The Standards Blog

The CONSEGI 2008 Declaration: Six Nations "Just Say No" to ISO/IEC

Standards and Society

The latest blowback from the OOXML adoption process emerged last Friday in Brasilia, Brazil.  This newest challenge to the continued relevance of ISO and IEC was thrown when major IT agencies of six nations - Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela - signed a declaration that deploring the refusal of ISO and IEC to further review the appeals submitted by the National Bodies of four nations.  Those nations were Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela, and the statement is titled the CONSEGI 2008 Declaration, after the conference at which it was delivered.  The Declaration notes, "That these concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions," and concludes, "Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands."

The decision to make the statement flows in part from the fact that the National Bodies of each of the four countries that had filed appeals have decided that it would  be fruitless to further press their formal protests.  This has left government IT agencies with no choice but to reconsider what, if anything, the adoption of a standard by ISO/IEC JTC 1 should mean to them when they make standards-based decisions. The statement indicates that ISO and IEC have underestimated the possible consequences of not taking the appeals more seriously, and states in part:

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks.

The combined statement is but the latest in a series of explosions (another is the Hague Declaration) that continue to reverberate around the standards world as a result of the hard pressed, highly contested, and commercially significant prosecution of Microsoft's Office Open XML specification through the formal standard setting process.  With the grinding to a close of that process, it has become clear that we are witnessing a watershed event that will transcend the significance of the specifications in question, and will reshape the way in which standards are regarded by governments and society in the future, and the ways in which they will give permission for those standards to be developed and approved.

Here are the details on this latest development, as conveyed to me by several of those involved in creating the statement.  As usual, the complete text of the Declaration is included at the end of the post for archival purposes.

The statement was released at the close of CONSEGI 2008, a major South and Latin American IT conference focusing on free software, and convened by the International Congress of Electronic Society and Government.  The conference reportedly attracted 2000 registrants, including many senior government officials, including Brazil's Minister of Science and Technology.  The free program included many workshops on open source migration in areas such as education, government and development, as well as a focus on how information technology can be used to increase transparency between the governors and the governed, and to promote democracy.

This connection between the deployment of IT in government and the development of standards is one that ISO and IEC either fail to understand or refuse to regard as a matter for their concern.  Instead, the two dominant de jure IT bodies have consistently stated that their remit is purely to provide a venue within which national representatives can agree upon standards, rather than a place within which undue vendor influence can be avoided or (even) technical quality can be guaranteed.  Increasingly, countries such as those that have signed this declaration are concluding that the ISO and IEC are either unwilling, or unable (or both) to guarantee process purity.

In fact, governments throughout the world are becoming increasingly aware of the essential role that information and communications technology (ICT) standards must play in preserving what I have called our "Civil ICT Rights."  Those rights include freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom to interact with government - all of which are increasingly exercised not in the real, but in the virtual world - or not at all.  If (for example) the cost of desktop is too great, or the necessary software is too unaccommodating to those with disabilities, then vital freedoms that people have fought and died to secure may be carelessly compromised or lost. 

Governments around the world are busy crafting "interoperability frameworks" to streamline the operation, efficiency and transparency of governments.  They are also now realizing that there are certain "Civil ITC Standards" - such as document formats and accessibility standards - that are essential to make these frameworks work.  What happened in the course of the OOXML adoption process has left such governments shaken by the realization that the type of democratic involvement and protection from undue vendor influence that should accompany the development of such standards, and ensure their free, unfettered use, cannot be delivered by the same systems that they have relied on in the past.

Specifically, the Declaration calls out these perceived failings:

  1. The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 [OOXML] remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.

  2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.

  3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

Up until now, representatives of the traditional system have often dismissed criticism of the OOXML process as being simply the noise making of FOSS advocates that don't understand how standards are developed or of those controlled by interested vendors.  But this was never the case.  ISO/IEC would be well advised to take this latest declaration seriously, as the words of the Declaration are also being followed by aggressive action - at the governmental agency level - in several of the countries that signed the Declaration, and in others as well. 

As significantly, there are serious discussions ongoing in a number of quarters that may result in the formation of new organizations to provide the market needs that ISO and IEC are apparently unwilling to provide.  I will report in detail on several of these initiatives in the months ahead.  Clearly, as the CONSEGI 2008 Declaration makes clear, any such organization will find a welcome audience with those governments that have "reluctantly" or otherwise, concluded that ISO and IEC are no longer interested in meeting their needs.

