How Standards will be Made

I continued to think about "mass market geo standards" and standards in general while whipping my yard into shape this past weekend.

The "mass market" thesis is: consumers want or need "x", they can't or don't want to make "x" themselves, and they would rather be ignorant of how "x" is produced. As Ed Parsons put it: "I'd like some cheese ... [but I'd] rather not know how it's made". I won't dispute that there are mass markets for products like paper bags, toilet paper, roller-ball pens, post-it notes, and paperback books. I also won't dispute the fact that people eat a lot of crappy factory cheese food products. These mass markets are a 20th century, first-world phenomenon: an increasingly prosperous middle class with an appetite for goods produced more cheaply on an industrial scale. I don't think mass markets are universal or everlasting. If software or architecture standardization ever worked like this, it won't for much longer.

The internet has changed the nature of interoperation and organization. We're not as dependent on old media and producers as agents of change. People can connect with each other and organize themselves to solve problems. This, of course, is the thesis of Clay Shirky's book: "Here Comes Everybody", and there's abundant supporting evidence in the geospatial domain. Anybody dissatisfied with availability of free and open data can start a community like OpenStreetMap. This is not to say that starting OSM didn't require initiative and hard work, just that there are very few communication hurdles anymore. Anybody who wants to exchange geographic locations via RSS feeds can start a community like GeoRSS. Anybody who wants to discuss alternatives to the OGC's service oriented architecture can start a mailing list like Geo-Web-REST. Anybody who wants to exchange geodata via the JSON format can start a working group like GeoJSON. The designers and developers who want standards can now organize themselves to produce them. Open source, open data, open standards.

By the way: cheese is milk, salt, rennet, microbes, and time. Mix them and wait. Go ask your local artisan cheese maker for the fascinating (no irony here) details.


Re: How Standards Will be Made

Author: Yves Moisan

"I'd like some cheese ... [but I'd] rather not know how it's made". I even heard : "I don't want to know what you program your web site with : I want it to just work". Translation : I don't care about Open Source and we'll pay for whatever we need to get things to work. When "In a few years' time, almost all businesses will use open source ... " (, people may want to know what you used to program that web site (even if the reason were just to make sure they didn't need to pay for software licences ...).