Leaving W3C

Lots of people looking up at the camera
The W3C team photo, November 2013. Taken by Richard Ishida during the Team Day in Shenzhen right after that year's TPAC

Today was hard.

After more than 8 years, I have handed in my notice at W3C. I’ll be leaving at the end of the month – just 3 weeks’ time. My future destination is very exciting and I’ll talk about that separately, but this needs to be about what I’m leaving, not where I’m going.

I first came across W3C in 2003. The first member of staff I met was Dan Brickley who, at the time was in Bristol with Libby Miller, Dave Beckett and Max Froumentin – all Semantic Web ‘names.’ I met them in the very room where FOAF was invented (or was that the pub we went to afterwards, I was never sure). Since then I’ve been an AC rep (i.e. a representative of a member), Incubator Group and Working Group chair, then staff member February 2009 – June 2017. OK, there was a brief period of 3 months in 2011 when I wasn’t on the team but let me gloss over that unhappy time. Since December 2013 I’ve been the go to person for all matters data. How the heck I got to be responsible for coordinating standardisation of the Semantic Web and related standards at W3C is a mystery but that’s what I’ve been doing.

Everyone who works there says it’s a privilege. It is. Working in a team that defines the structure behind the most powerful information space yet invented is a very privileged position. That’s why so many of the staff have been there for more than a decade – some more than 2 decades. Why would you give that up?

Working at W3C opens doors like no job I’ve ever done before. In a previous job (the crappy one I did in late 2010/early 2011) I was tasked with getting to know some of the key people involved with data.gov.uk and the overall UK Government open data policy. Well, I made some connections but there was one senior civil servant I couldn’t get anywhere near. Then that horrible job came to an end and, to my delight, W3C had me back. A month later I’m in the mayoral palace in Vienna and I turn round to hear “Phil Archer, W3C?” (yes), “Andrew Stott, Cabinet Office, pleased to meet you.”

On that same trip I had my first experience of stardom by proxy. “Hang on, you actually work for Tim Berners-Lee?” (yes) “Let me shake your hand.” Years later I arrive in São Paulo for a conference and within 30 seconds, 30 seconds, a local developer wants a selfie with me, not because of anything I’ve ever done but because of where I work and who I work for. Oh and there was the incredibly good looking young California girl at SemTechBiz who also wanted a selfie, much to the on-looking Gregg Kellogg’s bemusement.

I’m proud of the Working Groups I’ve shepherded into existence and the work they’ve done: Data on the Web Best Practices, CSV on the Web, Permissions & Obligations Expression, Spatial Data on the Web (collaborating with OGC) and, most recently, the Dataset Exchange WG. The EU Projects: Share-PSI, MobiWeb, Crossover, Big Data Europe, VRE4EIC. The consultancy with the EC’s ISA programme, being a member of the UK Research Data Forum that allowed me to swan around the Royal Society, and more, the workshops (I ran a total of 9). All these after roles in earlier work like Mobile Web Best Practices, Government Linked Data and, OK, POWDER. The latter was a complete and utter failure but, hey, we all have to learn.

Working on IRC. Zakim, RRSAgent, Trackbot, working in public, copying everything to mailing lists, persistent Web pages, file-extension-free URLs, an employer who trusts you to put documents on the Web site, immutable versions, face to face meetings, dinners and, of course, Werewolf – it’s the culture, the way of being that I’m used to and feel right at home in.

Leaving is very hard.

What can I say? Words fail me.

Thank you.

If you got this far you'll want to know. The answer is GS1, but more on that in the near future. After some consideration, and after receiving kind words from many people, I have decided to make the text of my actual resignation e-mail to ERCIM/W3C Management public too.