You have seen our invitations to participate in Technical Standards Committee (TSC) working groups, but what if you are not able to contribute to the drafting phase of a standard and you would still like to participate?
The good news is that every BSV technical standard goes through a comprehensive life cycle, from a drafting phase to an internal review phase and finally a public review phase. The public review phase is critical for ensuring openness of the process, transparency of what is in development and for providing opportunity for anybody affected by the standard to check that it addresses their requirements.
TSC Chairman Steve Shadders considers public review a critical phase and would like you to consider providing feedback on the proposed standards that impact your business.
Project Coordinator for the Bitcoin SV Technical Standards Committee Julie Gaudreau, spoke to Shadders to clarify what the public review part of the TSC’s process entails.
Julie Gaudreau (JG): How does participating in the public review phase impact a standard?
Steve Shadders (SS): Public review can have a substantial impact on the final form of a standard. It’s important to consider what the working group of a standard looks like. Usually, it consists of a very small number of people involved in drafting and some additional people involved in an internal review. A significant part of that internal review is ensuring that we catch mistakes before the standard is released to the public. The form of the document that enters into public review has already received substantial quality assurance.
Public review naturally exposes a draft to a much wider range of viewpoints. We’ve seen the public review of standards resulting in significant changes to the document in the past. It’s different from being involved in the workgroup or as an internal reviewer or a drafter because you see a different form of the document. All the same, we take public review just as seriously as any feedback that’s received internally.
JG: How would you compare participating in the public review with joining a working group?
SS: There’s a different character and flavour to what goes on during the public review and working group phases. During a public review, there’s an opportunity to impact the document’s final form with your feedback. As a public reviewer, you start from a different point because the authorship and internal review team have already compiled a draft. Even before that, the working group would have started with a problem statement. In most cases, they start with this blank canvas, though there are times where a solution has already been proposed.
Though public reviewers mostly suggest tweaks or recommend additions to address the solutions, they could propose a complete rewrite of the document, as happened with the Merkle proof standard.
JG: How did public review impact the Merkle proof standard?
SS: It actually had a substantial impact. There are two data formats addressed in the Merkle proof standard. One is a binary data format, and the other is a more human-readable JSON data format. Initially, the two formats matched in structure and style. During the internal review, reviewers were torn between using a more traditional JSON style and structure and an opposing group that argued for consistency between the two. We couldn’t settle the debate until the public review phase tipped the balance, resulting in a substantial rewrite of the JSON format. The process gave us the confidence that the reworked version was acceptable to a much larger portion of the potential end-users of that standard. I’d say that the public reviewers had a significant impact.
JG: What are the other standards lined up for public review?
SS: Every standard that goes through the TSC has to pass through different life cycle stages. There are already a few in various stages, such as the Envelope Specification, which is in public review at the time of this interview. The Envelope Specification standard addresses standardised ways of embedding data into transactions. There’s also a Paymail working group, which will enter public review shortly. A couple of new working groups are still in the submission phase, including the SPV Envelope standard, which is different to the other Envelope Specification and an extension of the Merkle proofs along with transactions and other metadata that’s needed for verification. If you take a look at the TSC roadmap, you’ll get an idea of other standards lined up for discussion. Although it’s not an exhaustive list, it will give you an indication of the problem statements the industry has raised.
JG: How can stakeholders participate in a public review?
SS: Anybody can participate in a public review, but the first step is knowing which standards are being reviewed. I would suggest going to the TSC website and registering for the TSC newsletter. There’s no promotional marketing material there. It’s the channel we use to notify people that groups have been formed or that they’ve been to various stages of their lifecycle, including public review. So, if you want to make sure you’re on top of what’s going through the TSC, I highly recommend signing up for the newsletter.