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Software

Bell's Axioms on Standards 83

CowboyRobot writes "The inimitable Gordon Bell has a 5-page article at ACM Queue on the difficulties and necessities of standards adoption, in which he lays out 11 axioms on how to best establish and adopt standards. He quotes MIT's Dave Clark, 'Standards setting sits in a boring trough between two exciting peaks. The first is the peak of technical innovation, and the second is the billion-dollar investment or market.' It's often the rush for money that makes us move to fast to do the job right."
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Bell's Axioms on Standards

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  • by diablo-d3 ( 175104 ) <pmcfarland@adterrasperaspera.com> on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:07AM (#10543484) Homepage
    I completely agree. Microsoft attempts to move too fast in completing their products, and often horribly botch them. They also have been known to "Embrace and Extend" someone else's product or standard, marring it in the process, and completely ignoring the concept of standards in the first place; standards in the technology world mostly exist to make things compatible, Microsoft's "embrace and extend" usually ends up with an incompatible standard or protocol.
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:17AM (#10543507) Journal
      Well, they do what makes business sense to them. That cannot be helped.

      Back in the days, companies like Bell Labs set the standards because they were largely monopolistic. That is not true these days, however you do have a lot of businesses that have vested interests in implementing a standard.

      Microsoft does not need not adhere to a standard unless the market wants them to, and which is exactly what they do. It is one thing to draft standards in the drawing room, another to get these to work in the board room.

      Both are very, very different environments. Microsoft strikes a balance that is sensible from their perspective, unfair and painful from the perspective of most others.
    • The first is the peak of technical innovation, and the second is the billion-dollar investment or market.' It's often the rush for money that makes us move to fast to do the job right."

      Somehow I doubt that MIT's Dave Clark said that we move to stop eating! Unless he is implying that we skip meals to write code...?

      Perhaps the submitter meant to say we move "too" fast. In this case, the editor's gaffe changed the meaning entirely!

      • I don't use the fast lane on the Massachusetts Turnpike unless I haven't eaten for a few days. . . You weren't really confused by what he wrote, were you? The kind of pedantic attention to grammer and spelling that you show in your post is really only necessary for directions or for contracts. As the post was neither then I rate your comment as 'pedantic'.
        • You weren't really confused by what he wrote, were you?

          Yes, in fact I was confused by the misspelling. I had to reread it to have it make sense. The author is trying to communicate a message, and if he wants to do it clearly, he should pay attention to the details.

          I really think it's poor form to misspell something in a quote, implying that the original author was the poor speller, not the quoter. For instance, if I would quote you: tallbill says, "The kind of pedantic attention to grammer and spellin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:08AM (#10543485)
    The best thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.
    • I thought microsoft have a strange view of standards. They like taking an existing standard, and tweaking is just enough so that they only work properly on thier platform, but not badly enough that its totally unaccessable on others.

      A classic example of this is IE
      • Sorry what standard was IE based on exactly? Oh wait, there was no standard for browsers. MS were free to innovate or assimilate as they saw fit with IE.

        I find it somewhat ironic that the OSS movement often bang on about standards but are usually less forthcoming when it comes to actually implementing standards. Everyone is happy to run off and do things their own way because obviously they know best. Commercial vendors on the other had are far more willing to conform to a 'standard' (be it actual or mic
        • by DLR ( 18892 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `lahtnesorld'> on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:48AM (#10543554) Journal
          Sorry what standard was IE based on exactly? Oh wait, there was no standard for browsers. MS were free to innovate or assimilate as they saw fit with IE.

          So you don't consider HTML to be a standard? I thought I saw some Web site once.... where was that again? Oh yeah, I remember now! It was http://w3c.org/ [w3c.org]! (I might also add that Netscape (pre-AOL) violated those same standards.)

          Then there was something called Java... Wasn't there some legal battle over that and IE? Hmm..... As I recall Microsoft lost that one, too. And that was a proprietary standard at that.

          I hate being put in the position of bashing Microsoft (partly because it's so easy, and partly because it's so trendy here on /.) but when they mess up recognize it, and when they do something good recognize that too!

          • I'm confused. Please enlighten me as to how a web browser is an implementation of the HTML standard? If IRC HTML is a language and the standard says if you are going to build a web site, use this.

