Why are open standards important for end-users?

Ben Finney bignose+hates-spam at benfinney.id.au
Fri Feb 29 21:22:01 UTC 2008

"gk at fsfe.org" <gk at fsfe.org> writes:

> During preparation for the DFD I am currently searching for reasons
> why open standards are important for end-users.
> [...]
> Of course "choice" is clearly a really strong argument, but I am
> still in search for other ones...

I caution you here that, to a great many people, "choice" in software
programs is a burden more than a welcome feature.

The responsibility that comes with choice is that, of course, one must
choose; and that implies investing significant effort in educating
oneself about the options, learning about how those options apply to
the task at hand, and frequently learning more technical details about
the specific task at hand than one actually cares about.

To such people, computer programs are *not* something they are
interested in choosing. They have various tasks to be done, and they
strongly want *someone else* to have already put in the above effort,
and decided what is the single correct tool to use for each one. They
will, and frequently do, pay money for not having to make that effort.

This is a perfectly reasonable position for such people to take, and
thinking of them as lazy, foolish, or short-sighted is not helpful.
They simply make the (conscious or unconscious) trade-off of "less
up-front effort" versus "freedom of choice" differently from you or I.

Presenting "choice" as a positive argument to such people simply won't
impress them, because they have no compelling reason to accept the
burden of that choice.

 \     "Simplicity and elegance are unpopular because thy require hard |
  `\                work and discipline to achieve and education to be |
_o__)                                appreciated."  -- Edsger Dijkstra |
Ben Finney

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