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W3C CCG Weekly Teleconference

Transcript for 2022-02-08

Manu Sporny is scribing.
Mike Prorock: Let's go ahead and kick off.
Mike Prorock: Hello and welcome to weekly CCG, apologies for audio issues, fighting a few Chrome bugs right now.
Mike Prorock: Just a quick IP note, anyone participating, any substatntive contributers to CCG work items, you need to sign IPR agreement. Please read the agenda, if you have detailed questions, we're going to dive into legal entity issues at W3C.

Topic: W3C Migration to a "Legal Entity"

Mike Prorock: As context for today, quite a few folks have been following on W3C and issues, some items/issues around formation of legal entity. Context around that, pulled together quick list of questions for background on topic. Insight, input from AB folks -- what's going on. Increase transparency.
Mike Prorock: We are recording the CCG call, this will be made public.
<tallted> we're actually forbidden to record if there's an objection by a call participant
Heather Vescent: Are we using transcriber or auto transcribing?
Mike Prorock: We are not going to record audio, we will be manually scribing the meeting.

Topic: History on W3C Legal Entity Status

Mike Prorock: We'll do some background here, introduction. Chris Wilson, can you give us a history on the W3C Legal Entity status? Why the need to restructure?
Chris Wilson: We wanted to start out by trying to explain backstory. It can be confusing, we covered this in AC office hours -- important to highlight that W3C is not a single legal entity, there is no "W3C Inc.". There is not central entity. W3C was created by department in MIT and other organizations. The reason they did this, it was expedient.
Chris Wilson: Over time, this has been less and less effective, what used to hold everything together (the Directory - Tim Berners-Lee) was a strong directing figure. He has more or less retired at this point, what remains is something that doesn't have a strong vision, principles. What we have today is four entities, no clear direction, no financial oversight.
Chris Wilson: Things like Formal Objections get handed to the team, they're escalated to TimBl, then delegated to team, then Team magically decides.
Chris Wilson: MIT has decided to end their hosting relationship, which has prompted the timeline ... pushed forward decision for single legal entity... how will this affect people, let's pass it over to leonie.
Mike Prorock: What is the impact to members, other folks participating?
Léonie Watson: I don't think it's going to be a big change, everything is going to say very much as it has been - concentrate on building standards, working groups, etc.
Léonie Watson: What will become better, though is governance. We have hosts that have been hands off for much of the existence. We will end up with a Board that has a more hands on involvement. For a community as broad and as diverse as W3C will be important to have a strong Board.
Mike Prorock: For governance models, boards, distinction -- financial and strategic directions -- group activities, member activities, any follow up thoughts, additional clarifications?
Léonie Watson: Activities around technical work will carry on as they always have. The Board, though, is going to be much more about strategic and financial oversight. It could be argued that we haven't had enough, historically. There will be a much better separation of concerns.
Léonie Watson: We will have a board that will have a higher level of oversight.
Mike Prorock: Where are we from a legal entity status?
David Singer: Overall, the Advisory Board and W3C Management have been working on this for quite a while now... the steering committee is unwilling to give up control of their part of the organization. We lack coordinated oversight from governance point of view.
<mprorock> I see you Bob - will be running through some groundwork and background questions then moving on to the queue
David Singer: Trade Associations usually put away a buffer of funding... that was 25 years ago for W3C. The Hosts have provided that buffer from their own funding, but have not assigned any of that to W3C. The Hosts have provided small amounts of money for transition, to cover legal costs, but not enough for operating buffer. ISOC has provided a willingness to consider funding, but they have a couple of conditions met -- member-led consortium, match member
<bobwyman> no problem.
David Singer: There might be funding from Europe as well, but don't know what conditions that's attached to.
David Singer: We also don't have a compelling governance structure and monetary funding needs, so that is needed.
David Singer: There is a complex nature of engagement w/ Hosts -- they support W3C work with accessibility with contracts/grants and hire W3C staff and manage their contracts.
Mike Prorock: What are we looking at in practical terms, here?

