The W3C Advisory Board (AB) election 2017 just started, and I am not running this time. I have said multiple times the way people are elected is far too conservative, giving a high premium to "big names" or representatives of "big companies" on one hand, tending to preserve a status-quo in terms of AB membership on the other. Newcomers and/or representative of smaller companies have almost zero chance to be elected. Even with the recent voting system changes, the problem remains.

Let me repeat here my proposal for both AB and TAG: two consecutive mandates only; after two consecutive mandates, elected members cannot run again for re-election at least during at least one year.

But let's focus on current candidates. Or to be more precise, on their electoral program:

  1. Mike Champion (Microsoft), who has been on the AB for years, has a clear program that takes 2/3rds of his AB nominee statement.
    1. increase speed on standards
    2. bridge the gap existing between "fast" implementors and "slow" standards
    3. better position W3C internally
    4. better position W3C externally
    5. help the Web community
  2. Rick Johnson (VitalSource Technologies | Ingram Content Group) does not have a detailed program. He wants to help the Publishing side of W3C.
  3. Charles McCathie Nevile (Yandex) wants
    1. more pragmatism
    2. to take "into account the broad diversity of its membership both in areas of interest and in size and power" but he has "been on the AB longer than any current participant, including the staff", which does not promote diversity at all
  4. Natasha Rooney (GSMA) has a short statement with no program at all.
  5. Chris Wilson (Google Inc.), who has also been elected to the AB twice already, wants :
    1. to engage better developers and vendors
    2. to focus better W3C resources, with more agility and efficiency
    3. to streamline process and policies to let us increase speed and quality
  6. Zhang Yan (China Mobile Communications Corporation) does not really have a clear program besides "focus on WEB technology for 5G, AI and the Internet of things and so on"
  7. Judy Zhu (Alibaba (China) Co., Ltd.) wants:
    1. to make W3C more globalized (good luck on that one...)
    2. to make W3C Process more usable/effective/efficient
    3. increase W3C/industries collaboration (but isn't it a industrial consortium already?)
    4. increase agility
    5. focus more on security and privacy

If I except the mentions of agility and Process, let me express a gut feeling: this is terribly depressing. Candidacy statements from ten years ago look exactly the same. They quote the same goals. They're even phrased the same way... But in the meantime, we have major topics on the meta-radar (non-exhaustive list):

  • the way the W3C Process is discussed, shaped and amended is so incredibly long it's ridiculous. Every single major topic Members raised in the last ten years took at least 2 years (if not six years) to solve, leaving Groups in a shameful mess. The Process is NOT a Technical Report that requires time, stability and implementations. It's our Law, that impacts our daily life as Members. When an issue is raised, it's because it's a problem right now and people raising the issue expect to see the issue solved in less than "years", far less than years.
  • no mention at all of finances! The finances of the W3C are almost a taboo, that only a few well-known zealots like yours truly discuss, but they feed all W3C activities. After years of instability, and even danger, can the W3C afford keeping its current width without cutting some activities and limiting its scope? Can the W3C avoid new revenue streams? Which ones?
  • similarly, no mention of transparency! I am not speaking of openness of our technical processes here, I am very clearly and specifically speaking of the transparency of the management of the Consortium itself. The way W3C is managed is far too vertical and it starts being a real problem, and a real burden. We need changes there. Now.
  • the role of the Director, another taboo inside W3C, must be discussed. It is time to acknowledge the fact the Director is not at the W3C any more. It's time to stop signing all emails "in the name of the Director', handle all transition conference calls "in the name of the Director" but almost never "with the Director". I'm not even sure we need another Director. It's time to acknowledge the fact Tim should become Honorary Director - with or without veto right - and distribute his duties to others.
  • we need a feedback loop and very serious evaluation of the recent reorganization of the W3C. My opinion is as follows: nobody knows who to contact and it's a mess of epic magnitude. The Functional leaders centralize input and then re-dispatch it to others, de facto resurrecting Activities and adding delays to everything. The reorg is IMHO a failure, and a rather expensive one in terms of effectiveness.
  • W3C is still not a legal entity, and it does not start being a burden... it's been a burden for eons. The whole architecture of W3C, with regional feet and a too powerful MIT, is a scandalous reminiscence of the past.
  • our election system for AB and TAG is too conservative. People stay there for ages, while all our technical world seems to be reshaped every twelve months. My conclusion is simple, and more or less matches what Mike Champion said : the Consortium is not tailored any more to match its technical requirements. Where we diverge: I understand Mike prefers evolution to revolution, I think evolution is not enough any more and revolution is not avoidable any more. We probably need to rethink the W3C from the ground up.
  • Incubation has been added to W3C Process in a way that is perceived by some as a true scandal. I am not opposed at all to Incubation, but W3C has shown a lack of caution, wisdom, consensus and obedience to its own Process that is flabbergasting. W3M acts fast when it need to remind a Member about the Process, but W3M itself seems to work around the Process all the time. The way Charters under review are modified during the Charter Review itself is the blatant example of that situation.

Given how far the candidacy statements are from what I think are the real and urgent issues of the W3C, I'm not even sure I am willing to vote... I will eventually cast a ballot, sure, but I stand by my opinion above: this is depressing.

I am now 50 years old, I have been contributing to W3C for, er, almost 22 years and that's why I will not run any more. We need younger people, we need different perspectives, we need different ways of doing, we need different futures. We need a Consortium of 2017, we still have a Consortium of 2000, we still have the people of 2000. If I was 20 today, born with the Web as a daily fact, how would I react looking at W3C? I think I would say « oh that old-school organization... » and that alone explains this whole article.

Conclusion for all W3C AB candidates: if you want my vote, you'll have to explain better, much better, where you stand in front of these issues. What do you propose, how do you suggest to implement it, what's your vision for W3C 2020. Thanks.