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Subject: [ebxml-dev] Harmonization, interop conferences, etc

At 05:39 PM 6/11/02, you wrote:
I hope some official representative of ebXML, ebTWG, or UN/CEFACT is attending, among all these standards bodies, working to converge and harmonize their work? http://www.omg.org/interop/program.htm

Unlike some of our spinoffs and splinters, the official ebXML project has never really had official representatives or people allocated as 'evangelists'.  This was true even in Phase I, before we were reorganized into CEFACT and OASIS components.  Our core groups have been more focused on versioning the  standards and paying attention to user requirements. 

Perhaps, in this supercharged publicity environment for web services, it is unfortunate that the ebXML work is heavier on technical activity, and lighter on full-time professional conference jockeys.  If we were marketing-centric, there are five or six such conferences we would be plastering with Powerpoints every year. 

Then again, ISO, ANSI and IETF seem to have done OK without VPs of sales.  I guess we'll just have to settle for broad alpha-testing and harmonization commitments by the early adopter users.   

Still, we recognize we could do better.  My fellow coordinating committee member Apu Sengupta from Oracle has kindly (and bravely) agreed to act as a catalyst for better organizing and coalescing ebXML public information efforts.  Also, some of our people will be in Florida, and Karl Best and his OASIS team are running part of it;  I'm sure as our coalition partner they will say nice things about ebXML.  There also is one invited speaker talking about something described as a UBL implementation of a 'Distributed ebXML' system.   I have no idea what it is -- it does not seem to be from any of the official ebXML teams -- but we will be interested to hear what they have to say.  

*** Personally, I've watched most of my entire career in accounting wasted
in mechanical tasks, classification, taxes, and cleaning up messes all
of which could have been done by computers decades ago, if there
were standards of interoperability.

Todd, most of us share your frustration.  But to understand why everyone doesn't just surrender to a single method, you need a puzzle piece that seems missing from your analysis.   The success of HTML, HTTP and SMTP, the increasing ubiquity of XML, and the attraction of web services all are based on the promise of structurally open, transparent methods that are relatively safe from vendor lock-in.

The various standards efforts are competing for users and mindshare on three axes:   not only quality (which many can claim) and interoperability (which you note as important), but also trustworthy neutrality.   In implementation decisions, I am constantly asked by industry sources, "Who runs XYZ standard group?  Who controls the IP?  Is this a safe standard to adopt and spend money implementing?"   When customers say "safe", they mean "am I going to get kidnapped by a specific vendor or system requirement against my will?"

A spectacularly complete and perfect B2B web services stack of standards would still not meet most users' needs, if asymmetrically aligned with one operating system, one collaborative workflow or SCM product, one closed vendor coalition, or etc. 

Control, ownership and level playing fields are important.   Who gets to designate things as core or harmonized, and who gets to define the minimum software requirements, are titanically important.   Ongoing struggles for control of these matters keep centrifugal force and a bit of megalomania in our environment. 

Recently the tide seems to be turning a bit.  On the centripetal side, a variety of data schema communities including Bolero, EAN-UCC, OAG, OTA and SWIFT are agreeing to normalize together with us.  My hope is we will also jawbone RosettaNet, UBL and a few others into that group.  Ultimately, the increasing  pressure from customers to coordinate may prevail.  Let's hope. 

Best regards  Jamie

~ James Bryce Clark
~ VP and General Counsel, McLure-Moynihan Inc.   www.mmiec.com
~ Chair, ABA CLCC Business Law Subcommittee on Electronic Commerce  
~ www.abanet.org/buslaw/cyber/ecommerce/ecommerce.html
~ 1 818 597 9475   jamie.clark@mmiec.com   jbc@lawyer.com
~ This message is neither legal advice nor a binding signature.  Ask me why.

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