The Standards Blog

Standards to the People! (Updated Twice)

OpenDocument and OOXML
Updated again 4/9:  The International Herald Tribune now has a story here, which begins:
Roughly 60 data experts staged a rare and noisy street demonstration in downtown Oslo on Wednesday to protest the adoption of Microsoft Corp.'s document format as an international standard and against Norway voting for the move.
And also the first video is available here.

Updated 4/9:
  Aslam Raffee has posted two pictures and some brief notes on the Oslo protest.  You can find the full text here and here.  Many more pictures are here and here.  From the pictures, it appears that they had a large and enthusiastic turnout, and press coverage as well. Geir Isene has now also posted a blog entry, with the full text of Demonstration Convenor Steven Pepper's speech here.  Here are some excerpts from Pepper's speech:

Friends, Bloggers, Free Coders, Supporters of Open Standards!

We are not here today in order to bash Microsoft.

–We are here because we believe in open standards.

We are not even here today because we are opposed to OOXML.

–We are here because we are opposed to OOXML as an ISO standard.

We are not here because we want to discredit the ISO.
We are here because we want to defend ISO’s integrity.

–We are here because we want to draw attention to the scandalous behaviour of the people in Standard Norway whose job it is to represent Norwegian users and software vendors.

And we are here because we want to prevent the adoption of a damaging IT standard in Norway....

Documents are like hair dryers. We want to be able to plug them in to any piece of software and be able to work with them. But that’s not how it is today. If you create a document in Microsoft Word and send it to someone else, that person cannot use it unless they also have Microsoft Word.

I believe that is wrong.

People should not have to pay money to Microsoft in order to read my documents. The way things are at the moment, Microsoft effectively has control of the documents you and I create.

That’’s not how it should be....

We are not against ISO either. What we are against is the way in which what has always been an open and democratic organization, where each country has one vote, has been subverted by a large multinational corporation....

Microsoft now says that it now believes in open standards. They need to understand that it will take time before everyone really trusts them. They have to start showing less arrogance and more humility, and they have to prove in practice that they mean what they say.

They can take the first step by admitting that they were wrong not to support ODF.

I call on Microsoft to admit its mistake in trying to force OOXML through ISO’s fast track procedure, and I call on them to support ODF.

I call on Ecma to withdraw OOXML from ISO and keep control of it themselves. We need it for legacy documents.

I call on Standard Norway to admit that it was wrong to overrule its own committee of experts and on them to change Norway’s vote from Yes to No.

I call on the Norwegian Government to stand firm against Microsoft and not to approve OOXML as a Norwegian standard.

Finally I call on users all around the world to look to Norway and follow the example we have set. Raise a storm of protest! Uncover the irregularities that have taken place in your country! Insist that your Governments change their vote to reflect the interests of ordinary people and not the interests of monopolists and bureaucrats.

Kjære nordmenn, vi er ikke alene. Dear Norwegians, we are not alone....

Microsoft thinks it has won this battle, but I say it’s not over yet.

It’’s never over until the fat lady sings, and this fat lady only just got started.


It is with an eerie, but rejuvenating, sense of deja vu that I just received word of what may be the first public demonstration in support of open standards.  And what could be more of a ratification of the concept of Civil ICT Standards than the news that ordinary citizens are taking to the streets in their defense?

The details come from Geir Isene, who you may recall from this prior entry was part of the Standards Norge OOXML mirror committee that overwhelmingly  voted to disapprove OOXML, only to be overruled by Standards Norge officials (who voted to approve).  He later reported that committee chair Steve Pepper filed a protest with ISO over that vote (Standards Norge released an explanation of its action that you can find here).  Now, Geir reports that Pepper is calling for a public demonstration to protest the Norwegian vote.  The demo will be held on Wednesday when SC34, the same ISO committee that had responsibility for considering OOXML, will conveniently hold a meeting in Oslo. [Updated:  Alex Brown, in a comment below, reminds me that SC 34 is the committee of NB members with expertise and interest in document format standards that would normally review and improve document formats - as they did with ODF - had OOXML not been introduced through the Fast Track process.]

Having grown up in the era of civil rights and anti-(Vietnam) war demonstrations, I can't help thinking it will be significant if any meaningful number of people respond to his call, bringing the same energy and commitment to the exercise of their civil rights on line that they have brought to bear to defend those same rights in pre-virtual days. 

Here are a few of the details, as told by Geir:

The demonstration will take place outside Håndverkeren, Rosenkrantzgate 7, Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday April 9 at 12.00. Among the slogans are:

* No to ISO approval of OOXML!
* Defend the integrity of ISO!
* Microsoft: Support ODF!
* Ecma: Withdraw OOXML!
* Norway must say no to OOXML!

...“I call on all those opposed to ISO’s approval of OOXML to join this demonstration”, says Steve Pepper. “Standard Norway defends its scandalous act by pointing to 37 identical letters that were formulated by Microsoft and sent to Standard Norway by Microsoft’s partners and customers during the open hearing.”

“If they want numbers, we can give them numbers. Join me on the street and show your disapproval. Please pass this message on around the globe. Let’s use *our* technology for everything it is worth.”


I certainly hope that there will be not only pictures, but video as well.  If there is a big turn out and news spreads, this will represent a new dimension in the recognition of the important role that standards can play in society, and of the importance of becoming involved to make sure that the process whereby they are created is truly open, transparent and inclusive.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Comments

Permalink

> SC34, the same ISO committee that had responsibility for considering OOXML

Except, err, it wasn't. You may remember OOXML did not go through any committee (SC 34 or otherwise) - it used the Fast Track whereby it was considered by a large combined group of ISO and IEC members. That was/is rather the point.

SC 34 was, however, the committee through which ODF was standardised using the PAS mechanism.

Anyway, mustn't let any inconvenient facts spoil a good demo, eh?

- Alex.

> Anyway, mustn't let any inconvenient facts spoil a good demo, eh?

Well, I'll bite - if these meetings and processes weren't so secretive, we the hoi polloi wouldn't have to resort to such extreme measures. What else is left for those of us who will have to live with the results of this tawdry and discredited process? Clearly, technical considerations carry no weight - they can be waved away by the hundreds with an unrepresentative vote - so we'll have to revert to political means.

(Sorry for this rant, Andy, but this pretense of normalcy by the ISO is a joke. I've seen no public acknowledgment from the ISO / JTC1 of any problem with this process. If this "standard" does slip past the appeals (on recent performance a given), it will delay the adoption of ODF, but not for long.)

Phil Crooker

Alex,

I find your tone and cheap shots incredibly juvenile. Given your position and status in the standards community, you would be better served by writing in a more mature manner. It is worthwhile that you spot these errors and omissions but there is no need to use it to score points.

It does nothing but sour your reputation and integrity.

An interested reader

Out of all the ISO committees SC34 had the most to do with OOXML.  It was under SC34's 'leadership' (and I use the term loosely) that the (tainted) BRM was held last February.

