The Standards Blog

South Africa Appeals OOXML Adoption

OpenDocument and OOXML

SABS, the National Body member of ISO/IEC JTC1 for South Africa, has filed a formal appeal with both ISO and IEC, challenging the Fast Track adoption of OOXML.  With the filing of this formal appeal, DIS 29500 is now formally in limbo (i.e., cannot become an approved standard) until the appeal has been addressed.

The cited basis for South Africa's appeal is found in the following text of Clause 11.1.2 of the applicable Directives:

A P Member of JTC1 or an SC may appeal against any action or inaction, on the part of JTC 1 or an SC when the P member considers that in such action or inaction:

- questions of principle are involved;
- the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO; or
- the point giving rise to objection was not known to JTC 1 or SC during earlier discussions.

 

The identical three page letters, signed by Mr. M. Kuscus, Chief Executive Officer of SABS, include other concerns not directly based upon the language of the Directives, as follows:

In addition, South Africa wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards.  The ability of large multi-national organizations to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting over-riding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern.

The letter then gives detailed arguments supporting its appeal under each of the subclauses (discussed below in greater detail), and gives the following summary in closing:

In conclusion, South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM.  Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyze far too much information in far too little time, involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite the
Directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration.

It is our opinion that the process followed during all stages of the fast track has harmed the reputations of both ISO and IEC and brought the processes enshrined in the Directives into disrepute, and that this negative publicity has, in turn, also harmed the reputations of all member bodies of ISO and the IEC.

The closing of the letter is both telling as well as ironic, coming just after Microsoft's announcement that it would support ODF in Office 2007, but not DIS 29500, the ISO/IEC JTC 1 version of OOXML, until the as yet unscheduled shipping of Office 14.  As a result, the business basis for fast tracking OOXML to begin with - to benefit the enormous installed base of Office users - will be rewarded, at the earliest, in 2010.  The Fast Track thus would appear to be a lose-lose all around: a huge imposition on all involved, a lower quality specification at the end than a more deliberative process would have proven, and a damaged reputation for ISO/IEC as well.

The primary bases given for the appeal are as follows:

A failure of the Contradictions process to be run in accordance with the Directives.  The one month Contradictions period that begins a fast track process garnered of issues submitted by a number of National Bodies.  However, no meeting was called to address these contradictions.  The Directives do not require, but do provide for such a meeting when warranted.  SABS notes that the Contradictions were not addressed to the satisfaction of the National Bodies, which continued to raise them during the following five-month comment period, indicating to SABS that a meeting was needed to give due consideration to the issues raised.

A failure to achieve consensus on most of the issues that were to be addressed by the BRM.  SABS notes that more than three quarters of the issues raised prior to the BRM ("responses") were tabled, and ultimately dispensed with by "blanket voting."  SABS calls this decision "procedurally flawed," concluding:

Effectively, this required the national bodies to write a blank checque approving the proposals of the authors of the proposed standard, which is inappropriate for any standard, never mind one that has generated considerable controversy.

The letter also challenges the voting procedure utilized at the meeting, which allowed all attendees, and not just P members, to vote, a controversy that has previously been aired an a variety of blogs, including that of Convenor Alex Brown.

ISO/IEC has failed to release a final version of DIS 29500 and the Meeting Report within 30 days of the close of the BRM: 
Clause 13.12 of the Directives provides as follows:

In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance.

The BRM ended on February 29, and although Ecma delivered a revised draft based on the BRM to ISO on March 29 (at the very end of the period during which National Bodies could change their vote), that draft has still not been released, even to the National Bodies.  SABS concludes this point with this observation:

Given the magnitude of the specification and the number of identified edits required it was clear that the directive could not have been met.  This is the clearest possible indiation that DIS 29500 as submitted by Ecma and as modified by the BRM is not ready for fast track processing.  It was not incumbent on the participants of the BRM to modify this clearly stated requirement.

And so, with the implementation of DIS 29500 in Office now postponed for the indefinite future (and therefore, presumably, its implementation by any other vendor as well), the formal post mortem on the process that hatched this orphan standard begins.

The full text of the letter, titled, 
Appeal from the South African national body regarding the outcome of the fast-track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML can be found here.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Comments

Err, I am not now and never have been an employee of Microsoft.

The company I consult for is engaged in systems development and standards training programs, and I have been working with them for most of the last 15 years particularly in the technical and reference publishing sector: typically these are FOSS/Linux/Java projects because they like the platforms but the commonality is SGML/XML. They run the OASIS Open Standards conference over here for example.  I took time off a decade ago to write my book "The XML & SGML Cookbook" and I went to Taiwan for three years, where I was involved in various standards efforts.   MS was a (minor) client in 2007, and we are happy to have them on our books, joining companies like Sun, Novell and IBM at various times;  however, most of our projects do not involve US multi-nationals, but are related to government, legal, defense and industrial electronic publishing: we like IS29500 and ODF because they make it more straightforward to build good system.  My company, Topologi, which has been quiet for the last few years following my tumours, is 100% pure Java.  I spend a lot of my time on figuring out issues related to the RAND-z ISO Schematron standard and (mis-)managing the open source implementation at schematron.com, which MS (for example) does not support.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Rick, as you have presented it there is no practical purpose to the Directive providing for objections.  According to your analysis, no matter what South Africa cited, no matter whether their complaint was provably true, the outcome is unalterable.

That may well be true in a practical sense, but Andy and anyone else familiar with statutory, contract, or even Scriptural interpretation will tell you that it flies in the face of one of the most basic principles of textual analysis.  Generally speaking, if you can interpret a normative document to make a section totally inoperative you can justify ANYTHING -- you're back to rule by whim.

Now that you mention it ...

Well, the best thing to do would be to check up any previous appeals and figure out what their commonalities were.

No, I don't think all appeals are useless, but they would have to be really strong, and the larger the absolute NB vote for acceptance was, frankly the less chance that they would succeed unless they had some new information that was not appreciated at the time of the vote.  (Actually, any NB can appeal any standard at any time, even outside of the particular procedures IIRC.)  (Whether or not the BRM was conducted correctly (I don't see that it wasn't), it produced editing instructions which were then voted on independently of the conduct of the BRM by NBs: that different conduct of the BRM (even within the discretion of the convenor) would have produced different editing instructions, it doesn't alter that there was a subsequent vote independent of the BRM and that vote succeeded. )

But they would need very specific reasons, not fuzzy ones. For example, I have heard of a case where there was a standard (not at SC34, and  more than a decade ago) which was designed to reduce RSI for users of the particular product. But several large companies felt that if the standard was accepted, it might be used as evidence in lawsuits that their existing products had paid no attention to RSI issues, and expose them to billions of dollars of compensation. So when the votes were tallies, several were "lost". The votes were tallied by someone who worked for one of those large companies (which no longer exists.) Of course, the editor was double checking and found the "lost" votes and things were corrected.  But this kind of case where there was specific evidence of vote tampering or Secretariat malfeasance would certainly be a compelling cause for appeal, I would think.

Another cause might be where there was some kind of cartelization going on: where some NB's legitimate positive requirements for something had been unfairly blocked. Now this goes back to the fact that since the international standards bodies like IEEE, ISO, IEC etc are the top of the tree, they must be more supportive of plurality.  The boutique consortias can be a little more arbitrary, because someone who doesn't get their proper requirements met in one can jump ship to another.  Take the case of networking standards: at IEEE you have support for a multiplicity of rival technical standards in the 802.n series, token ring, token bus, collision sensing, and so on.  It is a very different thing for NBs to say "We don't like this feature on technical grounds" and "We don't like this feature on economic grounds", and I certainly think the latter is grounds for an appeal (if it can be proved): it comes down to saying "our needs were not given a fair hearing".  (I think this is the kind of line that the Chinese ran in their recent appeal at IEEE on encryption.)

What I suspect will happen is that there will start to be more appeals for wherever there are standards made that are royalty-bearing, yet there are no RAND-z ISO standard alternatives available. I don't imagine that they would succeed, but if this SA appeal marks the start of NBs using the appeal process to try to make political points after having lost the vote, it may happen. I am not saying this would all just be mere grandstanding or an inability to accept defeat: there are some instances I would support it even: t in particular I find the MPEG group's royalty-raising approach inappropriate for international standards.  I find it odd that there is so much complaint about MS saying "Alright already, here is our technology, we won't sue if you implement it or ask for royalties"  while there is absolutely no fuss about the MPEG group saying "You will be sued":  think about how much Linux adoption has been held back because of the IP/licensing issues with MPEG codecs compared to the complete absence, in practice, of licensing/IP issues on file format import/exporters for common office applications. 

(SC34, by the way, has an unofficial policy of only having standards for RAND-z technologies.) 

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Permalink

This is either a newbieish question or rather a profound one: is the statement “the ISO is functioning properly” empirically testable? If so, how?

The W3C is a Berners-Leeocracy, so you can test whether it's functioning properly by asking Sir Tim. Google is a publicly traded company, so you can test whether it's functioning properly by looking at its share price. Is there a similar metric for how well the ISO is doing? Andy mentioned uptake of ISO standards, but there are plenty of cases where that's not appropriate. Rick has hinted at satisfaction amongst NBs, but it seems odd to suggest that the ISO is just there to keep standards experts off the streets.

If the measure of the ISO's quality is simply whether it continues to get funding from member countries, then what are some of the common themes? Obviously America will have a different measure to China, which will have a different measure again to Brazil, but there must be some common ground or else you'd never be able to get anything done. Promoting free trade seems like one commonly agreed goal, but Digistan's lukewarm reception suggests that promoting social equality isn't. One of my personal interests is accessibility to the general public, which seems to be viewed as a worthy goal that the organisation should really get round to one day.

So how, if at all, does one tell whether the ISO is working the way that it should?

- Andrew Sayers

Andrew writes

"This is either a newbieish question or rather a profound one: is the statement “the ISO is functioning properly” empirically testable?"

I think it is a very good one. 

Without attempting to answer it, I can see three levels of issues:

 1) Are its goals good enough?  Obviously the surprise that people have that ISO does not have any court-like power to involve itself in discriminatory anti-trust antics and has to work hard not to be subject to anti-trust action itself shows that there is a lot of fuzziness about what its goals are, especially to people who don't bother to look at ISO's own material.  A related issue to this is whether the JTC1 Directives are clear enough.

 2) Are its goals being met in aggregate?  There are tens of thousands of standards, and tens of thousands of individuals participating throughout the world, and the standards underpin lots of efforts, or give extra boost to existing external efforts.  But issues such as how to get better involvement from poor nations, the challenge of RAND-z, the need for more transparency without making participants liable to intimidation, how to cope with smarter documents, are all up for grabs.

