Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Down With Web Standards, Up With Disruption

In response to Vallywags widget rant by Nick Denton who stated unceremoniously that AVC’s use of widgets are "a violation of blog principles", Fred Wilson replied:

“I'd like to see where those principals are written down, because I missed them and want to know what other principals I am violating.”

Enter the socialmediaclub whose mission in part is:

“for the purpose of sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards”

Got me thinking about why I believe we don’t need non-technical standards on the Web (you can alternatively think of this list as the reasons I have always hated usability guru Jacob Neilson)

1. it’s too early to say there is ONE way to do anything or there’s a RIGHT way to do anything
2. it crushes creativity
3. it crushes innovation
4. it creates hierarchy
5. it doesn’t take into consideration developing technologies
6. it manufactures experts
7. it creates false Gods


Chris Heuer said...

Just curious how you connect the dots with Nick's independent assumptions and our work with Social Media Club, which is based on having conversation about such matters and figuring out what works best.

To be more blunt, are you saying that supporting the Creative Commons is not a good idea? What about Microformats?

Leigh said...

Hi Chris,

Tnx for stopping by.

I was not referring to your entire organization but rather to the notion of creating "standards" in general in the Web space and understood this as part of what your orgnization is trying to do.

If you are saying that the "standards" that your mission refers to is about creative commons and microformats then I stand corrected (it was why i attemped to make a distinction when it comes to technical standards for example although agruably it's not the right term).

As for "having convesations and figuring out what works best", I welcome coversations but am not sure who gets to determine the 'what works best part' or really what that even means.

Would welcome insight into what that means in terms of the work of the Social Media Club. :)

Mark said...

Chris Heuer is being somewhat disingenuous, I think, about his insistence that the Social Media Club is simply about having conversations. According to the site, their stated purpose is, "sharing best practices, establishing ethics and standards, and promoting media literacy around the emerging area of Social Media." I agree with Leigh - this is very problematic (not to mention confused).

The moment I hear "establishing best practices," I run the other way, as it is the best way to stifle innovation and to prevent critical media "literacy" (albeit in a non-literate medium - the web is audile not literate in nature). Ethics and standards are fine, but standards for what? And against which cultural ground are these ethics going to be standardized, given that the UCaPP world comprises a multiplicity of cultural grounds.

And for heaven's sake, conflating a critique of their arrogance as a self-styled standards body (or even self-styled locus of conversation) with being against Creative Commons?! Save us from such pretentious illogic and sophistry!

Chris Heuer said...

Well, I was trying to make a deep point in a very short time, and continue to find this a nearly impossible task. It is not being disngenuous at all, but I will give you that the attempt at brevity was ambiguous.

But you hit on something that is seemingly an interesting issue relating to a broader semantic confusion I had not encountered until recently - the meaning of the phrase best practices. My usage of this is related to understanding what works best in certain situations. This is not some arbitrary work of officialdom to self annoint what those practices are in an attempt to mandate philosophy and protocol. But rather the intention to share what works best and help people figure that out for themselves - hence conversation.

A quick example might be in regards to comments - should they be allowed on blogs? Generally speaking, I think they are curcial, but there may be some situations where this is necessary to do so. Our idea of sharing best practices is to socialize the understanding of such issues to allow those 'best practices' to emerge. In the end, who gets to determine what works best is each individual for themselves. Engineers are so used to a world of 1's and 0's that they often fail to understand the real world is not so black and white, but mostly grey. So the use of language such as this is bound to be confusing in certain communities.

Further, it seems that some folks are directly associating the best practices concept with establishing standards. The intention of these 2 elements are somewhat related but not directly, except in the sense that I mentioned, around the promotion of common principles that I believe should be widely adopted, like CC licensing and structured data through Microformats.

The establishment of standards at this point in time is more specific to our work around the Social Media Release. Which is about having a broad conversation with the people affected by a given standard to establish requirements prior to choosing technology. But it is even more than that and I am running out of time. There will be other important common technical standads that should have the support of a community of non engineering people in order to further adoption. It would seem that many such technical standards efforts die on the vine because the engineers are unable to translate the value of the standard to the executives who should be supporting it - my personal objetive in this regards is to collaborate with others to make sure the right ones get that necessary support.

Bottom line, I was trying to make a big point in a short time, with the intention of understanding why you were referencing what we are trying to do with the club. Now I get it, I generally agree with your perspective and also see where Mark is coming from, but believe it is a semantic interpretation problem he has with our use of language. This is why my focus is on having conversations with each other - to get to that point of understanding through dialogue so people don't judge any book by its cover, but instead ask the right questions to get to the deeper truths.

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