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Subject: UBL, time zones, international TC calls

Following is the relevant portion of a note I received from Jon Bosak on how he manages the geographically dispersed UBL TC.  His solution there is to have a single "virtual meeting", broken into two different sessions, where each session covers the same materials.  Attendance at either one of the two sessions is sufficient to maintain voting rights.

This is for background information and discussion.  I'm not formally proposing this approach at this point.


The system we've developed to solve a very similar problem in the
UBL TC works by dividing each week's TC meeting into two phone
calls called the Pacific call and the Atlantic call that together
constitute one virtual meeting.

The Pacific TC call is held each Tuesday at 00:30 UTC, which is
Monday evening in the U.S. and Tuesday morning in APAC.  The
meeting always begins with a review of the preceding week's
Atlantic call minutes.  After the Pacific call, minutes are
prepared and circulated before the Atlantic TC call, which takes
place every Wednesday at 16:00 UTC (15:00 UTC during the summer);
this is 11 a.m. in New York.  The Atlantic call begins with a
review of that week's Pacific call minutes.  Attendance in either
call is considered to be attendance at that week's virtual meeting
for purposes of OASIS attendance requirements.

The key to this system is the review of the minutes.  Every
decision taken during the "other call" is reviewed and assented to
before it is considered adopted by the TC, and if there are any
questions or demurs, the issue goes back on the agenda for further
discussion.  Seven-day default ballots are used in cases where one
or both of the calls are canceled and a decision has to be taken
before the next complete call cycle occurs.

One unexpected advantage of this system is that the "Pacific call"
slot is often the most convenient one for TC members in North
America who can't find time during the middle of the day for the
Atlantic call.  This helps people maintain voting status.  In
cases where one of the two weekly calls is canceled and the other
is not, the call that is held is considered a "work session"
rather than a meeting in order to maintain the integrity of the
virtual meeting concept and preserve the attendance record of
people who ordinarily attend the call that is canceled.

The UBL TC has used this format since June 2004 with considerable
success.  The major downside is the requirement to prepare minutes
of each call in time for review before the "other" one.  This
imposes a large burden on the chair (or whoever is preparing the
minutes).  In theory, the system could be made to work with two
co-chairs, one for each call, but my hunch is that this would put
an even greater burden on the minutes, possibly greater than the
system could bear, as it would lack the continuity guaranteed by
the attendance of at least one person (the chair) at both
meetings.  Having the same person chair and take the minutes is
rather challenging (a knowledge of touch typing helps), but it
does radically reduce uncertainty over interpretation of the
minutes.  I think the key here is to have a chair that can devote
close to 100 percent of his or her time to the effort.

The other key to success is to arrange the agendas of the two
calls around the expertise of the people who happen to align with
the two time slots.  In our case, for example, it so happens that
it's convenient for the chair (in New York) and the vice chair (in
Fremantle, near Perth) to meet each week in the Pacific call,
while the editors of our XML Naming and Design rules, who live in
England and on the U.S. east coast, can meet each week in the
Atlantic call.  This lends itself very well to a pattern in which
scheduling issues are raised and preliminary decisions made in the
Pacific call for review and disposition in the Atlantic call,
while more technical decisions relating to XML issues are worked
out in the Atlantic call and then signed off on in the Pacific
call.  This doesn't always work out so neatly, of course, but the
gaps can easily be handled by farming out most of the preliminary
work to one of our several subcommittees, which meet on separate
schedules arranged for the convenience of their members.  I
suspect that you may find subcommittees organized by region or
language community a big help in the ODF work.  For example, we've
just finished working through about 40 detailed comments from our
Japanese Localization Subcommittee, which did the work on their
own schedule, in their own language, and then watched in email as
that work was processed in the Pacific call (where most of our
content expertise happens to be) and reviewed in the Atlantic call
over the course of several weeks.

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