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Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority

OpenDocument and OOXML
I have now created a very extensive, indexed BRM Resource Page to hold the many links, press releases, delegate statements and other material that were originally found here.  You can find that extra materials here.


A rather incredible week in Geneva has just ended, bringing to a close the Herculean task assumed by the over 100 delegates from 32 countries that attended the BRM.  That challenge, of course, was how to productively resolve the more than 1,100 comments (after elimination of duplicates) registered by the 87 National Bodies that voted last summer with respect to a specification that itself exceeded 6,000 pages. 

I have spent the week in Geneva, and have spoken with many delegates from many delegations on a daily basis.  Each believed that a body that purports to issue "global open standards" should not impose an obligation of secrecy on how the standards that people must live with are approved on their behalf.  It would be fair to say that, notwithstanding all of the charges and counter charges that have been made leading up to the BRM regarding how National Body votes were taken last summer, how delegations have been selected, and how they have been instructed to act and vote at the BRM, there has been a good faith effort by all to try to achieve a successful result.  The same appears to have held true within delegations, even those that contained representatives of the most opposed parties.

There are two ways in which you may hear the results of the BRM summarized by those that issue statements and press releases in the days to come.  Perhaps inevitably, they are diametrically opposed, as has so often happened in the ODF - OOXML saga to date.  Those results are as follows:

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM, validating OOXML

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the "Fast Track" process

[Paragraph updated]  In this blog entry, I will explain why the following is the best characterization, and help you read the various press releases and statements that may be made with the benefit of the appropriate context:

Only a very small percentage of the proposed dispositions were discussed in detail, amended and approved by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the "Fast Track" process

It did not take long for the delegates to conclude that it would be impossible to discuss and resolve all of the proposed dispositions, notwithstanding efforts to streamline the process.  After several days, only about 20 to 30 dispositions had been thoroughly discussed and voted upon [updated: the Edited Meeting Notes appear to indicate that a total of 63 resolutions were discussed and individually voted upon].  Approximately 200 dispositions [Updated: the Edited Meeting Notes indicate that the actual number was 126] in the nature of minor editorial corrections (misplaced commas and the like) were also adopted.  Discussion increasingly turned as a result to seeking ways to streamline the process in order to reach a conclusion within the five days allowed.  Those efforts included instructing interested delegates to go off-line to discuss a resolution and come back with proposed compromise language.  However, these efforts proved insufficient to do more than nibble away at the huge number of dispositions remaining.

Acknowledging the impossibility of achieving the stated goal of a BRM (e.g, to carefully review each proposed disposition and reach consensus on an appropriate resolution), a proposal was made on Wednesday to approve all proposed resolutions in a single vote before the end of the BRM, thus nominally "resolving" each remaining proposed disposition without any discussion at all.  It was agreed that this was the only available option, and a written ballot with all of the c. 900 proposed dispositions that had never been discussed was accordingly issued on Thursday.  Each National Body delegation was requested to complete the ballot and return it on Friday.  The alternatives offered were as follows:

1.  Indicate "adopt," "disapprove" or "abstain" after each proposed disposition.

2.  Indicate such a vote on as many proposed dispositions as desired (or none), and vote "accept," "reject" or "abstain" on all of the rest.

It is significant to note that voting to accept all dispositions that were not discussed is a less obvious choice than might be assumed. In fact, few if any of the dispositions that were individually discussed and voted upon during the week were adopted without change.  In other words, adopting a proposed resolution without discussion could result in making OOXML worse, rather than better, because of dependencies.

On Friday, the ballots came back.  Some contained votes on a small number of dispositions and some adopted the default option for all of the listed dispositions.  The final tally (as recorded by participants, and subject to final confirmation) was as follows with respect to the "default" provision that on each vote covered all, or almost all, of the listed proposed dispositions:

                          P Countries Only                All Votes

Approve                              4                                       6

Disapprove                        4                                       4

Refuse to Register
  a Vote                               2                                       4

Abstain                             15                                     18

Total votes cast:            25                                     32


The appropriate rules to be applied to these results are as follows:

1.  Under Directive 9.1.4 under the standing rules of ISO/IEC JTC1, only the votes of "P" members are to be taken into account.  However, Alex Brown, the Convenor, decided in advance, notwithstanding the rules, to allow all attending delegations to vote.

2.  Only "approve" and "disapprove" votes are counted.

We can now turn to the two contentions that you will hear:

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM:  The argument is as follows:

 
-  Only "approve" and "disapprove" votes are to be counted.  The rules are the rules

  -  That said, ignore the standing JTC1 rule that only P votes count

  -  Ignore the protests and abstentions, regardless of the fact that, together with the "disapprove" votes, they represent more than 80% of the delegations

  -  Ignore the fact that only c. 20 [Updated:  20 - 3o] substitutions out of c. 900 substantive dispositions, were actually discussed

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM

  The purpose of the adoption process is to ensure that a quality specification is approved

  -  The purpose of the process is also to achieve consensus on the final result, so that a finally approved specification is regarded as being appropriate, useful and desirable around the world

It is clear to me that the first conclusion is, at best, technically accurate, and even that conclusion assumes that the decision to allow O members to vote was justified.  The better conclusion is that despite the good faith efforts of all concerned and their willingness to see this process through to its conclusion, it has proven to be impossible for as large and poorly prepared a specification as this to be properly addressed via the "Fast Track" process. 

[Updated:  it would be inaccurate to characterize choosing "abstain" as a default position on the last c. 900 dispositions as a rejection of those dispositions upon which the NB in question did not specifically vote.  "No opinion" and acquiescence would be a fair characterization.  The significant conclusion to take away is that while the National Bodies had a chance to stand up and say what there major concerns were, there was no opportunity for the great majority of the dispositions involved to be discussed in detail, and to be amended as necessary before being approved or disapproved.]

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from this result:

1.  As many have contended, the Fast Track process was a totally inappropriate process for Microsoft and Ecma to have adopted for OOXML

2.  OOXML has not been adequately addressed within that process to be entitled to final adoption

3.  It would be inappropriate for the ISO/IEC members to approve the adoption of OOXML in the thirty day voting period ahead

Many, many, people around the world have tried very hard to make the OOXML adoption process work.  It is very unfortunate that they were put to this predictably unsuccessful result through the self-interest of a single vendor taking advantage of a permissive process that was never intended to be abused in this fashion.  It would be highly inappropriate to compound this error by approving a clearly unfinished specification in the voting period ahead. 

To paraphrase a former First Lady, it's time to "Just say No" to OOXML.


For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority | 124 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
A waste of time
Authored by: AlanGriffiths on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 09:21 AM CST
Unfortunately, something like this was predictable. The amount of work required to address concerns with this proposed ISO standard was way beyond what such a large group could meaningfully address in the time allotted.

It would be nice to think that Microsoft would follow the precident set by C++/CLI and now withdraw the standard.

But somehow I don't see that happening.
[ # ]
  • A waste of time - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 11 2008 @ 12:55 PM CST
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 09:47 AM CST

Andy, I'm very familiar with the JTC1 directives... the one that you quote only applies if the room FAILS to get concensus, in which case the P members take over.

In this case though, looking at the numbers you quote, concensus was indeed reached in the room. So all that you draw on doesn't apply. You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present.

The decisions were made by everybody present, all views count. The result proves it.

Shame on you... this is a global society, we all count.

 

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 09:49 AM CST
Where is all this data from? I don't see it anywhere else on the web.
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 10:07 AM CST
I think you are missing the word 'task' after Herculean. The most appropriate one for comparison might be cleaning the Augean stables in a day. So who in the allegory takes the roles of Hercules/Heracles, King Augeas, the rivers Alpheus and Peneus, and the cattle?
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 10:22 AM CST
"You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present."


You are intentionally mistaking things to discredit people. 

The same logic would apply to fast-track ballot rules ( like the last september/07 ):

P-members are who approves the fast-tracking. O members only count to "non-approve" . Will you say that this rule discriminates O member?

This has to do with the "nature" of a P-member: P is PARTICIPATING. O is OBSERVER. Can you understand this difference?

<noDiplomacyHereSorry>
So, if O-members want to cast votes in BRMs, they will have to ask Microsoft some bucks and upgrade to P-members, as have done:

Cyprus island,
 Jamaica island,
 Malta island,
Lebanon
and the representative of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) , Wemba Opota, a senegalese citizen, who is responsible for Microsoft West Africa and represent the Ivory Coast national interests in standardization.

