The HTML 5 circus: Why I left and rejoined the W3C HTML Working Group

On July 1 2007 I decided to leave the W3C HTML Working Group. My reason was not primarily lack of time due to my new phase of life, as some have guessed.

Sadly, I left for much more troubling reasons. I left because I was fed up with the dismissive and hostile attitude a number of individuals in the working group have towards those who do not fully share their view of how the future of HTML should be shaped.

I was sick of watching as people were being ridiculed, ignored or dismissed when they asked questions, voiced objections, or otherwise tried to contribute. It happened on the public-html mailing list, on #html-wg, the working group's official IRC channel, and on #whatwg, WHAT WG's IRC channel. By the way, both IRC channels have public logs.

Things had gone far enough that a non-negligible number of members (including myself) were reluctant to voice their opinion or make suggestions. It even made some people decide to leave the working group. This, of course, is a completely unacceptable and unproductive working environment.

So I left. Which was probably good news to some, since it meant one less best practice advocate to deal with.

But being of the curious kind, I couldn't stop myself from keeping an eye on the mailing list archives. Some of the problems were brought to light by a number of other working group members and discussed. After that, things seem to have improved slightly.

It has also become very clear to me that I am far from the only person to think that the current process of editing the specification for the next version of HTML is... less than ideal.

I suppose I could just give up, keep going as if no problems existed, wait for HTML 5 to be done, and then deal with it, provided I still work in this business in the year 2020. Maybe that is what I should do. But I don't like giving up on things I am passionate about.

So I'm giving this a second chance. The other day I rejoined the W3C HTML Working Group. This time around, however, I will be taking the opinions of people who seem to lack experience of real-world Web development and apparently are uninterested in actually improving the Web with a truckload or two of salt. Hopefully that will help me keep my temper.

Looking forward I think my energy will be best spent helping to produce documents that are useful to and readable by people who create websites. By the looks of things the actual HTML 5 specification will be extremely difficult to read, and basically created for browser vendors only.

Tutorials and best practice documents for Web professionals will be desperately needed. Suggestions on what you would like to see in such documents are welcome.

Posted on August 16, 2007 in HTML 5, (X)HTML, Rants, Web Standards