The Standards Blog

OOXML Payback Time as Global Standards Work in SC 34 "Grinds to a Halt"

OpenDocument and OOXML

One of the more egregious behaviors observed in the recent vote on OOXML was the sudden and last minute surge to join not only various National Bodies just before they voted on OOXML, but also the relevant committee of ISO/IEC for the same purpose. At the latter level, not one but two unusual membership changes occurred. During the voting period, more and more countries joined SC 34, the committee within ISO/IEC's Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) that addresses document formats, at the Observer (O) level. Then, in the final weeks and days before the voting closed, many of these new members as well as many longer term members suddenly upgraded their status to Principal ((P) membership, thereby gaining greater influence in the final vote under the complex rules under which the committee operates (those rules are described in detail here).

 

 

SC 34 is one of the more important and active committees in JTC1, and has a constant stream of standards under active consideration and balloting.  In anticipation of the OOXML vote, its membership surged – with 23 new National Body members, and the number of P members spiking by 11.   When almost all of the new members voted for adoption (most of those countries that were long term members voted against adoption, with comments), many felt that the standard setting process had been abused.

 

 

But unfortunately, the damage has not stopped there: since the OOXML ballot closed on September 2, not a single ballot has received enough votes to count in this important committee. Why? Because the last minute arrivals to SC 34 are not bothering to vote.

 

The resulting gridlock of this committee was as predictable as it is unfortunate. The extraordinarily large number of upgrades in the final months, and particularly in the final days, therefore seemed attributable not to an abiding investment and interest in the work of SC 34, but in the outcome of a single standards vote. That conclusion is now certain, given the voting performance of the upgraded members since they cast their votes on OOXML.

The specific problem arises from the rules under which JTC1 committees operate, which are intended to ensure that specifications do not become official standards unless there is sufficient interest in them, as well as adequate review, to merit issuance as global standards. One of those rules is that at every balloting stage, at least 50% of the P members eligible to vote must in fact return a ballot. Even this requirement, however, does not set a high bar, because a member is permitted to return a ballot of "Abstain," and inadequate review to form an opinion is accepted as a valid reason to abstain. As a result, returning a vote of "abstain" constitutes at best only the most minimal level of good citizenship.  

The result is that a very important committee has, in the words of its Secretariat Manager in frequent pleas to the non-responsive members, "ground to a halt." The impact is significant, since this is the committee that controls standards such as RELAX NG (ISO/IEC 19757 Part 2), Schematron (ISO/IEC 19757 Part 3) and Topic Maps (ISO/IEC 13250) – not to mention ODF and PDF (if will be interesting to see if participation increases when Microsoft's PDF-competing XML Paper Specification advances to SC 34 from Ecma, where it is currently in preparation).  It is also a committee that attracts top talent on behalf of its traditional members, such as Ken Holman, Jon Bosak, Murata Makoto, Steve Pepper, Patrick Durusau, Francis Cave, Martin Bryan, and Rick Jelliffe, to name only a few. [Update/Correction 10-22-07:  James King, of Adobe, tells me that the latest PDF submission is tracking through a different committee:  ISO TC171.

It's a sad story, and one that for now does not have a happy ending in sight. For now, those that want to advance the cause can only grow increasingly frustrated.  If you want to sample the depth of that frustration, read the excerpts reproduced below from Secretariat Manager Ken Holman's plaintive weekly memos. And if you know anyone involved in standard setting in Malta, Cyprus, Lebanon, Cote d'Ivoire (and so on), do everyone a favor and ask them to consider either voting, or dropping back to Observer membership.  

Sadly, even that level of citizenship has been lacking in the newly upgraded members, whose numbers have dramatically raised the number or P members required to vote in order to advance a standard towards final approval. While I'm told that 90% of committee votes have achieved the necessary 50% return in the past, the current numbers tell a far different story: the three most recent (SC 34 N 870, SC 34 872 and SC 34 N 874) have all failed because of P member apathy.   As I read the tallies at those links, only one recent P member responded to a single ballot, even after some ballots had been reissued for a second or even a third time. Had it not been necessary to include the new P members in the calculations, the second two votes would have passed (the first related to establishing a liaison relationship with another organization, and not a standard).  

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

8/26/2007

 

 

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Speaking of contributions, please remember that participating members have an obligation to participate in *all* ballots for the subcommittee and not just in some of the ballots.  There was a disappointing response to the last ballot, and so far a disappointing response to the ballot that is due in the week ahead. This week I am excited to report an additional five (count 'em!) participating memberships in our committee, adding Malta, Venezuela, Pakistan, Poland and Egypt to our ranks.  We also have a new observer membership from Indonesia.  We welcome all of these new members to our committee and look forward to their contributions

 

  9/7/2007

 

  This week we welcome six new P-members to JTC 1/SC 34, three of them new: Lebanon, New Zealand and South Africa, and three of them as transfers from O-membership: Romania, Sri Lanka and Chile.  We look forward to their contribution to our committee.

 

  Regarding contributions, last week I tried to remind all participating members that you have an obligation to participate in *all* ballots for the subcommittee and not just in some of the ballots you might be interested in.  My comments went unheeded and as a result the outstanding letter ballot 870 regarding Category A Liaison membership for the XML Guild failed due to a lack of response.

 

  Directives 9.1.10 explicitly indicates "if more than 50% of the P-members have not voted, the vote will have failed."  Until we get 50% of *all* P-members responding to ballots, the work of SC 34 will grind to a halt. Please consider your obligations of P-membership.

 

  In the next few days I will re-issue the liaison ballot, this time for 1 month.  This is the third time this question has been put forward to the membership of SC 34

 

  9/18/2007

 

  In the past week we have had two new ballots issued from WG 3, and a (second!!) reissue of the liaison request from the XML Guild.  Until we get sufficient response on committee ballots, the work of SC 34 will grind to a halt and all insufficiently-responded ballots will have to be reissued. This is a critically important issue to our committee and I commend all P-members to assess their responsibility to respond, and to consider changing their membership to Observer status if they do not plan on participating in the work of our committee. Please remember that abstention is a valid vote and will help the committee continue its progress.

 

  9/30/2007

 

  You will see at that link that (as of Sunday evening) only 7 member bodies of our 38 participating members have actually submitted a ballot response….Since the recent influx of new P-members to SC 34, not a single ballot has been able to be processed…

 

  It is critically important that P-members remember their obligations:  if we do not get 20 responses per ballot, the work of SC 34 will grind to a halt….If you do not plan to participate in the work of SC 34, please consider changing your membership to Observer status.  For those national bodies that joined in the interests of DIS 29500 Ecma 376 OOXML, remember that P-member/O-member status in SC 34 has no effect on attendance and voting at the Ballot Resolution Meeting being held in February.  If this is your only interest, it would serve SC 34 well to change your membership status to O-member.

