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I had dinner last night with a friend of mine that I have known for years. We talked about those days in w3c, when we met sometime in 1999 in the early days of XSL wg. My, in retrospect how naive I was about standards in general and how I did not understand what it means to be a standards engineer/architect then. As a freshly enthusiastic newbie, there was the impression that the wg would welcome my brilliant ideas and insight coming from my implementation experience to make this wg successful. It was all about technology. Yeah, right 🙂 Time flies and one learns. Most of the learning is not on the technical side but on how to deal with proposals, issues, rebuttals, arguments and learning about the difficult people you avoid as well as nice people that you want to keep.

This blog is a first retrospective on a tiny fraction of the standards techniques or, perhaps I should say, realities learned in this journey. In the small circle of standards people, some people come and go, the main characters play musical chairs, but arguments/discussions all look similar after a while. In my frustrations, I found a little humor goes a long way as some of the useful techniques learned in a standards group participation get repeated over and over. Just like a song, they become permenant in our experiences and you start humming them as you recognize them in your environment after a while. I wrote all the poems presented below.

The first one is my favorite one. A common technique applied when one group vehemently disagrees with a particular proposal, solution to an issue and want to retain the status quo. Typically this group consists of rather loud, persuasive, and persistent folks who can create a variety of nuances to slowly dispose of the naively argued thing on the table:

The Tiresome Argument:

When in doubt

Wear them out

Stiffle discussion

Close with no action

Another one is a companion to the previous one. In this case, the objective is to prevent getting an issue opened in the first place. In this technique, the idea is to make your opponent look as incompetent as possible by playing dumb.

Issue Gatekeepers Song:

Oh poor dearie you whine and cry

You complain but oh why?

Really! Is there an issue?

But you have not proven that to me

I can not really understand you,

No, you did not explain it well to me!

I must conclude then my poor child

There is nothing here for us to pursue!

Here is a little poem for features that are always debated. Where to put them, how to fix them, or should we explain them better? Oh, my. try a tango tempo

Cry of the little fix:

Give me my line number

Or Give me my death

Fix me in this spec so tersely

Or else, make Primer be my bed

Last one, but not the least is the old motto. It never is done until the “real” spec ships out. Meaning the actual recommendation, standard, etc. So, don’t count your features before you are hatched..

Ode to Adieu:

Fooled a misguided fortune weeps

First a new little feature it brings

Ah, makes it in before the “last call”

Many doubts will arise but not fall

Oh oh, it will be debated to death afterall

No Euology, the unfortunate owner weeps

As they say, nothing ends before the fat lady sings…

Anyway, hope you had fun. Another look would be the people that do standards. The standards veteran Jonathan Marsh had an excellent and widely amusing talk at the w3c planery on this very topic. If we get him to post his presentation on the web, you may have a wild ride on his classification, a pictorial presentation that is very amusing and close to the heart as one discovers his/her character immediately among the ones presented.

Well. So is the fun world of standards. You can check out anytime, but you can never leave.

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