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A Contextual Framework For Standards


http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/e-government-2006-05/ A Contextual Framework For Standards Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Contextual Framework For Standards

A Contextual Framework For Standards
  • Brian Kelly
  • University of Bath
  • Bath, UK

Co-Authors Alastair Dunning, AHDS Lawrie Phipps,
JISC Sebastian Rahtz, OSS Watch Paul Hollins,
Email B.Kelly_at_ukoln.ac.uk
The authors are all active in JISC-funded work
and in providing advice on best practices at a
national level
UKOLN is supported by
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonComme
rcial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (but note caveat)
  • About the speaker
  • Open standards are great but don't always work
  • Addressing the tensions a contextual approach
  • Using the model
  • Extending the model
  • Risk assessment approach
  • Conclusions

About The Speaker
  • Brian Kelly
  • UK Web Focus an advisory post to advise UK's
    HE/FE and cultural heritage sectors on Web
    standards best practices
  • Based at UKOLN, a national centre of expertise
    for digital information management
  • Located at the University of Bath, UK
  • Funded by JISC and MLA
  • Key work areas
  • Use of standards in JISC's development programmes
  • Advice on accessibility

Open Standards Are Great ?
  • JISC's development programmes
  • Traditionally based on use of open standards to
  • Support interoperability
  • Maximise accessibility
  • Avoid vendor lock-in
  • Provide architectural integrity
  • Help ensure long-term preservation
  • History in UK HE development work
  • eLib Standards document (v1 1996, v2 1998)
  • DNER Standards document (2001)
  • which influenced
  • NOF-digi Technical Standards
  • ..

Open Standards
But Don't Always Work ?
  • There's a need for flexibility
  • Learning the lesson from OSI networking protocols
  • Today
  • Is the Web (for example) becoming over-complex
  • "Web service considered harmful"
  • The lowercase semantic web / Microformats
  • Lighter-weight alternatives being developed
  • Responses from the commercial world

Open Standards
  • Other key issues
  • What is an open standard?
  • What are the resource implications of using them?
  • Sometimes proprietary solutions work (and users
    like them). Is it politically incorrect to
    mention this!?

What is An Open Standard?
  • Which of the following are open standards?
  • XHTML 1 ? PDF ? Flash
  • Java ? MS Word ? RSS (1.0/2.0)

Open Standards
Compliance Issues
  • What does must mean?
  • You must comply with HTML standards
  • What if I don't?
  • What if nobody does?
  • What if I use PDF?
  • You must clear rights on all resources you
  • You must provide properly audited accounts
  • What if I don't?

JISC 5/99 programme 80 of project home pages
were not HTML compliant
There is a need to clarify the meaning of must
and for an understandable, realistic and
reasonable compliance regime
Is RSS An Open Standard?
RSS Example
  • Is RSS an open standard ("are RSSs open
  • RSS 1.0 (RDF Site Summary)
  • XML application using RDF model
  • Developed by Aaron Schwarz
  • RSS 2.0 (Really Simple Syndication)
  • XML application using simpler model
  • Developed by Davey Winer
  • Note that RSS is a widely used and popular
    application with usage growing through its key
    role in Podcasts
  • Issues
  • Are these open standards?
  • Are they reliable and robust enough to build
    mission-critical services on?
  • Is there a clear roadmap for the future?

RSS Governance Issues
RSS Example
  • Governance Issues
  • RSS 1.0 specification maintained by Aaron
  • "Aaron Swartz is a teenage writer, hacker, and
    activist. He was a finalist for the ArsDigita
    Prize for excellence in building non-commercial
    web sites at the age of 13. At 14 he co-authored
    the RSS 1.0 specification, now used by thousands
    of sites to notify their readers of updates."
  • RSS 2.0 specification developed by Dave Winer
  • "Winer is known as one of the more polarizing
    figures in the blogging community. However ..
    there are many people and organizations who seem
    unable to maintain a good working relationship
    with Dave."

