[sc34wg3] Re: Public Interest and ISO WAS: [topicmapmail] <mergeMap> questions

Kal Ahmed sc34wg3@isotopicmaps.org
Thu, 18 Oct 2001 18:32:26 +0100

At 09:48 18/10/2001 -0700, Sam Hunting wrote:
>[Kal Ahmed]
> > I've taken the liberty of renaming this thread (again!) in an attempt
> > separate the technical from the (interesting) legal ;-)
>I'm taking the libery of putting answering the "legal" (some would say
>"ethical") portion of your mail back on the "public interest" thread;
>it raises an important issue.
>[Kal Ahmed]
> > IMHO, "public interest" is a weasel word - I don't know what is in
> > the public interest, and I don't think that anyone can know what best
> > serves the public interest. We can all dress up our arguments both
> > for and against a design decision as being "in the public interest".
> > Every participant in a standards making process has a reason to be
> > involved - all opinions are important and none should be promoted as
> > being "the public interest".
>If we think of the standards for behaving in a business-like way in
>everyday life (as opposed to the standards world ;-), I think the
>problems with this position become obvious. Here is why:
>I've served on the vestry of a church and I've served non-profit
>associations as well. In each case, others assumed (correctly) that I
>had private, self-interested reasons for serving -- I am not a saint.
>However, others expected (and I expected of myself) that (a) I would
>disclose my interests when appropriate, (b) that when my own interests
>conflicted with the interests of the association or church that it was
>my duty to serve, I would sacrifice my own interests, and that if I
>could not sacrifice such interests, I would (c) recuse myself from
>decisions where my interests were involved, or (d) resign my post.
>All this is quite ordinary behavior -- a judge, for example, is
>expected (required by the ethics of his community of practice) when he
>is personally involved in the decision (for example, when a relative is
>on trial). Do we then say to the judge, "Oh,your opinion is important
>too?" Of course not. Why? Precisely because the public interest in the
>appearance of impartially administered justice is well served.
>Therefore, I view the statement that "the 'public interest' is weasel
>words" as vacuous.

Really ? Thats the first time I've been accused of being vacuous. I don't 
think that my statement is vacuous at all and in fact I find it personally 
offensive that you choose this of all adjectives to describe it.

I can argue - pretty strongly I think - that maintaining compatibility with 
existing topic map applications in order to allow new applications to be 
developed rather than old ones to be redeveloped will be a primary factor 
in the growth and adoption of topic map technology and that that growth and 
adoption serves the public interest because it is a more powerful 
technology for structuring information than anything else on the web. But I 
am not going to pretend that I know what the public interest is, nor am I 
going to promote my agenda by claiming that it is in the public interest 
(and so imply that dissenting views are working against the public interest).

>So does ISO. That is why the representatives there are members of
>national standards bodies. That is the strength of the ISO brand.

Then they represent the interests at best of the national standards bodies. 
Is *that* your public ? How many topic map applications have you sold to 
national standards bodies ?