Face it Alex, SC34 had the responsibility for OOXML and dropped the ball big-time.

Permalink
Alex,

Thanks for the reminder.  I'll correct that now.

Of course, part of the purpose of the demo will be to highlight how little having to do with OOXML happened in a way that would be best for the industry, the end user, or anyone other than Microsoft and its business partners (well, maybe its business partners).  I haven't gone back to see whether this would still be the case, but I do recall that in the vote last fall, the long-term members of SC34 - ie., the subject matter experts - voted far more heavily against OOXML than the late arrivals. 

If OOXML had taken a slow train, rather than the Fast Track, what was finally approved would very likely have been of a much higher quality, eh?

  -  Andy

Permalink
> If OOXML had taken a slow train, rather than the Fast Track, what was finally approved
> would very likely have been of a much higher quality, eh?

Too right comrade! (same for ODF too).

As far as I recall, ODF was adopted through PAS, not Fast Track. Also the adoption of OOXML should not be contingent on the number of defects in ODF. Alex your comment only reveals in the open your bias.

Anyway adoption of ODF was unanimous. There weren't scores of known unaddressed technical defects when it was adopted.

Permalink
Alex,

I'm not sure I understand your comment on ODF.  ODF was created through a multi-year, open committee effort, and was already implemented in multiple, competing, interoperable products (both open and proprietary) before it was submitted to ISO/IEC JTC1.  Moreover, it passed unanimously, and only with comments that  were so insignificant as not to require a BRM.   This would seem to indicate that a standard that is properly prepared before submission can progress quickly, and could fulfill the original vision of allowing eligible and appropriate standards, already proven in the marketplace, to achieve swift approval.

It was also introduced under a process whose name implies its appropriateness for ODF, just as the Fast Track process indicates the inappropriateness of that method for OOXML.  The PAS in the PAS Process name, of course, indicates "publicly available specification," which is intended to allow the de jure system to consider and adopt a specification that has earned sufficient credibility and use in the marketplace to merit global recognition.  The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length, stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML, which was clearly not appropriate for "Fast Track" treatment.  Hence the popular opinion (which I share) that Microsoft took advantage of the system by submitting something that was not yet ripe for processing, and particularly not under this process.

I started to note in my original entry that the demonstration is being held almost to the day on the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.  Civil rights, I think, are quite precious, and great care needs to be taken that they are neither sacrificed nor compromised as we move on line.  Your reference to "comrades" seems to indicate a different attitude to civil rights, which, to borrow from a comment some left at my site a few weeks ago, I "deplore."

  -  Andy

Andy and Alex,

For the benefit of us non-experts, is there documentation somewhere that steps through the reasoning for why the PAS/FT processes exist? Participating in a thread attached to the previous story, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to understand the logic behind them - and in particular, I'm confused about whether the purpose is to vet the standards or the bodies they come from.

If the purpose is to turn the ISO into some sort of meta-standards body that rates other other standards bodies, then why not do a thorough audit of every 10th standard, so that you can better pick out minor-but-persistent mistakes?

On the other hand, if the purpose is to do a full review of a standard, then why not put an upper-bound on the size of document that can be reviewed?

- Andrew

Andrew,

I'm sure that there is documentation on the two processes, but I'd have to go hunt for it.  I know that Rob Weir did a post within the last few weeks contrasting the PAS and the Fast Track process (and pointing out that the former was more stringent than the latter).  I assume that he included links in that post to the original source materials.

As my comment above indicates, length may or may not be the most important gating factor for standards, although logically it does have appeal.  The point that ODF indicates is that "maturity" may be as important, or more so, than length. 

ISO/IEC do not as such (as I understand it) rate organizations, although an organization does have to apply to be accepted as a PAS submitter, and meet the requirements set forth for that program.  So there is that minimum level.

I apologiaze for not yet commenting at the earlier thread, which I still hope to do.  I've been on the road since I wrote that entry, and am sitting in a meeting right now, limiting the amount of time and attention I can allocate.

  -  Andy

Maturity vs. length is an interesting point, although maturity is somewhat harder to measure. I'll have to think about that.

As to the other thread - I agree that it's a low priority item for you, with one exception. I've found a minor bug in the site's comment functionality (previews of “plain old text” comments don't escape HTML, but the final post does), and I'd appreciate it if you look into that some time.

- Andrew

Andrew,

Will do, but I want to make sure that I understand exactly what you're experiencing, so a few questions:

1.  Are you setting the post mode to plain old text or HTML?

2.  Are you typing in your own tags, or are they showing up later?

Thanks

Andy

This message is an attempt to replicate the error. I have clicked on "Reply" then "Plain Old Text". I type my own HTML, like the ASCII purist that I am :) Here is some mark-up: <p>This text is inside a "p" tag.</p> <foo>This text is inside a "foo" tag</foo> This line ends with a "br" tag.<br> This line ends with an XML-style "br/" tag.<br /> When I click on "Preview", I get the following when I do "view source" and look at the preview text: === BEGIN HTML === This message is an attempt to replicate the error. I have clicked on "Reply" then "Plain Old Text". I type my own HTML, like the ASCII purist that I am :) Here is some mark-up: <p>This text is inside a "p" tag.</p> This text is inside a "foo" tag This line ends with a "br" tag.<br> This line ends with an XML-style "br/" tag.<br /> === END HTML === Additionally, the preview reverts to "HTML formatted" mode, and mangles my text somewhat (e.g. by removing newlines and changing quote marks to &quot;). I'm typing this in Firefox 2.0.0.13 on a Mac, my browser ID string is: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv:1.8.1.13) Gecko/20080311 Firefox/2.0.0.13 It looks to me like the preview function ignores the post mode and just assumes HTML. Assuming that other browsers give similar results, I'd say that "plain old text" mode has been hopelessly broken for ages and no-one's noticed. You might therefore want to delete the feature rather than fixing it. - Andrew P.S. if the submitted message is broken in any important way, I'll reply immediately with an explanation of what I expected/observed.

Andrew,

The simplest way to post is to chose "HTML formatted" and they just type as if you were in a word processor, and let it do the work.  You can choose from the tool bar above the box to bullet, indent, etc.  If you want to hand tag anything that isn't available as an option, click on the "source" text above, and then tag as you wish.  Click Source again, and your tags will have been incorporated (this is what I do).

For better or worse, by the way, I chose Geeklog because it was open source.

  -  Andy

I normally edit the HTML source, as you say. It's only because I've been away for so long that I'd forgotten what to do.

If you're saying that you haven't made any relevant changes to Geeklog, I'll take this up with them next time I'm waiting for my code to compile (which won't be soon - catching up on my documentation all this week, <sigh>).

- Andrew

Permalink
> This would seem to indicate that a standard that is properly
> prepared before submission can progress quickly

ODF passed with insufficient scrutiny, in my view (and the UK voted against the cancellation of its BRM). But that's okay - now many faults are being found; those faults will get fixed. It was a good thing to standardize ODF.

> The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length,
> stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML

There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got a lot of people agitated.