            Browsers are under _no_ obligation to implement it and can render it however they see fit but obviously its in their interest to be compatible. This was my point. There is no official standard that says a browser must do anything.

            And for your information Java is not a standard. Its an implementation from SUN
            • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2004 @06:27AM (#10543599) Journal
              Let's take a programming language, say C.

              Now, I'm a very big company who makes developer tools for my platform, and developer toolkit is the most used. I give out a free C compiler with my developer kit which everyone uses.

              Except for one small problem - my compiler expects all ints to be floats, and all floats to be ints.

              The developers get around this problem - how? By writing code that works on both other compilers and on my compilers. But wait, there are some lazy ones out there who just do not care about the minority of other compilers out there, and write C code which works only in my compiler.

              So what have I done? I've essentially _changed_ the way C is being programmed - because there is now a section of developers who follow MY version of C to cater to folks on my platform, and those that code in good old C.

              Microsoft has done EXACTLY this - except that it is HTML instead of C, a web-browser instead of a compiler. Get it now?
            • by Anonymous Coward
              W3C CSS, which microsoft DID (lying through their teeth) claim compliance with (and the freaking wrote half the spec!), DOES set out a number of ways in which a page must be _rendered_ to be compliant, you goon.

              Microsoft broke their implementation, apparently deliberately, in ways which mean if you're a web-page graphic artist, you _have_ to decide whether to code for IE, or every other browser. A site which looks perfect in IE simply _can't_ look perfect in a real CSS-compliant browser, because of stuff
            • by cygnusx ( 193092 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2004 @07:15AM (#10543664) Homepage
              Parent is technically correct. HTML is not a standard in the classic ISO/IEC sense, neither is it (the modern versions at least) an IETF standards-track RFC. It is a W3C TR (Technical Recommendation) which is what passes for "standard" in the biz. User-agents who render HTML SHOULD comply with the TR although this has never been an absolute (MUST) requirement, except with the alistapart crowd -- and the kneejerk /. standards brigade ;-). OTOH user-agents which render HTML are also HTTP clients, and they must follow RFC 2616 and friends or be called "broken".

              The HTML TRs document the semantics for each tag (although the tags themselves have bits of mostly legacy presentation oriented attributes). How each browser implements it is upto it -- for example, a browser targeted to Indic cultures may choose to boldface EM text since Indic scripts have no notion of italics.

              On the other hand, browsers claiming CSS Vx support are obliged to render stuff *exactly* the way the specs mandate, and the CSS specs are fairly detailed on this score. And here, IMO, criticism of IE is valid, not because MS does not support every last bit of the CSS standard (no one does) but because they have shown _no inclination_ to fix their glaring omissions even years after IE6's release (a.k.a the NN4 syndrome), making life miserable for web devs everywhere.
              • HTML is not a standard in the classic ISO/IEC sense
                HTML is an ISO/IEC standard (http://www.cs.tcd.ie/15445/15445.HTML [cs.tcd.ie]).
                • Thanks for correcting me (and it's rather alarming that my earlier comment is now +4 Informative). However, the general point still is valid -- browser developers and the community do not wait for the ISO/IEC to "bless" HTML -- a W3C TR is a de facto standard. In fact, "ISO HTML" (which based on a quick reading seems to be a subset of HTML 4.01) is AFAIK not widely used on the public web.

                  In fact, if this general point was not valid, then in the context of this thread (esp Timesprout's comments) one could a
            • Browsers are under _no_ obligation to implement it and can render it however they see fit but obviously its in their interest to be compatible. This was my point. There is no official standard that says a browser must do anything.

              Looking at the HTML standard [w3.org], I see many things that a user agent (which is what a browser is) must do:

              • User agents must not evaluate script data as HTML markup but instead must pass it on as data to a script engine.
              • User agents must follow the steps set out in the section on
            • Minor linguistic niggle: I never said the battle was with IE, I said it was over IE. And if you want say that replacing Java functions with ActiveX functions that are subtly different is "...attempting to extend the language with platform specific features." I suppose that you are technically correct.

