I have finally found an example of “contradiction” in two ISO standards that meets what I think ISO means by contradiiction: I have been looking for an example (and how it was dealt with) since writing my blog entry earlier in the year, What is a contradiction of an ISO standard. The example is the conflict between ISO POSIX and ISO Linux.
ISO POSIX and ISO Linux came in to ISO from external sources (IEEE/Open Group and Linux/GNU) and have considerable (or more) overlap. The Linux spec is a profile of the POSIX spec in general (and is interesting because it is one of the first signs of Open Source documentations infliltrating the ISO system, which is generally riddled with industrial, government, niche developer and academic interests.) But there are some cases where POSIX says one thing and Linux says another.
Now my definition of a contradiction was:
- One standard attempts to redefine another, or is a rival standard for exactly the same named thing but is different in some aspect.
- One standard disrupts another.
- One standard pretends to be another.
- One standard incorrectly uses another.
and I gave the Linux/POSIX difficulty as an example of a contradiction. Well, now it is six months later, lets see how ISO/IEC has dealt with the matter.
They have allowed the ISO standard for Linux as well as POSIX but they have also clearly stated where there is contradiction and gathered the information together into a technical report Technical Report on the Conflicts between the ISO/IEC 9945 (POSIX) and the Linux Standard Base (ISO/IEC 23360). So these contradictions, instead of being showstoppers, are exposed and clearly publicized as “conflicts”.
The POSIX standard remains clear. The people who want a standard for the external technology Linux get what they want. The differences become clear for software developers to workaround. And the differences can be passed on as information to the standards maintenance effort. Everybody wins.
I think this shows several things. First, that ISO is (now) geared to getting win/win solutions, and not one geared to allowing one group to stymie another (oh not this hobby horse again!) Next that the mere presence of a minor contradiction is not a showstopper, especially where there is continuing dialog between the parties: there is some aspect of proportionality. And finally that when a standard documents an external, existing technology, the standard needs to be “warts and all” and not a faked-up sugar-coated version.
Now some national bodies are apparently working assuming a much stricter definition of “contradiction”, where one standard disrupts another. And other people have a much slacker version, good luck to them. But it is interesting that no matter whose definition is adopted, the ISO Linux/ISO POSIX conflicts seems to be “contradictions”. And the ISO response? Constructive engagement to allow the development of consensus voluntary standards: this is a point I made before that ISO standards are like conversations not laws