[tei-council] What would you do?

David J Birnbaum djbpitt+tei at pitt.edu
Thu Aug 24 19:05:34 EDT 2006

Dear TEI List and Council,

Sebastian wrote:
> Dare I say it is a pity that more people from the TEI Council have not 
> identified themselves on TEI-L and expressed a view?
Martin's recent message picks up indirectly on something I wrote earlier 
when he referred to the TEI (P4 and P5) as a "standard" as if the 
appropriateness of that term was self-evident, because I remember being 
surprised in my early TEI days when Lou said that "the TEI is not a 
standard" as if that was self-evident. That people who understand and 
use the TEI could have contradictory self-evident understandings of 
whether the TEI is or is not a standard suggests that we may have 
flushed out a hidden point of contention, and that perhaps our recent 
debates about conformance might profitably be reconsidered as 
reflections of a disagreement about the status (or lack thereof) of the 
TEI as a standard. The notion of conformance to guidelines feels 
different from the notion of conformance to a standard because the term 
guidelines could be taken to suggest *showing* the way (best practice), 
rather than *dictating* it (rules and regulations).
As one who is reasonably comfortable rolling his own solutions, I think 
the greatest virtues of TEI for me have been the possibilities for 
sharing tools and the possibilities for interchange, so I have generally 
favored a view of the TEI as a standard, with a clear notion of 
conformance (which may entail degrees of conformance). This perspective 
has informed a lot of my votes at Council meetings, where, given more 
than one informationally equivalent way of doing something, I have 
consistently argued that the TEI guidelines should license only one of 
them (any one, because the virtue comes not from doing something in a 
particular way, but from having a community that agrees to do it in the 
same way).

On the other hand, I certainly appreciate the arguments for the opposite 
perspective, and the importance of supporting modification for the 
inevitable situations where TEI-out-of-the-box offers enough advantages 
to attract a potential user, but is nonetheless unable to meet all of 
that user's needs without modification.


djbpitt+tei at pitt.edu

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