 

  10/7/007

 

 

Regarding the two ballots that closed in the last week, even with all of the reminders I sent out we still fell short of the required number of ballot responses for either ballot to have their results considered. …Since the recent influx of new P-members to our committee, not a single ballot has had a sufficient number of responses to be considered.

 

 

 

[On a different topic, and if you still have a few more minutes:  as Rick Jelliffe noted when he linked to my last blog entry, there are some things that are much more important than whether your file format says <tomato> while mine says <tomato>.]

 

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

 

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Comments

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As I recall, they get kicked out if they don't vote for long enough, right?  How long does this take?  Any hope of adding new rules preventing them from rejoining without lots of hurdles once they're gone?

As several of the old p-member have not voted either they would be kicked out first (actually making the vote on OOXML much easier ?)

Also the numbers are not correct. Mr Upgrove mentions three ballots but two of those did not make it to 50% of the orignal thrity p-members. When he claims that two ballots would have passed he is actually incorrect. Two of the three ballots would also have failed under the original p-membership. So the problem is older than that. The problem seems to have started in 2006 after the vote on Opendocument as many of the voters on that ballot seems to have hardly voted after that vote. 

So kicking out countries would actually mean, first kicking out countries that over a year ago voted for Opendocument but have since then been very inactive 

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Microsoft now effectively "owns" ISO... they'll ensure each of their sock-puppets votes often enough to make sure they don't get kicked out, but they'll also only vote through things Microsoft want... anything Microsoft doesn't like can be blocked simply by ensuring sufficient sock-puppets do not vote so there's no quorum

Permalink
What exactly is the consequence of this? If the votes grind to a halt now but everyone attends for the final barely changed standard, and Microsoft is able to buy a few other committee members, will OOXML pass?

Also, will Microsoft's counter-proposal be posted on the web for review before the vote or will everything take place behind closed doors?

Permalink

I confess that I don't know (yet) the answers to the questions that are being posed, as I only learned of the SC34 situation in the last few days. It may be that ISO/IEC has a "stand down" rule for those that don't participate (many organizations do have a mechanism to drop non-participating members from quorum requirements in order to avoid stalemates), but Ken Holman's comments don't refer to a sanction - just obligations that are not being honored.

What I find personally distressing here is that we are not dealing with (say) Sweden, where individuals showed up who may never have had any involvement with a standards organization before, and never expected to again.  Instead, we're talking about _National Bodies_ - the very people who are formally a part of the ISO/IEC process.  It's analogous not to voters in the US failing to show to vote for Congressman, but for Congressman to fail to vote - ever - in Congress.  That is truly low rent.

Sadly, I expect that of the two potential solutions (start voting or downgrade to O again), the latter is unlikely.  If one subscribes to the view that Microsoft inspired the new members and upgrades, then one would assume that these new members would want to hang on to their P status at least long enough to support MS's PDF competitor.  Hopefully they won't exercise their status in a negative way when new releases of ODF are submitted for adoption.

One has to hope, therefore, that the New Apathetics of SC 34 will therefore bow to pressure, if enough light is shed on the situation, and at least start abstaining in vote after vote, so those that actually care about the business of SC 34 can get back to that business.

  -  Andy

MS' Tom Robertson "endorsed" the rejuvenation of standards bodies prior to the OOXML vote in ISO.

"Robertson dismissed criticism of Microsoft’s efforts to encourage its partners to join standards bodies. Most standards bodies are filled with "an old guard" membership that needs rejuvenation, he said. He also likened Microsoft's recruitment efforts to a voter registration drive."
- http://www.computerworlduk.com/management/infrastructure/applications/news/index.cfm?newsid=4939

Will he stand by his words ? Or is he incommunicado until the BRM in february?

Permalink

I'd like to address the repeated claims that Microsoft is behind this. It's not that I think the claim is necessarily false, but proclaiming its truth without a smoking gun causes serious people to dismiss open source supporters as blowhards.

Accusations of bad faith are the nuclear option of the debating world. They force people to side with either the accused or the accuser, and make both parties radioactive whatever the result.

While there's strong evidence that Microsoft's handling of DIS-29500 has often been poor, I'm not aware of anything that can't be explained away by the game of Chinese whispers that must be going on between the standardistas and the technocrats inside Microsoft, and by the general incompetence that exists in any organisation. It's a bit of a reach to suggest that none of Microsoft's behaviour is due to malice, but claiming bad faith when there's still room for doubt makes it look like your interest is in beating your opponent rather than in advancing the debate.

The best way to handle accusations of bad faith is to conduct a fair test, and to let the evidence speak for itself. If you're really interested in Microsoft's role in the process, some steps you could take are:

  • Call on Tom Robertson to retract his remarks about the ISO needing rejuvination, and to ask recent joiners to downgrade themselves to O-member status for at least one year, so they can learn the ropes without causing problems.
  • Call on Microsoft to back Ken Holman's pleas for members to formally abstain from ballots rather than ignoring them.
  • Ask Microsoft to work with the ISO and to use any contacts they have in the countries involved, in order to find out the reasons for those countries' abstention, and to fix whatever problems are involved.

These are intended to be substantive measures that Microsoft couldn't object to in good faith. If Microsoft are publicly asked to do the above and refuse, you've got your smoking gun. If they are asked and comply, we're one step closer to a working ISO.

- Andrew

Rule 1.7.4 of the ISO/IEC directives part 1, procedures for the technical work :

1.7.4 A technical committee or subcommittee secretariat shall notify the Chief Executive Officer if a P-member of that technical committee or subcommittee has been persistently inactive and has failed to make a contribution to 2 consecutive meetings, either by direct participation or by correspondence, or has failed to vote on questions submitted for voting within the technical committee or subcommittee (such as new work item proposals).

Upon receipt of such a notification, the Chief Executive Officer shall remind the national body of its obligation to take an active part in the work of the technical committee or subcommittee. In the absence of a satisfactory response to this reminder, the national body shall automatically have its status changed to that of O-member.

Can we please move on, now?

Andrew,

I don't have the time at the moment to go back through prior posts and links to gather the data, but I think there's a pretty strong foundation for the assertions.  In those countries with big surges in membership at the national level of which I'm aware, those that attended (as in Sweden) were documented as being Microsoft partners, and voted overwhelmingly in such a way as to confirm that conclusion.  Moreover, pro-ODF companies that were newly arrived tended to be from companies with genuine skin in the game, such as Google, rather than random ISVs, with little discernible reason to be there, as in the case of those that voted in favor of OOXML.