 3) Are there particular problems that have surfaced which need urgent attention?  The fast-tracking of ODF and OOXML avoided any SC34 (as SC34) scrutiny and its involvement was limited to secretarial and convening meetings, yet even many people who are sophisticated enough to realize that ODF and OOXML are just tiny parts of ISO activity, that ISO/IEC JTC1 is chugging along as always, then substitute SC34 as the villains.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Concentrating on the transparency issue for a moment - do you know whether any of ISO's gnomes have blogs, and if not, how would you feel if they did? It seems to me that it would be useful to have a place to discuss process free from the details of content - or at least where we can get some perspective by watching people be accused of being bought off by Monsanto, Time-Warner and Shell.

- Andrew Sayers

Andrew,

I think that it's an excellent question as well.  There are a number of metrics that are logical to consult, but not ones that are very indicative over short periods of time.  That said, here is some disparate data as a starting point:

1.  Except as noted in the next point, the ISO/IEC system seems to work pretty well everywhere it applies (there are other global bodies, with other areas of competence, such as the ITU - for telecommunications - and the Codex Alimentarious - for food standards) except in the information technology, and to a lesser extent the communications technology industry. 

-  Metric:  hundreds of consortia have been formed in these areas that have set standards that have become broadly adopted, but few consortia have been created in any other area.

2.  Some national SDOs, notably ASTM  have gone global, developing more standards more year than ISO/IEC combined approve.  ASTM sets standards in most of the areas that ISO/IEC does, and does not invariably send up its standards to be approved by ISO/IEC.  It has therefore become a formidible competitor in many existing markets, and an ambitious first mover in new areas, such as nanotechnology.

-  Metric:  ASTM alone maintains over 15,000 standards

3.  "Hybrid" processes have not been too valued in the industry.

-  Metric:  Very few consortia have used the Fast Track process, and while Ecma has submitted many standards, those standards together are a tiny fraction of all standards created by consortia in the same area

  -  Andy

Permalink
Alex and Rick,

First, thanks for continuing to visit here and for sharing your comments.  I'm very pleased with the degree of communication that has gone on here, and it's been heartening to see that happen.

That said, I feel that I have to try and hit the reset button on some of the discussion and go back to the high level issues.  These comments take into account all of the thread so far, but were sparked by Alex's comments that read in part as follows:
Whether the process is good is a different question from whether the BRM was orderly, or whether the DIS should become an IS....However, if I might presume to summarise the consensus view of The World, I would say the majority belief was that the broken process is a separate problem to the desirability of the IS. That is evident in the voting. Some countries (among those who disapproved the DIS) see the process faults as inseparable, and are appealing, but I completely agree with Rick that this lawyerly approach based on "technicalities" is a non-starter.
I wasn't at the BRM, but I talked to a lot of people who were in the room, and have read the various post-BRM accounts of those who participated.  It's my understanding that few or none of those that attended had any say in the decision to hold a BRM that was only a week long.

It's clear that many people who attended were extremely unhappy about many aspects of the week - items that couldn't be discussed, the block voting, and so on.  It seems unfair to me to say that the current appeals are based purely on "technicalities" simply because the process continued and achieved a conclusion of sorts.  And I can't think of a better word than "lawyerly"  to describe many of your and Rick's explanations of why things should be accepted

The way I see your argument applying, this was a "lose/lose" proposition for those that were at the BRM.  They traveled great distances at significant cost to attend a BRM, and were good enough sports to see it through, only to be told then that because they saw it through that their objections could be dispensed with as technicalities.

Does the fact that a majority approved the block voting mean that the minority should be deprived of the right to appeal that judgment?  This was an extraordinary level of comments to be disposed of this way.  People could not discuss all of the comments they wished to.  Some issues that were taken away in small groups were denied the right to be brought back.

This raises the question then what an NB that objected to the process could do.  Should they have walked out in order to be able to register an appeal without having it disposed of as a technicality?  Or would that not have made any difference?

 I personally am not at all sure that you could find a majority of the NBs that were there who would agree with the consensus view that you offer.  It just seems like another way to take advantage of those that attended to use their presence to reach that conclusion.

I think that what frustrates so many people with many of your and Rick's responses are the ongoing answers and statements made to the following effect: 

-  because the powers that be interpret the rules _this way_ , then that's it - no matter how difficult that interpretation may be (I am recalling a recent blog entry where you talked about how much work it was to parse through a rules situation).  If it took that much work, how certain is it that the interpretation is correct?  And can it be said that any interpretation is "correct" if it takes that much effort, or is it simply a fog that people are groping around in? 

-  why _should_ process reform be independent of the result of the BRM, if so many people are unhappy with that process?  If this many NBs are filing an unprecedented number of appeals, why should your conclusion be taken as accurate? 

- that even though the rules allow appeals based on  reputation and integrity, accepting them is still subject to the judgment of  those with knowledge of the arcane process involved.  Reputation and integrity are in the eyes of the beholder, not the interpreter.  If there is a perception issue, then _it_is_an_issue - and one not to be lighlty dispensed with through process reform only - otherwise, the damage is no only already done., but worsened by a body that does not recognize appeals of integrity issues unless it agrees that there is a basis for the perception.

To me, these discussions have seemed like a step through the looking glass, where all of the normal rules of democratic process are suspended, and where the only things that matter are that the process was completed, and that those who had control of the rules came to conclusions. 

I always feel like there is some strange inability of those on the inside to grasp why those on the outside are reacting as they are.  I sometimes have the eerie feeling that I'm talking to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld - because an action was taken, it must have been right.

Perceptions _do_ matter.  When four legitimate appeals have been filed (I know of at least one other that would have been filed but for the fact that a higher-up position in government is vacant, leaving no one to give the sign off) are filed by this many standards professionals - and not outside zealots - I don't know how anyone can not be upset about the decisions that were made in how the process in general, and the BRM in particular were run.

I truly do think that it's time for people - with all due respect, Alex, including  you - to say, "We meant well, and we weren't biased.  But I guess these were bad decisions.  Let's talk about what we should do now about OOXML as well as process reform."

The fact that the shroud of silence continues to hang over why the revisions draft remains hidden, exactly what is being discussed, and more simply amplifies what is terribly wrong with this picture.

I can't help feeling truly disheartened at what I've seen.  Speaking for myself, it will take quite a bit for me to have any faith in the ISO/IEC system unless it becomes much more open and much less sure of its own rectitude. 

I'm not feeling optimistic.

Andy

Andy,

To some extent, I agree with you that an overwhelming ‘yes’ doesn't negate process errors - to build on Overshoot's example, nobody would accept it if I wrote a program that never produced closing tags, then claimed it was valid XML because my users were happy with it. However, I'm not clear what your position exactly is about the fact that the world overwhelmingly voted to drop the D from DIS 29500 - if the level of dissatisfaction amongst delegations was comparable to the level of dissatisfaction you saw amongst delegates, why did so many vote yes? In particular, are you suggesting that there were systemic errors at the ISO level or systematic errors at the NB level?

I agree with you that perception matters - my interest in public perception probably isn't news to anyone that's been here for long - but if the problem is in perception, then the solution has to be in communication. A large part of the angst that I've seen has come from traps and other gotchas in the process - for example, there are votes but it's not a democracy, there are laws but it's not a court. Part of the solution is therefore to rewrite ISO rules to be less ambiguous and jargon-laden, and to build up explanations of what the ISO is (and isn't) using “ISO for dummies” terms. Another part of the solution is of course to build on the sterling effort of people like Alex and Rick (and yourself and all the other bloggers in your own ways), in actually discussing things with people, one person at a time. Fixing the substance of the ISO process is of course welcome too, but will be of limited use next time an angry mob turns up expecting ISO to be something it's not.

Finally, my personal frustration isn't based on assumptions that ISO people have held too long to question, but assumptions that they've held too long to remember that they're assumptions at all. It seems quite common to dance round an issue with Alex or Rick for a week before they finally exclaim something in frustration which is completely obvious once they've said it, but which it would take a leap of genius to guess. The reason I've been so keen lately to tackle minor points (like the value of a piece of paper with little more meaning than “ISO ♥ Office Open XML”) is because I can often expose implicit assumptions by getting people to justify minor, uncontroversial points which I can't justify using the assumptions I've been given already.

- Andrew Sayers

Andy hi

> It's my understanding that few or none of those that attended had any say in the decision
> to hold a BRM that was only a week long.

That is correct. None of the attending NBs were involved in that decision; neither was I as convenor; neither was MS/Ecma (who would much have preferred a longer meeting). The decision to limit the meeting to five days was taken by ITTF on the basis (as I understand it) that a "fast track" has - by its nature - a time constraint, and that there was precedent for such limitation. Only they have that kind of authority. Practically speaking too, allowing NBs to extend the meeting would have opened the door to mischevious extensions, and could have priced certain NBs out of the process. Also, purely in human terms, I'm not sure us BRM'ers could have taken much more ...

> It's clear that many people who attended were extremely unhappy about many aspects of the
> week - items that couldn't be discussed, the block voting, and so on.

A small minority, I would say. I think the vast majority of attendees recognised that we collectively did what we could given the constraints. That is (I have said) a different question to whether a one-week BRM was an optimal way to proceed - I don't think many people would agree with that!

> It seems unfair to me to say that the current appeals are based purely on "technicalities" simply because
> the process continued and achieved a conclusion of sorts.  And I can't think of a better word than "lawyerly"
> to describe many of your and Rick's explanations of why things should be accepted

Well, no. What it comes down to is that the great majority of countries want this Standard. That is the real "big picture" here. Most countries also recognise the process was poor and that reform is required. Countries were told repeatedly that if they thought the BRM was inedequate their recourse was to disapprove the DIS. They didn't.

> The way I see your argument applying, this was a "lose/lose" proposition for those that were at the BRM.
> They traveled great distances at significant cost to attend a BRM, and were good enough sports to see it
> through, only to be told then that because they saw it through that their objections could be dispensed
> with as technicalities.

The BRM always was, quite clearly, a technical working meeting for improving the quality of the DIS text. It did that, no question. Appealing it using different criteria makes little sense.

> Does the fact that a majority approved the block voting mean that the minority should be deprived
> of the right to appeal that judgment?

NBs understood the situation and voted unanimously (not by majority) for the voting option which, incidentally, was not "block" voting. So there is no "minority" here. NBs can hardly appeal something they endorsed. It seems to me the basis for some complaints is that the BRM wasn't a forum for approving/disapproving the DIS, and that somehow that should have been on the table. That shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose of the meeting.

> This was an extraordinary level of comments to be disposed of this way.

Yes, but it was a gamble that worked reasonably well (so I am told by the experts from countries who assessed every decision). If the textual result of the paper voting had been poor, the DIS would have crashed and burned.

> People could not discuss all of the comments they wished to.

Of course not, given the time constraints that would be impossible. That was the entire reason for the discussions that led to adopting the voting option.

> Some issues that were taken away in small groups were denied the right to be brought back.

Of course, given the time constraints; I had to visit the work done in the fairest order I could.

> This raises the question then what an NB that objected to the process could do.

