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Help Writing an Open Standards Policy?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the calling-all-language-lawyers dept.

Government 52

Cornwallis writes "I'm trying to save money for a local government agency I work for by writing a policy statement to support the idea of adopting open data standards and/or Open Source software in order to contain IT expenses (by reducing licensing costs). I am thinking something along the lines of supporting open standards by not locking in to long term software contracts so that departments could be freed to adopt an alternative OS and/or desktop suite if this would work for the individual department. The idea is to unlock the stranglehold that proprietary software may have on the department IT budget. Have any of you written policy statements along these lines, and would you be willing to share? I'm not saying this would be for everybody, nor replace everything, just be an option to help my beleaguered agency in rough times."

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Already available (4, Insightful)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759295)

You can use any of a number of already existing policies. For instance, the Open Standards Policy [mass.gov] of Massachusetts is very nicely worded:

Commonwealth's Position

  • Effective and efficient government service delivery requires system integration and data sharing.
  • Technology investments must be made based on total cost of ownership and best value to the Commonwealth. Component-based software development based on open standards allows for a more cost-effective "build once, use many times" approach.
  • Open systems and specifications are often less costly to acquire, develop and maintain and do not result in vendor lock-in.

--
Interested in exploring a possible business idea with friends? [fairsoftware.net]

That wording clarifies some of M$'s activities. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760921)

Technology investments must be made based on total cost of ownership ...

Thus the advertising and planted article campaigns claiming lower total cost of ownership than Linux.

Open [...] specifications are often less costly to acquire, develop and maintain and do not result in vendor lock-in.

Thus the move to obtain standards-organization approval for a "standard" document format based on their word processor - which was unclear enough to make it impossible to write code to handle the format based solely on the standard and flexible enough to allow them to modify and sabotage the format if anybody got close.

Looks like the wording of that document drove their strategy for fighting the move to open source.

Re:Already available (1)

Heddahenrik (902008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762305)

"and do not result in vendor lock-in"

That should be emphasized much more. When you're buying properiatary software you're basically giving away control to the company you're buying from. It's like buying a car that you have no right to do any kind of service on, and you don't even know if the GPS is connected to a deadswitch that will turn the engine off if you drive in a state where you don't have a license. Generally if you just want a little more out of your properiatary application, it will cost you a lot.

Or to put it frankly: Properiary software may be way more expensive than expected and you'll lose your job!

Re:Already available (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26765007)

Sig line goes in sig, please, where I don't have to see it. Otherwise it's just spam.

Some resources ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26759377)

For some good ideas to start with, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument_adoption [wikipedia.org] and then head over to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts links. You can glean a lot of the policy formulation ides from there. They built a requirement to use open document format (not necessarily open source). http://consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/ [consortiuminfo.org] is another good resource to start with.

Should there be a GPL project for this? (1)

outofoptions (199169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759467)

Seems like this would be a good community project? Have a GPL'd proposal set up for others to use and customize as needed?

Call me (5, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759509)

I've done this for a number of national and local governments. If you'd like to write me directly or call my office at 510-984-1055, I can help.

Bruce

Re:Call me (2, Funny)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759653)

867-5309 Call Me.
Jenny

(Sorry, but I had to.)

Re:Call me (4, Funny)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760253)

These days, Jenny would have an email. And a webcam...

Re:Call me (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763611)

Do you have the Business Case to go with it?

Most small to medium sized government agencies (water districts, most school districts, most cities, etc) are going to be run (governed) by small to medium sized businessmen on a part time basis (i.e. used cars by day, city council by night). They may not be tech savvy on computing technology, but they know about saving money. You can almost be certain of that unless you happen to be living near Santa Clara or Seattle.

They will be looking for the simplest and most easily available way to do something. That will almost certainly mean they will be thinking MS or Apple, and the list for most won't even be that long. They know what they see when they walk into Best Buy or Target or WalMart, and when you argue for something different, they will think "exotic = weird = expensive".

You can argue your rights all you want, but if any of the city's/county's/school's/water agency's IT people start to argue that heterogeneity will be more expensive to purchase and support, you will be dead. You will need a counterargument, in black and white, that shows how it will be cheaper. Not just equivalent, but actually better in some long term way. More important, that shows how dumping [Office] is not going to be a killer on training and general ease of use. Because for the most part, these guys are risk averse for items of little interest to them. They don't need another headache. And when the first hiccup comes along and they need to cough up another umpty dollars for IT support for "foreign formats", they don't want to ruefully remember the old saying "no one ever got fired for choosing IBM". or MS.

Just saying, They Understand Money. Maybe not too well, but they do get it when you mention "savings".

Re:Call me (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763721)

I've been through this before. Often, it's best to start with new projects, rather than existing desktops, so that you aren't replacing anything, you're starting new people up on brand-new systems and software. Switching their entire IT structure as your first project doesn't generally work out well.

Re:Call me (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764721)

That is essentially what I suspected.

I've been through it too. Not OSS, but pretty much any tech upgrade or refresh has this issue. The owners don't like the idea of vendor lock-in in principle, but they LOVE the idea of a single point of contact fix-it or else solution. They want it cheap and simple, and flexible and competitive, but also easy to understand.

As long as your vendor is reasonable and wants to work with you, this can work out fine. Which is generally true in most small towns. But if a certain party decides they have Market Power and Virtual Monopoly working for them when they cut the contract, you might be on the wrong end of the whipsaw.

Here are some Texas state guidelines... (4, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759533)

...from the Department of Information Resources (SRRPUB09 [state.tx.us] ). A little-known document outside of OSS circles, unfortunately.

2 things (3, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759579)

A) Having an open standards means more citizens can contact them. If a poor woman with 4 children can't communicate with a city bureau and has her water turned off(for example) it would be a PR nightmare for the elected officials.

B) 2 - Slower upgrade cycle for the computers. I can't think of anything a government office does that can't be done using office 97. Yet they keep buying new computers and new software. I am of course talking about general government business. Clearly the people doing crypto, and designing nuclear planets, etc would benefit from having a faster computer.

Most accountants, management, help desk not so much.

Re:2 things (2, Funny)

VampireByte (447578) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759637)

Clearly the people doing crypto, and designing nuclear planets, etc would benefit from having a faster computer.

I think designing a nuclear planet would take more than a fast computer.

Re:2 things (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759773)

MSPaint comes standard with Windows. Lets see the fanbois top that.

From the peanut gallery... (3, Interesting)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759589)

Assuming you can make the case for doing so -- and it looks as though you have plenty of help there -- it might be worth clarifying what an "open standard" means.

For something to be considered an open standard, it must meet the following criteria:

  - A comprehensive formal specification. (This should be obvious.)
  - At least one reference implementation for which source code is freely available. (It doesn't have to be freely re-usable, so long as it's there.) OR, many very different implementations which can communicate. (There probably isn't a reference HTML/CSS renderer, but there are enough implementations that one isn't needed.)
  - No legal issues for either of the above points, or the use of the specification. (Obvious example: No patents allowed, unless they've been turned over to the public domain.)

It should also meet the following criteria:

  - A well-written, accessible, comprehensive formal specification. Or, both a formal specification and easier-to-read documentation.
  - Both an official open source reference implementation, and several competing implementations.
  - Corporate backing -- especially a corporate stake in it. This implies that said corporation has had their lawyers verify that there are no legal issues.
  - Simple, clean design, especially relative to other standards providing the same thing. For example, if the choice is between SOAP and XML-RPC, you probably want XML-RPC -- and you might prefer REST to either of those, especially if your data is not XML.
  - Popularity. This really matters the least, so long as the others are met -- it's more important that I can hold the ideals of REST in my head, and implement it from scratch in a few lines of code, than that there are probably more SOAP and XML-RPC implementations. But it shouldn't be ignored -- it would be insane to try to replace HTML with something completely different, for instance. (Both HTML5 and XHTML are incremental improvements, and are sane. Trying to replace HTML with a YAML-based format would not be sane.)

I'm not suggesting that policy has to follow these to the letter, but that's what I personally consider an open standard, and especially, what I consider to be a good standard. In the past, when I've called Microsoft's "Open" XML various names -- "Neither open nor standard" comes to mind -- these are the guidelines I was using.

Contact your local FOSS user's groups (2, Interesting)

markdavis (642305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759623)

You might also want to contact your local Linux/FOSS User's Group for some ideas. For example, our user group ( http://www.twuug.org/ [twuug.org] ) contains people from all walks of life, including people who work for government agencies. You might get a lot of positive feedback and support. Consider it "networking", just not in the computer sense.

