Interoperability Incubation and Pre-standardisation Activity – A View on Desirable Qualities

There is an important process that should feed into the development of good standards (that are used in practice) and this process is currently in need of repair and reformation. They key idea behind this is that good standards to support educational technology, to take our area of particular interest, are not created on a blank sheet of paper by an elite but emerge from practice, collaborative design, experimentation, selective appropriation of web standards, … etc. Good standards documents are underpinned by a thoughtful analysis of these aspects such that what emerges is useful, usable, and used. The phrase “pre-standardisation and interoperability incubation forum” is an attempt to capture the character of such a process. Indeed, some industry partners may prefer to see a collaboration to incubate interoperability as the real thing, with the formal standardization politics as an optional, and sometimes problematic, add-on. It is our belief that all except the suppliers with a dominant market share stand to benefit from better interoperability – i.e. common means to share common data – and that there is a great deal of latent value that could be unlocked by better pre-standardisation activity and interoperability incubation.

Some recent changes to the pre-standardisation landscape indicate that this process, which is not assumed to exist within a single entity, is in need of repair and reformation. Some of these changes, and the problems the changes present is described in recent Cetis staff posts by Simon Grant, “Educational Technology Standardization in Europe”, and by Lorna Campbell, “CEN Learning Technologies Workshop Online Consultation Meeting”. The gist of these descriptions is that what we thought was a usefully-open access pre-standardisation forum is no more. This does not mean that “repair and reformation” means we should re-create what has been lost, rather that the loss has tipped the balance down on the side of taking action. What emerges may, quite rationally, be rather different in form to what went before.

This post makes public a discussion of the background and some statements about what I consider the desirable qualities of a pre-standardisation and interoperability incubation forum, and draws extensively on the ideas and insights of colleagues in Cetis and in the wider interoperability community.

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