Why use community groups?
According to our research, User experiences of open standards for data, successful engagement with the right people is essential for a successful open standard for data. Once you have identified the people and organisations who will use or be affected by your open standard, it is useful to have a community area where they can engage with the standard owner, standard developer or each other.
The W3C community groups
With a W3C community group, you get a fee-free, open, online forum to develop the standard, hold discussions, and publish reports. W3C, an international organisation that develops and supports open standards for the Web, provides these community groups. This offers an added bonus – the opportunity to connect with W3C’s international community of Web experts.
The W3C community group platform comes with a number of free features including mailing lists, wikis for sharing ideas, and blogs for publishing reports, updates and more. To help manage the group effectively, you can add a charter setting out your community’s scope and aims. Make sure these align with your standard’s governance.
For more on the governance of open standards, review Managing change.
The platform also has optional features which may be useful as your community grows and their needs become clearer. There are also some areas that need improvement, for example making community groups more user-friendly, which the W3C are considering.
Setting up a W3C community group
Anyone can propose a W3C community group but check first whether a group that meets your community’s needs already exists or has been proposed. To create a new group, click the CREATE A COMMUNITY GROUP button on the community and business groups page, then provide a name and description for the community. You will need five people to support the group, at which point it will be announced by W3C and available for use.
Alternatives to W3C community groups
OASIS: Paying members of OASIS, a nonprofit consortium advocating for and developing open standards, can form member sections. The program supports organisations developing open standards using the OASIS process as well as providing tools and services to support your community.
Google Groups: A lightweight alternative to W3C Community Groups. Though not aimed at open standards communities, Google Groups allow people and organisations to participate in online forums. Email groups are also available for community conversations. Google Groups are successfully used to support the Google Transit API open standards.
Github: The online repository platform began as a way for developers to work collaboratively on code. The platform has evolved to include outreach tools that support collaboration with integration into popular collaboration tools like Slack, support for group conversations in a repository and a platform for blogs. For open standards development, Github has the advantage of hosting the standard documents in one place with built-in change management, version control and integrated commenting for community outreach.