Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Of mice and men ....

Interesting discussion about commoditisation of IT and governance at Monash University.

Also I came across this bit of a stink with Apple and Nokia removing an open media format from HTML5.

Hmmm, so an example of an open standard but with my data in a proprietary format? J5 has put forward the argument that open formats, open standards and open source are necessary for an open web.

This can be simplified for a ubiquitous software service in which you have more than a transient relationship. If you want freedom, if you want data portability, if you want to avoid lock-in, if you want choice and competition then :

OPEN SOURCE IS THE ONLY WAY.

I put the terms in bold, because:

  • WITHOUT OPEN SOURCE you will end up with ....
  • NO CHOICE as you will be ...
  • LOCKED-IN to a vendor as ....
  • DATA PORTABILITY is more than just APIs and formats.
  • No open source .... NO FREEDOM

For an old database hound like myself, these discussions seem reminiscent of the once promised land of ANSI SQL. So I've lifted the following from wikipedia.

Reasons for lack of portability

Popular implementations of SQL commonly omit support for basic features of Standard SQL, such as the DATE or TIME data types, preferring variations of their own. As a result, SQL code can rarely be ported between database systems without modifications.

There are several reasons for this lack of portability between database systems:

* The complexity and size of the SQL standard means that most databases do not implement the entire standard.

* The standard does not specify database behavior in several important areas (e.g. indexes), leaving it up to implementations of the database to decide how to behave.

* The SQL standard precisely specifies the syntax that a conforming database system must implement. However, the standard's specification of the semantics of language constructs is less well-defined, leading to areas of ambiguity.

* Many database vendors have large existing customer bases; where the SQL standard conflicts with the prior behavior of the vendor's database, the vendor may be unwilling to break backward compatibility.

The areas of concern are always behaviour, ambiguity, formats and completeness.

The belief that open standards and open data formats alone will lead to data portability and that companies won't attempt to subvert this to this their own ends, reminds me of John Maynard Keynes quote.

"Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."

It's a nice plan but I feel it only get us so far ....

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