Thanks to Aslam Raffee, one of the signers of the Declaration (he is the Chairman of the South African Government IT Officer’s Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software), who first brought it to my attention and was the first to post the text to the Web.  You can find his entry here.

 

 

CONSEGI 2008 DECLARATION

 

We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela. Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500. That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further, we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

  1. The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.

  2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.

  3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

Signed:

 

Aslam Raffee (South Africa)

Chairman, Government IT Officer's Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

 

Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)

Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

 

Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)

President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

 

Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)

Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

 

 

Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)

Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

 

Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)

Directora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización.

 

 

 

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Comments

Permalink
So what do we do in the Western world ?

I'm a UK-based professional engineer.

It does my children no favours when their schools teach them "Microsoft Office" skills, to the exclusion of standards-based skills such as POSIX, TCP/IP, ISO26300. Standards-based as well would be nice; in every year group.

But equally, I don't have the time to commit to assisting with 'technology in schools' ... I have a day job as a commercial engineer. And I don't have the ability to face the possible commercial consequences to me or to the school of deploying Linux and OpenOffice. My employer will face the commercial consequences, but he will only take on liability by contract; and you have to agree terms and prices with him or his salesmen. Not with his engineers.

Where next ? As you can see, I view this 'Microsoft Monopoly' as destructive, as having lived beyond its usefulness. But what to do about it ? Not for me, but for the next generation.

I think that you've put your finger on why it's so important for governments to play a leadership role here, and why government procurement power is such a good way to do it.

Governments should worry about whether a student can afford to buy a desktop with software that can roundtrip homework to school, whether someone with disabilities can access a government site, and whether records created today can be opened in fifty years.  Governments represent a big enough market that vendors (even those with monopolies) can't ignore them, so they can lead the markets in healthy ways without having to be too intrusive.  To me, it's a win win approach.

Happily, some governments are seeing it that way as well, and not just in South America; Europe is showing a lot of leadership as well.  Maybe someday even the US will get with the program.

  -  Andy

Permalink
This protest is good news, and thanks for reporting on it.

The four countries that appealed the ISO process acted properly and in the best interests of all of us. It is unfortunate that not many other nations joined them.

However, Cuba and Venezuela adding their signatures to this protest weakens the case for open standards. These two dictatorships make no pretense of representing the will of their respective populations, nor are they in any way accountable to their peoples. It is obvious that they just jumped on the bandwagon to take the opportunity to slap the West in the face (viewing closed standards and Microsoft as symbols of the USA). An act of propaganda, not a principled act of support for open standards, and OOXML supporters will correctly pick up on this quickly.

Despite this, the positive action of appeal by the standards bodies of four nations bodes well for us all.

*sigh* here's a reply from an anonymous non-American who is not blinded by party politics. The declaration would have been weakened had Cuba and Venezuela not signed since Venezuela was one of the four countries who protested the DIS29500 decision and Cuba had to tell ISO/IEC that their original vote was wrongly counted as approve when they voted to disapprove. If you wanted to complain about participation or lack thereof based on democracy, you could have pointed out that India, the world's largest democracy, did not sign this declaration or that INCITS put corporate interests ahead of the public interest.

To say Venezuela is governed by dictatorship is the most ignorant comment I saw in a long time. Without getting into ideologically details, it doesn't matter if your right wing or left wing, the pure cool hard fact remains that Venezuela is a strong democracy, even as last December Chavez lost a crucial referendum to his political plan by a margin of 1.5% and conceded less than 2 minutes of the official results. I recommend you to look over the web and find the appeals and educate yourself about the merits of the countries you are shamefully attacking.

Permalink
It would be good to find out what is going on inside ISO and IEC that has caused them to fumble OOXML so badly.  I bet a number of their staff  read this blog. I would like put out a plea that someone on the inside anonymously publish something on the web to let us know what has been going on.

Permalink
I am encouraged by the CONSEGI 2008 Declaration. At the beginning of this fiasco, this joke of an approval process, I recommended dropping reliance on ISO/IEC. Start a new standards body. Of course it is an enormous undertaking, but if several nations would bond together, I was sure others would join. Now I'm certain others would join.

I know others felt the same way and I had seen comments to prove that. And we all have been criticized for it.

We do not suggest this action without an awareness of the huge undertaking that it would be. But I believe it is possible to begin with a hybrid of standards. The standards introduced before OOXML (let's refer to that point in time as "BO" because it seems so appropriate) can be considered valid. But now we draw a line in the sand and establish a new process and consequently a new set of standards for the technical realm.

