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interesting questions I heard from students in class: standard-setting and "punting" decisions

2 min read

17 February 2015 Edition (second in a series)

We talked about standard-setting in class last week, an area particularly close to my heart. We started by gathering our questions on the whiteboard, which I thought made an interesting roadmap for class discussion.

  • Why is Nick interested in standards? Why would anyone be?
  • Why are standards created but not adopted? Are there binding mechanisms for standards adoption?
  • What are some alternative processes for decision-making?
  • Is any stakeholder too "evil" to participate in a multistakeholder process?
  • Who decides who the stakeholders are?

I think these might be useful questions to hit for anyone teaching Web/Internet standards or discussing multistakeholder processes. (Answers not included here, because that would require transcribing our entire class discussion.) I especially appreciate the candor of that first question.

And not just questions, but one great idea that came up in class while discussing the "mechanism, not policy" koan:

engineers "punt" certain decisions

Why do decisions get "punted" to future versions, other layers of the stack, or for someone else to decide? We came up with at least the following:

  1. lack of qualification
  2. flexibility for under-represented stakeholders
  3. empowering unanticipated uses
  4. deflecting responsibility
  5. failure to find agreement/consensus
  6. running out of time