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   RE: Anti-Ranti

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  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 13:18:45 -0500

At 10:16 AM 3/13/00 -0500, DuCharme, Robert wrote:
>Hopefully, Jon Bosak's recent actions to encourage Oasis participation will
>reduce the volume of complaints. It reminds me of what I tell my wife when
>she complains about the inefficiency of our daughter's soccer league or the
>complainers at her church: it looks bad to complain too much about a
>volunteer organization--at a certain point, people should pipe down or
>volunteer themselves to improve things. The man who lead the drive to invent
>XML wants to lead people to build a more democratic standards organization;
>it will be interesting to see who heeds the call.

While I was very glad to hear Jon Bosak's call for developers to
participate in OASIS, I remained concerned about a tone I hear throughout
discussions about such participation.   This tone appears in the message
above, and also in the end of Jon Bosak's XTech keynote - see
http://xmlhack.com/read.php?item=310 for details.

Perhaps it will be seen as merely more complaining, but I find it
remarkable that these calls for more participation seems to be deeply
intertwined with irritation that the processes by which they operate are
questioned.  The result is a remarkably condescending brew of "we're sick
of your crap, and if you want us to take you seriously, you'd better get on
board with our organization."  Having seen this more than a few times, it
starts to get pretty wearying.

I'd like to suggest that the folks making such calls for participation
focus on the positive aspects of what their organizations are up to, rather
than castigating developers who haven't yet found a happy home in one
standards organization or another.  All of us have to deal with the results
of standards development, whether or not we had a voice in their creation,
so a certain level of complaining should be expected, perhaps even encouraged.

There are a couple of very simple things that could be done to reduce the
temperature of these discussions.  I hope strongly that they will at least
be taken as constructive criticism.  For the standards-building consortia
and other organizations:

* stop talking, at least in public, about 'bozo fees' as if everyone who
doesn't have $5000 or $250 dollars to pay for a seat at the table is some
kind of idiot.

* use carrots, not sticks, to encourage developers and larger organizations
to join organizations.

* respond regularly and publicly to discussions originating outside of the
organization, and at all steps of the standards development process.

* encourage developers whose interests may not be a perfect match with a
particular organization's approach to work with other developers on
projects that might meet their needs.

* make as much of the decision-making process as possible public.

* accept the existence of the market, and develop standards in light of the
fact that there may be competition.

I don't think any of the above is spectacularly difficult, though it
definitely requires a change in mindset and rhetoric.  Some of these are
simple public relations, though all of them (except perhaps the first) have
some real costs associated with them.

Finally, as far as all the complaining developers go, there might be a few
things we can do as well:

* state disagreements politely in both public and private forums

* work on projects we find useful, without focusing on whether standards
organizations find them relevant.

* find standards processes we like and support them.  I'm working on XML
MIME types through the IETF's process, for example, and I've enjoyed
working on the SML-DEV list.

* comment on specific proposals when possible, using forums like the W3C
lists.  While this can be discouraging - responses are sometimes few and
far between - it's frequently worth doing and can occasionally yield real

Hopefully, this all will sound fairly reasonable, and won't be treated as
just more complaining.

Simon St.Laurent
XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
Cookies / Sharing Bandwidth

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