I’m running for the TAG

The Technical Architecture Group is a special group at the W3C which oversees the architecture of the Web. It is composed of 9 individuals, mostly elected for 2 year terms, and is chaired by Tim Berners Lee. I would like to join it, and I’d like your help to get elected.

What the TAG is and why it matters

The TAG was formed in 2001, in response to the need to connect up the various efforts of more specific working groups that focus on particular technologies – such as HTML, SVG and CSS – that make up the Web platform. It has taken some time for the TAG to figure out how to best influence these efforts, one key milestone of which was the publication of the Extensible Web Manifesto. The EWM was a response to the tendency for new web technologies to anticipate use cases at too high a level, resulting in web developers having to do programming somersaults to get outside the very small box that the spec authors had decided to put them in.

The TAG now works to ensure that Web technology lives up to this manifesto: providing new features at a low level and allowing the web community to build on top of them, rather than attempting to anticipate use cases too early. A relatively new activity that helps it to do this is the Extensible Web Summit, which brings together a small number of experienced developers with working group members to discuss real world problems and ensuring that API design provides the opportunities for innovation that developers need.

The TAG does other things as well, such as resolving conflicting interpretations of web architecture between different working groups, and issuing papers with clarifying guidance.

Why I’m qualified

My primary interest is in the way the TAG helps to ensure developers get the tools they need to apply solutions to real world problems with innovative user experiences.

I’ve been a developer for almost 20 years, currently for the Financial Times, the international business newspaper. I led the team that built the FT Web App, which in 2011 was one of the first “HTML5 apps” to emerge for mobile, and is well known for containing hacks ranging from the mildly annoying to truly hideous to work around limitations in web architecture and differences in browser implementations.

I also curate and host Edge conference, which shares a lot of the same objectives as the Extensible Web Summit, in having a collaborative format encouraging dialogue between people who are in a position to help ensure that new technologies are well designed, supported, and used.

Finally, I am one of the maintainers of the Polyfill service, an FT open source initiative and CDN-hosted service that aims to provide a simple and performant mechanism by which developers can opt into new web platform technologies before they are supported by all browsers.

My current team at FT is charged with maintaining and developing components that can be used by teams across the company to build brand consistent FT websites quickly (we call it Origami). It’s an effort that requires a supreme amount of patience, listening to others and communicating effectively. This is something I’ve quickly become obsessed with.

My plans for the TAG

Communication is something software people are very bad at, especially across skill levels, or from a small number of individuals to a large population. When Jake Archibald from Google wrote an HTML5Rocks article about removing the 300ms tap-to-click delay on Chrome when viewing mobile optimised pages, he had to repeatedly explain in the comments that the change did not disable zoom. When I wrote an article on Mozilla Hacks about the polyfill service, I had to register for a Hacker News account purely to keep posting the text “The polyfill service is not a Mozilla project. It has nothing to do with Mozilla” in response to commenters.

These are simplistic examples and misunderstanding will always happen, especially when people have prejudices and preconceptions that they are not keen to have questioned, but they demonstrate the scale of the problem and the amount of effort we need to apply to get through to the widest possible community. To ensure we build the right technologies for future generations of developers, we first need to be able to talk to them. Things like the Extensible Web Summit are a great step in that direction, and I’m keen to lend a hand to further improve the way the TAG engages with the wider community to understand its challenges and translate those into terms that can influence coordinated efforts across working groups.

I also want to promote and help accelerate the development of technologies that put the web on a more even footing with native apps. We need bluetooth, notifications, geofencing, background tasks, and a better means of discovering and ‘installing’ web apps on mobile devices.

Electoral gubbins

The position I am standing for is an existing mid-term elected seat vacated by the resignation of David Herman (so if you’re British you could call it a by-election) which runs to the end of 2015. The electorate comprises the 397 W3C member organisations, who each get one vote, cast by their advisory committee representative (known as ‘AC reps’). If you think I’d be a good candidate for the TAG, and your company is a W3C member, consider lobbying your AC rep to vote for me. If you’re not a W3C member, lobby someone you know at a company that is!

If you’re still not convinced you could also look at my cute dog, and when you are convinced, you could post your support on Twitter: