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ISO TMB Recommends Rejection of OOXML Appeals

OpenDocument and OOXML

Last night someone sent me a copy of a document delivered by the CEOs of ISO and IEC earlier that day to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB).   That documents summarizes the four appeals filed in relation to the adoption of DIS 29500 (OOXML), and provides a response to each claimed basis for appeal.  Those appeals, you will recall, were registered by the National Bodies of South Africa, India, Venezuela and Brazil, not all of which have became publicly available.  Under the Directives, the next step in the Appeals process is for the TMB to vote on each appeal, with each member being entitled to vote yes, no or abstain on one or the other of the following resolutions, in each case as to each appeal separately:

a) Not to process the appeal further

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

If more than one appeal is approved for further consideration, the CEOs recommend that a single panel be formed to address them (I've previously described the ongoing process in greater detail here).  The TMB's are asked to vote by August 4.

The recommendation of the CEOs is as follows:

The processing of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 project has been conducted in conformity with the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, with decisions determined by the votes expressed by the relevant ISO and IEC national bodies under their own responsibility, and consequently, for the reasons mentioned above, the appeals should not be process further.

Those who have been disappointed by how the Fast Track process was conducted will also be disappointed by the reasoning they will find in the document, which can be effectively be summarized as follows:

1.  All judgments made during the course of the process were appropriately made under the Directives

2.  The fact that the BRM voted on all proposed resolutions in some fashion satisfies the Directives

3.  The fact that a sufficient percentage of National Bodies (NBs) ultimately voted to approve DIS 29500 ratifies the process and any flaws in that process

4.  Many objections, regardless of their merits, are irrelevant to the appeals process

Pamela Jones at Groklaw has also received a copy of the document, which she has posted here.   Her commentary can be found here, and as you would expect, like me, she is neither happy nor surprised with the recommendation.  That document includes the original appeals, as well as additional materials, including letters from each appellant stating the specific remedies they request.  These letters were submitted in response to a letter from ISO/IEC noting that on review the appeals were deemed to be  light in that department and inviting the appellants to offer further requests.

As has been consistent from the beginning of the Fast Track process, there will be two well-considered responses to this document (and various more emotional ones).   They are as follows:

  • The first response, which I would expect from Alex Brown and Rick Jeliffe, among others, will be that like the process or not, the Directives were properly followed, and therefore there is no basis for the appeals.  This is, after all, a long standing system that has processed thousands of standards over the years and has a set of rules, including rules for appeal, that have stood the test of time.  Therefore, the right approach is to follow the rules and let the chips fall where they may, and then use this as an opportunity to see whether those rules should be changed in the future.  Under this argument, the next step is that the TMB should evaluate the CEO responses, and then vote based upon whether they agree with the findings of fact and the applications of the rules are
  • The second response, from people like myself, PJ, and Bob Sutor, among many others, is that the process was so flawed from the outset, and so influenced by vendor pressure at the conclusion, that simply following the rules is inadequate to the events that have been witnessed, resulting in (among other outcomes) a loss of credibility for ISO/IEC, the publishing of  a poor quality standard, and the endorsement of some very bad decisions along the way by those within ISO/IEC that were entrusted with those decisions. 

Which is the right response?  The legal part of my mind acknowledges the first point of view, and therefore my expectation is that this response will likely be the one that the TMB follows (although not knowing the composition of that committee, I don't have an educated opinion on the subject).

The other part of me, however, would like to think that at some point along the way someone would stand up and say the following:

1.  The process has been consistently marked by extremely bad judgments from beginning to end, including admitting such a large specification to a process for which it was clearly ill-suited.

2.  Scheduling a one-week BRM for processing of over 1200 comments was clearly inconsistent with normal standards of quality control.

3.  Those attending the BRM were told that their job was purely technical, and that their job was to do the best that they could using the time available.  Their ultimate approval of most of the substantive comments through "group voting" (as it was phrased in the document) was then held up as being ratification of the quality of the standard, especially given that they had been offered the opportunity to vote earlier in the week that their task was impossible.  Given that the c. 120 people offered this option had just traveled from around the world to Geneva, this result was not surprising.

4.  The Directives give very wide latitude for judgments to be made by a small number of people, whose judgments are not subject to appeal.

5.  The continuing lack of release of a definitive version of DIS 29500 - now admitted to be because it is not of sufficient quality to merit review even by the NBs - would seem to undercut the rationality of a process that requires final votes to be locked in, and appeals opportunities to expire, before NBs can even see what they have voted to approve.  The document calls this fact "irrelevant," while acknowledging that the Directives calling for release of that document have not been followed - yet another example of a judgment upon which reasonable people could certainly disagree.

A final source of frustration is that despite the fact that one basis for appeal under the Directives is a negative impact to the reputation of ISO/IEC, the document makes almost no response at all to the comments made in this regard.  Whether one concludes that ISO and IEC have justifiably or unjustifiably suffered such an impact, I think that it would be hard to conclude that a substantial hit has not been taken. 

