Subject: Re: Mass. Bill to Block OpenDocument Format Standard
From: Ben Tilly <>
Date: Mon, 7 Nov 2005 17:42:20 -0800

 Mon, 7 Nov 2005 17:42:20 -0800
On 11/7/05, Anderson, Kelly <> wrote:
> > It's very hard make an  economic  mistake by choosing a standard, any
> > standard,  quickly .  Just as long it's not  so  bad that the majority
> > of users positively refuse to conform (the OSI (sp?)  network
> > standards, or the ISO 2022 Coded Character Set Extension Techniques
> > standard).
> Almost all of us today are typing on qwerty keyboards. These were
> designed in the late 1880s to avoid key lock by typists who were too
> fast. Dvorak layout is around 20% faster, yet nobody uses it because a
> "good enough" standard is better than a lack of standardization. So, was
> qwerty a mistake or a stroke of genius? Perhaps a little of both.

The story is not nearly as simple as you may have heard.

For  the record, I use a QWERTY keyboard.  At one point I decided to
switch to Dvorak.  I improved fairly quickly, however 2 weeks in I
learned that there was more to the story than what I'd heard, and
tried switching back.  I've never since been interested in trying
Dvorak.  I'll freely admit that it is nice to be able to sit down on
virtually any keyboard and type easily.  However what kept me on
QWERTY was the realization that I was not going to see any significant
advantage to switching.

> Personally, I believe that standards emerge when high profits can no
> longer be achieved by owning a standard. That is, once it's not an
> interesting problem, it becomes a standard. At least that's how I see it
> in software.

 The Innovator's Solution  has a lot to say on this exact topic, and
comes to a similar conclusion.  Proprietary solutions win when the
ability to accomplish the goal is hard.  Standards win when technology
can overdeliver what it needs to accomplish the basic goal, and
customers start choosing on other criteria - such as ease of
customization and avoidance of lock-in.