Standards: What Are They Good For

“Like death and taxes, standards are apparently an unavoidable fact of life. Few like them, but many would agree we need them.”  So begins an article in the December issue of Computer: “Standards: What Are They Good For”.  You have to be an IEEE member to access the article.  And if you’re not, why not?  I’ve been a member since student days.  You should join.

The article is written from an academician’s view.  The author feels that standards may be important in industry but may stifle progress in academia.  Still there are a few nuggets in the article for those of us in industry:

“For example, several participants in standardization bodies report that, generally, European companies push for quick standardization, while American companies are more likely to delay the process.”

And my favorite:

“At best, academic involvement in standards results in comical irrelevance. The XML standard provides a particularly poignant example in my own research area. These days, XML is the darling of certain database researchers, and I see many articles in conferences and journals on XML’s data properties and methods for handling them. XML is just one standard way, among infinitely many, for representing a tree in a text file. What the database people should really focus on is research on databases of unranked labeled trees. Writing articles about XML is equivalent to astronomers writing about how to use Finnish to talk about the stars.”