We always love the brand new. The shiny car straight off the lot, the new snow blower (an important investment in Baltimore last week!), or the latest phone. This desire is something that also applies to technical standards. People are excited about participating in the launch of projects and there is often competitive pressure to be atop the latest trends and developing technologies. Occasionally, innovations get all the attention while existing or stable technologies languish in staid obscurity.
That is of course until something breaks; we always care about infrastructure when it crumbles or no longer suits our needs. One approach to solving a broken or aging system is to replace it. This approach isn't without its risks or costs, however. Creating a system, testing it, and building a network of adopters is no small task, especially with emerging technologies. Another approach is to update and improve existing systems to suit the current environment.
Much like fresh paint or modest repairs to an aging, but still solid, building, refreshing and updating a standard can make a tremendous difference. Not every overhaul needs to be a massive renovation, to continue with the building analogy. Small changes and updates can radically improve a standard's ability to work with today's systems.
While there is a steady stream of new projects, we at NISO are constantly maintaining our existing portfolio of standards. Many of the more recent projects have continued since publication with maintenance and support groups that provide guidance, adoption assistance, and regular review and tweaks of specifications. Meanwhile, other, more established standards receive periodic review and reaffirmation. This is an important part of NISO's ANSI-accredited standards process.
This year, NISO is reviewing a number of important standards and considering them for revision. These include ANSI/NISO Z39.18-2005 (R2010) Scientific and Technical Reports - Preparation, Presentation, and Preservation; ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010) Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies; and ANSI/NISO Z39.29-2005 (R2010) Bibliographic References.
On January 18, Nettie Lagace, NISO Associate Director for Programs, provided a terrific overview of the standards being considered for revision during the monthly NISO Open teleconference. A recording of that call is available here. At present, a couple of these standards are being considered for review and potential revision. I expect that several will be put forward for revision and groups will be organized to update the standards. In the coming months, additional standards will be up for review. This is a critical activity that members should take very seriously in order for these standards to remain relevant and vital. If you are not a member, but have experience or comments about these existing standards, we would like your feedback, too. Please contact Nettie for more information or to provide your feedback.
Much like maintaining a house or a car, we need to do regular check-ups on our standards to ensure they are serving the purpose for which they were developed. If they can be improved to serve the community better, we want to know and we want to improve them. And to do that, we need the support of the entire community.