A proposal to ANSI X3 (ANSI X3J4, SPARC)

Electronic conference procedures

in the development of ANSI X3 (et al)  Standards.

~~  1987  ~~


The ANSI X3 technical committees should serve as models for organizations to follow when it comes to using state-of-the-art technology in today's and tomorrow's business world.  The manual methods and procedures used today to develop new technology standards within the X3 community (and others perhaps) often are inadequate.  These manual procedures  deliver needed technology standards often after various proprietary defacto "standards" have sprung up.  This causes extra difficulty in developing non-proprietary industry standards, as vendors are reluctant to re-direct their customers in new directions.

            The ANSI X3 technical committees have been operating under rules and procedures that were designed decades ago and modified slightly over the years.  At the heart of the current system and connecting all the pieces together is a  distribution system comprised of passing paper documents in large volume in many different directions.  Over the past ten years particularly, many changes have taken place in the computer industry.  The X3 technical committees deal with issues that are on the cutting edge of today's technologies, yet the methods of operation by which these committees operate are inadequate at best and antiquated at worst. 

            ANSI X3, spearheaded by SPARC,  should introduce electronic networking/conferencing procedures into their "methods of operations" guidelines for each of the technical committees within X3.  This proposal may include some of the following concepts:

a    All members of an ANSI X3 technical committee shall be subscribers (members) of a single electronic network with conferencing facilities, bulletin board facilities, software and text library facilities, message facilities (private and public).  Each of these facilities should have a means of restricting/limiting access to authorized personnel for control and security purposes.

b.   ANSI (or CBEMA) may want to sponsor (and staff) its own BBS service. It could alternatively or additionally become affiliated with one or more of the popular public BBS services such as Compuserve, Genie, Prodigy, etc..

c.   In addition to having access to documents of their own committee, BBS users will have limited access to documents from other relevant technical committees and ANSI administrative/management committees as well.

d.   Technical committee minutes should be maintained electronically and available in a public forum for (read-only) access by the general public.

e.   All technical committee generated documents should be maintained electronically in a document library, with write-access controlled carefully by an appointed secretariat.  Document revision control and information must be carefully maintained.

f.    All X3 technical committee letter balloting should be conducted electronically and tallies produced quickly.  These letter ballot results may be fed to other technical and administrative committees who must then act on (react to) the original technical committee results.

g.   Certain committee documents should be accessible to the general public for review and comment.

1.   base-document or journal-of-development or working-draft from which the emerging Standard is developed.

2.   draft proposed (revised) standards.  These should be available on-line for public inspection during review and comment period.

3.   technical Information Bulletins (CIBs)

4.   technical language interpretations - dialog documents


      Certain questions must be answered before electronic procedures are introduced into the methods of operation of the X3 technical committees.  I suggest that X3 assign high priority to the creation of a task group to look into these matters in a specific period of time and report back to the full committee with a written report.  Some of the questions which should be asked are:

a.   What effect will the introduction of electronic procedures in some technical committees have on other technical committees that are not yet "electrified?"

b.   Which documents are best suited for "electronification" and which are not?

c.   How will the current X3  Standing Document #2 on Methods and Procedures be affected.

d.   Which network should be used (i.e. Bix, Source, DowJones, etc.)?  Or should a new (private) network be created and managed by CBEMA (or the ISO secretariat) specifically for Standards business. 

e.   How can the libraries of documents and software be made secure from unauthorized access?  Can limited access be controlled and monitored?

f.    What common file formats should be chosen for down-loading files onto personal computers.  And what PC based word processor should be chosen (if any) to facilitate document interchange among various committees.  Is such a standard file format necessary (i.e. is ASCII sufficient?) 

g.   What "international considerations are there.  (i.e. non-American members of American technical committees;  liaison with ISO working groups and other non-American committees (transfering documents).

h.   Are there any models of electronic conferencing of this scale on  a closed network such as what is being proposed here.  If so, can we study them and liaise with them.

i.    Should this study be conducted by SPARC?

j.    What legal issues, if any are involved in such changes?

k.   What are the political realities of such changes?

l.    What are the costs associated with these changes?

m. Who would manage/administer the network databases and access control?

n.   What other questions should we ask?


The advantages to be gained by introducing electronic procedures into the X3 methods of operations appear enormous.

     X3 technical committees letter balloting can be polled and tallied in one day after the cut-off date, with the results fowarded to other technical committees which need to act on these ballot results.

     The tc secretary can reduce the volume of paper mailings dramatically.

     Latest updated document revisions will be instantly available as well as an up-tp-date document log.(index.)

     Eventually when portable computers with modems are more commonplace, electronic documents may be brought to the meetings.

     Some meetings may be held electronically with all members conferencing at the same pre-arranged time.  Eventually, I expect video conferencing facilities to be readily available.

     Interaction between various ANSI technical committees (both technical and administrative) will be aided enormously.

     SPARC can manage ANSI technical committees much more effectively.

     Technical editorial errors will be reduced.

     Most X3 members are using pc's now anyway so it may only be a matter of agreeing on a standard text processing format.

     Member name-and-address files can be maintained electronically assuring up to the minute accuracy.  Private and public access to these files can be controlled by the technical committee's designated secretariat.

     Conformance to other ANSI standards will be enhanced when discussions  come up at a tc meeting involving another technical committee's standard. Having electronic access to all ANSI X3 standards can make these standards instantly available.

     The electronic conferencing model set up for the technical committees can and should serve as a model for other organizations.   Using object design, this model can be adapted easily to changing needs.

     Some (perhaps much) of the ANSI administration overhead can be eliminated via a more efficient distribution of Standards documents.

     Electronic documents can be translated into non-English language versions .  This may encourage more participation in the Standards work by non-English speaking people.

     Upcoming meeting schedules (and venues), posted in a public forum will encourage greater participation by the general public.  Greater  public participation during the Standard development process will cause less disruption and delay when draft standards are "officially" released for public review & comment.  Participants will have had more of a chance to shape the draft standard.

     For historic purposes, archival storage and control of technical committee documents and activities, are greatly enhanced and made simple by maintaining a good deal of the "paperwork" electronically.


    Postscript added Dec 2005: This was an interesting observation in 1987 when the first draft of this paper was written.  The portable computers did of course begin to show up in meetings regularly in the early 1990's and all of these proposed ideas above, which were rejected at the time, were later  adopted, albeit 5 to 12 years later. 


     © 2005  Jerry Garfunkel      Woodstock, NY       12498      www.jeromegarfunkel.com