From point 9 of Google's philosophy "You can be serious without a
suit". It revolutionised office culture. It helped put the focus on the content of work, rather than needing to wear a suit or formals and a tie to work, just because people assumed it was necessary, but it actually wasn't necessary.
When writing conference papers, I've noticed not just a whole lot of rules, but also the fact that different publishers have different standards, so if my paper gets rejected at one place, I'll have to put a lot of effort to edit it to meet the standards of another journal/conference. I know there are paid software that can do the conversion automatically, but that's a different topic.
Downsides to insisting on a very formal version of a paper:
- The plethora of rules are daunting for newbies.
- Rejections based on not conforming to these rules can dampen the spirits of genuine researchers who may just give up on submitting their work.
- Formatting is a nightmare that consumes a huge amount of time and even experienced researchers hate it when text blocks jump to areas of the paper they didn't intend.
- The rules and formatting issues actually do distract researchers from the actual content.
I agree that some basic guidelines are required for a paper. For example, the various sections that help a researcher present their thoughts in an organised manner, some basic rules about the allowed list of fonts, the number of pages and image formats allowed. These would be a casual version of a paper, where there are some sensible guidelines, but it does not get daunting, and allows researchers to focus on presenting their research well. But the current extremely formal requirements to follow a certain bibliography style, the two column format etc. are in my opinion, overkill. As long as a paper follows some consistency and is coherently and neatly presented, it should be allowed.
What are the downsides of writing a casual version of a paper? Ultimately, we as a scientific community respect the ideas that are presented. Why be so finicky about the formatting, if it's going to consume a disproportionate amount of time and if it does not really contribute to research?