This mentioned NBs, with 0 ( zero ) background and expertise in Document Description and Processing Languages ( http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/ ) had been upgraded by ISO JTC1 to P-member status a few days before last setember OOXML fast-tracking ballot close and are deciding on behalf world countries ( like mine, Argentina who has no vote in this fast-track fiasco ) what will be the international document standards for my sons in the following years

</noDiplomacyHereSorry>

Shame on you

            Orlando Marcelo

 

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 12:16 PM CST
I hope over the next weeks the abstainers will change their votes to reject the standard.
[ # ]
Title somewhat misleading - and why I think its good news
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 12:56 PM CST
Andy,

I think the title of this piece is a bit misleading. Maybe the title will be correct, 30 days from now, when the final vote is clear, but right now I would say OOXML approval was not at stake at the BRM, deciding what ooxml would look like was at stake.

A second comment would be your remark that voting at the BRM should be limited to P-countries, I had the impression Alex Browns called the shots at the BRM, and what he says goes. An unenviable task but so far I think he did as best as he or anyone could.

Actually, I kind of like the outcome of the BRM. One thing that always worried me was that with all those comments being discussed and changed (one would hope) the final text would not be available within 30 days. With this outcome the final text of ecma 376 will be available within a week and it is really clear what the NB's are voting for

Peter G>

ps: well, really clear, it must be somewhere in those 9000+ pages ;-)
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 02:33 PM CST

Andy, you're deprecating your quality standardL Leave the propaganda to the no-ooxml folks.

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 03:20 PM CST
If you prefer direct to indirect reporting, check out www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/02/29/BRM-narrative

 -Tim
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 03:21 PM CST

I can see several of the larger delegations being able to mark an approval (or disapproval) for a lot of those 900 issues and then not give a general vote.

Andy would then list that as abstain even though such a country might have approved (or disappovred) hundreds of those issues.

 

 

[ # ]
Responses to Comments Thus Far
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 04:08 PM CST
First, thanks to the comments so far - including the errors that people spotted for me that have now been corrected.  I spoke three times at the Open Forum Europe conference, have been in meetings formal and informal from early until very late every day, and there was a lot going on around me while I was trying to post this, and unfortunately, it showed.

On to other more "interesting," and invariably anonymous comments, such as one that included the following:

Andy, I'm very familiar with the JTC1 directives... the one that you quote only applies if the room FAILS to get concensus, in which case the P members take over.

Response:  Wrong.  There is specific rule for BRMs, as quoted.  I've cited it and you and anyone else can look it up to confirm

In this case though, looking at the numbers you quote, concensus was indeed reached in the room. So all that you draw on doesn't apply. You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Response:  I'm having a hard time understanding what you are saying.  6 out of 32 voted "approve."  The only consensus I can draw from that is "not approve."

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present.

Response:  No, I'm simply citing the rule.  You can't say "follow the rules" for one purpose and "don't follow the rules" for another.  That would be inconsistent, now wouldn't it?  It is ISO/IEC that decided that O members' votes should count, not me.  If they were disenfranchised, it was not by me.

The decisions were made by everybody present, all views count. The result proves it.

Response:  We totally agree on this point, if not the conclusion to be drawn  form it.

Shame on you... this is a global society, we all count.

Response:  Again we agree!  Our averages are improving!  I have tried to be sure that the votes of the 26 who did not approve are not lost in the post -BRM reportage.

Thanks for your thoughts, and do let us know who you are the next time you drop by.
The next question:
Where is all this data from? I don't see it anywhere else on the web.

Response:  A good and fair question.  From participants in the BRM, who downloaded the results of the ballot from the SC 34 Web site.  Sadly, the public is not likely to be given access to it.  Happily, some delegates are already giving interviews to the press.
And next this:
I think you are missing the word 'task' after Herculean.

Response:  Sadly, yes.  See first comment above.

The most appropriate one for comparison might be cleaning the Augean stables in a day. So who in the allegory takes the roles of Hercules/Heracles, King Augeas, the rivers Alpheus and Peneus, and the cattle?

Response: 
I stand corrected - cleansing the Augean stables is unquestionably the more apt metaphor.  I believe that the rivers Alpheus and Peneus, in this instance, are the forces of public exposure and sunshine, and for Herakles, I nominate the community.
To Orlando:  Thanks for defending my arguments.

To this anonymous commenter:
Andy, you're deprecating your quality standardL Leave the propaganda to the no-ooxml folks.

Response:  Interesting.  I take your intention, but am curious what lies behind it?  Except for a small amount of commentary, such as the last paragraph, this is factual reporting based upon first hand accounts.  What troubles you?  Are there specific errors you would like to point out?

Thanks for your thoughts, and do let us know who you are the next time you drop by.
To Tim Bray:
Response:  I saw you once from a distance this week, but didn't get a chance to connect.  Thanks for the link, as first hand accounts are always better than second hand accounts, such as this.  Your account matches those that I received from all sources, with one exception noted below, and I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the failure of the process and it's causes.  The only area in which our accounts don't match is where you say:
Most votes on this were Yes, because whether or not you were 100% satisfied with any given ECMA/Microsoft Response, it was usually an improvement over what had been there before. So almost all the proposals that didn’t get brought up at the meeting passed, which is quite sane behavior. Obviously, we’d have liked to have brought more up for further improvement.
When I got the actual votes (which are rather different, with very few delegations voting to approve), I had the same question as you did - why not vote to approve resolutions, since presumably a resolution is better than the original problem?  I posed this question to Frank Farance, the Head of Delegation of the United States, in an interview that I'll post on Sunday or Monday when I have a chance to type it up and he has a chance to vet it.  His explanation was that almost every disposition that was actually discussed and approved required discussion and revision.  In his area of competence, he thought that adopting the proposed dispositions without amendment would have been worse than rejecting them.  This was a major reason that the United States delegation voted to "Disapprove"  (the US, incidentally, voted to adopt OOXML during the balloting period that ended on September 2).
I expect that there will be more comments to answer tomorrow.

To all that have followed this process in the long term, there are two conclusions to draw:  as close as the right thing happened today as could have been expected, and it ain't over yet.

Best regards to all,

  -  Andy
[ # ]
A Reply to One More Today
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Friday, February 29 2008 @ 04:12 PM CST
I see one more comment before I log off for the day (I'm still in Geneva):

I can see several of the larger delegations being able to mark an approval (or disapproval) for a lot of those 900 issues and then not give a general vote.

Andy would then list that as abstain even though such a country might have approved (or disappovred) hundreds of those issues.

In the numbers that I reported, I have only called a vote an "abstain" if that is what the delegation marked on its ballot as the "default" vote on any proposed dispositions as to which it did not indicate a specific vote. 

  -  Andy

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 12:25 AM CST

You have always come close to the line.  Sad to say, no longer factual, or quasi-objective.  You have officially "jumped the shark" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark].    You are in too deep.  Have lost perspective.  It's a shame.

[ # ]
Reply to Shark
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 02:53 AM CST
Dear Shark,

Help me out here; can you please point to the inaccuracies?  If you follow the links that I've added at the end to blog entries written by delegates in the room, as well as read the articles in the press where delegates were interviewed and quoted, you'll see that my piece is entirely consistent with all of this information from direct participants.

Also, signing your name is always helpful for context.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Alex Brown on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 03:59 AM CST
Andy,

I'm won't be composing a blog entry on the BRM for a bit, but I wil point out that your article contains surprising inaccuracies about what the subject of the vote was, how it worked, and what the governing rules were. A health warning is in order.
[ # ]
Reply to Alex Brown
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 05:34 AM CST

Alex,

I would appreciate it if you would be more specific than to simply cast a
shadow over this blog post.  As you can see, some  people who haven't
signed their posts or been specific are attacking he post without saying
why..

I have confirmed the accuracy of this blog entry with several delegates, as
well as JTC1 rules experts.  While I respect your opinion, and while being
the convenor of the BRM makes you responsible for interpreting and applying
the rules, this does not mean that your interpretation of the rules will
necessarily be correct.

If you have issues instead with any factual data, what the delegates
thought was happening is in an important respect as important, or more so,
than what the convenor thinks.  The delegates have the responsibility to
vote and act as instructed.  If they understand that differently than you
do, then I think it is fair to say that you and Gabriel Barta, on the one
hand,  and the delegates, on the other, bear equal opportunity.if there is
any disagreement after the fact.

For now, I would state that "it is your opinion that there are
inaccuracies".  Whether that is in fact the case can only be determined
when you identify what you find to be inaccurate.  The kind of statement
you have left here does no good to anyone, other than the obvious.

