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   RE: [xml-dev] WS-Emperor naked?

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At 6:48 AM -0700 4/4/04, Rex Brooks wrote:

>Lastly, who wants to cast the vote the prevents allowing the only 
>viable, public standard completely uncoupled from partisan politics, 
>that stands a chance of saving a single life in a time when another 
>incident such as 9/11 or 3/11 could happen at any time, especially 
>if that public standard, because it IS public, CAN be amended to do 
>its job better?

Without knowing anything about CAP, I do recognize here a very common 
logical fallacy that leads to bad policy and bad government. The 
assumption that we must do something because, hey it might work, 
ignores the very real costs of doing something, including, sometimes, 
the possibility that it may be actively harmful and perhaps even 
counterproductive. Solutions based on newer technology are not always 
better. If CAP is bad enough, it indeed might be better not to have 
it at all. It is ridiculous to claim that we should support because 
it might stand a chance of saving a single life, unless we can also 
say with reasonable confidence that it will not costs lives (or 
freedom, or privacy, or wealth, or any other concepts we hold dear).

The only reasonable way to judge a standard like this is to tally up 
the advantages *AND DISADVANTAGES* and see if the advantages outweigh 
the disadvantages. Sometimes it's a judgement call which different, 
rational people may come to different conclusions about. For 
instance, the law enforcement community places almost no weight on 
privacy and civil liberties. Many citizens place much greater weight 
on those values. Nonetheless you have to make the comparisons to 
speak sensibly about such matters.

I am reminded of the XML 1.1 debates, in which I was repeatedly 
accused of  being morally suspect merely because I dared to raise the 
question of what the disadvantages of moving to a new version of XML 
were, and whether the advantages were of sufficient weight to 
counterbalance them.

As I said, I really don't know if the advantages of CAP outweigh its 
disadvantages or not; but if I felt they did I would have no 
compunction about casting a vote to reject it, even in the absence of 
other alternatives. Sometimes when faced with a bad spec, that's the 
only sensible and logical choice. Sadly the inertia of standards 
efforts (not just at OASIS but at the JCP, the W3C, and elsewhere) 
means standards tend to get approved even when they shouldn't be I 
suspect a procedural change might be in order. To be approved a spec 
must pass two separate and independent votes: one by those who worked 
on the spec, and one by interested parties who did not participate in 
the development of the spec, and made no investment to be wasted if 
the specification fails to pass the vote. Sadly, I know of no 
standards body that operates in such a bicameral fashion.

   Elliotte Rusty Harold
   Effective XML (Addison-Wesley, 2003)


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