              And while HTML may not technically be a standard (and browsers are not required to adhere to this non-standard), it serves the same purpose as one. To provide a standardised markup language so that Web bro

          • Sorry, but HTML and CSS are not standards in any way: they are recommendations from a consortium that on the whole has very little power compared to the one held by other players in the field.

            (X)HTML and CSS are not de iure standards, since any half-baked rendering engine out there may claim to be supporting both even if it is not completely true, without fearing the visit of the W3C cops telling "sorry, you can't publicly state that unless your product passes ALL our validations tests".

            And as de facto

            • Sorry, but HTML and CSS are not standards in any way: they are recommendations from a consortium that on the whole has very little power compared to the one held by other players in the field.
              And what "power" does ANSI or ISO have compared to the companies that implement their standards?
              • And what "power" does ANSI or ISO have compared to the companies that implement their standards?

                Because pratically all governments require compliance to said standards before dealing with you, and contracts with governments usually involve large sums of money that you can count on being paid to you sooner or later.

          • Of course, you are absolutely right. With Microsoft on one side of the teeter-totter, writhing madly in '96 to recover from its 1994 dismissal of the internet as an irrelevant fluke, and pretty much the rest of the software world on the other side of the teeter-totter, and W3C in the middle, we were lucky that more MS ideas did not become "standards". They embraced and extended [read, made proprietary changes] to HTML and many standards then and later.
    • I'm not sure if Microsoft's motto is that, or orbis non sufficit (latin for "The world is not enough").
  • Very true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:12AM (#10543495) Journal
    6. Consumer investments are never to be undone by a standard.

    I think this is the most important one - simply because if it does not make business and market sense, a standard is useless. Being an academic in the industry, I very often come across this - people in the academia want to implement standards without realizing how it would affect the market, and the impacts that it would have on existing businesses. And then they wonder why the standards failed.

    Why? Because unless it is beneficial to the businesses at large, and makes technical _and_ business sense, standards are not going to be implemented. Not only that, changing or implementing a standard is going to break a lot of existing stuff, and companies often need to see some kind of adoption before they jump in.

    And often, if a few big businesses decided not to jump in, it is going to fail because they would control a large chunk of the market. This is not always true, but sometimes it affects how things work - classic example being that of IE. IE does not follow standards, yet it is popular. Webdesigners design to make things work in the real world (tm) browsers, and not in compliance to XHTML standards. Why? Because it makes practical sense.

    Ofcourse, sad part is that business often do not respect standards, and those setting standards do not sufficiently respect business practices. Classic Catch 22.
    • Re:Very true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Mr Smidge ( 668120 )
      Because unless it is beneficial to the businesses at large, and makes technical _and_ business sense, standards are not going to be implemented.

      Businesses do not have a god-given right to profit at every moment.

      Imagine that in the home cinema scene, that we came up with a standard for transmitting digital video and digital sound, with potential to upgrade the format in which the video/audio was sent in the future, should better codecs/formats arise. A bit like DV over Firewire, for instance.

      Now, wouldn
    • Sorry, sir, but good web designers ensure all their work is standard compliant.

      I'd also venture that the benefit (financial or otherwise) of a standard to a company is inversely related to the size of that company. Standards open up competition allowing others to offer competing services. For a large company/monoply this is far from a good thing. This is why standards must forcefully be shoved down the throats of big players to foster a truly free market.

    • Okay so since you say that IE is a standard you can point me to the IE standard testing page somewhere on microsoft.com or some other site from them. Personally I have NEVER seen a published standard on how IE renders pages and I see it change from version to version and even within bugfix releases.

      When people claim to be coding for IE they are really idiots that don't understand what they are doing which is understandable since most of the people doing this stuff are idiots. They are really writing for th
  • by BeerCat ( 685972 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:22AM (#10543516) Homepage
    standards setting sits in a boring trough between two exciting peaks. ... It's often the rush for money that makes us move to fast to do the job right.
    Standards (now) exist in spelling, ever since Dr Johnson's dictionary [amazon.com] came out. Before then, spelling was whatever someone could be bothered with.

    Or did I misinterpret the last sentence, and what was actually meant was that the rush for money makes us abstain from food [reference.com] to do the job right?
    • Or did I misinterpret the last sentence, and what was actually meant was that the rush for money makes us abstain from food to do the job right?

