W3C Advisory Board elections are getting lots of traction from W3C members. Questions, suggestions, initiatives are multiplied and when being part of the candidates, you need to take position, agreeing disagreeing… For example voting system discussion (see the W3C public process mailing list thread). But there is behind this voting question, the question of W3C participants. Who are they ? Do they really represent the web ? Do they really represent the web developer comunity.
But first, why would we need more web developers ? Actually, we do have some smart and brilliant ones. But most of the time, the ones working for big companies, big structures or universities. But they might not represent the actual developer who will be torturing the features and APIs embedded in browsers. Some of them are present, but a majority is not.
As a tourist. Since I entered the web community, I am going into web developers conferences to learn, meet people, evangelize also security. And each time I am explaining I am representing my company in W3C, I can see stars in the eyes of my interlocutor. “Such a great job, so lucky to be there ?”. And I am always thinking. “Well, if I can do it, you should be able to do it, especially because you have already designed a super-nice-smart-cool web app, something I have never done in my life, but which is on my to do list “.
As a chair. In the working group I am chairing, we are in theory 50 people, but 10 of them are driving the work. They are mainly browser vendors and there is one service provider. Off course all those guys are educated and connected with web developers community. But it happens that W3C needs also to design APIs which is not going to be used by the 3 or 4 use cases that group participants are thinking about, for them, and for their own developer community. And it happens also that sometimes we miss a feedback from the real life (as an example, in the web crypto API, we asked, please mister or mrs web dev, give me your opinion on the best design, but reviews are always hard to get).
What I think. I think that W3C needs to interact more with the web developers community, not only during events and conferences (which is already something great, see http://www.w3.org/Talks/), but also *in* W3C. We need fresh blood. To review and challenge the spec. To make sure the feature designed will be actually widely used, wider than initially thought. To help in prioritizing the features we want to develop (we may call our mate, our mum, our brother to decide which feature is the most urgent, but they may have exactly the same opinion as ours). To edit specifications (see the very good post from Robin Berjon explaining how it is difficult to have editors). To beta-test API prior it is shipped. To counter balance the opinion of the super-hyper-expert who maybe lost his or her freshness.
How to have more web developers ?
With a 2 steps approach.
One. Make sure that all working group participants, chairs, editors are always ambassadors of the W3C. Getting traction from web developers they meet, convincing them to look at the spec, comment, be involved. This is very easy for popular specifications like EME (everyone has something to say about EME, right ?), WebRTC (which is so powerfull that it pulls entire conferences), Service Workers (which is promoted by charismatic people). This can only happen if all W3C participants are educated on a regular basis on what is going on, by receiving training, regular reviews on domain activities. The quest here is information for all,…
Two. Make sure there is a structure to welcome the web developers. W3C has different members status. You can be a startup, you can be an invited expert, but the individual membership is not yet available. When Brian Kardell pointed me on a group of people in W3C setting up the basis of a web developer individual membership, I realized that it was exactly the missing piece. This ‘webizen’ task force https://www.w3.org/wiki/Webizen will share the result of its thinking in June 2014, during the W3C Advisory Council meeting, where all W3C members representatives meet. Webizen brainstorming is open to anyone, so if you feel you have ideas, do not hesitate. The quest here is W3C membership for all.
I really hope that W3C and its current members will succeed in lowering the entry barrier to W3C and benefit from having all players around the table, including web developers. Integration of web developers into W3C circles, getting them more involved in discussions and decisions, as candidate to AB election, I support that !
Note : picture ‘Gamme’ by Romain https://www.flickr.com/photos/xyotiogyo/