Weblog standards

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m tired tonight, but Anil asked a fair question and I wanted to try to write a fair answer. He wrote in my comments:

Shelley, just curious: (honestly, not being sarcastic) what standards body do you think would be appropriate for hosting these formats, protocols, and APIs?

If I was a dreaming kind of person, which I am though I have this urge to make my dreams real without any real expectation of accomplishing the reality, my ideal weblogging standards organization would be based somewhat on the concept of “source gets you votes”. In other words, you could buy your way in just by giving your source code and specification over for management by the group. So, the Trotts could buy their way in with Trackback, Userland with RSS 2.0, and Ev with the concept of the weblogging API. That takes care of the big three.

Now, the group wouldn’t stop there. There are other major organizations that are impacted by weblogging specifications, including other weblogging and peripherial tools. They could buy their way in by a) demonstrating that their tool/specification has a significant number (TDB) of users, and b) turning their efforts over for management by the organization.

For the rest of the tool developers and vendors — elect members from specific categories of software. For instance, elect two people to represent the aggregators, because of the number of aggregators, perhaps 1 from the web services folks, and so on. This won’t be a huge number, but does provide representation. And this is a revolving vote among the vendors/organization/developers.

Finally the users — the committee is completed by electing an equal number of people from the user community, mixed half and half between the techs and non-techs. I split the techs and non-techs to ensure that there isn’t a complete domination by technical folks. But can’t exclude tech folks because there are technical people who don’t create weblogging software, but help out with its use. I know a couple people right of the bat I’d vote in from this category.

As for the vote count, if there are 9 ‘permanent’ positions (and don’t choke on that word ‘permanent’ yet), and 8 additional from the technology reps — a total of 17 people — there would be 18 revolving positions from the user community.

All positions except for those who ‘buy’ their way in with a spec or a standard are for one year only. The other people, those who have turned over their specifications and technologies for management can remain as long as they want, provided they aren’t voted out at the end of each year. In other words, if you’re an asshole, you’re going to get kicked off. Work with the team, and you stay. Howver, permanent positions can recommend a replacement — as long as the replacement is acceptable to the body politic.

In my opinion, existing standards organizations and structures won’t work — the weblog industry is equivalent to what the Internet used to be in that things in this industry move fast, fast, fast. By keeping the standards organization within the community, we keep control of the technology within the hands of those who believe in the technology.

With the makeup of the organization, it will be difficult for power pockets to develop, especially since the revolving members from the user community and vendors change every year, and difficult people can get voted off (or retire voluntarily). You could, but then, you get the same thing now — at least a standards organization would provide some semblance of sanity.

To make this work, every weblogger will need to make a decision — only to use software that guarantees it is Weblog Standards compliant. If people really like the way things are done, with the back biting, undercutting, power playing, multi-standard, multi-API — they don’t need to do anything. If they’re a wee bit tired of it, they can vote their choices. The same goes for those people who think standards will ‘stifle’ creativity — then vote your choice.

Someone said, “put it on the table”. Well, consider it put.

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