      Like you've never forgotten to eat because you were playing Quake^W^Wcoding on that project your boss wanted to work on.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2004 @05:42AM (#10543548)
    on achieving standards compliance when his own site [w3.org] doesn't validate at all.
  • by GuyFawkes ( 729054 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @06:47AM (#10543614) Homepage Journal
    s in action.

    As I've said elsewhere, my original trade was engineer, so I'll use an engineering standard that you will ALL have handled, and hopefully it will be distant enough from computing to illustrate some points without getting embroiled in a fanboy flame war.

    Lots of people say the original great invention was the wheel, as an engineer I'd have to pick the much more recent lathe bed or screw thread, without the lathe bed NO accurate machining is possible (including screw threads)

    What this means in laymans terms is that EVERY SINGLE COMPONENT would be bespoke, hand made, and slightly different, so EVERY mechanical device would have to be ENTIRELY hand made... no going to the shop to buy a gasket, you have to make every one by hand to match whatever you are working on.

    When we come to screw threads there are many standards, BSP, JIC, Metric, and variations amongst these.

    Each thread has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and included in these is the actual cost of making a given nut or bolt to a certain thread patterm, which depends on the specification and STANDARD of the thread chosen.

    BSP is simply the best for hydraulics for example, while BSF and UNC are good for bolting things together, however metric comes along, with it's predisposition (which is an entirely ETHICAL predisposition, eg academic, rather than practical, and likes everything to be in nice multiples of ten) for simplicity, and it has to be said this simplicity makes a metric bolt cheaper to make than say a BSF bolt. (if you think the cost is the same in these days of CNC then you are wrong and you are omitting precision tolerances and cost of metal removed etc etc etc) so of course metric bolts rapidly became extremely popular.

    Trouble is metric threads are, to an engineer, shit. They are cheaper, so management selects them over the engineers preference.

    Henry Ford went metric on the truck side of things many mnay years ago now, but for many years (and possibly still today, I'm out of the loop) kept some things, notably wheel nuts, on an imperial thread. Why? because the metric threads worked loose.. like I said, metric threads are crap, old imperial threads are far superior.

    SO, to the point.

    Obviously a standard thread is very useful, a 1/2 inch AF spanner bought in the UK will fit perfectly around the head of a 5/16 bolt made in germany, which will screw perfectly into a 5/16 water pump made in the USA, because of standards.

    SO, we have a general trend away from the old, superior, but more expensive, standards, towards the new, inferior but cheaper standards.

    This is all great in theory and the halls of academia but in the real world these unequal pressures bring about strange offspring.

    About 20 years ago I worked in Spain, which had just thrown off the mantle of a dictatorship, and was working its way towards joining the European Union, so things including the economy were in a flux, although spain was metric lots of the stuff that was used in spain (for example austin had a car assembly plant there) was not metric.

    Instead of everyone owning a whitworth tool set, an AF tool set, and so on (remember that thing about costs, imperial spanners were higher precsion than metric too, so cost more) so the spanish came out with a unique solution, which saved EVERYONE money.

    When they made a bolt they would make a 5/16 UNC bolt, just like everyone else, except it would end in a METRIC head, so pable with his metric toolkit could work on it.

    When you come across this and see a "wrong" size bolt head on say an engine, you ASSUME that some bastards have ruined it in the past and stripped the thread, and drilled to a larger diameter and tapped it to a matric thread, which of course will have an utterly different ideal torque setting, so you sigh and swear.

    It is only when you REMOVE the bastard that you discover that it is a 5/16 UNC.

    At this point, all the preceding standards are vastly degraded, you cannot as
    • Isn't there a law against using other slang than hacker slang on /. ? I thought I saw it somewhere...

      About imperial threads, all I can say is: "don't give in to the dark side".
    • Thanks! Thats a fascinating story. Though I am not sure how to apply it to computer/comms/electrical standards, it clearly does apply. There was a scandal [to mech-E's] a few years back about Taiwanese knock-offs of name brand or standards-compliant threaded fasteners...inferior materials or incompetant machining brought cheaper products into the market but they were more noted [in the end] for their failure modes than their price. My point, as a ramafication to yours, is that producers who just say th

      • Lets take a standard, say the 5/16 unc thread, say it is a nut, any 5/16 bolt made anywhere will fit and work, that is a standard.

