Standards for Change

Dear Readers

As many of you know, Ars Aperta has been active in standardization ever since its inception. Shortly after starting our business in 2006, we realized how critical a standard like OpenDocument Format would become for the ICT world.
By creating an effective, xml based format for office documents, the OASIS Consortium has not only developed an alternative solution to the office format imposed to the market: It has set a defining moment, after which both the industry and the ICT users were no longer forced to use closed and unreliable formats, but instead had the choice between those and an open and sustainable standard. For the qualities of OpenDocument do not just lie in its technical capabilities. OASIS-developed standards are among the best ICT standards around, thanks to the contributions of world-class experts and a constant, steady work towards the advancement of the state of the art. OpenDocument is the first standard to be called “open”, because its intellectual property regime, as much as its development processes and inclusive nature allow the contributions of the largest number of stakeholders and have been thought to design an unique alternative that will help drive the ICT industry towards a more sustainable, open, and interoperable era.

I am grateful for all this to the OASIS Consortium. It would be pretty difficult to return the favor to this honorable institution, but today I would like to contribute something back by taking one extra step. I am running as a candidate for the election of the Board of Directors of the OASIS Consortium, and I intend to serve the OASIS together with my colleagues for the benefit of the whole ICT community: software vendors, users, governments, citizens, integrators, developers, etc. All have their importance, and every single one of them can be an OASIS stakeholder.

What can I bring to the Consortium?

First, it is important to realize that we are standing at a turning point for standardization. The way ICT standards are developed today may not seem much different from the way they were just ten years ago, but standardization processes are facing an increasing pressure from various players and emerging, collaborative ways to develop common sets of protocols and formats among I.T. experts. It is no mystery that several technological revolutions have changed the ICT landscape in the last few years: Free and Open Source Software brought, among other things, the fundamental demand for transparency, users and developers’ rights and the quest for uncompromising quality in code. Collaborative methods have shown that they were not so much methods than a succession of epiphanies based on the careful observation of the power of people sharing their skills and knowledge in a networked mode. Last but not least, the network gave birth to an economy of abundance of knowledge, which in turn made possible the appearance of ad-hoc, online standardization teams working on specific technologies designed to provide the answers to technological problems. All this does put a strain on traditional standardization methods; we may want to think how best to adapt ourselves to them. The time of ICT standards designed by and for the sole benefit of their authors is now over: We must accept the fact that the normative power previously devolved to a few has now become inherently distributed across the Internet. We must also realize that although standards should always been designed in order to solve one identified set of problems, we develop standards not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all; and by its ubiquity, the Internet and Cloud computing made this an even more stringent reality. In short, our industry is changing, and we have to embody this change ourselves, for our constituencies, our peers, and our communities.

Second, our demand for uncompromising quality in the standards our consortium develops relies not just on the best will of our men and women, but on effective tools and adequate answers to the everyday’s work going on inside our technical committees. We should make sure we continue along the path that the OASIS Consortium has taken a few years ago, by using and integrating our wikis more effectively in the OASIS website and improve the access to collaborative tools and documents repositories. More to the point, we should help the various committees developing and using online conformance and test tools. These tools should be easy to access, reliable and transparent for the sake of peer review and efficient work inside the committees.

Third, we should explore new potential markets. Standards form an integral part of many industries; but as the usage of ICT grows exponentially across industries that were previously thought immune to the field of ICT, so does the need for digital standards. In this area, the OASIS consortium has already a position that is strong enough to put us in the front seat of this standardization field, as we focus on developing xml standards that serve entire vertical markets.
But this is a mere stand only, and we should strengthen it by not just focusing on xml standards, but expanding our reach to encompass markets that strive for sustainable digital standards. By doing this, we will not just protect and grow our reach across the standardization field, but we will also serve our constituencies and the ones who will come after us in developing unique standards for tomorrow.

I will be happy to work on all this with my colleagues at the OASIS, and also with you, members of the broader Internet community: Citizens, small and large businesses, government, developers, and others. If you are a voting member of the OASIS consortium, don’t forget to cast your ballot this month, it is important. If you are outside the OASIS voting members category, you can help too: By communicating around you about this election, by finding out if you know people at the OASIS and telling them about this project that I believe is comprehensive, pragmatic and at the same time, I hope, inspiring.

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