In my view, ISO/IEC would be wise to acknowledge that fact, and take more intelligent actions to address it.  Acting in the open (i.e., publicly releasing documents like this) and acknowledging that those that must live with the results of what ISO/IEC decides are entitled to better answers than they have received to date would be a great place to start.

Ultimately, what really matters is whether the process is changed to work better in the future.  Perhaps holding those who make the decisions more accountable for what they decide might be as important to consider as improving the rules themselves, especially where the rules make their decisions virtually immune from being challenged.

At the end of the day, even winning an appeal is cold comfort after the time has been wasted by countless people around the world, the marketplace has been confused, and the reputation has been tarnished.

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"The continuing lack of release of a definitive version of DIS 29500 - now admitted to be because it is not of sufficient quality to merit review even by the NBs"

Interesting - can you provide background/links/more info on this 'admission'.

Take a look at item 7 on the attachment to the SABS letter dated 24 June 2008 (titled "DIS 29500:  Requested specific remedial actions - South Africa" n the document package.  It alludes to what is presumably an ISO/IEC document that I assume is not publicly available.  The text reads in part as follows:
We note the comment by ITTF that the final DIS text has not yet been made available to date (as required by clause 13.12) "simply because a text in a mature state for release does not exist."...
The point and related argument is labeled by ISO/IEC as being "Not germane"

  -  Andy

In reality they are saying it's valid but we don't want hold a standard back just because it isn't written down yet.  -- ISO seems to be dumb and dumber everyday.

Maybe a new universal standards orgization is needed.  The basic rules:

1.  Fast Track:  must already be standard written down.  No changes allowed.  Must pass at the 90% level on initial vote to be standardized.  Failed Standards may be moved to Existing Track.

2.  Existing Standards.  Existing standard to be modified.  Must receive consensus on all proposed changes unless cloture is invoked.  Cloture requires 2/3 majority voting for cloture.  Requires 3/4 majority upon cloture.

3.  New standards/changing current standards.  Similar to existing track but has an additional early development stage where only 2/3 majority is required upon cloture.  Requires 3/4 majority to go into provisional stage where process is the same as existing track.

You might be interested in a recent discussion attached to another story. In short, you're pushing on an open door when you argue for fixing ISO rules for future standards. The problem is with altering the outcome of a previous standardisation effort, where the door has been firmly shut. Personally, I'm coming round to the idea that it's a door worth reopening, but it would be a big headache, and there might well be less painful solutions available.

- Andrew Sayers

My optimism comes from the fact that I've yet to hear anybody stand up for the existence of the FT process, that striking a process from the Directives is a relatively simple operation, and that it may have been only Jan van den Beld that ever stood up for it in the first place. Although ambiguity seems to be a big problem, it only takes on the proportions we've seen when there's significant time pressure involved - if future standards go through a longer process, decisions can simply be delayed until there's consensus about the meanings of rules. With that said, I do take your point that interest in disambiguating the Directives might melt away when everyone remembers what an uphill struggle it is.

I can't agree with your characterisation of the Secretary-General's interview - I read it as an attempt to educate the public about ISO fundamentals rather than arguing a point to experts. Sadly, I don't think it will work in that regard, as it comes across more like a man confronted by foreigners who thinks he can be understood just by speaking loudly and slowly.

My feelings about the appeals process change with alarming regularity, so here's what I believe today, and I might come back and tell you it's all wrong tomorrow :)

My ethical world view can be summed up quite simply - an action is ethical if and only if all parties involved give their informed consent. Of the vast array of implications that principle has, one is that a properly conducted vote is indisputable, because all involved parties have given their consent to the result. If you take the view that the ISO 29500 vote was properly conducted, as Alex brown seems to do, then it's quite right to look down on an appeals process that's attempting to replace a properly-made decision with one that nobody else has given their consent to. However, if you take the opinion that there wasn't enough time for discussion, then the consent was not informed, so the vote wasn't a measure of anything relevant and ought to be appealed. There have been a lot of arguments that it would have been impractical to provide enough time to discuss the specification given the process we were given, but ethical considerations should generally outweight mere practicalities - if you can't get informed consent, there's no point in pretending.

- Andrew Sayers

Andrew: but there was a way for NBs to vote that there was not enough time for them, etc.  It is the normal vote.

A more-than-absolute majority of NBs participating decided that there *was* enough time, and so on. They voted yes.

