If you walked away for five or ten years and came back…

This week I’m back in familiar and comfortable grounds at a data standards meeting. It’s been about six years since I was at one of these, but before that I attended three to five meetings like this each year for a dozen years or more. Different cities, different hotels, but a very carefully homogenized experience so the work proceeds with minimal distraction.

Standards development work is hard, and it’s tedious. The academic, corporate and government stakeholders — from 23 countries at the meeting I’m at today — have conflicting agendas. The people attracted to this kind of work, by its nature and its culture, are thoughtful at best, and can be obstructively pedantic when not at their best. They (we) are all experts, and there is plenty of preening and hierarchy-establishing that has to go on. In many cases when there are two alpha dogs in the room it means the formation of a new committee to go in a slightly different direction. And standards-related work usually falls under “other duties as assigned”, so things only happen when they happen.

Despite all that, work gets done, and good work. Sometimes a person or a team pushes a little harder and there’s a breakthrough. Sometimes there’s an infusion of corporate or government money that advances some portion of the work. And everyone else keeps plugging away.

As a returnee, I commented that I could walk into a room years later and pick up on a conversation as if I’d never left. It turns out I was hardly the first to observe that. Sitting at the bar last night (another important component of these meetings that just might slow down our progress), a group of us riffed on that idea with much hilarity… although thinking about it now, sober, it’s not quite as funny.

So… I guess it works like any other community. Like an electorate. Like a family. Should it be better, smoother? Of course, and when we were new, or young, or both, we knew exactly how to fix everything that irked us. But now, older and wiser, we live much closer to the serenity prayer.

Hello again! It’s great to be back. I want to hear more about your son’s graduation. Yes, let’s catch up at the Wednesday night dinner function and — hopefully — the January meeting. Let’s see, is it Orlando or Vegas next time?

2 thoughts on “If you walked away for five or ten years and came back…

Add yours

  1. Sad, but all too true. Great post. When you have time, we need to review the cases of vocabulary and data standards success, and ask why and how. And, remember the story I told you about my father toward the end of WWII.

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