[Foundation-l] proposed new project - wikistandards

Robert Scott Horning robert_horning at netzero.net
Sat Aug 26 16:47:11 UTC 2006

Lars Aronsson wrote:

>No Spam (sic!) wrote:
>>I would like to propose a new wikiproject, called wikistandards, 
>>in which the community at-large contributes to the creation of 
>>international standards (a wiki version of ANSI and ISO).
>>I look forward to comments.
>You can already use Wikibooks to (collaboratively) write a 
>document on how some things should work.  But how do you get from 
>there to making it "a standard"?  The point with ANSI, ISO, IEEE 
>and these other organizations is that they already have a large 
>body of members from industry and governments that are bound by 
>laws and contracts to follow their standards, rather than yours.
You are wrong here.  Wikibooks can't be used for such development, and 
please don't suggest this either.  Wikibooks is not an incubator for new 
project idea, and standards development is clearly outside of the scope 
of the mission of Wikibooks, especially if you read through 
[[b:Wikibooks:What is Wikibooks]].  I actually tried this sort of 
development back almost two years ago and was (correctly) told to try it 
out on Meta instead.  The Incubator Wiki is more where this sort of 
development should take place.

As far as how to establish a standard that will be recognized by 
standards bodies?  I don't think it is nearly so difficult as you are 
trying to make it out here.  By far and away the hardest part of trying 
to establish a standard is writing the content for such a standard, and 
having knowledgable people understanding what the standard is trying to 
cover to be involved with the development process of that standard.  I 
have seen some very reasonable and responsible standards be put together 
through RFCs and other groups such as the WC3 and the PNG image format 
standard working group that have also been able to even get formal ISO 
status once the standard has been described.  Even competing standards 
are possible and getting international recognition, while not trivial, 
is not impossible.

>For example, housing projects in Sweden get building permits and 
>government loans if they follow existing national construction and 
>housing standards.  Even though these standards have at times been 
>quite ridiculous, down to specifying the size of the coat hanger 
>racks, there is an enormously strong incentive for adhering to 
Construction standards are indeed a mess and there is far too much 
politics in the process.  The "National Electrical Code" (used in North 
America for installing electrical wiring into buildings) is an ISO 
standard that also has the force of law in many location.  If you want 
to be a licensed electrician you are required to not only practically 
memorize this document, but you are also expected to know about changes 
to the standard that happen from year to year.

You might be surprised to find, however, that standards for installation 
of newer technologies are not very well written and a Wiki that would 
help with establishing those standards might be quite beneficial even 
for the construction industry.  The problem is mainly trying to find 
those who might be interested in the development of those standards and 
be willing to implement them.

>If you are in a position where you can change standards at will, 
>such as the coding standard for the MediaWiki source code, then 
>why do you need "a standard" at all?
There are needs for standards simply because it is an area that until 
now nobody has addressed, or in some situations there are so many 
competing but propritary standards that a neutral restart of the process 
must occur.  Standards for computer file formats, for example, are of 
particular interest and is something that is often assumed through 
defacto standards rather than any sane and rational thought on how they 
can be put together.  Even trying to find what standards are available 
is also something that is often overlooked, and many engineers that I've 
known have simply ignored existing standards simply because they didn't 
want to take the time to find what they might be.  Or found the standard 
to be too complicated to implement.

There is a real need to have a central clearing house of standards 
especially for open source/free projects like Wikimedia projects as well 
as open source software projects like Linux and stuff produced by the 
Free Software Foundation.  There are groups that do this already in a 
haphazard way, but more attention can be called to the issue.

>I guess you could build a smorgasbord (a menu) of documents that 
>various organizations can pick and adopt as their internal 
>standards, just like you can pick your favorite prefabricated 
>license agreement text from Creative Commons.  For example under 
>coding standards you could publish the Free Software Foundation's 
>GNU Coding Standards [1] side by side with some alternative coding 
>standards.  But this could be done already as part of Wikibooks.  
>I'm saying this not to discourage your project proposal, but to 
>empower you to get working right now rather than waiting for the 
>foundation to consider your proposal.  (Hey, it was you who wanted 
>to avoid the "by committee" thing.)
>I'm not speaking for the Wikimedia Foundation.
>[1] http://www.gnu.org/prep/standards/
I will say it again:   Do not use Wikibooks to write anything like this. 
 It does not fit with Wikibooks and really needs to be established as a 
seperate project.  I think you have a very mistaken idea of what 
Wikibooks is really about if you think Wikistandards belongs on Wikibooks.

Robert Scott Horning

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