  - Andy

[ # ]
Great progress!
Authored by: overshoot on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 07:10 AM CST
Seconding Brian Jones, the BRM made great progress.  Once the editorial stuff was out of the way [1] the BRM worked through 20 of approximately 900 issues this week.  It seems as though the only thing standing in the way of a quality specification is a bit more time to work out the remaining issues.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that another 45 weeks should do it for the fast-track process.

[1] In my own committee work, we've always had editors who were specifically chartered to correct stuff like that.  They would issue a report and it would be voted on (unanimity required for approval) in a flash.
[ # ]
Other figures here
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 03:02 PM CST

Other numbers here

http://blogs.msdn.com/jasonmatusow/archive/2008/02/29/the-open-xml-ballot-resolution-meeting-brm-was-an-unqualified-success.aspx#7976508

Seem like more than 20 countries accepted most dispositions. Not just 6.

Country         abst+no+refusal   Percentage

-----------     ---------------   -----------

China                     1027    100.00%

Ireland                   1027    100.00%

Ecuador                   1027    100.00%

Netherland                1027    100.00%

Mexico                    1027    100.00%

Malaysia                  1022     99.51%

Korea (s)                 1021     99.42%

New Zealand               1018     99.12%

Australia                 1008     98.15%

India                     1005     97.86%

Italy                      995     96.88%

Belgium                    986     96.01%

Israel                     983     95.72%

Kenya                      970     94.45%

US                         966     94.06%

France                     965     93.96%

Greece                     963     93.77%

Portugal                   935     91.04%

Japan                      934     90.94%

Denmark                    912     88.80%

Canada                     886     86.27%

South Africa               875     85.20%

Denmark                    871     84.81%

Brazil                     573     55.79%

Switzerland                349     33.98%

UK                         187     18.21%

Czech                        7     0.68%

Finland                      6     0.58%

Poland (O member)            4     0.39%

Chile (O member)             1     0.10%

Ivory Coast (MS HOD)(*)      0     0.00%

NO (MS HOD)                  0     0.00%

(*) http://www.noooxml.org/forum/t-43510/ivory-coast-represented-by-microsoft-senegal-at-the-brm

 

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Inigo on Sunday, March 02 2008 @ 12:50 AM CST
Andy,

Your figures on default voting positions are accurate, but extremely misleading. The majority of countries adopted a default "abstain" position, and then voted individually on the issues (some countries on all issues, and some countries on just the issues that they had raised). Thus, to describe them as "abstaining" is incorrect.

Since you apparently have a source willing to provide you with information from the BRM, I suggest you ask them for the "BRM Voting Count" spreadsheet, and analyse the detailed numbers yourself. Pay particular attention to the "Total Yes" column, for the issues that passed. My analysis of these numbers paints a very different picture than yours.

Inigo
[ # ]
"Wall of money"
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 02 2008 @ 06:19 AM CST
We apparently have a "Wall of Money" on one side ... how much could Microsoft afford to spend in an effort to have ISO issue a standard for "Whatever format Microsoft Office 2007 uses to store its documents on disk", and still  come out ahead ?

On the other side, there are a bunch of technical experts, some corporate, some academic, who answered the question of "how should we store long-lived reviseable office productivity documents" with what became ISO 26300 ODF XML; who answered "No, there is no point in ISO issuing a standard for Microsoft Office 2007, and in fact it is damaging if ISO do that.".

Yes, I work for one of these corporations; but I don't represent them. I'm also a physicist and engineer; I can see how to reuse ISO26300 documents an all sorts of ways ; but I can't see what else you can do with a DIS29500 document apart from "Buy a copy of Windows and Office".

An ISO26300 document can be mine. A DIS29500 document is "marketing material for Microsoft".

If you got the 'technical experts' together again, they would come up again with something like ISO26300.

Is there a public interest in "caving to pressure from the wall of money" or "resisting the pressure of the wall of money" ? I understand there are a variety of private interests around ... Microsoft would obviously like the "caving to pressure" result ... but ISO is a "public interest" body.

How to establish the public interest, and keep it established ?

On your Dollar Bills, it says "Good for all debts, public and private". This is a "public" one.

I applaud the BRM ... it was a rare forum where things could be discussed without the intrusion of commercial lawyers, pointy-headed businessmen, heavily-invested shareholders expecting returns from their investments ... a place where engineers, scientists, and public officials could speak.

But what next ?
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Sunday, March 02 2008 @ 07:15 AM CST
Inigo and Doug,

First, thank you both for commenting.  I'm finding that there is a difference of opinion among delegates as to what they thought they were indicating when they were voting on the final c. 900 dispositions.  This is probably not surprising under the circumstances.  Some of the explanations that I have heard, though (I just got another by email), I'm having a great deal of trouble understanding, as they seem illogical on their face.  I'm hoping that a lot of delegates will do what you're doing in commenting here so that people can try and sort it all out.

With that by way of background, here are some responses to your comments:

1.  Inigo, on the subject of the votes on specific dispositions: I agree that what you say makes a great deal of sense, but my bet is that it will be impossible to draw conclusions in all cases based on such an analysis.  Assuming for example that the figures that someone has posted above are accurate, how would one know the following:
-  If the only vote received was from an NB other than the NB that had lodged the comment, it seems that this vote would prevail.  What exactly would that tell you?

-  If only two votes were received on that disposition, one from the NB most interested and one vote from another NB,  and the two votes were not the same, then two would cancel out, if I understand the process correctly.  What exactly would that tell you?

-  If no one voted on a single disposition (even the original NB that made the comment that generated the proposed disposition), does that mean that it's a good one, or that no one had the time to really think it through, or couldn't decide?

-  If the only vote was a disapproval by the NB that asked for the change, because they like the proposed change even less, then as I understand it,  no change will be made at all.  Is that a good result?
And so on.  What concerns me is that, according to Frank Farance, those dispositions that were discussed were almost invariably changed, often quite a bit.  So while a disposition might have been "approved" by as few as one NB in addition to all of the abstains, I'm not sure how much to be comforted by that. 

I would certainly agree that if the one vote that was received, or if one of the votes that was included in the "approve" category, was from the NB that had asked for a change, this would certainly be an important point to be taken into account (but not if that NB voted to disapprove - see above, and that carried the day), then I would agree that the 900 vote process was a useful device.  So here's the analysis that I would pursue:
  • Of all of the dispositions out of the 900 that received individual votes, how many included votes by the NB(s) that had originally asked for the change?
  • Of  those, when the votes are counted, how many went the way that those NB(s) voted?
  • Of those, how many of those NB votes were to approve rather than disapprove?
  • Of the total of c. 900,  how many were voted on at all?
Does that sound like a rational way to do the analysis?  If so, what's your guess on the number that remains after the first three bullets, and also for the last bullet?

2.  Doug, I don't think I said that 80% were "protesting."  What I was saying, and as the blog entry title indicates, 80% of the proposed dispositions failed to gain majority approval.  I'm not sure how you can call an "abstention" anything other than that.  If someone chooses not only not to vote on an individual disposition, but to abstain on the rest, then it's hard for me to see this as anything other than "no comment." 

That said, I agree that it would be fair to say that (for instance) if a proposed disposition got several votes to approve (including the original NB proponent(s), then it should be deducted from the 80% figure.

3.  Doug, I talked to a lot of delegates, both at the wine and cheese events and the evening keynote sessions and at lunch as well as at the bar at the Intercontinental.  They were from a lot of delegations, and few were affiliates of IBM.  All agreed that everyone was trying very hard, and that it was all very frustrating.  I also agree that doing the 900 vote was a good idea, if the goal was to come out of the BRM having done _something_ with everything. 

But was that actually a good idea?  My personal view is that a better result would have been to have voted something along the lines of  "this is as much as we had time to do; no opinion is expressed on the rest," or perhaps to deal with the last 900 on a different basis (e.g.,  "the indications on these 900 should be regarded as advisory, rather than authoritative"). 

It seems to me that no one's interests are well served by doing so much in so little time.  If those that want to see OOXML go through are successful, then we will have to live with a standard that could have been much better if more time had been spent.  And if it fails, then those that wanted to see it go through, and those that tried hard to try and make that happen, will have seen that work to have been in vain. 

In that case, hopefully Ecma would still make the changes and Microsoft would implement them.  If that happens, something would be salvaged, but more could have been accomplished.