Don't be discouraged- there are, unfortunately, a lot of factors that will work against you or at least for the status-quo. But everyone can make a difference. Just do the best you can, keep an open mind, respect others' points of view, and learn from the experience. It can even be enjoyable along the way.

Local LInux user group? Very funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763309)

I am on the London Linux user group list and the top priority on their monthly email is always real ale and the best place to eat.

The day they get off they fat over fed bums and start promoting Linux London will freeze over... oh, hold on, did they just do something then?

Long Term Contracts (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759627)

The whole point of a long term contract is that they 'lower' the price in exchange for a steady revenue stream.
It doesn't matter if you're contracting support from MS, IBM, Red Hat, or with Sun for OpenOffice.

Re:Long Term Contracts (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763653)

Cost does matter. Both in real money spent, and in the time of training and ease of use. Don't make them regret any kind of transition. If they have any sense at all, it will be a phased transition, and they will be ready to back out at teh first bump in the road.

Proprietary isn't bad by default (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26759643)

It's all about using the right tool for the job. Sometimes proprietary tools are either:

a) the only tool for the job
b) the best tool for the job

It can be helpful to lock yourself in a contract to secure better pricing and support on proprietary software.

We all know and love the benefits of Free Software, but be careful that you don't shoe-horn people into using specific free, open, yet inferior software. If the traffic signaling hardware can be managed by a superior windows application or a half-supported Linux port, it would be irresponsible to force the DOT to use the Linux version in the name of openness.

I think, what you really need, is to talk to a lawyer. You want to have the best of both worlds: The ability to use open and free software, and the ability to create and break contracts with proprietary software. So you probably want some sort of clause in your contracts that says:

"We're a big client. You want our business. We'll sign a 5 year contract if we have the ability to renegotiate (or even break) our contract every X months"

Problem solved.

Other way round (3, Insightful)

frisket (149522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759739)

> ...to support the idea of adopting open data standards and/or Open Source software in order to contain IT expenses (by reducing licensing costs).

I think it might get a better reception if you invert the argument: don't present adopting open source/standards as the target; present saving money as the target, and open source/standards as the method.

> ...supporting open standards by not locking in to long term software contracts [and] to unlock the stranglehold that proprietary software may have on the department IT budget.

Same here. Make the objective to unlock the stranglehold and free up dependencies...by using open source/standards.

In half a life in state-funded IT managment, I have found that most public-service IT managers and local government administrators are woefully undereducated in software selection, and either a) have never heard of FOSS, b) think it has something to do with downloading viruses from bulletin-boards, or c) simply aren't bothered one way or the other unless it saves money or makes life easier. A very, very small number are on kickbacks from suppliers, but you shouldn't work for them.

There are a gazillion other benefits, but try to present them as serendipitous by-products of using open source/standards, not as ends in themselves. The immediate end is saving money (or its equivalent).

However, before you do so, make sure you aren't making a noose for your own neck. Sometimes a department or agency which saves real money finds that this is treated as evidence that they don't need any more resources ever again. It's sometimes better to use the move to FOSS as a way to free up money to do things you said were impossible unless you got extra funding.

Good luck, and please let us know how you got on. Post the document if that is permitted.

Do you work for the Canadian government? (1)

leoc (4746) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759791)

What a co-incidence, the Canadian government is apparently asking very similar questions [michaelgeist.ca] .

Don't call Bruce, call a lawyer! (3, Insightful)

julian67 (1022593) | more than 5 years ago | (#26759809)

I'm extremely impressed that Bruce Perens responds with his phone number and an offer of advice, which I assume we all appreciate is based on a wealth of practical experience and success, and even more impressed that just a few posts later someone suggests that what you really need is a lawyer. What a strange world. Perhaps the anon coward who suggested a lawyer is, in fact, a lawyer?

If you ignore Bruce Perens and opt instead to call a lawyer you should get fired ;-)

btw I'm writing this from my nuclear planet. I made it last week. I have a very fast computer. The planet is OK but a bit hot (I didn't have time to put the air-con in yet).

Re:Don't call Bruce, call a lawyer! (3, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760221)

I spend tons of time working with my customers' lawyers. I know better than to do licensing, etc., without legal advice.

