How business can help public WWW development

Roy T. Fielding (fielding@simplon.ICS.UCI.EDU)
Thu, 8 Sep 1994 22:05:18 +0200

I remember reading a discussion along the lines of this subject a few
weeks ago. At the time, there did not seem to be any follow-up suggestions
about how such money-making enterprises can help the non-profit side of
Web development. Well, here is one.

Several times a year, WWW developers have a chance to get together in person,
meet each other, and discuss many of the ideas and issues which will impact
the Web's development over the coming year. Examples include the Geneva
WWW94, Chicago WWWF94, and (for those involved in the standards process)
the IETF conferences. For many businesses, particularly large corporations,
attendance at these conferences is an accepted cost of doing business.

Unfortunately, most WWW developers are volunteers or lowly-paid students --
people who have no expense-accounts and no means to afford a distant
conference trip. Unless people like us are presenting a paper at
the conference (as I did at WWW94), we are effectively excluded from
the discussions with fellow developers. Many of the best ideas
are left unspoken and potential collaborations are missed.

I believe that this hurts both businesses and the World-Wide Web as a whole.
Businesses lose an opportunity to speak with the most active Web developers
and, in particular, those who are not worried about competition or guarding
trade secrets. The WWW as a whole loses because much of Web development,
as well as the standardization process, is a collaborative effort. Many
collaborations (e.g. the libwww-perl project) had their genesis at one of
these conferences/meetings.

So, what can be done about it? How about supporting grants for travel-
assistance? Such could be provided by individual corporations or consortiums,
either to individuals known to be in need or via some application process.
They could also be combined with some other requirement, such as a day's
visit at the benefactor's company.

Now, why would companies want to do this?

(1) Recruiting! Companies typically spend far more on random recruitment
efforts -- this would be a great way to attract hot developers
without the usual pressure of interviews, etc.

(2) Enormous goodwill -- how much is it worth to have the developers
think of you as a benefactor, rather than just a user, of their efforts?

(3) Knowledge -- these people know a lot about Web technology -- far more
than has ever been documented by CERN or NCSA -- and many are experts
at passing knowledge on to others.

It seems to me that this is an ideal opportunity for business to get their
hands in the cookie jar, and have the cook applaud them at the same time.

...Roy Fielding ICS Grad Student, University of California, Irvine USA
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