It's quite simple: they could disapprove the DIS. I believe they did, didn't they? (South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and India, for example). But, moving on, the way to mend a "process" is not to appeal the particular DIS decision, to to work on reform of that process, in my opinion. See Patrick's latest on this: http://www.durusau.net/publications/appealprocess.pdf

To have an argument with real integrity, I personally think those who are suggesting DIS 29500 should be abandoned because of poor process, should also be arguing for the de-standardisation of ODF, because of its poor process (though less publicised, of course).

> Should they have walked out in order to be able to register an appeal without having it disposed
> of as a technicality?  Or would that not have made any difference?

In the BRM, the overall mood was certainly not AT ALL tolerant of any theatrics that would have held up technical work. I believe (overheard conversation)  there were some plans for last-day disruption which evaporated in the face of this mood.

>  I personally am not at all sure that you could find a majority of the NBs that were there who would agree
> with the consensus view that you offer.  It just seems like another way to take advantage of those that attended
> to use their presence to reach that conclusion.

Look at the votes, not the gossip.

> I think that what frustrates so many people with many of your and Rick's responses are the ongoing answers and
> statements made to the following effect:
>
> -  because the powers that be interpret the rules _this way_ , then that's it - no matter how difficult that interpretation
> may be (I am recalling a recent blog entry where you talked about how much work it was to parse through a rules
> situation).  If it took that much work, how certain is it that the interpretation is correct?  And can it be said
> that any interpretation is "correct" if it takes that much effort, or is it simply a fog that people are groping around in?

To return to a "lawyerly" state of mind, in law for such interpretations there ultimately needs to be a Supreme Court, or a House of Lords, or whatever. The Standards equivalent body (ITTF) that the NBs had empowered to make such decisions, made them. (That is not to say that, in future, such high levels of empowerment are desirable).

> why _should_ process reform be independent of the result of the BRM, if so many people are unhappy with that
> process?  If this many NBs are filing an unprecedented number of appeals, why should your conclusion be taken
> as accurate?

Again, we need to take into account that the International constituency voted for ISO/IEC 29500. The hard fact of that vote forces process reform to be a distinct issue. Overturning the Standard would mean overturning an International consensus. That is simply not going to happen, in my judgement.

> that even though the rules allow appeals based on  reputation and integrity, accepting them is still subject to the
> judgment of  those with knowledge of the arcane process involved.  Reputation and integrity are in the eyes of
> the beholder, not the interpreter.  If there is a perception issue, then _it_is_an_issue - and one not to be lighlty
> dispensed with through process reform only - otherwise, the damage is no only already done., but worsened by a
> body that does not recognize appeals of integrity issues unless it agrees that there is a basis for the perception.

I'm not entirely sure where you're coming from here. But an appeal needs to be at least factually correct if it is to get traction. As it happens I personally have a lot of sympathy and respect for some of the sentiments expressed in the appeals. The appeals will all be taken seriously, I am sure of that!

> To me, these discussions have seemed like a step through the looking glass, where all of the normal rules of
> democratic process are suspended, and where the only things that matter are that the process was completed,
> and that those who had control of the rules came to conclusions.
> I always feel like there is some strange inability of those on the inside to grasp why those on the outside are
> reacting as they are.  I sometimes have the eerie feeling that I'm talking to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld -
> because an action was taken, it must have been right.

Funny that, I see the boot on the other foot, and those with pre-conceived notions of "freedom" assuming that their brand is the only way and finding not everybody agrees!

But perhaps invoking Bush/Rumsfeld is a new variation on Godwin's law ...

> Perceptions _do_ matter.  When four legitimate appeals have been filed (I know of at least one other that would
> have been filed but for the fact that a higher-up position in government is vacant, leaving no one to give the sign off)
> are filed by this many standards professionals - and not outside zealots
> I don't know how anyone can not be upset about the decisions that were made in how the process in general, and
> the BRM in  particular were run.

Lots of people are "upset" about a lot of things in the process, including me. I hope it is not merely my amour-propre which makes me note, however, that the BRM was "run" well enough.

> I truly do think that it's time for people - with all due respect, Alex, including  you - to say, "We meant well,
> and we weren't biased.  But I guess these were bad decisions.  Let's talk about what we should do now about
> OOXML as well as process reform."

I'm not quite sure what particular decision it is that you're asking me to confess was bad. As for OOXML, the world has spoken and has said - in the main - "yes".

> The fact that the shroud of silence continues to hang over why the revisions draft remains hidden, exactly what is
> being discussed, and more simply amplifies what is terribly wrong with this picture.

All the more reason for reform, agreed.

> I can't help feeling truly disheartened at what I've seen.  Speaking for myself, it will take quite a bit for me to have
> any faith in the ISO/IEC system unless it becomes much more open and much less sure of its own rectitude.
> I'm not feeling optimistic.

Whatever "it" is I'm sure you'll find nobody sure of its rectitude at the moment, paticularly in regard to PAS and Fast Track standardisation for large standards. I would agree some fundamental reform is in order!

Thanks as ever, Andy, for the time and the forum ...

- Alex Brown.

" the world has spoken and has said - in the main - "yes"

That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no... unfortunately, powerless citizens with good intentions, and good reasons too, were not enough to stop the committee stuffing who changed the real "NO" votes to  "YES" votes. And those, whatever the irregularities at the BRM or some other stage, would always vote "YES", obviously. So when you say that: oh yeah, if they didn't agree with the process they could always have voted NO - sure, sure...

It just comes to my mind 4-5 countries where this happened with very strong evidences.. .and those, would be enough to revert the decision. Look at that poor indian guy, full of good intentions, completely offended by improper attitudes... Moral values still have some importance for some at least, and I'm proud of him, defending ethics.

This process got political because of this. Because it is not a fair process. ODF process, was fair! Even with some problems, it was fair.

Now, given that the process got extremely unethical, I can not see how an ISO top manager does not agree that ISO's reputation is in risk. If it is not in risk now, it neverl will!  I can not imagine a worse situation than the OOXML process to damage ISO's reputation. An appeal based on this would be sufficient for me. To me, is the most important point at this moment.

But no, I'm imagining ISO very soon, in a press release, all happy, giving excuses to all the points mentioned in the appeals, without addressing the fundamental issue: ethics, proper revision of a standard. They will probably agree with you "the world has spoken and has said yes". Right....

It is entirely justifiable that people move away from ISO if indeed the appeals do not succeed.

OOXML might never be implemented. But if it succeeds in the market and for some reason some less informed governments like the ISO stamp thing in the documents they officialy produce, there will be millions of people locked in for many years with this format. It is a very serious subject that ISO has in its hands... or at least, it is a potentially very serious subject.

> That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no...

You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that 75% of the participating countries do not care about standards.

I'm sure all the participating countries "cared". As a matter of fact, I cannot remember any of the countries appealing DIS 29500 contributing to document format standardisation activities in SC 34 before the arrival of the 29500 project.

- Alex.

> That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no...
"You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that 75% of the participating countries do not care about standards."

Ok, let us make it 15% (it is more than that actually, since caring about standards implies independent revision of the standard not influenced by other interests), where does that leave us? no OOXML!

"I'm sure all the participating countries "cared". "

You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that ALL of the participating countries cared. Have you been reading reports of the meetings pre-BRM in all the participating countries? It does not seem that, at least those 15% (just not scare you), cared a lot about having a really good standard.

"As a matter of fact, I cannot remember any of the countries appealing DIS 29500 contributing to document format standardisation activities in SC 34 before the arrival of the 29500 project."

So what? As long as their work is good I see no problems. It's not like the late arrivals that voted YES with NO COMMENTS at all or countries with hundreds of comments that trust the maintainer on the implementation of their proposed changes or are not going even to make sure that they are actually implemented... well, they couldn't do it right now, even if they wanted since there is no final text yet circulating.

Why ISO never thought of applying ISO 9001 quality standards to their own internal processes?

@Anonymous

Again, you seem (in a self-validating circle) to be equating "good work" and "caring" exclusively with disapproving the DIS. The facts tend to point somewhere else.

Countries participating in the process must (by definition) have at least cared enough to participate in the first place. Among them, many countries did a lot of good technical work commenting in the September ballot, and this led a lot of them to disapprove the DIS at that time. These same countries then did a lot of good work before and during the BRM, and the result was that sufficient votes switched for there to be a comfortable consensus in favour of publishing the Standard. There is (I repeat) the hard central fact of a strong International consensus in favour of publishing ISO/IEC 29500 -- despite flaws in it, and flaws in the process.

> ISO 9001

I think, in reality an ISO 9001 attitude is the last thing we need, since it tends to emphasise dumb repeatability, rather than any more meaningful concept of quality. And note this was not an "ISO", but a "JTC 1" process -- different bodies; different rules.

- Alex.

@Alex
" Countries participating in the process must (by definition) have at least cared enough to participate in the first place."

Cote d'Ivoir was represented at the BRM by a single Senegal citizen who was an employee of MS and on his own seemed to have been the whole NB of Cote d'Ivoir. His actions have been scrutinized and his contibutions to the world of standardization were only a few votes in favor of OOXML. (but you should know, he was at the BRM to vote)

Somehow, I cannot see even a suggestion that his "care" extended beyond doing as he was told from Redmond. But please, correct me if I am wrong.

The Malaysians cared a lot, they were at the BRM and worked pretty hard to improve DIS29500. They wrote extensively about their work (and frustrations). Both Malaysian TCs were unanymously AGAINST accepting DIS29500, only to be overruled by a government minister on some political platitude. The same in France.

Both the Malaysians and French delegates really cared and considered DIS29500 failing completely. And now you claim they were happy with DIS29500 because their government simply ignored them. You are NOT polite towards these people who worked really hard to help making the BRM a "success".

The Dutch NB cared a lot too. However, a single MS employee at the NB (and a bad voting process) was able to block all the other members from contributing ANYTHING to DIS29500 improvement. Not even their comments on the standard were allowed to be send to ECMA. Telling us they were happy with the process and standard because they didn't vote against it is insulting.

And then we have not even gone over to the Czech republic, who was not happy with DIS29500 originally but very happy with a $24M deal from MS a month after they changed their vote to YES. To me, it doesn't seem impossible that the care for DIS29500 quality shown by the Czech delegation could have been diluted with other thoughts at higher levels.

All together, even Rick and you have been unwilling to present reasons why DIS29500 is a decent, implementable standard. As Andy wrote, we heard a lot of lawyerly rule "interpretation", but little about why, eg, 5 different date formats and three different color definitions (or more?) in DIS29500 are good?

Rick is an XML standards expert, but has never gone further than saying "there are precendents for these [bad] choices", "we will iron out these [15,000] problems in maintenance", and "no rules were broken". Never ever telling us why this is a really good standard for document storage, good use of XML, useful for each and every competitor of MS, and also good for non-windows/non-MS Office users.

