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Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals

OpenDocument and OOXML

As I reported yesterday, the OOXML appeals brought by Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela have been rejected by the Technical Management Board (TMB) and Standardization Management Board (SMB) of ISO and IEC, respectively.  I have now received the actual voting results for the IEC vote, and an indecipherable screenshot of the ISO votes.  I'll hope to add the ISO votes later on when I get more comprehensible information, but in the meantime, here are the IEC results. 

In each case, the questions included in the ballot were the same:

a) Not to process the appeal any further

b) To process one or more of the appeals, which would require setting up of a conciliation panel

For each appeal, a board member could vote "yes," "no" or "abstain," with only the yes and no votes counting for purposes of determining whether or not the vote would pass, and a two-thirds vote being required for passage (the "Conclusion" at the end of the voting results cites clause 10.4, Rules of Procedure, as the reference for these rules). 

The inclusion of two questions in the ballot is (to me, at least) rather curious, in that each asks the same question in a different way, but with a "yes" vote having the opposite import.  In the first vote, it would take two thirds of those voting and not abstaining to stop an individual appeal from proceeding, while in the second it would require a two thirds vote to allow the appeal to proceed.  I confess that I don't understand the nuance that is being addressed here, and perhaps one of the old ISO hands that sometimes reads this blog can illuminate this for us (although one wonders whether at least some of those that voted may have been confused as well, given the results). 

Those voting on the IEC SMB were Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, France, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Sweden and the United States (the full IEC membership can be found here).  The results were as follows:

Brazil appeal: 8 yes, 4 no, 3 abstain (the votes in support of hearing the appeal were cast by Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, and Korea).  Accordingly, on a percentage basis, the vote was 67 - 33% against  this appeal meriting further review.

India appeal:  10 yes, 2 no, 3 abstain (the votes in support were cast by Canada and Great Britain; Brazil voted against this appeal because the remedy requested by India was different than the one that it desired).  The vote here was therefore 83 - 17 against further review

Venezuela appeal:  9 yes, 3 no and 3 abstain (the votes in support were cast by Brazil, Great Britain and Korea; Canada abstained this time).  The vote here was therefore 75 - 25%  against further action.

South African appeal:  9 yes, 3 no and 3 abstain (the voting was the same as in the Venezuela vote).  Again, the vote was 75 - 25% against further passage.

One has to wonder whether various SMB members understood the difference between the two votes differently, because the votes on the second question came out so differently relative to the first.  Instead, some votes switch, while others translate from an active vote to an abstention, or visa-versa (those that switched votes in one or more cases were Canada, China, Korea and the Netherlands) .  I've "translated" the first votes and added them in parentheses below to make this more obvious:

Brazil appeal: 4 yes, 10 no, 1 abstain (4 yes, 8 no, 3 abstain).  Accordingly, the vote was 29 - 71% in favor of advancing the appeal (compared to 33% in the prior vote)

India appeal:  11 yes, 3 no, 1 abstain (2 yes, 10 no, 3 abstain), or 21% in favor, 79% not in favor (compared to 17% in the prior vote)

Venezuela appeal:  9 yes, 3 no and 3 abstain (3 yes, 9 no, 3 abstain), or 25% in favor, 75% not in favor (the same as in the prior vote)

South African appeal: 5 yes, 9 no and 1 abstain (3 yes, 9 no, 3 abstain), or 36% in favor, 64% not in favor (compared to 25% in the prior vote)

Eight out of the 15 members entitled to vote, 8 included brief comments on their ballot.  Sweden, which did not vote in favor of further prosecuting any of the appeals, noted that the same sort of confusion over process could arise again, and accordingly stated that it:

..recommends that a review of the Directives of ISO/IEC JCT [sic] 1, especially those governing fast-track standardisation will take place.  This has been proposed earlier and has become more important now.  The aim should be to get the JTC 1 directives better aligned to the ISO/IEC Directives.

How to interpret all this?  Here's the best that I can do: 

  • As many as 5 out of 14 and as few as 2 out of 12 voting up or down thought than an individual appeal should receive further attention
  • One third of those on the Board thought that there were serious enough problems with the OOXML process to merit an appeal in at least one case (and two thirds, of course, did not)
  • At least one additional members took advantage of the comments to recommend that the OOXML process demonstrated the need for procedural reform - a sentiment that has been widely echoed by other members
  • Ironically (at least) the ballot issued to resolve the dispute appears to be as inscrutable and difficult to deal with as the process that was being appealed.  In a comment to its vote, the Australian representative, while voting along with the Secretaries General recommendation, added, "The above voting set up does not clearly reflect the intention of such vote."