In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That's partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international standards). Nobody's happy about that are they?

> of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

There you go again invoking something completely disproportionate! My "comrades" ties in nicely with your "Standards to the People!" headline (and besides, the socialists supported Martin Luther King).

Andy - the civil rights movement and the squabble over document markup method are in different universes of significance, surely!

- Alex.

There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got a lot of people agitated.


The fact that 29500 covers the same material as 26300 couldn't have had any significance could it? No, it's simply the anti "evil empire" people at work. 29500 has many things about it to disagree with regardless of who submitted it.

In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That's partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international standards). Nobody's happy about that are they?

The most appalling thing to me about OOXML was (and is) how the scope of the technical committee explicitly stated that the "standard" *had* to conform to a single product from a single vendor. No one else need apply. The fact that that vendor was Microsoft is irrelevant. The ODF TC had no such imposition.

What a complete farce.

Time for the ISO to adopt the IETF methodology for standards creation; "rough consensus and running code" where 'running code means /at least/ two interoperable programs from different sources.  Anything less is far too open to abuse (as has been amply demonstrated by the fiasco surrounding OOXML).

Permalink
First, a note to all:  for only the second time since I launched this blog almost three years ago, I've found it necessary to delete a comment as being incompatible with the level of respect that I'd like to see people pay to the opinions and actions of others when they offer their comments here.  Please - share your ideas, but not your emotions.

Alex,

>ODF passed with insufficient scrutiny, in my view (and the UK voted against the cancellation of its BRM). But that's okay - now many faults are being found; those faults will get >fixed. It was a good thing to standardize ODF.

That's a difficult one for me to respond to.  I never read ODF, but I did read all of the comments.  As I recall, they almost all related to things like right to left reading issues to support Middle Eastern languages.  Having raised the issue, though, it would very useful if you could give us some sense of how many faults you feel were missed.  OOXML had c. 900 substantive, and c. 200 editorial issues, by all accounts.  What would you personally estimate the complementary numbers for ODF would be? 

> The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length,
> stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML

>There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got >a lot of people agitated.

Not having the competence to evaluate OOXML myself, I have to rely on secondary evaluations.  But whether or not it took "concerted opposition" to find the faults in OOXML, they are still faults.  The fact that opposition might have been required to surface them, it seems to me, is more an issue with whether the existing process, which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations, whatever they may be, is actually adequate to ensure a meaningful degree of quality control for the ISO/IEC JTC1 imprimatur to be meaningful - especially for very long specifications.

>In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to >be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That's partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international >standards). Nobody's happy about that are they?

Last point first:  I believe that ODF 1.2 is almost done in OASIS, by the way, with new important new functionalities completed, as well as existing issues addressed.  I don't personally know what the schedule is for carrying those changes forward in ISO.

Your first issue is a more complex issue, and one that would be too detailed to enter into here.   Consortia that have spent a great deal of time on a project have a hard time turning the baby over to someone else and feeling reassured that it will be properly nurtured.  I've negotiated a few agreements with groups like IEEE and ISO, and sometimes the concerns turn out to be justified - the standard languishes, or has other problems.  One could argue both ways on whether PAS standard contributions should transfer all rights or not.  To be fair, the same issues here apply equally as between ODF/OASIS and Ecma/OOXML as regards the maintenance phase.

> of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination

>There you go again invoking something completely disproportionate! My "comrades" ties in nicely with your "Standards to the People!" headline (and besides, the socialists >supported Martin Luther King).

This may be an example of one language divided by an ocean.  The title actually echoed the Black Power slogan, "All Power to the People!" rather than any similar Socialist antecedent.

>Andy - the civil rights movement and the squabble over document markup method are in different universes of significance, surely!

Two responses:  Yes, I agree that the actions at issue are quite different in gravity.  Technology discrimination and (for example) lynchings and beatings are clearly on a different plane as regards the immediate impact on individuals.  But whether or not people - poor people, for example - can access government sites with a $199 Everex, Linux-based, OpenOffice machine, or whether British students, as advocated by Becta, can round trip documents at school using cheap open source software, do impact the long term ability of the poor to get ahead.  And much more so will this be true in the third world. 

And if the poor can't access government sites, what of the freedom to petition government?  Should they have to buy from a single subset of vendors in order to do so?  This seems to me like a legitimate question.  ODF enables an ecosystem of alternative, price competitive ways to do so.  OOXML fosters a monoculture whereby you  have to buy into that culture.  While I don't think that governments should be able to compel vendors to implement certain standards for documents, neither do I think that they should encourage, through procurement, the promotion of a different standard by the monoculture vendor that refuses to support natively saving documents in ODF - although it could, with trivial effort.

If you haven't given this a read yet, give it a read, and see whether you agree more with me on the existence of the issues involved, even if we may disagree with their gravity:  http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/#feature

As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  -  Andy

Permalink

> it would very useful if you could give
> us some sense of how many faults you feel were missed.  OOXML had c. 900
> substantive, and c. 200 editorial issues, by all accounts.
> What would you personally estimate the complementary numbers for ODF would be?

We do better than just estimate, I think. For 29500 most known problems were fixed at the BRM, mostly thanks to our block voting procedure. NBs will take different views but a figure I've heard from a technically impeccable source is that 30-40 of these issues remain badly unresolved from this process, but of a non-showstopper nature. However, since then the UK has found over 200 typographical errors to add to the tally. ODF 1.0 has around 100 errors reported by our esteemed Japanese NB members, ranging from the minor to the serious. They have many more "backed up" but have given up submitting them to OASIS because they are not getting fixed (tsk!).

As to the *real* number of errors, I am sure there any many thousands of undetected defects in each standard. More in 29500 than 26300, I expect, because of its extra length and relative immaturity.

Finding and reporting faults in standards is important work, because then they can get fixed! it is not a game of who's got the least errors.

>  which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations

That seems to me a slightly strange characterisation of standards people, though indeed many of the greatest developers and standardisers of our time have been working under their own motivation (think Murata Makoto or James Clark). NBs typically also involve professional standardisers, vendors, and representatives of government, trade bodies and other national institutions. NBs make their own arrangements that differ from country to country.
 
> Last point first:  I believe that ODF 1.2 is almost done in OASIS,
> by the way, with new important new functionalities completed, as well as
> existing issues addressed.

ODF 1.2 does indeed sound like it has some exciting new features (RDF metadata for example), and everyone hopes work can begin soon on addressing known defects too. I look forward to seeing it in time and know there is a general wish that it will become an International Standard.

> Consortia [...] have a hard time

Consortia play a completely different role to International Standards organisations, and their creations are differentiated accordingly by the various large consumers and procurers of standards and standards-based products.

> the same issues here apply equally as between ODF/OASIS and Ecma/OOXML as
> regards the maintenance phase.

I'm hoping there will be more clarity on that very shortly.

