Required Reading (was Re: Who needs XHTML Namespace?)

Steven R. Newcomb srn at
Wed Sep 1 19:33:02 BST 1999

[David Megginson:]

> The MIT approach ("the right thing") dominated standards, software,
> and systems development from the IBM days of the 50's and 60's until
> the late 80's, and the New Jersey approach ("worse is better") became
> the clear leader by the mid 1990's when the Internet and the
> worse-is-better Web so thoroughly trumped the entire computer
> establishment.  Who knows what the next decade will bring?

My money's on the MIT approach.  The New Jersey approach was right
only briefly, and then only because it was needed to resolve the most
significant and paralyzing crisis that ever struck the
telecommunications and information technology industries.  The crisis
was that everyone could see that there was a sumptuous feast on the
table, and everyone was standing around waiting to see who would sit
down, and where, to start eating.  Nobody wanted to be among the
first.  The problem was that those who sat down first would almost
certainly turn out not to have chosen the richest seats at the table.
CompuServe, for example, was an early sitter.  Remember CompuServe?

By handing each standee a spoon, the Web allowed the feeding frenzy to
begin in earnest.  Nobody even had to sit down in order to start
eating.  The Web was needed just to get everyone to start eating, and
it didn't matter that it wasn't sophisticated or anything.  Much of
the food on the table could be sampled by everyone.  Brilliant!

But now people are noticing that a lot of food can't be eaten with
spoons, and the spoons that the Web provided aren't really optimal
ways to convey food into their mouths.  It's very hard to get people
to agree to use new implements, or to agree about what a new implement
might be.  New spoon designs have to make sense to everyone now, not
just the spoon's original inventors, who only needed an approximate
solution to get people to start eating.

The right thing will prevail.  The success of the New Jersey approach
during the '90s will turn out to have been an extraordinary blip in
the history of IT.  Now that the public is well and truly involved,
public consensus is essential.  There is no substitute for doing the
right thing, and there is no other basis for public consensus about
how to convey food into mouths.


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at

voice: +1 972 231 4098
fax    +1 972 994 0087
pager (150 characters max): srn-page at

3615 Tanner Lane
Richardson, Texas 75082-2618 USA

xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev at
Archived as: and on CD-ROM/ISBN 981-02-3594-1
To (un)subscribe, mailto:majordomo at the following message;
(un)subscribe xml-dev
To subscribe to the digests, mailto:majordomo at the following message;
subscribe xml-dev-digest
List coordinator, Henry Rzepa (mailto:rzepa at

More information about the Xml-dev mailing list