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Brian Kardell
  • Developer Advocate at Igalia
  • Original Co-author/Co-signer of The Extensible Web Manifesto
  • Co-Founder/Chair, W3C Extensible Web CG
  • Member, W3C (OpenJS Foundation)
  • Co-author of HitchJS
  • Blogger
  • Art, Science & History Lover
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Posted on 12/23/2018

Alice 2019

I began blogging about W3C politics and elections in 2012. If you've read my pieces before or are otherwise already familliar with the W3C Technical Architecture Group, you can skip ahead to "Alright, tell me about this election". If, however, you find youself thinking "Elections in W3C? Politics?" then let me fill you in.

Elections? W3C Politics?

Yes. I wrote a brief (~400 word) "Primer for Busy People" on the general "parts" of the W3C and introducing the two elected bodies, and if you find any of these terms confusing, pop over and give that a read.

While working groups (like the CSS Working Group, for example) are unbounded in size and composed through 'appointment', the Technical Architecture Group (TAG) is kind of different. It is chaired by "The Director" (still currently Sir Tim Berners-Lee) and composed of a very small number of "seats", a little over half of those are filled through an election process.

Ok, but what does the TAG do?

While working groups are focused on solving particular problems, the TAG's job is to make sure it all makes sense together - to be a kind of steering committee for the W3C/Web at large. They are charged with the broad view and direction - asking questions about things that seem problematic or inconsistent and giving helpful feedback and advice to help pull it all together and guide everyone along.

So, basically, if you have 'broader' concerns within the W3C, the TAG can help guide things along and maybe help give them a nudge.

Houdini, for example, was a discussion that began in the W3C TAG and became a Task Force with members from all of the major browser vendors on it. In merely a couple of years (that is light speed in Web standards), things that seemed highly implausible and maybe not worth the time now seem both reasonable and exciting to all the members I've talked to, not just those currently implementing.

Even simple things like making sure in reviews that API signatures were similar and consistent across the platform are a huge win.

Alright, tell me about this election!

I think it's fairly important that we keep The W3C TAG staffed with the right mix of people for the right times and continue to improve how the W3C and standards work. I think it is important that Web developers are kept in mind and have a voice, and so for the last few years I have blogged about who I thought should be elected, and why - and asked developers to lend their support asking W3C member companies to support this choice (or make their own). This worked. Candidates that we publicly supported were overwelmingly elected.

And then...

A little over a year ago, the W3C changed the way that elections work. Previously, people could cast 1 vote per open seat and the people with the most ballots filled the seats. It was imperfect, but it was simple. As a result of the change, however, things got more complicated. Now, members cast, effectively, a single vote. It has lots of preferences, but only one is actually counted. Arguing for a slate of people has no positive effect in this system, it's specifically designed with this as a feature. Further, I can imagine negative ones. Some people will debate the latter, I'm sure, but the net result has been that it's kept me from making a case for who I think the W3C should elect since and instead focused entirely on helping make sure there are good options in the first place.

So, there's an election and with luck, we have 4 super great nominees for 3 open seats: Alice, Tess, Travis and Sangwhan (in alphabetical order). Really, I love them all. They are all super smart, I think they would all be great on TAG. I wish we could just say "yes please" and seat them all. Good luck to all of you friends.


Since I've already explained that I worry about making a case for a particular slate of people with these changes, and that I'll be satisfied with any outcome in this election, you might wonder why I am writing at all.

The answer is pretty simple: Because Alice Boxhall is running, and I'm pretty excited about it.

I've hoped Alice would run for TAG for a while now, and now that she is I just want to say that I wholeheartedly support her. If I had a ballot, I would enthusiastically place her name in my #1 spot because I think the TAG needs someone just like her. As I say, all of these candidates are great and bring something positive - but Alice brings something that I don't think anyone else can.

If you don't know Alice (@sundress on Twitter), she is part of a (great) team whose wide ranging-responsibilities include just about everything you can imagine surrounding accessibility on nearly everything involving the words "Web" or "Chrome" in any way.

Usually, when we're talking about people who work 'at browser vendor', it's normally not a person with accessibility attached to their name as a primary goal. And conversely, we have a lot of really great accessibility experts who just don't have the technical experience of actually working on a browser engine. But Alice combines the perspectives of implementer, developer advocate, and ally for people with disabilities.

She's worked on excellent (and free) education about accessibility which is really understandable for developers. At the same time, she doesn't assume the problem is just that we're simply all too lazy to learn something - she empathizes with how overwhelming, or sometimes even convoluted things can feel and how hard it can be to get even simple things right and that this won't yield good results. So she also works on tools to make it easier. Have you ever used the little color contrast thing right in the Chrome DevTools style tab? That's Alice, for example.

That's a lot, and already I think, more than enough reason to vote for her - but there's more: She doesn't just care about educating developers and making it easier for them to get right - she's also interested in improving the platform itself and including developers in that process. That's how I came to know her, in fact. She has written articles, helped incubate proposals, created polyfills, popularized them enough to let developers help iterate, test and prove we have a good answer that helps make it easier and more plausible to 'get it right'.

I feel like she explains all of this better herself in her statement, but, essentially: It seems to me that Alice brings a rare and broad blend of skills, perspective and knowledge that I think would really benefit us all to have at to the TAG table, and that she is uniquely qualified to do so. She's not just one thing - she's an 'all of the above' that is rare.

So... I'm happy that Alice is runnning. I'm excited. I support her. If what she writes resonates with you too, and you agree that she would be an important addition to TAG, let someone know. If you know a W3C member, tell them. If not, just share your support. History seems to show that if enough people share it, it gets seen. I hope lots of people place her in their #1 spot on the ballot before the polls close at 11:59pm on January 4th.

Vote for Alice