The countries that have been bought off by Microsoft will expose themselves to be their lackies. The countries that have a passion for real standards that are arrived at via a fair and impartial process will blaze the trail. As the OSS community continues to grow, this new standards group's opinions will increase in value and relevance.

We no longer can afford to allow ourselves to be constrained by some profiteering dinosaur software monopoly. The emerging economies of the world need an environment that enables them and does not set them up as new source of revenue for an organization whose business has been expanded by lies, deception, unbridled greed, and a never-ending lust for power.

It's time for nations to come together to drive a steak through the heart of the monster that holds them all hostage. A new standards organization will send a clear message that discontent is at an all-time high and drastic measures have become reasonable alternatives. I believe that, if invited, other businesses of the world would be interested in joining the effort.

But my guess is that as soon as there is valid interest demonstrated in this idea, ISO/IEC will approach someone to discuss what has happened. Once that happens, the only reasonable return to what was is to ask for an immediate withdrawal of OOXML, the resignation of all ISO personnel involved in this monstrous waste of time and money, and an immediate review and ammendment of the now known-to-be-broken process.

Again, I say this is not easy. Not by a long shot. But how easy is it to simply stand by while a large commercial organization bullys an international standards body into doing its bidding? If this action is left to stand, how fair and balanced will future standards be? If Microsoft is allowed to get away with this, who will try it next?

While it is easy to target an self-serving entity like MS, which often ignores ethical concerns, it may be useful to look carefully at how the open source community contributed to the ISO/IEC decision.

Even a casual glance at the open source community will reveal that "standards" are not its strong suit.   How much LSB progress do we see?

At the most public level, the level of the user who just wants to be able to read governmental documents, tools are not consistently provided.  How many open source spreadsheets will work with ODF files?  Many free Linux distributions lack to software to work with ODF files unless the user downloads it.

How quickly will the ODF spec be developed to include the enhancements that are needed?  There are forces within the open source community that wage an effective war against what they call bloat. "Bloat" of course includes features that are important to business and civic professionals - features that professionals have been using for years. 

Personally, I use open source software almost exclusively.  Professionally, I'd be reluctant to commit to "standards" that may be supported and developed with the enthusiasm typically displayed by the open source community.

I would say that the developers of free and open source software have followed standards as closely as it made sense to do so, and made options for more strictly complying with standards when the developers saw problems with the standards (I'm thinking C language, POSIX...). Free and open source software has been based on standards plus reverse-engineering of proprietary protocols and formats. Work based on published standards is far easier than reverse engineering. Arthur.

Indeed.  Yet there are intermediate forms in between unpublished (or unreviewed) and full standards: such as ISO Technical Reports. I have a lot of sympathy for the view that one-sided technologies (one major supplier or one major consumer) are often better off as these lesser standards rather than full-status standards. However, the idea that for these, it would be better to have *no* standard rather than even a full-status standard, I don't agree with. 

All that having too many standards does, at the end of the day, is mean that there is more information available; if you see the central issue as being that we need standards to tell us what to do, so that open source efforts get maximum network effect by all dancing to the same tune, too many extraneous voluntary standards will be a bad thing; if you see the central issue as making sure there is as much information as possible as unencumbered as possible and as reviewed as possible, so that open source developers can readily move into any area that is currently proprietory, then more voluntary standards will be a good thing.

(Or even, dare I say, that both these central issues  have merit, and reasonable people may weigh things up differently, even case-by-case.  A middling position might be that you don't want to encourage large numbers of overlapping standards by creating willy nilly new technologies where existing standards and technologies exist, but that the more that there are existing proprietory and market-dominating technologies and technical traditions, the more that a minimal number of overlapping standards is the sweet spot, and the best route to long-term convergence. The other thing is that standards sometimes have to be seen as part of larger strategies: for exampe, PNG was developed when GIF's owners started making noises about licensing, but rather than taking over from GIF it made the GIF owner give up their licensing program.)

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

"However, the idea that for these, it would be better to have *no* standard rather than even a full-status standard, I don't agree with."

Rick, don't become tired of repeating that thought? I mean you have basically been saying that for months now and people still don't agree with you...must feel very unfair that nobody seem to listen to that rational thought.

Maybe you should stop and consider why people don't fold when you pull out your "better a standard than none at all"...

I can't speak for the rest of the world, but I can tell you why I think everyone ignore your "rational" thought. The problem with your argument is really that it is a strawman. Random people on the internet might have raised the "let's not have any ooxml standard at all"...but that is not what the majority of those concerned with OOXML are saying. You rediculate the opposition because something the opposition is not saying.

