Re-enacting the parrot sketch

Calling the past months work-intensive would be something of an understatement. Fortunately my colleagues in FSFE did an excellent job of working on the same project in various countries while I was partially absent. They also managed to put out some interesting comments on the IS29500 approval. What I can say on the issue is unfortunately fairly limited by the various shrouds of secrecy over what in my personal opinion should be like any other public interest process that affects the lives of citizens.

Why are various national standardisation bodies not accountable to the public they represent in ISO? Why can the public not know what is going on? If I had a magic wand, non-accountability and intransparency would be my top two issues to fix in all of this. It could also be a good idea to get some procedural buffs from the United Nations to make things more predictable and reliable on a procedural level. Had you told me a year ago I’d be wishing for the procedural efficiency of the United Nations, disbelief would have been a likely reaction. Now the United Nations appear extremely well-functioning in comparison.

Due procedure would allow for fair dialog based on substantial considerations. In this case it would have allowed discussing technical issues and answering the most fundamental question for any specification: Is it technically sound so it can be approved without further review or modifications?

This question can be answered on technical grounds. There is no need for attempts at authoritative arguments, assertions about the quality of future editorial work, or referrals to the maintenance process. Attempts at answering that question in any of these ways indeed translate into “No, it is not.”

Of course there are also other questions that are relevant when it comes to standardisation – including the “Six questions to national standardisation bodies” that FSFE put out around July 2007. Answering some of these issues is a little less clear-cut than the technical side, but can be done in an environment where people are accountable for their actions and statements. The media could have helped a great deal at keeping that dialog honest.

As accountability and transparency are sadly lacking, the past months often seemed like a gigantic, world-wide re-enactment of Monty Python’s parrot sketch with the involvement of several multinationals and billions of EUR spent. I am pretty sure the original was more cost effective — and thanks to the wonders Gnash we all get to enjoy this classic here:

My only question is: Where is the standardisation store of ISO’s brother so I can return IS29500?


Thanks to Octavio Ruiz, this blog entry is now also available in Spanish.

About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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