A Touch of Class


Thoughts on the W3C’s May 2020 Advisory Board Election

The W3C Advisory Board is electing 5 of its 11 members this May. Votes are cast by the Advisory Committee representative of each Member Company. Since I've been writing about the election for several years running, I figured I'd post another explanation of what I know about the candidates.

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”.

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 improving opennness, transparency, inclusion, and (consequently) recordkeeping; 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; continuing to improve the W3C Process, the governing framework of standardization activities at W3C; and addressing day-to-day operations, strategy, planning, and finances.

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. So to balance the team, you need to thoughtfully choose your faction.

Think of it like a group-dinner menu, where each person gets one pick: 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. 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.

And encourage other ACs to vote! The more Members vote, the less the Board will be dominated by small but well-organized cliques and the more it will represent W3C’s interests as a whole.

The Menu of Candidates

See all the nominating statements; below are thoughts from my particular perspective.

The incumbents:

Florian Rivoal

An active Invited Expert in the CSS Working Group, former employee of Opera Software, and now backed by the Japanese publishing industry in this election, Florian comes in with significant and meaningful connections to both browser vendors and the publishing industry; to both Western and East Asian culture and industry; and to both corporate and individual W3C participation. He also has additional experience in business, start-up, and NPO affairs, which are useful as W3C digs into the legal entity project. At W3C he has been an effective spec editor as well as an effective AC representative, giving him both a deep appreciation for the practical on-the ground effects of the W3C Process in daily technical work as well as a higher-level view of W3C’s activities overall.

On the AB over the last year, he has spent countless hours and interrupted nights (being in Japan) on the W3C Process and Patent Policy revisions, where his experience and diligence as a spec editor has shown through: in understanding what needs fixing; in working out the exact details, down to the precise wording, of the necessary changes; in relentlessly tracking and pursuing the tasks yet to complete; and in working hard to create the consensus around those changes. I will not hesitate to say, we could not have accomplished so much on the Process and Patent Policy, much less done it as well as we have, without Florian.

Looking forward, I think he will have a great deal to contribute to the legal entity project as well as to future Process revisions. And I hope he will be there to continue the work we've been doing together after my term ends next year.

If you want someone who will work hard on turning high-level intentions into thoroughly realized structures, vote for Florian.

(Also, if you want to preserve fantasai's sanity... vote for Florian. I know I have relied on him as much as I've relied on myself in the AB this past year, and I could not have worked such a crazy number of hours on these projects if we weren't in it together. ;)

Read Florian’s nominating statement

David Singer

Apple's main standards guy for decades now, David Singer's experience with standards organizations runs long, broad, and deep. He cares a lot about W3C being a functional place to do standards for the Web, and draws on his experiences, his resources at Apple, and his inexplicably boundless energy and enthusiasm in his participation on the AB. An AB rep participates as an individual in the W3C's best interest, not as a company rep, and I see that clearly in David's participation. At the same time, he deftly takes advantage of his connections at Apple to bring useful perspective and information to the AB's decisionmaking.

Over the last year I've seen David drive progress in the Process CG, and apply management, financial, and legal expertise (whether his own or borrowed from Apple Inc.) to problems before the AB, bring in new ideas for ill-defined problems, and play a serious documentation game, helping the AB organize and explain what it's doing to itself and its community. Going forward, I think his participation will be critical to the success of the legal entity project.

If you want someone who can push on fifteen fronts at once, and who can meaningfully connect the AB with the support and perspectives of a large Member corporation while also contributing rigorously as an individual, vote for David Singer.

Read dsinger’s nominating statement

Tzviya Siegman

One of the key people in W3C's publishing activities, Tzviya has been focusing primarily on the people aspects of the AB workload: her main project over the last year was completing the proposed CEPC revision. I have less overlap with Tzviya, so I don't know her work as well, but I can say that she's been a practical and levelheaded voice in the AB, which helps in the sometimes contentious discussions.

If you want someone who focuses on the people of W3C and how to create a more supportive environment for them, vote for Tzviya.

Read Tzviya’s nominating statement

The challengers:

Tantek Çelik (Mozilla)
Probably most deserving of the title “challenger”, Tantek is an Open Web radical who unabashedly pushes W3C past its comfort zone into being more open, participatory, and “Web-y”. He has past experience on the Advisory Board plus decades in the industry (and at W3C specifically), bringing some long-term knowledge and experience. On the one hand, he sometimes takes up unrealistic positions; but on the other, he's not afraid to open up the boundaries of what's possible, ask difficult questions, and explore new ideas and ways of operating. His pressure on W3C leadership over the years has lead to a lot of positive changes within W3C.

If you want to add someone who will push the AB to have difficult but important conversations that open up new possibilities in the future of W3C, vote for Tantek.

Read Tantek’s nominating statement

Tatsuya Igarashi
My understanding is that Tatsuya Igarashi is highly respected in Japan; I unfortunately have not had any significant interactions with him, however, so I cannot add anything beyond what's in his nomination statement.

If you want someone with deep connections in Japanese industry to advise on the AB projects, vote for Tatsuya Igarashi.

Read Igarashi’s nominating statement

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.

Read Alan’s nominating statement

Heejin Chung

I've heard that Dan Appelquist has a high opinion of Heejin Chung, but other than that I can't add anything about Samsung's candidate beyond the nomination statement. (There's effectively zero track record of engagement with W3C on either its mailing lists or in GitHub afaict, so I have no idea.)

If you believe in Dan Appelquist’s recommendations, vote for Heejin. :)

Read Heejin’s nominating statement

Klaus Peter Hoeckner

Hard to find a reason to vote for Klaus. His nomination statement is empty of intentions for his participation on the AB, and he has, as far as I can tell, never posted any comment to ac-forum so there's nothing to indicate what engagement or positions he might have.

Read Klaus’s nominating statement

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!

Final Thoughts

W3C is a community that strives to solicit and respond to feedback. Being on the Advisory Board is not a pre-requisite for sharing ideas on how to improve W3C: Members can start discussions in ac-forum, engage the AB in its GitHub repo, and actively participate in the Process CG, PWECG, and other open, public groups dedicated to significant subtasks of the AB agenda.

The AB over the next few years needs people who are dedicated not just to providing occasional suggestions and guidance to the W3C, but in working hard to design and build its future. Please vote accordingly.