What we are saying is "better *no* standard at all than one that decieve the reciever". Microsoft needs to provide a mapping between their old formats and human readable modern ones. Microsoft need to specify what formula for daycount that their own program excel uses in the statistical functions. The list goes on and on with things that Microsoft should be doing, but is currently avoiding since there is now an ISO format that "solve" the problem.

A working standard for Microsoft Office documents need to accurately describe what different versions of the Microsoft programs really do. Such a standard also need declaration from Microsoft that they garantuee that they will fix any incompabilites found in the future. In the absence of both these things it would be much better for the world if development of the OOXML draft is kept within ECMA until the standard text is mature enough to be an ISO standard.

I think the source of the misunderstanding is that Rick talks about standards in general that DO describe the functionality of the underlying application well.

However, you (and many others) think he is referring to MSOOXML, which is not really describing any application in existence, is generally seen as a printed lie, and certainly lacks any overt connection with the older binary standards of MS office.

But Rick never mentions MSOOXML or DIS29500. I think he means to say this is about other standards, in general.

Just a detail left out in Rick's post.

Winter

I have to agree with Rick and Winter on this.  I think that Rick gave a very sensible overview that I pretty much agree with, but, because it was a brief overview, leaves out a few underlying assumptions.  Here are the ones that I would add in order to be in full agreement:

1.  Timing:  When new technologies pop up in fast moving technologies, it's hard to tell which one the market will choose, and for what purposes.  If those technologies (like just about everything in wireless) must rely on a standard(s) in order to be useful, then you have a chicken and egg issue - you have to develop a standard to go with every new technology, so that the marketplace can then sort out which technologies it likes, which have the lowest costs of implementation (which can involve which standards are royalty free), and what purposes they are best suited for.  The classic example is wireless LAN networks, where you had the first WiFi standards, Bluetooth, HomeRF and others, all competing.  In the end, the rest died out, WiFi took home/SME LANs and Bluetooth took close range device to device communication.  A very good and efficient result.  This is not going on with a plethora of additional wireless standards, each fine tuned for particular purposes, like RFID, nearfield communicaitons, and many more.  In contrast would be where you have a very good standard in place and no reason to switch other than to benefit a particular vendor, or vendors, and nothing really to be gained by anyone else.  And also the case that van Den Beld speaks of, where you have a repetitive series of standards wars in a particular industry niche, like consumer electronics, where that's just the way the children play in that particular sandbox, to no ones benefit at all - often, not even their own.

2.  De facto versus consensus standards.  Not every standard conveys strategic advantages to a particular vendor or vendors.  Some are very pedestrian, and everybody just needs to agree on something.  These are obvious in the physical world (think fasteners) and performance standards (think light bulb wattages).  And they can exist in technology as well.  As long as a de facto standard is unencumbered, there's no reason why the marketplace shouldn't just say, "let's use that," and then do so.  Why make it more complicated?

The real point is that some standards situations that do have high stakes, can provide great strategic advantage to particular players, can be abused, and can disadvantage end users and others depending on which way things go.  But there are many, many others where this is not true, or where the damage is only vendor to vendor, without much impact on end users at all.  I think that these are  the ones that Rick is mostly speaking to.

  -  Andy

By not being specific, Rick gets to play it both ways:

He gets to claim that he's not talking about OOXML or defending ECMA and gets you to defend his argument.  Once you've gone on record defending his argument, he drags OOXML back into the argument and claims you either have to have been defending OOXML or that you're hypicritical.

The best tack is to require that Rick specify what he's talking about in each post.  Since his reputation with most people is as an MS OOXML supporter (paid or otherwise), it is a reasonable assumption to assume that he is referring to OOXML and MIcrosoft's manipulation of ISO/JTC1 whenever he posts on standards and uses the code phrase "commercial entity".

@Rick:
"I have a long-standing record of supporting the idea of "organic plurality" in standards, and more recently the idea that all market dominated interface technologies should have RAND-z, QAed standard specifications, and the idea of verifiable vendor neutrality. I think these ideas provide a much more hard-nosed and real avenue to openness than fuzzy thinking and technological utopianism which so easily gets captive to factional and commercial interests.  I think these provide a more than adequate basis for making it reasonable to support having (as distinct from mandating or requiring) IS29500.  And there are many people who don't like IS29500 who similarly have very reasonable positions too.  But the conspiracy theorists, attack dogs and conflators are a fringe who discredit the reasonable ones."

