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July 04, 2006

How to harvest standards

Hey, its one of those conversation threads. Michael Feldstein articulates a formula for standards from my recent post, but I think a few crucial corrections are in order.

  1. Identify a community which is already tackling a problem. Don't invent a problem, look for people who are clearly trying to do something new and are finding ways, but perhaps haven't had an opportunity yet to work together and share experiences.
  2. Check to see if there is an existing standard; if there isn't, check to see if there is genuine commonality in the solutions the community is developing. Sometimes we group solutions together in a simplistic way; they may look similar only at a surface level.
  3. Connect the people together who are working on these common issues, and facilitate conversations. Identify funding opportunities, events, and gurus that will help grow and sustain the momentum. Give the group a voice if it hasn't got one. Help spread the word.
  4. identify some experiments, typically some fairly basic data exchange or some connecting up between people in the community.
  5. Broaden out, with different types of experiments.Look for interesting twists that develop, taking advantage of new opportunities - thats a positive sign
  6. If you believe you have a stable, workable solution, and one for which there is a genuine demand and where there is a viable business model warranting the expensive process of standardization, then select an appropriate Standards Body to have it live with. In general, avoid having education-specific standards bodies (e.g., the IMS) Bless the Standard unless you are solving an education-specific problem.
  7. Have the appropriate Standards Body examine the proposal, suggest changes when appropriate, and Issue a Blessing. Well, not in practice - you have a lot of meetings involving people trying to do something different in the same space with a different focus and compromise on something which is a little unsatisfactory, but broadens the potential takeup sufficiently to make the effort worthwhile. Or someone beats you to it and standardizes early on something inadequate for your community, and you just have to go back to grassroots or try another organization instead.

Not many changes, but I think they are important ones. Anyone in the XCRI community will probably recognise some of these steps.

PS: Looks like Stephen has been following this too, and has some good points. In particular about 'apparent solutions'. This is a really easy trap to fall into - subtle design is difficult; introducing complexity OTOH is remarkably easy.

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