Friday, 7 August 2009

Standardisation, Alas, poor standardisation!

Well, Shakespeare may be dead but not his play on transience

What are standards? Nothing else but what is accepted by "majority vote". Being polite is a good standard, but we all know there are exceptions to that rule - to say the least. In fact, standards are dynamic. They change from time to time, adapting to current times, knowledge gained, and knowledge lost

The Roman and Greek gods were standard a few thousand years ago, but, last time I checked, they're just a thing of the past now
Bryan Larkin has a good blog on how standards can deteriorate

Why do standards change or even deteriorate? For geographical or political reasons, mostly. Consider English, Scottish, Irish, American, Australian, and 'Kiwian'. It's all the same language, but the variations are endless. Even worse, some of us Dutch speak Dunglish, while we laugh at Frenglish as it is used among others in hilarious tv-series. So, things change, not always for the better, and standards split themselves up into sub-standards that are only accessible for minorities

Let's see what happened to EDI with regards to standards: what have SOA and ESB value-added over the last 5+ years?
Within B2B we had good to perfect standards a dozen years ago: X12, EDIFACT, HL7, Swift, etc. There weren't any standards for A2A other than a canonical model and best methods and practices. Then in came B2C, and the X-word was mentioned. Mind the word simple in the first line there, and the dozen Working Groups around it

Somehow XML spread like a virus and found quick adoption within B2C. It was also pushed in A2A, and is since slowly invading B2B. And the only standard so far is the fact that the language is XML

So how come that, in 2009, where and when we're all globally connected in near real-time, there still isn't a good and widely-used XML standard? Maybe for political reasons, I suppose. But the main reason -I think- is the simple fact that XML is so "legible" that, contrary to EDIFACT or X12, just about anyone could define an interface or service. And, looking back, just about everyone has. With as result that no two XML-based order interfaces in the world look alike

So let's all get together and stop the deterioration of standards. We need bigger and better standards very quickly. Let's not worry about the language this time, but just focus on the business functionalities and entities needed

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