These are valid and defendable positions. And I do not remember people attacking them. However, what I do remember are your other opinions, which came down to denying any immoral or inappropriate behavior by MS and always leaving out the relevant context from your posts. You lose credibitllity when people track down your arguments, eg, "ODF had a hundred grave comments when set as a standard", "DIS29500 was accepted by the NBs on merrit", or "Tim Bray thinks the BRM was positive", and then find out you left out that the comments were about editing errors, experts were ordered to vote ACCEPT by their government, and Tim was writing extremely bad things about the BRM.

But I always make a distinction between your political opinions on how international standards (should) function in the global economy, your moral judgment of this specific process, and your judgment of the quality of OOXML as an XML document standard. Only on the last one I see you as having special expertise.

On the whole, I find you evasive. When the hard questions come, you start throwing accusations and go into legalistic details that are irrelevant to the questions posed.

But to come to you real expertice, XML standards. I have always considered MS OOXML (Ecma 376, DIS29500 is still undisclosed):
Inconsistent - eg, in that it is a patchwork of three incompatible formats
Inaccurate - in that it often does not describes the intended behavior correctly, eg, giving bogus examples in the formula part, incorrect formulas
Incomplete - important parts are left out, eg, the spreadsheet macro language
Incomprehensible - it is like a street directory without a map. All the tags are there, but their semantics are woefully underspecified (if at all)

Now, obviously, these are the uninformed opinions of an amateur who had to get his information from a large array of uninformed publications. I have tried to get your opinion on several of these aspects, but you tended to evade answering. I consider "I would have done it in a differend way" not very enlightening.

The ODF is much more structured the way I need to handle documents. I can understand that others have differnt needs and OOXML might meet such needs. But all I could get from you were opinions along the line "OOXML fits the needs of Office07". But Office07 is not structured, but more like a see floor deposition of code detritus. So we get into discussions about why 1900 was a leap year in OOXML "because that was in the code, somewhere". That is not a good argument to pass an international standard.

Now we have ended up with DIS29500, which has been changed quite a lot (according to you), and so will not meet the needs of Office07 anymore (according to MS). So I am left answering why we need an ISO standard that fits no-ones needs anymore? It doesn't describe any document format used anywhere, now or in the immediate future. What is your answer to that?

I have asked before but never got an answer anywhere from anyone.

Winter

Indeed, WiFi vs BlueTooth and USB2 vs Firewire were wars between two technology standards. What sets them apart from the OOXML/ODF difference is that the former were completely different technologies.

The latter is more like TWO incompatible WiFi standards and TWO incompatible USB+ standards. The 5 DVD standards harmed EVERYONE, the industry due to the added costs and the consumers due to the oportunities lost. The best example to date is the standards war over cell phones in the US versus the single GSM standard in the EU. The economic cost of the standard wars in the USA are still visible.

It is just that Rick's comments tend to leave out such little details, like what type of standards actually benefit from his ideas. And whether he includes OOXML/ODF or not (as he normally reacts on OOXML/ODF discussions).

Winter

Very good comments from Andy and Winter, but I must still disagree with you Andy.

"The real point is that some standards situations that do have high stakes, can provide great strategic advantage to particular players, can be abused, and can disadvantage end users and others depending on which way things go.  But there are many, many others where this is not true, or where the damage is only vendor to vendor, without much impact on end users at all.  I think that these are  the ones that Rick is mostly speaking to."

The problem with Rick's presentation has never been that he writes thing that are false. To my knowledge each post he has done about OOXML is technically correct, but presented in a way that gives the shallow reader the wrong impression.

On one hand you should give credit when it is due. On the other hand it is also true that when somebody repeatedly refuses to take the whole picture in consideration when questioned about OOXML and virtually does "selective quoting" then you must point out their bluff or become an vehicle for spreading FUD.

If you Andy write posts that agree with Ricks posts since you think that he is probably talking about general standards matter you can be pretty sure Microsoft payd people will point at those posts and claim that both you and Rick are talking about OOXML and not standards in general. Please try to make sure that it is clear from your answers when you think he is not talking about the OOXML disaster.

I don't think I've ever been shy about disagreeing with Rick when I think he's been over the line, or selective, in what he was saying.  At the same time, I think that we all have a starting point that colors our viewpoints, consciously or otherwise, and it would get pretty tedious if we pointed that out every time - particularly when we might be a bit off base ourselves. 

This time around, I thought that Rick was making some fair points that he wasn't getting credit for.  It's worth keeping in mind that Rick has a lot more experience in the trenches than most of us, and certainly myself, when it comes to sitting in standards meeting and engaging in face to face give and take.  On the other hand, I've probably had broader and different experience than Rick in other ways.  The result is that I've personally learned a lot from reading Rick's posts as well as his comments here, and perhaps the reverse has also been true.