Even the argument that we now are able to "see" what Sharepoint and MS Office do is fake. OO.o already has better legacy support than MS themselves. MS Office doesn't use DIS29500 but some derivative of an existing Ecma376. Furthermore, DIS29500 contains too many unreadable elements and is grossly incomplete in the crucial areas, eg, macros, to be really useful to see what Sharepoint and MS Office do.

So what makes DIS29500 a technically good and implementable standard, improved by the care of the NBs and their delegates? 5 date formats instead of the original 3?

MS seem to agree with this analysis, as they have decided to dis DIS29500 for the foreseeable futre.

Winter

@Winter

... all this activity rather goes to demonstrate the countries did care.

You seem happy to believe and pass on the second-hand bigotry and weasley insinuations of the hate sites (maybe that is what you call "scrutiny"). As it happens, one of the things at which there was wide agreement at the BRM was that the personal attacks on the Cote d'Ivoire delegate had been completely deplorable (this specifically came up at the HoD meeting). In an International process nations are free to order their own affairs and vote freely for whatever reason they want. If the way they do that doesn't fit into your world view (and in international affairs, this will nearly always be the case for some nations) then -- tough.

> All together, even Rick and you have been unwilling to present reasons why DIS29500 is a
> decent, implementable standard.

What Rick and I say doesn't really matter in the context of this blog. What matters is that the International consensus is that the Standard is published.

> As Andy wrote, we heard a lot of lawyerly rule "interpretation", but little about why, eg, 5
> different date formats and three different color definitions (or more?) in DIS29500 are good?

Why not work it through yourself? The date formats were made as they are at the specific behest of the nations participating in the BRM (a 19:3 vote ratio), because for the transitional schemas there was a strong desire to keep the weird date representations of the legacy formats. In reality we have to face the problem that a lot of spreadsheets exist which make use of these representations for their calculations; that can't be broken. The non-transitional date formats, on the other and, are clean ISO 8601 -- so if you're implementing DIS 29500 for non-legacy content that is the one way dates are represented.

The "5 dates" thing is a typical example of something that has been picked up by the technically illiterate and trumpeted around as a reason why 29500 is poor (because it kind of sounds bad), whereas in actual fact there are good reasons for it being done this way with strong International support.

As for Rick - I wouldn't want to presume to speak for him but I believe he has been recommending ODF rather than OOXML as a general purpose format for Office documents. OOXML has a rather more specific purpose.

> MS Office doesn't use DIS29500 but some derivative of an existing Ecma376.

It uses Ecma 376 currently. I don't believe anybody has been able to show otherwise.

> Furthermore, DIS29500 contains too many unreadable elements

What's an "unreadable element"? Sounds like more technically illiterate puffery to me ...

>and is grossly incomplete in the crucial areas, eg, macros,

So a document format that doesn't define a macro language is "grossly incomplete" is it? Uh oh.

> to be really useful to see what Sharepoint and MS Office do.

What on earth has Sharepoint got to do with it?

> So what makes DIS29500 a technically good and implementable standard, improved by the
> care of the NBs and their delegates? 5 date formats instead of the original 3?

That was one improvement over the original draft; getting it took a lot of care (this was probably the most worked-on resolution of the BRM).

- Alex.

@Alex,

I stand corrected on the work of Mr Wemba Opota, Microsoft's representative for West Africa. If you say he does care about the quality of DIS29500  or XML document standards in general, I will not contest it as I do not know Mr Opota. So I should appologize to those hurt by suggesting otherwise.

I understand your reaction as saying that those who were not at the BRM and are unable to scrutinize the DIS29500 (as far as it is available) should NOT comment? This includes Andy, I assume.

About insinuations from hate sites, I would remind you that I refer mostly to OpenMalaysia, this blog, and Groklaw. None of which can be considered hate-sites.

But about hate-sites, I would like to draw your attention to the open letter from Prof Deepak B Phatak, IIT Bombay, India (http://deepakphatak.blogspot.com/2008/05/this-is.html ) and the blog post of Ditesh on Open Malaysia (http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/06/the-weed-whispe.html).  Both explain in detail and with evidence how they and their colleges were targetted by smear campaigns from Microsoft. Microsoft India has even appologized in some form.

I don't think it is prudent to label Ditesh and Yoon Kit as hate-mongers, and they were indeed at the BRM. If I may be blunt, I must admit that, outside your area of professional expertise, I give their opinions more weight than yours or Rick's. But that is probably because I am a complete amateur on this area.

Winter

Winter wrote:

"Rick is an XML standards expert, but has never gone further than saying "there are precendents for these [bad] choices", "we will iron out these [15,000] problems in maintenance", and "no rules were broken". Never ever telling us why this is a really good standard for document storage, good use of XML, useful for each and every competitor of MS, and also good for non-windows/non-MS Office users."

Yes, when people say "This looks strange to me" I have pointed out the rationale and precedents. Many people regard being informed as quite a positive thing in forming a view.

And yes, when people overstate the time considerations, as if there is no chance to fill in gaps and clarify and consolidate IS29500 after it was accepted, I have pointed out that the maintenance process if vital. Standardization is an ongoing process not an event.

And yes, when people use wild-eyed words such as bribery and corruption, I do point out they have absolutely no evidence and are speaking merely out of prejudice or FUD-mongering.

The reason OOXML is a good format for document storage is because, as the native file format for the world's most numerous office application, it by necessity has all the information for the document, with no shoehorning, in the XML.   Which is not to say that other formats do not also have attractive points:  there are also benefits for document storage in ODF, HTML and PDF, all with different properties. The future is multiple-format storage, not universal formats.   I have written about this many times on my blog.

The reason OOXML is a good use of XML is that in most cases it uses a common set of conventions (structured attributes and the "Pr" property naming convenetion.)  This is a shock for people who have only seen hierarchical XML, but largely follows the accepted best practice that became fashionable about 2001 (on the coat-tails of the SML ideas, with attributes and mixed content being deprecated in favour of element content and using elements for "structured attributes".)  Several ideas are pretty neat: for example the shared string tables.  Good XML is not XML that corresponds to some arbitrary set of rules: in fact, every different kind of document has characteristic structures that are differerent from others, look at SVG's defaulting rules for an example of something almost unique, or Ant's rules for defining new elements within the same document.   Good XML is based on looking at the particular problem, examining the trade-offs and coming up with a rational strategy and approach; good XML may well be ugly, unfortunately.   However, I have never made the case that OOXML is not ugly.   And I have pointed out that people who claimed that the XML Goal of "human readability" was a goal of XML development (largely concerning which characters to allow in names and markup)  not some principle that everyone should be able to understand any XML document even if they had no knowledge of its convention or application area.

The reason OOXML is useful for each and every competitor to MS is that it brings out and collects (and allows further fact-checking by the maintenance process) information together in a way that was not available before. This is not to say that any of them should be obliged to use it, if they don't care to.  I have said several times that I thought the ODF TC would be the ultimate main customers for IS29500.  But I don't see why it is not obvious to everyone that in the medium term *no* developers can afford to ignore *any* major format: the choice is not between OOXML and no OOXML in the world, nor have I ever thought that ODF's momentum would be stopped by OOXML;  so even as ODF grows, we are better of with OOXML being collected and corralled as a voluntary standard, rather than being inhouse, proprietary and unscrutinized.

As for it being good for non-Windows/non-office users, I can only think that your answer is somehow based on the idea that saying my saying we should *have* a standard is the same thing as saying we should *use* that standard.  This is as far from my position as possible. I think all market-dominating interface technologies should be RAND-z, QA-ed voluntary standards, because that reduces barriers to integration, archiving, and exchange, but the best technology for a job may not be the market-dominating technology, and it may not be the standard technology.

I have made all the points multiple times before.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

@Rick:

As for it being good for non-Windows/non-office users, I can only think that your answer is somehow based on the idea that saying my saying we should *have* a standard is the same thing as saying we should *use* that standard.  This is as far from my position as possible. I think all market-dominating interface technologies should be RAND-z, QA-ed voluntary standards, because that reduces barriers to integration, archiving, and exchange, but the best technology for a job may not be the market-dominating technology, and it may not be the standard technology.

I must admit that I had not interpreted your opinion in this way. The idea that you consider that ISO DIS29500 could be for reference only had never occurred to me.

But then I do not understand why MS went on after publishing Ecma376?

A "private", documentation, standard does not have to be approved by the ISO? They are for those standards that are implemented by others. Moreover, one of the main criticisms of DIS29500 has always been the references to internal code, the lack of semantics of the naming, and missing parts (like macro language and scripting). All of these would "hamper" the reference function seriously. Some of these seem to have been improved at the BRM, but that document is still MIA (I wouldn't be able to understand it myself anyway).

The same about why the BRM had to take place? Any change by the ISO process would cause a discrepancy between DIS29500 and Office2007. Why push that, if you only want to document Office 2007? There was much more on the table than just "explaining MS Office better".

In another point, the OSP is a patent license which is no license, but a promise, and excludes the very license under which the main ODF applications are distributed. Such a pseudo-RAND license  would be counter-productive to your "documentation" scheme. Especially as MS has never published the patent numbers covering DIS29500 as far as I know (that would have been incredibily useful).

I have made all the points multiple times before.

Now you present it this way, I remember. But somehow, I must have misunderstood them completely at the time. For instance, you have earlier responded to comments from me on your own blog about "inconsistent tag names" (a comment from me), you write:

And that leaves the naming issue that they are mnemonic and therefore confusing and culturally dependent. I have a lot of sympathy for this view. In SC34 WG1 we have been working solutions to this class of i18n problem: the Document Schema Renaming Language (part of ISO DSDL) which allows you to remap element and attribute names into your own conventions (not structures): Martin Bryan has been working on the open source software for this (not a reference implementation but certainly a proof-of-concept and working implementation) just converting DSRL to XSLT. For very distant languages (I am thinking here of Chinese in particular) it may be easier to rename the schemas, which indeed just what they did when they forked ODF into UOF. For very close languages, I don't know that DSRL is the answer.

http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2008/02/significant_open_letter_from_p.html
I don't agree that the names are "just" mnemonic, they positively look like C/C++ variable names, not XML tag names. But that is beside the point. If you really see OOXML as a "documentation" standard, then this solution is completely inadequate without a sane tag name map. The same map that was asked for by the Brazilian delegation to the BRM. But for all their efforts, MS and Ecma have always refused to present such a thing.

So to summarize, I had indeed not understood your position before. But even under your position that DIS29500 might be used (useful?) for reference only, I still cannot see the logic behind DIS29500 and MS and Ecma's actions. Somehow, I am missing the point. Sorry.

Winter

"The reason OOXML is useful for each and every competitor to MS is that it brings out and collects (and allows further fact-checking by the maintenance process) information together in a way that was not available before."

Errh...so it could not be found in the Ecma standard? Why is that an ISO label is needed if the purpose of OOXML is to document Microsoft Office? Why not just improve the Ecma standard until it acurate and possible to implement with sane effort by the competitiors and after that make the final result an ISO standard.

