A post by Michael DeHaan and others inspired me to say a few words about the importance of ISO standards for developers:
Many developers are clamming that good specifications are more important than standards, specially now that the OOXML process opened to the public the dungeons of ISO processes and how the organization produces standards. This is a clear example on how ISO’s reputation is compromised.
But unfortunately “ISO standards” are what governments tend to use. These are the words they put in their Request For Proposals when they are going to buy things. These “ISO standards” are the words they use to claim how they’ll interoperate and trade across borders. And also how public institutions will interoperate with private institutions. Over time, it defines also how private institutions use technology.
So yes, ISO standards for Information Technology do matter from a developer standpoint because they are crucial in shaping the flow of information in the society in general.
Lets put it this way: technical specifications stand for research and development team while to be an ISO standard equals to have a strong sales force. An IT product needs both to succeed.
So you, developer, can use whatever you want or like. But if you want to interoperate with non-developer folks, you — the smartest guy in this context — will have to use what non-developers use, and they use what has a stronger marketing force as “this is an ISO standard”. This is why ISO standards (good or bad) should be in the focus of our attention.
Since the world already has an International Standards Organization, and since we learned it must be patched, it is our responsability — we, the developers, geeks, sysadmins etc — to be aware of and get involved with what ISO is standardizing right now and help the technical process of standardization to happen solely with technical arguments and not political interests.
Otherwise the future world will still be divided in two groups of developers: those that develop with/for good stuff and those that develop with/for stuff used by non-developers just because a powerful company had the strength to standardize it whatever it takes.