The challenge of standards-making and adoption

I was reading this month’s Computer magazine and found an interesting article by Charles Rich entitled Building Task-Based User Interfaces with ANSI/CEA-2018. It sounded like an interesting UI abstraction so I went after the standard to look through it. And that’s when I was reminded of something: ANSI/CEA-2018 is one of those paid standards. If I want to read anything beyond the index of the standard, I have to pay $85.00 (or $63.75 if I was a member). Granted that if I was doing this for my job, $85 is not much, but as I was only doing this to investigate something that might be interesting to apply at work, I don’t think it’s worth paying anything.

The odd thing about this is that it feels like we learned that this is not the good model any more. Right now the model that seems to work the best is the open-source solution in which you provide everything for free and then let people pay if they want to get special attention from the design/implementation team.

Also, having an article on a widely available, research-oriented magazine, such as Computer, actually makes this dissonance even greater. Research publications are meant to make your research public, and allow other people to try it out, compare to their approaches or improve their systems based on your experience. When an article only provides an advertising to something, it ends up hurting my expectations of all the articles in the magazine. Why should I read through them if I won’t be able to really apply any of the things there without having to pay money?

One day we might be able to convince the whole industry that the pay-to-think model is not the right one (i.e., you have to pay to start looking around and considering whether the product is right for you). The software industry was the first one to realize it and change (first with free time-limited demos, and then with company-backed open source software). Standards should be the next one to do that. What is the use of a standard if it’s not visible for people to understand and apply, anyway?


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