Home > Standards Blog

Advanced Search 

Welcome to ConsortiumInfo.org
Saturday, November 22 2014 @ 10:34 AM CST

Email Article To a Friend View Printable Version

Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”

OpenDocument and OOXML

This rather long essay is in one sense a reply to the open letter recently released by Patrick Durusau, in which he suggested that it was time to acknowledge progress made and adopt OOXML.  But it is also an explanation of why I have for the first time in my career become personally involved in supporting a standard.  The reason is that I believe that we are at a watershed in public standards policy, and that there is much more at stake than ODF and OOXML.  In this essay, I explain why I think we need to recognize the existence and vital importance of what I call “Civil ICT Standards,” and why more than simple technical compromises are needed to create them in order to protect our “Civil ICT Rights.”

 

As I write this entry, hundreds of people from around the world are converging on Geneva, Switzerland.  120 will meet behind closed doors to hold the final collaborative discussions that will determine whether OOXML will become an ISO/IEC standard.  When their work is complete, not everyone will be pleased with the changes agreed upon, but all will acknowledge that the specification that eventually emerges will be much improved from the version that was originally submitted to Ecma two years ago.

Most will also agree that Microsoft’s customers and independent software vendors (ISVs) will be far better off with OOXML publicly available than they would if Microsoft had not offered the specification up at all.

To reach this final draft, hundreds of standards professionals in many nations have spent a great deal of time and effort, including many at Microsoft.  And while Microsoft, working with Ecma, has not agreed to all of the changes that have been requested, my impression is that it has agreed to many that will, if implemented by Microsoft, require a substantial amount of work and technical compromise on its part.  

Leaving aside whether Microsoft has made sufficient concessions, it has also made substantial accommodations on the intellectual property rights (IPR) front along the way as well.  Today, it makes important IPR available under covenants not to sue that are more broadly available, and far less burdensome than the licenses that it required two years ago.

When I first began to write about ODF in September of 2005, none of these developments had been anticipated, much less promised by Microsoft.  And while the interoperability promises made by Microsoft as recently as last week still fall short of those that would be required to meet the needs of (for example) open source software developers, it is only fair to acknowledge that there are other proprietary software vendors that have not promised as  much, and that the vast majority of information and communications technology (ICT) standards are still adopted under IPR policies that are primarily based upon RAND declarations.

With so many accommodations by a commercial vendor that has no incentive (antitrust regulators aside) to make any concessions at all under the cold realities of the business world, it is not surprising that a number of commentators in the last few weeks have focused on the distance that Microsoft has already traveled, rather than the distance left to go.  Most notably, Patrick Durusau, the ODF Project Editor in both ISO/IEC JTC1 as well as OASIS, released an open letter calling for passage of OOXML, calling the progress of the last two years, warts and all, as “Poster Child of Open Standards Development.”  He closed that letter with the following:

The OpenXML project has made a large amount of progress in terms of the openness of its project development.  Objections that do not recognize that are focusing on what they want to see and not what is actually happening with OpenXML.

Is it true, then, that those who are still uncomfortable with the  adoption of OOXML are either vendor-competitors with obvious commercial axes to grind, or unrealistic zealots that won’t be satisfied until Microsoft’s dominance is destroyed?

The answer, I think, is no.  And here is why I believe that this is the case.

We are entering an era in which IT technology is to society as earlier very different modalities were to human rights, from freedom of expression and free access to information (the unfettered use of the printing press), to civil rights (the abolition of separate schools and separate seats on buses for people of color in the US), to freedom of religion (the ability to openly practice one’s religion in houses of worship).

In this new interconnected world, virtually every civic, commercial, and expressive human activity will be fully or partially exercisable only via the Internet, the Web and the applications that are resident on, or interface with, them.  And in the third world, the ability to accelerate one’s progress to true equality of opportunity will be mightily dependent on whether one has the financial and other means to lay hold of this great equalizer.

Not surprisingly, with these new and wonderful technical possibilities come real risks and responsibilities.  In order to avoid the former and assume the latter, questions of social policy therefore enter the picture, because where the unconstrained forces of the market place will lead may not be where the best interests of society will lie. 

In the dawn of the computer age, when only isolated mainframes lived in major corporations and research labs, such a concern barely existed, if at all. 

But as the world becomes more interconnected, more virtual, and more dependent on ICT, public policy relating to  ICT will become as important, if not more, than existing policies that relate to freedom of travel (often now being replaced by virtual experiences), freedom of speech (increasingly expressed on line), freedom of access (affordable broadband or otherwise), and freedom to create (open versus closed systems, the ability to create mashups under Creative Commons licenses, and so on).

This is where standards enter the picture, because standards are where policy and technology touch at the most intimate level.

Much as a constitution establishes and balances the basic rights of an individual in civil society, standards codify the points where proprietary technologies touch each other, and where the passage of information is negotiated. 

In this way, standards can protect – or not – the rights of the individual to fully participate in the highly technical environment into which the world is now evolving.  Among other rights, standards can guarantee:

  • That any citizen can use any product or service, proprietary or open, that she desires when interacting with her government.
  • That any citizen can use any product or service when interacting with any other citizen, and to exercise every civil right.
  • That any entrepreneur can have equal access to marketplace opportunities at the technical level, independent of the market power of existing incumbents.
  • That any person, advantaged or disadvantaged, and anywhere in the world, can have equal access to the Internet and the Web in the most available and inexpensive method possible.
  • That any owner of data can have the freedom to create, store, and move that data anywhere, any time, throughout her lifetime, without risk of capture, abandonment or loss due to dependence upon a single vendor.

Let us call these “Civil ICT Rights,” and pause a moment to ask: what will life be like in the future if Civil ICT Rights are not recognized and protected, as paper and other fixed media disappear, as information becomes available exclusively on line, and as history itself becomes hostage to technology?

I would submit that a vote to adopt OOXML would be a step away from, rather than a way to advance towards, a future in which Civil ICT Rights are guaranteed.

Those within Microsoft that truly believe that it needs to change its ways to compete in the future – and there are many that do believe this - may understandably feel aggrieved that people like me would say this.  Hasn’t Microsoft gone far enough, they may ask?  Shouldn’t it be rewarded, rather than punished, for having traveled so far?  Wouldn’t a “no” vote on OOXML support arguments that Microsoft should entrench rather than open itself up even farther?

Some people might also feel that people like me are applying different rules to Microsoft than we would apply to another vendor.  What they fail to see is that while I am applying different rules indeed,  I am not applying them to a single vendor, but to a single class of standards.  Those standards are the ones that have profound social significance – such as document formats – rather than purely technical meaning – such as the means to achieve a local area network connection.  Standards in this class are a small, but vitally significant percentage of the whole, and therefore demand special attention, because their impact is far reaching, and their effect long lasting. 

Standards in this area today involve enable universal global access in native character sets (the Unicode) and the basic standards upon which the Internet and the Web are based,  In the future, they may involve new standards that relate to health records, privacy, security, electronic voting, federated identity, and more.  Over time, they will become both more numerous as well as more vitally important.  I will refer to such standards as “Civil ICT Standards.”

I believe that documents clearly fall into the category of Civil ICT Standards, as they control whether the documents of today can be accessed far into the future, and whether citizens have the freedom of choice in the technology they use.  Can ODF and OOXML each lay claim to meeting the requirements of Civil ICT Standards?

Microsoft has rightly observed that OOXML has a different goal than ODF, and they are right.  The purpose of ODF is to create a standard that any application of any nature can use to exchange information with any other application that implements the same standard.  It does so by requiring enough uniformity to ensure the result by permitting enough flexibility to promote innovation.  OOXML, in contrast, is targeted at permitting information created in Office to be exchanged with any other application that implements OOXML with full fidelity.  It does so by requiring near total uniformity at the expense of precluding almost any innovation.  I would submit that the former meets the requirements of a Civil ICT Standard, while the latter meets the needs of single vendor and the ISVs that have chosen to be part of its ecosystem.

And now, I think, you will begin to see why the OOXML vote still matters, and why I believe that Microsoft has not, in fact, traveled far enough along the road to openness.

If I have persuaded you that the application of public policy considerations to Civil ICT Standards is necessary, then you must consider how that policy is to be developed and applied.  This is a difficult issue, given that ICT standards must be globally adopted in order to achieve their full potential.