At the end of the day, a lot of the objections come down to some NBs having a different opinion on the standard (and the particular process) than other NBs.  *That happens all the time* though usually without the publicity machine and end-of-the-world grandiosity.  People are playing this as ISO Secretariat against the world, but the world voted, in the glare of publicity: now it may be that SA, China, India and Ven did not have enough time to figure out what was going on and what to vote (and they insiste that therefore no other NB could have either)  or they think their arguments are so compelling that any lack of agreement by other NBs shows that the NBs were somehow duped or shielded from the opposing view, but that is simply not their call to make. NBs decide, and the Secretariat has no right to overturn the NBs clear vote: they have to server the NBs. Remember that ISO voting rules are some of the strongest on any standards body: not simple majority, not absolute majority, but stronger than that with accept and reject quotas.

If you don't like the idea of there being a forum where each National Body has the same vote and there should be more consideration enfranchising based on economic size, or non-NB stakeholders, then JTC1 is not the body for you. (In fact, the person who has most seriously argued that smaller economies should have less votes and that primary stakeholders should have more involvement is Jan van der Belt, who is actually a lovely man: I disagree with him quite strongly on this.) Actually, ISO has being trying to position itself in recent years as more like a Senate: a house of review which looks at standards from angles different from the stakeholder-driven  consortia and committees who originate the standards.

For example, you might decide to have population-based voting, for example an extra vote for every 100 million population. Or GDP-based voting. That would then encourage the formation of voting blocks and proxies. It sounds like a step sideways, at best, and probably a step backwards.  I believe it is really important for there to be an international standards body where ultimate voting does not allow direct voting by stakeholders: all the systems where there is direct voting by stakeholders are suspect and deficient w.r.t. susceptibility to collusion and domination just on procedural grounds.

I don't know if you know the term "Pilgerism". It was coined about a journalist John Pilger, a fellow Australian, and it is defined as "presenting information in the most sensational way in support of a pre-dedetermined position".  That is what I see a lot of. People start off with the position "Oh, of course it is impossible for OOXML to become a standard". And "It is impossible for any changes to be made". And it is impossible for MS to do anything without it therefore being bad. And so with many other impossibilities. Then when the impossible happens, rather than saying "oh. we were wrong by a mile" and  "gosh the echo chamber was so strong we only heard our own voice repeated", we get "Oh, there must be corruption and folly, it is the only explanation." 

But the simpler explanation is that there was a vigorous exchange of views, changes were made, and enough NBs were convinced. (However, as I have said before, I do think there should have been more NBs abstaining on both sides, based on their reasons. For example, if a NB loses confidence with its technical committee for having biased views,  or if an NB considers it did not have enough time to satisfactorily review, both those  should have resulted in  abstentions IMHO.)

Rick Jelliffe


>For example, if a NB loses confidence with its technical committee for having biased views,  or if an NB considers it did not have enough time to satisfactorily review, both those  should have resulted in  abstentions IMHO.)

Unfortunately, even this wouldn't do it, since the way the votes are counted, an abstention is the next best thing to a vote to approve, under the voting rules.  So if you are really unhappy, the safest vote would be a "no."  Which, not surprisingly, is what each of the four countries did that appealed, if memory serves.

  -  Andy

Andy:  No, if a NB has not had the time and resources and expertise to adequately review enough to have confidence in either a yes or a no vote, it should abstain IMHO.

The NB risks acting in bad faith if it nullifies the vote of another NB which could get its review done.

(Do you have some kind of prodigal son argument here? That the diligent son should be pushed aside by the lax son?)

There are scores of National Bodies and technical committees full of people who spent multiple man-months working through various issues. I hope you can understand that the idea that their hard work can be overridden by a handful of NBss  insisting they have not reviewed things enough is hardly likely to be a crowd-pleaser. 

The Yes vote at the final ballot a more than absolute majority of NBs did think they had adequate time for review, however minimally. I am not remotely denying that some NBs may have started the review late, or might have a lot of catch-up or flux, etc, and so benefited from an extension. Same with any standard. Big deal.  Nor am I denying that more work would improve it: in fact, that is the reason why I have pushed awareness of the maintenance process: the "perpetual ballot resolution meeting".

So I don't see arguments that come down to "we didn't have enough time and that should override the NBs who say they did".  The appeal isn't a veto system.

Rick Jelliffe


I think I see another issue where we're talking past each other. I've been looking at the appeal as a venue for reviewing decisions made by the ISO during the whole process of standardising DIS 29500, to look at how ISO practice can deviate from ISO procedure during real-world standardisation. So when an NB complains about not getting time to discuss issue X, the question I hear isn't “why did Alex Brown make this decision at the BRM”, but “why did the ISO choose six months before the BRM to put Alex Brown in a situation where he had to make this decision?”. It sounds as if you're saying that an appeal is strictly about answering the question “should this standard be accepted?”, and that broader issues are off-topic. Is that accurate, and if so, what would be a more appropriate venue for discussing deviations from procedure?

On the issue of fast tracks as a venue for standards that are easy come, easy go - if the PAS and/or FT processes stay, would it be wise to stipulate that fast-tracked standards should automatically lapse after five years? In the extreme case, such a rule would create the sort of circuit-breaker that Andy has talked about previously, while in the more common case, it would act to gently dissuade people from using it for long-lasting standards like document formats.

