Update: This is an overdue update to this blog entry, noting that a late appeal from Venezuela was received and accepted after the deadline recognized by ISO/IEC. I had thought I would write a separate entry on it, but as it is now old news, I am updating this entry so as not to leave a misleading impression that the final count was only three.
Last night was the deadline for filing appeals to the adoption of OOXML by ISO/IEC JTC 1. This morning, a spokesman for the IEC acknowledged the receipt of a total of three appeals by the deadline, with the third and final appeal being filed by India, as reported by Peter Sayers, of the IDG News Service. I have no news as yet whether the fourth country that planned to file an appeal has decided not to do so, missed the deadline, or sent its letter only to ISO (Peter reports that an ISO spokesman declined to confirm how many appeals it has received at this time. The deadline date is a matter of some confusion, as some National Bodies were under the impression that the deadline was June 2, so it remains possible that a fourth appeal will (or already has been) received.
In other technicality news, the IEC spokesman noted that the Brazil letter had been improperly addressed - duplicate copies should have been sent to the CEOs of both the IEC and ISO - but that this technical irregularity would be waived [Jonathan Buck, the IEC spokesman, inaccurately stated to Peter that the Indian appeal, rather than the Brazilian appeal, had been improperly addressed; the IDG story will be corrected shortly]
More substantively, what happens next? Ironically, "what happens next" is described in the same general and sometimes vague Directives that have caused ongoing dissent in the process to date, and figure prominently in the South African and Brazilian appeals themselves.
According to Jonathan Buck, the IEC spokesman, the CEOs of the two organizations are charged with trying to reach a solution with each of the National Bodies that have filed appeals. If that fails after one month of effort, then the issue is transferred to two committees, one in each of the two sponsoring organization of Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1). They are the Technical Management Board (at ISO) and the Standards Management Board (at the IEC).
Here's how the actual rules under the Directives for handling appeals describe the process:
11.2.2 Upon receipt, the JTC 1 Secretariat shall advise all its P-members of the appeal, and take immediate action, by correspondence or at a meeting, to consider and decide on the appeal, consulting the Secretaries-General in the process.
"Upon receipt" appears to have been interpreted as "after the deadline has passed." Presumably the three NBs involved will now be contacted.
11.2.3 If JTC 1 supports the SC, the P-member who initiated the appeal may either
• Accept the JTC 1 decision, or
• Appeal against it.
"Supports the SC" here presumably means that if the Secretaries-General (the "CEOs" referred to by the IEC spokesman) are of the opinion that the appeals do not justify the action(s) requested in the appeals. Given that there have been three appeals, two of which only partially overlap in their objections, and the third of which has not yet been disclosed, there are a variety of possible permutations which may occur entering and exiting this step.
11.3.3 The Secretaries-General shall, following whatever consultations they deem appropriate, refer the appeal together with their comments to the TMB/SMB within one month after receipt of the appeal.
This is in alignment with the spokesman's comments, as quoted in the IDG story.
11.3.4 The TMB/SMB shall decide whether an appeal shall be further processed or not. If the decision is in favour of proceeding, the Chairmen of the TMB/SMB shall form a conciliation panel (see 9.2). The conciliation panel shall hear the appeal and attempt to resolve the difference of opinion as soon as practicable. If the conciliation panel is unsuccessful in its endeavours, it shall so report within three months to the Secretaries-General, giving its recommendations on how the matter should be settled.
As with the other rules that have been at issue in the OOXML Fast Track process thus far, those that will apply here are superficially rational - but also superficial, when it comes to detail. As has consistently been the case to date, that means that a great deal is left to the discretion to those in the ISO/IEC hierarchy. What this means is that ultimate control of the resolution remains in the hands of the same individuals, and their colleagues, that made or approved, the decisions in the first instance upon which the appeals are based.
As a result, we can expect that any poorly justified rejection of these appeals will be met with the as much disagreement and emotion as virtually ever other judgment made under the same Directives along this long and winding road.
I will update this post later as necessary, and also add the text of the Indian appeal when and if it becomes available.
For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here