Standards/Participating in a W3C Working Group
Ways to participate (to join or not to join)
W3C working groups have a defined membership: people can become a member of a working group or community group by being nominated by a W3C member company, by being invited by the chairs of the group (an invited expert), or by being a W3C staff member placed on the group by the W3C. However, most W3C working groups have most of their technical discussion on public mailing lists, which means that non-members can participate in many of the activities of the group. So, when you approach a W3C working group, you could decide to do so by becoming a member of the group or just by joining the public mailing list and participating in the discussion.
How should one choose between these alternatives? While there's a good bit of variation between groups depending on the charter of the group, its chair(s), and the other participants in the group, I suggest considering the following factors:
- being a member of the group signals Mozilla's support for a group to others (e.g., W3C staff, others in the industry). (This means that if the group is working on something we don't like, being a member may confuse other companies into thinking that Mozilla supports or is contributing to the work of the group).
- members of the group may (depending on the charter of the group) have more ability to influence the decisions and the output of the group
- if you want to attend face-to-face meetings or teleconferences of the group, you should be a member of the group
- the group may have expectations that members participate (e.g., by attending phone or face-to-face meetings, by keeping up with certain aspects of the discussion). These vary by group and are described in the "Participation" section of the group's charter.
- some mailing lists may require being a member of the group to subscribe (although this is rare), even when the archives are publicly viewable
- becoming a member of the working group involves making some patent commitments, which may make other participants more comfortable accepting your contributions
- other members of the group may expect somebody representing Mozilla is responsible for implementation work / decisions in Gecko; if you're not, you may wish to consider being extra clear about what your role is
When you decide you want to participate:
- If you want to just join the public mailing list:
- Send an email to "firstname.lastname@example.org" with the subject "subscribe". (Don't forget to add the "-request" to the end of the list name.)
- Reply to the automated reply.
- If you want to become a member of the working group, and you work for Mozilla:
- Make sure you have a W3C member access account associated with Mozilla:
- Contact Mozilla's Advisory Committee Representative, David Baron, and ask him to add you to the group.
Suggestions for participation
- Avoid making promises you can't keep, even if pressured to do so.
- Try to avoid speaking on behalf of Mozilla. If the process or other participants in the working group want you to speak on behalf of Mozilla, question such process or participants. However, rather than staying silent in such a situation, it's probably a good idea to both state your position and clearly state how much Mozilla consensus there is behind that position. Though it's not an ideal situation, it's ok for Mozilla's employees to disagree with each other on the best way to move the Web forward and implement Mozilla's mission.
Suggestions for chairing
If you end up as the chair of a group, you should become more familiar with the process, since you'll sometimes be responsible for enforcing them (along with a team contact, if the group is a working group). Some documents that are helpful are:
- W3C Process (for working groups)
- community group process (for community groups)
- The Art of Consensus: A Guidebook for W3C Group Chairs and Participants
- W3C Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct