Focusing on the core problem does provide a great deal of benefit even if it does not solve every issue for every community. One good example of this is the Dublin Core metadata standard, which is widely used. Communities have been trying to develop a better schema for how to describe content, metadata, and bibliographic information and they keep going back to the Dublin Core and extending its basic model. The Dublin Core metadata set contains all the critical elements and that same approach is probably how we should start. Perhaps what we need is a good framework of data elements that define core and secondary sets of metadata for describing data or data sets, which may be applicable in across a range of communities and leave the proper display question to each individual community.
The problem with most standards is not that they are bad ideas or that there is not sufficient thought that went into their development. Frequently, the problem stems from a limited amount of follow-up or commitment to promoting adoption. The point at which most standards fail is after consensus is reached. The failure point is often in the standard’s adoption—or better said in the absence of adoption.
FIGURE 26-1 The standards development lifecycle.
Much like the sales adoption cycle of any other product, standards go through a lifecycle process of slow growth, growing adoption, broad acceptance, then eventual decline, which leads to revision or withdrawal. Figure 26-1 is a graph of the life cycle of a standard with adoption on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. Projects start out in incubation stage, where a small group of people are interested in trying to solve a problem. Then there is a period of consensus development, where people become aware of the project and agree on the solution.