OASIS Symposium – Opening Keynote

Bob Sutor from IBM gave an opening keynote – “In the Middle of the End”. Arguing that the first important issue regarding “open” standards is one of transparency, the ability of any one to understand what is going on, how to get involved and be inclusive. On this he’s right that OASIS stands head and shoulders above many “standards” organisations – its process is certainly more understandable and open than that of even the global de jure standards bodies. I hope these principles are brought to bear to the new IBM-sponsored initiative on open document interoperability, by ensuring that all open standards on document formats are involved, and not just those currently sponsoring the new committee (remember WS-I, anybody?).

We are seeing tremendous pressure to ensure that intellectual property doesn’t become a tax on innovation and interoperability – W3C were considered as the radicals in moving towards royalty free models: an honest admission that IBM fought a rearguard action in opposing this direction and was initially scared of this change.

“Standards should be developed in such a way that they can be implemented as an open source solution” – not all standards organisations are equal nor open. So how do you measure those criteria? How is the standard developed? Maintained? How is it implemented (and are there any limitations – inevitable reference to difficulty of implementing OOXML – “over six thousands pages” – despite the fact that many of those pages carry the backward compatibility that many users need and that resolve problems that are there in the first place because of other people’s earlier messes…but I digress)? How easy is it to acquire? It’s true that many ISO standards are expensive.

“People get ODF” – argues that the paradigm will be repeated: “the end is in sight, but tremendous battles remain”.

Recommendation to OASIS:

“kill RAND”, dump it, stick to one or other of the “royalty free” models.

“Don’t be a standards factory” – need a notion of intellectual connectedness – I’d agree and have always supported the idea of OASIS mapping out its dependencies and relations between its standards and work, in a way that people can see easily. A pity that nothing came of their initial investigation of developing a “Topic Map” of OASIS work. It might be worth revisiting this.

“Become even more open” – difficult to know what more OASIS could do here.

Look at the experience of “virtual worlds” – what we do in the real world, processes, transactions, etc., can be done also in these and more.

Open question: should OASIS insist within its internal process that all technical committees be required to ensure that open standards implementations are possible for all its specifications? Watch this space…

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