Rupert Goodwins has a comment piece over in ZDNet UK that takes a different tack on the idea of openness via considering "degrees of freedom." It's very thoughtful and has some good ideas. I'm still thinking of my idea of an openness report card for specifications. Like different subjects in school, for example, Math, History, Physics, Music, and so on, there would be different categories or "classes" on which a spec would be graded. Within each class would be various subitems that would also be graded (think of quizzes, exams, projects, term papers). Each spec would have such a report card and perhaps we could even have a sense of honor roll or even high honor roll. To complement these positive notions, we should also have a sense of the "bottom of the class" or even some specs that get "left back" to be regraded in their next version. I'm no doubt stretching the analogy here, but we need to surface these issues and debate them. Just as you might get two grades for the same class if you might take it from two different teachers, we can expect different openness grades coming from different people. Indeed, I welcome the range of opinion and discussion so that some common consensus can be reached.
This work is important because whatever you think about the state of standards today for horizontal or infrastructure standards, my bet is that we're going to see a tremendous amount of action in the area of industry-specific or cross-two-or-three-industry standards. The whole notion of openness is going to be put to the test as these industry efforts fold in SOA via web services and also extend the idea of open document formats to industry-specific uses. For example, it is very reasonable to think of my personal electronic healthcare record as being in an open document format. There is no way I'm going to be told "We can't use that because your healthcare record is vendor-specific." Wrong answer, you fail the class.