Standards 101

After almost 15 years in the software business and 10+ at Microsoft I have worked on numerous projects where industry standards have been part of things. When I was an infrastructure systems engineer in the field doing network design and working on NT, SMS, Proxy Server...etc. there were few customer engagements and/or product training sessions where standards were not part of the discussion. Then, with Y2K I was in a front row seat for an issue that desperately needed an open standard (namely the definition of Y2K compliance). After that, a brief stint in our security response center and then onto a bit of work with OSS issues.

Throughout all of this I have been aware that standards were present, and had to discuss the relationship between OSS and open standards on more than one occasion but have NEVER appreciated how deep this rabbit hole goes. Last week I blogged about my possibly being drssed up as a space-age princess with baked goods adorning my head (a decision I am now regretting given the internal emails and fun people are having at my expense). And now, it would seem I'm about to insinuate my likeness to a small British girl in taffeta and pig tails. hmmm. Things are heading in a distirbing direction.

But I have never been shy, nor fearful of ridicule. So with that, I think I will blog my journey down the open standards rabbit hole. I've officially been in my job about 2 weeks (went public with it only recently) and have been forced to step back and rethink a number of core assumptions about standards in general. Even more so, about Microsoft and open standards.

One of the things I have been struck by the most has been the depth to which Microsoft is engaging in the open standards process. Groups all over the company are involved either in standards setting or implementation projects. There are hundreds of standards bodies with countless working groups engaged on a myriad of issues. Of course, some get more attention than others (Office file formats lately). Yet I frequently hear that MS doesn't do open standards. That is clearly not true given just a few discussions with folks in MS who are super dedicated to the success of open standards. This raises and important question then - what is it that we are not doing well about standards?

This blog entry is a "hello world" of sorts. Open standards represent an incredibly complex mix of factors. Tell me if there are things I should be paying attention to - I'm interested to know where we can improve in this arena.