W3C Funding and Validators

Dec
14
2008

mindarie marina

Seems the W3C is running into a little trouble with it’s validation service.    You know know the one, the HTML and CSS  validation tools that allows you to validate your sites to the W3C guidelines.   They are now calling for financial assistance in the form for sponsorship and donations.  This does raise the question how is it that the W3C with its expensive membership fees and list of prestigious supporters has gotten itself into this type of predicament.

It seems that they are not just the cost of the usually suspects like bandwidth and hardware, but it’s the human factor. Basically the W3C needs more people to help with the project.  You may ask why now, what has really changed. Well consider the general maintenance  and any expansion for upcoming guidelines releases.

What concerns me is maybe the validation service funding is working on a very old school model. Granted you need a centralised service that can be held up as the primary reference point.  Okay we have the W3C Foundation, but why does the W3C have to use the old centralised  paid staff development model.

But You Can Contribute Code

Like with the HTML5 working group experience maybe the W3C needs to realise that the community maybe able to help by contributing developmental time not dollars.  This is not really that big a leap as the software concerned is already open source.  You will note that the W3C is very willing it seems for community to contribute code wise it’s just they aren’t telling us this in big neon lights.

In fact there is supposed to be a “grass roots” supporter program from the W3C foundation  with membership of Friends of the Web, however the information on this is not very forthcoming.  If you know more, please comment below.

Mind you thinking on this, I can bet some of the upcoming work is going to be that not that really sexy or exciting in development terms, hence just the type of things suited to a paid position.

Engaging Community

I’ve said it before the W3C is like an immovable cargo ship,  it’s just going to take a while to change direction, even if the people controlling it realise its navigating the wrong course.

Maybe the W3C really needs to do a  little more engaging with the local web community groups, like getting back out there and talking to the local Professional Web Associations directly.  Afterall these are the people usually pimping the best practice method and are already avocates, the people that are the leaders in the web community using the services the W3C provide.  Instead they tend to be using a few choice A-lister web industry types as conduits.

Has the W3C got its funding model right, or does it need to get back to the people and re-engage with them and get community support for it’s projects liike  the validator.

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1 comment

  1. Hi Gary,

    you wrote: “ You will note that the W3C is very willing it seems for community to contribute code wise it’s just they aren’t telling us this in big neon lights” and that’s very true… and I’m honestly not sure what those big neon lights should be made of.

    We do mention at every opportunity that the code is open (e.g http://www.w3.org/Status#contribute ) – and indeed more than a few people download the code, play with it, and a few end up contributing. Likewise, feature requests or bug reports are always welcome, and often we remind people that “patches are welcome too”.

    There is a very healthy community of “power users” around the validators, who give a lot of their time answering questions like “WHY IS MY CODE NOT VALIDATING???!??” and generally giving a lot of good advice on how to develop features or discuss about where the tools should/could go.

    What we have fewer of, indeed, are developers. Maybe the validator projects are not very appealing to the average web developer (for one thing, indeed, the fact that most of these tools are built around perl or java libraries does alienate the php/ruby coders)? Maybe we need big red lettering saying “we welcome you as developers of the validators?”

    And then… You do have a point when saying “Mind you thinking on this, I can bet some of the upcoming work is going to be that not that really sexy or exciting in development terms, hence just the type of things suited to a paid position”. That is true, and I would say that it is true regardless of sexiness, not just for the W3C validators but most open-source projects I know: there is always a developer lead/community manager who is either a “benevolent dictator” (usually whoever started the project) or paid staff (think of many large open source projects, e.g at Mozilla, Google, Apple, etc)

    Can we find a better model with the community playing a bigger role, and the strain on w3c lessened? That would be great, and we need to make progress in giving the projects to the community, empower the community, and let the community take charge.

    Can we do without staffing at all? Probably not, hence the need for some money.

    Both community engagement and community-driven funding will need people with a voice in the community, relaying the info that the validators are there for the community, but that the community also needs to be there for the validators.

Comments are now closed, move along, nothing to see here.