4.  Doug, on the P vs. O point:  I've included this mostly because I know that it's going to be brought up by others.  I'm not personally that interested in it, because I think that the big questions are these:
  • Is OOXML now good enough to approve, leaving aside other issues like IPR, politics and so on?
  • Should OOXML be approved, given the fact that such an inappropriate vehicle was chosen to process (the Fast Track process) a specification that required so much work?
I'm not competent to judge the first, so I'll defer to others on that.  But I think I have heard enough on the second point to have an opinion.  Many delegates told me that OOXML as it came from Ecma was not ready for prime time (the words usually used were "total garbage" or similar).  Many also told me that the process was crippled at every stage by inadequate time to do a good job.  Thus, the BRM was just the latest and most clearly problematic example of an effort to cram something through in a way that is not conducive to producing a good result. 

Just because there was a "result" does not mean that it was an adequate or useful result.  Just that a lot of good people worked very hard to do the best they could in a situation that they really shouldn't have been placed in to begin with.  My concern is that it be made clear to all what the results of the BRM really were.  Needless to say, I don't think that Jason Matusow's Unqualified Success blog entry is consistent with what happened.  To the extent that my blog entry isn't either, I welcome and appreciate your assistance in tuning it up.

Again, thank you both for commenting, and responses to the above are welcome.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
See my Exchange with Alex Brown Above
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Sunday, March 02 2008 @ 11:49 AM CST
Alex Brown has been kind enough to offer some comments, to which I have responded.  They are in the set of comments just above this post and are, I think, quite useful in fleshing out what those in the room were trying to accomplish with their vote on 900 proposed dispositions,  and why I personally think that this decision while well intentioned, was not a good decision.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Frank Farance Interview Quotes
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Sunday, March 02 2008 @ 02:04 PM CST
For those that have asked for additional information on my sources, I see that Frank Farance has been quoted in a number of articles now.  While there were many delegates I spoke to in addition to Frank, he is a Head of Delegation (for the US), and therefore was a part of discussions in HoD meetings as well as in general meetings.  Here are some of his statements, with links to where they can be found:

ComputerWorld article (Eric Lai):
"Eighty percent of the changes were not discussed," said Frank Farance, head of the U.S. delegation to this week's ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in ISO, which voted against the changes. "It's like if you had a massive software project and 80% of it was not run through QA."

"It's a big problem," Farance continued. "I've never seen anything like this, and I've been doing this for 25 years."

"People were doing the usual amount of lobbying," he said. "Was anybody doing anything egregious or out of process? No."

EfluxMedia article (Alice Turner:  Same quotes


InfoWorld/IDG News Service
article (Peter Sayer):

If the specification for the OOXML file format is adopted as a standard in its current form, "there are likely to be hundreds of defects," said the head of the U.S. delegation at the meeting, Frank Farance.

"Virtually every comment we processed did not survive unedited," he said.

The 80 percent of comments that were not discussed during the meeting were put to a "default vote," resulting in the automatic adoption of ECMA's recommendations without modification by delegates, he said.

"I see no particular rationale for why we were limited in time. I don't know how you can deal with 6,000 pages with 3,500 comments in a week. It's like trying to run a two-minute mile," he said.

ComputerWorld article (John Fontana):

"I have been doing standards work for 25 years and I have never been through a BRM like this," said Frank Farance, head of the US delegation. "We made good progress on 20 per cent, but virtually everything we were able to approve this week needed review, so it is highly likely that the other 80 per cent would have required some degree of editing."

Farance said: "a lot of rules were made up on the fly," after the delegates realized it was mid-week and their task was only 20 per cent completed. "We were able to get some things corrected, but it was sort of like putting your finger in a dike and then seeing another hole and then another hole."

[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 03:47 AM CST
"9 Voting
9.1 General
9.1.4 In a meeting, except as otherwise specified in these directives,
questions are decided by a majority of the votes cast at the meeting
by *P-members* expressing either approval or disapproval."

"9.1.10 At all levels of voting, if more than 50% of the P-members
*have not voted*, the vote will have *failed*. Late votes shall not be
counted. No extensions shall be granted."

  --Dario
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 03:52 AM CST
One comment more:

Thanks god ISO JTC1 don't deliver food and chemical standards.

What a way to make standards !  Keep the party

      --Dario
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 04:13 AM CST

The following was submitted at Jason Matusow blog , responding his post "The Open XML Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) Was An Unqualified Success" ( http://blogs.msdn.com/jasonmatusow/archive/2008/02/29/the-open-xml-ballot-resolution-meeting-brm-was-an-unqualified-success.aspx )

But never saw the light ( censored by Jason?, why?  )
-----

"The DIS 29500 ballot resolution meeting (BRM) finished up in Geneva today and was an unqualified success by any measure. "

please specify which are the measures that compose the "any measure" set

"A few things need to be kept top of mind as national bodies solidify their position within the next 30 days:"

thanks to worry about NB mind, let see what are the things ...

"A BRM is about technical work on the remaining open issues most important to participating national standards bodies"

first of all: BRM has gone... why are you telling NBs what is supposed they must know *before* the BRM. I believe that you are underestimating them.

This BRM was about discuss 3500 comments/observations detected during a few months of quick review of +6000 pages of a DIS, which were responsible of a "disapproval" of DIS 29500 in the september ballot.

"Many issues raised by national bodies can be addressed in advance of the BRM through the proposed dispositions of the submitting organization and, in some cases, discussions between the national bodies and the submitter.  This happened with Open  XML, where national bodies identified many issues that were addressed to their  satisfaction before the BRM started."

if this were the case, why were there 18 abstentions in the BRM vote tally? ( http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080229055319727 )

"The BRM is an opportunity to discuss the remaining issues of importance to national bodies. "

according to reports ( Frank Farance, HOD of USA, Tim Bray, delegate from Canada and other mentioned in Andy post ), only 20 comments have been discussed. The amount of work required to address concerns with this proposed ISO standard was way beyond what such a large group could meaningfully address in the time allotted.

"   * The convener, Alex Brown, with the help of ISO/IEC and SC34 officers,  ran a very successful BRM."

please define "successful"

"   * During the meeting, each delegation was given the opportunity to identify those  issues most important to them thus defining the scope of work for the BRM.  "

let each delegation affirm this ( speaking or voting in one month ), thank you

"The BRM focused on building consensus on significant remaining technical issues and, in many cases, resulted in modifications to the proposed dispositions to refine and
 improve them."

let each delegation affirm this ( speaking or voting in one month ), thank you

"   * By the end of the BRM, national bodies were able to consider for their approval  each proposed disposition. 
The vast majority of those proposed dispositions were adopted, resulting in a better specification that will better meet the interests of national bodies and the broader community."

how many delegations voted for approve this "vast majority" of proposed dispositions? six over thirty two for example?  ( http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080229055319727 )

"Extensive steps were taken within the last year to improve Open XML through  work with national standards bodies (and their participants) within the  inclusive framework of ISO/IEC  processes."

let each delegation affirm this ( speaking or voting in one month ), thank you

"   * The Project Editor and Ecma TC-45 reached out to NSBs for ongoing input to the  disposition process. Their valuable input was influential in the generation of the  dispositions and that is why such overwhelmingly positive consensus was achieved
 during the BRM. "

i would have preferred that ECMA TC 45 ( and Microsoft specially ) did their homework previous to submitting DIS 29500, this is the "spirit" of fast-tracking: to fast-review a mature draft standard , not to make rushed, massive and not reviewed changes.

"   * Conference calls, meetings, progress reports, early postings of dispositions, the  full report on Jan 14...all of this was done as the groundwork for the BRM. And this  was on top of the preceding 7 months of extensive technical engagement by the working  groups and committees within the NSBs."

i see this "progress reports" as an "artifact" of the work. Do you think that NBs around the world have *all* the time to work with you to correct this DIS?

What is needed is that you ( ECMA and Microsoft ) submit a "final" text , so NB can review it and finally disaprove ( or approve it ). Still today, this text is not available at http://www.ecma-international.org/dis29500_brm/

" Because of this, there were no "surprise" issue  to be dealt with."

may be the surprise were the +6000 pages of the initial draft and the +2000 page of the dispositions and the scarce time to review it ( see the following Tim Bray [ one of the fathers of XML ] post and search the word "frightening" :  http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/02/29/BRM-narrative )

" And without question, the specification was improved based on the diligent feedback of  NSBs from around the world. "

i would have preferred that ECMA TC 45 ( and Microsoft specially ) did their homework previous to submitting DIS 29500, this is the "spirit" of fast-tracking: to fast-review a mature draft standard , not to make rushed, massive and not reviewed changes.

"A BRM is successful if it produces technical improvements to the specification to  address comments raised during the ballot phase."

without rushing and with a reasonable timeframe, keeping the quality of the deliverables

"    * There were no "surprises" or "new comments" during this process. Every issue addressed was the result of the past 2+ years of work on the specification, and in  particular the past 5 months of intensive work leading into the BRM."

not agree, the last "draft" was published five days ago ( 22/02/2008 ) and still is provisional

"    * During the course of the meeting, much effort was put forward in order to come to consensus on those issues that were the most heavily discussed over the duration of  the past year.  The types of issues discussed during the BRM are represented here. "

did NB reach consensus in this heavy issues?

"   * The changes adopted (and denied) were based on consensus among all National  Bodies. This is exactly how BRMs are meant to function. "

how many delegations composed this "consensus" six over thirty two NBs for example?  ( http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080229055319727 )

"I'll say it again - by any rational measure of ISO/IEC JTC 1 ballot resolution meetings, this one was a complete success."

do you think that repeating things can replace based argumentation?


"ISO/IEC standards are not only technically sound, but they should also be relevant to the marketplace."

not agree. In one month, NBs will have to answer ( with a vote ) the following question ( this was put it clear by Alex Brown, BRM convenor, on many blog posts ):

'Has DIS 29500 the technical merits to become an ISO international standard?'

"   * DIS 29500, as improved through the rigorous review of the past year and the  decisions made by delegations during the BRM, is a specific ation that meets both bars of technical quality and marketplace relevance."

too much PR here, i will no comment on this paragraph, sorry

"    * Independent implementations of the specification are already available on most  major operating systems platforms and in hundreds of applications. The statement that  Open XML is about a single vendor is specious and empirically false."

please provide % of conformance of each of this implementations

"    * Open XML has brought more attention to, and interest in, international  standardization than any specification in the history of the ICT industry."

could be true. Do you know *all* the specifications in the history of the ICT industry? i admire your knowledge

" The reason for this is simple - greater openness in all document formats (not just Open XML) is a good thing for everyone.
 There is general recognition that there will be broad adoption of this format around the world. Open XML delivers on that promise and is part of the rich ecosystem of open ??> document formats that are driving this issue forward."

too much PR here, i will no comment on this paragraph, sorry

"At the end of the day, customers should be able to choose the format(s) that best meet their needs and should not be told which technology to use.  Open XML, as improved through the hard work of national bodies over the past year, is an attractive
 alternative for them."

this has nothing to do with DIS 29500 fast-tracking process. I repeat:

In one month, NBs will have to answer ( with a vote ) the following question ( this was put it clear by Alex Brown, BRM convenor, on many blog posts ):

'Has DIS 29500 the technical merits to become an ISO international standard?'

"There was an unprecedented number of delegations from national standards bodies that came to Geneva and participated in the BRM. I have the utmost respect for the contributions from all of the national bodies (P-members and O-members alike). "

Would Microsoft send a check to reward all the work of this national standards bodies ?

"The result of this week's discussions, by any reasonable measure, has greatly improved  the specification and produced a great result. "

let each delegation affirm this ( speaking or voting in one month ), thank you

"The BRM was a complete success "

please define success.

"congratulations to all who were involved with it."

thank you

   --Orlando Marcello
[ # ]
Still Misleading
Authored by: Alex Brown on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 05:19 AM CST

Andy hi

To follow up on our exchange above ...

I must thank you for your kind words -- but this is not personal, or a question of friendliness (I’m sure you are a lovely chap), but a question of accuracy and ethics.

Your headline has now transitioned from being "not even wrong" to "wrong". If you want to fix it you should remove the words "fail to". However, since this is not then a very on-message headline for you I suggest maybe you should have something like "OOXML still in flux as clock ticks down" or "BRM performs emergency surgery on OOXML in desperate rescue attempt" or some such.

I think it is wrong for you to claim your original headline was some kind of necessary counterbalance to Jason Matusow's: his was predictably on-message (from the MS POV), yours was (and is) factually misleading.

Also, by my records Charles Schulz was not a BRM delegate as you categorize him.

You then raise several points about the adequacy of the Fast Track process. Fair enough; no comment. On the particular questions about in-meeting voting I can tell you:

  • Yes, it was a good idea to take votes (congratulations to the BRM on wisely choosing this route)
  • Yes, it was within my, and the meeting's, powers to allow it
  • Yes, what happened was fully in accord with the JTC 1 Directives (O-member voting and all)

OBVIOUSLY (given the red hot controversy here) voting procedure was discussed in minute detail, and decided, in consultation with ITTF before the BRM started. I (as somebody primarily used to SC participation, rather than fast tracking) had some un-learning to do, and I think some other commentators do too. If a country has a complaint it can appeal formally -- that (rather than wittering to the press) is the correct way to do it.

You then turn to the question of what votes "mean". Rather than venturing further into the mental maze you have made for yourself, let's take an actual example and work it through.

Consider a very simple and uncontroversial Response, no. 637. This concerned a comment raised by AFNOR (France) that noted an "extraneous square bracket at the end of [a] line". AFNOR's suggested solution was "remove the extraneous square bracket."

Ecma's proposed response to this was to edit the text to remove the square bracket.

Now, this is just a PROPOSED resolution; in order to make it into the DIS text (unchanged since Jan 2007) it HAS TO be blessed by the BRM. BRM delegations can take one of three positions on Ecma's proposed response. They can:
  • approve (broadly, "yes, we want Ecma to do this")
  • disapprove (broadly, "we do NOT want Ecma to do this")
  • abstain (broadly, "we don't know/care")

A key point here is that if no decision is taken, nothing happens. In other words, if no decision is taken the text stays in its original state.

Now imagine you are a NB considering voting on Response 637 -- Andy, what would you have voted for in this case? And would you have been happy not to be able to take any decision at all because of time constraints?

Now multiply this process by 800 and you'll know what voting was. For added realism, try staying awake all night, and wearing this: http://www.cafepress.com/freesociety.234283639 (thanks to the Portuguese delegation).

The voting form also had boxes for registering an overall position, purely as a labour-saving device. So if (for example) you as an NB approved 700 responses and disapproved 100, you could simply record an overall position of "approve" and then mark the 100 disapproved comments as "exceptions" to your overall vote. To save typing, many NBs (as Inigo Surguy has noted above) simply recorded an overall position of "abstain" and then recorded the exceptions to that position. Your reading of significance into the way this overall position was recorded is about as sensible as reading significance into whether NBs user uppercase of lowercase “X” characters on their voting form!

Finally, I deplore your mention of the Nuremburg Defence (“only following orders”) in relation to my role as convenor. Invoking the Holocaust (however indirectly) as a suitable parallel to a document format standardization project shows a total failure of perspective.

- Alex.
[ # ]
  • Voting Procedure - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 04:33 PM CST
  • Still Misleading - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 04 2008 @ 09:12 AM CST
  • One more question - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 05 2008 @ 05:23 PM CST
  • Still Misleading - Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 04:21 AM CDT
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 06:30 AM CST
Alex,

Thanks once again  for responding.  I think that from my point of view we're probably getting close to the "agree to  disagree" point (assuming that you're willing to cut me that much slack), so let me start with the central point where I don't think that one of use is likely to convince the other, as there may be some benefit to that.  I'll then go on to your individual points.

The main point at the 30,000 foot level is that I don't think that the implications of allowing the Fast Track process to be used on such a large and insufficiently prepared format  can be separated from the impact that this decision had on every stage of the process, and most especially on the BRM.   It was this decision that placed you and everyone else in the BRM in the impossible position that you found yourself in. 

Taking this down to ground level:  I have just read Rob Weir's piece, and its recital of "no time" decisions notwithstanding several objecting hands in the air, the "newbies" from NBs struggling with language issues and what was going on, the inability of NB's to advance objections (I have personally received a number of emails from delegates flagging further proposals that they were unable to get heard), the accounts I have personally received from delegations saying that it was impossible to go more than a small way through such a long list in so little time, and so on, all of which I heard first hand from people when I was in Geneva as well.

I cannot square this with any confidence that the decisions made under the ballot will be good technical decisions.  While I do not question the right of those in the room to have made the decision, I do not accept that this decision may not be questioned by whoever is troubled by it.  I have written before and I am sure will be writing again that I think that the integrity of the de jure standard setting process is taking a terrible beating as a result of the OOXML experience - and this in an organization that created the ISO 9000 series!

I am, of course, also particularly disturbed by the lack of transparency, which, absent stories like my own and the willingness of delegates to speak could lead people to have greater confidence in the results than I believe is warranted.  As you know, there will be tremendous pressure brought to bear on NBs all around the world.  Unless they have more public facts to point to, they will be defenseless to resist pressure to approve OOXML, whether they are as disturbed with quality issues or not.