> Technology discrimination .... poor people ... ecosystem ... price competitive [etc]

ODF 1.0 is an International Standard and there are suites like OpenOffice which support it (or a later variant of it anyway). Do you think this kind of combo has good claims on the people and organisations you mention? and indeed more widely? I do.

I simply do not understand why so many ODF "advocates" have been obsessing, in a rather silly way, with OOXML rather than ... well, advocating!

- Alex.

Given what I read on other blogs, it seems to me that you are using the word "fixed" in something other than its usual meaning. I don't call a "fix" which adds a 5th way of specifying a date to be a real fix. Also, the fact that the BRM was unable to talk about some of the issues of importance to many developers (patent issues, overlap with functionality with ODF) means that the usefulness of BRM is suspect. I find it interesting that some European governments and government agencies are announcing that OOXML will *not* be considered as a standard, even after it got through the ISO process.

Alex,

I've deleted the comment to which yours relates, and will post another warning.  I apologize for the attacks and will continue to delete them as I encounter them.

  -  Andy

No thank you Alex,

I find such self-serving propaganda offensive because it conflicts with all known facts.  It would not surprise me if your document was either written by MS or was written to MS talking points.

I prefer to read independently-created documents that are not subsidized by one side or the other.  (The concept is called "getting to the truth").

Feel free to keep pushing it though.

I've lost all respect for SC34 as a result of their handling of the BRM.

I've lost most of my respect for ISO as a result of this OOXML farce.

Andy - I find most of Alex's statements objectionable and an insult to free thinking persons.  Would you be as willing to delete his blog posts as you were to delete mine ?

Ed,

Drawing lines is not easy.  This is clearly a polarized and polarizing situation.  Most people on each side, I expect, think that those on the other side are biased, while think that they personally are not.  There are a number of decisions that Alex has made that I am very disappointed in.  I suspect that he thinks he is unbiased, and that I am biased.  For my part, I try to separate my fact finding, which I try and make as accurate as I can, from my opinions, which I try to make clear (as opinions). 

I personally think that Alex has a bias.  I am disappointed, for example, to see Rick Jeliffe on his blog roll (who I find biased, and who, I expect, also thinks I am biased).  And so it goes.  Because of Alex's position as convenor, though, I think it is important that he be above taking sides - and hence my concern about seeing Rick in his blog roll, but not, for example, Bob Sutor or Rob Weir.  We are judged, after all, by the company we keep.

So why did I delete your entry? Because you accused Alex of being paid off by Microsoft.  People are concerned about his company's contract with the British Museum, which is receiving funding from Microsoft.  But those facts do not add up to anything without more.

Ultimately, I need to set the tone for this blog to keep it from getting out of hand.  Many sites have codes of conduct.  The code of conduct for this site includes this:  no personal attacks alleging things like bribery, unsupported by evidence.  Having opinions, even opinions that you or I may not think could be grounded in facts, does not cross the line - as that would be real censorship, to my way of thinking.

So all I can say is that your comment crossed the line I feel comfortable with, while Alex's did not.

  -  Andy

Andy hi

> fact finding

Okay, while we are busy raising the standard, it might be worth retracting your statement of the "fact" that my company has a contract with the British Library. I know what you are referring to (my involvement with the LDAP project), as relayed by a libellous and slurring web page on the noooxml site. If you use that kind of gutter site as a source of "facts" then I am franky astonished; are you not a lawyer?

For the record, my involvement on the project in question is as an unpaid advisor: it is, if you like, a free contribution to the public good on my company's behalf. It is particularly irksome, for this reason, for it to be the basis of accusations of corruption. I would appreciate a correction here (I have given up with noooxml, in every sense).

Now, my company has done (a little) business with the British Library in the past; I very much hope it will do so in the future -- as one of the world's largest consumers of digital publishing technology and services they are a very desirable client for us. The claim that because they have an employee on an Ecma committee and are involved with Microsoft (most large players are, in some way), then contracting for them is some kind of evidence of corruption, strikes me as real tinfoil hat stuff.

As to blogrolls, the XML folks I link to are on it because they are experts (and often friends) whose views are interesting and who write good blogs. Rob Weir and Bob Sutor don't make that cut. As a matter of fact, out of necessity for my standards work, I have many more blogs on my private blogroll, and this includes Bob and Rob, as well as the MS bloggers and yourself!

As it turns out the people on my blogroll have a variety of attitudes towards OOXML from more enthusiastic (Rick) to more Skeptical (Tim, Lars Marius). Bottom line: sorry, but I'm not changing my blogroll, any more than I would choose my friends, to achieve some kind of spurious appearance of balance.

Andy - thanks for your efforts to keep the debate at an adult level!

- Alex.

Alex,

Well.  I guess I'll start with the observation that no good deed goes unpunished.  For quick reference, here's what I said:

>People are concerned about his company's contract with the British Museum, which is receiving funding from Microsoft.  But those facts do not add up to anything without more.

It appears that the only inaccuracy in that statement is in the tense.  It should have said, after looking at what you wrote, "his company's _past_ contract..."  I don't think that the acorn feel too far from the tree there, and I was, after all, defending you.  At the same time, I also added a "top level" comment that was more visible, which read in part,
You [the author of the comment I deleted] and I may disagree with some of the decisions made at the BRM, but I do not question Alex's sincerity in executing his role at the BRM in the manner that he believed to be appropriate.  Nor have I talked to anyone actually at the BRM who holds a contrary opinion, no matter how much they may disagree with the outcome.
All that said, thanks for the additional information,  which is useful for all to know.  And no, I did not get the information from nooxml (which, to follow my own rules, I have never linked to from this site).

On the blog roll, I do think (and of course you may differ) that at the site you use as Convenor, it would probably be a good idea not to have anyone on the blog roll that is regarded by one set of folks that are affected as being controversial and biased.  We have an ethical rule as lawyers in the US to "Eschew even the appearance of impropriety."  Once past your understandable amusement over that apparent oxymoron, it's not a bad rule.  Again,  I don't expect you  to necessarily agree with me, but I would say that it's not a bad thing to  consider.

  -  Andy

The trouble is using "bias" instead of merely "having an opinion."  

I accuse you, Andy, of having an opinion. I accuse myself of having an opinion. 

To use "bias" is to suggest that it is suspect or wrong or wrongheaded to have any opinion other than the speaker's own. That is the same kind of indiscriminate intolerance, exaggeration and use of loaded words that ultimately assured OOXML its successful passage through ISO.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

In reply to by Anonymous

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Rick,

> I accuse you, Andy, of having an opinion. I accuse myself of having an opinion. 

And on this I agree (progress!)  But also, Rick, you need to acknowledge that you have accused me frequently of being more than opinionated at your blog - "biased" would be the most lenient interpretation that one could draw from your characterizations.

I think, as I have suggested, that we are all most responsible when we try and separate fact from opinion.  Clearly, I fail on that aspiration from time to time (as Alex's last post makes clear) - but I do try.  I would define "bias" in part as "careless disregard for the truth,"  which begins by selective absorbing of news (i.e.,  choosing to listen only to Fox News in this country), failure to be skeptical and so on.