RSS 1.0 Roadmap Issues
RSS Example
  • RSS 1.1
  • In Jan 2005 RSS 1.1 draft released
  • "we expressed our mutual frustrations with 1.0
    , we decided that rather than lauch (sic) ...
    another diatribe against the quality of the RSS
    1.0 spec, we would simply write a new
    specification ourselves. "
  • But it is no longer being developed
  • Draft technically good (addressed ambiguities
    interoperability flaws) but political reaction
  • RSS 2.0 has (a) better acronym and (b) momentum
    (through Podcasting)
  • And RSS 2.0 sounds newer
  • RSS 3.0 (joke?) proposal has caused confusion and
    arguments on Slashdot and elsewhere

RSS 2.0 Roadmap Issues
RSS Example
  • RSS 2.0
  • Spec published by Harvard Law School with a
    Creative Commons licence
  • RSS-Board YahooGroups used for governance body
  • Many arguments (most recently on proposal to
    expand board in April 2006)

"Winer has now decided that the board doesn't
exist and never had authority over the RSS
specification, even though it has published six
revisions from July 2003 to the present. I don't
agree, but now that the board's fully public,
we're in a position to make his wish a reality."
Note Wikipedia has useful links to the history
and politics of RSS
RSS Summary
RSS Example
  • What can be learnt
  • We thought RSS was a great lightweight
    syndication technology
  • It was but competing alternatives were
  • No clear winner (RSS 1.0's extensibility W3C's
    support versus RSS 2.0's simplicity and take-up
    in Podcasting, iTunes, etc)
  • Conclusions
  • Life can be complex, even with simple standards
  • Technical merit is never enough market
    acceptance can change things
  • RSS can still be useful, and interoperability can
    be provided by RSS libraries supporting multiple

The Context
  • There will be a context to use of standards
  • The intended use
  • Mainstream ? Innovative / research
  • Key middleware component ? Small-scale
  • Organisational culture
  • HE vs FE ? Teaching vs Research
  • Service vs Development ?
  • Available Funding Resources
  • Significant funding training to use new
  • Minimal funding - current skills should be used

Contextual Issues
An open standards culture is being developed,
which is supportive of use of open standards, but
which recognises the complexities and can avoid
mistakes made in the past
The Layered Standards Model
3rd Parties
Context Compliance
JISC / project
Self assessment
JISC's layered standards model, developed by
UKOLN. Note that one size doesn't always fit all
  • How might this approach be used in practice?

Contextual Model
The Standards Catalogue
  • The information provided aims to be simple and
    succinct (but document will still be large when
  • Standard Dublin Core
  • About the Standard Dublin Core is a metadata
    standard made up
  • Version New terms are regularly added to
  • Maturity Dublin Core has its origins in
    workshops held
  • Risk Assessment Dublin Core plays a key role .
    It is an important standard within the context of
    JISC development programmes.
  • Further Information
  • DCMI, lthttp//dublincore.org/gt
  • Author Pete Johnston, UKOLN
  • Contributor
  • Date Created 04 Oct 2005
  • Update History Initial version.

Note that as the standards catalogue is intended
for wide use the contents will need to be fairly
Note recent feedback has identified the need for
heading on usage in other programmes (i.e.
political acceptance)
Standards Catalogue Process
  • There's a need for developing and enhancing the
    standards catalogue in order to
  • Update with new standards
  • Learn from feedback and experiences

  • How do we
  • Sustain, maintain grow the standards catalogue?
  • Develop a sustainable support infrastructure?
  • Suggestions
  • More resources for support infrastructure
  • Extend model to related areas to gain buy-in, etc
  • Exploit learning gained by projects, reuse
    experiences, encourage sharing, etc.
  • Build on QA Focus approach (briefing docs and
    case studies)
  • Contractual requirement for projects to produce
    end-user deliverables and deliverables related to
    development process

Extending The Model
  • Joint UKOLN / TechDis / OSS Watch work has
    extended the layered model to other related

Context Policies

Annotated Catalogues

Context Compliance
Self assessment
  • This model aims to provide a consistent
    understandable model
  • For use by the funders and for use by projects
  • Applicable to the diversity to be found in the
  • Applicable to the technical complexity and
  • Potentially applicable outside UK sector