The same thing happened at the SC 34 level, where the great majority of the new members and upgrades voted for adoption, almost all without comments.

So while there certainly have been examples of "whispering," this doesn't seem to be one of them.  I think that the assumptions here are well substantiated by facts that strongly support them.

  -  Andy

Andy,

I agree there's a strong argument that Microsoft have exerted unfair influence in some cases. My previous post was directed at those commenters on this blog and others who think the appropriate response is to look for ways to stick the "bad faith" label on Microsoft, rather than looking for ways to let the company clear its name.

It seems to me that this debate has reached saturation point - everyone that will ever care about it has formed an opinion already, so the only effective arguments will be those that sway the opinions of people who currently disagree with you. Since pro-OOXML people generally empathise with Microsoft, attacking Microsoft will only contribute to their ingroup bias. On the other hand, giving Microsoft the opportunity to do the right thing moves the debate forward and doesn't make people feel as defencive.

- Andrew

Andrew,

Yes, I agree that the focus should be on how to improve the situation.  The purpose of this blog entry was in part to add some urgency to that goal, since the collateral damage is real and ongoing.  Sadly, some of the possible solutions that one could think of would have costs as well, since the most logical rule amendment to curb this type of activity would, for example, be to not allow someone to vote for (say) six months after joining or upgrading. 

But if the rules are tightened up in this way to limit game playing (by anyone - others may be tempted in the future to act the same way), then it makes it harder for those who have a genuine interest in a standard, but learn about it at a late date, to join and have their say.  And that would be a shame.  From that perspective, "social pressure," made possible by more transparency, has some value, since it may inhibit behavior without the necessity of changing rules that cause their own collateral damage.

  -  Andy

I did find this blog entry useful, as before I was only aware of one vote, and it would have failed to pass even without recent events. As for a rules change, how about saying that an ISO committee can only grow by 25% per year, to a minimum of 3 members? As well as protecting against situations like the above, it encourages committees to expand at a rate that gives newbies space to mature in an environment consisting mainly of people that know what they're doing.

- Andrew

Andrew,

An interesting idea.  It helps illustrate, though, how hard it is to come up with a rule when you can no longer rely on good faith.  Right now there are something like 200 nations in the world.  I think that there are currently 104 members of JTC1.  Finally, there are (now) 38 P members of SC 34.

So that means that more than three quarters of the world is not currently a member of SC34.  At 3 members a year, it would take on the order of 60 years for everyone else to be able to join.  Of course, that's the extreme case, but right now most of the third world is only starting to get involved in standards.  Such a rule would entrench the old guard, and limit the access of new nations as they seek to gain equal parity.

So it really is quite tough.  One rule that occurs to me that might be helpful in the current case would be to have an "unwind" provision that would retroactively invalidate the vote of anyone that upgraded or joined within the last six months and didn't vote more than, say half the time for the next three months.

Needless to say, everyone's better off if the need to reform the rules didn't exist at all.  There's no substitute for good faith.  But the real world is the real world, and I guess that's why laws and rules exist.

-  Andy

 

Sorry, I wasn't clear before - I meant 25% per year, or 3 per year for committees with less than 12 members. That would let everyone join SC34 in about 8 years, or everyone join a new committee in about 17 years.

Unwinding is an interesting idea - kind of like disqualifying an athlete that's found to have taken drugs. However, it would make it possible for a standard to be certified then uncertified, creating uncertainties in the market during the early adoption phase.

Good faith is an important issue. I would say that the ISO is built on the assumption that the world can sit around a table and agree on a best practice. So while there are probably rule changes that can prevent casual abuse, there comes a point where misbehaviour of parties involved challenges that assumption, and the whole ISO model starts to break down. The right course of action therefore depends on the intentions of the new apathetics, which I don't think we know yet.

- Andrew

Permalink
Rule 1.7.4 of the ISO/IEC directives part 1, procedures for the technical work :

1.7.4 A technical committee or subcommittee secretariat shall notify the Chief Executive Officer if a P-member of that technical committee or subcommittee has been persistently inactive and has failed to make a contribution to 2 consecutive meetings, either by direct participation or by correspondence, or has failed to vote on questions submitted for voting within the technical committee or subcommittee (such as new work item proposals).

Upon receipt of such a notification, the Chief Executive Officer shall remind the national body of its obligation to take an active part in the work of the technical committee or subcommittee. In the absence of a satisfactory response to this reminder, the national body shall automatically have its status changed to that of O-member.

Can we please move on, now?

Permalink
Amazing....

Would be nice if there was a happy ending in sight, but... Doesn't look like it. So what if these new members get downgraded for inactivity? What's to stop them from choosing to upgrade again the next time there's a standard proposal they absolutely want accepted? Then they'll get that pushed through, while blocking everything else until they're again downgraded.

Looks like ISO currently can't deal with that amount of cynicism. It relies on good faith and professionalism. What a shame that it doesn't exist in a world that can deliver that.

I am not sure that downgrading the microsoft friendly NBs are the right thing to do if we are only looking at the ooxml case.

If I understand correctly the votes that count on feb meeting are those of the september vote. At the resolution meeting an attenting member can change its vote, but if they are not there their original vote stands.

Ordinary it is expected that the only change likely to happen is no to yes since only those have found a problem with standard proposal. With the ooxml case there are countries that voted yes but post comments that show they really meant no with comments so microsofts need of votes is larger than what is first obivous.

Even more important if the microsoft bought countires are still P members and can be convinced to attend to the meeting they could be convinced to change their vote when they hear the real criticism. If they are downgraded before the meeting we are stuck with their vote.

Another interesting question is if countries that cast a ABSTENTION vote can change their vote at the resolution meeting.

I  believe that it's accurate to state that any member may change its vote, regardless of the original vote.  You're right that the normal expectation would be that these votes would be to approve, rather than in the opposite direction.

  -  Andy

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Situation with OOXML raised some noise in Russia and Russian deputy sent official request to Russian NB with simple question: why Russia voted "yes" ? Who and why decided so ?

The answer is totally mind-blowing: technical clerk submitted Russian "yes" vote. Apparently nags from ISO were annoying enough and so "clever" strategy was invented: Russia always votes. If the secretary does not have the response from assigned persons she just submits "yes" vote to ISO. No discussion, no questions asked.

And the official answer to official deputy request (can be found here) says exactly that: we've sent requests to few technical organizations (there are a list), got no answers in time and automatically sent "yes" vote to ISO.

Do you think it'll be better for ISO if "new blood" members will adopt such policy ?