Re:Don't call Bruce, call a lawyer! (1)

julian67 (1022593) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760351)

The OP isn't doing licensing, he's researching for the purpose of drafting a policy document on procurement/standards with a view to reducing licensing *costs*. If he works for a branch of government they will inevitably have their own legal dept. who vet all such documents as a matter of course. Being fellow employees, even colleagues, they may even do it without billing him ;-) I'm sure Mr Perens' extensive experience in this area goes beyond blowing out air on /. and does actually include occasional contact with the legal profession. I would call him first, second and third and the office legal dept 4th......unless BP advised me otherwise :-)

Re:Don't call Bruce, call a lawyer! (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760441)

:-)

Policy is sort of a dual problem. Attorneys get involved on several levels. They want to make sure no laws are being broken in the policy, that there isn't a specific vendor proference (if we're lucky - some districts have no problem sending everything to a few preferred vendors) and that it's not going to be overly burdensome for vendors doing business with the locality.

But politicians also get involved, and that's where the big problems will be. The really important thing I bring to the table is experience in how other similar efforts have failed, and how to get around the problems that killed them.

Bruce

Re:Don't call Bruce, call a lawyer! (1)

MrZaius (321037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762217)

The really important thing I bring to the table is experience in how other similar efforts have failed, and how to get around the problems that killed them.

This obviously isn't an unheard of problem, and is likely to become an even bigger issue with the noise that the American federal government is making about open standards and open source under the new administration. Any chance you'll be willing to just help everyone out at once and crank out another book? The above reads like a tagline on one I'd buy in a heartbeat.

I remember reading essays by you and others in Open Sources et al nearly a decade ago, but the state and tenor of the marketplace and political arenas have changed enough strip those works of much of their relevance.

I say sit down with one or two management oriented, calm, cool-headed people and hammer out a book offering up the same answers you say that you can give to the originator of this thread.

OK, I'll bite (4, Informative)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760007)

So you want to encourage open-source adoption? OK, a laudable goal. The two things that you are going to have to deal with from an IT perspective are support and version control.

Who, exactly do departments deal with for support? Will the IT department be the front-line resource and then farm things out as needed? Or are individual departments going to be going it alone? More to the point, is the experience if departments such that they would prefer to "go it alone" today? If the departments are your customers and they have been treatd well, then the probably will expect the IT department to be providing first-line support for them - as well you should.

One big reason for providing first-line support is version control. While some open-source packages have well-defined versions (Ubuntu, for example), many others do not. There are patches here and there and different versions being distributed from different web sites. If you are assuming interoperability of software being used by different departments it is going to be up to someone to ensure that this is actually possible. Having departments select their own versions and installing them will not insure this at all. If it then falls upon you to sort this out at some later date, you are going to wish dearly that you had been proactive about it. Yes, this may mean being ratuer draconian about individual users downloading whatever they want, installing it and counting on IT to pick up the pieces.

I have seen this happen, even within a community of software developers.

There is a substantial manpower requirement for this, and it needs to be in IT, not in individual departments. You are proposing something that will save money, but some of that immediate savings in software licenses needs to be shifted over to an IT function for support and version control. Ignoring this is not a viable option because you will end up with everyone being unhappy and upper management putting an end to this "experiment". No matter how happy they were with the initial savings.

Sure, overall costs can be lower. But some of that apparent savings needs to be funneled back into keeping things sane and managed. Things like Office Update and Microsoft Office web sites for templates, add-ons and tools do this for Office users and it all just works. You will be replacing this with IT resources at a great savings but you can't ignore things like updates, version control and support issues.

Some thoughts (1)

jd (1658) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760119)

Based on white papers I've written in the past, I'd suggest the following:

  • Any standard should be recognized by at least two vendors, of whom at least one should be considered mainstream and at least one should be developed by a non-trivial (less than 3 member) group.
  • Any standard should not be be unduly burdened by dependencies on system architecture, OS or other facet of technology that is likely to change in the lifetime of data produced under that standard.
  • Any standard should be documented to someting that is itself an accepted standard (eg: IETF protocols), in a recognized formal notation, or to an extent that a reasonable assessment would class as comprehensive. Improper and inadequate documentation are the two main causes of interoperability issues.
  • Where there is a requirement to select between two standards that are otherwise equally good, the simpler specification should be chosen first. If the specifications are equally simple, the more extensible of the specifications should be selected.

