Monday, 26 September 2011

The Future of the TEI

John Unsworth, interim chair of the TEI Consortium (TEI-C) has requested that candidates
for the Board and Council, and continuing members of the Board and Council, address some
questions on strategic issues related to the TEI. As I have been nominated for the Board,
and following James
Cummings example
I decided to post here are my answers.

1) Should the TEI cease to collect membership fees, and cease to pay for meetings, publications, services, etc.?
No. I think the activities supported by the fees are extremely important,
for instance SIG grants, projects and Meetings. I would rather see a more
balanced expenditure with less money used for travels and more money for
more interesting activities.
2) Assuming paid membership continues. should institutional members have a choice between paying in cash and paying by supporting the travel of their employees to meetings, or committing time on salary to work on TEI problems?
I don't see why not: contributing to the TEI can take as many forms that
the TEI consider important and relevant for its activities. This doesn't
sound like a big innovation though, but very much like the partner
institutions which might be extended to include this kind of arrangement,
though without necessarily having a member on the Board. There could be,
for instance, different levels of contribution from partner institutions.
3) Should the TEI have individual members (paying or not) who can vote to elect
people to the board and/or council?
Yes: individual members should be able to elect people just as
institutional ones do.
4) Should the email discussions of the TEI Board be publicly
Yes: there might be some topics that are really sensitive in which case
there might be some kind of privacy setting on a topic or something, but
in general I think this should be the exception, not the rule.
5) Should the Board and the Council be combined into a single body, with
subsets of that group having the responsibilities now assigned to each separate
Not necessarily: Board and Council have very different functions and
activities and work better separately. There should be a much closer
relation between the two, though: I have served 4 years on the Council
I have to say very little of the activities of the Board ever reached us.
I have no means of knowing if the converse is true as well. On a related
topic, I think that there are far too many elected people between the
Council and the Board: 12 people on the Council and 8 on the Board,
meaning there are 20 people's travels to support, which is really a
I would welcome a reduction of numbers there.
Given that, in the next two years, which of the following should be the TEI's highest
priority? Pick only one:
  • a) providing services that make it easy for scholars to publish and use TEI texts online
  • b) providing workshops, training, and other on-ramp services that help people understand why they might want to use TEI and how to begin to do so
  • c) encouraging the development of third-party tools for TEI users
  • d) ensuring that large amounts of lightly but consistently encoded texts (e.g., TEI Tite) are generated and made publicly available, perhaps in a central repository or at least through some centrally coordinated portal
  • e) developing a roadmap for P6 that positions the TEI in relation to other standards (HTML5, RDF, etc.)
  • f) tackling hard problems not addressed in other encoding schemes, in order to maximize the expressive and interpretive power of TEI
I pick (a) hoping that it includes also a better design of the website, more
tutorial and support material. I think there is still a serious need for outreach and
evangelisation: the more complex the TEI gets in order to respond to scholarly needs, the
more need for tutorials and 'getting started' material there is.

I have also written an electoral statement, which follows:

After having served on the TEI Council for two consecutive mandates, I am now
delighted to have been nominated for election to the TEI Board. The recent events have
demonstrated that governance of the TEI requires some further thought in spite of the recent
modifications to the bylaws, in particular with respect to the role of the Board and the way
it manages its activities. The recent crisis and the way it has been handled were
unacceptable to many of the people that have generously contributed to the growth and health
of the TEI in the 30 years or so of its history. This, I believe, has damaged both the TEI
itself and the field of Digital Humanities in general, as witnessed by the shock and
bewilderment expressed by the community on TEI-L and on many social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook and Google+). These events, as well as the request from the Interim Chair of the Board for proposals about the future of the TEI, call for a deep re-thinking of the role of the TEI community and its relationship with the Board and Council. If I am elected to serve on the Board, I will engage in helping to move governance of the TEI toward a more transparent way of working, ensuring that broad consent is sought and pursued not only among the elected members of the Board and the Council but also among the community at large – a community represented mainly but not only by contributors to TEI-L. I have already made some proposals on TEI-L to which I plan to remain faithful, but I will be more than happy to also consider all other proposals (such as, for instance, the direct election of the TEI chair) which go in the direction of more transparency and collegiality in the governance of the

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