Web designers often tell us they care about using standards, but they aren’t interested in participating in the standards process. For example, A List Apart is a great promoter of open standards, but few of the contributors are directly involved in W3C. It’s a little like exercise… sure, it’s good for you, but it can be pretty tedious.
But W3C really wants to hear from web designers and developers. Early feedback on proposed features can lead to changes before they are shipped in browsers. Sharing browser compatibility stories in the wild is also very helpful. We want our specs to be useful to you and to keep up with real-world issues, since achieving interop is an ongoing effort.
So W3C set about to broaden our community through our new Developer Relations (DevRel) activity, and to find new feedback channels that work better for busy web professionals.
That’s the focus of this, our first ALA column. If you’re reading this, you’re part of the community we want to talk with more.
So, here are a few things we’ve got in the works that may interest you.
Last year, we had a great time at our first developer conference, W3Conf 2011, and we hope you did, too. If you weren’t there, you can check out the archived videos of the event. Topics ranged from CSS layout to script libraries to mobile development… all things that are of interest not only to our audience, but open questions for W3C itself.
This year, we’re working with the awesome team at Adobe to bring W3Conf 2013 to the heart of the tech industry, San Francisco, on February 21 and 22, with presentations from industry professionals including A List Apart’s Eric Meyer! (ALA readers get a discount with promo code ala.) If you just can’t make it this year, you can join us in spirit with our free live stream… we’ll try to have another event near you sometime soon.
Web Platform Docs
W3C traditionally writes specifications that target software implementers rather than practicing developers and designers.
So back in October, along with our site stewards, we launched WebPlatform.org, our community-driven documentation. We’re still in alpha, but we’re building a great vendor-neutral documentation site that will help developers and designers find just what they need, when they need it. And we invite you to help us! In addition to contributing online, you can attend one of the in-person Doc Sprint events. Doc Sprints, being hosted around the world by stewards like Google, Adobe, and Microsoft, are a fun and engaging way to meet fellow professionals and show off your knowledge. Check the Web Platform blog for an upcoming event near you. Right now, we’re making a particular push on completing our CSS property pages, so if you’re a CSS expert (and you probably are), come get involved.
Mozilla’s Janet Swisher and I will be speaking at W3Conf about how to get involved in Web Platform Docs. And if you’re in the Bay area, Adobe is also hosting a Web Platform Doc Sprint on the Saturday after W3Conf.
And while we’re talking about ways to volunteer to help the Web, you should also check out the Test the Web Forward events, put on by some of W3C’s members.
Sometimes our working groups are too busy finishing up next-generation work to really act on new ideas that come from the community, no matter how useful or even necessary those ideas might be. If you have a great concept for a technology or an extension of a W3C technology that you would like to see in browsers (or elsewhere), you don’t have to wait to get started. Just find other people who agree with you, and form a W3C Community Group (CG) to develop the idea further and grow the seed of the idea into something that can bear fruit. Anyone can start a group, anyone can participate, and it’s free. Community Groups are meant for pre-standards brainstorming that can easily move to the standards track when the community is ready. Once your concept is refined, there’s a better chance of getting it noticed.
A great example is the Responsive Images CG, which started as a design problem and solution pattern, described right here on A List Apart by Mat Marquis, and is now getting traction among the browser vendors. That didn’t start with a big company pushing their ideas, it started with a few dedicated people who wanted a solution to their problem.
Contributing to standards may seem like pretty heavy stuff, especially if you’re just getting started in web development and design. If you’re looking to learn about how to build on the web, and want something more directed than teaching yourself on WebPlatform.org, you can check out W3C’s online training courses, where you can interact with experts and other students on various development topics.
To reach places influential geeks gather, we’re stepping up our engagement in the SXSW interactive spectacle this year. In addition to Tim Berners-Lee’s keynote, you can see Wendy Seltzer on the “Copyright & Disruptive Technologies” panel and yours truly will be in Austin as well.
We’re also hosting the “Open Future” meetup with IEEE on Saturday, March 9. Come and talk with TimBL and the W3C team. Let us know if you’re going to be there too, especially if you’re doing a presentation you think we should attend.
This first column was a bit of a grab-bag, letting you know what we’re doing to connect better with you, and showing you where you can find out more information. In future columns, we plan to drill more deeply into technical topics. We’ll give you a peek behind the curtains for a unique W3C perspective on where the Web is heading, and share some of the not-so-obvious constraints, players, history, or future implications behind developing a technology.
You’ll hear from lots of people, some part of the W3C team, and some experts from working groups. We hope you’ll get to know us better, and we look forward to learning more about you.
If you have any questions or suggestions for the W3C, please contact Ian Jacobs.