Simon Phipps was right


Simon, I’m beginning to think that you were right and I was wrong. You said a standard’s process is a crucial aspect of the standard’s product, and a process that is not open cannot be trusted to produce a product that can be considered open. I maintained that I had seen and used many wonderful standards that took absolutely zero input from me, and therefore I didn’t see my participation as a necessary prerequisite for assuring quality in the future. I believed that no matter what the process, a standard should be judged by the product. Watching the fallout settle from the BRM in Geneva, I’m beginning to think that you were right and I was wrong.

What you got right is that when a process is allowed to go out of its way to exclude legitimate participation, we must withdraw from the presumption that the standard can be legitimate, even if the end product does not overtly exclude the possibility of an open source implementation. This is what I have learned by reading the Groklaw report on the BRM.

Perhaps the world has always worked this way, but I have become increasingly aware of a strategy that seems frequently employed by the powerful: when caught bending the rules, bend them to breaking, and when breaking the rules, break so many so comprehensively that it seems pointless and small to call any specific infraction to light.

But I am also heartened by the response of the open source community. We do small really, really well. With many eyeballs, we have mind and memory capable of tracking and recording even the most chaotic narrative. What I see in the Geneva proceedings (that have been reported, surely not the whole story) is that ISO believed as I did that product was less important than process, and now ISO must decide whether to acknowledge that it failed, damaging its brand in the short term, or deny it was wrong and risk ruining it forever.

For myself, I’ll make my apology and take my judgement. Hopefully this will help me do a better job of advocacy in the future, even if today I’m a little bit humbled.