The W3C Credentials Community Group

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W3C CCG Weekly Teleconference

Transcript for 2022-08-09

Manu Sporny is scribing.
Mike Prorock: Welcome everyone to the weekly CCG call. I appreciate the folks jumping in from Asia-Pacific. We are going to get an update from the Advisory Board today. We'll drive into that in a moment.
Mike Prorock: This meeting is covered by the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. All substantive contributors need to be members of CCG.
Mike Prorock: We are just taking a light transcription today, no audio or video recording.
Mike Prorock: We queue speakers w/ raising a hand or you can q+
Mike Prorock: You can also do something like "q+ to mention XYZ"
Mike Prorock: If you don't have access to chat, you can be asked to be put on the queue. This meeting is held by voice, offtopic conversations might be removed.
Mike Prorock: We're going to get an update and then go into discussion.

Topic: Announcements

Manu Sporny: Announcement - 4 specs moving over the VCWG - please sign ip release if you have contributed to those docs [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Manu Sporny: Announcement- rebooting web of trust coming up in Sept. pre-tpac - please submit papers, etc [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Manu Sporny: Also please register for TPAC if you are interested - number of items related to CCG work will be there [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Manu Sporny: CHAPI updates are pushed publicly - allowing selection of issuers, etc and integration [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Kerri Lemoie: Yesterday, we opened up registration for the 2nd Jobs for the Future and Verifiable Credentials for Education plugfest.
Kerri Lemoie: We did have a VC EDU call yesterday, minutes will be published soon.
Mike Prorock: Thanks for the update on VC EDU appreciate the work done there.
Kaliya Young: Radical Exchange is hosting unconference at IIW to support dialogue around digital identity in decentralized socieities, looking at intersection of Decentralized Web, Decentralized Societies, link to the event above.
Kaliya Young: We'd love to see folks attend.
Mike Prorock: With that, let's dive into main topic of the call today -- update from the W3C Advisory Board, a follow on to meeting with Jeff Jaffe last week.

Topic: Update from W3C Advisory Board

Mike Prorock: We're going to get updates from all of them on how things are going in AB and with W3C Transition.
Mike Prorock: We work quite a bit on digital credentials here, broad usage starting... wanted to start off w/ a question -- progress of legal entity, spin off from MIT, what's going on, what's keeping you up at night?

Topic: W3C Host Organization Successes and Challenges

Florian Rivoal: Yes, happy to start... in terms of whats going good/bad -- a big achievement through last year was to manage to get agreement on a W3C Board design that has a W3C Member company majority on it. We have agreed on both principle and in detail now.
Florian Rivoal: It's keystone of everything for proper governance.
Florian Rivoal: For Chinese Beihang host and Japanese Keio host, we are having good productive discussions and are doing good work with them. Overall, community, membership, team is having good will and is trying to get us through this. We're all pulling in the same direction.
Florian Rivoal: In terms of a mixed bag -- MIT has been communicating, but they're taking the hard stance that they're exiting in December 2022, aside from some research, everything else is stopping... brutal stop hard date at end of year is not making things easy.
Florian Rivoal: In terms of ERCIM, we have next to no communication with the leadership -- no visibility in how they can work with legal entity in the future, these discussions have failed to start. That's the european host.
Florian Rivoal: In part due to MIT deadline, which makes it very clear where deadline is, we have very little time left (until end of year)... we have bylaws, but no details... other items remain partially done with little time to finish them.
Florian Rivoal: Overall, I think there is not a major concern about money in vs. money out -- it has been stable/steady-state-ish -- we might start out with very little money in the bank... even if flows are fine, we don't have much padding.
Mike Prorock: Getting at transition from hosted orgs to single entity, 27 years as separate orgs members reporting into these hosts... what are the primary impacts that could occur?
Chris Wilson: I want to calm any concerns that we would fail to consolidate -- it's important to understand that the pressure to transition is that one of the hosts wants to depart the hosting agreement. We have to do something about that. The consolidation is less time sensitive.
Chris Wilson: There are a couple of ways we could fail -- we could fail to bring all of provided services up to level of communities we've had -- Keio/Beihang have provided great support, we'd like to bring everyone up to this level.
Chris Wilson: We could stop providing support in US/EU -- but I don't think that'll happen.. Certainly Keio/Beihang will support. If we can't migrate to better unified community across the world, at the worst, we won't be worse off than we are today. We might fail to sieze the opportunity and be better.
Chris Wilson: The biggest concern I have is the financial end, the host structures have provided a financial buffer, and without them, we don't have that luxury anymore... it's a "What happens if there is a recession or a bunch of members leave?"
Chris Wilson: We'll get into that more later.

