[Open-transport] What is an open format/standard (GTFS, etc.)

Brian Ferris bdferris at google.com
Thu Jul 18 16:06:22 UTC 2013

What would have to change about the GTFS change process, as defined at
https://developers.google.com/transit/gtfs/changes, for you to feel
comfortable saying is passed point #3?

On Thu, Jul 18, 2013 at 5:55 PM, Stéphane Guidoin <stephane at opennorth.ca>wrote:

> I am also spinning off a new thread from the "Open transport data tools"
> thread since this point was a little off topic.
> At one point I said that GTFS is not an open format/standard and Brian
> asked me to explain what I meant. Though the definition of open in this
> context is not clear (and even what a standard is...), I wanted to clarify
> what I meant (and hear some comments if any).
> For me, an open format in the context of open data should have the
> following:
>    1. Freely available specs (probably obvious for everybody here)
>    2. Use of open technology: No link with an existing implementation, no
>    link with a specific development language or platform, no technological
>    entry barrier, no patent related to it. (I guess everybody agrees on that
>    one also).
>    3. A clearly defined consensus-based governance (this is one where I
>    will have less agreements). By that, I mean that:
>    1. There is some sort of charter that explains how decisions are
>       taken, mainly by "committee"
>       2. Anybody can join the committee (paid membership is possible but
>       should be low and allow for example non-profits or individuals to join).
>       The charters should explain how people are joining, mainly if there are too
>       many candidates
>    4. Optionally, an open license should be applied to the spec (for the
>    moment, I don't know any format governed by a open-licensed spec, but there
>    are some discussions about this at w3c. Read this for more:
>    http://berjon.com/blog/2013/04/w3c-open-license.html).
> The format does NOT need
>    - to be part of standardization body, until the governance is clear
>    - to be *created* on a consensus based process. Adoption is mainly
>    what defines a de facto standard. Once we reach a certain level of
>    adoption, stakeholders should agree on the governance.
> --
> From what I see, many formats fall short on point 3, for example GTFS.
> So why point 3. is important? Mainly because there is a strong risk of
> lock-in for adopters when it does not work on a consensus. And this is bad.
> It might not be bad _now_, but it can become in the future is some
> organization feel that they are locked in. After that, they won't want to
> engage in any non-officialized-ISO-like format.
> Also note that consensus does not mean that everything is accepted if a
> majority agrees. The charter can define the target and the raison d'etre of
> a format as well as a set of criteria (or an algo) to evaluate the
> relevance of requested changes. So it we say, for example, that the raison
> d'être of GTFS is publishing data, any request to ease internal operation
> of agencies should not be accepted from the beginning while request to
> improve fare calculation for trip planning would be evaluated. (that's a
> little black and white, but I hope everybody gets it.)
> Steph
> --
> Stéphane Guidoin
> Director, Transportation
> Open North
> 514-862-0084
> http://opennorth.ca
> Twitter: @opennorth / @hoedic
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