Why do we write standards?
Steven R. Newcomb
srn at techno.com
Tue Nov 9 18:00:49 GMT 1999
Why do I help to create standards? Because the alternative is to
place everyone's creative work in jeopardy, along with civilization's
memory in general.
I realize that this is just *my* reason and it doesn't have to be
everyone's reason. I once used a proprietary language to represent my
interactive course in 16th-century counterpoint; it was never
published because Control Data Corporation capriciously and
unnecessarily changed the language. Ever since then, I've been
working to prevent similar calamities by providing standards that
don't change at the whim of some (consortium of) private interest(s).
The bad guy for me was Control Data Corporation, but it could have
been any technology company. We shouldn't expect information
technology companies to be responsive to the need of future
generations to exploit today's information assets, and the creative
output of today's artists, scientists, and engineers. Corporations
have no compelling reason to see that far ahead, and most large
organizations are insufficiently self-aware to learn from their
mistakes anyway. But somebody needs to pay attention to the problem
of corporate memory at all scales. I'm just one of the people who are
paying attention, and my way of paying attention is to seek standard
ways of doing things that will make information robust enough to
survive for a very long time.
Why do I help to create ISO standards, as opposed to other kinds?
* Because I don't have access to other standards processes,
* Because ISO standards can't be changed unless it's in the public
interest to change them, and
* Because ISO standards are at their best when they are even-handedly
responsive to civilization-wide requirements, rather than merely the
shorter-sighted desires of some particular industry or consortium.
When working on ISO standards, I may not feel like I'm going to get
rich, but I know that I'm working to make all of our descendants a
lot richer. Will ISO standards pay off in that way? I don't know.
I hope so.
Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at techno.com http://www.techno.com ftp.techno.com
voice: +1 972 517 7954 <<-- new phone number
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Plano, Texas 75025 USA
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