Government of Canada and GOSLING (1)

plcurechax (247883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760365)

The Government of Canada, has some position papers and related material on Open Source Software available from Treasury Board of Canada, here [tbs-sct.gc.ca] , also there the Getting Open Source Logic INto Government / aka GOSLING / OISILLON [goslingcommunity.org] (Options Innovatrices et Synergiques pour l'Introduction du Logiciel Libre dans les Organisations Nationales) which advocates adoption within government.

A somewhat related project (web2.0) is the internal GCpedia (Government of Canada own internal wikipedia), here [wikipedia.org] is the Wikipedia entry.

New York (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760493)

New York published a report studying issues surrounding electronic records.

It mostly centers around document formats, but an appendix in Part 2 recommends that the state integrate the evaluation of open source software into procurement policy. You might find it interesting.

You can find it here:
http://www.oft.state.ny.us/policy/esra/erecords-study.htm [state.ny.us]

Re:New York (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768317)

The report is a must-read, especially Part II.

At least one US-based government gets it.

not only consume, also create (2, Interesting)

reusr1 (1408433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26760755)

I'd really like to see a policy that not only consumes open source projects but at the same time makes sure that all development done for any government is committed as open source (because it belongs to the people that paid for it in the first place, the tax payer). This would in my opinion drastically reduce the cost for local governments because it would allow applications written for one city/state/country to be used and adopted by other entities too. After all, a budgeting software for one county could also be used in the next county... and maybe a state and then some state adds a function that does a sanity check on the budget and maybe we can get them balanced then...

YES! (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#26761063)

I'd [...] like to see a policy that [also directs] development done for any government [to be released] as open source [...]. This would [...] drastically reduce the cost for local governments because it would allow applications written for one city/state/country to be used and adopted [and adapted, rather than rewritten from scratch] by other[s].

YES! Great idea.

Administrators of government departments which are strapped for cash like to spend what they do have on their people rather than vendors. This:
  - gives them a financial incentive (which snowballs as more sites adopt it and more code is released),
  - improves the survivability of the digital records,
  - creates more opportunity for transparency in government operation, and
  - can lead to painless improvements in standardization of processes and procedures among government departments (and thus increase the ability of workers leaving one government site to find work at another).

Out-migration is key, not just formats (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26761595)

See the writings of people like Matt Asay and others about upcoming lock-in strategies. http://asay.blogspot.com/2006/05/future-of-lock-in.html [blogspot.com]

MS is ready to yield on formats if they can lock up the data in other ways.

The key is freeing the data and keeping it free. Open formats and standards and software help, no question. But an equally important preventitive is to make certain you have iron clad contract language enabling you to move your data from that vendor's system to a competing system, at nominal hassle and cost, and, if the vendor really wants your business, at the vendor's expense if it turns out to be more than nominal.

Somone please mod me up, I know the subject I'm talking about through and through from painful experience but I have no means to self-mod and get this thought to the original poster. Thanks.

Ask yourself (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 5 years ago | (#26761623)

Are you doing this because you want to save the district money and ensure format freedom, or are you trying to push open source software? The two may in cases be the same, but think of your motive. If OSS comes first, you are doing wrong by the district.

Things to consider (1)

braeldiil (1349569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26761679)

Things to consider: Licensing costs are a trivial piece of the pie. Supporting the products is the big cost sink. And frankly, that's going to be relatively flat no matter what you pick. Retraining people to use new software is going to eat up a big chunk of whatever savings you're generating. Probably a couple of years. Budget it in, or someone will notice it and use it spike your project. Preempt them or lose. And the big one - loss of office automation. This is the real Microsoft Office lock in - they provide easy to use scripting tools, and people use them. In any office that's been around for a while, there's a bunch of little process improvements floating around. Switching your software base will cost you all of this work, and you'll take an immediate, noticable productivity hit. And there's no good way around it - you can either suffer for a couple of years until they grow back, or drop a lot of money on consultants to replace them.