Permalink
Please note that while New Zealand (mentioned above) has indeed recently unpgraded its membership to participating status, it is not a MS sockpuppet and voted against OOXML in the recent ballot. It decided to become a participating member after
<a href="http://nzoss.org.nz/news/2007/vote-closes-draft-iso-iec-dis-29500-standard"> lobbying </a> from the NZ open source society in an effort to try to balance out the influence of the sockpuppets on the panel.

Permalink
what pitiful whining ... (smile) !   so the reality is that the social elites of this situation don't like the new members because they voted for the enemy's product (and didn't vote the politically correct way) ... oh no, we can't possibly function (hands to cheeks) !   Please, if you want to be demagogues, at least be honest dictators, or preferably, win in the market place by providing a better product ...

Permalink

Mayby interesting that in april 2006 out of only a total of 10 P-member 8 members voted on a ballot

www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0726.htm

But a month later in may 2006 a total of 27 p-members voted on Opendocument. 17 more p-members in a month ?

Most of those 17 member are also very prominently absent in activity on the example ballots that Andy Upgrove gives as example.

So are the 17 new p-members that entered for the Opendocument vote to blame or the 11 that entered before the OOXML vote ??

Hmm, got a few more links?
 You didn't show who all these new members are, or whether/how often they voted since then.

The problem here isn't that a lot of countries suddenly joined up to vote on OOXML per se, but rather that since then, they've neglected to vote, preventing the entire group from getting *anything* done.
And that didn't happen after OpenDocument. Whatever the motivation for the new members back then, at least most of them seem to have been aware of their obligation to participate.

My apologies on your name; I've corrected the spelling.  Perhaps this blog entry might in fact be somewhat helpful.  I got an email from one of the laggard countries asking for more links to confirm where they were behind in their responses so that they could get right with ISO.

  -  Andy

 

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I think people trying to make up remedies to prevent the OOXML debacle from occuring again can stop. I think there are remedies in the works that will blow everything suggested here out of the water.

The manipulation by MS have been spotted by legal experts. In the Netherlands, I saw a call by a (legal?) expert that noted that ISO standards have public policy effects by way of the WTO rules. (sorry, lost the link)

The argument is quite simple:
MS tried to force the government's hand in procurement policies. This showed that the ISO ratification process has crossed the border between technical based and political. Not only MS has been doing that, others have too. But now they woke up the civil servants.

Solution:
As the process has become political, this should be a political decision from the start. Therefore, this commentator proposed to strip all voting powers from non-governmental members. Voting should be done by governmental appointed members only.

I think this, or something like it, will be the solution that the developed (and quite some developing) countries will enforce upon the ISO. Politicians do not like their policies being forced upon them by foreign companies. The previous consensus procedures prevented that. Now that they have been shown to be openly gamed and subverted by a single company, the politicians will feel they have to step in again.

It will be immaterial whether any of us, or anyone else, will like the outcome.

And to the inevitable trolls. MS has no RIGHT to its own ISO format standard. This is not a game where everybody should be allowed their own take on ISO. OASIS was asked by the EU commission to submit ODF to ISO. There was NO opposition to ODF in ISO. MS was explicitly asked to work with OASIS to merge the standards, ie, to ABSTAIN from submitting OOXML to ISO. I think most governments will feel no obligation to honor MS'  wishes to force their procurement policies. I also think they will make sure this won't happen one way or another.

Winter

This is quite mad. :-)

The EU asked MS to submit its formats for internationalization tool.   Many, perhaps most, IT standards come championed by commercial interests: MS is not the exception at all.  Governments have over the years encouraged ISO and standards bodies because they help industry and consumers, so they are hardly likely to wake up surprised that the ISO process is being used for what it was designed for...

And where are governments suddenly going to get the expertise in standards matters?  Governments have traditionally supplied very few participants or experts: similarly, academics are not at the coalface enough to be strong participants, often. Without buy-in from vendors a standard is useless, because it is very difficult to force a company to support a standard by law: indeed, it can be a restriction of trade against treaties. 

Good Luck!
Rick Jelliffe

"The EU asked MS to submit its formats for internationalization tool."

In my memory, the EU asked MS to work out the differences with ODF and support ISO standards. NOT to submit another standard to ISO that overlaps completely with ODF. But if you can show me wrong, and MS was asked by the commission  to draw up a completely new ISO standard, please feel free to back up your claim.

"Many, perhaps most, IT standards come championed by commercial interests: MS is not the exception at all. "

That was not the point. OOXML is just the latest example of blatent manipulation. It showed that the ISO standardization process has been politicized. Therefore, the call is for politicians to step up. It is their job.

"And where are governments suddenly going to get the expertise in standards matters?  Governments have traditionally supplied very few participants or experts: similarly, academics are not at the coalface enough to be strong participants, often."

So how does the FDA work?  Do medical drugs get registered by vendor voting? This is all very standard run-of-the-mill lawmaking. Through the WTO treaties, ISO has legal force. OOXML is just another example of how the ISO ratification process has become an instrument that allows commercial interests to dictate international procurement policies. It is good practice to prevent commercial interests from writing laws.

"Without buy-in from vendors a standard is useless, because it is very difficult to force a company to support a standard by law: indeed, it can be a restriction of trade against treaties. "

I believe this is called a non-sequitur. Forcing ISO standards by law where they exist is an obligation by WTO rules. It is the whole reason MS even bothered to produce this memory dump as a standard.

But as I wrote before. This is not about what you or I think. The dragon has been awoken, it will be difficult to put it to sleep again. Lawmakers see that (foreign) commercial interests invade its turf. They will fight that.

Winter

A few thoughts:

1.  Yes, the WTO does apply - as between countries, but not between ISO and (for example) Microsoft.  What it's intended to do is to provent one country from trying to keep the products of foreign vendors out, using local standard and discriminatory standards conformance testing to make it difficult or impossible to enter their markets.  The provisions are found in the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

2.  While in the US industry is by far the dominant force in standard setting, that's not the case in many other countries, such as China or Germany, where the function is centralized, and may occur in governmental or quasi-governmental bodies or agencies. 

3.  In the case of the International Telecommunciation Union, participation is literally by government appointed representatives.  For example, WIMAX was approved by the ITU last week as a 3G telecom standard.  In some countries, the representative might be their equivalent to the FCC, but not in others.

4.  ISO/IEC has no power over what an individual country chooses to do in its National Body.  So while it might change eligibility criteria conditioned on some level of reform, I have a hard time imaginging you'll ever see anything as radical as requiring that individual countries leave voting to government members - and I think that's a good thing, given the lack of good representatives from government for all the types of standards their are, and the lack of government budgets to pay for such action.

  -  Andy

 

"4.  ISO/IEC has no power over what an individual country chooses to do in its National Body.  So while it might change eligibility criteria conditioned on some level of reform, I have a hard time imaginging you'll ever see anything as radical as requiring that individual countries leave voting to government members - and I think that's a good thing, given the lack of good representatives from government for all the types of standards their are, and the lack of government budgets to pay for such action."