At what date do think that maintaince will have managed to get accurate enough about how "OOXML" in Microsoft Office works so that it becomes useful? Keep in mind Microsoft yet have not announced a date when they will conform to the ISO version.

The reality of the situation as I see it is that Open Office is by far the most complete documentation of Microsofts legacy formats. What Microsoft have released themselves are no where close enough to be useful for anyone that want to interpretate the legacy files. What Microsoft did with the Ecma standard is to change how their software work and produce yet another faulty description of what their software really does to deduce interoperability. The ISO version of the format made changes to improve the format. Unfortunately this means that Microsoft can hide behind "the weird behavior you see is because Office does not implement the ISO version yet" and the situation turns even worse.

"This is not to say that any of them should be obliged to use it, if they don't care to.  I have said several times that I thought the ODF TC would be the ultimate main customers for IS29500."

Unfortunate that the Microsoft drafted the OSP so that any competitior using GPL can't use the information then.

It is interesting how you always write answers that on themselves are correct and convincing, but always disregard the full picture. The reason Microsoft started with the OOXML effort was that EU required them to document their existing format. Microsoft solved the "problem" by changing their format and send a faulty description of the new format to Ecma for approval. Given Ecmas charter this is kind of understandable that this happened...the same excuse does not hold for ISO and their NBs. I say the explanation for the approval is most likely stacked NBs, you fail to see any problem since NBs are free to mind their own business. For your sake let's hope the appeals succeed so that you don't have to suffer from explaining to the world how you could be so mistaken.

@anon/Alex,

To be fair, I think that the truth is in the middle.  I wish we had an ombudsman who could jump in to these exchanges and establish the facts.  I believe, for example,  that the following statements are true, and that each undercuts the absoluteness of your statements:

-  All of the appeals are by long term JTC1 members, whether or not they were involved with formats before
-  Many new countries involved in the final vote were late arrivals in SC 34, or late upgrades
-  Many of these late arrivals had far less experience in the standards process
-  The final vote would have looked very different had they not participated

I'm not saying this to invite correctionsa to this list or for a counter list, because a counter list could also be made that would add nuance to the final conclusion  What I am trying to point out that when all we do is play "did too!" "did not!" we don't really get anywhere, because neither set of statements really honestly addresses the state of affairs, or leads to either an answer or a path towards a better solution.

  -  Andy

@Andy

Yes, I really don't think there's too much to be gained by trying to second-guess the worth of a NB contribution from their length-of-service within the system. In votes, all votes are equal irrespective of length of service. For technical work, the contribution boils down to individual experts.

Interestingly, contrary to what is sometimes stated, among the old-timer "core" of SC 34 the spread of opinions on DIS 29500 was extremely close to that of the real International ballot (taking a snaphot of Jan 2006 countries, for example, their proportion of votes in favour of the DIS was 75%).

- Alex.

Alex,

I might be able to expand on Andy's frustration a little (and I'm sure Andy will correct me if I'm wrong).

At different times, we've been told that rules for standards development are standards like any other, that rules for standards development are actually just precedents, that ISO members are functionaries who implement the wishes of NBs, and that their decisions are final and may not be questioned. Maybe this is just a miscommunication, maybe the relationship between Zurich and the NBs is more complex than we're understanding, but it feels like we've been given a 500-piece jigsaw with 600 pieces in the box.

I suspect Andy's Bush analogy lost something in the translation, because we're used to a monologue rather than dialogue with their president. A more appropriate analogy might be that the impression given to ISO outsiders is similar to the impression given to the British public when politicians insist that the EU is a powerless bureaucracy one day, then claim the next day that their hands are tied over an issue because they have to comply with new EU regulations.

- Andrew Sayers

@Andrew

> At different times, we've been told that rules for standards development are standards like any other,

It is true that the Directives are a Standard.

> that rules for standards development are actually just precedents,

No, they are not "just" precedent, though precedent may - naturally - be drawn on when interpreting the Directives.

> that ISO members are functionaries
> who implement the wishes of NBs,

Yes, but note the NBs have given ITTF a certain amount of power, particularly when it comes to administering procedure.

>and that their decisions are final and may not be questioned.

Generally decisions are made by NBs. Decisions can be questioned by NBs using the JTC 1 appeals procedure (as is happening now). In my experience the "officials" take care to try and find and work with the consensus view of NBs. Note, that in JTC 1 consensus does not mean unanimity.

> Maybe this is just a miscommunication, maybe the relationship between Zurich and the NBs is more
> complex than we're understanding, but it feels like we've been given a 500-piece jigsaw with 600 pieces in the box.

Yes, I think, it is more complex than any of the things simply stated above things (and it's Geneva, not Zurich)  :-) Any system with lots of people and different cultures and interests mixed in is always going to be complicated.

I also think the problems in the Directives have caused too much uncertainty and confusion.

> I suspect Andy's Bush analogy lost something in the translation, because we're used to a monologue
> rather than dialogue with their president. A more appropriate analogy might be that the impression
> given to ISO outsiders is similar to the impression given to the British public when politicians insist
> that the EU is a powerless bureaucracy one day, then claim the next day that their hands are tied over
> an issue because they have to comply with new EU regulations.

I'm not quite sure what this all means. Is the question being asked why the BRM was run with such tight restrictions while the 30-day "rules" seems a bit more relaxed? I'm not sure I can answer that question!

I am also not sure exactly what concrete steps Andy is proposing. He says he wants me to "talk about what we should do now about OOXML". Well, I am doing that in a formal context in SC 34 by helping decide how its maintenance will be handled.

- Alex.


I think it's important to differentiate here between problems of procedure and problems of perception - as an outsider, I feel rather less qualified to talk about the former than the latter :)

On the issue of Directives as Standard, I think the problem is that the public expects the word "standard" to have a broad meaning that applies to all standards, whereas standards experts think themselves lucky if two standards they're involved in bear any resemblance to one another - I remember having explained to people that "Ecma standard" and "ISO standard" are qualitatively different terms that happen to use the same word. Beyond that, I think what Rick was trying to tell me earlier is that there's no reason to believe that the logic applied to one standard should apply to a standard in a different field within the ISO. For example, take the value of precedent: one of the earliest arguments against Office Open XML was that it ignored the vast body of precedent about how XML documents should use hierarchical data structures rather than runs. That argument was batted away as merely being one tradition amongst many, and yet nobody would think to bat longstanding standards development precedents as one tradition amongst many.

I suppose the point of the above is that the word "standard" has become loaded in the public's mind, implying that membership of an infallible canon of laws, developed in a repeatable, industrialised manner. If the above rings true, my only suggestion is to be very careful when throwing the word around in public.

The point of the EU analogy wasn't to highlight any particular decision, but to give a general sense of the way that statements from ISO members are read by the outside world (fairly or otherwise). If you think about situations where politicians gave contradictory statements about Europe depending on the issue, giving you the impression that reality was somehow being reshaped to suit an agenda, that's similar to the impression that is sometimes given about ISO rules. In the specific case of the BRM, I'm not personally worried about the strict nature of the rules, but I do find it hard to understand how ITTF has the power to impose a 5 day BRM despite widespread disquiet, yet doesn't have the power to review that decision after the fact. As with the EU, it seems intuitive that either it's a bureaucracy with neither power or a leader with both powers - making one argument before the BRM and another after gives cynics room to believe that you're redefining the ISO to suit some hidden agenda.

As to concrete steps, my suggestions are less about document formats and more about the process in general. First I'd like to recycle a suggestion from another thread - how would you feel about encouraging some of the bureaucrats to maintain blogs? It seems to me that hearing the ISO's role from the horse's mouth would help to publicly demonstrate the complexities of the relationship in an accessible way. Second, is there a glossary of terms that will tell me what the group noun for PAS/FT is, and when to say "ISO" as opposed to "ITTF"? Having tripped over such issues (including in this post), I suspect it's a partial explanation for the lack of commenters that are interested both in being polite and in not looking silly in public.

- Andrew Sayers

I tend to use  small-f fast-track as the generic term for Fast-Track and PAS.  However, I don't imagine people will pick up on that in reading.

I think it is normal language to use the largest grouping word for something, and only use specific terms when specific meanings are intended.  

So "Australia outraged as effects of UK atomic tests on Aboriginals emerges"  is fine as a headline, but when you start to use more detailed sentences more qualifiers are needed: the general population of Australia, the military of UK and its government, the unevacuated nomadic Aboriginals in the desert region near Maralinga, etc.   Using general words in specific sentences results in sentences that are substantially inaccurate: just the thing for propaganda.

So people say ISO, but really they mean (or should mean) ISO/IEC JTC1, and often they mean (or should mean) ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34, and often they mean (or should mean) the National Bodies P-members of SC34.  So you get mad statements like "MS has bought ISO"  when at most what is meant is that "MS has unduely influenced some NBs P-members of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34.  

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

Alex,

Thanks for the long and thorough reply.  Our cross/posts will become endless if I offer comments on your comments on my comments, so here are just a few thoughts.
> It's clear that many people who attended were extremely unhappy about many aspects of the
> week - items that couldn't be discussed, the block voting, and so on.

A small minority, I would say. I think the vast majority of attendees recognised that we collectively did what we could given the constraints. That is (I have said) a different question to whether a one-week BRM was an optimal way to proceed - I don't think many people would agree with that!
Clearly, you're in a better position to judge this than I am.  I have to wonder, though, whether the collegiality that was displayed (a good thing) masked some of the frustration.  Also, it is important to note that appeals are filed by NBs and not those who attended, so there is the secondary question of whether those on the home front were happy with the decisions that those in the breach acquiesced in.
What it comes down to is that the great majority of countries want this Standard. That is the real "big picture" here. Most countries also recognise the process was poor and that reform is required. Countries were told repeatedly that if they thought the BRM was inedequate their recourse was to disapprove the DIS. They didn't.
This, I think, is an illustration of what I was trying to discuss here; that reaonable people can draw very different interpretations from what happened.  I don't think that it's possible to know what most countries "want" when it comes to OOXML.  The degree of pressure applied (without trying to distinguish between one side or another) was great.  For my part, I'm not convinced, after what I've heard from many quarters, including those who took part in decisions made by NBs, that the vote is indicative of whether most countries really wanted DIS 29500.
The BRM always was, quite clearly, a technical working meeting for improving the quality of the DIS text. It did that, no question. Appealing it using different criteria makes little sense....[and later]...NBs can hardly appeal something they endorsed.
I think that it's fair to point out that NBs are free to disagree with their technical committees and rule against their recommendations.  It seems (at minimum) like a weakness in the system if they can be held accountable to decisions made by representatives in a BRM, but then are free to vote as they wish.  And if they can vote something down because they are not saistied with the result, why cannot they object to the criteria, process or anything else that happened?  This doesn't make any sense to me.
NBs understood the situation and voted unanimously (not by majority) for the voting option,...So there is no "minority" here.
Fair point.  I'd forgotten that (but see prior comment).

    which, incidentally, was not "block" voting.