Be sure you are not being Penny Wise Pound foolish (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26761809)

A mistake any organization can make is throwing out options. License Fees for software are often the least of people budget worries. and sometimes you end up with a better value with a close source and closed spec application over its expected Life time.

compare models & concentrate on benefits (2, Interesting)

darkeye (199616) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762303)

I've written a paper on this issue (downloadable from http://kormanybeszerzo.hu/ [kormanybeszerzo.hu] - but in Hungarian), where I found the most compelling approach is to:
  • identify the affected stakeholders, such as:
    • the society at large
    • the single citizen
    • the government agency
    • the IT solution provider
    • the IT sector at large
  • analyze the different procurement models & analyze the pros / cons in view of the stakeholders. for example, I analyzed the following models:
    • totally closed procumerment (closed source, but the governement agency doesn't even get the source code)
    • closed, the government agency keeps the source closed
    • open standards - closed source, but the components communicate via open standards / open protocols
    • open source - the procured solutions are opened up by the agency as a generic policy
  • point out the profound difference in effect to each stakeholder group in the various models. in short:
    • the closed models favour the single IT contractor and the government agency, because the contractor creates a vendor lock in -> thus sells overpriced solutions -> the premium is shared between the contractor and the decision makers at the agency (aka corruption)
    • the closed models are disadvantageous towards society, the citizen and the IT industry at large, because even though a lot of money was spent, the common wealth of the society was not increased, as the solutions can not be reused. (in contrast, a public road can be reused for private or commercial purposes by the community members)
    • the open models favour the society, the citizen and the IT industry at large, because they can re-use the common wealth that was created and financed by their own public money.
    • in the open models the decision makers at the government agency loose their opportunity for 'additional income', because of the lack of being able to specify a privileged supplier - thus they will be against such a change
    • in the open models, the agency's budget is decreased as a result - which means their influence between the agencies themselves is decreased. this can be countered by having them spend the same amount, but actually build on results achieved, not just buy the licenses for the same solutions every year, with no effective advancement in their range of solutions / service - in short: spend the same, achieve more

    in my investigation, I've found that actually their is a shared interest between privileged suppliers and government agencies for using closed solutions - as the privileged supplier can sell overpriced solutions, while the decision makers at the agency get extra treats. this circle is most probably difficult to break.

See document in public draft form (1)

marbux (761605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762325)

...at the Universal Interoperability Council. [universal-...ouncil.org]

The Universally Accessible and Interoperable Specification is being developed as an alternative to existing definitions of an "open standard" primarily because existing definitions: [i] clash with international law governing government procurement and standards development such as the Agrement on Government Procurement and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade; [ii] do not adequately address the quality of standards; and [iii] have almost uniformly been bent to accommodate existing standards.

The approach taken in the UAIS is to lay down a set of evaluative criteria that describe the ideal against which standards can be compared. Few existing standards will fully satisfy the criteria. Careful attention has been given both to governing international law and many years of hard lessons learned in the standards development trenches.

The UAIS is a work in progress, but is to a state where I believe it may usefully be employed by procuring entities. However, I caution that the portions dealing with accessibility still need major revision to bring them in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, [un.org] which entered into force on May 3, 2008.

You may also find of some use The Interop Glossary available at the same web site. The Glossary is "an evolving vocabulary for the law of interoperability governing electronic data format and communication protocol technical specifications, standards, and technical regulations."

You will find links to many other definitions of an open standard at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and a more comprehensive treatment of the subject at Cover Pages. [coverpages.org]

-- Paul E. ("Marbux") Merrell, J.D.
marbux pine at maple gmail.com
(subtract the trees)

BECTA in the UK (1)

Budenny (888916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762361)

This might be helpful, Becta's Technical Specification, Institutional Infrastructure.

http://industry.becta.org.uk/display.cfm?resID=14615 [becta.org.uk]

In particular, pages 38 and following specify what formats Office applications must be able to save their documents in. This is the real problem.

same problem at office (1)

ircoder (1457769) | more than 5 years ago | (#26762691)