I suspect that many nations would not like their public procurement policies forced by strong-arming companies. There will be a call for some kind of political backing of any decision.

The revelations about the bribing in Sweden will give a lot of weight to these calls.

Winter

"Don't you mean "the non-bribing" since the mistake was corrected to the Swedish standard's body's satisfaction with no prejudice to proceedings? "

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9033701
"Microsoft Corp. admitted Wednesday that an employee at its Swedish subsidiary offered monetary compensation to partners for voting in favor of the Office Open XML document format's approval as an ISO standard.

Microsoft said the offer, when discovered, was quickly retracted and that its Sweden managers voluntarily notified the SIS, the national standards body."

Nothing has to change because really, it was just a mistake?

That is quite a legalistic approach.

That is like saying that if you almost fly an airplane into a building, that is ok as long as it is "almost" and you say it was a mistake.

The air travel industry reacts equally fierce to almost-accidents as to real accidents. For good reasons.

This episode showed that ISO is vulnerable and NB's voting rules can be subverted by bribing people to participate. We have no way of knowing this has not happened before or elsewhere. Irrespective of whether or not MS is "guilty" in any sense (which I see as completely irrelevant).

I can understand, and even urge, governments and ISO reviewing their standards setting process after things like this surface. Things have to change to prevent real vote-tampering and I really do not see why it would matter that no guilty party could be pointed out and "no one was hurd".

Winter

No, I am saying that people make mistakes through any combination of innocence and slackness and the real subversion of the process is  to fail to recognize that and work around it. Some nations are not voting? Find ways to fix it and get on with business. Some stakeholder mistakenly offers to help other stakeholders against some local nationally rules? Find ways to fix it and get on with business. A draft comes along with many problems? Find ways to fix it and get on with business. A national body makes some silly and incoherent comments on a draft? Find ways to fix it and get one with business. A technology comes along that you don't like from organizations you don't like but to deny it and them would be unfair? Find ways to fix it and get on with business. The committee organization doesn't match NB interests? Find ways to fix it and get on with business!

But don't jump up and down hysterically. The ISO process is quite robust and it will come out of this with an enhanced reputation for following its procedures without fear or favour, and for finessing a good result. Standards people are very keen on objective evidence and exactness, that is their business, and they are not a receptive audience for speculation and scuttlebutt, for bullying and manipulation. No fun at all, really :-)

When you see hidden conspiracies everywhere, when every ice-cube is the tip of an iceberg, it gives you license to dismiss every process result that doesn't agree with your position as being another sign of sinister reach. (B.t.w., ISO has a rule that invited experts (such as me, or ODF editor Patrick Durusau) have to act in good faith when participating in SCs or WGs: it means we have to stick to technical matters and keep a strong sense of proportionality and fairness.) Of course MS *could* conceivably be paying bribes; of course IBM *could* be paying bribes; of course Iraq *could* be paying bribes; of course Andy Updegrove could be paying bribes (from his imaginary enormous OASIS slush funds) ; of course Mary Tyler Moore could be paying bribes; of course Anna Nichole Smith could be paying bribes from the grave, But the ISO process with its steady rhythm and international voting and staged transparency makes  that effort extreme difficult, risky and unlikely, because ultimately a standard is adopted on matters of content and form not individuals: technical issues not individual influence.  But saying that every offer of aid is a bribe, and that an offer mistakenly made and hurriedly withdrawn and made public is the same as a bribe, is scraping the barrel.

Cheers
Rick

"No, I am saying that people make mistakes through any combination of innocence and slackness and the real subversion of the process is  to fail to recognize that and work around it."

I think I have gone too far from my initial post. I see myself discussing subjects I don't feel I should be discussing.

 I found the reference for my original post, in Dutch:
rechtennieuws.nl/16551/microsoft-en-de-legitimiteit-van-iso-standaardisatie.html
This is an article in Dutch for a Dutch law(yer) magazine. The author, Corien Prins, is a professor in "ICT" law (Recht en Informatisering).

I mentioned the Sweden case not to point fingers, but because this author mentions it.

Her conclusions, as I read them, are that the Dutch law-makers and administration should start to question the legitimate nature of ISO standards. She reasons that the OOXML vote is the latest example of the opaque procedures used by private parties and interests deciding over standards that affect large areas of society and economy. She especially points to the de facto use of ISO standards in government procurement. The large influence of big corporations (Microsoft, IBM, and Sun) can dominate the national voices in the NBs, thereby invoking the question of national influence in the whole pocedure. In the end, she suggests to shift voting power from private, commercial, parties to (acountable) political bodies.

This is not my view, and I will not defend it. But this author is likely to influence government policy in the Netherlands. History shows that the views in the Netherlands are generally not far from those in other EU countries. Therefore, I expect that there will be a call for more political accountability in the ISO standardization process.

What makes the happenings in Sweden special is that this is mentioned in many outside commentaries. In my opinion, the big question lurking in the background is, "what if Microsoft had not informed the NB?". And more specifically, "what will happen next time?".

Note that these views have nothing to do with how I feel about OOXML and the way MS promoted its adoption as an ISO standard.

Winter

I cannot comment on the Dutch sorry.

Since the status of ISO voluntary technical standards has been so incorrectly hyped by the nutty/venal wing of the anti-OOXML side as being akin to laws from the ISO side (rather than being akin to a selected library), there certainly needs to be a correction in people's expectations. That is not a reflection on ISO, which is what it has always been, but on the overblown expectations.  If the Dutch writer is saying that regulators need to review each standard in particular before adopting it, or at least that the use of a technology apart from a standard can be defensible, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me and just fits in with their responsibilities.  It doesn't mean that ISO standards should not be favoured, where appropriate though.

The key to getting industry buy-in is the participation of industry. In the SGML world, we learned from the CALS experience in the late 80s and early 90s that even if you get top-level government commitment and mandates for a standard, if industry does not get enthusiastic then nothing happens. This includes both for-profit industry and not-for-profit industry.

Surely the current business with OOXML shows that in fact it has been *impossible* for even the largest corporations to dominate?

There are many national bodies where would-be users of the standard have participated, there are other national bodies where people who don't want to use have participated (which is wrong of them IMHO: it goes against the fundamental operating mode of ISO of live and let live).  But to say that the former are "dominated" by MS is crap, as if it is impossible for anyone to legitimately have the same interests as MS in any area. And to say that the latter are dominated by IBM (merely because they just parroted IBM's complaints without doing any original review) is crap too, for the same reason (laziness does not mean brainwashing, at least not automatically). And the whole result is leading to the BRM, where all the technical/editorial issues anyone has raised are being fully aired with scrutiny from dozens of nations: how is it possible to get a more workable process, realistically?