- Andrew Sayers


Your description of the PAS process matches what I've heard previously. If there's more interest in its reform than its abolishment then I can well see that working, but I personally don't feel I understand the PAS process well enough to say whether it would be better reformed or removed. The FT process is a different matter though - I don't see that it solves any legitimate problem that the PAS process can't, and it gives Ecma a competitive advantage that doesn't benefit the industry at large. If not axiomatic, I think it's at least an easy case to make that the FT process should be removed. Although I'd like to see a great deal more, just abolishing the FT process gives me cause for optimism, because the many consortium eyes on the PAS standard should help make its bugs shallow.

I should imagine you're right about Scotland in 1776, although my understanding is that a great deal of American dissent was silenced by the difficulty of sailing information to decision-makers at a pace and volume that made good governance feasible - not that that would be any less problematic than the alternative. The Secretary General's interview remarks might also show that the problem is as relevant now as it was then, if the message genuinely hasn't got to him yet. On the other hand, it's only a single interview, and I think there's a lesson for me somewhere about over-reacting when someone goes a little off-message about a topic of personal importance ;)

- Andrew Sayers

I don't think it is true that the Fast-Track fast-track process was set up for small documents. My impression it was set up for standards that need to be quickly available but which might be superceded quickly: in particular things like optical disk standards (which may have state-of-the-art shelf lives measured in months  rather than years or decades, I am told).  Easy come, easy go standards: which are useful when there is technological churn but at any time it is useful to have agreement between the stakeholders.

However, it is important for readers to be aware that the JTC1 Directives specifically allow Fast-Track to be used for *any* kind of draft that the proposers wish. This is why arguments based on "the fast-track process was intended for ....(fill in the gap)" are not grounds for appeal.  They certainly may be grounds for discussion at JTC1 changing the unsatisfactory Directives (here's hoping), but not a grounds for appeal of a standard that has been approved by a super-majority vote of a very large number of NBs.

Rick Jelliffe


I don't disagree with you on your statements about this being a grounds for appeal, per se.  See the comment I just posted, though, on whether the process decisions on how to deal with such a large standard should be relevant to an appeal.

Like you, I certainly do hope for Directive reform on this issue.  And thanks for the observations on Fast Track rationales.  It would be very interesting if someone would point us to whatever official records there might be on how this came into existence.

  -  Andy

"A final source of frustration is that despite the fact that one basis for appeal under the Directives is a negative impact to the reputation of ISO/IEC, the document makes almost no response at all to the comments made in this regard."

My reading of page 6:

"10. Process followed was incompatible with the principles of consensus, technically-oriented
discussions and “redundancy of standards”, was dominated by large multinational
organization(s), and has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC
10e. Insofar as observation of Statutes, Rules of Procedure, Directives and other rules is
concerned, this is not correct. Otherwise it is a matter for NBs’ judgement, which they
expressed through their positive or negative vote on the draft"

says that ISO decided it is not its job to say the process had harmed ISO or IEC and leave that to the NBs.

The "CEOs" did not make this decision, ultimately.

The decision to adopt DIS29500 as amended was made by a more-than-absolute majority vote by a very large number of NBs, in the full glare of publicity and with a lot of discussion and interest.

To treat say "NBs" and only mean 4 of them, ignoring the other 75 or 79 (whatever the number was), is perverse. 

The Secretaries General (one Secretary General, two Secretaries General) do not have discretion to overturn a clear vote like this, in the absence of procedural irregularity or where a standard has gone off the rails (for example, if there were a standard for machete blades for optimum human-slicing capability, that would be something that the CEOs would be in their rights to overturn even if it had slipped past NBs, on the reputation ground.  But the reputation ground does not cover when some people merely hate a standard's champions. )

Rick Jelliffe


>But the reputation ground does not cover when some people merely hate a standard's champions. )

Rick, can you point me to the source of your conclusion that the considered decision of each of four National Bodies, as compared to the opinion of any individual person, was motivated simply by a "hate for a standard's champions?"  Would you like to put that in a letter to each of them?

I am constantly surprised by the willingness of people to complain about generalizations that random ODF proponents might make, and then turn around and make a random, baseless swipe like this.  You might consider withdrawing it, especially since I expect you know and respect some of the people at most or all of these NBs..

  -  Andy

Andy: I was giving two extremes of the possible application of the reputation grounds, as I see them, not a critique of the particular NBs' comments: it was part of the parenthetical "for example". Sorry for not being clear, if this is a touchy issue, but I certainly expect that the people I know at the various NBs who know me will have a little more generosity in trying to detect insults or slights.

Anyone who claims there is not a lot of hatred out there towards MicroSoft  is speaking through their hat.  Angry people love to think that their anger helps them to think clearly.

