My entire time in the IT industry has been spent primarily trying to develop, architect, test, mentor, evangelize, and educate about one simple subject: Standards Appreciation!

The trouble with "Standards Appreciation" is that vendors see standards from the following perspectives primarily:

  1. Yet another opportunity to lock-in the customer
  2. If point 1. fails then undermine the standard vociferously (an activity that takes many covert forms; attack performance, security, and maturity)
  3. Developers don't like standards (the real reason for this is to-do lists and timeframes in most cases)

Korateng Ofusu-Amaah provides insightful perspective on the issues above, in a recent "must read" blog post about how this dysfunctionality plays out today in the realm of HTML Buttons and Forms. Here are some notebable excerpts:

"Instead my discourse devolved into a case of I told you so, a kind of Old Testament view of things instead of the softer New Age stylings that are in vogue these days. Sure there was a little concern for the users that had been hurt by lost data, but there was almost no empathy for the developers who had to lose their weekends furiously reworking their applications to do the right thing especially because it appeared that they would rather persist in trying to do the wrong thing.

The sentiment behind that mini tempest-in-a-teapot however was a recognition of the fact that those who have been quietly evangelizing the web style were talking about the wrong thing and to the wrong people."


"..As application developers we should ask for better forms, we should be demanding of browser makers things like XForms or Web Forms 2.0 to make sure that we can go beyond the kind of stilted usability that we currently have. Our users would appreciate our efforts in that vein but for now, they know what to expect. Until then application developers should push back when we are told to "do the wrong thing".

There is an unfortunate mindset trend at the current time that espouses: "Sloppiness" is good, and "Simple" justifies inadequacy at all times. Today, the real focus of most development endeavours is popularity first and coherance (backward compatibility, standards compliance, security, scalability etc.) a distant second, if you can simply make things popular then that justifies the sloppiness (acquisition, VC money, Blogosphere Juice etc.). Especially as someone else will ultimately have to deal with the predictable ramifications of the sloppiness.

Standards are critical to the success of IT investment within any enterprise, but standards are difficult to design, write, implement, and then comprehend; due to the inherent requirement for abstraction - it's a top down, as opposed to bottom up, process.

Vendors will never genuinely embrace standards, until IT decision makers demand standards compliance of them, by demonstrating a penchant for smelling out "leaky abstractions" embedded within product implementations. Naturally, this requires a fundamental change of mindset for most decision makers. It means moving away from the "this analyst said...", "I heard that company X is going to deliver....", "I read that .....", "I saw that demo..." approach to product evaluation, to a more knowledgeable evaluation process that seeks out the What, Why, and How of any prospective IT solution. 

Knowledge empowers all of the time. It's a gift that stands the test of time once you invest some time in its acquisition (unfortunately this gift isn't free!). Ignorance with all its superficial seduction (free and widely available!), is temporary bliss at best, and nothing but heartache over time.