In other words, a consciously uninformed, or selective opinion, ceases being purely an opinion, but an opinion that isn't interested in absorbing contrary information.  The result, I think, can fairly be called "bias."

That was the reason that I stated that you presumably regard me as biased (why else would you write what you do?), and that because clearly many ODF supporters believe you  are, that it isn't the best exercise of judgement for the BRM convenor to link to your site, as it might make others wonder whether Alex is biased.

  -  Andy

In reply to by Andy Updegrove

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A link to my site would only make dogmatic and small-minded people think that.  People who thought that there was only one topic of conversation in the world, and that in a Bush-ian fashion the world was only composed of people who were for us or people who were against us.  It is hard to find adults who believe that.

Anyone who believed that reasonable people can reasonably differ on many subjects, even important ones, would merely think that Alex linked because at some time he thought I wrote something interesting about a subject of mutual interest that his readers might also be interested in.

In particular, I write a lot on ISO Schematron, which is a schema language I edited and which is supervised by the SC34 WG1 which Alex is a member of; Alex has a particular interest in schema languages for XML and the kind of publishing issues that I am interested in too, which is presumably one reason he also links to James Clark's blog, and other people associated with SC34 and W3C (Jenni Tennison, Lars Marius Garshol, Inigo Surguy, David Carlisle,  Michael Kay, etc) and I am sure he would like to a blog by (RELAX NG's) Murata-san if he made one.  I don't consider linking to my site an endorsement by Alex of my particular views, more that we are part of the same wider standards community centered on SC34. Indeed, I know that some of these other people have different opinions on IS29500: indeed Alex even links to one of Lars' recent blog items on the subject in his latest entry, which is anti-OOXML.

Since when does linking does imply endorsement? That would lead to an "echo chamber" effect where people would only get the same limited views, endlessly repeated and augmented from the same usual suspects.  Balkanization. There can be no openness without (small c) civil dialogue. 

In reply to by Anonymous

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Rick,

It would seem that we are in violent agreement on almost everything on this point.  I'll leave it at that.

  -  Andy

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They need to fly a few thousand folks or pay enough folks locally to provide for a "pro OOXML" rally.  Chief among the instructions will be no talking to anyone, else they say something along the lines of "OOXML, the best program ever written" or some other such blather.

TripleII

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>Finding and reporting faults in standards is important work, because then they can get fixed! it is not a game of who's got the least errors.

The reason I'm curious to know what the real figures are is that I want to be accurate with things that I say. My sense from reading your email is that ODF was "cleaner" than OOXML, but tell me if that's not an accurate perception.

>  which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations/ your reply:  that seems like a strange perception

Sorry - when I was referring to "people" I should have said employers (i.e., those the people represent).
 
 >Consortia play a completely different role to International Standards organisations, and their creations are differentiated accordingly by the various large consumers and >procurers of standards and standards-based products.

I think that this is not really true anymore.  Standards by organizations such as the W3C, OASIS Opengis, and many others are as broadly adopted as ISO/IEC standards.  It is often said that the ultimate proof of a standard is its adoption, and in the IT sector, the consortium world is far outrunning the ISO/IEC system.  Meaning that the quality is considered to be the equal and/or that the ISO/IEC imprimatur is not seen by most in the marketplace to be meaningful.

>ODF 1.0 is an International Standard and there are suites like OpenOffice which support it (or a later variant of it anyway). Do you think this kind of combo has good claims on the >people and organisations you mention? and indeed more widely? I do.

>I simply do not understand why so many ODF "advocates" have been obsessing, in a rather silly way, with OOXML rather than ... well, advocating!

I'm not sure if I get your meaning here; if you're saying that third world people are using LInux., OpenOffice and other free tools, the answer is yes.  And advocates are doing a great deal of advocating, and even developing (the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which loads OpenOffice and many open source programs designed by the community expressly for that purpose).  And do give my piece on Civil ICT Stndards a read - I'm advocating in it!

  -  Andy

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To Ed,

I have just deleted your comment.  This blog is now going on three years old, and I'm pleased that the comments that have been left during this time have only very rarely been of a type that I did not want to see at my site.  I will never censor opinions, but I do not wish to host comments that are personal attacks on individuals.  You and I may disagree with some of the decisions made at the BRM, but I do not question Alex's sincerity in executing his role at the BRM in the manner that he believed to be appropriate.  Nor have I talked to anyone actually at the BRM who holds a contrary opinion, no matter how much they may disagree with the outcome.

So please.  Let's keep comments to expressions of opinions on the issues, and not the individuals.  Accusations of bribery at this site will not be tolerated.  If you would like your comments to remain for all to read, please keep them on a higher plane.

  -  Andy

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<p>I've selected HTML formatted, but the preview is showing up as raw text for some reason.  I hope this shows up as HTML for everyone.  I apologize in advance if it doesn't.

<p>As I've read Alex's responses here, I keep shaking my head in wonder.  Does he truly believe that the BRM resolved everything from a technical standpoint?  What world does he inhabit where every technical expert in Norway's NB vehemently insists that the OOXML documentation was not ready and the BRM solved all outstanding technical issues?

<p>Nope, the ISO dropped the ball on this one.  IMNSHO they need a rather large dose of common sense injected into the senior leadership.

<p>By contrast, let me quote from a document which discusses how standards can be created:

<blockquote>In many ways, the XXXX runs on the beliefs of its participants. One of the "founding beliefs" is embodied in an early quote about the XXXX from David Clark: "We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code". Another early quote that has become a commonly-held belief in the IETF comes from Jon Postel: "Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you accept".</blockquote>

<p>Some of you reading this blog will immediately recognize this as coming from the <a href=http://www.ietf.org/tao.html>Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF</a>.  For those who aren't familiar with this particular organization, they are the ones responsible for creating the network protocols that make the Internet possible.  Without their work through the decades, none of what we do (including post our opinions on this blog) would be feasible.

<p>P.S.  Some of you out there may also remember that at the time that the Internet was in its infancy, the ISO had already established its own network stack.  For some time it was the only internationally recognized network stack available, yet it eventually failed to catch on.  Why that happened was more about a standard that was far too bloated in comparison to the alternative than any other reason.  I raise the point because a simple comparison between the sheer size of OOXML compared to ODF (~8000 pages to ~750, I think) would suggest a similar fate is in store for OOXML /even if/ the inevitable appeals fail.

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All,

Alex Brown would like to give the facts relating to recent murmurings regarding an alleged relationship between his company and the British Library.  I've transposed them here from a comment above to make them more visible:
I know what you are referring to (my involvement with the LDAP project), as relayed by a libellous and slurring web page on the noooxml site. For the record, my involvement on the project in question is as an unpaid advisor: it is, if you like, a free contribution to the public good on my company's behalf. It is particularly irksome, for this reason, for it to be the basis of accusations of corruption. I would appreciate a correction here (I have given up with noooxml, in every sense).

