Jul 312007

As usual, the trip to the XML Summer School in Oxford was excellent. I learned a lot and met some interesting people and had fun too, even though I’ve decided that two trips to Europe, with a one-year-old, in 26 days, is a little too much travel in a short period of time. The XML Summer School had daycare, otherwise I really wouldn’t have been able to cope. I think the baby enjoyed the trip as well; she made lots of new friends and I started calling her “Princess” because of the way she waved and simpered. I am extremely grateful for all the work the Summer School organisers and the daycare people put in to make the trip as easy as possible.

I didn’t see a lot of the flooding and was only tangentially affected by it; I do have memories of the water sloshing around on the arrivals floor in Terminal 1 when I arrived on the morning of Friday 20th July and the attempts people were making to stop it going down into the basement where the Tube and the tunnels to get to other parts of the airport are located. The tunnel out of Heathrow was down to one lane and it was closed in the other direction. I wasn’t surprised to learn later that several flights had been cancelled.

Although in the centre of Oxford, where we were, there were few signs of the floods (a couple of roads closed off), surrounding areas were strongly affected. One friend who cycled in to meet us at the pub crawl on Wednesday found it surreal that his area was full of sandbags and people panicking about the rising groundwater, while a short bike ride away people were going shopping, going to the pub, and generally behaving the way they would without the floods.

The punting was cancelled of course, the Cherwell was just too high and too fast for it to be safe; there was a certain amount of nervousness about losing a delegate or two.

Punts on the Cherwell River by the Boathouse

Before the Summer School started, I met up with a friend on the Sunday for lunch. We went to The Fishes in North Hinksey, a cute little place with a verandah and a playground and a picnic area. Which would have been great for the baby to crawl around in, if it hadn’t been under a certain amount of water at the time.

flooded_playground flooded_picnic_area

All in all, I was quite glad to see the sun again when I got home to Vancouver, and to be happy we don’t live on a flood plain.

Jul 192007

I’m leaving for Oxford this afternoon; haven’t had much time for blogging in the last few days, what with recovering from the Berlin trip and getting ready for this one. Not to mention coping with an extremely clingy toddler, who gets jealous of Mummy’s laptop, and the phone, and anyone who dares get in between us. Wish me luck on the flight – she’ll either be a perfect little angel because she has me to herself or (and this is more likely) drive me completely bonkers.

Jul 122007

Rick Jelliffe, who’s been in the middle of lots of standards efforts, writes on the subject at Is our idea of “Open Standards” good enough? Verifiable vendor-neutrality. Worth reading, although he does make the assumption that the term “open standards” means “created by some standards organization”. Although that’s a tempting definition, and the one used by a lot of people (and the one I happen to prefer), it’s not the only definition that I’ve seen. I’ve seen three main categories of definitions of the term “open standard” when applied to some specification:

  • Anyone can read the specification (usually without paying); often applied to proprietary specifications which are treated as de facto standards.
  • Created in a standards organization that allows anyone to take part who has relevant expertise or can pay the appropriate dues.
  • Able to be used in any open source projects (i.e., there are restrictions on the types of licenses that can be used).

Recognising that lots of people use the term “open standard” to mean different things, the Liberty Alliance recently published what that term means in the context of Liberty Alliance specifications and guidelines. It’s called the Liberty Alliance Commitment to Open Standards and it’s a very brief document outlining a set of conditions for those specifications and guidelines (yes, the document talks about technical specifications but really it applies to other types of documents as well). The top item in the list of conditions to be an open standard, to answer Rick’s main point that rather than talking “open standards” we need to be talking as much of “verifiable vendor-neutrality”, is cannot be controlled by any single person or entity with any vested interests.

I disagree with Rick when he says that only ISO is truly vendor-neutral since only national bodies vote, as those national bodies could in theory be swayed by vendors. What you really want is to balance the needs of all parties (vendors, users, governments), but that’s difficult to attain in any organization. You need not only an organization that is set up to allow for input from all those stakeholders (to produce standards that are evolved and managed in a transparent process open to all interested parties and approved through due process by rough consensus among participants) but you also need to have enough participants who are interested in the end result, and have the appropriate expertise. And you need a competent chair for each committee, of course.

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