Link compilation, final thoughts, and compromises

Baldur Bjarnason
May 18, 2016 · 3 min read

The preamble:

It started with the announcement of a proposed merger between the IDPF and the W3C but the debate really began with Peter Brantley’s post where he came out in favour of the idea:

Books, in a browser

The thing to read after that is probably my blog post which compiles some of my Medium posts and the discussion after that:

A few thoughts on standardisation, W3C, and the IDPF

Dave Cramer responded to this post in detail:

W3C and IDPF: Better Together?

My response was to highlight the two different philosophies that are at play within the W3C.

My first, short, response to you on this IDPF/W3C thing

One thing that got a bit lost in the discussion here is that this isn’t a criticism of the W3C. Nor is it intended to be a slight against the publishing industry. I was trying to suggest that there are other pathways and tactics within the W3C to pursue if you want to maximise the odds of book-related specifications being implemented by browser vendors. This isn’t a question of me trying to reform the W3C but of making sure that reading on the web is improved using processes that the W3C already has.

If you don’t care about browser implementation or browser-based reading, nothing I’ve written in this debate applies to you. I am solely interested in what I can make happen within the browser. If you aren’t interested in browser-implementation, the venn diagram of our interests is two non-overlapping circles.

I followed the above post up with a couple of Medium posts that were largely references and talking points for Twitter discussions all of whom are already a part of one of the posts above but benefited from being emphasised separately. These links got a bit lost in the mix in the essays and I think a lot of people missed them when reading (my fault, apologies).

These links specifically:

The blink-dev email announcing blink’s incubation first policy.

A few tweets by Alex Russell on some of his motivation for playing a part in the policy.

This blog post outlines some of the issues with the expert-led approach in general. Does a really good job of it too.

Deming’s 95/5 rule is a nice and simple model for why I think change is needed.

The last Medium post was a few lines on why mergers are risky in general which is why I don’t think the merger is a good idea:

Mergers are inherently risky

After that discussion on Twitter I feel that I have made my case regarding the merger and arguing it further serves no purpose other than to make noise. If people of the IDPF and the W3C, being aware of other people’s concerns and after having assessed them, decide that the merger is the right thing to do, who am I to argue against that?

With regards to the community-led approach, there is no need to try and force a wholesale shift. Forcing anybody to do anything goes against the spirit and the soul of the community-led approach, which would make such a move hypocritical and counter-productive.

If pointing out the incubation processes that the W3C is rolling out leads to people testing that approach for publication-related specs, and if I have the freedom to choose the process within the W3C that I think has the lowest risk when I do get involved, then that is already more than I have any right to ask for.

From my perspective, this entire debate is about how processes have different risk profiles depending on the problems they are tackling. Processes that are low risk for one context are high risk in others. None of this is about certainties. No one approach, no one strategy, is certain to succeed or fail. Odds vary; nothing is certain.

My argument is solely that the clear failure of prior ebook-related specifications should give us more than enough cause to investigate other processes. And, as it happens, the W3C is rolling out another process that is community-led and has a different risk profile. It seems logical to try it.

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