mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Friday, 18 July 2003


The RSS Advisory Board

Dave Winer has announced a few changes to RSS, which seem positive at first glance, but need a little closer inspection.

It appears that the copyright for RSS 2.0 is now in the hands of Harvard Law school, and maintained by an Advisory Board. Good stuff so far.

This implies that there is some legal basis for the Board; unfortunately, we don’t know the extent of the powers of the Board, how it operates, or how its membership is appointed. Does it have a budget? Will it publish minutes? And so on.

Organisations that oversee community property must be transparent and open; otherwise, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt - justified or not - will block them at every corner.

The reason that so many people take this kind of work to standards organisations is the fact that creating this transparency is a massive and expensive undertaking. I’ve been involved in efforts to set up industry consortia and fora a couple of times, and would very much recommend against it if it can be possibly avoided.

The question here, I think, is whether Dave can leverage the infrastructure at Harvard to achieve much of the same result. Given that Harvard is set up to educate people, not maintain specifications, it may require a fair amount of work, but then again he’s got plenty of lawyers close at hand.