Topic: Possible Outcomes for W3C Legal Entity

Eric Siow: In my mind, there are four possible outcomes -- let me start with the worst case scenario:
Eric Siow: The first, nothing happens, MIT contracts end... I don't think MIT would do that, they feel a sense of responsibility to not let W3C be without a good transition. Nevertheless, this is a possibility.
Eric Siow: The second possibility, we remain in a host structure, basically status-quo. MIT will say -- Hey, you were unable to spin out, we'll keep you in structure as you continue to work on it, or they may transition the host agreement to another university. Harvard has been thrown around, no idea how serious that proposal is. Web is no longer something new and sexy, been around for 25 years, the prospect of another University replacing MIT is probably
Not high.
Eric Siow: The third possibility, the EU funding comes through, but then again they've been talking about it for a few years now... IF EU funding comes through, there are expected to be strings attached, could be quite EU centric.
Eric Siow: Fourth possibility, new legal entity co-funded by a couple of members and ISOC -- host transitioning to several agreements, that is stalled due to misperceptions and mischaracterizations. For those companies that want to volunteer, that becomes difficult for us, none of those companies want to be subject to negative PR.
Eric Siow: That's where we're at right now.
Mike Prorock: Status around EU funding, where is the communication breakdown there?
Eric Siow: I don't think there is a communication breakdown, it's mainly driven out of ERCIM, they just need to get the EU government/authority to give them the money. As far as we know, they say "it's possible for us to get the money", but they've been talking about that for two years now.
Tzviya Siegman: We've been working on this for a few years. There is another session later today if you want to attend.
Tzviya Siegman: The Steering Committee are people from the four Hosts, Tim Berners-Lee, and the W3C CEO -- Jeff Jaffe.
Tzviya Siegman: The Advisory Board are elected by W3C Members -- we need to get consensus across a very broad group of people, we need to have clear communication.
<tallted> tangent -- What "office hours" are folks speaking of? I'm sure there's a calendar or mailing list I should have subscribed to, but haven't... Please point me (and others) there?
Tzviya Siegman: There is rising risk of significant economic downturn, could cause a problem with funding. People are increasingly concerned around speed at which this is moving... W3C Members are concerned, W3C Staff are concerned about their future.
Mike Prorock: When we're talking about W3C staff, we're taking about MIT Host organization -- employee of MIT, not W3C (since technically, no one is employed by W3C since it's not a legal entity).
Tzviya Siegman: Yes, each Host employs "W3C Staff"... MIT, ERCIM, Japan.
Mike Prorock: How can members support and engage positively, what is your take on this?
<tantek> having trouble with mic
<mprorock> tantek - a refresh might work if it isn't a system issue
Chris Wilson: The Advisory Board needs to have more engagement from community -- Advisory board has been heads-down trying to solve problems... we haven't done good enough job communicating... maybe we should have Advisory Board hours? Engage in this conversation, insist on truthful and transparent information. We're all stakeholders here. We're not trying to represent only people on AB... we want to represent everyone that has a stake in the Web.
Chris Wilson: A lot of organizations started out as Benevolent Dictator For Life model... and transitioned away from that. W3C is ready for that, getting Steering COmmittee to buy off on member-led organization is important, and others getting involved is important.
Mike Prorock: What about member-driven aspects? Something that may not be touched on by Chris/others?
David Singer: Problem w/ making progress is the question: TimBL is formally in charge, SC is formaly steering 9but haven't in a while), management team is not centralized, operating w/ four heads... fallen to Advisory Board, but AB is advisory. This is a recipe for stasis and problems and that's where we find ourselves.
<bobwyman> He's not on.
Tzviya Siegman: I know many of you are not full W3C members, we've had some great feedback from this group -- Orie and Mike were in the office hours, a lot of you are active on AC Forum -- it's important to have that input, it does more than what you might think.
<mprorock> Tantek if you can jump in post Tzvia audio wise, that would be great
<mprorock> @ted - going to start queue in a minute
Tzviya Siegman: It's really important to see feedback from across W3C -- anyone that does not have access, there are other ways to get input ... we are trying to keep things as transparent as possible.
Tzviya Siegman: If we have transparency, we don't have secrets.
<rgrant_(ryan_grant)> tantek, try the phone: +1 602 932 2243 x1

Topic: Interplay between W3C and Community Groups

Heather Vescent: I've got a couple of quesitons -- most burning/direct question -- new governance would be more hands on -- CGs have been more hands off, haven't been able to get much support from W3C core...
Heather Vescent: I know you're focusing on WGs, but CGs are also a part of W3C... how does CG governance change?
<heather_vescent> My Q:
Léonie Watson: Yes, CGs are a part of W3C, many of us run CGs. I don't expect much to change, CGs will continue to operate as they always have -- Board will focus on strategy/financials, but don't expect them to hav eany real input/sense of direction over technical direction of standards.
Heather Vescent: These changes you're making today, moment in time, opportunity to rethink operational structure of way W3C has worked, how do these changes impact work that comes out of this organization from 3-5 years?
<heather_vescent> Mike - I have one last question if possible to ask.
Mike Prorock: +1 Heather
<mprorock> we have time
David Singer: I forgot to mention, we've been doing work on Director-free -- general vision for future, for many members of AB, is consortium that is member-led and "daddy free" -- we've been operating with TimBL Director... but can we replace that figure? I've argued, we've grown up, we need to be able to govern ourselves to make decisions. So vision is very much a member led consortium, oversight w/ budgets, strategy, accounts, etc. Looking ahead
Strategically, governing ourselves to meet needs of community.
David Singer: Some feel that W3C should be considered more as public-interest -- Web Foundation is for that... W3C is about technical standards that meet the needs of society, implemented by members, membership is key. Vision is key for that.
David Singer: We must learn to self govern, how to deal with Formal objections (which we're drowning in w/o a father figure), we need to have a coordinated management structure, set funding principles, set management principles.
Tzviya Siegman: I wanted to just add two points, AB has drafted a document, kind of a mission/vision statement (link to follow), to jump start conversation about true vision for W3C.
Mike Prorock: +1 Cwilso
Tzviya Siegman: We also need to focus on modernization, some of W3Cs technologies haven't gotten better -- pipelining, make W3C website more modern, other things that can't discuss today, but can talk about them another time.
Heather Vescent: What actions are you taking to make updates available to internal and external audiences, there are some opportunities for existing members, just curious to learn, do you have plans -- ways to keep community updated as things progress?
Mike Prorock: What about AB office hours, anything else?
Tzviya Siegman: That document on future vision is open to everyone. AB office hours, don't know who that would be open to... we'll have to figure that out.
Tzviya Siegman: AB Minutes are W3C Member-only, perhaps we need to publicize this more... there are some things that are sensitive, but we strive to make everything as public and visible as possible.
<mprorock> Moving on to queue after tantek here - I believe bob wyman is on point
Tantek Çelik: Hi everyone, from Mozilla and W3C AB, wanted to jump in -- I can sympathize a lot with Heather's question, have worked w/ W3C at various levels... IE, member, ... one of the things we're trying to do w/ AB, move more and more what AB does, process/bureaucracy into the open for more transparency and more engagement.
Tantek Çelik: One of the things in AB, we try to do as much work on wiki...
Tantek Çelik: We have continued to make things public when we can, there are some issues that are sensitive to specific organizations/individuals, we try to do our best to respect their privacy/sensitivities, everything that involves a greater community -- AB gets a certain amount of information, we've made some progress on that, can make more progress on that front.
Tantek Çelik: Happy to have engagement today, thanks for the invitation.
Mike Prorock: We really appreciate the AB coming out to talk w/ us. The reality is W3C has grown/expanded, the personal interconnectivity might not be there, lack of meetings, etc.
David Singer: Quick apology for messy nature of AB, no one expected things to go on for that long... sorry, it's a difficult problem.
<heather_vescent> The sharing and transparency is appreciated. Thank you.
Bob Wyman: Folk will remember, back in late 1990s, there were a lot of people miffed when Web space was pulled out at IETF and moved over to W3C. Symbolically, the difference between RFC1866 RFC2854 -- going from spec to media type definition... question is: Why wouldn't standards-making portions move back to IETF? They're transparent, "daddy-free", why not just move the standards bit back to IETF?
David Singer: We did talk about that, operating modes are so different from W3C and IETF, we couldn't figure out how to do that w/o dislocating, it remains an open question.
<cwilso> qq+
Eric Siow: In addition to what David said, we still have a Host controlling W3C -- at end of day, in my personal view, we need to have a consensus/broad support from membership in whatever we do.
Eric Siow: That point I'm making isn't specific to IETF, whatever plan we go in, the key ingredient is to have broad membership support.
Mike Prorock: Great point

