Where is there an end of it? | Alex Brown's weblog

Webbifying the Standardisation Process, Part 1

As companion pieces to those on JTC 1 Reform, I thought it would be interesting to look at some recent, not so-recent, and proposed initiatives taking place in International Standardisation that put web technology at the centre of the standardisation process.

BSI’s DPC System

The first of these is BSI British Standards Draft Review system. This recently-launched system makes available a number of Drafts for Public Comment (DPCs), and allows the general public to record comments on them with an easy-to-use web interface that permits any clause to be commented-on. As BSI explains:

Standards documents are circulated for public comment in order to get comments from as wide an audience as possible. The DPC stage occurs during drafting in national, European and international arenas and is an important part of the standards development process.

Those of you who have been following along purely for their interest in OOXML will remember that there was a public comment stage for that specification too (in the summer of 2007), in which members of the public submitted comments (then typically by email) which were fed into the process. Granted that mostly meant many copies of the then web-available objections were submitted – but there were some nuggets of original criticism too.

Wider spread

Again, those of you have been purely interested in OOXML will note the wide range of types of standard considered here. International standardisation is about much more than ISO and IEC, and here you can find drafts of CEN and CENELEC (European) standards and well as good old British Standards too.

So far as I am aware, this BSI system is blazing a trail on the international standards scene: it would be good to see other NBs too adopting such mechanisms for public comment collection. Even better if they adopted the same web-based APIs!

So come on, (British) readers: if you have any burning thoughts you wish to contribute on “Thief resistant lock assembly - Key egress” or “Code of practice for information and communications technology continuity”, then please do so.

Reforming Standardisation in JTC 1 – Part 1

The ongoing controversies surrounding the standardization of ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument Format 1.0) and ISO/IEC 29500:2008 (Office Open XML) have served to highlight several weaknesses in the International Standardisation processes for ICT specifications handled by JTC 1, the “Joint Technical Committee” that combines aspects of ISO and IEC for that purpose.
However newsworthy these particular projects have been, the underlying problems in JTC 1 go deeper, and I believe is incumbent on all who care to avoid solutions which smack of “single issue politics” – hard cases, after all, make bad law.
This post is the first in a series which aims to set out proposals for broad reforms that could help ensure JTC 1’s future. These posts are offered “out of process” as an informal starting point. They, like everything on this blog, are personal views – but have been informed by discussions with many experienced standardisers from many nations over the course of the last two years. My intention is that after the posts have been completed they will be assembled into a short paper (taking comments into account) which, I hope, may influence the onward international debate.

10 Recommendations for Reform

I make 10 recommendations and shall explore each in 10 forthcoming posts. In summary, they are:

1. Assert the worth of International Standardization

There are many organisations producing standards, but International Standardisation is the preserve of the de-jure organisations alone; this difference benefits the peoples of the world and must be preserved. The encroachment of “standardisation by corporation” must be resisted. More...

2. Recognise the distinctive requirements of ICT Standardisation

ICT standards are different from standards for piping, wiring or management processes; ISO and IEC need to make JTC 1 the sole steward of this distinctive subject area.

3. Re-draft the JTC 1 Directives

The JTC 1 Directives are an embarrassment; the current piecemeal patching efforts have palpably failed and serve only to empower administrators over nations. The Directives need to be re-drafted from scratch by professionals.

4. Move away from paper-based publication models

The current business model and many procedures within JTC 1 are predicated on producing and selling paper publications; this unnecessarily impedes the ICT standardisation process.

5. Widen International participation

In practice JTC 1 is currently dominated by a cosy club of rich, experienced nations; JTC 1 needs pursue a programme for fostering a much greater (i.e. genuinely international) reach.

6. Find a way for vendor-led standards to mesh with JTC 1 processes without compromising International control

Worthwhile standards will originate from outside JTC 1; a way must be found to make them International Standards avoiding the manifest flaws of the current accelerated adoption mechanisms.

7. Periodically change the nation having the Secretariat and Chair appointments

It is absurd that a purportedly International organisation has its effective HQ lodged for perpetuity in the USA.

8. Balance transparency and confidentiality

Openness and transparency can lead to better standardisation, but are by no means panaceas.

9. Clarify intellectual property policies

International Standards must have clearly stated IP policies, and avoid unacceptable patent encumbrances. More...

10. Encourage best practices at National level

International Standards rely on the efforts of the sovereign Nations that participate; JTC 1 should encourage these Nations to raise their games.

Moving in

This blog theme is a bit ... austere.

Here's  a pici to cheer things up before I get the place nicely redecorated.

From jeju 2008

Poetry, copyright violation, and OOXML

Perhaps it is best to start with something high-minded, in view of what may follow.

Some people have asked me where I got the title of my previous blog ("There is no end, but addition") from. In truth I asked my wife. I had researched blog titles; I knew what was required, and so asked for something "a little bit poncey and up itself". Naturally, she suggested a T.S. Eliot quotation "There is no end, but addition". Now in continuance of that tradition I offer a new blog title from the same poem, part II of The Dry Salvages (pronounced sal-vay-jez), from Four Quartets.

 Where is there an end of it, the soundless wailing,
The silent withering of autumn flowers
Dropping their petals and remaining motionless;
Where is there and end to the drifting wreckage,
The prayer of the bone on the beach, the unprayable
Prayer at the calamitous annunciation?

    There is no end, but addition: the trailing
Consequence of further days and hours,
While emotion takes to itself the emotionless
Years of living among the breakage
Of what was believed in as the most reliable—
And therefore the fittest for renunciation.

Now, I have to be careful to limit the length of this quotation, as I know for a fact Faber & Faber scour the web looking for copyright violators. And (I did hint we might come down from being high-minded) talking of copyright violation I notice some of the dafter quarters of the web have published the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 (OOXML) text. Now, while not many people know for sure what ITTF do to a text when they prepare it for publication, one thing they do do for sure is to put a copyright statement on every page. So what we have witnessed is a brazen act of copyright violation. The boobies have even been so good as to boast about the bandwidth requirements their crimes have occasioned (no further questions, m'lud).

Even now, I can hear those Geneva lawyers licking their lips over this one ...