So I think we should recognize that most people we disagree with are simply people with different opinions, and not folks with evil motives. Overall, I think that when in doubt, we'd all benefit if we gave the other guy more credit than the opposite.. 

  -  Andy

Winter> I think Tim Bray will be very surprised to hear that he is, somehow, lauding the BRM.

Tim's specific objection about process relates to time and the Fast-track process, and he has raised this issue in many fora.  Tim treated me to dinner during the BRM, we have known each other for years, and we discussed OOXML so I think I have a fairly good idea and indeed sympathy with  his concerns, but his material speaks for itself. Note in particular that he regarded the paper ballot mechanism as "quite sane behavior": please don't rope him into the people who had problem with the conduct of the meeting when that has not been his theme.

Winter>  Anyhow, the INCITS was dominated by MS and their invited guests.

Ah, so all those government departments are merely the tools of Microsoft?  Life is very simple for conspiracy theorists. Just dismiss anyone with a different opinion as being bought off.

Winter> We are not in a court of justice.

No, indeed I see no emphasis on fairness or balancing evidence in your comments. Hearsay is great, is that really your serious position?  (No, because you are trolling.) There is a word "Pilgerism" (named after Australian journalist John Pilger, rather cruelly) which means "presenting information in the most sensational way possible, in support of a pre-defined position"

Winter> Sorry, but the point of my post was that YOU would not steep so low as to inform us about factors that might explain MS' speedy actions.

I only know what was reported, and I don't see that your interpretation of events is proved, or is even likely, by what I have read.  In any case, my support of IS29500 becoming a standard is not predicated on Microsoft being the good guys as an organization, quite the reverse.  The explanation is the simple one: buying votes was not their gameplan, and indeed any impression they were doing it was being vigilantly looked for. But SNAFU.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Rick,

You still do not tell us why your, "in general", ideas and examples about the benefits of competing standards should apply to OOXML? You go off ranting that I make mistakes about the organization of SC34 and that I somehow accuse MS of illegally bribing NB members. These faults of mine seem to be so bad that you don't feel a need to answer the real questions anymore.

You should go into the hard questions, not feeding "trolls".

Anyhow, your obsession with illegal bribery seems to imply (to me at least) that bribery might indeed have been the one and only practice they are not guilty of.

@Rick:
"Tim's specific objection about process relates to time and the Fast-track process, and he has raised this issue in many fora. "

Indeed, and he qualified the BRM as (I quote) " The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit.". He also has "unfriendly things" to say about OOXML as a standard. I do know his opinions are different from yours and I was quite "surprised" when you quoted him as a supporter of the BRM. He does share the common opinion that the outcome of the BRM improves the original Ecma 376 standard. But he is also consistent in adding that the end result is still of very low (unacceptable) quality. And he feels that both the BRM and the Fast-Track process were completely inadequate to handle DIS29500. You have consistently defended both (with an occasional "in hindsigth we might have...."). So I do not really see why you brought Tim up to support your view.

@Rick:
"Tim treated me to dinner during the BRM, we have known each other for years, and we discussed OOXML so I think I have a fairly good idea and indeed sympathy with his concerns, but his material speaks for itself. Note in particular that he regarded the paper ballot mechanism as "quite sane behavior": please don't rope him into the people who had problem with the conduct of the meeting when that has not been his theme."

I quote from his web publishing, which is quite explicit and extremely negative. You are grasping at straws here. It is indeed sane behavior to do whatever is needed to save the day in an insane context.

On the other hand, I do not see where your mutual feelings come in here? I have no idea why you think "political" and "personal" feelings should run parallel.

@Rick:
"Winter>  Anyhow, the INCITS was dominated by MS and their invited guests.

Ah, so all those government departments are merely the tools of Microsoft?  Life is very simple for conspiracy theorists. Just dismiss anyone with a different opinion as being bought off. "

Actually, it was widely published that Dough phoned in some friends to the committee who were kind enough to support each and every of his opinions in the votes. Neither he nor MS have ever denied this happening, only you. How USA departments fare under political influence is also neither a secret, nor denied by US politicians. The fact that you try to paint every of my comments as an accusation of illegal bribery by MS is rather annoying and either childish or a very calculated PR strategy. But again, for the record, anything that happend at INCIT was legal as far as I know. Just as legal as political campaign donations. But I am free to  judge the behavior of MS according to my moral standards of conduct. If you do not share them, please be my guest.

