Introducing the Web Platform Contribution Guide

Many people in the web development community, including many of us at Bocoup, were drawn to the web because it appears to be a diverse and inclusive technology platform. But, when we look around the room at who is working on web standards like HTML, CSS and JavaScript, it is mostly a narrow group of white men. As one of the editors of the HTML spec, I feel a responsibility to help address this issue. It’s hard to recruit new people to web standards. Web standards development is a painfully opaque process. There are numerous hurdles between showing an interest in contributing and getting funded to contribute, and it currently takes a great deal of privilege to overcome those hurdles.

To address part of this issue, we’re starting a new and free guidebook called the Web Platform Contribution Guide. We’re hoping this guidebook can be one piece of a support system that helps our industry address the systemic exclusion of people with marginalized backgrounds from participating in web standards. We know this is not a complete plan. We also need long-term funding for folks that are currently excluded to learn to contribute and get involved. We see the Web Platform Contribution Guide as a first step while we seek broader change in our community and culture.

The Web Platform Contribution Guide is a guidebook about how we contribute to developing the web platform. With this guide, we hope to help onboard readers into the process of fixing inconsistencies between web browsers and participating in the process of improving interoperability on the web platform. It doesn’t take a computer science degree, or deep engineering know-how to get started (though those don’t hurt). A lot of this work is about spending time in the details, documenting what’s wrong, and building consensus about the solution. As we say in the guide:

In the context of this guide, the goal of working on the web platform is to reach interoperability, not to add features, or change specs. This is maintenance work, and it is the one of the most important things that the web needs.

Who is this guide written for?

Have you worked on or used a web site or web app and found a difference in behavior between two browsers for the same markup or CSS, but don’t know how to get the underlying problem fixed? Have you ever wanted to be able to spot a bug in a web standard specification? Or wanted to know how long it takes before web standards and all implementations agree? This guide is for you.

How did this get started?

It all started in 2018 when everyone at Bocoup spent a day collaborating on web-platform-tests (WPT). Some of us have been working on WPT for many years, but it was a first-time contribution for many members of the team. This was a lot of fun, and it moved the web forward! Among other things, we reformatted some tests so that they could be run both by browsers and also by Node.js.

Based on this experience, we started to write this guide.

What does the guide cover?

The guide covers a range of topics from the high-level process and the organizations involved, to what skills you might use, along with detailed how-to sections, and interviews about career paths from people working in web standards:

How can you help?

This is a work in progress, and is intended to be a living guide. When it’s a bit more mature, we intend to publish it as an ebook. In the meantime, we would love your input. Give feedback in a new issue in the repository. Fix typos or grammar mistakes, or write a chapter on how to fix a bug in JavaScript, which is currently not covered in the guide. Or if you’re already actively contributing to the web platform, you can add your interview! You can also read the guide, and let us know what you think!

If you work for an organization that implements a web standard and is interested in funding beginners from marginalized backgrounds to learn and contribute, we’d also love to collaborate on that.

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