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Hal Hart <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 14 Jul 2000 09:10:20 -0700
text/plain (56 lines)
Mike Feldman wrote:
>...
>It's natural for a single company to declare its proprietary products
>to be a "standard", but that does not make them so. It's a marketeer's
>distortion of the term. It's high time this industry accepted some
>technical terminology as "standard" (no pun intended). They are
>unlikely to do so; distortion is in their interest. But we can
>be smart consumers and at least understand the distortion.
>
>Rick, it's OK for you to like Microsoft. But please do not insult our
>intelligence by insisting that its products are something they are
>not. Popular, yes, Proprietary, yes. Good, maybe (a matter of opinion,
>of course, as we have few objective measures). Standard, only in
>Microsoft's distorted meaning. Rick, you're a technical guy. I'm
>surprised at your willingness to buy into the distortion.

I'm with you, Mike. This whole thread reminds me that in the late 80's or
early 90's ago Lolo Penedo and I were asked to give a tutorial at the then
just-starting SW Technology Conf. (SLC) on software engineering
environments.  We had an extensive section on "standards" applicable in
this area (the actual topic of the tutorial isn't relevant to my point),
and opened with ~3 different definitions of "standard" that were being used
in the industry at the time: "formal standard" (approved by some chartered
stds-making body, almost always implying "one" definition), "defacto
standard" (widely accepted by pratitioners without real competition, but
not formally established), and "emerging standard" (something newish which
was gaining momentum toward one of the other 2 states, but maybe with
competition at the time).

It didn't even occur to us, or any of our reviewers or audience members, to
want to include in the definition of "standard" something written and held
proprietarily by one company.  Sure, the word "standard" was often on the
cover of company documents/specs far from the above 3 definitions, but we
always understood that that usage of the word was from a different universe
and only the naive became confused that that really meant "standard."  Up
to that time, I think the most widely known examples of that had been done
by IBM (for decades), and my memory is that most of us were very clear that
an "IBM standard" was outside the range of definition of standards  --
with the exception of those they carried to formal standards-making bodies,
with the ensuing openness of process and openness to consensus-reaching
revisions that entailed.  (And IBM was willing to do this occasionally
under the right circumstances.)

How the industry has changed in a decade if a group like this is now split
on and debating whether MS "standards" are standards in any sense
commensurate with other (legitmate) definitions.

An oft-cited joke line is "The great thing about standards is how many
there are to choose from."  I've often wondered how many people hearing
that realize that it IS a joke, a back-handed criticism of how corrupted
the term "standard" has become, ironically destroying the essence of the
term's meaning and thwarting the pure objectives of standardization in most
cases.

     -hh

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