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   Moderation (was Re: Anti-Ranti)

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  • From: Peter Murray-Rust <peter@ursus.demon.co.uk>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2000 16:42:40 +0000

In reply to:

>From: "Matthew Gertner" <matthew@praxis.cz> 
>To: <xml-dev@xml.org> 
>Subject: W3C Rant 
>Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2000 15:49:20 +0100 
>Message-ID: <5D92862918A44446B0533CF3E0695E9905DF50@offsrv.praxisxml.com> 

>Hi all, 
>I've placed a new rant on our website. There hasn't been enough
W3C-bashing on
this list lately, in my view, so I'm >trying to stir the pot a little. :-)
>My basic thesis is that the W3C has to become a more dynamic and open entity.
The address is: 
>Any and all comments and (especially) criticism would be most welcome. 

At 20:05 11/03/00 +0800, Rick JELLIFFE wrote:
[... a long submission from which I have quoted selectively...]
>> Matthew Gertner wrote:
>> I've placed a new rant on our website....
>> Any and all comments and (especially) criticism would be most welcome.
>You write "There is broad concensus in the XML development community
>that W3C must change.." and this is where I think you go astray. Most
>XML developers are not on XML-DEV, they don't have time or inclination
>to participate, they don't make it to conferences. Perhaps they don't
>live in the US anyway...indeed, they might be suspicious of any
>"democratic" efforts which replace a far-off institution which can be
>pressured with just another mob of loud Americans.  There is no broad
>concensus; people don't care because they could nor participate anyway. 
>When did we vote; when did you take a poll; how did you track everyone
>And its not just other cultures. Why are there no women participating in
>XML-DEV? The only women whose names I have seen in the XML forums have
>either come in from the SGML world (because women are very active at all
>levels of the publishing industry) or are involved with W3C.
>Occassionally a woman pops her head up and asks a question, but clearly
>XML-DEV is not a forum which many women feel inclined to participate on.
>If anyone is thinking about opening up standards-making, I would like to
>know by what process they will make sure that women are attracted rather
>than repelled? As an assertive, Western, white, English-speaking male on
>a forum largely made from the same, it seems  strange to hear what seems
>to be complaints against W3C/ISO which, however unsatisfactorily,
>provide the only forums I have seen which have significant
>representation from people who are less assertive, less Western, less
>white, less English-speaking and less male than me.
>Accomodating outsiders requires
> * some forums should be moderated by someone respected and responsible,
>to prevent monopolization by loudmouths, dirty hippies, slick company
>men, and any other troulesome stereotypes;

As co-founder, I have historically taken a role as "moderator" of XML-DEV.
has no formal standing. However,  I feel I need to address this concern.

> * decent time intervals between when proposals are made and when they
>are decided, to allow consideration by people for whom English is not
>their first language (and, please note, that the "legalese" of standards
>may be much easier to understand by a technical non-native speaker than
>many of the postings on XML-DEV! Indeed, anyone who complains about
>legalese should refrain from mentioning any "design patterns" in their
>postings--all jargon is mystifying and irritating to outsiders);

Time is very relative on a list. For some there is a long delay through
technology or digests. Others wish feedback to be instantaneous.

> * fairly cohesive point-releases of working drafts, not day-to-day
>releases; too little time between releases means that there will be not
>enough time for people to formulate an opinion and the releases will not
>be choseive, but too much time between releases means that many comments
>may be obsolete (given that most obvious problems that external reviewer
>finds will also be found by an internal reviewer);
> * reliance on internet technology which does not require people meet at
>a particular place or time; 

This is all we can do now and for a foreseeable future, I suspect. 

>How do we support respect-based cultures? Respect and allow independent
>development and contribution from people in other places and times and
>languages and economic circumstances. Clearly distinguish, for each
>technology, the mechanism for invoking from the mechanism from
>performing the action, and allow the mechanism for invoking to support

I am - I hope - conscious of this. I have posted from time to time that
on this list should consider the impact of their messages on those in less
fortunate economic circumstances than theirs.

>The W3C is not the enemy: perhaps *ML-DEV is!

If XML-DEV is the enemy, I have clearly some responsibility. In the first 2
years I worked fairly hard to steer the group to a technological consensus -
primarily XML V1.0 supported by working software. In year 3 I deliberately
"moderated by silence" - I felt that the mood of the *speaking* members was
that they wished to pursue social and political issues as well as purely
technological ones. I can appreciate that this may have gone too far for some

Lists - and other e-communication - are a very imperfect mechanism. As a rough
figure I assume that the silent members on a list ("lurkers") are about 90% of
the membership - we had 1600+ members at 2000-01-01. I also assume the list is
syndicated within countries and organisations so that one member may represent
several readers. Any feedback can only come through non-list processes. [I was
involved with the virtual courses on the Web an we only found out by
real-world means that at least two countries had a single subscriber but the
material was syndicated throughout the country.]

If people communicate through silence it is impossible to pick this up at
present - maybe this is something for the future. In any case I am a believer
in the concept that the "Web will find a way". If there is a vision that needs
implementing and it doesn't break the laws of physics, then it will happen. 

I am a white Anglo-Saxon male so fall into the category that RickJ is
about. I also regret the apparent lack of contributions from people outside
that category. There is a real-world imbalance that is independent of
for example chemistry is very largely male [I have just come back from
presenting CML to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and
noted that there were 30 males and one female in the working group. In
crystallography the balance is much nearer equal and it is the better for it.]

My only guidelines for what is acceptable are:
 - my personal opinions on subjects, which I normally suppress on the list.
 - postings to the list
 - private postings to me [I don't get many]
 - contacts at meetings.

I haven't picked up widespread concern about the subject matter of XML-DEV,
then the process may simply be selecting list members for vociferousness. I
to react to potentially inflammatory or obviously hurtful statements. I
consider that:

 "There hasn't been enough W3C-bashing on this list lately,"

is not acceptable to a significant number of members. The reason I haven't
mentioned it is I have been away and haven't read the list.

I cannot see how I - or anyone - can address most of RickJ's concerns simply
through the medium of the list. Leaving time for reflection is valuable, but
slows the traffic to an extent incompatible with the pace of developments.
Pro-active moderation relies almost entirely on personal insight. At present I
have no clearer insight about where we should be going that many other

I am increasingly humble enough to realise that technology is sometimes the
problem than the solution. But certainly not always. I am also very keen to
keep humans within the communication process - I think that some current
approaches are over-ambitious and will only work by a totalitarian
approach. As
a designer of a markup language (CML) how should it be used? In some cases
rigidity is essential or people die; in others it restricts creativity. 

I think the only criteria I can suggest for moderation is:

 "Is your posting helpful? Is it courteous? How will it be received by
other than your own?"


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  • References:
    • W3C Rant
      • From: "Matthew Gertner" <matthew@praxis.cz>
    • Anti-Ranti
      • From: Rick JELLIFFE <ricko@allette.com.au>


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