Now, my company has done (a little) business with the British Library in the past; I very much hope it will do so in the future -- as one of the world's largest consumers of digital publishing technology and services they are a very desirable client for us. The claim that because they have an employee on an Ecma committee and are involved with Microsoft (most large players are, in some way), then contracting for them is some kind of evidence of corruption, strikes me as real tinfoil hat stuff.
I personally have no information of any sort that would contradict what Alex says, nor any reason to think that such information  exists.  As noted in my comments above, I think that unsupported allegations have no useful purpose in this debate.

  -  Andy

Alex,

I think cooler heads will understand that someone had to do the job (of BRM convener); everyone is entitled to pursue a career; and that this ISO decision was always going to be contentious.

In a way, it's the 'front line' in an industry which in a previous age would have been "Phonograph Builders" (IBM) and "Gramaphone Record Distributors" (Microsoft); as each wants to grow into the other's territory there will be a commercial collision. It's inevitable; it's not a reflection on you.

What a thing to put on your CV, though. But we must move on. Just make sure only your own employer pays you, not somebody else's employer. That's the way to keep a clear conscience.

What of ISO, though ? If the world's engineers see that ISO standards are bought by the world's businessmen, and not arrived at through consensus between the engineers, the engineers won't bother contributing to ISO. It's a waste of time, money, and effort.

And if the businessmen's standard tells us that a particular year is a leap year when it isn't, we're on the way to legislating that Pi is '3.2'. And then our wheel rims will not fit our wheel spokes.

Will another forum emerge ? Or will ISO reform ? And how ?

What is objectionable is:

When corporate-sponsored decisions and talking points are published as "official stances" of technical committees.

When those in charge of supposedly-non-political organizations (like the former ISO and its various BRM activities ) claim that everything was done according to hoyle even while vote protests are being filed and widely reported.

When the editor of ODF allows the use of his title as "Editor of ODF" in commercial propaganda without making public and numerous attempts to prevent the use of his public and official (non-political/non-commercial) titles for commercial marketing purposes, nor any attempt to prevent the slur on his previous activities (ODF project editing) that may be implied by his new (180-degree-turn) attacks on the ODF project.

When BRM conveners (an official role that should *NEVER* be politicized), without resigning from the committee sets about belittling the opposing NB standards-body ex-presidents (Norway) for their personal views and actvities *AFTER* the Norwegian president resigned in protest.  By doing so Alex, you speak on behalf of SC34 and your comments and belittling remarks are to be taken as the official position of SC34 on that topic.
When comments from the "Editor of ODF" and "Convenor of the DIS29500 BRM" are so derogatory towards those that believe that OOXML was never right for the Fast Track process, and then these folks tell the objectors to "just get over it".

When these blogs link to each other for supporting rational and also like directly to the most interested party (here, Microsoft bloggers),  and where the only links to non-pro-OOXML blogs are associated with derogatory comments, the bias of the individual's position becomes impossible to ignore.

When these activities are observed in combination, they show a distinct bias in the ISO organization that should not be there and cause reasonable people to wonder not *whether* corruption occurred, but *how deep and how pervasive" the corruption went in the process and whether the process is salvageable.

This type of bias is especially pernicious because It enhances the perspective that something foul was afoot and that the undue influence was indeed applied.  At this point, the louder the organization protests, the less they are believed because the 'evangilists' are out in force making things worse with each blog post.  The impression of corrupted process/corrupted officials is only made stronger if anyone has read the internal Microsoft Evangelism document on file at Groklaw that was copied from the Iowa trial documents before Microsoft got the site taken down.  One of the principle rules this Microsoft document in the "How to subvert a committee" section is to first get one of their pre-subverted analysts or employees or business partners appointed as chairman/convener, etc.  Then, with control of the committee chair, MS recommends that to get one-sided voting approved, offer the one option they want with a selection of votes that are even worse and that are totally unacceptable.  To get things past a committee that would otherwise never get approved, Microsoft recommends that a false sense of urgency be created to try to get the members to vote 'en block' without taking time ot review in detail.

So, based on the comments here, it appears that official spokespersons of SC34 have determined that it's OK to belittle those that disagree that DIS29500 should be passed by the ISO.  They keep doing so in their official capacity with no disclaimers that they speak only for themselves.  Worse yet, the convener of the DIS29500 BRM is now on record as belittling the Standards Body (Ex-)President of Norway for resigning his post in protest over his country's vote as well as belittling all those world-wide that do not agree with the view most commonly espoused by Microsoft - that is that the BRM was all peace and harmony and was all done according to ISO rules with no irregularities observed.

This is VERY difficult for me to swallow or believe in light of just what's been posted as comments to this blog.

Note to Andy - there are no accusations in this blog post - merely observations and opinions - the Microsoft attack dogs will probably even claim that I am biased !!   Imagine that !  ;-)

Alex's role as convenor of the BRM finished when that BRM completed: it isn't a job.  And membership of an ISO technical committee imposes no barriers on what members can say about matters that are outside the committee room. (In fact, in my opinion, it is important for the various experts who are involved to contribute to public comment on interesting issue, without fear of being accused of all sorts of things by rivals and conspiracy theorists.) Nor does membership of a committee make one a spokesperson for that committee, nor an envoy or proxy.  Nor does membership entail agreeing with every or any  of the committee's consensus positions.

To know what SC34 thinks, read the resolutions of its meetings. If it appoints a spokesperson, that person will clearly indicate when he or she is speaking as a spokesperson.  (And a spokesperson for an SC most certainly would not be dealing with any National Body's issues.)

This kind of conspiratorial fantasy and presumption of corruption shows a fear of a more-level playing-field which I don't understand.  This libel and innuendo are just forms of bullying and intimidation and propaganda: and they don't work but have exactly the opposite effect.

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe

I agree with Rick on this point.  There are very few "bad" people in this debate, although there are certainly vendor representatives whose comments are affected, consciously or otherwise, by their day jobs. 

But there is an incredible amount of polarization, which moves an individual to the right or left of the center line.  I agree that a major cause of that is what "the other side" says, and that it is counterproductive.  The more you feel like a target, the less likely you are going to be to credit what is said by those holding the bows and arrows, and the more likely you are to think that the other targets are innocent bystanders, too.

  -  Andy

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A few hanging threads from my exchanges with Andy above ...

> ODF was "cleaner" than OOXML, but tell me if that's not an accurate perception.

I'd go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.

> the consortium world is far outrunning the ISO/IEC system

It's not a sprint, but a marathon.

A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

> advocates are doing a great deal of advocating

Hmm. I'm joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front page prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room for more effective advocacy, I think ...

- Alex.

In reply to by Alex Brown

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>A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

What a good place the world have turned now when everyone has been invited to sit at the table that discuss how to make OOXML into something that usuable without .net DLLs....

Problem is just that there are very valid reasons to question if the invitation is so grand. Will Microsoft ever attend in spirit to the table offered to the world, or will they just sit there arguing about binary compability with unpublished Microsoft code to make sure that ISO group never finish any useful work?

