Commedia dell (stand)arte

There seems to be a micro-culture of people involved in internet standards. If you measure a micro-culture by the number of its private jokes, then this is definitely one. And there are other signs. A while back, I wrote about the mnot standard geek index. Now Umit has captured the essence of standards interactions in verses. And, according to Umit’s blog post, Jonathan is the Claude Levi-Strauss of this culture (I wasn’t at this presentation, Jonathan please send me the slides if you won’t post them).

One aspect that Umit doesn’t cover in her poems, is the always-entertaining issue of naming things. I don’t have her talent for verses, so here is in plain terms what the discussion often sounds like:

Bob: I think we need to be able to (…). And the best way to do it is by adding an element. I’ll call it Foo for now in my description of how it would work, but I don’t care how we end up calling it as long as the feature is supported.
(30 minutes of discussions about element Foo and how it works, which ends with an agreement)
Chairperson: Great, so we agree to add element Foo.
Alice: Yes, but we need another name. I am not one to argue about names but, Foo makes it sound like (…). We should call it Bar.
Bob: No, we can’t call it Bar, people would think it is used for (…). I don’t really care about names either, but in this case Foo is the best name.
(4 hours of discussions about the name, that end up with a resolution that will be overturned a couple of times before the spec is completed)

If you think I am exaggerating, I know of a set of patterns for which we had all agreed on the definitions but we could not agree on the names. Since there happened to be 7 of them, we almost ended up naming them after the 7 dwarfs as a tie-breaker. Those are the WSDL 2.0 message exchange patterns. And in retrospect it’s good that we didn’t go with the dwarfs since an eighth one was later added (after I left the group). They now have names that sound like they come out of the Kama Sutra: In-Only, Robust In-Only, In-Out, In-Optional-Out, Out-Only, Robust Out-Only, Out-In, Out-Optional-In.

Harlequin and Pantalone would be proud.

5 Comments

Filed under Everything, Off-topic, Standards

5 Responses to Commedia dell (stand)arte

  1. Tom Maguire

    What’s in a name? Very funny, LOL…….

  2. umit

    A Good one, William! Perhaps there is an indirect correlation between the value of the thingy that you try to name and the time spent to name it in a standards body.

  3. LongHairSteve

    We need those standards yesterday! Why? Because, once standardized, then we are all on the same page; and then we can forget about the names and how, cause it just works for all. Bar Foo or not. So, names are really only important to distinguish ownership of one of several methods. Power people can be shortsighted with greed of ownership, i.e. value or money only in their pocket. But the whole concept of standardization is to cooporate together for an even greater benefit to all.

    Cool story, William. I, for one, appreciate all your experiences about creating workable standards. Thanks.

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