And anyone who is not aware of the strengths of anti-neo-colonialist sentiment in what economists used to call "peripheral" countries (e.g. the centre/periphery distinction being used as an alternative to the first/second/third world distinction or North/South or aligned/non-aligned or the blocs) needs to widen the circle of their friends. I don't think I am alone in raising an eyebrow when I see the rhetoric of anti-colonialism and anti-neo-colonialism being directed towards IS29500 as a proxy for MS.

But to concentrate on the reputation aspect of my comment in this thread is to miss the essential point, which was that people are couching this as NBs versus Secretaries-General, whereas it is 4 NBs asking the Secretaries-General to overturn the clear super-majority vote of the other NBs from a very large, public, scrutinized process.

Rick Jelliffe

Andy: Err, but what is the point of having majority voting if an appeal automatically overturns it?

That these appeals looks like being too weak to be carried (and many of the reasons are indeed very weak: not having had enough time to prepare for the BRM, or not understanding and apparently not bothering to ask about procedures: these are not flaws in the BRM nor in the final vote) does not mean that *every* appeal would necessarily fail, which would be the test if the appeal process was fake or empty.  

Who is trying to fool people with the myth that that somehow IS29500 got approved on a technicality, and therefore it can be made unapproved on a technicality? It simply wasn't.

When you have multiple NBs voting, there is no guarantee everyone will agree with you. Nor is there a guarantee everyone will be convinced by your arguments, nor that if they disagree it reflects a flaw in the process. 

Rick Jelliffe

If you looked at your bank statements and noticed a $0.10 error would you complain?  Most people wouldn't bother, however if there were 100 errors then that starts to become material and I'd pretty much guaranttee that most people would cmoplain about that.

One appeal may be immaterial but taken together one cannot just ignore them.

Materiality matters and it doesn't just depend on one item being wrong.  One big error is easy to spot but when the errors are small and pervasive things become more difficult to deal with. 

It looks to me like the ISO is scared to look at this problem as they fear the greater problem of how to clean up the mess.



Your thoughts on remedies are interesting.  Are these best guesses, or is there some more definitive source to look to?  I recall seeing somewhere that this is the first time that there has been an appeal under JTC 1 standard (or something like that), so I'm wondering whether we are in a situation where there is, at one extreme, a detailed manual setting forth potential remedies, with lots of past examples to look at, or at the other extreme, only the single Directive and few or no past practices to work with.

If it's the latter, it's interesting to note that antitrust experts the world over would state that any process should have sufficient detail to avoid even the appearance of discrimination or influence in how its handled.  Something to think about if/as/when serious reform discussions occur.

  -  Andy

ISO and IEC would have all the info in their archives, I expect. Probably most in obsolete  word processor file formats...

It certainly would be useful to have a definitive set. 

Why not propose to ANSI that they fund someone to go to Geneva and compile it? Perhaps we could ask MS and IBM for matching funding :-)

In practice, the people to ask are the current and former chairmen/convenors of SCs. They know the war stories, the corporate culture, the jargon. Very often the senior people in the standards bodies have a lot of experience too, and know what the Directives were supposed to mean when they were agreed on. People who have been participating at the SC level for more than a decade will also have a good body of gossip. The difficulty is that the people who can talk about the administrative details are usually scrupulous to not second guess the NBs or to deal with technical issues: in practice there is a really clear demarcation between the NBs and ISO/IEC Secretariats and SCs and JTC1, which means that you cannot get a straight answer (I mean, a complete answer) from any single source on any set of questions on a standard that crosses these borders, which would be nice, but ISO/IEC is not a nation state but a federation IYSWIM.

So asking an SC to fix an NB problem is like asking the United States Banana Board to fix a problem in Florida election machines: Florida might have representation on the Banana Board but that does not mean the Banana Board has business in Florida.
Rick Jelliffe

Can I make a pre-emptive strike against the morons and trolls even now wanting to rail against my scoffing and offensive reference to banana producers, that I grew up on a banana farm?

Andy: Actually, the involvement of MS was an issue in the appeal. I also note item 10 from the appeals summary:

"10. Process followed was incompatible with the principles of consensus, technically-oriented discussions and "redundancy of standards", was dominated by large multinational organization(s), and has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC"

I would be interested to know whether the NB that used this reason made similar protests about PDF, ODF and other standards championed by multinational(s). Is it just this one? 

Rick Jelliffe


I think that *NOT* considering the very egregious role played by Microsoft in this standard as unprecedented is closing your eyes to reality.

The reality is that Microsoft and Microsoft employees have been caught many times inappropriately influencing the votes in ISO and it is not lost on the world that the chairman of ECMA resigned he moved directly into a prestigious job with ComTia as a lobbyist for Microsoft.  It is also not lost that Alex Brown owes his living to Microsoft's dominance and stands to potentially lose his business if the Microsoft gravy train is ever derailed and that many irregularities occurred at the BRM that have "just happened" to work in Microsoft's favor.  Microsoft still has much influence and they have proven that they are not reluctant to use that influence or even outright threats if simple influence does not get them their way.