Please show me where Microsoft commited themselves to really support the future versions of OOXML!
Please show me where Microsoft asserted that they allow GPL developers to use OOXML without being sued by  Microsoft!
Please show me where Microsoft promised to publish what Microsoft Office does when OOXML state that the behavior is application defined!
Please show me where Microsoft commited themselves to improve compability between OOXML and ODF!
Please show me where Microsoft agreed to sharpen the conformance clause of OOXML so that it really measure anything worthwhile for interoperability!

Until the above things are offered from Microsoft the only reasonable interpretation is that Microsoft only wanted an ISO stamp so they in name, but not spirit, can claim to implement an ISO standard.

>Hmm. I'm joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front page prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room for more effective advocacy, I think ...

Why would not an ODF mailing list discuss the massive problems caused by the OOXML document been given ISO status even while the real text is not finished?

You and Patrick Durusau might be content with that OOXML will be handled by ISO so that it can be improved, but for people that really care about using open standards the golden standard merger of ODF and OOXML that possibly wait decades into the future matters little compared with the impact of Micrsoft using "Our format is an international standard" when they sell their product even while they never have commited to actually implement the IS29500.

If OOXML had been rejected Microsoft would pretty soon been forced to go for compability when the user base of ODF became too large to ignore.  With OOXML approved this is still true, but Microsoft can hold off the real move to interoperability until the golden standard has been made a couple of decades into future. Who can force them to devote resources to interoperability when they in name already implement an international standard?

I hope that EU is one that can force them, but it is clear that OOXML will not help that effort one bit. The world accepted a flawed standard to sit at a table that will not matter to improve current interoperability.

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Alex,

Thanks for tying those threads up.

>I'd go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle >replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.

That is certainly the most graphic, and therefore perhaps most useful, characterization I have seen yet.

>t's not a sprint, but a marathon.

Consortia got their start in the mid 1980s, and the best ones (e.g., W3C, Open Geospatial, IETF and so on) are becoming as institutionalized as any SDO.  So that means that the de jure world has been losing ground for a substantial part of the history of information technology, and consortia continue to evolve to provide a more robust and respected platform.  If the tortoise is going to outpace the hare, it had better get started!

>A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the >International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their >competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

I think that the jury is still out on this one, or perhaps instead a better way might be to say that currently it's a hung jury, and could stay that way if there aren't some efforts to do something about it.  Currently, there are consortia such as the W3C that don't see the value in submitting their standards to the de jure system, and just don't bother.  And yet we have the Web as a result.  Indeed, we couldn't have the free Web as we know it, because the W3C's IPR policy would not have been allowed had the W3C initially opted into the de jure system, and sought accreditation from ANSI years ago.

There have been many thousands of  globally adopted standards that were created in consortia that are never submitted to ISO/IEC, and haven't suffered from it.  So while a counter current is also obviously in existence (e.g., as indicated by ODF and OOXML), I think that the older process has some work to do to demonstrate its usefulness, after losing so much market share over so many years.  I also think that it will have to work a bit harder post-OOXML than before it.

That said, I've been advocating for years for more bridge building, but without much success.  You might find this piece interesting:  http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/may05.php#editorial

>Hmm. I'm joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front >page >prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room >for more >effective advocacy, I think ...

Hmm.  Did you read the blog entry above this one?  Also, it's worth noting that ODF supporters cut their teeth in Massachusetts, when Microsoft and its supporters were trying to kill it in its infancy.  It was only after ODF established a beachhead that Microsoft went to a "two formats are just fine" public posture.  So perhaps ODF proponents can be pardoned for thinking that they need to think defensively as well as advocate for ODF.

  -  Andy

The last decade has seen ISO (e.g. ISO/IEC JTC1) trying to develop various models to allow consortium to do what they do well: in particular to allow consortia to look after the drafting and development. Fast-track grew out of this, for better or worse. But one of the criticisms of the IS29500 and IS26300 processes is that there has been too much vendor influence and too little ISO review!

ISO is one of the *least* vendor-dependent standards organization in the world procedurally, in that National Bodies vote rather than allowing "private" or corporate member voting. So I find it quite difficult to  see how moving to any member-based consortium will actually address the complaints being raised: other systems are *more* stackable not less!  What people are wanting is ISO to be *more* ISO-ish not less (though they may not articulate it like that).  People will suspect a bait-and-switch if the answer to too much vendor domination of a standards process is an alternative process which allows even more vendor domination, even if just by a different mob of vendors.  It doesn't matter if it is vendor-domination by 1 vendor, or vendor-domination by a gang of 3 vendors, it is still less credible than a process which makes vendor domination far from automatic (and, indeed, the cliffhanger on DIS29500 shows that at ISO even the two biggest rival groups engaging intensely does not guarantee a result for either of them: genuine debates and decision-making at NBs were going on until the last week.)

And, of course, many of the surprises and complaints that people have are about the procedures of individual national bodies, and only "ISO" by extension.  In particular, people don't have much idea of the regulatory/social presumption/culture of National Bodies, in particular the supervisory role that the NB officials exercise over technical committees, to prevent cartelization and promote markets, because in the normal run of things (with everyone acting in good faith and for unobtrusive standards) the supervision does not involve intervention.

Cheers
Rick Jellfiffe

Rick,

Once again I agree with you, but this time only up to a point.  I would agree that the traditional system has _the potential_ to be less vendor influenced, but the recent example shows that even a global organization where 87 different National Bodies participated can still be subjected to undue influence if the stakes are high enough.  Also, it's worth pointing out that it's not that a consortium can't be made the equal, procedurally, of the old process, although those consortia that are primarily funded by vendors are less likely to pass rules that would restrict them to that extent.  And you and I are both aware of situations besides OOXML where the the old process has failed before, only less publicly.

It's also important to note that there there are quite a few consortia, many of which I represent, that are quite neutral in their process and results.  Some of them have very few, or no, large vendors at all.  Others do, but the result is often more subtle.  Just as in the accredited world, not every (or even most) standards are clearly to the benefit of one or a few companies and contrary to the best interests of the rest, no matter what the venue.  In those cases, things run well, good work gets done, and useful standards result, some of which get "passed upstairs" to ISO/IEC and some don't.  Where I see the bigger issue is that the generic interests of big companies, rather than (for instance) end users are over represented, with the result that the standards created are less informed by end user interests.

That, though, isn't from want of trying to get them to the table.  Just about every organization I represent tries to, with varying degrees of success.  The problem is less the dues, than lack of time and interest.

Finally, the world isn't just SDOs and consortia anymore, either.  ASTM, for example, sets more standards than any other organization in the world, and more than many countries.  And it sets them in just about every domain you can think of, across almost all industries.  It is a veritable standards machine.  Some of its processes are accredited, and some aren't, and its membership is global, rather than national.  IEEE's membership is global rather than national as well.  And BSI couldn't be more different than, say, ANSI if it tried.  So the standards world has become less and less binary to the point that the distinction almost ceases to have validity anymore.