Topic: Asia-Pacific W3C Community Building

Mike Prorock: About community-driven side in Asia-Pacific -- there are a lot of lessons to be learned there. Opportunities to identify community building?
Mike Prorock: Dinwei, lessons that Americans and Europeans could learn from the successful community building done in Asia-Pacific region?
Wei Ding: I do think Beihang did a good job in the transition. I think it's the right way to go, for leveraging centralized resources helping W3C get to a better future. I'm not speaking for Beihang, but I communicate and work with them a lot, as AB. We may get some risks in the journey but which could be addressed well by working closely with our WGs, just like we are doing now.
Wei Ding: We believe we will get this done, we will help W3C build a strong community for the Web. Personally, I have strong confidence that we'll achieve that.
Mike Prorock: There seem to be some philosophical differences with how W3C is approaching the new organization -- Tzviya, mind providing input?
Tzviya Siegman: I think we're closer than we might seem to come across. We are making progress, we've worked hard to gain consensus, the details are where there are heated debate... while they are important, they are details.
Tzviya Siegman: This all comes back to losing sight of being respectful and understanding different communities. Sometimes we get wrapped up and lose sight of that.
Tzviya Siegman: We do have some disagreements... a mechanism to absorb all of the Hosts, vs. that not happening.
Tzviya Siegman: It looks like it's going to be impossible to absorb all of the hosts, hosts want some autonomy, need to build relationship with hosts that choose to work with us, come to an agreement on how best to move forward with our partners. That's where tensions are coming

Topic: Current Status and Confidence Level

Tzviya Siegman: David Singer, what is your confidence level with single member driven organization vs. separate Host structure -- multiple motivations involved, close contact w/ members, what's your read on that?
David Singer: It's overall positive, when we're constructing the legal entity, the board of that legal entity must be in control of how money is spent, we're moving budgetary over to board from Hosts and Partners, that will be a fundamental shift, that way we'll be agreeing on a global budget, what functions the budget will be supporting, who will be providing those fucntions, and so on. This is a fundamental shift in thinking that enhances our ability to think in a world wide way.
David Singer: At the moment, we're very much at the mercy of the partners and hosts, who are supposed to talk to each other, but that has been sporadic. Having a comprehensive look at spend has been challenging. I have strong hopes that by moving control of spending to central board, it'll help... it's a process that will be ongoing, but it is a catalytic change.
Mike Prorock: It looks like we'll maintain partnerships to Beihang and Keio, if we centralize, will that change things, what are the concerns?
Léonie Watson: Until we figure it out, there will be concerns, like so many other things w/ legal entity, what we want, each of regional partners has to offer, we need to balance that against need. Our existing host organizations... 4 of them... 195+ countries in the world, bringing it back to community, that's the balance we need to strike.
Léonie Watson: Certainly across different areas, different regional areas that do exist, it'll mean creating regional communities -- maybe Host hasn't helped much in the past, someone better might step in.
Mike Prorock: Nb: 3 more quick questions and then we will open up queue for more open Q&A
Léonie Watson: This is not just contract negotiation, but real answer will touch on different areas of governance or have oversight (new board).
Mike Prorock: Igarashi-san, what are you hearing from AC members... what are you seeing from Japan, companies/members you engage with? Any concerns regarding the transition?
Tatsuya Igarashi: I focus on geographic diversity on operation of W3C, as you know, W3C Keio, that community formalized in Japan, we have a local activity, partner will continue to take that role.
Tatsuya Igarashi: I don't have a big concern on the legal entity, the main purpose is the strong governance of W3C operation... governance, geographic diversity.

Topic: Financial Outlook of W3C, Inc.

