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Status

This is a work-in-progress, started in February 2020. Comments may be made in the GitHub repo.

Purpose

With travel restrictions, the world relies even more on online communication/interaction and the World Wide Web is a crucial part of the human society.

This document outlines plans to continue W3C activities while travel restrictions and isolation protocols limit the ability of W3C community members to participate in-person in W3C meetings, including the W3C Staff.

Addressing the needs of your participants first

First and foremost, Group chairs should make room for people to acknowledge new challenges. Everyone is coping with the crisis differently and with different work, living or family conditions. It's important in those times to allow individuals the time and space needed to ensure that their care and safety come first.

The W3C Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct applies to all W3C meetings, no matter their format.

General policy for meetings

Meeting face-to-face is an important component of the work for some of our Groups. Meetings enable Group chairs to:

  1. set an alternative dynamic compared to interactions by email/Github or during teleconferences
  2. Focus synchronously on a set of issues and goals and reduce distractions;
  3. Bring to closure hard issues that have been languishing for months due to lack of consensus.

We expect Chairs to replace in-person meetings with virtual presence meetings rather than simply canceling their in-person meetings, to the extent that these are respectful of the individual needs.

Meeting Purposes

We encounter several types of in-person meetings at W3C:

  1. Group face-to-face meetings;
  2. Workshops;
  3. Plenary meetings;
  4. Steering Committee meetings;
  5. Advisory Committee meetings.

Virtual presence meetings can take several forms, some better suited to the meeting purpose than others. Refer to the section Meeting Formats below for examples.

Note:

Arrangements for Virtual Presence

Virtual presence meetings occur when all or some of the participants are attending remotely. All participants should realize that when people pivot to new environments new issues can arise, including accessibility and separation from one's usual work place. Meeting chairs should leave space for the participants to talk about this.

Video Conferencing Groups should plan to make extensive use of video conferencing services for those unable to travel. In the case of travel restrictions for some but not all participants, some participants may wish to gather in hubs (if allowed by local authorities). When such gatherings occur, a local facilitator at each hub should assure equitable participation by all through good communication and participation practices; e.g. no "side conversations" even if muted. Every effort must be made to put all the meeting participants on equal terms whether they are at a hub or participating outside of a hub.

Scheduling Groups should give consideration to scheduling their meeting(s) in a timezone that works for the majority of the attendees.  As participants will be working in their local timezones, what is "workable" will vary with individual circumstances, including sensitivity to work-from-home environments and non-participant colleagues who may not be aware that the participant is "away" even if they are physically in their office.

Meeting duration should be limited to 4 hours per day; consider two 90-minute segments with an hour break between them.  That break can be used by the participants for "hallway" conversations, arranged on separate conference channels.

Materials Presenters are even more strongly encouraged to distribute (post to the Web) presentation materials in advance of the meeting to allow participants to avoid using extra download bandwidth during the meeting. Presentation materials must be available in accessible formats that meet WCAG 2.1 AA. If it is not possible to provide a structured document within a videoconference presentation window, provide an accessible source file on the Web.

Video Video cameras are strongly encouraged; this improves the sense of being together.  Groups may prefer to use teleconferencing services that allow each participant to choose not to receive video streams if their network becomes saturated. However, any discussion content that is shared via video, including screen sharing, must be made accessible by some means to those who cannot -- or choose not to -- use the video feed.

Screen sharing While screen sharing can be an effective way to work together, it also causes accessibility problems since it prohibits the use of screen readers and translation services. A best practice is to post accessible materials on the Web and share links instead of just showing a picture of it.

Accessibility In all cases W3C wants to make sure that people with accessibility needs can participate. Meeting organizers must consider how best to accomplish that with what is currently available; e.g. is captioning or interpretation needed? Are meeting organizers aware of any potential interoperability issues between the videoconferencing platform and individuals' assistive technologies? Ensure that virtual presence meetings are accessible for all participants using resources including Making Audio and Video Media Accessible and How to Meet WCAG 2, A Quick Reference.