Alex, I understand and respect your dedication to accomplish the job to which you were appointed.  I don't think that it would be fair for me to expect that you, as Convenor, should have attempted to declare a failure of the BRM to complete its task.  But I do think that the delegates collectively would have better served the process had they voted earlier in the process to declare that they could not complete their job.  That's where you and I will certainly differ, so on this point I think we need to  agree to disagree, as each of us is entitled to his opinion.

Now, on to your individual points.

Alex:  Your headline has now transitioned from being "not even wrong" to "wrong". If you want to fix it you should remove the words "fail to". However, since this is not then a very on-message headline for you I suggest maybe you should have something like "OOXML still in flux as clock ticks down" or "BRM performs emergency surgery on OOXML in desperate rescue attempt" or some such.

Andy:  If you and I were having this discussion before I posted the blog entry, I would have had no particular objection to "OOXML still in flux as clock ticks down," but at this point I think that it isn't honest for me to keep tinkering with a title that has already been read and linked to by so many people.  I think the text and comments together will give a clear picture.  I also think that a really accurate title that we could both agree on would have to be more like the following, but it would be a little long:
ODF Advocate contends that approval of most OOXML dispositions by a single ballot with 18 out of 32 NBs having too little time to perform an adequate view  and abstained with respect to anywhere from some to all of the more than 900 listed  proposed dispositions does not constitute  "Majority Approval" of those  dispositions for purposes of directing that they be  taken into account in preparing the final draft of OOXML for final March Vote.
That said, if we can agree on the above, I will add it in at the top of the text by way of an update and indicate our consensus on it.

Alex:  I think it is wrong for you to claim your original headline was some kind of necessary counterbalance to Jason Matusow's: his was predictably on-message (from the MS POV), yours was (and is) factually misleading.

Andy:  I think that we're spending too many words on the title, but that's just my opinion.  When someone reads the text, I believe that the meaning of the title becomes clear., and I doubt that many people will read the title at my blog and not the article.  Note also that the blog entry you are talking about, while based on data, also  clearly was as much an editorial as a fact piece, and this would hardly be a title that would be inappropriate on an editorial page where projecting message and point of view is the purpose of a title.  All  that said, I accept that you didn't like it, and I have already clarified it. 

Alex:  Also, by my records Charles Schulz was not a BRM delegate as you categorize him.

Andy:  Right you  are.  I corrected this not long before you posted your comment.

Alex:  You then raise several points about the adequacy of the Fast Track process. Fair enough; no comment. On the particular questions about in-meeting voting I can tell you:

  • Yes, it was a good idea to take votes (congratulations to the BRM on wisely choosing this route)
  • Yes, it was within my, and the meeting's, powers to allow it
  • Yes, what happened was fully in accord with the JTC 1 Directives (O-member voting and all)

OBVIOUSLY (given the red hot controversy here) voting procedure was discussed in minute detail, and decided, in consultation with ITTF before the BRM started. I (as somebody primarily used to SC participation, rather than fast tracking) had some un-learning to do, and I think some other commentators do too. If a country has a complaint it can appeal formally -- that (rather than wittering to the press) is the correct way to do it.

Andy:  I don't have any concerns over whether the 900 vote was within the rules or not.  Others may, but that's not the issue to me, so I'm fine with all of this.  As indicated earlier,  the big issue for me isn't whether deciding to vote on all 900 was a good idea.  Clearly, those in the room thought it was, and that's fine.  But it's also perfectly fine for those outside the meeting, as with any other political process, to state that they think that it was a bad decision. 

Alex:  You then turn to the question of what votes "mean". Rather than venturing further into the mental maze you have made for yourself, let's take an actual example and work it through.

Consider a very simple and uncontroversial Response, no. 637. This concerned a comment raised by AFNOR (France) that noted an "extraneous square bracket at the end of [a] line". AFNOR's suggested solution was "remove the extraneous square bracket."

Ecma's proposed response to this was to edit the text to remove the square bracket.

Now, this is just a PROPOSED resolution; in order to make it into the DIS text (unchanged since Jan 2007) it HAS TO be blessed by the BRM. BRM delegations can take one of three positions on Ecma's proposed response. They can:
  • approve (broadly, "yes, we want Ecma to do this")
  • disapprove (broadly, "we do NOT want Ecma to do this")
  • abstain (broadly, "we don't know/care")

A key point here is that if no decision is taken, nothing happens. In other words, if no decision is taken the text stays in its original state.

Now imagine you are a NB considering voting on Response 637 -- Andy, what would you have voted for in this case? And would you have been happy not to be able to take any decision at all because of time constraints?

Now multiply this process by 800 and you'll know what voting was. For added realism, try staying awake all night, and wearing this: http://www.cafepress.com/freesociety.234283639 (thanks to the Portuguese delegation).

The voting form also had boxes for registering an overall position, purely as a labour-saving device. So if (for example) you as an NB approved 700 responses and disapproved 100, you could simply record an overall position of "approve" and then mark the 100 disapproved comments as "exceptions" to your overall vote. To save typing, many NBs (as Inigo Surguy has noted above) simply recorded an overall position of "abstain" and then recorded the exceptions to that position. Your reading of significance into the way this overall position was recorded is about as sensible as reading significance into whether NBs user uppercase of lowercase “X” characters on their voting form!

Andy:  First, while I appreciate you going into this much detail (which is helpful), I think that we start going sideways when we get down to this level of detail.  I've had email from delegates who said that they didn't have close to enough time to get close to getting half way done, making these finer distinctions, in my view, often academic in the breach.  If the ballot had gone out a week before the BRM, I agree that all of this would be more relevant.

Alex:  Finally, I deplore your mention of the Nuremburg Defence (“only following orders”) in relation to my role as convenor. Invoking the Holocaust (however indirectly) as a suitable parallel to a document format standardization project shows a total failure of perspective.

Andy:  Noted.  The phrase is a useful shorthand for saying that one puts the appointed task ahead of the consequences, and points to the rules to show why those consequences should not be taken into account.  Everyone in the course of their life is likely to be placed in a situation where they can choose to follow the rules, or to refuse to do so when they think that the situation at hand is a square peg to a round hole of rules.  Different people will make different decisions when they find themselves in such a situation.   It did not occur to me yesterday,  but there is another phrase, this time from the 1960's, that I could have used instead:  "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." 

In my view, the BRM delegates lost sight of the possible consequences, repeatedly saying, "This is not the venue where other than technical details can be discussed," and then even failed to take the consequences into account in the area of its appointed purview.  The result is that it lent its authority to the result by adopting a mechanism that was - in my opinion - not a responsible decision, although undisputably well-intentioned.  You are asking me to take responsibility for my decisions in writing my (equally well-intentioned) blog entry, and I am simply doing the same with respect to the decision of the delegates.

Once again,  I do  thank you  for taking the time to post your comments here, and I do think that it will help concerned individuals to have more insight into the decision making that went on inside the room.  While I respect that you did not like the way in which our dialogue came to happen, I hope you will agree that where we have ended up may have a useful purpose in supplementing public understanding of a stressful process.

Best regards,

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Defining Deviancy Down
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 01:39 PM CST
I can sympathize with Alex, having been the chair of JEDEC's JC-16 committee for eight years.  JEDEC, please note, is one of the "industry consortia" that generally claim less rigorous standards than ISO does.  I can, therefore, offer some comparisons that may or may not be germane.

Quite a few of our processes are recognizably related, such as the four-way ballot options of "yes,yes with comments, no with comments, abstain."  In particular, I will focus on our post-ballot meeting protocol.  Rather than the ISO process where a passing letter ballot is automatically adopted, we always hold a post-ballot meeting to finalize the process and pass successful ballots to the Board of Directors for process review.  In that meeting, our rules require that all comments must be addressed.  Upon review of the voting and comments, the Committee votes on resolution of the ballot.  Simple editorial corrections (e.g. duplicate right bracket) may be adopted only by unanimous agreement that they are, in fact, only editorial.  The corrected ballot is then voted on to be passed to the BOD -- or not.  To be clear, a letter ballot that fails by the numbers is dead, but even one which passes may still fail in open committee based on the comments made during balloting.

Again, all comments made during balloting must be addressed.  Unanimity is, of course, not always possible; in fact, in my experience it is very rare.  However, even a "losing" position deserves a fair hearing.  Beyond fairness, sometimes the minority is just plain right and we are, after all, professionals.  I have seen, on more than one occasion, a ballot accepted by a ballot of 40:1 or more killed dead by one comment which the Committee agreed outweighed the rest.  In the end, our rules require that every comment requires a hearing and until it has its fair hearing and consideration the balloted material cannot proceed without consensus that the comment has been addressed.  For what it's worth, our usual committee vote asks if any are opposed and only if there is opposition is a count taken.