Mike Prorock: Eric Siow, given your financial background, what's your assessment of financial viability of new legal entity -- ability to raise funds, thoughts?
Eric Siow: Yes, Mike, you're right, financials are a big concern for us... Historically, MIT and the other hosts take a cut of the revenue, and they charge an overhead on top of salaries and services that they provide to W3C. So, when revenue is short, they cover the shortfall. After the spinoff, W3C Inc will be a standalone entity, it needs to be self-sustaining... wrt. risk assessment, we are unable to give a definitive assessment at this point. It has been quite challenging to create a realistic financial forecast. We're working through the details in the MIT financial records. It is a different accounting method. There are items that we have to figure out.
Eric Siow: There is also an ongoing negotiation of assets at W3C. The most important is how much cash will MITtransfer to W3C, Inc. at the end of year. Another thing that's challenging, we're still negotiating with the hosts, when we're transitioning and the terms of the transitions. Obviously, we're sailing into uncertain economic times. We have to get our arms around the potential impact from the economic downturn.
Eric Siow: It is probably that we'll need funding based on what we know today.
Eric Siow: My concern is the tight deadline, fundraising is a very time consuming process. I'm less concerned about availability of funding, I don't know if the organization will be ready for the due diligence process. It's critical that we win the trust and confidence of funders. This means that the financial information provided must be accurate and reliable. We will also need a realistic, rational and credible business plan. The management team has to demonstrate the ability and willingness to identify issues and articulate a compelling plan to address them.
Eric Siow: Finally, you have to give funders assurance that you will have strong oversight and governance.
<kaliya_identitywoman> This is slightly orthogonal to where the conversation is - What about Web3 efforts around standardization - DIDs/VCs are a starting point but you have the Chain Agnostic Standards Alliance that is just writing stuff in GitHub.

Topic: Mitigations for Worst Case Scenarios

Mike Prorock: Tantek, there are a lot of moving pieces here, you've been around for a while -- what should we realistically be doing other than produce good technical output? What is your read on things?
Tantek Çelik: Thanks for having me and the rest of the AB as well -- I've been working w/ CSS and other technologies for 20 years, been on Advisory Board for 5 years as well -- worked at several layers of the stack. Big lesson learned -- we're here to do technical work of standardization. We shouldn't lose focus on that, that's why we're at W3C, that's why we collectively participate, there are other benefits... W3C is not a social club, that's not the point of why we're here, we're here to collaborate on work of technical standardization.
Tantek Çelik: Once we recognize that as a priority, we want the communities to be productive regardless of structures changing/shifting around us. There are a couple of measures we've taken over th eyears -- the permissive license was one of them.
Tantek Çelik: That is what CCG/VCWG uses -- that enables the technical work of standardization to happen anywhere... it puts prioritization of doing technical work at center. There is a priority of constituents in HTML, users over browsers over academic purity. It doesn't refer to beaureaucrats... we're talking about a bureacratic structure whose entire goal should be to enable technical work. The legal structure should be last, it's a means to an end... by centering that value/prirotiy, we can see how community here is doing good work, freedom with license to work wherever necessary, beyond that, this community has done a great job of supporting their own infrastructure.
Tantek Çelik: The Jitsi-IRC integration is a great example of communities supporting themselves, there is a lot the members and communities can do, and CCG has particularly done, that can weather the storms -- I want to praise that work. If worse comes to worse, W3C disappears/server stop working, groups could design for that, but a lot of that has been done in this group.
Tantek Çelik: Like, if IRC goes down, where do you go? Jitsi chat works well, maybe that works for this group. This group and other groups should have that conversation w/ themselves and others... how could we reduce impact of these kinds of uncertainties. That doesn't mean we don't want W3C, we want a good healthy organization.
<igarashi_> I have a little bit concern on the ERCIM situation from the perspective of geological diversity. W3C should have presence in Europe.
Tantek Çelik: We should also be able to control our own destiny.
Mike Prorock: Yes, this group controls its own destinity, sometimes to the aggravation of others... mailing list and async communications could be of concern.
<david_singer> (It's a real pleasure to meet with you again. Thanks for having us here.)