We're just using different words to describe the same thing.  I'm clear on the vote and the process as conducted.
It seems to me the basis for some complaints is that the BRM wasn't a forum for approving/disapproving the DIS, and that somehow that should have been on the table. That shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose of the meeting.
Hmm.  I didn't get that impression from the two out of three I've seen.
> This was an extraordinary level of comments to be disposed of this way.

Yes, but it was a gamble that worked reasonably well (so I am told by the experts from countries who assessed every decision). If the textual result of the paper voting had been poor, the DIS would have crashed and burned.
It's hard for me to respond to that, as all of my information is secondary.  On the one hand, I don't subscribe to the "I read on some blog somewhere that someone on some other blog said A is B, so A must be B," but on the other hand I have talked first hand to people like Frank Farance, and read the blog entries and exchanged email with people like Tim Bray (and more), all of whom have respected credentials and experience.  And while they would agree that progress was made, it doesn't seem that they think that the gamble paid out so well (and see comment above on pressure applied to the final vote).
> People could not discuss all of the comments they wished to.

Of course not, given the time constraints that would be impossible. That was the entire reason for the discussions that led to adopting the voting option.

> Some issues that were taken away in small groups were denied the right to be brought back.

Of course, given the time constraints; I had to visit the work done in the fairest order I could.
Alex, I think this is a good example of why the appeals make sense.  Everyone got together in a pressure cooker and did their best.  All kinds of decisions like those above were made.  It doesn't surprise me that people after the fact - and their NBs - might not be too happy.  Decisions made on Monday or Wednesday can look a lot different on Friday.
> This raises the question then what an NB that objected to the process could do.

It's quite simple: they could disapprove the DIS.
Here's where I think we're talking past each other again.  One NB can cast one vote.  If the process was flawed, your remedy doesn't work.  Appeals are filed by individual countries.
... moving on, the way to mend a "process" is not to appeal the particular DIS decision, to to work on reform of that process, in my opinion. See Patrick's latest on this: http://www.durusau.net/publications/appealprocess.pdf
I think you're mixing two arguments here:  they are appealing the outcome, based on the process - not appealing to reform the process - although they may also want to do that, just as those that voted in favor of DIS 29500 might want to reform the process.  I'm not sure why you are imputing a different motivation to the appellants than they are expressing?
To have an argument with real integrity, I personally think those who are suggesting DIS 29500 should be abandoned because of poor process, should also be arguing for the de-standardisation of ODF, because of its poor process (though less publicised, of course).
Again, I can't speak to that, because I'm not competent to judge.  But I don't hear other people voicing the same concern about ODF.  The following, I believe, are facts: many countries did participate in the ODF voting; only pro forma objections were raised; there were already multiple implementations in full or partial compliance with the OASIS version that was submitted; ODF moved rapidly into 1.1, and now 1.2, with improvements in integrity and important additions; that will be resubmitted.  So even giving a lot of slack for the vendor pressure, and populist groundswell against OOXML, this is a very different picture, to my mind.  It seems rather remarkable to contend that a one week BRM was justifiable, but that ODF and OOXML must be equally condemned because they were both approved by the same committee.  Again, I think this is an example of how I just can't help seeing things differently.
> Should they have walked out in order to be able to register an appeal without having it disposed
> of as a technicality?  Or would that not have made any difference?

In the BRM, the overall mood was certainly not AT ALL tolerant of any theatrics that would have held up technical work. I believe (overheard conversation)  there were some plans for last-day disruption which evaporated in the face of this mood.
You miss my point here, and it's important: if you are saying that a country that participated in the BRM doesn't have the right to appeal, then what was their choice to preserve that right?  Again, this seems like a "heads I win, tails you lose."  If you try to cooperate, you're snookered.  If you walk out to retain your rights, you're engaging in "theatrics."  Can you see why we're so far apart?

I'll let it go at this point, because while the examples continue, I think these demonstrate that we're looking at the same animal from very differen viewpoints.  Perhaps the best way to leave it is that this is true with a thousand other things in the world that people feel passionately, and oppositely, about.

Sometimes it helps to remember that it's an election year, and to note that while unity is desirable, it's not often achievable.

Best,

Andy

Andy

I am not saying that countries have no right to appeal. Of course they do. But in my opinion there are particular things which it is pointless to appeal (I do not think everything in the appeals I have seen fall into the category of pointless, by the way). It is also pointless to appeal things based on statements which are factually incorrect. So when South Africa states that the BRM meeting report has not been produced (it has), or Brazil claim that Ecma was invited to make "half hour speeches" (they didn't) this just wastes everybody's time.

I think the nub of our difference lies in your statement: "For my part, I'm not convinced, after what I've heard from many quarters, including those who took part in decisions made by NBs, that the vote is indicative of whether most countries really wanted DIS 29500."

For this statement to be true there must be countries who did not want the DIS, who somehow ended up voting for it. In other words, there were some votes which were "yes but should have been no".

Now, you might say that some countries' votes were not representative of what you believe is their "true" national position (which, in all cases, will be anti-DIS I assume). In that case though, the dispute is between Andy Updegrove and that country's NB; not between that country's NB and JTC 1.

Let''s boil it down. It seems to me countries had 9 positions they could be in at the close of the ballot, as in the following table, which shows how countries vote according to the view they hold.

___________________APPROVE DIS___DISAPPROVE DIS___NO_DIS_OPINION

APPROVE PROCESS   |  YES     |       NO       |    ABSTAIN   |
DISAPPROVE PROCESS| ??? | NO | ??? |
PROCESS NO OPINION| YES | NO | ABSTAIN |
I have put in the final voting positions that are obviously derivable from holding an opinion about the DIS and an opinion about the process. In two circumstances there is a decision to be taken.

If a country disapproves the DIS everything is straightforward: they vote NO. If a country has no opinion on the DIS then it is a little more complicated if they think the process is broken. They might in that case decide to disapprove the DIS on principle (maybe some countries, like China, took this view).

If your statement is correct it must, I think, hinge around the countries who approved the DIS but who disapproved the process. I can see no other way for there to exist this category of vote of a "yes that should have been a no".

Countries in this position  (and I know this from first-hand reports) will have wrestled with the decision on their vote. The question would have been to what degree the question of process was distinct from the question of the DIS. By and large, countries appear to have taken the view that these things were distinct, and - in this position - voted to approve the DIS (while perhaps resolving to do something to fix the process).

Many anti-DIS people took the view that the question of process overrode the question of the DIS -- naturally enough, as this would be a means to the end of their view prevailing. I believe, Andy, you would share that view? However these arguments did not prevail.

So if the basis of an appeal is really to be "countries said yes when then should have said no", then ultimately the only way that can be maintained is to argue that countries didn't know what they were doing, or were behaving somehow incorrectly or incompetently. I don't need to extend that line of argument any more -- it is instantly apparent that such a view strikes at the heart of the International compact undelying participation in ISO and IEC. In International standardisation (as in world politics) countries may order their affairs in ways counter to your world-view; they may take decisions that are different from ones you would take, they will (and frequently do) take decision which we find incomprehensible. But it is they who call the shots. That is what International standardisation is.

- Alex.

Alex,

I'd like to have another go at clearing up a misunderstanding - this time, the statement that appeals can be made if “the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO”. Would it be fair to say that, if an acceptable draft is produced by an unacceptable process, the draft itself is not detrimental to ISO/IEC's reputation, therefore appeals on those grounds aren't allowed?

- Andrew Sayers

@Andrew

Well I can only guess - but my assumption is that to appeal on the basis that some content was detrimental, there would need to be a clear demonstration that some content was detrimental; "process" doesn't seem to enter into that consideration.

- Alex.

>For this statement to be true there must be countries who did not want the DIS, who somehow ended up voting for it. In other words, there were some votes which were "yes but should have been no".

Actually I would suggest that you check up what happened in Norway, France and other countries.

That a NB representive sent a yes vote does not prove that is the countries true position. Quite simply a phone call from ISO asking "Did you really mean to vote yes and did any irregularities happened?" will probally be answered by the same person that made irregularities happen so he could change the descission to yes. On the other hand appeals are something that must be answered formally. The likelihood is large that the same kind of manipulation will be attempted again, but hopefully people will be more ready this time.

Also making appeals in any social situation are not based only that the individual may have made the wrong vote. In many cases the appeal process give room for people to have a second thought about if why they voted as they did. It is perfectly possible that a NB might have voted yes, but has started to doubt the wisdom of this even while their concerns are not great enough for them to make an appeal themselves. Given a chance to question the process leading to their answer they might be ready to reject the DIS to defend the reputation of ISO.

> Actually I would suggest that you check up what happened in Norway,
> France and other countries.

Uh huh. If countries have decision making processes of which you disapprove, then you need to take it up with those countries. In International affairs countries are sovereign and get to order their own affairs. ISO and IEC don't get to meddle, let alone vendors or "activists" with axes to grind.

> That a NB representive sent a yes vote does not prove that is the countries true position.

By definition, it does. You might disagree with how this "true position" is arrived at but again, that's something between the NB and its national stakeholders.

> Quite simply a phone call from ISO asking "Did you really mean to vote yes
> and did any irregularities happened?" will probally be answered by the same
> person that made irregularities happen so he could change the descission to yes.

ISO and IEC have no right to interrogate countries about their intentions. ISO and IEC (in theory) serve the NBs, they do not rule them.

> Also making appeals in any social situation are not based only that
> the individual may have made the wrong vote.

To my knowledge, no appeals are on the basis that votes were made by unauthorised people. In any event a properly made vote (as they all evidently are) cannot be withdrawn or altered.

> In many cases the appeal process give room for people to have a second
> thought about if why they voted as they did.

No. The vote will not be affected unless (for example) some sort of clerical error comes to light.

- Alex Brown.

@Alex,

Uh huh. If countries have decision making processes of which you disapprove, then you need to take it up with those countries. In International affairs countries are sovereign and get to order their own affairs. ISO and IEC don't get to meddle, let alone vendors or "activists" with axes to grind.
You seem to be unable to decide between a legalistic stance following the letter of the rules and ignoring the outcome on the one hand, and claiming that DIS29500 is technically sound and ignoring all the technical criticism (an estimated 15,000 serious errors) on the other hand.

Alex, mrs Kroes of the EU commission gave us the following quotes:
If voting in the standard-setting context is influenced less by the technical merits of the technology but rather by side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure ... then these risk falling foul of the competition rules.

Standards bodies do important work in difficult circumstances. But like all of us their
rules need to keep pace with the changing commercial environment.  If they need
help in tightening up their rules to avoid being manipulated by narrow commercial
interests, or to design the right ex ante rules, then they have my support.  My door is
always open.
(http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/08/317&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en)

It is obvious from the context who she is refering to.

Now you might categorize Mrs Kroes as an "activist" with an "axe to grind". But she does have the ears of the courts.

She seems to know things we don't.

