Why do we write standards?

David Brownell david-b at pacbell.net
Mon Nov 8 23:01:55 GMT 1999

David Megginson wrote:
> That's a fair question.  The short answer is that I disagree with your
> opinion -- standardization is a kind of regulation, and deciding when
> and how to regulate is a very difficult balancing act between benefits
> (the Socialist view) and costs (the Libertarian view).

Interesting ... but then there are more aspects to balance:

> Now that we're trying to standardize in *advance* of implementation,

Why?  The "we" that tries to standardize way early isn't the XML-DEV sort
of crowd, but more of a corporate crowd anticipating either (a) time to
market advantage, or (b) industry power supported by such standards, or
surely similar things that I'm less conscious of.

That's a "benefits" case that's not Socialist, since the benefits are
intended to be optimized for only a few folk (one vendor, or maybe a
consortium).  Call it capitalist; sometimes even monopolist.

> The solution is to standardize incrementally to minimize the risks,
> and to concentrate initially on the areas that will bring the most
> benefit for the least effort.

I like incremental work, but "least" effort isn't the only concern
there too.  Consider an organization that really can't commit any
energy in an area unless it's applying, say, twenty engineers.

Such an organization will see "least effort" and "incremental" and
especially "benefit" rather differently from any individual, who
will normally think in terms of part time effort ... that's two whole
orders of magnitude difference, and that changes folks' perspectives
in major ways.

I'm not saying that's any sort of globally (or even locally) optimal
way to answer the question, but it's a widely adopted answer that
doesn't seem to fit into a socialist-v-libertarian dimension.

- Dave

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