Application to accessibility described at W4A
Support Infrastructure (1)
  • Opportunity to exploit deliverables from
    JISC-funded QA Focus project
  • 90 briefing documents 30 case studies
  • Licensed (where possible) under Creative Commons
  • UKOLN are continuing to publish new documents
    (documents on Folksonomies, AJAX, Podcasting,
    Wikis, etc. published recently)
  • Case Study Template
  • About the Project
  • Area covered
  • Approach taken
  • Lessons Learnt / Things We'd Do Differently
  • Case studies
  • Opportunity to describe experiences in specific
  • Standard template to ensure consistency provide
  • Allows UKOLN to promote projects' work ?
  • Project get better Google rating ?

Support Infrastructure (2)
  • How others can contribute (projects third
  • Case Studies
  • On way home use template to summarise one aspect
    of your development work and send to me
  • Briefing Documents
  • Write a (brief!) briefing paper on area not
    currently covered and send to me
  • Why?
  • Others (e.g. me) can cite your work
  • Use of a CC licence enables you, your work, your
    organisation, to become known in other sectors
    you can benefit from this
  • You will be seen to be good Web citizens
  • You may get the 'feel good' factor it's not
    just open source software developers who can
    share their work
  • You can benefit from our work .. so it would be
    good if we can benefit from yours

Support Infrastructure (3)
  • How do we integrate the standards catalogue with
    implementation experiences, etc.
  • Linking to related information in Wikipedia (the
    world can help the updating)
  • Uploading information to Wikipedia the wider
    community can help to update and maintain it
  • Making information available with CC licences
    so others can use it, update it and hopefully
    give feedback on enhancements
  • Use of syndication technologies (RSS OPML)
  • Note this is a Web 2.0 approach
  • Uses Web 2.0 syndication technologies
  • Trusts users and benefits from a wide user base
  • Contributes to Web 2.0 services

Syndicating Content
  • Note importance of (a) RSS and OPML (b) modular
    approach and (c) Creative Commons licence to
    maximise use reuse of 90 briefing documents

Risk Assessment Model
  • SSf(SB, S, U, En, ..)
  • Selection of appropriate standard (SS) is
    function of
  • Standards Body (SB) Maturity, stability, status,
    openness, responsivity,
  • Standard (S) Functionality, complexity /
  • Users (U) Appropriateness for, benefits to
    adoption by
  • Environment (En) Institutional, community,
  • Other factors
  • Market acceptance do vendors support it (beyond
    proof-of-concept open source examples)
  • Risks (am I betting the company of the standard)
  • Exit options (can I easily change my mind)
  • Advocacy (is the world campaigning for it) and
    threats (is the world criticising for it)

Future Work
Using Risk Assessment Model
  • Using model, what conclusions would you arrive at
  • GIF vs PNG? Former has patented algorithm
    latter is open and better but does inertia rule
    (and limitations in browser support for PNG?
  • PDF vs HTML/CSS? Latter is open and better for
    reuse but publishing processes prefer control
    provided by latter (cf this workshop)
  • PowerPoint vs HTML/CSS (e.g. S5) or SMIL? Former
    is ubiquitous easier for authors and gives
    better handouts
  • Semantic Web vs semantic web vs status quo?
    Promises much, but complex vs simpler approach
    using existing technologies vs people may be
    happy with status quo and organisation reluctant
    to take risks

Future Work
  • To conclude
  • Open standards is important and use should be
    encouraged, esp, in public sectors
  • Because of importance, there is a need for a
    pragmatic approach and not hide behind dogma
  • The contextual approach
  • Allows scope to address complexities of
    technologies deployment environments etc.
  • Best deployed within a supportive open standards
  • Can be extended to other relevant areas
  • We can use Creative Commons for open access to
    standards information support materials etc.
    which can help sustainability
  • A risk assessment approach can help avoid
    mistakes in adopting risky open standards

  • Any questions?

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