My understanding is that ISO rules have similar "must be considered" requirements.  If so,  we interpret them differently because although I have seen attempts to short-circuit the process in JEDEC committees they never succeeded.  The fact that ISO requires so much less of itself does not, in my opinion, speak at all well of it as an organization.

D. C. Sessions
lumbercartel.com is my domain; dcs is my account

Reference: JEDEC Manual of Procedure, JM-21: http://www.jedec.org/Home/manuals/JM21M.pdf
[ # ]
Endgame planned?...to what end?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 02:35 PM CST
If I understand it correctly, we have the following:
- The ballots for the mass vote saved for the last day were prepared ahead of time, Yes?
- Some people, but not the NB HoDs, knew of this plan and sanctioned the pre planned rule change, Yes?
- The voting choices created for this one-time event allowed "Not Yes" votes to be split three ways, Yes?
- The endgame was presented to the "participants", at the last possible moment, w/ no discussion, Yes?
- 800 + issues were "resolved" by "consensus" as the one way to vote "yes" got more votes then any individual way to vote "no"


Given the above (assuming its true) what information is available to Citizens to understand how the whole meeting was not well planned for for exactly this "80% issues resolved PR outcome"?

Who designed the ballot? When? Why? Who "approved"?

When early-in-the-week procedural questions were raised, or attempted to be raised, did those in charge of the rules know that the endgame was already defined?

What is their relationship to ECMA & Microsoft?

--tom
[ # ]
just makes iso look bad
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 03:13 PM CST

The whole thing just makes ISO look bad.  That any one company can so obviously skew the process to push such a big standard through a fast track process is bad enough.  That ISO would even let such a large standard with so many comments try to be resolved by a single week BRM is quite laughable.

Laughable but not funny.  It is simply sad that so much time and effort and public money is being wasted in dealing with this abuse of of the organisation.  One that is there presumably to serve the needs of ALL interested parties, not just a single company.

Will it even really matter in the end?  If the company pushes this through the system they may get a few more years out of their monopoly, but an ISO mark doesn't make a rubbish standard a golden one.  And neither is it any guarantee of success in the marketplace.

  Michael
[ # ]
From "E-man"
Authored by: E-man on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 03:15 PM CST
I have written a number of comments at Groklaw, using the username of "E-man". I have no particular connection to ISO or Groklaw or any of the parties involved with the OOXML specification. Perhaps you have seen my comments at Groklaw, though.

As you are no doubt aware, Pamela Jones wrote an article largely based on your blog entry. I was very disappointed with your blog entry as it was originally written and wrote a number of comments at Groklaw that  reflect this. Since you are interested in receiving comments here, I will try to write directly to you this time. (Actually, I also commented anonymously about a math error that was quickly fixed.)

It should have been obvious that problems caused by what you wrote here were likely to be propagated far beyond your blog. Many people at Groklaw seem to have been confused about what happened at the BRM, and I lay at least some of the blame for this at your doorstep. At the same time you deserve credit for what you have helped them understand.

I note that you have made some changes to the article. Thank you for doing that. I think it is much improved. Unfortunately, I doubt corrections will as noticed or propagate as well as the original text. One relatively minor thing that might help would be to call attention to the fact that you changed the title. That change is not mentioned under the March 02 updates (I think that's when you made the change), yet it is certainly as significant, in my opinion, as the changes you listed.

Actually, I'm still not satisfied that the title is accurate; how about "Most OOXML Dispositions Not Even Discussed at BRM" if you don't like Dr. Brown's ideas?  While I am at it, I don't think the word "and" should be in the second sentence where you describe the the March 02 updates - that's just a matter of grammar, but it did confuse me for a while.

The remaining complaints that I still have about your blog entry, but which you have not yet addressed, involves your tabulation of "votes" and the text near your table. What you were doing, if my understanding is at all accurate, is using default values for the ballot as proxies for ~900 votes that were officially cast. (The tilde indicates the value is approximate.) That the default value was simply intended as a means to cast a large number of votes easily and that you were using the same default value as an estimate or approximation of how ~900 votes were officially cast is hardly clear from what you wrote. Certainly many of the comments at Groklaw indicated that the authors missed those points. I think you should have made much more clear that  the table was not a table of actual votes.

It appears that many people didn't understand your explanation of the default value for the votes. Compounding that, when you begin using the default value as a proxy or an estimate, you didn't really announce that fact, and as a result people became very confused and misunderstood what was going on, I think.

The labels you used in your table indicate that you tabulated results for actual votes, which is not the case. One column you have labled "All Votes". Actually, that is "All NBs" or "All Default Values". Likewise, you have a row labeled "Total votes cast". Actually, the total votes officially cast would be ~900 times those figures, given that there were ~900 dispositions on the ballot, so again, the label should be "Total NBs voting" or something like that.

You also describe the table's contents as: "The final tally (as recorded by participants, and subject to final confirmation)", as if it were something to be officially tallied as part of the BRM process. Can you blame people for interpreting it that way if you don't don't make it obvious that they shouldn't? Unless I'm very wrong about something, it was you who decided to draw conclusions based on the default values. No doubt others trying to get an early understanding of the voting did the same, but I very much doubt ISO has approved doing that.

I am also concerned, for a somewhat different reason, with this statement about the ballots: "On Friday, the ballots came back.  Some contained votes on a small number of dispositions and some adopted the default option for all of the listed dispositions." How accurately (and completely) does that describe how all NBs voted? It is important to know that in order to understand the usefulness of the default value as a proxy for the ~900 votes. It is particularly significant in this situation because the number of cases where "approve" was the default value was so close to the number of cases were "disapprove" was the default.

I realize that you talked to some delegates who were actually at the BRM. The question is: Were they telling you what all NBs had done, or were they telling you what almost all NBs had done?  I find it hard to believe that there weren't at least a few cases where the NBs arrived at the BRM already knowing how they were wanted to vote on any dispositions that weren't changed at the BRM, who liked (or disliked) a significant number of dispositions, but  took a different position on a significant number of other ones, and who then applied those votes when it was time to cast the ~900 votes.

My expectations seem to be confirmed by the data that someone has anonymously posted in your comments. That data supposedly indicates how the NBs voted on all votes, as I understand it. If  that information is accurate, even if it includes votes other than the ~900 that you are talking about, your statement certainly does not describe how Brazil and Switzerland cast their votes and it is questionable with respect to a couple of other NBs, as well. So, despite what you may have been told, I don't think that your statement describes the way all NBs voted.

I know it is difficult to describe how the vote was taken and how you are using the default values and how people should interpret the results. I've tried doing that myself, and am not terribly impressed with what I've managed to come up with, either. (There are things that I wrote in Groklaw's comments that I certainly would change if I were permitted to edit them.) Also, I know there is only so much you can do with respect to how people will interpret and use what you write, but in this case I think much of the misinterpretation was predictable. Frankly, some of it wasn't misinterpretation at all - your title did say (originally) that OOXML was rejected at the BRM. Naturally, my comments at Groklaw reflect you blog as it was written at the time.

I appreciate the new material you have added and the changes you have already made to what was originally written, I still think you can make it better, though. Please consider what I have said here.

Regards,
E-man
[ # ]
ISO Paints Itself Incompetent
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 07:34 PM CST
Hard to know just where to start.

Let me just say that I've had the pleasure/hell of chairing many sessions in my adult life on issues contentious and otherwise.

One thing, though, was blindingly clear before the BRM was held.  There as no way that a mere 5 days would even get a good start on doing what ISO/IEC say they wanted to do given the number of  comments in the September 2007 balloting.  So I'm not at all surprised that that is exactly what happened.

It isn't as if this wasn't known prior to the meeting and a longer session was rejected by ISO/IEC and the convenor Alex Brown.  All within the rules, I note.

Now we all move to the next step on this proposed "standard" with more bad feelings and recrimination that was present before it started.

It strikes me that the fast track process was put in place for quick adoption of proposed standards on which there was a considerable level of agreement so that compressed time lines for sessions like the BRM stood a chance of success.  That never existed here nor is it likely to given the proposal's present form.

ECMA may not be guilty of out and out abuse of the fast track process given the above though the effect is the same.  Perhaps worse as ISO/IEC has let the abuse go this far.  Probably also within the rules which, by now, are known to be utterly incapable of handling a proposal like this.