There is some mischievous idea going around that MS is forcing this standard through. However, as far as anyone at ISO and JTC1 and the relevant SCs are concerned, they have been doing things according to the book (the book may not be perfect though...): the only chance for altering the draft or the technology is at the BRM, and MS' Brian Jones commented back in January that there would be a BRM to handle comments, as did others of us. Instead, the constant panic attacks from the fear-mongers on the nutty anti-OOXML side tries to manipulate the sensible anti-OOXML people by presented wave after wave of overblown sensationalism, hype followed by FUD backed up by unverifible accusations. Why aren't you all on to this by now?

Oooh, only one month for comments. WRONG! Oooh, anything that potentially confuses anyone is a contradiction. WRONG! Oooh, MS will not agree to any changes. WRONG! Oooh, ten thousand errors. WRONG! Oooh, OOXML doesn't use any standards. WRONG! Oooh, OOXML is full of binary sections. WRONG! Oooh, the IPR for DIS 29500 is not clear. WRONG! Oooh the ANSI secretriat for ISO is corrupt. WRONG! Oooh, poor countries who vote the way we don't like must be corrupt. WRONG! Oooh, some American companies applied too late to get into Portuguese discussions, this must be corrupt. WRONG! Oooh, if MS did the right thing about a mistake in Sweden, that just means there must be so many secret worse things here too. WRONG! Oooh, standards are laws. WRONG! Oooh, this is a special case unlike anything before or since.  WRONG! Oooh, MS sockpuppets are stifling SC34. WRONG! Switzerland is corrupt; New Zealand is corrupt; Malaysia is corrupt; Sweden was almost corrupt but their adherence to procedures stopped it (a particularly mad one)! Etc. etc.  Don't you see the pattern?  Inflated statements and innuendo, never retracted, never apologized for. 

Here is a tip: whenever you feel strong emotion about a standard or draft document or standards organization, you are probably being manipulated.

"Here is a tip: whenever you feel strong emotion about a standard or draft document or standards organization, you are probably being manipulated."

Have you read your own post?

Btw, to come back to the Dutch situation, all but one of the Dutch NB members were against accepting OOXML in the fast track (no with comments) and had many objections based on their own research. The one objector, Microsoft, forced an abstain  and blocked submission of these comments to ISO. So much for "MS is welcoming comments".

Link in Dutch (sorry, a lot that happens in the world is not reported in English):
http://isoc.nl/michiel/geenbesluitOOXML.htm

Note that I know that Biran Jones has published an all encompasing conspiracy theory on the Dutch NB here:
http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/06/07/wouter-s-updates-on-the-iso-meetings.aspx

Note also that Brian again tells us that it is all IBM's fault. The other members seem to have been just puppets.

Winter

I could not image a more manipulative and radical Pro-OOXML post until I saw who the author was.

You do the 'Microsoft Manipulation" well, Jeff.  You use enough of the 'platitudes' about 'reasonableness' and 'follow-the-book' that you think it camaflages your 'radical anti-OOXML lefty' reteric that you slip in.  Unfortunately for you, those that followed the voting closely will not be fooled since they will realize that your revisionist history is untrue and they will recognize your attempts to manipulate the emotions of the reader for what they are.  Terms like "Ooooh ________ !  WRONG !" are straight out of psycology 101 propaganda manuals that I studied in the Military.

Looks like your 'sanitizing' of Wikipedia was not totally at Microsoft's instigation.  I have to conclude that your reputation as a Microsoft-backer is well deserved and that your pretense at 'moderate behavior' or 'middle ground' or 'disinterest' is just that - a pretense and a sham.

Clearly you believe in the OOXML standard and believe that acceptance and use of both standard formats such as ODF and the non-interperable non-standard formats such as OOXML is clearly a 'good' thing for all governments to not only allow, but to require.

I guess that in your ideal world, we'd have lots of non-interoperable standards such that one dominant (dare I say monopolistic) vendor can continue its dominance and customer lockin to the detriment of customer, countries' sovereignty, and competition alike despite being found guilty of illegal conduct, monopolistic abuse on several continents and several courts in several countries on multiple occasions.

I realize that this post will probably cause you to label me as one of those 'radical, hippie, communistic, pinko, fascist, cancerous overly-zealous Linux Bigots', but that's the chance I'll have to take.

As a sibling post states, 'read your own post' - please do so and attempt to put yourself in the position of an open-source supporter.

Open-source is built on standards, interoperates because of standards, adjusts as standards change.  Microsoft abuses standards where it can, ignores them otherwise, touts that whatever it's selling this week is a 'standard' and all previous offerings are 'obsolete standards' that are no longer valid.

This is why IT is so expensive for Microsoft shops - these companies must re-invent the wheel every time Microsoft ships a new product since they have to buy all new hardware, all new applications, replace all their desktops, retrain all their users, and re-integrate all their applications with each other, the new Windows version, and with any home-grown code or products that they have.  Fortunately that is happening less and less often lately as Microsoft is missing its promised ship-dates by larger and larger margins with every release.

A move to Linux or MAC - both of which are based on stable standards - would get these companies off the Microsoft Treadmill.  I know this must seem threatening for you and most of the rest of the Microsoft ecosystem, but so is any significant advance in technology.  The concept is called 'disruptive change'.

I am an open source supporter. This issue is no different to the SAMBA case, recently resolved favourably, where for years the open source people have been pushing to get MS to disclose all about SMB: quality documentation, with an intertia that prevents MS from arbitrarily changing important parts, with clear free licensing, *helps* open source developers. 

Why is it in the interests of Open Source for MS to be forced to disclose their file protocols, but not equally in the same interest for them to be forced to disclose their file format?   The head of SAMBA development (not Andrew, the other one) gave an interview after the recent case, mentioning how it would have been great if MS has standardized their format. I agree with that: in fact, I think *all* technologies related to super-profit industries should be forced to be standardized and RF.

The argument seems to be that if it is a standard, people will be forced to use it. But as ISO emphasized last month, this is a decision for users (governments, etc) not ISO; there is simply no scope in the ISO procedure for blocking OOXML if it goes through the right processes (almost a year of review, a multinational ballot resolution process, etc.)  I have repeatedly said that ODF was a better format for public websites, with HTML and PDF being preferable for read-only documents.

This may be a too sophisticated view for a black-and-whiter, but it useless trying to put a square peg in a round hole: because I know a little about the ISO process, and because impartiality needs to be the hallmark of ISO for many reasons (including legal), I have never thought that OOXML wouldn't get to a BRM and get standardized. All this emotion against it is fighting the wrong battle: what needs to happen is that legislators need to be lobbied to put hard cash into open source (GPL!) implementations of open standards (in particular ODF) so that they have a hope of winning any procurement rounds on quality and features. And then governments need to be lobbied to adopt this free software. You say you are for  open source, but if you don't have some program in mind like this, then you are just a dreamer: get practical! 

(As for Wikipedia, all my comments went through the discussion pages; they were almost all accepted by independent editors, who made the changes. This is certainly by the book, and I had enormous support from Wikipedia editors who really impressed me. )

Thanks for your support
Rick

"Why is it in the interests of Open Source for MS to be forced to disclose their file protocols, but not equally in the same interest for them to be forced to disclose their file format?   The head of SAMBA development (not Andrew, the other one) gave an interview after the recent case, mentioning how it would have been great if MS has standardized their format. I agree with that: in fact, I think *all* technologies related to super-profit industries should be forced to be standardized and RF."

Please, could you put in writing that OOXML describes all MS' earlier formats, that it faithfully describes MS Office 07 output to such an extend that ALL of it can be read and written by other applications and that MS will make sure future versions of Office will indeed use this format or its later versions as their default format. Also we would like a declaration that MS will follow future versions of ISO OOXML in their office suits.

And you work closely with MS people. If you don;t know, why should we trust anyone else.

Winter


> Please, could you put in writing that OOXML describes all MS' earlier formats, that it faithfully describes MS Office 07 output to such an extend
> that ALL of it can be read and written by other applications and that MS will make sure future versions of Office will indeed use this format or its
> later versions as their default format. Also we would like a declaration that MS will follow future versions of ISO OOXML in their office suits.

That OOXML can carry the same information as earlier binary formats can be verified by whether old files can be imported into Office: after about 10 months or more of release, there has only been a couple of shortfalls that I have heard of, but these seem to be Office 2007 bugs rather than file format issues AFAICS. Whether it is 99.999% or 99.9% of the information from the binaries, I cannot say. No-one needs to trust my word or your word, they can look for articles saying that Office 2007 cannot handle feature X (since OOXML is the native format.)

That DIS 29500 describes all the output: it is clear that it does describe in enormous detail and that people have had no trouble implementing it, except for a handful of edge cases where there are flags to say that the document may have been affected by a bug from a particular version of Word, but not describing the bug in much detail. These include incredibly trivial things: the most common example cited concerns formating full-width spaces like Word 95: however full-width spaces are only used in conjunction with ideographic characters, and this only really effects some kinds of CJK text (probably just the Japanese) and is not even implemented in recent version of Word (on my testing.) Even more telling, the Japanese National Body's comments on this issue do not make a big fuss about it: they have an admirable sense of proportion: it is extraordinary that the parrot nations who don't use ideographic characters should think that bugs relating to zenkaku spaces are so important, while Japan Standards Association thinks it is so minor. 

But, all that being said, Ecma have said they will get documentation describing the flags better for FDIS 29500. All drafts have incomplete sections. Big deal.

Of course, OOXML is no different from HTML or ODF in being extensible, so they all can contain media files or other binaries in any arbitrary type.  That is not an issue of DIS29500 but of extensibility.

On the issue of what MS will do, it is important. If  FDIS29500 does not get accepted as a standard, what is there to stop them arbitrarily changing Office's format?  It plays directly into their hands to have OOXML non-standard, and you should not fool yourself that their enthusiasm for standards is not a cost of doing business that they would rather do without.  They are standardizing because the anti-trust writing is on the wall, so they are trying to get the best result they can, given that, IMHO.  Having MS open up, document, clarify their IP, get review, put a process where other stakeholders get some kind of input, all these are wins for users including the Open Source community.

As for commitments to IS29500, when it is finalized at the BRM then everyone will be able to see whether they can live with it. It is no different from ISO PDF: if the ISO committees tinkered with it to make the ISO version of PDF incompatible, then they would stroy its value.

> And you work closely with MS people. If you don;t know, why should we trust anyone else.

Well, I have done maybe four or five weeks work  for them as a client (schema conversion, training courses, editing, seminars) in my life (excluding travel time), and I have never even signed a non-disclosure agreement.  I don't know if that counts as "working closely"...  

Or is it just that anyone who disagrees with you must be in the thrall of the enemy?

Rick

"That OOXML can carry the same information as earlier binary formats can be verified by whether old files can be imported into Office"
So OOXML does not describe the older MS Office formats. ODF can import old office files too. So the world does not need OOXML to understand the older formats.

"That DIS 29500 describes all the output: it is clear that it does describe in enormous detail and that people have had no trouble implementing it, except for a handful of edge cases where there are flags to say that the document may have been affected by a bug from a particular version of Word, but not describing the bug in much detail."

Sorry, but that was not what I asked.

I wanted you to tell us that OOXML describes the output of Office 2007 in enough detail to read and write all of it. I have read a lot of comments that Office 2007 does not output just OOXML, but much more. Including stuff it should not use anymore according to OOXML (VML). If OOXML does not describe the output of Office 2007, what is the point. And extensions must be described too, you know. Just saying, "you need OLE to read MSO07 output" disqualifies it as an international standard.

And the "enormous detail", that was the complaint in the EU case against MS documentation: Many details, but not all of them. We don't need many details, we need all of it. Furthermore, "but not describing the bug in much detail." is an understatement. MS OOXML seems to be almost devoid of any (tag) semantics. It seems to look like a street directory without a map. The bugs were mostly merely mentioned.

If OOXML is not enough to understand MS Office output, why bother. Especially since the part that is not described is not available elsewhere. At least anything in an ODF document not is the standard is described and accessible somewhere else in detail.

"... and that people have had no trouble implementing it,"

Given the horrible quality of MS' commisioned Clever Age converter, I seriously doubt that. You are the expert here. What does it say if XSL cannot convert one XML document into another? I learned it meant one of the XML schema was defective. But maybe you can enlighten me? I really am a complete newby wrt XML.

"On the issue of what MS will do, it is important. If  FDIS29500 does not get accepted as a standard, what is there to stop them arbitrarily changing Office's format?  It plays directly into their hands to have OOXML non-standard, and you should not fool yourself that their enthusiasm for standards is not a cost of doing business that they would rather do without.  They are standardizing because the anti-trust writing is on the wall, so they are trying to get the best result they can, given that, IMHO.  Having MS open up, document, clarify their IP, get review, put a process where other stakeholders get some kind of input, all these are wins for users including the Open Source community."
 
So you say that, indeed, the only full implementation of OOXML might not continue to implement it. Actually, I still have to see to what extend MS Office 07 is OOXML compliant.

You wrote yourself that a standard without implementations is useless. So we can expect to have no compliant OOXML implementations left if the "open stewardship" committee that steers OOXML does anything MS doesn't like. If MS has so little trust in the ISO process, why did they bother with it?

Maybe a diversion because of the "They are standardizing because the anti-trust writing is on the wall, so they are trying to get the best result they can, given that, IMHO"? I think the procurement rules are a much better explanation.

On the other hand, OO.o and others do have committed themselves to ODF, future versions included. No buts and ifs. And these are open source applications (even free software), so if they give up, anyone can take over. Who can take over from MS if they chose to quit OOXML?

"Well, I have done maybe four or five weeks work  for them as a client (schema conversion, training courses, editing, seminars) in my life (excluding travel time), and I have never even signed a non-disclosure agreement.  I don't know if that counts as "working closely"...  

Or is it just that anyone who disagrees with you must be in the thrall of the enemy?"

My error. I read you "debunked various myths surrounding the ODF and the Microsoft-supported format when [you were] in Bangkok recently to attend a Microsoft-hosted event" (http://www.zdnetasia.com/news/software/0,39044164,62021038,00.htm). I erroneously assumed you were working for and with MS there.

Too bad. Brian Jones really works for MS and knows, but he never seems to answer the hard questions.

Winter

> I wanted you to tell us that OOXML describes the output of Office 2007 in enough detail to read and write all of it.

I think you are confusing OOXML, the markup language that Office 2007 produces, with DIS 29500, the document that describes it (and which, once it becomes a standard, becomes an independent source of specification).

ODF and OOXML allow OLE but don't describe OLE; ODF and OOXML allow scripts but don't describe the scripting languages; ODF and OOXML allow extensions (with slightly different mechanisms) but don't describe the extensions; ODF and OOXML allow any media type but don't describe the media types.  Both limit themselves to a describing a ZIP mechanism (which prevents direct use of XSLT in both cases, by the way!)  and the XML parts of the language .   If you were remotely concerned with consistency, and you felt these were bad features, you would be jumping up and down about ODF too, it seems to me.

The only difference that I see relates to where there are no platform-independent conventions for a feature: ODF tends to create something (e.g. to say "Use PNG for thumbnails" even though this is utterly tokenistic because the platforms need to be altered to use them:  I understand KDE does but obvious Mac and Windows don't), while DIS29500 typically doesn't specify a behaviour but allows different platforms to add their own thing (e.g. printer drivers).  Both seem legitimate approaches.

As for Brian Jones not answering your questions, Winter, it probably is because you are, if not actually a troll, then indistinguishable from one. For example, when I wrote that I spoke at some MS seminars, you then raise one of them as if this was proof of something other than what I had just said. For goodness sake, don't you think this kind of tactic is not obvious and a waste of time? Here is what answering your writing is like: you say "A", then someone (me) says "no because B", then you say "Oh, but "C", then someone (me) says "no because D" then you say "Oh but A". At this stage, we give up, but that is the point isn't it: to maintain this mantra of disinformation?  For example, continuing to repeat the slur about Portugal when it is so clearly not a scandal and you know it., or repeating the slur about Sweden when you know that it is an just example of a mistake being handled the right way. The recent ISO general meeting looked into all the allegations (I was told, no minutes still) and found that the NBs had conducted themselves entirely properly from all accounts.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Permalink
I don't understand the title of this blog.

Since SC34 is the one suffering, what are they being paid back for?  And who is so vindictively doing this payback?

Also, many of your commenting readers have jumped to the conclusion that it is the NBs that voted Yes to DIS 29500 that are failing to vote. In fact, it is also the NBs that voted No who have failed to vote. Only the abstainers give been relatively good.
 
National bodies such as Norway, New Zealand, France, China and India have been just as slack (actually, proportionally  worse but it doesn't matter) as those such from developing countries who voted Yes, such as Bulgaria, Egypt, Kenya,  Pakistan and Turkey, who perhaps have more excuse for disorganization as newbies.

Andy, did you even bother to look at the voting records before writing this blog?  They are public on the SC34 website. I am glad that there is interest in SC34, and all those NBs need to get their act together, but when you know the world is full of idiots ready to jump to conclusions why provide a skipping rope? 

(Actually, SC34 needs to be split so that NBs who are not interested in the rest of SC34s business don't hold things up like this. This is a committee scope problem as much as anything.)

Rick Jelliffe

Rick,

Yes, I reviewed the voting records for each of the three standards that I referred to.  Perhaps it could have been clearer, but what I was saying was that almost none of the upgraded members have cast a single vote, without trying to allocate who was at fault.  It's true, in one sentence I did say that "almost all" of the newbies voted against OOXML.  A better choice of words would have been "something more than most but less than almost all," or better yet, an actual count.  I got lazy there, partly because I wrote this blog entry in pieces in two airports, during a flight, and in a hotel lobby before posting which made it difficult to do as much fact checking as I usually try to do.

  -  Andy

Andy: I think you do more than that. In comments you write

<blockquote>If one subscribes to the view that Microsoft inspired the new members and upgrades, then one would assume that these new members would want to hang on to their P status at least long enough to support MS's PDF competitor.</blockquote>

Anyone reading this would imply that the blame is in Microsoft's camp in some vague way (responsibility by "inspiration"), surely?  It also may perhaps perpetuate a second unfortunate idea, which is that National Bodies can be divided neatly into camps. The US voted Yes but has significantly critical comments for example. Where do you put Iraq? It is not a wrestling match, really (though it would explain the expectations that there are masked men), and not even a negotiation, because both assume opposed parties and most parties have much more nuanced and constructive behaviours than that.

On the issue of the PDF "competitor", the interesting thing will be whether Adobe and MS would be prepared to work together on this, since Adobe has a PDF-in-XML technology too. That would give a much stronger basis, but the danger is that if they come up with some common technology that has no PostScript-isms and no Microsoft-isms it may as well just be ugly HTML or crippled SVG. But if enough people want it, they should get it, under the way things work.

Well, yes, because most of the upgrade countries voted to approve, and most, as I recall, had no or very few comments - not much nuance there.

I do agree that there is nuance, but unfortunately that nuance is within a National Body, which then votes as a unit.  If there are enough votes within the National Body on any given comment, it's either included or it's not.

I was wrong, by the way, about Adobe's PDF submissions going to JTC1 SC 34 (see the correction I added yesterday above).  Apparently each of the Adobe PDF submissions have gone directly to ISO TC 171, and not to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC 34, the way other document format standards do.  The world of ISO/IEC is pretty complex, and there's a lot about how it works that I'm still trying to learn.

  -  Andy