.org or .com? (October 1999)

PDM’s editor Neil McNaughton ponders on some cries for closer cooperation between standards organizations and learned societies. He concludes that in addition, we need a re-alignment of such bodies with the needs of corporate and individual members.

Who does what in the world of standards, and what is the role of a learned society such as the SEG or AAPG? How do these bodies relate to dedicated standards organizations such as POSC and PPDM. And how do these in turn relate to the new wave of commercially-backed initiatives - COM for Energy and Synergy not forgetting this month’s ‘special’ - DEX?

call to arms

In this month’s PDM, we have a call to arms from POSC’s chairman, John Hanten - who asks for closer ties between the de jure standards organizations such as POSC, PPDM - along with the de factos - Synergy and COM for Energy. At the same time, Gustavo Inciarte, outgoing chair of the SPE asked for closer ties between SPE and AAPG along the lines of industry M&A activity, echoing Bob Peebler’s opinion voiced in the Oil and Gas Journal recently.

olde worlde

But these cries for closer cooperation hide a multitude of motives, which stem from the way the industry has changed. As oils move to the paradigm of low employment, the whole .org scene has acquired an "olde worlde" look and feel. In byegone days, a major oil co would probably have a few dozen people available to sit on .org committees and deliberate tranquilly on this and that. Nowadays, signing - up for any such extra-curricular activity must seem a high-risk activity, for your job!

the Agenda

This knocks - on to the real level of activity of the standards committee. Often, on the eve of the annual show, there is a flurry of activity. The Agenda is drawn up and circulated. At the show, the committee deliberates. Commemoration plaques are handed out. And afterwards? Well, the chances are that unless one or two individuals really have a bee in their bonnet about something, not very much will happen before the next Drafting of the Agenda!


Just as the oils are changing, the Societies themselves are evolving. Costs are cut. Efficiencies sought - to the extent that the main activity of the Society seems to be Advertising in one form or another - through the Annual Exhibition or the Journal. The Societies will no doubt claim that it is the advertising that subsidizes the ‘core activities’ - the Technical Sessions and Learned Journal. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the focus is increasingly the other way round.

de facto

So who does what in the world of standards? As Hanten has noted, there is considerable confusion arising from a ‘new breed’ of standards emanating from the vendors such as Landmark, SAP and Oracle. While these may reasonably be presented as driving ahead where the .org’s have failed to deliver, we need to look at the small print. Such attempts to manufacture de facto standards are inevitably accompanied by a commercial jockeying for position.

and XML?

Current thinking is that the new markup language XML is the panacea. So far though, its main use is in marketing. If it has ‘XML’ inside, it must be good. In reality the many existing standards - from Geoshare to RODE, passing though SEG-Y, Business Objects and WITS - all need to be evaluated in the context of the new paradigm.


But in addition, we need a business equivalent of XML to ‘federate’ all the stakeholders in the standards arena. The mooted Open Energy Exchange (see back page) could be just this - and is worthy of serious consideration and resources - even in these uncertain times.

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