Topic: Differences Between W3C and IETF

Chris Wilson: I wanted to chime in, there are a lot of values that W3C has that is not obvious, doesn't align well in IETF... we have been looking at different models, interestingly IETF isn't quite that either and they have some positive things about culture there, but at same time, they're not a 1-to-1 match for what W3C has done in the past, didn't want to lose that.
Tantek Çelik: I appreciate Bob's question, we should be making considerate choices, where and how to make standards -- creation of W3C from IETF, interesting history there, my own opinion: Something we've learned from open source communities and IETF, BDFL model is obsolete, W3C has not moved past that, one way or another, we need to do that.
<mprorock> BDFL - Benevolent Dictator for Life
Tantek Çelik: We recognize that what the requires is a higher level of mutual trust in the community, if you don't have BDFL, you have to build a higher level of trust in community... see link for details.
<bobwyman> In what ways is the standards process of W3C better than that of IETF? What would be lost by relying more on IETF?
<tzviya> CEPC= Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
Tantek Çelik: That is essential to move into model that doesn't have a BDFL... specifically, around IETF - lots overlaps with IETF, but there is a lot there that W3C has done and gone far beyond. Not an insult to IETF, but we have attracted another diverse set of folks that work on web standards, that is reflective of different values -- horizontal review, accessibility, W3C TAG operate differently, Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct -- we are supporters
Of CEPC, but it's different than code of conduct at IETF.
Tantek Çelik: It's important to maintain and not lose, how we maintain them is the question.
Mike Prorock: Yes, there are unique things there in how standards are approached.
<rgrant> Why not work the good ideas of CEPC into IETF, if they're good then why would they object?
Ted Thibodeau: I'm not an AC rep, not an AB member, there have been references to a number of things that are theoretically in public view, but I have not seen them yet. There have been references to office hows -- what calendar, where is that listed, how can I join?
Ted Thibodeau: I'm very well engaged, but I'm unaware of a chunk of things -- I'm in W3C Process CG, but this isn't mentioned there...
Mike Prorock: You're getting at something important Ted, there are gaps here.
Chris Wilson: I just wanted to say, there are definitely some gaps, W3C management has centered around W3C staff as proxy for all of membership, at one point it fit well.
Chris Wilson: For example, I am AC Rep for Google and one alternate, but it's been keeping some people out that have powerful things to say, like people who aren't AC reps... good feedback to take back. AC office hours have been for AC... I think they should just be W3C Office Hours, and whoever shows up, shows up.
Chris Wilson: As someone that's a frequent target, minutes and what you can do with those minutes, going truly public can lead to exposure that make some of us clam up a bit.
Ted Thibodeau: I can understand some of that, but this conversation is happening in CG... outer fringes of W3C involvement... many in here aren't exposed to this level of detail.
Tantek Çelik: +1 Strongly sympathize with TallTed's questions and concerns
<rgrant> queue check
Ted Thibodeau: I know pay to play model is problematic, company has to be big enough to make stuff happen... also have to pay dues... it's an evil nonetheless, I don't have answers.
<orie> Speaking as an AC rep, I pay for transparency, and accountability... and open standards work, conducted on a reasoanble timeline... all of which seem blocked by the LE issue.
<tzviya> vq
<bobwyman> Some CCG members, like me, are not affiliated with deep-pockets employers who can pay the W3C fees.
Heather Vescent: +1 Ted, b/c the reason *I* participate here is to head off Unintended Consequences of misapplication of technology (standards) at the root level. Which is a very different motivation for other participation.
<heather_vescent> Also, I sincerely appreciate Chris, David, Eric, Leonie, Tzviya and Tantek for being here and speaking with us. I know this is a conversation in progress. And I thank you for listening to this community and perspective.
David Singer: One of the problems here is the pandemic, fall TPC, or spring meeting -- take questions from members -- lacking those meetings that's been harder to do
<orie> I would suggest stop processing FOs and Charters until the future of the organization has been secured.
Tzviya Siegman: I agree with what David said -- people aren't equipped with questions that need to be asked. Legal entity on spring agenda. It needs to be more than AC that's informed in office hours, we have to find a better way to get this information out. Perhaps send it to Chairs and forward it on.
Mike Prorock: Can we stretch the meeting out a bit more? Can folks go past top of hour?
<pl> go for it
Ryan Grant: I thought IETF question was important, funding is existential. I didn't hear specific incompatibilities -- vague incompatibilities - I think that's a concern.
<orie> IETF doesn't care about politics or feelings enough... maybe harsh, but true... see CEPC differences.
Chris Wilson: I would raise as a specific thing, IETF model for patent policy is very different, a lot looser, there is nothing to prevent anyone from taking work to IETF, to not doing it at W3C. Progressively over time, we've been trying to ensure that W3C isn't a place where things get sucked in and can't get out -- can move work elsewhere, can move work to WHATWG... if IETF is a good match, go do that work at IETF. Where is the community that wants to work
On this? <-- that's the question. You have to respect patent policy and copyright, plenty of efforts wrt. IETF -- not interested in changing that, if IETF is the better location, I am not opposed to that.
Mike Prorock: Those things are complementary.
Tantek Çelik: +1 Strong agreement with cwilso, let's support communities choosing their own destination
Anil John: I am a technical director at US Department of Homeland Security -- lot of things need to be fixed, but let me share why we chose why to engage at W3C for work in public interest.
