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Re: [ontolog-forum] Truth (and standards bodies)

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2012 19:21:40 -0400
Message-id: <4FFB6784.6040706@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Ed,    (01)

I agree with your comments about standards bodies.  But the W3C is
a strange group with a confusing mix of missions.    (02)

In effect, they are a quasi-design group, a quasi-standards body
(but *not* an official standards body), a coalition of experts,
a coalition of implementers, and a coalition of grant-proposal
authors who promote (hype) a vision of the future that they hope
will inspire governments and businesses with deep pockets.    (03)

> ... standards bodies are not necessarily 'professional groups' in
> the sense of 'professional societies'.  They are merely sets of persons
> representing organizations (or sometimes themselves) with the political
> will and sufficient technical know-how (somewhere among them) to get a
> standard made for some set of reasons.    (04)

I agree.    (05)

> The value of one contributor may be to keep the meetings on track,
> the value of another may be to write the agreements clearly, and
> the value of three others may be in their ability to discuss and
> resolve the deep technical issues, and the value of two more may be
< to ensure that you don't have to understand the problem at that level
> in order to use the standard correctly, and there may be yet one or
> two more whose value is to translate between terminologies and find
> compromises.  It takes a village...    (06)

I agree with that policy for the ISO process, which requires a lengthy
review before any draft is approved as a standard.  The W3C, however,
takes pride in the speed with which they approve an RFC (Request
for Comment).  Those RFCs are not official standards, but people
often treat them as standards.  That can be a serious problem.    (07)

> Academics can add to such a body the deep expertise that leads
> to a viable basis for a common solution, or they can just add
> religious purism to one side or the other.    (08)

As somebody who has worked on both sides of the fence, I can
sympathize with and get upset about both of them.    (09)

> I don't know how to create a good standards committee.  I only
> know one when I see one.  The good ones make good, not necessarily
> excellent, standards efficiently, and they do it with a combination
> of people who have different skills but can work well together.    (010)

I agree.    (011)

> And even then, we all know that technical excellence in a product
> doesn't necessarily beget either success or value.    (012)

That is certainly true.  But bad decisions that people implement
can produce some very bad results.  I've seen that when I was
at IBM, and I get upset whenever I see it today.    (013)

John    (014)

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