Dispatches from Digistan

Chris Puttick of OpenArchaeology sends news of the Digital Standards Organisation:

A new group is being formed to promote open digital standards, starting with a declaration regarding the importance of digital standards being truly open.

Part of Digistan’s effort to promote understanding, development, and adoption of open digital standards implies a clear definition of what “open” implies in standards terms. Accompanied by a list of conformant open standards, this has the potential to be used as an equivalent of the opendefinition.org Open Knowledge Definition or the freedomdefined.org Free Cultural Works definition

However the current approach looks different and consists of “metrics” to assess relative “openness”. It’s early days and not immediately clear how this will work – can standards score negative points for unclear status on patent grants, or RAND terms? Surely positive criteria for openness in a metric would, taken as a whole, constitute an open definition? The creators hope that this approach by transcending debate about a single definition of open standard, the project will promote informed discussion about the value of standards in a way that encourages users to participate.

It’s also not clear to what extent Digistan’s interest will be focused on open formats for data and digital media, and how far that will reach out to “standards” in general – which might help simplify the debate over “one definition”. As open standards are the cornerstone of a viable free software approach to open data, an effort to produce a clear open definition that different interest groups can agree on and rally around would be welcome.

Among the founders of Digistan are some FFII representatives and, interestingly, Andrew Updegrove, the standards consortium lawyer and blogger whose writings were a deep mine of useful information about the OOXML controversy. Collectively they are asking people to sign up to their Hague Declaration in support of the following (less the preamble):

We call on all governments to:

  1. Procure only information technology that implements free and open standards;
  2. Deliver e-government services based exclusively on free and open standards;
  3. Use only free and open digital standards in their own activities.