How can this be accomplished?  At the one extreme, there is self-regulation by industry, and at the other there is legislation.  But the former is subject to proprietary pressures and usually does not include meaningful participation by all stakeholders (especially end users), while the latter is slow, cumbersome, and still subject to lobbying by commercial interests.

What, then, can be done?  Some would say that government has no business in the equation at all, but this, I believe, is insupportable once the social importance of Civil ICT Rights is accepted.  Why should government intervention be justified in order to require handicapped access to schools and voting booths, but not the Internet to access a school or distance learning Web site?  Or to a town hall, but not a town hall Web site?  Or to obtain a photocopy of a public record for a small charge, but not an electronic one unless one buys the products of a single vendor?

So we have a problem without a much needed solution.  But at least we are beginning to recognize that we have such a problem, and to begin to grapple with the difficult issues that stand between where we are today, and where we need to be.  I believe that it is very important that we do so successfully, and soon, because the speed of technological innovation and adoption is far out running the process of social recognition and protective action.

Although Microsoft might have hoped otherwise, OOXML has found itself at the watershed of society’s recognition of this problem.  Appropriately enough, Geneva, Switzerland, the home of many United Nations and other global offices and agencies, will be the place where an opportunity is seized or lost to make progress in finding that solution.

This, at last, takes us to the reason that I believe that the OOXML vote matters, and it is this:  approval or disapproval will have impact on government purchasing, and the exercise of the very substantial power of government procurement offers a middle ground between self regulation by industry and direct intervention by government.

Already we have seen that the non-legislative action of a single US state – Massachusetts – dramatically accelerated the credibility of ODF, motivated enormous efforts on the part of many individual as well as industrial supporters to support that standard, and forced Microsoft to take open document formats far more seriously than it doubtless ever would have otherwise.  Increasing interest in the importance of document formats by other governments, especially in Europe, has further motivated supporters of both formats, and brought about more movement by Microsoft.

When governments commit to procure only software based upon truly open document formats implemented by multiple competing products, that promise tells both proprietary and open source developers that a sufficiently large market will exist to reward the substantial effort required to produce robust and compliant products.  By doing so, these governments have provided the first credible incentive for market participants to compete on the desktop in almost two decades.  This in turn has provided incentives to Microsoft to truly innovate there as well, rather than simply seek to maintain its installed base while maximizing profits.  One need only look to the historical intervals between releases of products such as Internet Explorer to see this predictable dynamic at work.

Such action by governments is entirely consistent with the role of government as demonstrated by past practice.  In the United States, for example, government contractors alone must abide by a wide variety of rules that are intended to pursue social goals, such as encouraging minority hiring and other rules that require the preferential award of contracts to women and minority owned businesses.  The goal of each is to help historically disadvantaged classes of individuals gain equal access to good jobs, and to successfully launch businesses of their own.

With this background to provide context, let us now look at the predictable consequences of the final vote on OOXML.

If the eligible members of ISO/IEC JTC1 vote not to approve OOXML, then OOXML will still be an Ecma standard, and all of the benefits to Microsoft customers and developers will still be preserved.  Microsoft will also reap the principal benefits that OOXML can provide for it: its developers will be more likely to continue to support Office, and new developers will doubtless become motivated to become part of that environment.  In short, a vote against OOXML does not deprive either the marketplace or Microsoft of the value of OOXML having been made public, and all of the changes already made by Microsoft will still bear fruit.

But if the National Bodies vote to approve OOXML, what then?

If they do, OOXML will achieve titular parity with ODF in the eyes of legislators around the world, most of whom will lack the existing knowledge and the time and interest to learn whether there would still be a reason to prefer products that implement ODF over OOXML.  Presumably, the high water mark of interest in ODF would have passed, and the credibility of ODF-compliant products, as well as the importance of open document formats in general, would begin to recede from public and legislative view.

Microsoft, like any other publicly held company, would then have no incentive at all to consider moving even one step farther down the path to openness with OOXML than it had on the date of the vote, except to the extent compelled to do so by the European Commission – a glacial process, as witnessed by the more than nine-year duration of the EC’s last prosecution.  Microsoft would not have even the incentive to fully implement OOXML, nor to agree to implement any later Ecma-approved change that it did not find to its liking.  Nor to work towards merging ODF, OOXML and UOF (the Chinese open document standard).  And then we would be back where we started.

Perhaps most tellingly, neither Microsoft nor any other dominant vendor would be any more likely to cooperate in the creation of another Civil ICT Standard that threatened its hegemony than Microsoft has done in the past.  There is an historical antecedent for this as well, because Microsoft stood aside rather than join the working group in OASIS that created ODF, despite the fact that it held a seat on the Board of Directors.  Had it chosen to participate rather than bet that the ODF effort would fail, we might have one standard today instead of two, and everyone would be better off, including Microsoft’s customers and ISVs.  I believe that this is the type of behavior that government should encourage, rather than the opposite.

What is needed for the future is a commitment by governments to ensure that proper Civil ICT standards are created and adopted.  I believe that this will happen sooner or later, and the question is only how it will be accomplished.  Too often, industry holds out as long as it can, until legislators finally act legislatively, usually long after the point in time at which the public would best have been served (e.g., in the United States, where domestic car manufacturers successfully resisted an increase in government-mandated fleet mileage efficiency requirements for over 20 years).


If industry (and not just Microsoft) wishes to preserve its freedom to act, and indeed if the formal global standards infrastructure itself wishes to retain a role in the process of creating Civil ICT Standards at all, then each would be wise to consider the fact that a vote against OOXML is a vote not just to serve the public interest, but also a vote to preserve the right of self regulation.  While ISO and IEC lack the treaty recognition of the ITU, they have traditionally enjoyed quasi-governmental status nonetheless.  With that privilege comes responsibility to serve the public, or to lose the credibility of their imprimaturs entirely.


What is at stake in Geneva, then, is not just the fate of OOXML, but of many other things as well:

  • The continuing legitimacy of the traditional standards process
  • Recognizing the existence and importance of Civil ICT Rights
  • Defining the proper role of government in the recognition of Civil ICT Standards
  • Deciding how, and by whom, Civil ICT Standards will be developed, approved and adopted

If the National Bodies elect to focus only narrowly on technical issues, then it may be that many will come to believe that the traditional standard setting infrastructure is not adequate to play an active role in the recognition of the Civil ICT Standards needed to protect Civil ICT Rights.  If so, I have previously proposed the type of new structures and policies that would be better able to fill the gap, and how they could be created, funded and operated.

It should not go unmentioned that the stakes for society are even higher than I have thus far suggested, because the questions raised above extend beyond the field of ICT.  Standards of equal importance are urgently needed in other areas as well.  These will have as profound an impact on commerce and the human condition in areas such as global warming, and will tell us what we can and cannot do except at our peril, how we will determine whether we are winning or losing that battle, and how we can avoid further degradation to our natural environment.

So it is we see that what happens in Geneva this week is about far more than whether Microsoft wins and IBM and its allies lose or vice-versa, even if that will be the superficial result.  It is about fundamental human rights, about not only seizing but also securing the opportunities of the future for the benefit of all.  Only by thinking clearly and deeply about these larger issues will we be able to adapt the practices of the past to meet the challenges of a future that has already arrived, whether we realize it or not.

 

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

sign up for a free subscription to Standards Today today!

Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards” | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Andy, you missed the boat
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 26 2008 @ 06:33 AM CST

Andy, you've got a few fundamental things wrong that deflate your whole argument.

The core of what you say is in this quote: "OOXML, in contrast, is targeted at permitting information created in Office to be exchanged with any other application that implements OOXML with full fidelity.  It does so by requiring near total uniformity at the expense of precluding almost any innovation."

Whay you miss in this are two things:

1) By creating such a standard, it also creates a standard that serves the SAME purpose as what you say ODF does, and it does it very well (better than ODF in fact, because it is more expressive and extensible).  It creates a standard for word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentation that can be used for interchange WITHOUT any use anywhere of Microsoft Office (and it does it extremely well).

2) Your remark about lack of innovation in OOXML tells me that you do not understand the revolutionary implications of custom XML parts in OOXML, and the things that can be done with it.  These scenarios using Custom XML parts are typically the ones where NO copy of Microsoft Office is ever present.

Applications of OOXML that sidestep Microsoft Offfice and which use custom XML parts are currently being developed.  They are, however, largely for use in enterprises (line of business applications), and are thus largely invisible from public view.

You really, REALLY missed the boat here.  You owe it to yourself to look into this.

[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 12:10 AM CST


It's a good point, the need for "Civil ICT standards", but I think you give Microsoft entirely too much benefit of the doubt.

According to http://tuxdeluxe.org/node/278, "... Firstly that ECMA was willing to say yes to almost anything in order to get OOXML passed as a standard. Secondly, that the things they were pushing back on and were saying "no" to were any modifications to the specification that would mean a change to the existing Microsoft implementation of OOXML. There were many thousands of pages of comments so it is possible I missed one, but I couldn't find any agreed change that would cause a single service pack for Microsoft Office to be released. In fact ECMA even used the fact that a change would "break compatibility with existing implementations" as a reason for rejecting it."

The author, Jeremy Allison goes on to give an example of how any concessions made by ECMA as part of the comment process are not going to result in an actual improvement of the standard, and are not going to make it any more possible for independent implementations of this standard to be written.

This is incontrovertible proof that Microsoft has no desire to make OOXML a good standard. OOXML has been presented as a fait accompli by Microsoft. Their attitude is, despite the comments process, that OOXML is going to become an ISO standard and Microsoft Office 2007 is going to be marketed as complying with an international standard, regardless that Office 2007 cannot read or write the documented OOXML format.

Office 2007 will write whatever file format Microsoft wants it to write, so long as it is ticked in the Government's "complies with standards" checklist.
[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: gopodge on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 01:30 AM CST
I see no benefits coming from the acceptance of OOXML as an ISO standard.

A vote for OOXML goes a long way towards justifying the coin slot standards process adopted by ECMA and Microsoft.
It will make a mockery of the entire ISO process and the goodwill is has built up over it's time and it will be a huge incentive
for Microsoft to stall development of OOXML just like it has in other areas it dominates.

The bulk of standards do the long haul. ODF is a recent example of this. It took the long hard road to becoming an ISO standard
and it really shows. OOXML on the other hand is the square peg in a round hole example. Force it really hard and it might fit.
Does it make sense to accept a rushed, fast tracked, half baked document specification that hasn't done the long haul? We
will be living with this botch job way. way into the foreseeable future if it is accepted.

Everyone likes to talk about how "open" MIcrosoft has become as part of this process. I say, big deal. Why did they have to
be forced to cooperate? It essentially comes down to the protection of the monopoly. Microsoft made a few excellent and
illegal lock-in decisions early on and have been sapping the world since that day. We pay the price every day to entertain
their corporate concerns. Force Microsoft to adopt the existing ODF standard and then we will understand how much
it really should cost for Office 2007.

This is just my simple opinion but I see choice disintegrate every day because of MIcrosoft. In every other aspect of my life I take
competition and choice for granted. It provides me with a fair price and a wide variety of options. We all rely on choice and
competition. Voting "Yes" for OOXML does not help with this choice and competition as it is justifying and propping up the
monopoly and saying "you did a good job". I know this to not be true.

In conclusion, ODF = Open Document Format = Open Document Freedom
[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 06:41 AM CST
No standard of 6000+ pages should be fast-tracked. A lot of errors have been fixed, but there has been minimal time to evaluate the consequences of those fixes. It's as if the boss offers you a barbecued sausage and says it's done, but you know it's still cold in the middle. Do you say no and insult this powerful guy who you quite like, or say yes and risk a long time on the toilet? - giafly
[ # ]
Interesting phrasing
Authored by: overshoot on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 07:13 AM CST
One of the aspects that I find most interesting is the way DIS-29500 advocates talk about this as though becoming an IS is some sort of cookie that MS should receive as though they'd finally managed to stay dry all night.  Not, "It's a good standard," but "MS has come so far and should be rewarded."

This is, to me, a fundamental issue of the way people perceive the industry.  MS whines that they didn't vote against ODF in OASIS, so IBM was being "mean" to vote against ECMA-376.  ODF is, to many, an "anti-Microsoft plot."  The Massachusetts ERM was an attempt to get at the State level what they couldn't get from the antitrust trial, and so on and so on.  All very personal.  To be fair, there are quite a few on the ODF side who are more interested in the Rebel Alliance against the Evil Empire.

However, if you look for those who are actually discussing the needs of users and long-range policy it's almost entirely one-sided.  Curious, that.
[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 07:22 AM CST
Thank you, this is an insightful post.

Can you characterize further what is required for a standard to be considered a civil ICT standard? Or when a standard is not a civil ICT standard?

I am under the impression that the qualification criteria must include whether the standard is a natural monopoly, meaning that every alternatives, standard or non standard, will become severely marginalized by the dominant standard. Take TCP/IP for example. It displaced every standard and non standard competing technologies that were abundant in the early 1990s. Standards that are not natural monopolies don't have the ability to infringe on civil rights because the alternatives will remain available. But when there is no strong enough alternative, an entity that control the standard will have great power over our rights.

As to the point of whether Microsoft made a lot of concession, I liken that to the ancient debate of whether the earth was flat or round. Was the solution found in the middle? Some questions don't allow compromises as answers that make sense. There is a question of whether OOXML is suitable to be a standard, and this demands a yes or no answer. "Maybe" or "it is better than nothing" is the same as "no" for this purpose. Only when the answer is yes can we start discussing of how much technical quality we can obtain from further concessions.
[ # ]
Agreed, but this is a distraction
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 09:51 AM CST
I agree 100%, but while these are important points, it moves the discussion away from the technical points into philosophical points.

Once you can do that, Microsoft can argue "Agreed, so let's standardize OOXML and let governments decide for themselves whether OOXML contradicts their philosophy." You than get into an "absolutism"/"imperialism" versus "relativism"/"tolerance" debate which is too messy to handle for a poor standardization committee that just wants to resolve this issue (once and go all) and go home to their families. In the current political climate, tolerance and anti-imperialism tend to win out (at least in the press), so if we fight OOXML on this argument, OOXML will likely be passed.

IMO, a better argument is a technical one since it's clearcut. Three points of attack are:
  • If you can relate Civil ICT Standards to ISO's core mandate and show OOXML defies Civil ICT Standards, then OOXML must be rejected no matter what it is or if it is 100% documented. Microsoft might try to extend ISO's core mandate, but if they succeed, ISO's reputation for objectivity would be destroyed in unequivically in their documented mandate and that can be used by any government to audio ISO standards with far more scrutiny than they currently do the way diplomas from suspect universities are.
  • If you can show that even if OOXML is 100% documented, it can only be implemented by Microsoft (and perhaps not even them), then OOXML must be rejected. Former Microsoft developer Joel has a good explanation on why OOXML is so messy and why only Microsoft can fully implement it (using code they've previously written -- not from scratch): http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html
  • If you can show that OOXML has no mandate, OOXML must be rejected. OOXML claims to support backwards compatibility, but there are no OOXML documents out there. Microsoft's currently saved documents are not in the format of the existing OOXML spec and there's no guarantee that it will adopt it and even if they do, the few pre-OOXML spec documents out there are tiny in number compared to the huge number of DOC and ODF documents. Note, there may be a care for standardizing existing the DOC binary format since it fulfill's the backwards compatibility clause, but such a standard must state that no new documents should be created in the DOC format and that the DOC spec only exists to help conversion to other viable specs.
[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 10:23 AM CST

I hate to disagree with the obvious fan mail to your posting from all the commenters, but your Civil ICT principals are nuts.  You haven't thought through the implications in any detail.

Let's just take the one at a time, shall we?

  • That any citizen can use any product or service, proprietary or open, that she desires when interacting with her government.

So, if I want to write to the government using my favourite word-processor as of 1982, MultiMate II, they have to support it?  That's nonsense.  The vendor is long gone.  And if I choose to use smoke signals, they have to support that too?  What if I wish to communicate with the government in Latin? 

  • That any citizen can use any product or service when interacting with any other citizen, and to exercise every civil right.

There'e nothing wrong here, except 1) Requiring the product or service to be made available to the transmitting citizen, and 2) Requiring the receiving citizen to be able to understand.  If I already own a means of communication, I see nothing wrong with allowing me to try and use it (but you didn't mean that, did you -- what did you mean, anyway???)

  • That any entrepreneur can have equal access to marketplace opportunities at the technical level, independent of the market power of existing incumbents.

So, you want to make all intellectual property free?  And you want to overthrow existing contracts?

  • That any person, advantaged or disadvantaged, and anywhere in the world, can have equal access to the Internet and the Web in the most available and inexpensive method possible.

There is nothing wrong with this as an objective.  It would put it on a par with POTS.  But the realization of this will be enormously expensive.

  • That any owner of data can have the freedom to create, store, and move that data anywhere, any time, throughout her lifetime, without risk of capture, abandonment or loss due to dependence upon a single vendor.

Ah, this is your anti-Microsoft pot shot.  So, you want to make it a crime to be a monopolist? (It isn't now.)  Do you want to make it illegal for someone to choose to use the products from a monopolist (more correctly, oligopolist)?  Do you want to force bankrupt companies to continue to support their products?  Do you want to force companies to continue to support their obsolete prodcts forever?

That's a lot of worries.  And, I just tossed off a few.

- Ian Easson

 

[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 25 2008 @ 11:13 AM CST

Patrick Durusau's open letter is a complete puzzle; so much so that I had to  review my understanding of the term 'poster boy' .
When employed to denote a shining example of its type, it is generally meant as a term of derision. I however detected not a jot of  irony.
How, then, I ask myself, can Durusau eulogise  OOXML's progress without recognising he is inviting the death of the standard of which he
is guardian? Perhaps this Candide is simply in the wrong job.



[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 26 2008 @ 10:20 AM CST

"How, then, I ask myself, can Durusau eulogise  OOXML's progress without recognising he is inviting the death of the standard of which he
is guardian? Perhaps this Candide is simply in the wrong job."

Don't forget that Patrick Durusau is from the  Society of Biblical Literature ( http://www.sbl-site.org/ )

His "nature" impulse him to honour this sermon:

"
You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
—Matthew 5:38-42, NIV
"

(note: the evil person here is the proposer of an incomplete, low quality, un-implementable-by- non-microsoft-technologies, non-standards-reusable rushed fast-track internal product documentation, aka DIS 29500, or Office Open XML, or OpenXML or OOXML ,

Instead of criticize Microsoft, Durusau is giving the other cheek.
)

This is my only explanation of recent Durusau "strange" behaviour.

       Franco Merletti
    Software Developer
    Software final user
  Open standards enthusiast
  Citizen and tax payer of
   Cordoba - Argentina
[ # ]
Missing the Boat
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 27 2008 @ 08:34 AM CST

Andy, I accidentally put this comment in the wrong place in the heirarchy.  So, here it is again.

Andy, you've got a few fundamental things wrong that deflate your whole argument.

The core of what you say is in this quote: "OOXML, in contrast, is targeted at permitting information created in Office to be exchanged with any other application that implements OOXML with full fidelity.  It does so by requiring near total uniformity at the expense of precluding almost any innovation."

What you miss in this are two things:

1) By creating such a standard, it also creates a standard that serves the SAME purpose as what you say ODF does, and it does it very well (better than ODF in fact, because it is more expressive and extensible).  It creates a standard for word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentation that can be used for interchange WITHOUT any use anywhere of Microsoft Office (and it does it extremely well).

2) Your remark about lack of innovation in OOXML tells me that you do not understand the revolutionary implications of custom XML parts in OOXML, and the things that can be done with it.  These scenarios using Custom XML parts are typically the ones where NO copy of Microsoft Office is ever present.

Applications of OOXML that sidestep Microsoft Offfice and which use custom XML parts are currently being developed.  They are, however, largely for use in enterprises (line of business applications), and are thus largely invisible from public view.

You really, REALLY missed the boat here.  You owe it to yourself to look into this.

[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Wednesday, February 27 2008 @ 09:56 PM CST
Ian,

Sorry to be awhile in responding; things have been very busy in Geneva. 

I hate to disagree with the obvious fan mail to your posting from all the commenters, but your Civil ICT principals are nuts.  You haven't thought through the implications in any detail.

Let's just take the one at a time, shall we?

  • That any citizen can use any product or service, proprietary or open, that she desires when interacting with her government.

So, if I want to write to the government using my favourite word-processor as of 1982, MultiMate II, they have to support it?  That's nonsense.  The vendor is long gone.  And if I choose to use smoke signals, they have to support that too?  What if I wish to communicate with the government in Latin?

You have, as another commenter has already pointed out, of course misread a simple statement intended for brevity.  That isn't what I meant.  But, as another commenter has also noted, this would indeed be possible for some time,  if there was a common standard in use by all.

  • That any citizen can use any product or service when interacting with any other citizen, and to exercise every civil right.

There'e nothing wrong here, except 1) Requiring the product or service to be made available to the transmitting citizen, and 2) Requiring the receiving citizen to be able to understand.  If I already own a means of communication, I see nothing wrong with allowing me to try and use it (but you didn't mean that, did you -- what did you mean, anyway???)

Again, you deliberately misread my point, which is the same as the one before, except among citizens. 

  • That any entrepreneur can have equal access to marketplace opportunities at the technical level, independent of the market power of existing incumbents.

So, you want to make all intellectual property free?  And you want to overthrow existing contracts?

Open standards solve these problems at the time of creation such that making intellectual property free other than on a consensual basis, at least as between those participating in the process.  The process also provides for means to attempt to address third party rights, if and when they become known and are asserted.

  • That any person, advantaged or disadvantaged, and anywhere in the world, can have equal access to the Internet and the Web in the most available and inexpensive method possible.

There is nothing wrong with this as an objective.  It would put it on a par with POTS.  But the realization of this will be enormously expensive.

Many things are expensive (e.g., the war in Iraq) that are far more expensive and far less justified.  Civil rights were expensive to assert in human lives.  And yet those involved, even those who gave their lives, thought it to be worthwhile.  Billions have been spent in the US to make buildings handicapped accessible.  Many millions will be spent to make Websites to even handicapped accessible - and the most will have to be spent to make them accessible via IE.  In summary, yes.  But so?

  • That any owner of data can have the freedom to create, store, and move that data anywhere, any time, throughout her lifetime, without risk of capture, abandonment or loss due to dependence upon a single vendor.

Ah, this is your anti-Microsoft pot shot.  So, you want to make it a crime to be a monopolist? (It isn't now.)  Do you want to make it illegal for someone to choose to use the products from a monopolist (more correctly, oligopolist)?  Do you want to force bankrupt companies to continue to support their products?  Do you want to force companies to continue to support their obsolete prodcts forever?

This is rather ridiculous.  By the same argument, we should allow cable TV companies the freedom to do whatever they want went we grant them an exclusive franchise to an area.  Or to a water company.  Or to any other utility.  Or to companies that buy radio frequencies.  I believe that the Internet will be agreed to be a public utility like any other, and that those that provide it will be required to respect certain responsibilities that go with their monopolies (or oligopolies, if you wish).  There is nothing whatsoever unusual or inconsistent with this based upon a hundred years of law in many countries.

A final note;  I have removed the comments that you found uncivil, which were in fact rather mild by Internet standards.  If you find them sufficiently objectionable to wish me to remove them, you might refrain from using words such as "nuts," "ridiculous" about comments, and to ridicule those comments, simply because you disagree with them or have not understood them.  This is not the way to engage in

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Please provide a ticket to the Boat
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Wednesday, February 27 2008 @ 09:59 PM CST
To the anonymous commenter about missing the boat:

At the moment, the only evidence that I have of what you are talking about, among everything that I have heard and read, and all the questions that I have asked and had answered (including by Microsoft) as recently as yesterday in Geneva), is your anonymous comment.  So if you can provide a link to the sites of the developers you mention, which include descriptions of the products you mention, then I will be happy to look at them.  I'll be happy to look into them, if you will provide them.

Signing a post is also, of course, always helpful and appreciated.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards”
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 28 2008 @ 06:54 AM CST
all I got to say is I have read the odf standard

but I got to page 2000 of the ooxml standard and couldn't go on anymore (kept falling asleep) and found it just about impossible to implement.

standards should be simple and clean and that is what odf is - at least to me.  we shouldn't have to hire a team of developers to implement them.

great article Andy and totally agree with what you said.  it is time for the IT industry to take some social responsibility.

[ # ]