@Rick:
"No, indeed I see no emphasis on fairness or balancing evidence in your comments. Hearsay is great, is that really your serious position?  (No, because you are trolling.) There is a word "Pilgerism" (named after Australian journalist John Pilger, rather cruelly) which means "presenting information in the most sensational way possible, in support of a pre-defined position""

Actually, in journalism, the use of undisclosed sources is a well respected practice. It is one of the cornerstones of the free press. As blogs are a brand of journalism, the use of undisclosed sources is, in my opinion, acceptable. We can hold Andy to his word that he actually heard these people telling these stories.

Your reaction, however, is the classical way governments and other powerful instances treat journalists: "disclose your sources so we can punish them". Given how "cavalier" you judged the smear campaigns MS directed at your colleges in India, Malaysia, and NZ, I hope you do care about what happens to people who blow the whistle on why some countries voted the way they did. (before you even start again, MS themselves apologized for their behavior in India, and I am also thinking on what happened to Peter Quinn and Tim Bray )

@Rick:
"I only know what was reported, and I don't see that your interpretation of events is proved, or is even likely, by what I have read. "

As the way the letters came to light was widely reported on in the Swedish and international press, I a pretty confident that they were indeed posted on the internet before MS reported them to the Swedish commitee.  If you can find an MS spokeperson who wants to deny that account, please bring her on.

@Rick:
"In any case, my support of IS29500 becoming a standard is not predicated on Microsoft being the good guys as an organization, quite the reverse.  The explanation is the simple one: buying votes was not their gameplan, and indeed any impression they were doing it was being vigilantly looked for. But SNAFU.""

Actually, that has been the main bone of contention all along. Your consistent denial that MS have done anything illegal, immoral or even gaming the rules, during their drive to get OOXML an ISO stamp of approval has infuriated most people.

Just a week ago you were demanding to see evidence of organized smear campaigns on Groklaw, while the victims have written open letters and blogs about it and even MS themselves have appologized for these campaigns. And claiming a committee stacked with a majority of MS Partners and employees, who question nothing MS ever did, is unbiased and will judge on merit alone is hilarious.

Consistently denying things that even the accused admit or are glaringly evident gives you the image of the Iraqi Minister of Information.

Winter

@Rick:
"In a case like optical disk formats, there is benefit in having competition between different vendor-championed formats, because
it is a way of allowing technical decisions and market forces to determine the outcome, not the wisdom of jet-lagged men with
grey beards. "

So I have to be glad I need two stacks of incompatible writable DVD's at home and three at work?

And all DVD readers/writers are more expensive than needed because they have to accommodate all these incompatible standards?

This was as beneficial to humanity as the cell-phone standards war in the US was to the US market and public.

And please state why this is relevant to ODF/OOXML?

Where do you see a market of competing OOXML word processing applications? How should that function? Who can improve this standard? MS pays more than half of the voting members in SC34. (no, this is not corruption. These people are either employees of MS or MS partners who earn almost all of their money from MS)

Here we have ODF, a multi-vendor international standard, developed by a group of people who all compete in real life versus OOXML, an in-house developed single vendor standard. How does this compare to all your examples? In general, with some specific examples, you might be right. But where does OOXML come in here?

Winter

Winter wrote:

"Where do you see a market of competing OOXML word processing applications? How should that function? Who can improve this standard? MS pays more than half of the voting members in SC34. (no, this is not corruption. These people are either employees of MS or MS partners who earn almost all of their money from MS)"

This is either a bald-faced lie or a statement of extreme ignorance; conceivably  it could also be lazy confusion, but it is calculated so is closer to trolling. 

The voting members of SC34 are National Bodies, not people.

Is he perhaps talking about the ad hoc working group meeting recently, which was a liason between SC34 and Ecma to discuss maintenance: that is not SC34 nor did it vote (the results were by acclamation and it merely provided information/recommendations to take back to the NBs at SC34?)   

That he tells a lie then brings up corruption says everything that needs to be said. 

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Permalink
Winter: And we are all better off now that OOXML is an ISO standard?

Yes.

* We have a lot more information on what Office produces. This is useful for people like me who write converters between formats for a living, for ODF 1.3 development, and for people implementing office systems indepdentantly of whether they implement IS29500.  People are more realistic about the limitations of the standards and their feature sets.

