Where is there an end of it? | Webbifying the Standardisation Process, Part 1

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.

Comments (8) -

  • Tim Bray

    10/9/2008 8:19:15 PM |

    Both the W3C and IETF have long had a policy that all working-group drafts are publicly available on the Web for public review.  In the W3C, a WG can elect to have private deliberations; in the IETF they are all by definition public.  This is been the case for some years now, and those with experience of a transparent and public process tend to being flabbergasted that ISO's opacity continues to be tolerated.

  • Alex

    10/9/2008 8:47:29 PM |


    Ah, I wish I was a FOWA to be able to discuss it ...

    The general problem, of course, is that in many respects the venerable National Standards Bodies simply have not moved with the times. That is, however, a fixable problem. And, I think, a problem worth fixing.

    There are also some misconceptions. The committee drafts of WGs, for example, are available as public documents - they only go under the radar when they enter the later stages of international balloting. There has also always been a public review stage - but it is little known of.

    I have just become convenor of a working group in SC 34, and I am going to initiate Wiki-based editing (with public read access) of committee drafts (at ... in progress).

    I think there is a long way to go to get the higher-level reforms necessary to JTC 1 in place (see the previous post to this). As always encouragement/support/suggestions are more than welcome ...

    Hope you're enjoying London,

    - Alex.

  • Philip Fitzsimons

    10/9/2008 11:10:09 PM |

    DPC a clever solution, though I think the Internet poses the question as to what role a central standards body provides - is this now an area that could be handled by "open standards process"?


  • Alan Bell

    10/12/2008 4:58:45 AM |

    BSI has been going for a very very long time (especially measured in internet years), hence their rather odd legal status being an independent body formed by royal charter and acting under a memorandum of understanding from the government giving them role of national standards body, in addition to the other stuff they do. They also appear to be outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, which I think is a bug that should be fixed (at least for it's NSB side). The problem now is that the first major step into the world of internet standardisation (no I am not counting BS EN ISO 9001-3, that is an IT standard, not an internet standard) caused a great big mess. We know that internet standards can be made to work if done internationally like IETF and W3C do on a regular basis. National standardisation committees that bubble up to an international forum just don't seem to fit a global environment.
    IETF even has RFCs that have vendor specific application such as MS-CHAP, rfc2433 which is an informational RFC. Unfortunately the IETF is not immune to bad faith patent trolls breaking the process, but at least the fail-safe worked, the process collapsed and nothing got done.

  • zoobab

    10/15/2008 6:13:32 AM |

    Replace ISO and the "standards bodies" by some wikis, webservers and mailing-lists.

    IETF does not fit for this purpose, because it is aimed at Internet standards, not all software standards.

    So there is a void here.

  • Alex

    10/15/2008 2:47:50 PM |


    Wikis, mailing-lists and web servers are already part of the international standards ecosystem (watch this blog for a post highlighting this). However, while such things are useful aids, particularly in standards creation, there is rather more to international standardisation - not least the stewardship of the tens of thousands of publised international standards, and the need to ensure the participation of the nations is managed.  

  • zoobab

    10/19/2008 7:33:21 AM |

    Furthermore, the IETF is not limited by membership of your country. If you are citizen of a country that is not member of ISO, you cannot participate in the process, which is not the case with IETF.

    I don't see how the "country" criteria is relevant here. It should be abolished and international standards should be accessible for contributions and votes for any human in the world.

  • Alex

    10/19/2008 10:20:07 PM |


    If you do not see how a consideration of "country" is relevant to international standardisation, then you have failed to understand - at a basic level - what international standardisation is. Stand by for a posting on this topic.

    - Alex.

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