Like, some country getting a $24M package deal after changing their vote to yes? Some NBs overruled by political appointees after they voted NO but the politicians were visited by a commercial party? Some technical specialist being the subject of smear campaigns in, say, India, Malaysia, or New Zealand?

It seems the EU commission is seeing things completely different. Didn't you notice anything like the things Mrs Kroes refers to? Are you really surprised she airs these views? Are we living in the same universe?

Winter

Winter,

It's probably unintentional, but the way you talk often makes it sound like you're trying to paint the person you're talking to as a bad guy. For example, the last post gave me the impression that you were saying Alex could reasonably be assumed to know about Neelie Kroes' comment, and that he'd been deliberately ignoring or deriding it. In fact, since she only made the remark the day before his comment, it seems to me more likely that he just hadn't heard it yet. If I were Alex, that would make me feel defencive and want to find a way of disagreeing with you, just like Alex's "tinfoil hat" remark makes people want to find ways of disagreeing with him. Given the sometimes-rancorous nature of debate around here, it would probably be a more effective strategy to try to avoid asking questions in ways that could be read as accusations. Word to the wise :)

- Andrew Sayers

"For example, the last post gave me the impression that you were saying Alex could reasonably be assumed to know about Neelie Kroes' comment, and that he'd been deliberately ignoring or deriding it."

That was unintentional.

What I tried to say was that several participants of the BRM have indicated extreme frustration with the process. Two even publically accused MS of organizing a coordinated smear campaign against them (Ditesh in Malaysia and Deepak B. Phatak from India). A sizeable number of NBs were overruled by either administrators (Norway) or politicians (eg, France and Malaysia) on non-technical grounds. One country got a $24M deal from MS after changing their vote to Yes.

Mrs Kroes simply confirmed that such dealings were common and indicated that they might very well break the law.

If you had read only Alex' comments, would you have even guessed that the BRM was not a love-in event resulting in a healthy, universally supported standard? Would you not be surprised that mrs Kroes would come with such accusations out of the blue?

Alex has a knack on telling us the NBs technical expert delegates supported OOXML when they voted against the standard, but were overruled for political reasons. That is extremely rude towards these delegates. A country voting YES is not the same as the delegates supporting OOXML, and if Alex wants to blur this distinction for polemic reasons, I will will ask why he is so impolite.

Remember, when I sited Open Malaysia, Rob Weir, and Groklaw's reports from several BRM delegates, it was Alex who said:

"You seem happy to believe and pass on the second-hand bigotry and weasley insinuations of the hate sites (maybe that is what you call "scrutiny"). " .

If you accuse participants of the BRM of running hate sites, you must not be touchy when you are called on that.

Winter

@Winter,

It's worth noting perhaps that the EU is a rather less mature institution than many European standards bodies. Nevertheless, what Neelie Kroes says makes a lot of sense. I do not, however, apply the same "it seems" and "she seems" and "it is obvious" interpretations to her words to get where you get to - but tend to agree with Rick Jelliffe's sage analysis.

- Alex.

@Alex,
"I do not, however, apply the same "it seems" and "she seems" and "it is obvious" interpretations to her words to get where you get to - but tend to agree with Rick Jelliffe's sage analysis."
This analysis is indeed sage and impersonal. It also ignores the accusations of illegal conduct by a monopolist of  "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure" which were exactly the accusations waged against MS in the OOXML standardization process. Think about it, Neelie is accusing MS of breaking the law again. And there is currently no other monopoly around to doubt that she was refering to MS.

It also ignores the smear campaigns organized against technical experts that were critical of OOXML. You and Rick were indeed wronged by the open hostility and personal attacks you find on the internet. Think how it feels when your opponents send around anonymous forged letters to your boss and political bodies and seriously attempts to get you fired?

It is nice to write about "commercial parties" in general, but not nice to ignore the abuses "your side" (metaphorically speaking) commited. I am convinced that without MS' abuses of the Fast Track system, ISO would still have been fine.

No one is so naive to assume other parties are not willing to bend the rules to get the upper hand. However, I still have to find a single example of Sun, IBM, or Google sending forged letters, stacking NBs with yes men/woman (a MS partner is a paid serf), and making $24M deals with countries after they change their vote in an attempt to get OOXML rejected. I also have not heard about CEOs from these parties contacting the heads of state before the vote.

But if you know about such abuses, please inform us.

I am more inclined to agree with Yoon Kit's "analysis".

What is ironic is that we are being told by Microsoft that their rushing of OOXML is due to the EU's request for more open standards in their products. Unfortunately in their haste to push OOXML through the ISO process, they caused such a mess in terms of their relationships with governments, agencies, national bodies and more importantly the media, that Microsoft is now being investigated on their attempts to play the ISO system for OOXML, as reported by The Wall Street Journal in February 2008.
That is, we are talking about the probability that MS have acted illegally. But legal or not, within the rules or not, we do have evidence and witnesses enough that MS acted immorally and gamed the ISO Fast Track system.

Winter

@Winter,

Rick's analysis goes right to the heart of the question of "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure". As he points out, such concerns will naturally centre largely on the legitimacy of vendor consortia as standards-setters. It's you who are mentioning Microsoft, not Dr Kroes.

You are probably aware, SC 34 issued an open letter condemning all "personal attacks".

As to illegal behaviour - a common mistake in this episode has been to confuse an investigation of an allegation with proof of it. You might like to read my latest blog entry as an example of this in the UK.

- Alex.

@ Alex,
As he points out, such concerns will naturally centre largely on the legitimacy of vendor consortia as standards-setters.
Then you might want to read an earlier discussion I had with Rick about just this subject: The input of vendors in ISO standards:

The nuclear option

If I look at Rick's current analysis, I see his position has evolved considerable from then.
It seems to me that only the various international standards bodies, which have direct voting by National Bodies not individual stakeholders in particular vendors, provides the workable immunity from direct control by vendors (singly or in collision) that needs to be required for mandatory standards.
I am afraid I do not completely understand his current analysis and the following might be the result of severe misunderstandings. But back then, Rick did not mention "mandatory standards", as I remember, he even denied their existence. I am also at a loss how he comes to the conclusion that voting by NBs "provides the workable immunity from direct control by vendors (singly or in collision)". It was my distinct impression that MS spend millions ($100M - $1G?) to control the NBs voting behavior. And succeeded.

You will probably disagree, but it seems even Mrs Kroes suspects as much
(I use the word seems as I cannot look into Neelie's head, nor is she in a position to accuse the subject of an ongoing investigation directly)

Winter

@Winter

To be clear, what it boils down to is that you are one of a number of people who believe (without any evidence) there has been widespread corruption in which Microsoft has improperly expended large sums of money to buy off a large number of corrupt standards people.

I think such a view is prejudiced, irrational and unintelligent. I think such a view at large in the blogosphere evidences a kind of witch-hunt, mob rule mentality which I find, franky, disturbing.

Now if firm evidence of foul play emerges, on the part of any participant (it is not as if every player other than Microsoft is incapable of transgression), then there should be consequences to face and censure would be in order.

However, as this is evidently a religious matter (the anti-MS mob have faith in their view independent of evidence) it is not worth discussing it surely?

- Alex.

@Alex:

There must be some misunderstandings which might be resolved be re-reading my comments. But I will try to answer your comments here.

"To be clear, what it boils down to is that you are one of a number of people who believe (without any evidence) there has been widespread corruption in which Microsoft has improperly expended large sums of money to buy off a large number of corrupt standards people. "

No. I never, ever wrote that there were standards people who received money or other renumeration from MS. That accusation I find offensive. I can only hope that it was my lack of command of the English language that gave you that idea.

Yoon Kit and Ditesh have informed us about widespread attempts by MS to do such thing in Malaysia. But they never said it succeeded. They wrote about it several times, eg,
http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/03/how-to-royally.html

However, what I did write was that MS have stacked NBs, eg, that of the USA, with people whose livelyhood depends on MS' grace. MS partners earn most, if not all of their money from doing bussiness with MS. They are nothing but serfs. As far as I know, in none of the NBs did a MS partner who joined after the OOXML submission raise their voice or contributed anything of substance except an unconditional YES vote.

What I did also write was that there were several cases, eg, Czech Republic, where a YES vote was preceeded by commercial negotiations with MS and a sizeable rebate ($24M). There were also several cases where countries voted AGAINST the advice of the NBs (eg, Malaysia, France). In all these cases, politicians have been in VERY close contact with MS representatives.

"I think such a view is prejudiced, irrational and unintelligent. I think such a view at large in the blogosphere evidences a kind of witch-hunt, mob rule mentality which I find, franky, disturbing."

You might want to read up on the history of MS. Starting at Groklaw's MS litigation page, you will be surprised what MS all have done to keep their monopoly.
http://www.groklaw.net/staticpages/index.php?page=2005010107100653
In short, MS has already been proven guilty on each of these accusations several times. Since the early nineties, MS pay around $1B a year in settlements and fines for exactly these types of transgressions. And next year they will do it again (all legally documented, see link).

So why should it be disturbing if I think MS will do today what it has been proven guilty of doing for the last two decades?

In the OOXML saga, the only documented smear campaigns are from MS who tried to oust critical experts in New Zealand, India, and Malaysia, with forged letters and fake astroturf campaigns. MS reminds me of that 8 year old bully who once accused a 4 year old crying girl of attacking him. I didn't believe him then, I don't believe MS now.

In my opinion, there was strong oposition to OOXML ISO standaridization. This opposition was both on technical, legal, and political grounds. MS and Ecma stonewalled all opposition and subverted the voting and fast track procedures. MS "negotiated" directly with political leaders about the vote, and stalked and harrassed the experts. They organized astroturf campaigns where even a girls school send form letters to urge the NB to vote YES on OOXML, and did receive special care from MS (this is documented in India).
"Now if firm evidence of foul play emerges, on the part of any participant (it is not as if every player other than Microsoft is incapable of transgression), then there should be consequences to face and censure would be in order."
You haven't even acknowledged that MS organized a smear campaign with forged letters in the three countries I named. And there is ample written evidence for it (MS even appologized in India).
Nor did you even blink about the Czech republic getting a $24M rebate from MS after changing their vote.

But the only thing you complain about are the "hate" sites and "witch hunts" from the opponents. Please name them. It is not this site, nor Rob Weir's, nor Open Malaysia. Not even NOOXML or Groklaw will attack you personally (trolling commenters excepted). So which are these hate sites?

Therefore, in view of this history, I must admit that I find it hard to believe that you will admit on any serious MS wrongdoing under any circumstances. But, please, surprise me.

Btw, I am also eager to hear about abuses from the anti-OOXML camp. And then not from anonymous trolls on slashdot. So, does "any participant" in your experience include IBM, Sun, Google, or OO.O? Have you evidence or even suggestions that they abused the OOXML fast track procedure in ways that come close to what MS did?
"However, as this is evidently a religious matter (the anti-MS mob have faith in their view independent of evidence) it is not worth discussing it surely?"
I see it differently. As citizens in defence of an open society against a ruthless monopoly whose CEOs have all, without exception, participated in perjury, fraud, forging and destroying evidence, and obstruction of justice (this is all documented in trials around DR-DOS, Stack, and several anti-trust cases).