We have Sharepoint at my org, and a department needed to be able to edit 1(one) field in an excel worksheet to perform calculations on other fields and print the full results (using Excel on workstation without paying office licenses on many workstations). They called me for a solution and of course needed one in 3 days. These calcs (in the spreadsheet) had already been through a stringent review process and since we had Excel services for MOSS 2007, we thought all is well. Turns out, excel services leverages the browser to print and content was missing. Tried to use the free excel viewer after editing the one cell in Sharepoint but got "Excel not installed" and viewer alone would not allow editing of that one cell. These other departments did not want to pay for a license of Office. After all this and people asking me for a quick solution I suggested using......*drum roll* Open Office's Calc program, (which I tested and would fulfill the requirements (free, easy to use, would open from MOSS 2007 repository and print all content)) but was told I was insane. "We can't use that!".....Now I'm not anti-microsoft nor necessarily pro open source, but here was a situation that the requirements and cost and time requirements were SCREAMING for Calc and it was rejected. Even as I pushed for it...I was pressed for a better solution under the (don't want to pay more, nor want to write a custom web solution, nor want to undergo another approval process, nor have more than 3 days. and for some reason, Calc was unreasonable? Can anyone tell me or take a guess at why this solution was not the best or give a better solution given these constraints?

Re:same problem at office (1)

braeldiil (1349569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26765441)

First guess - Calc was not on the approved software list. Many organizations that have centralized IT departments have a standardized software list. If your program isn't on the list, you can't install it - period. Actually, in most places, it's if the specific version of the program isn't on the list, it's a non-starter. It's quite annoying, but I do understand the reason behind it. And it's usually not all that hard to get something added, but it takes paperwork and time. Second guess would be fears that using non-microsoft (or microsoft approved) software in the stack would cause issues with a support contract. They may or may not have been valid fears, depending on how the contract was written. Most policies like this are there for a reason - something went horribly wrong, and the policy is an attempt to prevent it from happening again. The trick isn't to rail against the stupidity of the policy - it's to figure out the root cause and explain how you can mitigate those risks.

Required reading (1)

JkaB (549453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763039)

Tons of economic research on ((dis)advantages) of use of FLOSS and Open Standards in government has been conducted by UNU MERIT [unu.edu] in their FLOSS: Policy Support [flosspols.org] programme.

Besides that, depending on your audience and/or the specific IT portfolio you're addressing, cost might not be a strong argument, and it's certainly not the only one. Perhaps you also need to identify more intrinsic benefits such as government transparancy and "digital durability".

Forcefully ask for change (1)

janwedekind (778872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26763201)

Prepare a thundering speech addressing all your co-workers and stream it to their desks using Silverlight.

Just use Microsoft Word and Excel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26763383)

The International Standards Organisation support it. Surely that's good enough for anyone!

Some URLs (1)

dwheeler (321049) | more than 5 years ago | (#26764205)

The U.S. Department of Defense's "Open Systems Joint Task Force" has some material [osd.mil] .

Defining "open standards" is critical. Vendors with an open mouth will say they have an open standard. I'd go look at digistan.org [digistan.org] for a more useful definition and justification.

European Interoperability Framework for pan-European eGovernment Services [eu.int] might help, too.

For statistics on why use open source software, see: Why FLOSS? Look at the Numbers! [dwheeler.com]

That wording clarifies some of M$'s activities. (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769017)

> ...to support the idea of adopting open data standards and/or Open Source software in order to contain IT expenses (by reducing licensing costs). I think it might get a better reception if you invert the argument: don't present adopting open source/standards as the target; present saving money as the target, and open source/standards as the method.> ...supporting open standards by not locking in to long term software contracts to unlock the stranglehold that proprietary software may have on the department IT budget. Same here. Make the objective to unlock the stranglehold and free up dependencies...by using open source/standards.In half a life in state-funded IT managment, I have found that most public-service IT managers and local government administrators are woefully undereducated in software selection, and either a) have never heard of FOSS, b) think it has something to do with downloading viruses from bulletin-boards, or c) simply aren't bothered one way or the other unless it saves money or makes life easier. A very, very small number are on kickbacks from suppliers, but you shouldn't work for them.There are a gazillion other benefits, but try to present them as serendipitous by-products of using open source/standards, not as ends in themselves. The immediate end is saving money (or its equivalent).However, before you do so, make sure you aren't making a noose for your own neck. Sometimes a department or agency which saves real money finds that this is treated as evidence that they don't need any more resources ever again. It's sometimes better to use the move to FOSS as a way to free up money to do things you said were impossible unless you got extra funding.Good luck, and please let us know how you got on. Post the document if that is permitted.

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