So, while the appeals are likely dead, I would certainly hope that the cause of reform will proceed.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals | 20 comments | Create New Account
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Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 17 2008 @ 05:41 AM CDT
Without having looked at the rules for voting, if a vote requires a 2/3rds majority to pass, then the choice of question (e.g., either being in the affirmative or in the negative) basically pre-biases the result because it makes it much harder to return one result than the other. But asking in both forms makes it roughly equal. If they had only asked a single question, that would have caused one of the sides to complain, surely?

If the votes had come out contradictory, that would have caused an obvious problem to me (but would have been logically valid), but given the questions are almost (but not quite) diametrically opposed, that's not really a likely result.
[ # ]
Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Sunday, August 17 2008 @ 05:57 AM CDT
Anon,

I agree that asking the question twice nominally balances things out superficially, but I'm not sure that was the reason - or the result. 

To begin with, from the biasing point of view, note that the vote was accompanied by a joint recommendation from the Secretaries General to deny the appeals, and the first vote is set up to support that recommendation.  Passing that by for now, if the true reason was not to bias the result, then the second vote would simply have been stated the same as the first, with the minimum number of word changes possible.  Like changing:  "Not to process the appeal any further," to something like "To process the appeal further."  So it seems to me that there is something else going on that escapes me.

Regardless of the intent, it seems to me that there was at least confusion on what the purpose was, given the fact that not only did the vote not come out symmetrically in any precise fashion, but it did not come out symmetrically against single appeals, and National Bodies did not seem to apply a consistent reasoning in the way in which they changed their votes, either.  To be fair, I doubt that any of this affected the outcome.  It's more a symptom of a process that seems out of touch with best practices, and that seems to be immune to effective improvement.

As noted in the main text above, this is sadly consistent with the (non-appealable) process decisions made by those in charge of the OOXML process  from beginning to end.

What a surprise.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
Suggestion for clarity and a typo
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, August 17 2008 @ 06:27 PM CDT
For the results of the second Brazil appeal the text "the vote was 29 - 71% in favor of advancing the vote" confused me.  Should it read "in favor of advancing the appeal" or perhaps "in favor of dismissing the appeal"?

"Venezuela appeal: ... (the came as in the prior vote)" should perhaps be "the same as in the prior vote".

- Stuart
[ # ]
Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 02:17 AM CDT
I don't follow. Surely 'a' and 'b' aren't independent questions but are the two possible responses to a single question?

Also why should an appeal need a 2/3 majority to be allowed to be considered? This allows any cabal of 1/3 of the voters to ignore problems which the majority may recognize.
[ # ]
  • No - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 02:05 PM CDT
  • No - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, August 19 2008 @ 05:21 AM CDT
  • No - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, August 20 2008 @ 01:18 AM CDT
Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 06:40 AM CDT
It's interesting that they would accept such results:
   a) Not to process the appeal: India - 10 Yes, 2 No
   b) Process one or more of the appeals: India - 11 Yes, 3 No

So answering the first vote, it looks like 2/3 majority does not want the India appeal to proceed.  However, answering the second vote, 2/3 wants the India appeal to proceed.  Without reconciling the voting, the people in charge counting the votes can simply take the vote they prefer and ignore everything else.

RAS
[ # ]
Detailed IEC Voting Results on OOXML Appeals
Authored by: Andy Updegrove on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 07:01 AM CDT
RAS,

I apologize, and realize that the way that I wrote this up would only be clear to me.  The first number is in favor, the second number not in favor.  I've now edited this to make it more clear.

  -  Andy
[ # ]
  • Now you lost me! - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 09:33 AM CDT
  • Everybody is lost - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 10:17 AM CDT
  • Now you lost me! - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, August 18 2008 @ 10:45 AM CDT
Confusing wording about appeals in ISO press release
Authored by: bugstomper on Tuesday, August 19 2008 @ 01:54 PM CDT
"According to the ISO/IEC rules, DIS 29500 can now proceed to publication as an ISO/IEC International Standard. This is expected to take place within the next few weeks on completion of final processing of the document, and subject to no further appeals against the decision."

I also first read this as saying that the decision is not subject to further appeals, but on second reading, seeing that it does not say "and is subject to" and that the rules do provide for further appeals, I think they meant what would have been more clearly worded as

"Subject to no further appeals against the decision, this is expected to take place within the next few weeks on completion of final processing of the document."
[ # ]