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Friday, April 18 2014 @ 06:50 PM CDT

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W3C Launches New “Agile” Standards Development Platform

Open Source/Open Standards

By anyone’s measure, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been one of the most important and influential standards development organizations of the information technology age. Without its efforts, the Web would literally not exist as we know it. But times change, and with change, even venerable – indeed, especially venerable – institutions must change with it. 

Yesterday the W3C announced the launch of a light-weight way for non-members as well as members to initiate new development projects. It allows participants to take advantage of streamlined, off the shelf tools and policies to support their efforts, as well as the intellectual support of the W3C staff and member community. Where appropriate, a project can graduate to the formal W3C development process as well. The new programs are the result of extensive discussion and consensus building that began in two ad hoc working groups in which I was pleased to be invited to participate.
 
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OpenOffice: Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

OpenDocument and OOXML

Poor OpenOffice. It’s been open source for so long, and yet its adoption and market importance has always lagged far behind that of peer software like Linux – despite the fact that it’s free and implements a standard (ODF) aggressively promoted by some of the most powerful technology countries in the world. Can this ever change?

If yesterday’s announcement by IBM is any indication, the answer is “not likely,” despite the fact that Big Blue’s latest commitment to OpenOffice, on its surface, sounds like good news. The reason? It’s too little, and too late. Here’s why.  

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Six Lives and Counting

Monday Witness

Depending on your point of view, the daily news delivers up a glass either half empty or half full. In the short term, the negative impression can be particularly powerful, with disasters both natural and man-made arising with distressing regularity. But the glass can also be viewed as half full, and that can lead to a false sense of security.

The viewpoint to which I refer would lead us to believe that most, if not all, man-made disasters in the making will fall to new technological innovations, allowing us to continue in our consumptive and polluting ways without concern for tomorrow. As with the cat with nine lives, the disasters predicted by the prognosticators of doom, from Thomas Malthus in the 18th century to Paul Ehrlich in the 20th, have always failed to materialize.

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Sarah Palin and Wikipediology

Monday Witness

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Courtesy of Therealbs2002, CCA-SA3.0Some time back, I wrote a blog entry called "The Wikipedia and the Death of Archaeology."  The thesis of the piece was this: archaeologists study periods as recent as a hundred years ago, because even with newspapers, magazines and photographs, a substantial percentage of everyday reality still slips through the historical cracks.  If that sounds bogus, consider the fact that several times in your life (at least if you're an American), you've read an account of someone sealing or opening up a "time capsule" intended to preserve everyday objects for about the same time frame. 

The humbling lesson is that much of our life is made up of trivial things - office supplies, flower pots, talk shows, you name it - that don't become the stuff of newspapers or novels.  It follows that if you lose the trivia, then you lose much of the texture and context that makes everyday life real and understandable, if not always exactly inspiring.  That's why archaeologists (or at least archaeologist lacking travel budgets) are wont to dig up such recent garbage - to recapture our trivia, in order to backfill our knowledge of who we were after the conscious memory has been lost.  But, as I pointed out in my earlier entry, understanding the realities of the past by counting peach pits in privies at best allows you to make guesses about a single home owner, and not about society writ large.

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Avoiding a Cloud Computing Armageddon

General News

Cloud computing is all the rage today, with everyone from the U.S. Federal government to Apple herding us into a brave new world of remotely hosted data and services.  There are, of course, many advantages to the cloud concept.  But as usual, this new IT architecture has some inherent and serious risks that cloud proponents hope potential customers will not dwell on.

There's nothing new about that, of course - except for the stakes.  Innovation usually outruns caution and comprehensive consideration of concerns like safety and unintended consequences.  But if we want to put all of our computing resources and data into one bucket, we had better make damn sure that it's got a pretty strong bottom.

Here's a nightmare scenario of what could happen otherwise.  And it's not pretty.

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Here We Go Again: How to Tell a Bubble When you See One

General News

Oh my goodness. It's happening again. Will there be anywhere to hide this time, or are we already trapped — tied like poor little Pauline to the railroad tracks as the engine of another high tech bubble barrels down upon us.

Until last Thursday, there was some cause for hope. True, the day before the New York Times had written a piece reporting on the growing prevalence of "acqhire" transactions. That's where a company (like Facebook) buys a company for millions of dollars, only to promptly shut it down. Why? Because it wants the employees — $500,000 to $1 million per engineer is the current going rate. That's not quite as high as it was during the Internet Bubble years, but the same companies are doing lots of big-ticket acquisitions as well. Whether or not these transactions pay off in new revenues, the dilution to existing stockholders will be the same.

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FTC Seeks Input on Patent Holdup in Standards Development

Intellectual property Rights

At intervals, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DoJ) have undertaken public initiatives intended to support the standards development process from the antitrust perspective.  In each case, I've found the regulators to be open minded and genuinely interested in understanding the marketplace.  Often, the goal of their information gathering efforts is to later issue guidelines that encourage good behavior, and make clear what they consider to be over the line.  The result is that it makes it easier and safer for stakeholders to participate actively in the standard setting process.  Regulators in the European Union follow the same practice.

Last week, the FTC announced a new standards development process fact-finding effort, this time announcing a workshop intended to help them better understand whether "patent holdup" is causing a problem in the marketplaceIt's open to the public, and you're free to submit written comments as well.

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It's Time for Government to Back the Semantic Web

Semantic & NextGen Web

Long time readers will know that I have been reporting on the Semantic Web for many years - since June of 2005, in fact, when I dedicated an issue of my eJournal to The Future of the Web.  The long interview I included with Tim Berners-Lee remains one of the most-read articles on this site of all time.  Ever since then, I've periodically given an "attaboy" to the Semantic Web.  And guess what?  It's that time again.

Why?  Because the more the Web is capable of doing, the more we can get out of it.  And given how much we now rely on the Internet and the Web, we can't afford to allow either to be less than they are capable of being.

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Where is There an End of It?

Standards and Society

It’s very rare for me to write a blog entry directed solely at what someone else has written, but there’s an exception to every rule. This one is directed at a posting by Alex Brown, entitled UK Open Standards *Sigh*. 

The short blog entry begins with Alex bemoaning the hard, cruel life of the selfless engineers that create technical standards:
 
It can be tough, putting effort into standardization activities – particularly if you're not paid to do it by your employer. The tedious meetings, the jet lag, the bureaucratic friction and the engineering compromises can all eat away at the soul.
 

Poor Alex.  It does sound tough, doesn’t it?  

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Pamela Jones and Groklaw: An Appreciation

General News

If you’re a regular reader of The Standards Blog, there’s an excellent chance that you already know that Pamela Jones – "PJ" to one and all – announced on Saturday that she would post her last article at Groklaw on May 16. Certain aspects of the site will remain available indefinitely.

It’s difficult to know where to begin in saying “goodbye” to Groklaw. What PJ and her many cohorts accomplished there has been unique in my experience. In many ways, Groklaw exemplifies the transformational power that the Internet has brought to law, society, technology, and the advancement of all things open.