* Microsoft is at the table, where it wasn't before. Many problems with the documentation of OOXML have been found and many fixed, in particular several issues where clearly there was a logjam or deafspot in MS that was effectively preventing fixes, and where the scrutiny and horse-trading may have provided a circuit-breaker. MS is more aware of some shortcomings in their formats or features than they were.  MS has given substantial IPR concessions, more than many people predicted. And flowing on there have been many other related specs released into public view.

* The ODF momentum is continuing utterly independently of the standardization of OOXML too. But the ODF people are more on their toes, and similarly are more aware of the shortcomings in their format and features. 


Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Permalink
Winter wrote: "Where? You claim everywhere that I accuse MS of bribery. I don't. Saying that an MS partner earns it's money through MS is nothing like bribery. So please, point out where I
accused MS of bribery. However, you simply use these bogus counter-accusations to ignore all my other arguments.

Oh, I apologize. You used the word 'corruption'. Very different...

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Permalink
> Winter wrote: This is the only quote where I used the word 'corruption' (search for 'corrupt'):
> "(no, this is not corruption. These people are either employees of MS or MS partners who
> earn almost all of their money from MS)"

> But you never look at the context, so I can understand that you cannot be bothered to mention
> that the word 'not' preceded the word 'corruption'.

1) You raised corruption. Why mention it at all, if not to keep the idea in currency?

2) Your first sentence is clearly sarcastic, in the light of the second sentence which implies the
opposite. 'Brutus in an honorable man'

> Very illustrative.
Yes.

I get the impression what Winter calls "context" is what I would call "the quasi-conspiracy theory through
which all information must be filtered and squeezed."    Indeed, I don't provide *that* context, because it
is nutty, and I don't apologize for not.  (Of course, now Winter will come back in a few months time and
say 'Rick admits he  doesn't provide all the context!'  But I am not someone to judge another person's
hobby.)

I wonder what is the difference between standardizing PDF and standardizing OOXML? -- Both
products from single technical traditions, both by market dominators, both large US corporations,
both with a bad history of incomplete documentation, both standardized through external bodies with
a view to compatibility with existing applications, and a history of anti-competitive licensing and
so on;   but I cannot recall a single anti-OOXML person using any of these reasons which they use
against OOXML against  ISO PDF. Instead, they recognize standardization has merits: to document,
to QA, to profile, to open the IP, to get review, to provide extra forums for interaction by stakeholders,
to give national bodies a seat at the table,  to bump the requirements axis for future developments,
to provide more information, to reduce tactical 'spoiling' innovation, and so on.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

You do not have to wait for months.

@Rick:
'I get the impression what Winter calls "context" is what I would call "the quasi-conspiracy theory through
which all information must be filtered and squeezed." "

Context is what gives words and events meaning. Wrong context, wrong meaning. If you do not get that, arguing with you become as futile as with a religious fundamentalist (who thinks s/he can get hold of a literal meaning of their holy texts).

Your email does indeed illustrate (again) your legalistic view on (this part of) reality. If you strip 'not' from a quoted verb, you really leave out relevant information. And context is again what distinguishes the PDF and OOXML (and future XPS) standardization processes.

I do rest my case.

Winter

Permalink
"It was interested to see the info on the last minute arrival to the Swedish committee by anti-OOXML-ers: I guess it is only a bad thing if the other team does it.   They 'stack'; we 'balance'?"

Seven of the newcomers was recruited by the regular members of the Swedish NB to balance 7 gold partners from Microsoft that did register the day before the vote. The rest of the gold partners appeared at the doorstep with cash. If you equal the behaviors you are the words greatest hypocrite.

More interesting, how come that you was not aware of this fact?

You spend ages telling us about no proven corruption in OOXML disaster, but we now learn that you have not bothered to look up any details at all. How can dismiss this event as not being proof if you have not even bothered to find out what really happened?

(Of course I know the answer...you have dismissed the idea that every individual in ISO and NBs are corrupt and not that there were extensive corruption. Your usual tactics of ignoring the context of the question when you answer...)

Where is there corruption in people joining  a standards body, even belatedly, in order to voice their opinion?  On either side!  That is the purpose of industrial standards bodies: to assist people who want a standard and who would use it to reach agreement and to hinder people who don't want a standard and don't need it.

I wonder if "corruption" has some other meaning I am unaware of, some non-criminal meaning. 

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

"That is the purpose of industrial standards bodies: to assist people who want a standard and who would use it to reach agreement and to hinder people who don't want a standard and don't need it."

So a Industrial Standards body is a voting machine? He who can recruit the most business partners gets the standard. In that case, I assume "standardization bodies" would break anti-trust laws. Which is exactly what Mrs Kroes already said.