Work in teams of three or four people based on the number in the upper right hand corner of this page.
Background: The terms de jure and de facto come to us from Latin, via the legal profession. We use the former to refer to something that is enforced by law or some other authority. We use the latter to refer to something that is true in reality, even in the absence of a controlling authority.
Sometimes, a product standard is result purely of cultural constraints. The standards that Norman talks about -- clock faces and water faucet handles and the like -- tend be this sort of de facto standard. Sometimes, de facto standards evolve through technology and then become cultural constraints. Other standards are enforced by law, presumably for the public good. Finally, some de jure standards have no legal force but seem as binding.
List at least three advantages of this standard. You can use Norman's ideas or your own. What are the disadvantages, if any?
First of all, do you think that having such labels is a good idea? If so, would you rather that the government encourage labeling as a de facto standard, the government legislate a de jure standards, or the restaurant industry come around to labeling its products through cultural pressure? Why?
Why has metric system failed in the U.S.? Again, you can use both Norman's ideas and your own. With the acceptance of 2-liter bottles, and more recently 1- and half-liter bottles, do you think that the metric system could succeed in the future? If so, what will have to change in our culture to make that possible?
Do you think that a standard is sometimes a bad idea? Under what circumstances would not having a standard be better -- and for whom would it be better?
Under what circumstances, if any, would you prefer a de jure standard to a de facto standard? Why do these circumstances call for an enforceable rules?
Coule we ever change how we tell time?
One advantage of standards, from Norman: constraints provide support to users.
One hint from Norman on when standards are good: standardize what is arbitrary. Let the non-arbitrary vary as we find better solutions and otherwise encourage novel or personalized look and feel.
Which standard is preferable, de jure and de facto? monopoly as standard
Given Microsoft's considerable influence in the marketplace, we might consider Word might be considered a de jure standard. (Near-)monopoly power >= government power. Do the benefits of a standard exceed the cost associated with such a near-monopoly? Can new ideas enter the marketplace?
This comes back to another of Norman's discussions (page 202), on the timing of standardization. Standardizing too early may mean being stuck with sub-optimal solutions driven by primitive technology.
The #1 cultural constraint in the software world? Perhaps the "desktop" metaphor for operating systems. This is an old idea that has seeped slowly into the culture: Xerox PARC in the '70s ... Apple in the '80s ... Microsoft in the '90s. (The Unix world has dealt in this metaphor since the 1980s, but its slow acceptance there reflects the cultural divide.) Is there something better? How will we know?
The first topic was Microsoft Word and how almost everyone at the university uses this program. The groups decided that overall this is a good standardization to use because everyone is consistent and files can be easily shared. However, there are also some negative impacts of this standardization, namely that there could be a better word processor out there or someone could build a better one, but chances are that is not going to happen. We could be missing out on a better product beause we are so stuck on using Word.
The next issue was whether restaurants should label their menus with calorie count and nutritional information. This could be good for the consumer, but it could be bad for the business if people learn how bad the food really is for them. Our group thought that it should not be a law because resaturants will have to do it in order to stay competitive, and if one starts it, others are likely to follow. The class also discussed how labels on cigarettes have done little to stop people from smoking and the small impact of the cultural constraint.
The metric system was also discussed and what would be necessary for this to become the standard system in the US instead of the English system. Children would have to be taught at a young age, but more importantly, the adults need to be dedicated to making this change because they are the ones that will be teaching the children. This role falls on both parents and teachers.
Can standards be a bad thing? This is the next question that was considered, and there are times when standardization is not a positive thing. Standardization stifles creativity and has the means of cutting off interesting ideas. It also keeps people from having to make decisions, which could have an effect on design quality of a product because someone could be too 'lazy' to improve the product when most of it is already in front of you done for you.
There are some times, however, when stanardization can be a good thing, and the ideas that the group came up with were laws concerning crime and punishment and issues that make society a safer place. For example, it is the standard that everyone drives on the right side of the road in this country, and that is a necessary standard to have. Safety standards are also good, such as regulations on children's toys, automobiles, etc. The final area we came up with was pollution and having standards as far as how many pollutants one company or vehicle can emit.
The class session was concluded with a video clip which relates to the idea of the Creative Commons project as far as things we should be allowed to do.
In class today, we took these standards and applied them to our everyday lives. We talked about how Microsoft Word is a de facto standard for word processors. Some advantages of this standard would be that everybody knows it, like telling time, there is only one way to learn. A disadvantage would be it has market inhibitions. Because of the fact that word is a standard, if you were to make your own it would need to look like Word and be compatible with Word. You probably wouldn't make a huge profit off of it. Word is a de facto standard because it is not a law to use it. Just like it is not a law to buy Ford, but it is a standard vehicle to buy.
Another scenario is requiring restaurants to label their calories and fat grams for each of their items. There might be problems with that standard because if we actually knew what we were eating them we might not order it. However, products in grocery stores are required to show nutritional facts, so restaurants should too. Should it be de facto or de jure? Sometimes waiting for the public good won't happen without a law, but other times laws don't have an effect either. Think of the metric system-- the law to switch over did not stick! Will the restaurant law stick if it is passed?
Now for some final points: Standardizing things that are arbitrary reduces confusion, but standardizing things too soon also cuts off other solutions. I still think it is important to have standards though so that we are constantly getting better.
De jure is something that is enforced by law or some other authority. And de facto is something that is true in reality, even in the absence of a controlling authority.
I thought it was interesting to think of how Microsoft Word is a de facto in the world of word processing. I thought that our group and the class had a good discussion on this issue. We thought that Microsoft had in an effect created a monopoly of the word processing brands. While there are other programs most of us agreed that it is hard to find or create a program that will be as effective as Microsoft Word. We also noted that when this level of quality is placed upon a product it could have some negative effects. It will allow people to quit trying to think of something even better because people already see the product as perfect, or people think that if they would create something better that it would not be widely accepted by others. These thoughts coincide with the comment made in class that "when things are new you have to be careful about standards, so that you don't stifle creativity".
In our group, we had some good discussion about whether there should be labels that tell how many calories are in a menu item at restaurants. We decided that labeling would be a good idea because of the health benefits. We would rather that the government legislate a de jure standard so that regardless of what restaurants you eat at you will be able to know how many calories you are going to be eating.
There were so many great points made in today's discussion in class. I think that it was beneficial time to learn more about how standards are created or evolve in our world around us. And I also think it encouraged us to continue being creative rather than to always be content with the standards that around us everyday.