Going back to the traditional system, though, I think the challenge is, "what is the traditional system going to do to make itself less vulnerable to domination?"  Presumably ISO/IEC could set new requirements for NB process in order to qualify, and certainly the NBs themselves should be considering some rule changes.

I do continue to fault ISO/IEC for permitting the Fast Track process to proceed the way that it did with OOXML.  Why, for example, was there only one week for the BRM?  To the best of my knowledge, no rules required such a limitation.  At the end of the day, ISO/IEC is still solely responsible for the quality control of much of the process, and it's hard for me to imagine who benefited from a one week BRM other than Microsoft. 

Surely the final result would have been of higher quality, the stress on all concerned lower, and perhaps even Microsoft better off in the end, with less negative comments raining down on it.  I am not being facetious when I say that I find it curious that an organization that created the ISO 9000 standards would adopt a final act where everyone knew from the outset that the normal quality-oriented process would be impossible to achieve.  It simply made everyone look bad, including most significantly, the process itself.

So I agree that the traditional process can be better.  The question now is, will it rise to that challenge?

Thanks for the comments.

  -  Andy

Hi Andy !

I've been giving some thought to why the ISO FastTrack has a 1-week BRM.

Under the original intents of the FastTrack, it makes sense if you think about the BRM time-limit as a sort of check-and-balance on the process.

Consider that the FastTrack was originally envisioned for standards needing on a *little* bit of polish and perhaps some simple word-smithing before they would be acceptable as consensus-derived ISO standards.

Given the above mindset, it makes sense to have at most a short 5-month evaluation after a cursory contradiction process (anyone disagree with this being submitted for standardization ?), then a short analysis/voting period (5-6 months should suffice for this)  (there should not be much dissention or corrections after all), and an optional BRM of very limited time duration.  (If the BRM needs more than a week, then clearly the changes are either not minor or not contentious / divisive and the process should revert to 'slow track').

Given this mindset, the 1-week BRM time limit as part of the overall FastTrack process in context makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, the rules re-write just prior to OOXML being sumitted that prevented the automatic rejection during the contradiction phase, and the misinformation about "FastTrack has no length limit" may be according to the (then effective) rules, but certainly fly in the face of the intent (if such was actually the intent) of the concept described above.  Even the 3-4 month time period for comment inclusion should have been 100% doable on a standard that does not have much dissention.  When the BRM tried to force-fit the number of objections into the 1-week time-frame, and decided to abandon consensus in favor of a block vote, all sorts of alarm bells should have gone off and the standard should have been reject right there - in fact the rules of JTC/1 say that's exactly what *should* have happened.

That the rules were bent and the BRM failed to reach consensus in the time alloted by FastTrack on 900+ comments are just two more reasons to reject OOXML due to failure of the FastTrack process.

Sad.   ISO used to produce good standards before being subverted by a committee-stuffing monopolist.

Mere contentious is not a ground for a contradiction claim.  (And neither is confusion, competition, and many of the other claimed problems.)

And even some contradictions are not an automatic reason for a draft to be dropped.

I don't know why this kind of statement is still being bandied about. The thing to do is to 1) look at the precedent (e.g. how the contradiction in ISO Linux and ISO POSIX ABI was handled which gives a clear precedent in the case of standardizing existing technologies, and the other cases) and 2) steadfastly reject seeing ISO as some kind of court where lawyers can try to find loopholes (if there is any legal analogy suitable it would mediation).

In *all* cases of problems reported or discovered, the function of the ISO secretariat and officials in interpreting the directives will be to try to get the various stakeholders talking to each other: discussing, brainstorming, lobbying, horsetrading, collaborating, competing, acceding, improving.  If people don't get this basic idea (that ISO is a forum and publisher with a win-win process) then they can only expect to be mystified by what goes on at ISO.  And it makes attempts to try to "win" by finding loopholes or by demonizing absolutely a waste of time and energy: you can always expect the ISO reaction to be "Oh, a loophole is it? You should raise it on the technical forums to see if you can get any technical improvements."  or  "Oh, they are a demon are they? You should participate in the technical forums to get technical improvements."

It is not that the ISO ecosystem does not take procedural issues seriously, it is just that the procedures are there to ensure equity and good order, not to allow psuedo- litigation.  They provide the forum and procedures and secretariat and publishing services, but basically it is the committees and ultimately the national bodies which make any hard decisions.

On the specific issue of the time for the BRM, I also think a longer BRM would have been useful (I agree with Patrick Durusau on this.)  However, ISO meetings are terribly tiring (tracking issues and doing corridor meetings in the day, getting to know other people's POV over meals, and having late-night drafting sessions) and expensive: more than week at a time would be delegate-abuse.  And a multi-session BRM would go against "the spirit of Fast-Track" (a dubious spectre that was invoked by ISO or IEC staff) to some extent.

However, I think one's opinion on whether the single week is merely sub-optimal or catastrophic will also be influenced by one's knowledge (or expectations) of the ongoing maintenance at SC34.  If you thought there would be no maintenance, you only have two buckets and one chance to pour:  issues that would have been fixed in a longer BRM but were not and which had room for improvement, and issues that would have been fixed in a longer BRM but were not and which are showstoppers.   When there is a maintenance process, you have three buckets and regular chances to pour: issues missed by the BRM that can be fixed in maintenance but which can regrettably be tolerated for now, issues missed by the BRM where there is little scope for fixing in maintenance which are regretable, issues missed by the BRM where there is little scope for fixing in maintenance which are showstoppers. 

There seems to be an idea that the short BRM would have favoured Ecma, to allow things to be swept under the carpet. However, in fact I'd say that if anything Ecma would have been better served by a longer BRM: more chance to address more specific issues and therefore get more NB acceptability.   I think people should be very aware that ISO/IEC stretched out the fast-track process very far (15 months total) to allow much more review time by National Bodies than normal, but did not stretch out the time or resources (at the BRM) in any way that would privilege DIS29500: I think the ISO/IEC gnomes implicitly drew a line in the sand that a fast-track draft that could not get a majority vote after a single-week BRM was not something the fast-track process needed to cope with.  There is some feeling about that ISO/IEC just ignored the opinions of NBs that DIS29500 was too big and crapulous and unsuitable for fast-tracking: however, I think the gnomes actually did take the issue pretty seriously and responded, within the limited scope they have (of the ISO ecosystem being win-win, blah blah, etc. as above)  in the prolonged review time and non-prolonged BRM time. 

I don't think ISO/IEC were positively trying to sabotage DIS29500 by not scheduling a longer BRM, however, I do think they have effectively established a precedent that large or incomplete or contentious standards (when fast-tracked) will not be given correspondingly large BRMs to fix them: they need to arrive with enough quality that a single BRM will get them up to scratch (as determined by the NB votes: noting that the positive and negative vote system actually gives a stricter requirement than even "absolute majority").

Cheers
Rick Jelliffe