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Friday, August 28 2015 @ 02:27 AM CDT

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U.K. Comes out for Royalty-Free Standards for Government Procurement

Open Source/Open Standards

The U.K. has become the latest country to conclude that for information and communications technology (ICT) procurement purposes, “open standards” means “royalty free standards.”  While apparently falling short of a legal requirement, a Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note recommends that all departments, agencies, non-departmental bodies and “any other bodies for which they are responsible” should specify open standards in their procurement activities, unless there are “clear business reasons why this is inappropriate.”

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Best Practices in Open Source Foundation Governance – Part I

Open Source/Open Standards

For some time now, I have been meaning to write a series of blog posts setting forth my views on best practices in forming and governing open source foundations.  Why?  Because despite the increasing reliance of just about every part of our modern world (government, finance, defense, and so on) on open source software (OSS) and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), there has been very little written on the subject.

That means that neither a community nor a corporation has much to refer to in creating the kind of governance structure most likely to ensure that the intentions of the founders are carried out, that the rights of contributors are respected, and that the code upon which end users will rely is properly maintained into the future.

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Re-Examining Public and Private Roles under the NTTAA

Standards and Society

The following is the introduction to the Feature Article in the most recent issue of Standards Today, the free "eJournal of News, Ideas and Analysis" that I have been writing for the last seven years.  You can read the entire article here, and sign up for a free subscription here.

For more than 100 years, the United States has been the exemplar of the "bottom up" model of standards development. Under this methodology, society relies on the private sector to identify standards-related needs and opportunities in most sectors, and then develops responsive specifications. Government, for its part, retains ultimate control over domains such as health, safety, and environmental protection, but preferentially uses private sector standards in procurement, and also references private sector standards into law when appropriate (e.g., as building codes).

Until recently, government agencies in the United States commonly developed their own standards for procurement purposes. This era of separate but equal standards creation officially came to an end with the passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995.  With this legislation, Congress directed government agencies to use "voluntary consensus standards" (VCSs) and other private sector specifications wherever practical rather than "government unique standards," and to participate in the development of these standards as well. In 1998, Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119 was amended to provide additional guidance to the Federal agencies on complying with the NTTAA.

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Attachmate and the SUSE Linux Project: What's Next?

Open Source/Open Standards

Over the last few months, I've frequently pointed out the vulnerability of important open source projects that are supported and controlled by corporate sponsors, rather than hosted by independent foundations funded by corporate sponsors.  One of the examples I've given is SUSE Linux, which has been hosted and primarily supported by Novell since that company acquired SuSE Linux AG in 2003.  Novell, as you know, is expected to be acquired by a company called Attachmate a few weeks from now, assuming approval of the transaction by the Novell stockholders and by German competition regulators.

Recently, the future of the SUSE Linux Project (as compared to the Novell commercial Linux distribution based on the work of that project) has become rather murky, as reported by Pamela Jones,
at Groklaw.   Apparently, Novell is facilitating some sort of spin out of the Project, which is good but peculiar news.

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Measuring In the New Year

Standards and Society

The pace of technology is wondrous indeed. No corner of our lives seems safe from digital invasion, from picture frames to pasta makers. For years now, we have been threatened with Internet-enabled refrigerators, and perhaps 2011 will see it so.

Nor is the process likely to stop there. Soon, we are told, our homes will become infested by "mesh networks" of sensors, each one whispering information surreptitiously to its neighbor, in order to render our lives more energy efficient. But in so doing, they will observe our every move and report it to heavens knows whom.

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EC Takes One Step Forward, Two Steps Back in Openness

Intellectual property Rights

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Last Thursday the European Commission took a major step forward on the “openness” scale.  The occasion was the release of a new version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) which definitively endorsed the use of open source friendly standards when providing “public services” within the EU. This result was rightly hailed by open source advocates like Open Forum Europe
 
But the EC took two steps backward in every other way as it revised its definition of "open standards," presumably reflecting IT industry efforts (e.g., by the Business Software Alliance) to preserve the value of software patents.
 
In this blog entry, I’ll review the seven-year long process under which the “European Interoperability Framework” (EIF) first set a global high water mark for liberalizing the definition of open standards, and then retreated from that position. 
 
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A Call to Support a New Public-Private Partnership In U.S. Standards Development

Standards and Society

 

On December 8, the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) issued a public Request for Information on behalf of the recently formed Sub-Committee on Standards of the National Council of Research and Technology. The titular goal of the RFI is to assist the Sub-Committee in assessing the “Effectiveness of Federal Agency Participation in Standardization in Select Technology Sectors.” Although the publication of the RFI gave rise to not a single article in the press, this event was none the less extremely consequential. 
 
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Upgrading China's ITC Standards Strategy

China

The following is a position statement I contributed to an on-line forum that will launch at 11 EST today focusing on policy reform within the Chinese standardization system.  You can join in that discussion here

By Georgio (Own work (Photo personnelle)) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsA variety of constituencies from the West have taken it upon themselves to reach out to China to "educate" the Chinese about the existing global standards development infrastructure, and to urge them to take part in that infrastructure in the same way as do other countries.  Clearly, having China, with a single national vote, participate in ISO, IEC and ITU would be best for the status quo players that have become skillful in participating in those organizations through decades of effort.  It's interesting to ask, however, whether that course of action, without more, would truly be best for China and its people.

If I were a policy maker in China, the most obvious question that I would be asking would be what strategy Chinese industry should follow as regards consortia, as well as the "Big I's."  To date, China has participated primarily in the latter, and in only a few of the former (e.g., OASIS and the W3C).  But China has launched a number of domestic consortia open either largely, or only, to domestic companies, to develop "home grown" standards.  And that seems backwards to me.

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How Now, Gold Bug?

Standards and Society

Sometimes, its just turtles, all the way down

Courtesy PHGCOM, CC A-S 3.0

Standards cover an awful lot of ground — how big things are; how much they weigh; how fast they go; how much power they consume; how pure they are; how they must be shaped so that they fit together — the list goes on and on. But despite the enormous range of characteristics that standards define, you notice that they all have one thing in common: you can describe them by using the word "how."

In short, standards relate to measurable things. Indeed, the earliest formal standards created in societies everywhere were usually those related to weights and measures. Invariably these were established when trade became more sophisticated than tribal bartering. Ever since, the history of standards has largely been one of establishing ways to define more and more measurable characteristics as they became important and as the scientific ability to test them came along.

There is, however, one exception to this rule. Curiously enough, it involves a standard that is as old as weights and measures themselves. And despite its ancient lineage, nations still can't agree for very long on what measuring stick should be used, or how it should work. This is rather remarkable, given that the standard in question is perhaps the only one that nearly everyone makes use of almost very day of their lives.

That standard, of course, is money — dollars, Euros, renminbi — each one a measure of value.

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What We Do (and Don’t) Know about the Novell Patent Sale

Intellectual property Rights

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Ever since the proposed acquisition of Novell by Attachmate Corporation there has been much curiosity, but almost no information, relating to the other major piece of the deal: the acquisition of 882 patents by a consortium led by Microsoft for $450 million. There are three main areas of undisclosed information that are piquing peoples’ interest, and in this bog entry I’ll go through each of them.