W3C HTML Working Group Jam Session

W3C Sing-A-Long
Between discussions of data table parsing algorithms and web developer outreach, the HTML working group had an informal jam session. It was surreal (but awesome) to be singing Beatles songs with the key players would invented the World Wide Web.

(In the photo above is Dan Connoly, Ian Jacobs, Tim Berners-Lee, Janet Daly, Steve Pemberton)

W3C TPAC: Notes from “View from the Outside: Real World Perspectives on the W3C”

Notes: I’m at the W3C Tech Plenary. Here are the rough notes from the first session. I may or may not clean these up later. 😉  If I didn’t attribute one of the quotes properly, I apologize.  I was taking notes very quickly, while occasionally looking at an IRC channel.   If you have any corrections for quotes, drop me a comment. Intro by Molly H.

  • In the industry at large there has been an opening up. If the Web touches an organization, it must shift.
  • The W3C has been perceived as the ivory towers of the Web. There is the feeling of there being a disconnect.
  • There is an event in life that brings the wall down. It is often difficult to change but when we get through that process we can rebuild and renew.
  • Throughout the day we’re going to hear more about openess.


  • Matthew (MO)
  • Stephanie (ST)
  • Aaron (AG)
  • Patrick (PH)
  • Molly (MH)

Point 1 – What is the role of a specification or standard?

  • AG: Gotta know who you’re audience is. Who are you’re writing for? People written for the implementers in the browsers. Certain ambiguities in the spec lead to different implementation. If you’re a developer, you can’t use the spec to learn and understand css. People read the spec and fall asleep.
  • ST: If you come from a country where English is not your native language, learning web standards is so very difficult.
  • MO: Web standards don’t affect me because the people I work with don’t use them. They’re a couple of steps beyond using font tags
  • MH: We were starting to talk about ontologies. MO didn’t understand the words.
  • MO: W3C uses nomenclature I don’t understand. I use this from a business stand point and how to implement this for a client. I have to work with this stuff everyday. Standards do affect me.
  • AG: The language does really have a cost. By not understanding the spec, the developers have to spend more time understanding what they have to do.
  • PH: I find myself getting lost in the spec. I have to understand things more that I care to.
  • ST: I am able to read specs and implement them. i have a bunch of junior developers I have to help train. Just for them to reach them level we want them to achieve. Who pays for them to learn the company or the client?
  • MO: Business folks are only willing to pay for what they understand.

Point 2 – Where is it most appropriate to compete: UI? Browser features? Spec implementations?

  • AG: Standards impelentations should just be something that’s there and not competed over. There should be a baseline with browsers. there were the dark days when I had to write JS for each browser.
  • There seem to be this misperception that standards inhibit innovation. It gives us the platform to innovate beyond.
  • PH: I have to hold back with what I want to do with a design because I can’t do it in CSS.

Point 3 – How can we improve the W3C process?

  • AG: The tools are there within the spec to innovate by outside people.
  • MH: There has been a real shift with HTML5 becoming open. There has been a real disconnect with the spec and implementations.
  • ST: There is info but it’s hard to find. There is a communication problem.
  • MH: There needs to be education & outreach. There is a historical issue there. The W3C has been dependent on other groups like WaSP.
  • AG: I’ve been sitting at the CSS WG for the last two days. Their strong suit is not marketing its writing the spec. The bloggers, implementers, teachers are marketing. There needs to be convo with the developers.
  • ST: The waterfall model doesn’t work.
  • MH: People ask…Will we ever see CSS 2.1 or CSS3?
  • There is a perception of it being ivory towers… but people see that the process is changing.

Point 4 – How do we create common goals and consistent priorities?(was reading IRC too much)Point 5 – How do we address the critical challenge of outreach & education?

  • PH: In the Univ setting, most are decentralized. It’s hard to get folks to talk together. When the specs are hard to understand it’s hard…
  • AG: I’m encouraged by the CSS WG is working with CSS Eleven. I’d love to see more of that. There needs to be more of a conversation.
  • ST: Are specs supposed to be a certain level? It is not about at a certain competency level… It’s about communicating with all the audiences.
  • MH: Within the TAG group there seems to be a lack of continuity between the various specs. We want groups not be working on their own but together.

Pathways to success

  • Create common baselines
  • Clarify ambiguous specifications
  • use transparent development cycles
  • keep an open dialog with the community
  • foster events and networking
  • for browsers, compete on the features and ui not the standard

Q – How much of the frustration is due to the spec and not the implementers keeping up with the spec?

  • MO: for me it’s the implementation, i’d be surprised if someone’s read it.
  • DanC: we need to manage expectations. pointing fingers isn’t where to start. standards orgs are about making the progress predictable.
  • MH: This is all constructive.

Q – Have the standards failed or is the education around them?

  • MH: problems in the specs… but there is a HUGE gap in education.

Q – David Baron (Mozilla): Who decides on the list of standards that we don’t compete on?

  • MH: We have to prioritize what people are using and asking for in the real world.
  • ST: In the marketing world, the highest used is e-mail campaigns. We use 3 levels of tables to get e-mails to render properly.
  • AG: I agree. It’s a chicken and egg. Do you implement before people use it? We need use cases instead of test cases.

Q – Howcome (Opera): We need to standardize the way that we test. There needs to be one acid test… like acid2 test.

  • MH: Acid tests should be done collaboratively and not by one company.

Q – Ann (Boeing): We need native support within the browser. Maybe the acid test.Q – Ian (W3C): We’re already working on a site redesign. We’re talking more and more with developers. We’re talking with a W3C blog. We can’t do all of the ed & outreach ourselves. I’ve been talking to W3C schools. I wanna talk to everyone.

At the W3C Technical Plenary / Advisory Committee Meetings Week

Well this week I’m not writing you from my home base in Washington DC.  I’m up in Boston, MA for the W3C’s Technical Plenary / Advisory Committee Meetings Week… that’s a mouthful. 

It’s a week where the individual working groups get together and meet.  We also pick one day (Wednesday) and get everyone in one BIG room and meet, folks give presentations, and discuss issues.  It’s a good time. 

In the past at these events, I’ve had the opportunity of getting to chat with some of the smartest people in the Web.  I always learn a ton.

Over the course of the week, I’m going to be posting my thoughts, photos, notes, and I’m sure much much more.  Cheers!