Call this Microsoft hate if you want to, but if you do, please cite your source definition for "Microsoft hatred" and where this post does not fit the category of "recognizing established fact".

You are acting as if you believe Microsoft has done nothing abnormal during the OOXML debacle.  I find that position very disingenuous until I remember that you have accepted money from Microsoft to try to improve their image.

Yes, I agree with the 2nd- and 3rd-world position that MS lock-ing deprives them of sovereignty.  I feel the same way and I'm a US citizen that uses Linux exclusive.  There are many government web sites and services that I cannot use unless I purcase a new machine and pay what seems to me to be an exhorbitant price to Microsoft for the "privilege" of running their software that I don't want in the first place and would greatly prefer not to be forced to use.

... And yes - this situation is intentional on Microsoft's part as they've been intentionally working toward this situation for the last 23 years.


> It is also not lost that Alex Brown owes his living to Microsoft's dominance and stands to
> potentially lose his business if the Microsoft gravy train is ever derailed and that many irregularities
> occurred at the BRM that have "just happened" to work in Microsoft's favor.

You have been reading too many hate sites, I think, to have taken on such falsehoods (that I owe my living to MS) and slurs (that if I did, I would allow it to corrupt me).

And so you rather prove Rick's point - there are lots of hatred-fuelled credulous fools in the "anti" OOXML camp.

- Alex Brown.


My apologies for the over the top comment to which you are responding.  It's close to what I would delete, and will do so if it persists.   Do keep in mind that while there is a small percentage of people who are too willing to question people's motivations, there are many, many others who do not, but who do believe that there important principles of concern at issue.  Their views should not be discounted because there is a vocal minority that sometimes gets carried away.

  -  Andy

Anonymous: Don't be ridiculous. 

In what way would being "impartial" make lies and slurs right?

Alex has been personally attacked by lies and slurs. Why doesn't he have the right to a) be cheesed off, and b) point out that the comments are dumb and wrong, let alone c) point out that this has happened so much it reflects badly on the people who make the comments?

The correct response is not denial and dismissal, but "oh, I hope I was not party to that daisy chain of malice."  Of course it is a struggle to know what is going on. But the struggle is made worse when you move beyond basing your comments on what you experience first-hand,  and instead into second hand or twentieth hand comments. Hearsay and gossip should not be treated as fact. 

Sometimes people say to me "You jump up and down about what happened to you, why don't you jump up and down about what happened to X"?    If I know X, I will jump up and down, particularly to defend (just because you could make a criticism doesn't mean you should). But if it is outside my circle of knowledge, you just open yourself up to be manipulated and you need to be sure to get multiple sides of the story.

Rick Jelliffe


What's fair for one is fair for all.  I'd say that Alex's attacks on all things open-source in his various blogs and postings pretty much defines what you're railing against.

If Alex were not attacking so vehemently, perhaps he would not be attacked in response.

I've not read anywhere where Alex was attacked.  I've read where his actions were disputed and deplored, but no personal attacks on Alex.  Yet he comes out with name-calling, slurs (yes - and lies) about open source and anyone that speaks out against MSOOXML or even implies that OOXML is a poor draft standard.

Perhaps Alex should look at his own attack history instead of complaining about being the one that 'everybody loves to pick on'.

The concept is called 'projecting' by psychologists.  We are seeing it from Microsoft more and more these days as well as from many of the Microsoft supporters - accuse others of what you yourself are doing in an attempt to make what your wrongs into rights.

I can definately understand that Alex is uncomfortable when the community starts shedding light on questionable practices and what appear to be biased actions taken in an official capacity.  I can understand when Alex is upset because the community notices that (1) Alex' company is a Microsoft partner (+1) Alex ran the BRM (+1) The BRM had many irregularities that prevented proper consensus-building and review of DIS29500 (=3) resulting in a conclusion that Alex has been bought off.

This community conclusion was only re-inforced when Alex complained on this blog about the possible 'damage' to his business dealings with the British Library and shortly after OOXML was put on (indefinate?) hold, MS decided to cancel the project anyway.  Perhaps Alex should be complaining to MS rather than ranting on the open-source community...

Is there some reason why you cannot understand these things ?  Your posts seem to imply that you cannot (or that you are willfully ignoring them)...


It escapes me what, if anything, is being accomplished by this exchange - particularly since I've seen it too many times before both here, as well as in many other blogs.  I'd suggest everybody take a deep breath, any maybe re-read something I posted after the BRM that read in part as follows:

It’s all very depressing, as well as predictable.  And it won’t be over until it’s over on March 29.  Except, of course, it won’t be over then, either.  The battle at hand then will simply be the next skirmish, as the forces temporarily withdraw from the field while the votes are counted.

