Committee vs Working Group

theyblinked with a lucid comment off of the EU’s finally getting through a draft constitution.<blockquote>As I was reading this my first thoughts were how these discussions, negotiations and agreements were not unlike the working groups that hammer out public tech specifications.</blockquote>…not sure if he meant to put a big but in here, but goes on to say:<blockquote>There seems to be such a palpable difference between your average committee and your average working group. The former seems so often to imply oversight and enforcement while the later a collective process of creation; the former commissioned indefinitely and the later a bombastic birthing process with outcomes and end points.</blockquote>…As someone who has been pouring over tech specifications for the so-called Semantic Web for the last 2 months, I have a bit less idealistic view of tech working groups. I think the pivot point is something different. E.g.: RDF, the main (XML) data format meant to begin the process of building the Semantic Web–the working group for RDF was put together somewhere around 1998 (I’m guessing since a first draft of the spec was published in 1999). They are still f’ing around with it, and in 4 years RDF as a whole has not gained any support outside of academic circles. RSS, on the other hand, has vast public support through the syndicating of blogs. While RSS .9x and 2.0 are not RDF, the most widely adopted version of RSS (thanks to moveabletype) is 1.0, an RDF format. So the only really adopted use of RDF was rapidly and forcefully dropped on the scene by people not affiliated with the so-called “authors” of the Semantic Web or in the working group at all. (Update: that very last statement is not really true, some of the authors of RSS 1.0 have been very much involved in RDF from its infancy, which also incidentally was well before 1998-9…I’m not sure what took so long for a RDF 1.0 spec.)

Point is, I think, that the creative moments of history tend not to ever come out of any institutionally-linked group of any type, but rather in a spontaneous combustion between individuals working outside the grid, who are driven by both a market and a passion for their vision, and between themselves and that vision lies the necessity of some technology/document/government/paradigm shift. The throngs speak of successful people as being in the right place at the right time, but I think institutions and societies are in the right place and time in relation to those individuals, not the other way around.

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web he was an individual. Then the whole thing exploded and he helped create the W3C. Now he is trying to execute on the Semantic Web from within that institution, and it ain’t gonna happen. It is only going to happen when a few of us lonely mavericks create applications that take the true idea, get through all the institutional diarrhea, and create something meaningful for real people.

Basically, bullshit is just bullshit as long as it’s just laying around the pasture. It’s when you take it and spread it over your crops that things get interesting.

{Surely someone has said exactly that already.}

Update: dan responds to my response; but I’m not sure where the conversation has gone now. My point was that tech working groups are not any better than government bureaucracies. Obviously, RSS was not created by one person, but the group of people that have developed RSS have not been as institutionally linked, and they have been the people that are actually making use of the technology in the real world. dan’s final point: <blockquote>…while i agree that the WWW was not originally invented by committee our experience of the web today rests not simply upon the work of the maverick, but upon the collective tensions of this work at the center of an economy of committees and world-wide adoption patterns–creating something much more than was originally envisioned in CERN not so many years ago.</blockquote>…but then, dan’s drunk the kool-aid. jk! we kid, dan, because we love!