        The closest (improved cos its cheaper) metric size is oing to be 7 or 8 mm, neither of which will work, at all, if you try and force it to work it breaks terminally, that is a standard.

        Now take the MS implementation of the TCP/IP stack "standard", instead of being non compliant and not working at all, thus forcing MS to fix it, OR define a NEW standard, it works, and takes prio
  • how could anyone get past the first few paragraphs ? his writing is so prolix and boring and redundandt..no one who is such a bad wiriter could possibly have anything interesting to say
    • no one who is such a bad wiriter could possibly have anything interesting to say

      That is the single most stuck-up, arrogant post I have seen on Slashdot.
      • What an Honor !! Can I quote you on that ? I notice you don't disagree with my assessment - it is possible to be stuck up, arrogant and right (to bad our president does not fit in this catagory)
  • by hugesmile ( 587771 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @07:08AM (#10543652)
    A Time and Place for Standards
    ACM Queue vol. 2, no. 6 - September 2004
    by GORDON BELL, MICROSOFT BAY AREA RESEARCH CENTER

    After reading this Microsoft employee's views on standards, I think it's time to rename the place he works to
    "Bay Area Research Facility".

  • by hanssprudel ( 323035 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @07:11AM (#10543658)
    I think it is a frightening thing, but very much worth noting, that since the Internet left academia in the early ninetees, not a single new protocol or application has a widely accepted standard. Every single new application that has come along since then has been a hodge-podge of incompatible solutions.

    Case in point:

    IM - ICQ came first with a proprietary protocol, similiar applications were made AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft all using incompatible, opaque protocols. Industry talk of standardising is a joke, and free software standards like Jabber have no market share to speak of.

    Audio: Real, WMV, AAC, etc etc all fighting for acceptance. The only existing standard is MP3, but that is only because it was used by hobyist copiers and never got any corporate attention until it was entrenched.

    Video: How many times have you seen this: "Please choose video format: Real - Quicktime - Windows Media". I wonder how much it costs web publishers extra to encode everything in three different codecs, and when the end result is still that you are tied to proprietary players in Windows (and maybe Mac).

    Voip: At least here there is some effort, and we have a whole host of different standards, H323 and SIP etc etc. But mostly different companies services are incompatible, and most users use proprietary game chatting software, or Skype.

    P2P: Lots of different vendors developing incompatible programs with as opaque and complicated protocols as possible.

    Vector animations: Flash...

    The only applications for which we have standardized protocols, email, the web, ftp, etc, are those that were around before the Internet became mainstream. I cannot think of a single credible counterexample. I think that is pretty safe to say that Internet standardization is not rare or difficult: it is dead!
    • by hugesmile ( 587771 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @07:30AM (#10543719)
      I think it is a frightening thing, but very much worth noting, that since the Internet left academia in the early ninetees, not a single new protocol or application has a widely accepted standard. Every single new application that has come along since then has been a hodge-podge of incompatible solutions.

      History will be the judge, but I think if you rolled back the clock to the eighties, you would say exactly the same thing about technologies that we take for granted now, as standards.

      Case in Point:

      Network protocols: The internet protocol suite [wikipedia.org] was far from being the only protocol (or even the dominant one). SNA, for one, was incompatible and entrenched. And at the lower three layers of the OSI Model [wikipedia.org], X.25 [wikipedia.org] didn't even consider random routing from a single point, as TCP/IP does.

      See this table [wikipedia.org] for a bunch of examples of non-TCP/IP protocols that are a hodge-podge of incompatible solutions.

      Nothing has changed as of the nineties. Same problem, but the shakeout takes time.

      • by hanssprudel ( 323035 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @07:46AM (#10543754)
        History will be the judge, but I think if you rolled back the clock to the eighties, you would say exactly the same thing about technologies that we take for granted now, as standards.

        The difference is, though, that except with regards to patents, those protocols were open and implementable by anyone. (In fact, I would imply that shakeout you period you discuss is largely the time it takes for patents to expire). The situation is different today, with closed, encrypted protocols that change by day for auto-updating clients, and for which you are likely to get prosecuted if you reverse engineer.