By now, of course, everyone is completely dug in, earplugs firmly in place, and no one is really listening to anyone with a viewpoint other than their own – they’re either tuned into Fox News or NPR, and never the channel shall be switched.  It seems almost gratuitous, therefore, to write anything at all about OOXML, because the practical effect will almost certainly be nil. 
I don't think that anyone has been "bought off," but I do think that there are a lot of people that have gotten pissed off, and are reacting the way people do when they get to that point, each escalating the other's emotion, sometimes by responding in kind, and sometimes by tweaking the other in a way that's calculated, as my grandmother would say, "to get a rise out of them."

So how about we just stop this thread here, at least to the extent of getting past the mirror-image name calling (and proxy name calling).
  -  Andy


I completely agree that it's pointless rehashing personal arguments where everyone has already made their minds up, but it's worth mentioning that technology has its part to play in the problem. Certainly these points have all been made and re-made before, but not in the comments to this article. So people come here and read comments, see an issue they think is important that hasn't been made, and naturally want to talk about the elephant in the room. This sets off the whole series of arguments and counter-arguments that everyone's got used to presenting, leading to the famous “echo chamber” effect of the blogosphere. In a sense, a wiki is actually a much more appropriate venue for such a discussion, because each allegation only needs to be made once.

- Andrew Sayers


I agree with your comments, and would like to amplify them with a reminder of the 'big lie' theory.

Repeat a lie often enough and loud enough and people will take it for the truth.

When people feel that the facts are being intentionally mis-reported or biased and that perhaps another attempt at re-writing history is in the making, please do not expect them *not* to speak up in an attempt to provide corrections to the record so that specific actions and the true history of events is not glossed over and forgotten so the same events can be repeated another day.

When we have one disaster in ISO where it appears that improprieties may have been committed by a commercial vendor that has major financial interests in 'buying' a standard and where it appears that senior standards officials and consultants were 'in' on the deal, this should be investigated by a trusted third through an open process with all facts laid out on the table.  Failure to do so will only look like a cover-up to those that were not 'in' on whatever deals may (or may not) have been made in the back rooms.  The problem is that there is no way to prove a negative and convince the general populace that no back deals were made when management decides to deviate from their own policies and procedures as drastically as the entire OOXML FT process did and when those responsible for some of those deviations leave the standards-setting sphere to take high-paid consulting/lobbying positions for the same commercial vendor before the BRM even occurs.  It's difficult to convince people that no back room deals occured when the BRM changes the rules and chooses to disregard there own precedents and policies, then retro-actively changes blog entries in an apparent effort to justify their actions and to try to appease public opinion.

These actions must never be allowed to repeat themselves and must never be forgotten.  Permenent records are currently available in various places on the internet to act as eyewitness accounts of what happened - records written by those that were there.  There is a strong push right now to try to 'cleanse' the internet of these records and to re-write history to show that the OOXML BRM was 'normal' and that 'no procedures were violated'.

This 'cleansing' action serves no one but the commercial vendor that wants to cover up its actions so it can use the same techniques again.

There are those that oppose this unethical course of conduct simply because it is unethical.  Unfortunately, there are both vendors and various 'analysts-at-large' that do not grasp this ehtical issue and try to justify both the original actions of the commercial vendor and the efforts at re-writing history by assisting in the process of trying to 'cleanse' the internet.  I suspect the true debate occurring here is about which history and sequence of actions is correct and about which history will go down in the record books as the 'legacy' of ISO and JTC1 concerning office file formats.

Amazing to read about the "big lie" theory in the same post as "When we have one disaster in ISO where it appears that improprieties may have been committed by a commercial vendor that has major financial interests in 'buying' a standard and where it appears that senior standards officials and consultants were 'in' on the deal, this should be investigated by a trusted third through an open process with all facts laid out on the table."

What on earth is "appears" if not the big lie?  Does it actually not bother people that there is no evidence?

Please note that there has been a court action related to this, the one raised by UKUUX, and the High Court threw it out very dismissively.

Rick Jelliffe

Actually, Jan planned to retire after leaving Ecma. We had a conversation about the house he was building in his retirement. CompTIA wanted someone to do some advocacy work for them, and they lured him out of retirement temporarily, and a little unwillingly.

Apparently what *has* escaped your notice is that you are living in some fantasyland of corruption. 

You should realize that Jan used to be one of MS' thorns, at the time he tried unsuccessfully to get a standardized version for some APIs that MS wanted to keep proprietary (I think it was the Win 3.1 APIs). In fact, he has been working for years trying to get important market dominating technologies de-proprietorized  by standardization (to the extent that that can happen once a technology is out the door.) It is a position he has taken when MS has been against him and when MS has been for him. Heard of Ecmascript? Rather than treating him as an ultra-pragmatic anti-proprietory hero who has stuck it out long enough to see MS capitulate, he gets these slurs from parrots who have just flown in the last year on high dudgeon and who are most likely to migrate to the next sensation after having crapped on whoever they can.

