standards vs. the public
The proposed patent policy demands discussion of the basis on which the policy is being proposed and defended. How is the public interest served (or, as the case may be, not served) by this policy? "The only reason you should work on information interchange standards is because you don't already control the market." I think this rather crass statement is appropriate, given the current situation. It grieves me. I wish it were not so. It would be much better for everyone, including the standards-makers, if they would all use their considerable skills to serve the public. A "standard" should be carefully designed to enjoy the wholehearted support of an enlightened public. The public is everyone who owns information. It's a big responsibility to serve the public interest. It is a tragic feature of our times that few IT standards efforts ever even give lip-service to this responsibility, much less act with good faith toward the public. In view of the welter of mutually conflicting ("non-orthogonal") standards emanating from the W3C, the public's interests would be better served if we all meekly adopted whatever "standards" are offered by some particular appointed commercial monopolist. At least then it would be clear how we should invest our time and effort as we attempt to resolve our urgent information interchange and management problems. And there would be someone whom we could hold responsible whenever things don't work. Broken things would probably be fixed promptly and predictably, in order to avoid a public investigation -- perhaps by the media, perhaps by some government or government agency -- that would make the monopolist very uncomfortable. But it would be far better to make the public interest the real focus of our standardization activities. Decisions about standards processes, and about standards themselves, should be explained to the public in terms of public benefit, showing why all the possible alternatives would be less beneficial *to the public*. If we don't choose the public-service-centric approach, then we will surely get the monopolist-centric approach by default. The absence of effective public-service-centric leadership in the Web arena is creating public demand for the predictability of tyranny. Under the rule of a tyrant, at least the "standards" will work together. The laissez-faire "let a hundred standards bloom" attitude will never produce a rationally integrated environment for universal information management and exploitation. I would like someone to show how the proposed patent policy fits into an integrated package of policy reforms that will make the W3C a credible and consistent source of standards that the public can adopt with a sense of security that they will all make sense with respect to each other. -Steve -- Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant srn@c... voice: +1 972 359 8160 fax: +1 972 359 0270 1527 Northaven Drive Allen, Texas 75002-1648 USA The views expressed above are precisely the same as those of my unfortunate employer, who accepts full responsibility for them.
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