On September 06, 2005, W3C announced the publication of The QA Handbook, developed by members of the Quality Assurance Working Group as the latest of the W3C QA Framework documents. While some features of specification QA presented in the document are unique to W3C's technical process and software automation tools, several of the resources referenced by The QA Handbook have broad applicability to formal specification development in any similar standards organization.
Release of the The QA Handbook follows publication of the QA Framework Specification Guidelines, QA Framework Primer, and Variability in Specifications Note in August 2005. The Handbook and related resources have been produced through the W3C Quality Assurance Activity and its maintenance program.
The QA Handbook documents a set of good practices that helps Working Groups improve their deliverables and keep their schedules. It is a non-normative handbook describing "processes and operational aspects of certain quality assurance practices of W3C's Working Groups, with particular focus on testability and test topics. It is intended for Working Group chairs and team contacts. It aims to help them to avoid known pitfalls and benefit from experiences gathered from the W3C Working Groups themselves. It provides techniques, tools, and templates that should facilitate and accelerate their work. Supported by real-world stories and examples, The QA Handbook offers a practical guide to applying good practices and quality assurance techniques to WG activities, especially developing Recommendations and test materials."
Published as a W3C Recommendation on August 17, 2005, the QA Framework: Specification Guidelines document is designed to help W3C editors write better specifications by making a specification easier to interpret without ambiguity and clearer as to what is required in order to conform. It focuses on how to define and specify conformance and addresses how a specification might allow variation among conforming implementations. The document presents guidelines or requirements, supplemented with good practices, examples and techniques. W3C urges the Guidelines be applied to technical work from very beginning, with attention to a conformance model, normative language usage, writing with test assertions, optional featuresand extensibility, as well as profiles, levels, and conformance claims. These Guidelines are to be followed along with the W3C "pubrules" and W3C Manual of Style to support testable language, clarity, conciseness."
A QA Framework document on the Variability in Specifications was published on August 31, 2005. This document details some of the most important conformance-related concepts evoked in the QA Specification Guidelines. It analyzes how design decisions of a specification's conformance model may affect its implementability and the interoperability of its implementations. To do so, it introduces the concept of variability (how much implementations conforming to a given specification may vary among themselves) and presents a set of well-known dimensions of variability. Seven dimensions are presented in a sequence from most to least independence from other design factors. The document's goal is to raise awareness of the potential cost that some benign-looking decisions may have on interoperability and to provide guidance on how to avoid these pitfalls by better understanding the mechanisms affected by variability."
A companion QA Framework Primer updated in August 2005 gives an introduction to the QA Framework at W3C. The Primer provides a roadmap to the QA Framework document and orients the reader by presenting the QA Framework from three different prespectives — a document view, a role-based view, and a Working Group milestones view.
The Matrix of W3C Specifications document, produced using XML, RDF, XSLT, and XHTML, is also published as part of the QA Framework. The Matrix of W3C specifications displays a table for deliverables at least at Last Call stage, except if the team is working on a Test Suite at Working Draft stage. The default view is sorted by title; a view sorted by status is also available. For each specification in the Matrix, the table indicates the URI, the specification maturity level, and symbols indicating associated QA tools. A validator icon is shown if the specification has a validator, a W3C Test suite icon if the specification has a Test Suite located on the W3C server, a generic/remote Test Suite icon if the specification has such a Test Suite, and a Conformance section icon if the specification has a conformance section.
The Matrix of W3C Specifications is also part of the W3C TR Automation Project. In this automation project, the use of Semantic Web tools and technologies has allowed W3C to streamline the publication paper trail of W3C Technical Reports by maintaining an RDF-formalized index of specifications, and to create a number of tools using (meta)data extracted from XHTML into various databases.
The Matrix shows related documents with hyperlinks if they are available: Errata, Implementation Reports, Primer, Requirements Documents, Use Cases, Accessibility Support Document, Authoring Techniques Document, etc. The displayed XHTML output has been produced with an XSL stylesheet; the Matrix represents an XHTML ouput of an RDF maintained list of QA related information merged with the RDF version of the TR page. Production details are described in the Manual and in the document "Why the QA Matrix in RDF?"
W3C's QA Activity was charged with a fourfold mission: (1) "to improve the quality of W3C specifications through guidelines and reviews of specifications at critical stages of their development; (2) to promote wide deployment and proper implementation of formal specifications through articles, tutorials, and validation services; (3) to communicate the value of test suites and help Working Groups produce quality test suites; (4) to design effective processes that, if followed, will help working groups achieve QA goals."