An argument against standards

, Mar 14, 2006

Jon Udell suggests what he believes is a different approach to standards:

Imagine that when you visited the website for Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS), what you found there was working code and associated tests. And imagine that the code and tests were written according to the tenets of literate programming, so that they both enacted and explained the relationship of BPEL to WSDL, the structure and flow of business activities, the correlation of messages, and the handling of faults.

I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree — how is a standard backed by a reference implementation different from what Jon suggests? I totally agree that a standard with some working code to show how it works in practice, and an appropriate set of tests, is better than one without. But the reverse isn’t true — a working implementation and a set of tests does not replace a standard. No single implementation will necessarily fit all purposes — for example, it might be in the wrong programming language for my environment, be designed to meet different non-functional requirements … while there’s a lot to be said against many specific standards and pseudo-standards, I am still a firm believer in standards as a principle.