant experience for the challenges we're facing.
  • Strong and meaningful connections to accessibility, publishing, and Indian industry (where W3C struggles to solicit participation).
  • Tzviya recommends him highly as someone who will get things done.
Read more about Avneesh

Other people I can recommend (in no particular order) and why:

Nigel Megitt (BBC)

Nigel has chaired the TTML work for years, and the experience shows in his comments on changes and improvements to the W3C Process. He's easy to work with, tries to do the right thing, and does his best to help W3C live up to its ideals. We've been lucky to have his involvement in the Process CG, and I imagine he'd bring a similar contribution of calmly modest, yet insightful commentary to the Advisory Board as a whole.

If you think experience chairing a smaller Working Group outside the main stream of the browser-dominated Web Platform groups is important to add to the Advisory Board, vote for Nigel.

Judy Zhu (Alibaba)

Judy’s goal is to connect the AB to the Chinese community, which is an important and often divergent part of the Web community that W3C needs to keep connected with the rest of the world. In general, the AB role isn't really about representing various regions and industries, it's about the individual contributions of the candidate—and I don't know enough about Judy to be able to personally recommend her as an individual... however given the challenges W3C has in remaining connected to China both strategically and through the legal entity transition, it would be helpful to have Judy on the board.

If supporting Chinese interests is important to you, vote for Judy.

Alan Stearns (Adobe)

Alan Stearns reluctantly accepted co-chairmanship of the CSS Working Group after enough of us insisted he was the best person for the job, and has been excelling at keeping the CSSWG’s agenda on track ever since. Quietly solid, level-headed, kind, and yet ruthless when needed, Alan thoughtfully and pragmatically balances the CSSWG discussions and helps it effectively manage the increasing pressure on its time.

If you want to add the level-headed chair of a large and effective Web Platform working group to the AB, vote for Alan.

Chris Wilson (Google)

Chris Wilson has been trying to wrangle corporate behavior in the interest of the Web for literally decades, helping to coordinate W3C involvement at Microsoft and, later, Google. In 2013 he teamed up with Tantek to push a reformist agenda on the AB, trying to get W3C to be more open and better at maintaining its specifications (and the AB to be more effective in general). He’s been actively pushing for incubation as a best practice and is the WICG’s biggest advocate (and its co-chair).

If you want the co-chair of the WICG on the Advisory Board, vote for Chris.

Léonie Watson (TetraLogical)

Léonie’s focus in the AB seems to be on people, focusing her efforts especially on horizontal review (making sure the process allows for and honors reviews from accessibility, internationalization, security and privacy, and the technical architecture group), diversity and inclusion, community culture, and of course accessibility.

If a great listener and people-focused advocate are the key things you care about, vote for Léonie.

Aaron Gustafson (Microsoft)

I had the benefit of observing Aaron as a guest of the CSSWG during one of its F2Fs, during which he showed himself to be interested in understanding what was going on, and in offering advice where he could—both good qualities in WG participation. I know he cares deeply about W3C and its mission: this shows clearly in what he’s done with his career. That said, Aaron hasn't participated within W3C as much, and it might be a useful to understand the organization and its challenges and strengths better before advising it—this is my main hesitation in recommending him this round, though I see him otherwise as a good fit for the role.

If you think someone from the Web Standards Project—i.e. an extremely competent web platform author and dedicated standards advocate—would be a key asset to the Advisory Board, vote for Aaron.

Where to vote

Voting is open to W3C Advisory Committee representatives until midnight in Boston on Thursday the 30th of May. This election is very important to the future of W3C. If your company is a W3C Member, please ensure they cast a vote!