>Transparency? Visibility? Accountability?

>CNET news.com reported on an IBM press release, where IBM will be “reviewing their membership in existing standards bodies…” and with drawing from those that don’t supply enough transparency into the overall development of the standards. Bob Sutor provides some more insights into why IBM is doing this.

I happen to agree with IBM’s and more importantly Bob Sutor’s views on where standards should be and what their role is. Bob has a good set of slides from a presentation he gave at the OAGi general session meeting in April 2008. I do think that in many cases that some organizations are too secreative on what they are doing and not open enough in what they want to accomplish. There are many reasons for this, but in the long run being closed and non-responsive to the larger user community doesn’t benefit anyone. Standards should be open for discussion, and outside views need to be expressed in an open forum.

Those that know me, know that I like to turn over rocks every once in a while, and watch things scurry for the darkness again. Over the years I’ve formed the opinion that nothing gets accomplished by talking behind closed doors, or not addressing the problems that an organization faces. The only way things get done is to discuss them and address them the best that an organization can. Many times this may ruffle a few feathers, but sometimes feathers need to be ruffled.

Part of getting a standard in place and used is the comfort level that the users of the standard have with it. If the organization is open and approachable, then it helps build good relations with the community. Adoption is a bit easier if users think they can ask questions and get honest answers. More importantly though, if members see problems they need to bring those to the attention of the membership or follow the appropriate forums to submit changes. Most organizations just can’t make changes with out a member being willing to sponsor the change.

A standard organization can only do so much. Much of the work has to come from it’s members and the community. If the users of the standard don’t abide by the rules and procedures then the interoperability that IBM and Bob Sutor is talking about will not occur, no matter how open and transparent the process.

Also, as Rick Jelliffe mentioned recently, standards organizations need to review their processes and the way they produce the standards. I don’t necessarily agree with everything mentioned in Rick’s article, but how a standard organization responds to it’s members and the larger community as a whole does affect adoption. More importantly it affects the interoperability of the standard itself.

I hope that IBM’s announcement, does start to make organizations take a look at not only their IP policy, but also how transparent their processes are. It is one of the things I do like about the Eclipse Foundation, much of the communication is out in the public. Meeting notes and minutes are typically posted on the wiki, and available for both members and NON-members to review. More visibility does help potential members know what the organization is doing, and can help get potential members to join.

Will IBM’s move make significant impact. In the short term probably not, but if it helps organizations review the way they are conducting business, and makes it more open for the long term. Then I think it’s a good thing.

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