Re: OASIS/SAX - looking around
[Don Park:] > To be honest, I am not exactly impressed with what OASIS has > accomplished so far. ... We need organizations that protect the > consumers from the manufacturers. ... Does OASIS fit this need? I > don't think so. I never heard of OASIS opposing anything W3C or > IETF did. There are those who support OASIS in the hope that it will represent the public interest in ways that mere vendor consortia never could. Don, I think you're right that it would be comforting if OASIS could be seen to do something that is both in the public interest and politically expensive for OASIS's leadership. Personally, I think OASIS's survival depends on the public's perception that it does indeed play on the side of the public interest, and that it is not merely * a weapon being used by anti-Microsoft forces against Microsoft, or * a vehicle for the careers of its leadership, or * a sink for political heat that would otherwise be borne by W3C, or * a marketing ploy of Sun Microsystems, or * some other thing less worthy of our support than a public interest research group would be. It would help a lot if OASIS's Board would adopt and publicize an explicitly pro-public-interest position. At the moment, what passes for its mission statement falls a bit short of this (the following indented text is from the FAQ at the OASIS web site, www.oasis-open.org): OASIS provides an open forum where its members discuss market needs and directions, and recommend guidelines for product interoperability. ... On what basis will these guidelines be selected? It's not as clear as it could be, is it? It would be natural to assume "on the basis of maximum commercial benefit for OASIS's funding sources". But it would be better for OASIS's viability if the purpose of the open forum were explicitly "to use the power of open dialogue to reveal the courses of action that vendors and users can take that will best serve the public interest" (for example). If OASIS is merely a clearinghouse for economic power and political pressure, one can only wonder what purpose is served by offering an "open" forum. For me, the word "open" is key; I'm pinning a lot of hopes on it. ... The consortium creates, receives, coordinates, and disseminates information describing methodologies, technologies and implementations of the standards. ... On what basis will such creation, coordination and dissemination be done? Again, it would be natural to assume "on the basis of maximum commercial benefit for OASIS's funding sources". However, I observe that, in practice, at least some of this work has clearly benefitted the public, viz. Robin Cover's outstanding and constantly updated bibliography (http://www.oasis-open.org/cover/), and, in earlier days, the development of the SGML Open Catalog formalism. There are more examples of well-directed work that OASIS is undertaking. ... Where appropriate, OASIS recommends specific application strategies over others as ways in which various products can better provide interoperability for users. ... This is a pretty strong statement and I like it. However, I repeat Don's question: Does anyone know of OASIS actually having done this in opposition to any other strategy, when it was politically costly to do so? It would be good to make the definition of "appropriate" explicit, so as to provide a decision-making basis for overcoming OASIS's leadership's natural reluctance to alienate anyone by actually recommending application strategies that are not favored by (as Don mentions) W3C or IETF (for example). "Appropriate" might be more usefully stated as, "Whenever the public interest would be well served". If OASIS had such a basis for making such recommendation decisions, we could live to see a future in which OASIS takes strong positions on behalf of the public. Without such an explicit basis, I don't see that happening. OASIS members will have to ask for such a beefed-up mission statement, or (we can safely predict) there won't be one. It's clearly in the worldwide public interest that the software and services that are used to communicate and manage information all work together smoothly. From the public's perspective, that's the whole purpose of demanding conformance to information standards. But there's a problem. Here's another way of saying exactly the same thing: "The software and services that are used to communicate and manage information should be commodities, and the public should be free to purchase them from the lowest bidder and/or the provider of the best perceived value." This latter statement flies in the face of most of the business models used by today's vendors of information/communications products and services. It takes a truly visionary vendor or investor to see that the longterm health of the world economy, and the maximization of human productivity in general, best serves his own interests. Is OASIS led and/or funded by such visionaries? It's not yet clear, is it? I think that when/if it becomes clear that OASIS truly serves the public interest, OASIS will become one of the strongest forces affecting the information interchange marketplace. At the end of the day, OASIS will be exactly what its members demand and deserve. I can tell you this for sure: OASIS is strongly supported by at least some pro bono visionaries for whom I have the greatest respect, and who are truly struggling to do good things. I applaud their efforts, and I only wish I could do more to help. If you're a member of OASIS, I urge you to consider carefully what you expect from it, and then to demand exactly that. If you're not a member, I urge you to consider joining, while recognizing that it may not yet be completely clear what, exactly, you are joining. Your help is needed to steer OASIS in meaningful and important directions, and to do important work under the OASIS umbrella. Many of us believe that OASIS really does represent a stunning opportunity for good things to happen. Whether the opportunity will be realized depends on each person who understands the issues, who knows what's at stake, and who is prepared to pay the price of accomplishing things that will benefit not only him/herself, but also everyone else. (Please note that I'm *not* saying that OASIS is the *only* choice for people who want to make these kinds of contributions. I personally am also supporting IDEAlliance (http://www.idealliance.org/), for example, which also has done and is doing a lot of good work which benefits the public, and which also represents a unique opportunity.) -Steve -- Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc. srn@t... http://www.techno.com ftp.techno.com voice: +1 972 517 7954 fax +1 972 517 4571 Suite 211 7101 Chase Oaks Boulevard Plano, Texas 75025 USA
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