Arnaud’s Open blog

Opinions on open source and standards

Format vs Tool (continued)

One thing I should have added to my previous entry is that I believe the reason some people think the tool is more important than the format is because they are confusing the means from the end.

We use tools to achieve specific tasks. Because the tools are what we are primarily interacting with, tools take a prominent role and some people end up thinking that the tools are what matters most. But I believe this is wrong.

The tool is merely a means to an end. The end being to capture, create, process, communicate, and share information. The information is the end game, not the tool. Making this distinction is fundamental. The tool is merely what we use to manipulate the information which is really what we care about.

In this context, having a standard format that can represent the information is tremendously more important than any specific feature a particular tool may have. In fact, having a standard format enables the information to be manipulated using different tools, allowing you to change tools based on your needs and what is available. This in turn leads to having more features at your disposal.

This model is undoubtedly more powerful than being stuck with a single tool, not matter how great that tool may be at a given time, and depending on a single vendor to provide you with all the features you may need or want. Having a standard format enables competition which leads to more innovation and greater tools.

I know not everybody agrees with that last point; some people think that standards stifle innovation, but I disagree and plan to discuss this in a future entry.

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November 21, 2007 - Posted by | standards | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This is true to my experience. I want the freedom to choose the best tool for myself, my business, or my hobbies, and more importantly, I don’t want to be locked-in to any one tool, notably one owned and controlled by a corporation. When I reviewed word processors earlier this year for DonationCoder.com, I argued that the ODF format frees us to use any tool we choose — even MS Word if Microsoft would allow ODF to be configured as its native file format.

    http://www.donationcoder.com/Reviews/Archive/WordProcs/

    Comment by Zaine Ridling | November 27, 2007 | Reply


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