        In the that period it was largely a question of waiting to see who won: but now, when AOL and Microsoft fight over whose proprietary, encrypted, closed, DMCA-guarded network protocol becomes dominant, it is all AvP: Whoever wins, we lose. And the winner is no more a standard becuase it won (for one thing, it will keep changing to keep other implementations away).
    • I think that in order to be effective and secret you don't want a standard for p2p.

      If you want secure communications you really want to obscure the mechanism.

      It should be so obscure that others (non users) don't even know that it is there.
      If you publish a standard then you are saying "here it is, my secret thing. and here is data that you can use to violate my secrecy.

      As far as your general conclusion that there are no standards and that standardization is dead:
      If that were so then how is it that I can
      • Don't be ridiculous. You apparently don't understand the basics of cryptography. It's just like security through obscurity: it doesn't work very well.
    • Standards creation has become part of the modern business model. Invent a "new" standard, patent/copyright/trademark the hell out of it, and use legal means to defend your market turf. Screw building useful products. One you've secured the "market" you can cram whatever crap you build down your customers' throats (assuming you have any.)

      This is what we get for letting the MBAs and VCs run the show without smacking them with the engineering stick often enough.
  • Geek or geezer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @08:16AM (#10543846) Journal
    Not sure which I am but to make my comment, I must betray a bit of both.
    When I got my first software engineer job, a PDP-20 was a cool toy. Back in the day, one thing about DEC that just blew us away was that they actually published the bus standard. Any garage or EE grad could design peripherals to plug into a PDP backplane. It was a defacto standard and it turned a "good" processor family into a great product family because any would-be customer in a laboratory could just about be certain that whatever odd data-capture, storage, display or comms device was needed, someone had developed. It made DEC's fortunes to multiply the advantages of a [then] cheap new processor by the advantages of a published "standard" architecture. The ironic thing is that when the PC revolution got under way, DEC's response was to emphasize the PRO350, a [by then] relatively closed PDP based architecture over its "Rainbow" product. The IBM PC architecture rules to this day because IBM beat DEC at its own game. Those of us in the early 70's who said "Digital is crazy: they're gonna let everyone else make the peripherals that DEC could be sellng" just didn't get it. Gordon Bell was a chief architect and engineering manager of the original PDP...he did get it, at least back then.
    There are lessons in the parabola of DEC's fortunes that bear study by any of us, engineers to marketing, who compete in development of technical products.
    Favorite geek-geezer link is to a book that recounts the history [mit.edu] on which my pathetic career was spent. See also a link to much of Bell's commentary and output since joining Microsoft [microsoft.com]
  • On another story I posted a comment [slashdot.org] on why standards should be free and readily available. It's a bit of a shame that none of this can be found in the article. Availability to the general public (like the open source community) is in my opinion a must.

    Not that I like the article which the parent pointed too interested me much. It seemed like a quickly configured list of generalisms about standards, without much reasoning behind it. Standards are important and would be better served by a better article.
  • It's often the rush for money that makes us move to fast to do the job right.

    Wow, what did you get paid for that article?
  • OK, my bad.

    I agree that within the body of an article published as a finished product the author should have corrected that spelling error.

    Oh, what a fool I am.
  • (T)he International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) designated Oct. 14 as World Standards Day to recognize those volunteers who have worked hard to define international standards ... The United States celebrated World Standards Day on Oct. 11; Finland celebrated on Oct. 13; and Italy celebrated on Oct. 18. -- Open Systems Today, 10/31/94
  • by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @10:23AM (#10544426) Journal
    in other comments here [slashdot.org] I have mentioned a bit of history demonstrating how standards can foster the success of your company. But it occurs to me that the situation is more pervasive and more universal when it comes to the benefits of standards to folks who develop software.
    The essence of the situation is that virtually all of us who develop products or systems are integrators. No matter how much original code we concoct, we no longer write whole systems from scratch. Instead, we succeed or fail according to how well our bit plays with all the other bits that combine to function in the way the users perceive. Any grown-up software engineer simply MUST either look deeply into the work that [many] others have done or trust and understand the standards to which those others have presumably worked.
  • Once I heard a very knowledgeable person say something like:

    "Standards are like toothbrushes.... Everybody has one and nobody wants to use any of the others' "

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