Topic: W3C Advisory Board and Credentials Community Q/A

Manu Sporny: Clarity on hosts / ercim in particular and communication path there? [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Manu Sporny: Question 2 - how to "build a rainy day fund" for new org [scribe assist by Mike Prorock]
Manu Sporny: What is the communiation issue with ERCIM? What other mechanisms for alternative funding have been considered?
Léonie Watson: As for ERCIM, it's complicated -- with ERCIM and their motivations, there are people in the Team with benefits/packages through long service with ERCIM and we need to understand that some of these people (rightly) don't want to walk away from those benefits that they've worked so hard for.
Léonie Watson: As for the rainy day fund, we do need to look at that -- two sides to that answer, the new organization is going to have to behave like it's a bootstrap startup without funding... with limited funds. That's a big part of the attitude we need to go in with.
Mike Prorock: +1 Tink
Léonie Watson: How can we bootstrap up to the next tier... under consideration.
Florian Rivoal: With regards to ERCIM, we are guessing... ERCIM leadershpi has not communicated at all.... the ERCIM staff is communicating. We have little hope that discussion will be engaged through the rest of the year. One way or the other, as soon as there is a board, we need to start conversation w/ ERCIM, once we have a representative governance body in place, from that point, all indications is that ERCIM wants to continue to be a center in Europe.
Florian Rivoal: If people are going to behave reasonably, we can probably have a good resolution here. We need a time buffer to get to that solution.
Mike Prorock: So, once there is a new W3C Board structure, they will be able to directly engage with ERCIM? The current leadership is unable to do so?
Florian Rivoal: We do not know why ERCIM is not responding... not because new people in charge, but as David alluded to, currently we don't have central governance above the hosts... they're all responsible for their own part. Once we have a board, there will be a central governance structure. It will be incredibly self-destructive if they don't engage. W3C Member continuity isn't difficult, just assign them to a different organization, but hopefully we can just continue with ERCIM.
Florian Rivoal: Given lack of engagement, we might have to turn to alternatives.
Tzviya Siegman: It's important to recognize that there is good reason to work with ERCIM, the staff of ERCIM have been incredibly engaged, there is a great pride in ERCIM to be involved in W3C... it was founded in Europe, we want a way to hold on to that.
Tzviya Siegman: There is a proposal about coming to something complete... not full partner agreement, but perhaps research agreement, we want to maintain the relationship ... but perhaps not in the same way as before.
Tzviya Siegman: Nobody wants to do away with ERCIM, valuable partner, bring them up to level of partner we'd like to see.
David Singer: On ERCIM, there are some aspects of ERCIM that are entangled in personal relationships that the W3C Board could address.
David Singer: On the funding question, it's good to remember that we have a funding problem, we decided a few years ago that we shouldn't go on without it, but now we don't have that and have to move, and so now we have to behave like a startup.
Mike Prorock: +1 Tantek
David Singer: When you ask people for money, they as either 1) show me that you're a fiscally well run organizations -- our books are incomprehensible and we don't have an accumulated reserve, or 2) they want oversight into how money will be handled. Some people want W3C to be run as flat organization with no tiered sponsorship (how can we protect ourselves from sponsors instead of how can we attract them)
David Singer: So, we will have to act like a startup without a buffer.
Mike Prorock: Look at Tantek's link about chapters and points about accountability & asking questions, etc.
Chris Wilson: I'll be brief, I agree with everything that David said about funding -- we do need to ensure that W3C is a well run, fiscially responsible organization. We need to accumulate a reserve, in the past we couldn't keep a reserve because Hosts didn't put it aside, there was no entity to secure those funds. We need to have fiscal responsibility, if we can get money from people, providing oversight of funds... want to underscore this is "fiscal responsibility" not "technical agenda".
<eric_siow> Big +1 to Chris.
Tantek Çelik: +1 Chris
Chris Wilson: No one has been looking for control over "technical agenda" -- we haven't taken money in the past w/o fiscal responsibility in place -- once we have a board in place, figuring out what that plan is is important.
Tantek Çelik: Our systems of leadership and power work best when we continue to ask questions. My call to action is to keep asking questions, please keep challenging and questioning the systems of power and control that you're subject to... the values, transparency, we only benefit when you do so.
Tantek Çelik: Four hosts is not representative of a 195 countries, no matter who that host is, that is too centralized... the chapters program is not well known about, but it does exist and have potential, it's far more decentralized and local to communities. I wanted to leave you all with that potential ray of hope. Please keep asking questions, keeping status quo, stay the course are problematic. We are in a change, we have to participate in steering in the direction that we want.
Mike Prorock: +1 To local chapters, that has helped well in the environmental movements.
Mike Prorock: Thank you to everyone from AB for your time, everyone here from both CG perspective and AB have a lot to offer. Much, much appreciated, especially for those that have joined us from 3am their local time.
<david_singer> (great being with you all again. thank you)
<phil_l_(p1)> Appreciation to the AB members for sharing the story unfolding.
<eric_siow> Thank you for having us.
<dingwei> thank you CCG, bye
Mike Prorock: This is super helpful, we'll switch back to more technical topics after this week... but this stuff is important, which is why we covered it.
<tantek> Thanks for having us