World Standard Day (WSD)

October 14th was chosen in 1946 to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy.

Last year for the WSD, we celebrated the creation of OpenStand, as a way to crystallize the principles of standardization used to create and evolve the Internet and the Web.

This year, in 2013, I’d like to celebrate this day by doing two things: first, something a bit fun, a personal review of some of graphic designs used to celebrate WSD, to see how they convey the OpenStand ideas (remember it’s an ISO/IEC/ITU initiative), and second, have a more serious discussion on the recent PRISM story.

Graphic designs celebrating WSD

So first, looking at the WSD imagery: the largest source is the ISO competition for WSD poster, but there are also lots of regional celebration graphics.

I’ll start with the banner of the World Standards Cooperation, the organization that runs the competition on behalf of the ISO/IEC/ITU.

WSC logo showing two hands passing a baton

It’s nice, and is high on messaging, but it doesn’t really suggest to me the real nature of open standardization. I also find it too commercially oriented, the baton looks too shiny not to cost a lot ;)

It does refer to values shared by all standardizers, such as cooperation, e.g., passing on something, building for and onto other’s work, and the idea of new communication/conduit (the Michelangelo allusion), but it misses the interoperability and innovation aspects which I think are paramount in the field.

The winner of the 2013 competition better conveys the interop piece.

WSD Poster 2013 But in such a mechanical way that it is a bit scary. For instance, it’s impossible to decide in which direction the gears are turning, e.g., who is in charge, and it’s clear to any engineer that the little Vinci man is going to turn much much faster than the big earth wheel – talk about a ride! It’s not very strong either on the OpenStand consensual, transparency and openness aspects, gears being by nature hidden under the hood and obeying strict physical laws.

The runners up in the 2013 competition were much better on feeling, using nature/green as a background, and the butterfly one conveyed a nice innovation trend and some interoperability as well (assuming all the new butterflies can communicate, being all butterflies).

Runner up WSD Poster 2013 butterfly . Runner up WSD Poster 2013 city . Runner up WSD Poster 2013 nature

But still, I think the scope is limited to Darwinism, and whether or not standards obey natural selection laws is not really the focus of the WSD.

Looking at previous WSD posters, I really liked the Accessibility theme in 2010.

WSD Poster 2010

Accessibility having such a broad scope, it does cover a lot of ground, but it is still unclear if once around the table, the due process used by the participants is consensual, transparent, etc. OK, I’m getting picky.

So to keep things short, I think I was looking for something like this:

frogware_lightbulb_cs_2 Open ICT Standards: Transparent, Compatible.

(OK, I can already hear the curmudgeons “But, but? Isn’t it a small Webcam I see inside the bulb?!”)

Maybe we should have a contest for an OpenStand poster. Before closing this fun section, don’t get me wrong, I hope that this post will promote the WSD contest and I applaud the efforts of ISO/IEC/ITU for celebrating such a day.

Transparency rules

If I insisted on transparency in my first paragraphs, it’s because there has been allegations recently that some government agencies where spying on citizens using back-doors in ICT standards that they had inserted themselves during the standard development.

Quite an accusation and a risk to lose a confidence and a trust capital that we’re just starting to get from the general population.

We’ve looked at this issue with our OpenStand partners and decided to remind policy makers of the importance of transparency and openness in standard making.

In a joint statement yesterday, we explain our belief that the OpenStand way may not be perfect, but that it is the best known route to build standards that are above reproach, in such a way where we aren’t left with doubts about their integrity.

Transparency and openness really form the foundations for other principles, like balance, consensus, cooperation, etc. And since ICT standards are meant to be used by all humans, our work needs to happen in public. We explained in our W3C OpenStand self-evaluation how we think we comply with this OpenStand principle:

Transparency. Standards organizations provide advance public notice of proposed standards development activities, the scope of work to be undertaken, and conditions for participation. Easily accessible records of decisions and the materials used in reaching those decisions are provided. Public comment periods are provided before final standards approval and adoption.

W3C announces draft charters and seeks review through email to public-new-work@w3.org and new-work@ietf.org; such charters are reviewed for at least one month before any approval can take place. For all key standards transitions, the W3C Process requires public documentation of changes, a statement that requirements have been met, evidence of wide review, responses that formally address issues, and any Formal Objections. All W3C drafts are public and comments from the public are welcome at any time. Most Working Groups conduct all their work on public mailing lists, which are archived indefinitely and publicly on the Web. W3C Process includes a heartbeat requirement to ensure that there are public records of progress no longer than every 90 days.

But as it happens, the Web is a network of devices of any kind connected by any means, and we live in an ecosystem of standards: we depend on each other as a source of high-quality standards, be that for navigation, security, privacy, or else.

As a lesson for the future, I think we should use a different lens on the OpenStand cooperation principle, and think not just in terms of respect – this is a must to start any dialog – but also in terms of assistance, i.e. making sure the technologies we depend upon the most directly for the Internet and the Web can be trusted.

We have to make all the ICT SDOs understand that inclusiveness in design is paramount for the net, that there is no other way in fact. A few dozen engineers behind closed doors cannot expect to fulfill the societal needs of a few billions users.

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