Government // Enterprise Architecture
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8/26/2008
12:47 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Radio New Zealand Goes Open With Ogg

Over at Groklaw.net, there's an interview with Richard Hulse of Radio New Zealand, talking about his decision to begin offering some of that station's Internet-based audio in the nonproprietary Ogg Vorbis format. It's a veritable case study in both the etiquette and ethics of adopting open standards.

Over at Groklaw.net, there's an interview with Richard Hulse of Radio New Zealand, talking about his decision to begin offering some of that station's Internet-based audio in the nonproprietary Ogg Vorbis format. It's a veritable case study in both the etiquette and ethics of adopting open standards.

Radio New Zealand used only WMA and MP3 for a long time, but started to adopt Ogg based on feedback provided by a small but growing segment of their population that couldn't play WMA at all (used to serve content-protected streams), and wanted to opt for Ogg over MP3 whenever possible. Hulse cites both reader feedback and a changing mix of clients -- different even from three years ago, he says -- as being two of the biggest reasons for adding Ogg to the format mix.

The ethics -- i.e., why use open standards? -- are the easy part, and have been rehashed endlessly both here and elsewhere. You don't have to pay licensing royalties; repurposing the code used for the standard is a lot easier; clients who can't use proprietary codecs are not locked out (something that Linux users have been discovering, with a great deal of dismay, when they try to access the media streams for the Democratic National Convention), et any number of well-documented ceteras.

What's really interesting to me is how the article also details some suggestions of etiquette vis-a-vis talking to a content provider and asking them to serve up nonproprietary formats. Many important points are made -- that the other party may not understand free-as-in-speech vs. free-as-in-beer; that your choice of words and tone is crucial, and that coming across as emotional or strident does more harm than good; and so on. In fact, the whole set of nine points -- it's at the end of the piece, right before the comments -- could serve nicely as a general set of guidelines for talking to folks about open standards and open source in general.

I'd like to see more of this sort of thing: etiquette guides for those who want to explain the benefits of open standards and open source to others, but also want to avoid scaring off their prospective audience. Too many of the explanatory efforts I've seen in the past, like the MakeTheMove campaign, quickly mire themselves in a welter of terminology (and, it has to be said, ideology). The last thing that's needed here is another excuse to be one's own worst enemy.

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