I'd like to thank John Unsworth (I suspect voicing the thanks of many!) for taking on the role of interim Chair of the TEI, and for the thoughtful and constructive statement that was issued a day or so ago concerning the recent turn of events on the TEI board.
I was on vacation and not paying close attention to the various communication streams when these events took place, and I caught up on the twitter discussion belatedly yesterday. One thing that struck me was the odd relish that some people seemed to have for the controversy.
At the risk of sounding sententious, I'd like to urge everyone who participates in, or follows, the discussion and further strategic planning that may result from all this to bear in mind the chief goal of the TEI, which is to facilitate collaboration and interchange. It's possible to present a theory of standards and interchange systems that says, in effect, we need these things because human relations are incurably hostile and hence we need systems to broker our interactions. But I think in the case of TEI, the standard exists rather because of our collective good intentions. Those intentions, and the collaborative relationships they represent, are more important than the standard itself (both in facilitating data interchange and also in the larger scheme of things). So I regard as precious the good will that exists in the TEI community, and I hope subsequent discussions will reflect that good will. I'd also urge those watching the discussion from outside to consider that this isn't reality TV; kibitzing isn't helpful, though constructive perspectives (in a "fresh eyes" kind of way) definitely would be. I hope those watching will take the problem as seriously as we in the TEI community do.
As someone who served as an appointed member for about 10 years on the TEI board, starting at its founding, and also served as TEI chair, I know first-hand how difficult it is to constitute a leadership body that is both stable and responsive, that takes advantage of good ideas and available energy, and that maintains strong, transparent, bi-directional communication with the larger community it serves. Although the TEI has recently undergone changes to its bylaws that were intended to increase the board's accountability and its ability to reflect the membership (by increasing the number of elected members), I think we may need to give some further thought to three points:
1. What other mechanisms can we put in place to improve communication between the board and the TEI community?
2. How can we take better advantage of sources of volunteer time in the community to carry out whatever ideas/initiatives arise from that communication? Are there other mechanisms similar to the SIGs that could help focus community energy in productive directions? (In other words, communication isn't enough on its own; we need the communication to make a difference.)
3. How can we ensure that the strategic directions identified by the Board and Council are closely aligned, and jointly reflect the real needs of the TEI community?
And personally, under the heading of "the future of the TEI", I hope we'll see:
--increasing attention to the needs of individual scholars and small-scale projects
--increasing attention to the needs of those new to the TEI
--increasing attention to the needs of those who want to teach, or teach with, the TEI
With all best wishes, Julia
Director, Women Writers Project
Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University Library