Some basic assumptions should probably be made explicit at the start.
1.1. Gradual changeover, not sudden
Many of the ideas here involve adding a little metadata, and
thus require a little extra work, on each
document or HTML page on the W3C site.
If we try to do that extra work for the entire body of existing pages,
there will be too much work and we'll easily foresee that doing it will
have a horrible impact on getting anything else done, and thus that
we'll never finish the job. And so we'll never start.
But if we plan the transition differently, it is manageable.
Instead of doing the extra work for every existing page, we do it
- when we create a new page
- when we revise an existing page
At the beginning, very little of the Web site will have the extra
metadata. Over time, however, as the Web site develops, more and
more of the site will have the new metadata. The areas which are
being updated most actively get the new metadata first; areas which
have slower rates of change get the new metadata later. Eventually,
the only parts of the site which don't have the metadata will be
the parts we aren't changing anymore. At that point, we can decide
whether it's worth bothering about that part of the site or not.
1.2. Think globally, act locally
Many documents on our site are written and edited not by members
of W3C staff but by volunteers from our member organizations.
We are perhaps not really in a position to require
that they provide metadata in any particular form, except in documents
being published as technical reports, for which we already impose
So I try not to assume that every document on our site will have
the metadata I'm describing. I think we may benefit from having the
metadata in some of our documents; certainly we need to
look for benefits that will flow from having even incomplete metadata.
1.3. Carrots not sticks
The best way to get better metadata is not simply to require it
(though I recommend that in some cases) but to make it to the authors'
and editors' advantage to provide metadata.
I think this means we want to have systems which exploit metadata
to make documents easier to find and use documents than documents
The first thing that occurs to me is a site-wide search engine;
this may be the lowest hanging fruit.