I recently had some discussions with mozillians on ways they could contribute to the W3C working group I am chairing . This question made me rethink about the magic path individuals have to go through to contribute to W3C work.
W3C is a place where contributions are welcome, free, easy to do. For my readers not familiar with the W3C process, most working groups, interest groups, business groups have public mailing lists for member contributions, but also mailing list dedicated to comments – the lists managed by W3C can be found here : http://lists.w3.org/. In addition, there always are contacts given for editors, chairs, W3C staff, aiming to ease the direct exchange.
But. If you wish to contribute, it means that you have to solve another bigger problem. It means that you have to be able to identify that something is going on in W3C, expecting your review, expertise and nasty comments.
For individuals belonging to W3C member companies, that is relatively easy. Members are represented by Advisory Committee representatives. All AC reps gather twice a year, in nice places, where the W3C staff share both status and hugs. The meeting content is tailor-made for members, with overviews, and focus on specific topics. And this is usually ok. So, if the AC rep attends that meeting, if the AC rep reports to his team(s), that is the perfect situation. But if not…
For non-W3C members, curious individuals, start-ups, geeks, this is another story. They must monitor the W3C’s activities on their own. They can make sure they register to the excellent newsletter that the W3C team issues on a weekly basis. Press, blog and actual publication or specification transitions are collected here http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-w3c-digest/. They can visit all working groups blogs, wikis, githubs praying that they are maintained. They can also subscribe to the public mailing lists and read (thousands of emails). If they have time. But who has that time ?
I am paid to be an AC rep’, I love W3C; as chair, I am trying as much as possible to spread the word to the public. I am also reporting inside my company, making status updates, consolidating information I am grabbing on different media, creating dashboards, explaining trends, mentioning implementations… This takes time. This costs money to small companies.
This is why I think it would be worth having nice and structured dashboards for each domain handled by W3C, made available to anyone, contributors, developers, but also decision makers. Giving a global view on what is going on in W3C, what are the current priorities. Something like for the mobile area here : http://www.w3.org/Mobile/mobile-web-app-state/ but for all the domains.
I know. This is easy to ask, less easy to deploy. But I’d be happy to help, to make sure all the potential contributors can actually be aware of what is going on in the W3C kitchen.
 initial conversation about contribution blockers in W3C : https://twitter.com/annevk/status/444069161321242624
Note : photo credit: Jodaur via photopin cc