Have you seen that XKCD cartoon about Universal Standards? Aren’t standards futile?

Why yes we have seen that cartoon, many times, thanks, but no, the cartoon doesn’t show that efforts to develop standards are futile. To the contrary! We encourage skeptics of standards to take a closer read. The XKCD cartoon identifies a collective action problem, in which competitive efforts to solve the problem by competing against all other standards are doomed to fail. Collective action problems can be solved, however, by cooperation! If a new standard is designed to enable interoperability among other standards – voila!

Open Referral takes this cooperative approach. It may be less sexy, but it’s more effective. The Human Service Data Specification and API protocols are designed to enable data interchange among different ‘data languages.’ We don’t have to solve everyone’s use case! We just make it easier for different actors using systems with different standards to cooperate across these boundaries. Instead of one standard that ‘beats’ them all, there’s now one standard that enables cooperation across them all.

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