Anil John: Community Groups enabled anyone globally to provide input into incubation for things that could end up on standards track, important for us to have global technical audience to weigh in. Yes, it's difficult and noisy and messy, but it is of immense value to have a Community structure that provides input into that work.
Anil John: We liked that it was an IP protected environment, and having a path for going from there to official standardization at W3C... patent and royalty free is very important for public governments.
Heather Vescent: +1 Anil. The Community Group structure supports government innovation funding in a transparent and open way. Seeing this happen here at the w3C has given me renewed faith that government funding is an alternate viability to supporting technology innovations.
Anil John: This is technology that's important for single actors and large governments. I hear concerns that are raised, I hear phrases like "Member-driven" -- there are many organizations out there that pretend to be standards organizations, but they are vendor-driven facades... W3C is not one of those.
Mike Prorock: +1 Anil - the "false" standard group is something we deal with a lot, especially in agriculture
Anil John: As you go to member-driven, is it truly inclusive, is it truly for a broader public audience, or does it give more weight to sponsors/funders. Whatever governance structure for the future, funding is part and parcel, but if you want openness of web to persist, you need to balance between not just pay to play members be the ones that can have majority vote and block other work.
Anil John: FInancial transaction transparency is very important, this is why DHS is here and we continue to champion W3C paths to standardization, how best to structure governance model moving forward?
Mike Prorock: We see these "false standards orgs" in agriculture space daily.
Eric Siow: Anil, thank you for your comments, it resonates with those of us that have been working really hard on this. Leonie has made a point earlier that we want to make sure that all technical work that members, everything we're used to in terms of technical development, innovation remains the same.
Eric Siow: Speaking on behalf of Intel, we are one of the organizations that would be willing to consider helping to fund new legal entity. I can assure you that my organization is very conscientious of keeping the ecosystem healthy and having wide participation.
Eric Siow: We do not want to get into a situation where it is perceived that we're taking ove rthe Web, a healthy ecosystem serving the public is the goal.
Chris Wilson: To add to what Eric and Leonie said, it's important to understand -- two efforts in AB, legal entity work and Director-free effort. They are heavily related, but not exactly the same. Director has responsibilities about managing entity itself. Director also drive technical program, they are permanent member of TAG, that's where Formal Objections go today. We are trying to treat these as separate, things related to technical program, those have to
Be non-preferential.
Chris Wilson: We have to ensure that people are not "buying technical decisions" -- that would be bad, many of us think that's bad.
Chris Wilson: The hard part is getting people to care and show up -- I'm particularly masochistic because I guess I keep showing up to this, Google has enough money to help me do that, but not to drive their technical agenda, we don't talk about technical agendas in Advisory Board, for eample, important to solve for that, come up w/ solutions for structure as well. People show up -- need to set up organization for success.
Chris Wilson: ... But we need to keep that separate from technical decision making.
Mike Prorock: That is a great point to call out, there is a financial stake for Hosts... transparency around financial management is difficult.
Tantek Çelik: To add to what Chris and Eric said, I want to make it clear, how do people end up on Advisory Board, there is an election every year where half of the AB is elected. People nominate... people don't need to be W3C members per sec (Invited Experts can be elected). People brought to AB are expected to provide their perspective NOT their company's perspective. If you look at AB, you can look at companies, but we're there. I have worked for Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft, I know what big corporation influence looks like, but have also done as individual, as a startup, it's really important that we keep playing field open, regardless of organization affiliation or perceived influence in that regard.
Tantek Çelik: For everyone on AB, they are bringing their own expertise, their own value judgements, not bringing "this is our company policy". I don't know if folks were aware of that, but that's what we're bringing to AB.
Bob Wyman: Tell us in text [scribe assist by Ryan Grant]
<mprorock> thanks bob - please get Question in text
<mprorock> and / or on the list/github
Eric Siow: Just to react to financial transparency, and add on to Tantek. I have a financial background, I'm not an engineer, at the AB, shocked at financial statement, none of it made sense to me. How can an organization be around for 25 years and not have financial reserves, if an economic downturn, org will be in trouble. From that perspective, whoever provides funding, foundation, ISOC, or volunteer companies, it makes sense to have oversight over
Financial discipline.
<bobwyman> I'm not a member of W3C but, I've been working on this stuff longer than virtually anyone who is. While I can participate easily in IETF work, I'm always wondering what I'm "allowed" to do or see in the W3C...
<heather_vescent> Thank you all.
<heather_vescent> Thank you Mike for setting up this call.
Mike Prorock: Thanks all for the conversation today, really great to have the AB here today -- good precedent to have this out in the open. This is a step in the right direction. Can't thank you enough, this is an important topic, looking forward to finding a way through this.
<charles_e._lehner> Great discussion, very interesting!
<eric_siow> Thank you for having us.
<rgrant> thx
<orie> Thanks AB!
<tantek> Thanks for having us!