But in this case, the "anti-OOXML" camp offered to talk about things. About the OPS, which specifically excluded all GPLed applications, about the standard, eg, to include W3C and ISO standards, about ODF, to support MS Office better.

Never, ever, in all these years were MS willing to even talk seriously to those who "opposed" OOXML. Only at the last moment, when there was a fear that OOXML might fail ISO were there moves to adapt the standard "somewhat". But even then, there came very little that was of use to any competitor of MS. The result was a standard by and for MS. And those who have to implement it say it cannot be done (given the time it took MS to get OOXML support in Mac Office, I believe them).

Neither you, nor Rick, nor anybody else have implemented a non-trivial part of MS OOXML in an Office application. At most some limited "read" support has come out for the Mac. But, again, maybe you know of more complete implementations of OOXML that do not simply use MS DLLs for the "real" work.

To summarize, one of the primary tactics of MS PR is the preemptive accusation. Whenever, MS did something unethical, immoral, or plain stupid, they immediately started to accuse the victims of doing exactly that. Thus making any charge looking like "he did - she did" games. I am afraid that I have become so sensitive to this tactic, that I see it also in your accusations of "hate sites", "witch hunt", and "mob rule". Indeed, that I do find disturbing.

Winter

@Winter

I find it difficult to reconcile this:

> No. I never, ever wrote that there were standards people who received
> money or other renumeration from MS. That accusation I find offensive.

with this:

> What I did also write was that there were several cases, eg, Czech Republic,
> where a YES vote was preceeded by commercial negotiations with MS and a
> sizeable rebate ($24M).

Why are you mentioning this sum of money if you do not mean to imply that its payment somehow corrupted those people who decided the Czech Republic's vote?

Such an allegation (if you are making it) is rather more than just "offensive", or even "prejudiced, irrational and unintelligent" (in my book it would be all of those things).

So, just to be very clear, and you alleging there WAS, or WAS NOT a connection between this large sum of money, and the vote decided by the representatives of  the Czech Republic in the DIS 29500 ballot?

- Alex.

@Alex:

The short answer, NO! But you ask leading questions and your text does not match your title.
"Why are you mentioning this sum of money if you do not mean to imply that its payment somehow corrupted those people who decided the Czech Republic's vote?"
The vote was probably decided by the Czech government on some level. Which does NOT imply that the members of the Czech NB received recompensation or even agreed with the vote. I simply don't wan't to speculate on that.

You consistently conflate the opinions of the experts on the TCs and NBs with the position of their government or even the people of their country.

In NO way is the fact that the Czech republic could have "sold" their vote illegal, or even corruption. Your use of the word "corrupted" is "leading" here. Any state has the right to make deals for the "public good" in any form they feel fit. Even selling votes in standards processes, if they would want to.

So I make very careful distinctions between the behavior of individuals on the NBs and TCs, and the policies enacted by their governments. I would prefer you make that distinction too.

So if Neelie Kroes talks about "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure", then this is clearly directed at governments who are in their right to do that. However, under EU anti-trust rules, companies are not allowed to make such deals if they have market dominance.

In this sense, I have never, ever accused people in standards committees of taking bribes or other renumerations from MS or anyone else. I simply assumed they served the interests of their employers, their country, or their conscience.
So, just to be very clear, and you alleging there WAS, or WAS NOT a connection between this large sum of money, and the vote decided by the representatives of  the Czech Republic in the DIS 29500 ballot?
You are conflating things again. What representatives do you mean. The members of the committees or NB, or the politicians who had to make the decision in the end?

I have no clue how the Czech process went, but in many countries, government officials have either directly or indirectly (as employers of the NB delegates) power over NB decisions.

Yes, a very large benefit coming right after a favorable vote does ALWAYS suggest the possibility of improper influence. Especially if  a politician is in her or his right to make such a "package deal". Personally, if I was a Czech citizen, I would have serious questions for my "representatives". If you, Rick, or Andy got very favorable deals from one of the parties right after a vote, I would be suspicious too.

In NO way does this mean that I suspect the members of the Czech TC or NB to have been benefiting personally from this deal. If we look at Malaysia, we saw impeccable TCs doing whatever they could to improve OOXML, and then deciding that it still fell short of their standards (pun intended). The relevant government official then decided, on her own, to overrule their advice and vote ABSTAIN. We can ask very serious questions about why this minister ignored the advice of her TCs. But nowhere do I even want to suggest that anyone got "bribed" personally. Something like this happened also in both Norway and France.

So, yes, I do have a suspicion that the approximately $24M benefit that the Czech republic got from MS could have been related to their YES vote and might have influenced their government to interfere with the decisions of the NB. No, I do NOT accuse anyone of corruption or taking bribes. And I won't go into word-plays over the ambiguous use of the word "corrupted" in English.

And to respond to your earlier comment. An entity like MS who, on average, settles or is convicted once a year for serious market manipulation, fraud, and other unethical and illegal practices does have to do more to gain our trust than the average company.

On the other hand, you still have not acknowledged the documented practice of smear campaigns by MS, don't you.
Why should I trust a company that sends forged letters to discredit critical experts? Not once, but at least in three different countries. (and then we do not even refer to all the earlier cases, like Peter Quinn in MA and Tim Bray)

Winter

@Winter

> I have never, ever accused people in standards committees of taking bribes
> or other renumerations from MS or anyone else.

You wrote last year, following a report about the votes of of INCITS V1 and other NBs (www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php) :

"If these had be national elections, people would have gone to jail. In every country it is illegal to 'sell' your vote for money."

So tell me, who was selling their vote for money here? who would be going to jail?

> I do have a suspicion that the approximately $24M benefit that the Czech republic got from MS
> could have been related to their YES vote and might have influenced their government to interfere
> with the decisions of the NB.

What makes you say the Czech government "interfered" with the Czech NB? From what I know of the Czech NB's response to DIS 29500 that is totally incorrect. As you later write:

> I have no clue how the Czech process went.

So why then are you harbouring "a suspicion" based on your admitted cluelessness? Is that not irrational?

(As for MS's past trangsressions they, like the past transgressions of other monopolistic corporations, are well documented, frequently retold, and have caused MS much deserved harm. But as I have written elsewhere corporations, like people, can change. And that change should be encouraged.)

- Alex.

@Alex:
" You wrote last year, following a report about the votes of of INCITS V1 and other NBs (www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php) :

"If these had be national elections, people would have gone to jail. In every country it is illegal to 'sell' your vote for money."

So tell me, who was selling their vote for money here? who would be going to jail?"

MS partners who joined the NBs in Portugal with the explicit intention to vote according to MS' wishes. I added that MS partners are not independend, but paid by MS. If you do that in a national election, it is reasonably called "selling your vote", and that is a crime.

See the quotes around 'sell', which indicates this is not intended to be in the literal meaning.

MS did not "bribe" these delegates in the legal (or common) sense, but I consider them second (third?) class MS employees. These delegates voted according to the wishes of their employers and weren't paid privately to vote against those they represented. In that post, it is made completely clare that I did NOT accuse anyone of illegal activities. I did not use the words "corruption" or "bribe", nor did I consider the delegates as corrupted persons. I was addressing their employers and the dependend situation these are in.

See, I do distinguish between people and institutions. And I am very careful with the use of the words "bribe" and "corruption".

But it is nice to know you read all my comments. That makes the discussions much more easy.

Winter

@Alex,

" No, you tried and convicted them of it. Why else should they (in your judgement) deserve going to jail?"
Twisting words.

I used a (bad) metaphore that said in DIFFERENT circumstances in a DIFFERENT vote, they might have been thrown in jail.

So, I am a bad writer. Tough for me. You still refuse to respond to the real smear campaigns of MS that show they were absolutely not interested in critical comments from real experts (io of ignorant fools like me with a bad temper).

Btw, this is not about my bad writing skills, but about MS intentions with OOXML and ISO. So I already admitted to be an ignorant fool with a bad temper and bad memmory. So don't waste your time trying to prove that and go to the real substance.


Winter

It's difficult to know where to start with this comment, as I disagree with a number of your fundamental assumptions.

One of the recurring features of this debate is that people look at structures they don't understand — the ISO, the blogosphere, Microsoft — and assume that because it's not intuitive to them, the only possible explanation is that it's a monolithic organisation out to get them. It's difficult to take the moral high ground against other people doing that when you commit the same error yourself in the next breath.

In particular, grouping “everyone that opposes Office Open XML” together is as misleading as grouping “everyone that worked on DIS 29500” together - the range of viewpoints and interests is so diverse that you can't make any useful generalisations about them. I've always found Winter to be an intelligent person who bases his opinions on evidence, but because he doesn't have your years of trust and experience of ISO/IEC, evidence which strikes you as sufficient proof of ISO's innocence can look weak or even nonsensical to him. Using words like “prejudiced” and “irrational” to describe people that aren't native speakers of ISOese strikes me as highly unconstructive.

If you would like people to be more willing to accept that you're an individual acting in good faith rather than a cog in a gigantic conspiratorial machine, you should make that same assumption of others, even when their behaviour indicates they haven't done the aforementioned hard familiarising themselves with a huge body of complex process.

- Andrew Sayers

Thanks,

Just a small correction. I do not distrust ISO. Nor have I any reason to think they were more than "collateral dammage" in this case.

I do distrust Ecma to be a hired gun (with the associated ethics). And for MS, I just have read too many court reports and discovered evidence to even discuss their integrity.

If you would ask me in a pub, in a far away place, late at night, after a nice diner etc., I would probably profess that I think Ecma was paid (handsomely) by MS to get OOXML through the ISO fast track. Neither Ecma nor MS (or OOXML) were up to the task, they bungled the whole process, and ISO was simply trampled in the resulting stampede

But obviously, that would not be based on any evidence whatsoever. Just my own personal speculation.

Winter

In reply to by Anonymous

Permalink
What is the difference between speculation and libel? 

MS has no need to pay ECMA to get OOXML through JTC1: they can just participate vigorously in the ECMA and JTC1 processes, make their case, and show a willingness to make the necessary changes. They made their case successfully, and they showed a willingness to make changes.

That MS and IBM/Google spent so much money and lobbying time, and at the end neither got exactly what they wanted, should be a clear sign that the JTC1 system in fact resisted being "bought".   Patrick Durusau's poster child comment is relevant.  OOXML did not go through unchanged, which was MS' preferred position; but neither did OOXML get blocked, which was IBM/Google's preferred position. In fact, the changes from the BRM and, even more so, the message that more work needed to be done to OOXML before it would move from being a good standard to *have* (on the books, to provide documentation on Office) to being a good standard to *adopt* (e.g. to require or allow in contracts), clearly has registered with MS who are delaying implementing ISO OOXML until the first wave of revisions hit during maintenance this year. 

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe