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   Re: [xml-dev] "Standards Business Technology" development effort require

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At 09:16 PM 5/1/2004 -0400, Michael Champion wrote:

On May 1, 2004, at 7:24 PM, Bob Wyman wrote:
        Currently, the standards business seems to rely a great deal
on face-to-face meetings in addition to mailing lists and telephone
conferencing. What might make sense would be to do a concerted effort
to either develop or select technology that could be used for hosting
remote discussions and working sessions over the Internet.

Great ideas in this post!  I have thought about this over the years quite a bit but don't have real success stories to point to.  A few observations:

- The problem with any flavor of voice or audio conferencing is that it is intrinsically synchronous.  It's all very well and good to open up that meeting in Tokyo or Paris to remote participants, but the time differences are still a killer to real participation by people 9 timezones away.  There's got to be some asynchronous component to capture proposals, allow voting (formal or informal) over a 12-24 hour period, and get the decision recorded in a useful form.

I was going to point out the timezone problem.... this has been especially tough in the UBL project because the head of the subcommittee that did most of the model and vocabulary development was Tim McGrath  who lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, and he's done conference calls in the middle of the night for years.  So even if the meetings are held by conference call there is still the "home court advantage"  issue.

But as much as I'd like there to be a technology solution here, i think that there are some very important reasons for face-to-face meetings.  First of all, for a lot of people doing standards work in addition to day jobs it is  easier to get things done if go away somewhere for a week than trying to do it an hour here and a hour there.  You need the block of time without the usual meetings and distractions -- conference calls just don't do that because they are part of your regular day wherever you are.

But more importantly, i think, is that the longer period of time in the face to face meetings let people talk (off the record, in ad hoc informal meetings at dinner, in the restaurant bar, etc)  about what they really were trying to accomplish in the standard and often this involves strategic or  coalitional activity that would never arise in a conference call.

And finally, while the technical people might be willing to get everything done on a conference call, frankly the "junket" aspect of going off to Tokyo or Vancouver or Vienna attracted people who might not have as much to contribute technically but whose support of the activity might be as essential in getting the work done and the standard deployed afterwards.   Without high-level management types occasionally going to the meetings who would approve the travel and commit to putting the specs into products the efforts can collapse into self-absorbed geek-fests.   I've played both the geek and the high-level management roles in these things and i bet i added more value in the latter than the former.



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