Nothing, I'm sad to say, will change the black eye ISO has inflicted on itself with this opaque process, lacking any and all transparency which, at the end of the day, has left more confusion than when it started.  The participants, NBs, Alex Brown and others present did their best with an impossible situation that would never have been allowed to happen by a competent standards organization.  That's how ISO looks now.

Incompetent.

ttfn

John
[ # ]
Just a question
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 04 2008 @ 02:51 AM CST

Does the OOXML spcecification in its current state guarantee long-term access to data without legal or technical barriers?

Regards,

[ # ]
  • Short answer - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 04 2008 @ 07:04 AM CST
Apples and Oranges?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 04 2008 @ 07:12 AM CST
Hi Andy (and Alex, I suppose)

I've read a lot of the accounts and your blog, but what I think fails to appear clearly is the basis of the entire mess of this process.

I think the clearest picture is achieved by combining http://www.iso.org/iso/pressrelease.htm?refid=Ref1114 and http://elot.ece.ntua.gr/te48/ooxml/brm-clarifications with your accounts of the procedure here (over the last year).

The cause of the fast-track is the relationship of ISO with ECMA, which I gather has been under strain longer than just this particular "standard". The failing of the first step of the fast track causes an abomination of a standards process, because it's trying to save spilt milk. The resulting BRM can only work with a very limited set of issues, which shouldn't cause a failure of the first fast-track vote in the first place.

As I understand it, the technical nature of the BRM will only try to resolve the issues itself, not resolve whether the proposed standard is fit for its job or the title of ISO standard. In fact, there is no vote on that, since ECMA is allowed to enter their "standards" in the fast-lane, but I digress. A tally of the "approve/disapprove" votes will determine whether the fast-track procedure has succeeded and the proposal is made a full ISO standard (with issues to be resolved, I presume). This tally is the apples and oranges bit, because the type of the majority of issues resolved (typos, grammar, etc.) are not indicative of the quality of the standard at all!

OOXML is a cuckoo's egg in ISO's nest!

I have no doubt the final outcome will be approval, because alternatively it will require an all-out subversion of the process to block it. Instead of taking the process serious, NB's should change their votes to an all disapprove one, to indicate their lack of acceptance of the standard, instead of the specific approval/disapproval of the technical issues.

Cheers

Simon Oosthoek (interested spectator)
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 06 2008 @ 02:05 AM CST
Andy,

You'll probably be interested to know the (edited) meeting notes and the resolutions are up for download....

Meeting resolutions

Edited notes of the meeting

James
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Most OOXML Dispositions Fail to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 06 2008 @ 02:38 AM CST
Andy following on from my previous post (with the links to the notes and resolutions) and having now had time to read through the PDFs I get this distinct impression...

NB1:"Gah this is awful... at the very least it should be done like this to start with"
NB2:"Indeed this would be a lot more suitable for a spec"
Rest:"Agreed - the editor is instructed to incorporate resolution X"

Consequently most of the resolutions were to get the text in a state that could possibly be presented at the start of the standardisation process. I understand that all there were professionals and I expect they all felt an obligation to at least produce a text that was improved over that which they had initially been given (and hence a no to keep the text as is would be non-sensical to a certain extent except as a protest) but I believe that is exactly what crippled the process.

There appears to have been so many basic changes to it (that quite frankly should have been sorted in ECMA first) that by the time those were heard and accepted there was little or no time at all for proper polish and technical discussion at the BRM to make it worthy of an ISO stamp.

So yes consequently a lot of changes were accepted.... but if I submitted a thesis or other work and then had 100+ people point out broken XML fragments, random oddities (the date stuff being a great example there) and simple grammar/spelling mistakes would I be proud of those changes and broadcast to the world how great it is that I convinced 100+ other people to do basic correction on it for me? Of course not - any sensible person would be embarrassed by the mistakes.

Do you - or Alex if you are reading this - have any comments on this based on your experiences last week?

James
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Updated Daily
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, March 07 2008 @ 07:34 AM CST

Andy, Being an ODF supporter, I had liked your blog.

However, You have completely lost my respect and credibility after seeing ISO Chairman's comment on your BRM blog post.

 

 

[ # ]
More official NB bodeis info
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 05:03 AM CST

Better than referring to Jason Matusaws blog you could just use the original pressreleases of the national bodies

Official Stands Norway press release in english.

www.standard.no/imaker.exe=3fid=3d18504

Official Denamrk press release in English

www.en.ds.dk/4200

Official New Zealand press release

www.standards.co.nz/news/Media+releases/New+Zealand’s+voice+heard+at+Geneva+OOXML+meeting.htm

Also US vote on Office Open XML stays approval (even despite the voting descisions at the BRM of both Rob Weir and Frank Farance)

http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh/archive/2008/03/07/us-v1-technical-committee-votes-to-recommend-approval-of-dis-29500.aspx

 

 

[ # ]
Announced Post-BRM votes on DIS
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 08:44 AM CST
I thought it might be useful to have somewhere to post the results of the actual Post-BRM NB votes - whether they change or not.

Looks like the US vote may already have been decided - and not on technical grounds.  From Doug MaHugh's blog:

"I just got off a 3-hour call with my colleagues on the V1 technical committee, in which I and the other members of the US delegation to the BRM presented our thoughts on what happened at the BRM. Then we all voted on what to recommend to the INCITS Executive Board for the final US position on DIS 29500.

The final outcome: we are recommending that the US maintain its Approve position on DIS 29500. The next step will be for the INCITS Executive Board to conduct a letter ballot to approve this result."


This seems to be pretty quick work given the contention that has been discussed here and elsewhere concerning the BRM irregularities.

Looks like Mr Farance was out-numbered (or out-maneuvered) by MS-controlled votes and that the US does not appear that it will at all be supporting standards quality where DIS29500 is concerned.

Why does the INCITS Executive Board need to conduct a letter ballot ?  I thought that only applied if the vote was to change ?

Or is this INCITS conducting an internal US ballot of the V1 committee and others to determine whether the US will change its vote ?

Isn't this a bit early to have already decided that MSOOXML (Post BRM) is satisfactory as an ISO standard ?

I'm wondering how deep into the US standards approval process the corruption of the MSOOXML marketing has penetrated since I'm seeing the damage done to the US economy by MS products on a daily basis.

For those not aware, while MS vendors are working around MS bugs & limitations, companies owned by overseas corporations are moving to Linux en mass and have IT departments that support their business plans instead of business plans that support their IT and Microsoft.

If there ever were a black-and-white decision on standards acceptability, DIS29500 should be that standard and I fear that the US will be influenced by other than technical and usability aspects of this DIS (aspects such as $$$).

--Ed
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 13 2008 @ 08:29 AM CDT
eBook entitled The Book Trailer Revolution:Marketing and Promotion Through Digital Video was released last week. Though specific to book promotion, the valuable experience and information shared regarding digital video production and distribution could easily be applied to a variety of other industries. http://www.cosproductions.com/Resources/Index.html
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, June 05 2008 @ 05:40 AM CDT
yaa it really true.

Electronic Projects
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, June 20 2008 @ 01:23 AM CDT
Seem like more than 20 countries accepted most dispositions. Not just 6. Country abst+no+refusal Percentage ----------- --------------- ----------- China 1027 100.00% Ireland 1027 100.00% Ecuador 1027 100.00% China is the first one, it's intresting.

Digital Frames
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Dkeyy on Sunday, June 22 2008 @ 11:32 PM CDT
Thanks so much for this! This is exactly what I was looking for mirc
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, August 15 2008 @ 05:22 AM CDT
Ahhh yes those standards bodies rumbling it out to get what their corporate sponsirs want. Hasn't anyone learned from Novel. Don't try to force a company standard on other people.

Digital Frames For Sale
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 20 2008 @ 12:27 AM CDT
I think voting should have voters more actively involved instead of having a default abstain.  Most votes would have been on issues where they are directly related or have any interest.
Mike - Boat loans
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 10 2008 @ 07:08 PM CST
I agree to the above. Why would someone want to do that? I wonder also why so many people are off topic on this site? It looks like it got flooded kinda? Maybe I should tell you about my site too - Embroidered Burp Cloths
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 10 2008 @ 07:09 PM CST
I agree to the above. Why would someone want to do that? I wonder also why so many people are off topic on this site? It looks like it got flooded kinda? Maybe I should tell you about my site too - Embroidered Burp Cloths
[ # ]
Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 11 2008 @ 01:01 PM CST
"the Fast Track process was a totally inappropriate process for Microsoft and Ecma to have adopted for OOXML"
I agree 100%!
Why would this of ever let happen? Ever heard of "trial and error?" Come on people lets use common sense!

hdtv antenna
[ # ]