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Re: The Web's Full Potential (Was Re: experts)

From: Ann Navarro <ann@webgeek.com>

>  but that the Web process is utterly dominated by the North-Western
>>>hemisphere: by people who have the skills to use English, relate to men,
>>>argue, and fit in socially with 35+year-old US white male corporate
>Rick, -- having met me in Boston, I certainly don't fit the normal mold of
>a participant -- though I suppose 10 years with the police department
>taught me how to argue my point and assume a peer/leader role among men.

Yes, it was great to see a couple of women, a couple of blind people, a lot
of Francophones and a handful of Japanese and American Chinese and American
Indians (i.e. the subcontinent) and even a very smart boy in all the
hundreds of people at the W3C meeting.  There may have been some African
Americans too, but I don't remember seeing them. There was even an excessive
number of Australians, though at least two of them were involved in WAI so
perhaps it is double-dipping to count them twice.

My point is that even if the W3C had strict quotas for representation by all
sorts of complicated demographic criteria (a quota for left-handed people
for example) the issues of the tyranny of distance and
culturally-appropriate modes of communication play a part.

I am quite proud to use English, relate to men, argue, and fit in socially
with 35+year-old US white male corporate society.  It is a good skill to
have developed, but I am aware that I have been trained since childhood to
be able to fit into that kind of role: someone from a different culture and
background faces enormous challenges.  So I am not trying bag my own kind,
nor to say there is something wrong with being assertive,
independent-thinking and articulate, nor with living in North America and
having a good travel allowance.

>I'll admit to being in the Northern Hemisphere, but the W3C in general is
>going out of their way to expand their reach -- an office in Hong Kong,
>WWW10 being held there in May (along with the Spring AC meeting), WWW7 was
>in Australia, the November 98 AC meeting was in Kyoto, and our group went
>to Tokyo in October this past fall.  XSL has a penchant for Bangkok, so
>we're not utterly North American or European in our locations (our group,
>despite having just 2 members from Asia, makes a point of trying to rotate
>out there at least once a year).

If your group had 50% of meetings in Asia, perhaps it would have 50% of
participants from Asia.

>Aside from geography, the other skills are indeed required, though I'm not
>sure I'd qualify W3C events as US white male corporate society (a peek into
>any room in Boston should have dispelled that belief -- eggheads galore,
>and proud of it).

That there were so few non-White-males in the W3C meeting and that we both
thought at the time it was refreshingly diverse is a sign that our
expectations are pretty low.  The W3C management in trying to make a more
inclusive meeting, but it is a sign of something that all members of the W3C
internationalization working group were white males (over 35?) (though most
seemed to have partners from other cultures), unless I missed someone there.

>English, unfortunately for some, has become the language of computing.

But not for others.

>However, even those that aren't fully comfortable expressing themselves
>verbally in a face to face meeting have given extensively in writing (where
>they can prepare their statements with more care), and indeed many who have
>limited English skills learn quite quickly -- a member of the HTML WG came
>to us with limited verbal English skills, and he's grown incredibly over
>the months.

Yes, but he or she was starting from a base of having learned English to
start with.  One thing W3C should do is get government/UN sponsorship in all
countries for a thorough-going translation program for recommendations: at
least for Last Call recommendations, if possible, to allow some

Has anyone asked him what could be done to make it easier for others, based
on his experience and feelings?

I am not raising this to criticize the W3C: it is very progressive.  But if
Simon, who has two or three websites (xmlhack, web standards, his personal
one, XML.com) and two or three mailing lists (xml-dev, sml-dev, xhtml)  and
his books and his RFC to put his views across, feels disenfranchised from
the process of technical development, imagine how shy, poor, brilliant women
emgineers in a respect-based culture must feel.   If a whole hemisphere
starts to feel locked out from the rich boys club, they will play their own
game and who will blame them?  Sometimes it feels like it is the whole

Rick Jelliffe