I’m involved with a number of standards efforts. From the broad range of emergency management standards on the OASIS EDXL track (OASIS Emergency Management Technical Committee) to sitting on the Canadian ISO mirror (Standards Council of Canada) I spend probably 5-10% of my working time on standards. It takes a large portion of my time but it is worth it both personally as Darrell O’Donnell, and corporately as Continuum Loop. However, the volunteer workload gets to the point at times that I have to ask myself why – and others ask the same question? So I have been doing some thinking about Why…

Well, it is largely because I get annoyed – too many people complain about problems but don’t step to Fix It!. There are certainly a lot of flawed standards – but they make interoperability possible – not perfect – but possible. If you haven’t used them then you have no right to complain that they are too complex, too simple (even in the same standard) or too domain specific – or any of the other rants and raves that go on.

If you’re willing to put up with a lot of work for incremental improvements then step up and join a standard. Whether that is a (relatively) fast moving standard group like OASIS (www.oasis-open.org) or a slower but more international group like ISO you will learn. You’ll also benefit from working with experts. These experts donate their time and are more than happy to provide ideas, guidance, and leadership.

The hard part…

I’ll warn you – the hard part about standards is that there are so many areas that need attention. Working with world class folk is awesome – it is energizing, fulfilling, and challenging. Engaging with your peers is one of the best parts of being a professional – it makes you better on so many levels. However, it is way too easy to spread yourself too thin – so make sure that if you’re stepping up as a full member you have the time. I have had to step back after realizing that I had jumped in on too many areas. If you can’t commit about a 1/2 day a week and just want to be aware of things perhaps being an observer (official or unofficial) would work? However, if you see an area that you can assist on, reach out – under the rules of engagement that each standards organization provides.

“It’s up to you” – Marcus Aurelius

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