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P Country Upgrades Continue - as do Document Committee Signups as Well

OpenDocument and OOXML

Earlier this week I reported that there were nine new, last minute "P" members of ISO [Updated:  the number of upgrades is now eleven].  I also predicted that the number could rise.  Well, now that we're down to the wire on the ISO/IEC vote on OOXML, it has.  In the last three days, two more countries have made the list: Malta and Cote-d'Ivoire.  That assumes that the list if up to the minute, and I won't be surprised to see the count rise by the end of the day.

Who else might join?  Well, here's a clue.  JTC1 also has a committee called "Document Descriptions and Processing Languages."  That subcommittee is, not surprisingly, the task group responsible for addressing document formats, and its role regarding OOXML is not yet completed.  I've pasted in the rule set at the end of this blog entry, but the bottom line is that SC 34 will be running the show on the resolution of the comments submitted along with the current votes, after they have been reconciled and responses suggested by Ecma.

Curiously enough, that subcommittee only had 23 members at the end of last year, and additions had been few and far between (three in in all of 2005, and only 2 in 2006).  Now, it has 48 - in short, membership has more than doubled in the past year.  Moreover, all but 1 of these 23 new members has joined since April - and 8 have joined thus far in August alone.  But wait - there's more.                      

For example:  eight out of the eleven new P country upgrades are also new arrivals to SC 34 (the other three are Ecuador, Jamaica and Uruguay).  In short, that means that there are still fifteen members of SC 34 that have not upgraded to P status, but have joined SC 34 in the same time frame as the 8 National Bodies that did upgrade to P status in ISO.  The extra fifteen are as follows.  All but Kazakhstan, which joined in January of this year, became an SC 34 member in April or later:




Finland (already a P member)

Kazakhstan (already a P member)





Hong Kong





Sri Lanka

Given the alignment of facts and dates so far, I would not be surprised if one or more of the above countries upgrades today.  Or even after today.  Why? because if consensus can't be reached at the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML that has been scheduled for Feburary 25 - 28 in Geneva, Switzerland, then there may be a re-vote.  And any ISO member that upgrades to P status between now and then will vote as a P member on OOXML at that time.

Independent of that dynamic, it is clear that the character of SC 34 has changed hugely in the past few months.  It will be very interesting to see how the 23 brand new members of SC 34 act and vote during the year ahead.

And, by the way, here's another thing to note:  the members of SC 34 - and of JTC1 as a whole - will also concern themselves with  the new version of the PDF standard that Adobe is moving through the process,.  And they will also act on Microsoft's rival to PDF, which Microsoft calls the XML Paper Specification, when that specification is inevitably submitted by - guess who - Ecma.  For more on that story, see a prior post of mine called There They Go Again:  It's Time to Just Say No to Microsoft and Ecma.

So far from ending on September 2, the battle of the formats will continue - and even expand - in the months ahead.

* * * * * * ** ** * * * * *

JTC1 Rule Excerpt:


Schedule a ballot resolution group meeting to consider any comments on the DIS (or DAM);

Appoint a Convener for the ballot resolution group ;

Appoint a Project Editor for the DIS (see 13.1, third paragraph). The Project Editor shall be responsible for producing the final DIS text in case of acceptance;

Notify the SC NBs of the ballot resolution group meeting date(s), location, Convener, and Project Editor.

In some cases the establishment of a ballot resolution group is unnecessary and the SC Secretariat can assign the task directly to the Project Editor.13.6

Comments received after the normal voting period will not be taken into account, except that they will be submitted to the appropriate SC Secretariat for consideration at the time of the next review of the IS in question.13.713.813.9 13.1013.1113.12

A total of two months for the ITTF to send the results of the vote to the JTC 1 Secretariat and to the SC Secretariat, and for the latter to distribute it to its NBs;

Not less than two and one-half months prior to the date of the ballot resolution group meeting for distribution of the voting results and any comments;

Not later than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting for distributions by the SC Secretariat of the final report and the final DIS text in case of acceptance. 13.1313.14

ITTF shall prepare a proof of the IS and send this to the Project Editor for endorsement. The only changes permissible at this stage are corrections of recognised errors in the revised text or of errors introduced by ITTF in preparing the proof.

Upon receipt of the endorsed proof from the Project Editor, ITTF shall make any final corrections required and proceed with publication of the IS (or amendment).

Subsequent revisions shall be in the format prescribed by the ISO/IEC Directives Part 2. In this case, the ITTF editor shall check the text received to ensure that it is in conformance with the ISO/IEC Directives Part 2. If modifications are considered necessary, the ITTF editor shall submit proposals for modification to the Project Editor for approval. No IS shall be published without such approval. If the proposed standard is accepted and published, its maintenance will be handled by JTC 1. The time period for these different steps shall be: In either case the Convener, in coordination with the Project Editor, shall prepare a full report which shall be distributed by the SC Secretariat to its NBs and to the ITTF. If it is impossible to agree to a text meeting the above requirements, the proposal has failed and the procedure is terminated. At the ballot resolution group meeting, decisions should be reached preferably by consensus. If a vote is unavoidable the vote of the NBs will be taken according to normal JTC 1 procedures. NBs of the relevant SC shall appoint to the ballot resolution group one or more representatives who are well aware of the NB's position. NBs having voted negatively, whether or not an NB of the relevant SC, have a duty to delegate a representative to the ballot resolution group meeting. Upon receipt of the ballot results, and any comments, the SC Secretariat shall distribute this material to the SC NBs. The NBs shall be requested to consider the comments and to form opinions on their acceptability. The SC Secretariat shall also send notification of the ballot resolution group meeting to any NBs having voted to disapprove the DIS (or DAM) that are not NBs of the SC.
If, after the deliberations of this ballot resolution group, the requirements of 9.6 are met, the Project Editor shall prepare the amended DIS (or DAM) and send it to the SC Secretariat who shall forward it to the ITTF for publication as an IS. For its initial publication, the document is not required to be in ISO/IEC format, but can be published in the format of the submitting organisation.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Upon receipt of the notification from the JTC 1 Secretariat that its SC has been assigned the responsibility for dealing with a fast-track processed DIS (or DAM), the SC Secretariat shall so inform the SC NBs, and shall make plans for the handling of ballot results through the formation of a ballot resolution group, as follows. The SC Secretariat shall:



Let me ask a question:

Section 9.6 of JTC1 Directives [1]  states the "approval criteria" of DISs and mention "P-members".

Are there any provision at ISO to assure that new NBs applying to P-members have a minimal technical background/experience  in the field of JTC1 object of study, to avoid a rush of NBs upgrades just to cast a positive ( or negative ) vote , without interest in analyze the technical merit of the standard ?

Thank you


9.6 FDIS/DIS/FDAM/DAM/FDISP Approval Criteria
For a FDIS/DIS/FDAM/DAM/FDISP to be approved, the count taken by ITTF shall meet the following criteria:
• At least two-thirds of the P-members voting shall have approved;
• Not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative.
A P-member which has given appropriate notification that it will abstain from participation in specific work items
(see 3.1.2) shall not be counted as a P-member when counting votes for drafts relating to such items.
Abstentions are excluded from the count.

The repeated voting (because of anomalies) session again was not legitimate today, because it was not the secretary but the general manager who sent out the invitation letters, which should be breaching the internal rules of the Standards Body. The number of members to vote raised from about ten to 55, 42 of which were present at the session. Microsoft did not want to vote, but they wanted to let the previous voting session be recognised as legitimate, because they claim the intervention of the minister after the previous session to repeat the voting session was not valid. The result is: no official position, due to the lack of time to organise a new voting session. (Source)


I admit I haven't been paying much attention to the OOXML saga recently; now that I am, I am alarmed.

What's the most effective thing for a private citizen of the US to do to oppose this standard, which is clearly designed to perpetuate Microsoft's de facto file format lock-in?

I'm not anti-MS per se (as I type on my XP laptop), but I really object to gaming the standards system with a retarded specification.

So what can I do?  Give money to someone, write letters to someone else, protest somewhere with my "I particularly object to section 8.6.2 of ECMA-376" sign? 

Good question.  I haven't been thinking to much past this vote, but the logical thing to focus on would be the fact that the US will be a part of the Ballot Resolution Meeting and SC 34 process.  It should be possible to make your thoughts known to them, although whether that would make any difference is something else again, given the experience to date.

I think the best thing might be to listen for the hue and cry, beginning next week, over how badly the process has worked, and calling on ISO - and certain National Bodies - to police the system.  I know that protests will be filed in at least some National  Bodies.

So stay tuned, and I'd guess that some options on how to make your thoughts known should become apparent well in advance of the February 25 Ballot Resolution Meeting.

  -  Andy


I work for a branch of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), who voted FOR OOXML (IIRC).  I can tell you for a fact that the decision must have made at a very high level, because while I am a GS-12, there was no information e-mailed out or anything on what this process was.<br><br>

I would have gladly voted against OOXML if I had been given an opportunity, but us lowly peons on the west coast weren't even asked...

"Paper Specification"? Probably its filetype will be ".ps", huh?

Like in "OOXML", which some clever-than-me guy discovered should in reality be named MSXML...

PS :-) : Thanks for your good work, Andrew -- whatever the outcome, you "fought the good fight". Had we more people like you, PJ, Mr. Moglen etc. and the world would be a lot better...

Hong Kong is an administrative region in China.
So by what rationale does it qualify as a member?
Can all the States in the United States join as well?