Testing Participants should be offered testing opportunities to assure their local equipment is operational and their bandwidth adequate. Participants should test their appearance if they plan to use a camera as well as the quality of their audio. During testing solicit frank feedback from others on the quality of each.

Selecting a video conferencing service

The considerations for a video conferencing service include:

W3C benefits from MIT institutional licenses for WebEx and Zoom services and Groups may use those with assistance from the W3C Team. See also our zoom page for additional information.

W3C Workshops

We intend to plan fully distributed workshops with virtual presence sessions. We will both adapt the existing model (program committee issues call for participation and invites presentations based on submitted position statements) and experiment with new models. In any format, materials should be posted and archived accessibly. Participants should be notified of plans for audio/video recording and confidentiality level.

Workshops are often key gathering spots for consideration of new ideas, with a mix of prepared presentation, pre-determined or self-organizing breakout sessions, and the all-important "hallway track" opportunity for side conversations. Organizers are encouraged to replicate this mix in virtual meetings. Some proposals include:

W3C AC Meeting

The Advisory Committee meeting has provided for remote participation for many years.  We have announced (member link) that the May 2020 meeting will be fully distributed; we should (will) assign someone the role of administrative "host" of the meeting; identifying all participants in both irc and the teleconferencing service and assuring that all audio channels other than the chair and presenter are muted when not in active conversation.

Presenters will be expected to pre-record their presentations and meeting attendees will be expected to prepare for the meeting by viewing those recordings. W3C staff will provide assistance in making the recordings and will arrange to have captions added. Staff will also investigate the feasibility of having the captions translated to other languages.

Each presentation will be accompanied by a WBS form for submitting questions and comments in advance.

As is our standard practice, the presentation slides should also be posted in the Web to allow the meeting participants to quickly cite and call up a specific slide. These slides should be posted in the Web at the same time the recording is posted. The captioning should add "[next slide]" text to allow use of assistive technology with the posted slides in combination with the recorded captions.

Given pre-recorded presentations, the bulk of the synchronous meeting time should be devoted to Q&A. The presenter may do a brief (~3 minute) recap of the material that was presented via recording but should present only a single slide on which the discussion points are all summarized. The presenter should use the WBS input to inform this recap and to address questions and comments that were submitted in advance.

High quality real-time captioning of the meeting should be provided in more than one language.

We will use irc as the default mode of hand-raising and discussion. If you have difficulty accessing irc, for instance due to network firewalls or assistive technology reasons, please let us know the reason in advance in case we are able to address it or otherwise provide an alternative.

Special guests are still welcome in the meeting, upon approval of the Chair of the Advisory Committee meeting. Recordings may be available for a limited time for special guests.

Meeting Formats

Agenda items during virtual presence meetings could take several of the following forms. The following sections propose different suggestions of replacement in lieu of in-person meetings.

For all forms of sessions the Chairs should also allow asynchronous feedback and discussions, using GitHub issues, emails, or other forms of input before and after a virtual presence meeting, or between days in the case of a multi-day meeting.

Primarily Discussion Sessions

Intended for agenda items requiring only discussions (such as specification issues or panels). Those should be replaced by dedicated discussion with virtual presence, possibly clustered.

Presentation+Discussion Sessions

Intended for agenda items requiring a presentation first, followed by a discussion (such as technical proposals or position papers). Those should be replaced by pre-recording the presentation(s) with slides at least 24 hours before the discussion (to avoid burden on non-timezone friendly participants). Then, the participants can have one or more dedicated discussion with virtual presence.

Update Sessions

Intended for agenda items to update the participants on specific items (such as implementation reports or editor updates). Those should be replaced by pre-recording the presentation(s) with slides, with possibly one teleconference to allow for questions, clustering the updates together. You MAY however differ those sessions depending on the important of the topic.


plh, Ralph