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UKOLN is supported by:. Interoperability? Are Standards The Answer?. Brian Kelly UKOLN University of Bath Bath. Email URL Contents. Role Of Open Standards. What Are Open Standards?. Why Open Standards?.

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Interoperability are standards the answer

UKOLN is supported by:

Interoperability? Are Standards The Answer?

Brian Kelly


University of Bath





Role Of Open Standards

What Are Open Standards?

Why Open Standards?

Interoperability, Open Standards & Open Source

Problems With Open Standards

Using Open Standards

Open Standards & Software

Scope Of Open Standards

Why We Need QA

Why open standards
Why Open Standards?

  • Standards are needed:

    • To provide application-independence – remember when documents were trapped into particular word processing software

    • To provide platform-independence – allowing migration across PCs, Macs, Unix boxes, PDAs, etc.

    • To support interoperability – allowing data to be integrated across systems

    • To provide long term access to data – avoiding the digital dark ages

    • To provide a coherent architectural model – which allows for evolution and integration

    • To provide an open marketplace – allowing users to choice their preferred solution

What are open standards

See <>

What Are Open Standards?

  • Open standards characteristics:

    • Owned by acknowledged neutral body

    • Specifications published openly (and freely?)

    • Developments to specifications open to all

    • Platform and application-neutral

  • Relevant open standards bodies:


  • Be wary of phrases such as “user driven standards”, “market-place standards”, etc.

User driven standards
User-Driven Standards

  • An alternative (New Labour) view

    • Open standards bodies are bureaucratic, slow-moving, full of political intrigue, …

    • The market-place needs to be fast-moving to respond to users’ needs

    • Competition helps drives success

    • All major players subscribe to this view (MS, Sun, IBM, Macromedia, …)

    • Old Labour ideology is so last century

These views probably aren’t accepted by bearded, left-of-centre Linux geeks – but may be held by the senior managers who are the target audience of this workshop’s deliverables.

The bigger picture
The Bigger Picture

  • There is more to service development than just standards

Standards: concerned with protocols and file formats

Architectures: models for implementing systems

Open standards vs. Proprietary HTML / XML vs. PDF / Flash



Which standards are applicable

NT / UnixFile system / database application

HTML tools / content management

Applications: software products used to implement systems

Resources: financial & staff costs needed to implement systems

Apache / IIS

FrontPage / Dreamweaver

Oracle / SQLServer

ColdFusion vs ASP

Development vs. Migration costs

Use of in-house expertise

In-house vs. out-sourced

Licensed vs. open source

What about the users






What About The Users?

  • What about our users?


Do users actually want open standards or open source? If not, what strategies do we adopt to get them on our side, as the producers?

The problem with standards 1
The Problem With Standards (1)

  • Is use of open standards the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything?

  • Who remembers coloured books, ISO OSI Networking protocols, …?

  • Warning:

    • Open standards may not catch on

    • Their can be competing open standards

    • Open standards may be too immature for service deployment (RDF?)

    • Open standards developers are human too! They can make mistakes, be driven by ego, …

The problem with standards 2
The Problem With Standards (2)

  • Scope

    • What needs to be compliant:

      • Only project deliverables, information about the project, the project’s Intranet, Extranet, …?

  • Spirit Of The Standards

    • Papers submitted to WWW nn conference must be compliant HTML

    • “A paper I reviewed had the text included as several GIF images in a valid HTML page”

You can use open standards, be fully compliant and not be interoperable :-(

Open standards and software
Open Standards And Software

  • Software Language

    • Mandate use of (open) standardised software – which would prohibit use of Java

    • Mandate standard client-side software but flexible on (managed) server environment

  • Software Outputs

    • Mandate procedures to ensure software outputs comply with appropriate standards (e.g. XML)

  • Software Documentation

    • Mandate use of open standards for documentation (XML, HTML but not PDF, …)

Note that (draft) JISC Programme Guidelines have inconsistencies in this area

What should we do
What Should We Do?

  • JISC-funded QA Focus work:

    • Developed QA methodology to help ensure project deliverables were functional, widely accessible and interoperable

    • Self-assessment rather than external checking

    • Promoted an open standards culture

    • See <>

Advantages: Reflects HE software development culture; tolerant of diversity (skills, resources, …); encourages sharing of best practices

Disadvantages: Permits organisations to perpetuate existing, non-optimal practices; no guarantees of interoperability; woolly; …

Interoperability we must have qa
Interoperability? We Must Have QA!

  • The danger:

    • We mandate (or encourage) use of open standards

    • The community seeks to uses them

  • But:

    • Inappropriate standards / implementation architecture used due to lack of understanding

    • Standards used – but in non-compliant way

    • Flaws testing tools / procedures

  • We thought we’d be interoperable, but discovered we’re not

  • QA Focus’s framework based on documented policies and systematic checking of compliance with policies may help – see ECDL 2004 paper

A holistic framework for e learning accessibility
A Holistic Framework For E-Learning Accessibility

  • TechDis & UKOLN have developed a model (to be published in CJLT) for e-learning accessibility which recognises:

    • External pressures e.g. funders, auditors, …

    • Local technical infrastructure issues

    • Wider technical developments

    • Learning & teaching issues

    • Usability & accessibility issues

  • and focusing on the user’s needs

Remember legislation expects organisations to take "reasonable measures"

Framework for interoperability

* A matrix for selection of standards is available

Framework For Interoperability

  • Mandating open standards to ensure interoperability is probably a flawed approach

  • Should we be developing a matrix approach which recognises various factors:

    • The standards* (maturity,ease of use, …)

    • Resource issues (costs,staffing, expertise, …)

    • Infrastructural factors

    • Cultural issues (expertise,preferences, willing to innovate, …)





Note this idea is at an early stage