Rick Jelliffe

You wrote "I find that position very disingenuous until I remember that you have accepted money from Microsoft to try to improve their image."

Err, I have never had that as my job or job description.

I was hired for four days to suggest changes to Wikipedia's OOXML entry to bring it to a more factual and neutral position because they wanted someone from outside their camp with longstanding and known independent views.  And I also worked on and off for their educational division on technical and standard-related seminars on OOXML last year, most of which time was travel time. A company I consult for also has MS as a minor customer for system integration jobs involving publishing.

If you are a taxi driver, and you get a customer to the destination on time, the customer's motivation may be to look good to his waiting friends by turning up on time, but for you as a taxi driver, he is just another customer and your role is just to move people from A to B. If you accused the taxi driver of accepting money from the customer in order to look good, you would be making a logical fallacy of confusing goals and side-effects (or perhaps ultimate cause and material cause).

There are two ways Microsoft can improve their image. One way is by reforming. The other way is by fabricating an image.  Because I believe that all market dominating interface technologies should be RAND-z, QAed standards, I think that the standardization of OOXML is a reform for them and would be exactly the kind of honest image improvement they should be persuing.  The courts failed to split them up.

Rick Jelliffe

I said it on Groklaw and I'll say it again here:

After reading this letter from ISO management, I'm done.  My company will never again waste another dime on ISO compliance.

I'll tell the very few customers who require ISO certification (volume of business insufficient to justify compliance expenses) to do some research on DIS29500 if they want to know why I will not maintain my ISO certification.  I'll tell that to my ISO registrar as well when recertification comes due.

What a colossal waste of time and money!  I won't be fooled again!


I'm guessing that you're talking about your ISO9000 series cerrtification.

If that's the case, and given that there are thousands of  useful ISO standards, I'd suggest that a better way to express your frustration to your registrar would be to state that when ISO and IEC certify their own process under the 9000 standards, that you'll be happy to reapply for certification.

  -  Andy

If that's the case, and given that there are thousands of  useful ISO standards, I'd suggest that a better way to express your frustration to your registrar would be to state that when ISO and IEC certify their own process under the 9000 standards, that you'll be happy to reapply for certification.

In my case it's 17025 (an excellent standard IMHO, BTW - and I'll continue to follow it).  But I love your suggestion and I think it's still appropriate!  Thanks!

ISO management isn't going to see any negative consequences for a while (if ever), but I wouldn't be too surprised if they start getting a few calls from registrars complaining that they're bad for business.  Or maybe not.  Most executives with authority to make these decisions will know little to nothing about DIS29500 or it's journey through the ISO ratification process, and they'll probably care even less.

P.S.  Just seen on Slashdot, and I couldn't agree more:

Standards keep your car from flying apart, jets from dropping out of the sky and bridges from collapsing.

Yes industry standards matter. Screwing around with them [h]as real world consequences. This is about more than just software.


In doing some more research on the ISO vs rules issue, I noticed that <NOOOXML> pointed out  that in the recommendations to the TMB/SMB, the CEOs respond to charges that rules were not followed (such as the lack of a final report) "Correct but irrelevent".

The key word here is they are acknowledging that they continue to not follow their own rules, but don't see that as an issue related to appeals based on ISO not following their own rules.

Just how hippocritical are these jokers anyway ?  That is an admission truly worthy of a Microsoft puppet !!

The BRM delegations decided with *no* against votes to adopt the paper ballot system, where each proposed editor's resolution (based on Ecma response to NBs issues) could be individually voted for or against. (There was also a box to tick to say what your vote would for items with no explicit tick, to save Repetitive Strain Injury and tedium.)  

Other alternatives had already been voted against by the BRM delegations.  There had already been a block of the uncontroversial editorial changes (typos) that had been approved in a bundle.

In fact, the ITTF representative made it quite clear that the voting system was the responsibility of the BRM not the ITTF/ISO/IEC/JTC1.  My impression was that most NBs were happy to have this responsibility, though I think Yoon Kit mentioned somewhere that it pissed off some delegates, who perhaps didn't want to have to accept responsibility for anything that might lead to a different result than the one they wanted (I don't know...I don't understand it).

So, like most Groklaw commentary on this issue, take it with a pinch of salt.

Rick Jelliffe

This is, after all, a long standing system that has processed thousands of standards over the years and has a set of rules, including rules for appeal, that have stood the test of time.

When an old tree is damaged by time and termites, how do you know it's time to save the house from the fall of the tree? This tree may be centennial, it doesn't mean it will last forever.
I think we consider that these rules are the good ones because they have lasted for a long time, but maybe we should consider that they are facing new challenges they were not written for.