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From "E-man" | 124 comments | Create New Account
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From "E-man"
Authored by: E-man on Monday, March 03 2008 @ 03:15 PM CST
I have written a number of comments at Groklaw, using the username of "E-man". I have no particular connection to ISO or Groklaw or any of the parties involved with the OOXML specification. Perhaps you have seen my comments at Groklaw, though.

As you are no doubt aware, Pamela Jones wrote an article largely based on your blog entry. I was very disappointed with your blog entry as it was originally written and wrote a number of comments at Groklaw that  reflect this. Since you are interested in receiving comments here, I will try to write directly to you this time. (Actually, I also commented anonymously about a math error that was quickly fixed.)

It should have been obvious that problems caused by what you wrote here were likely to be propagated far beyond your blog. Many people at Groklaw seem to have been confused about what happened at the BRM, and I lay at least some of the blame for this at your doorstep. At the same time you deserve credit for what you have helped them understand.

I note that you have made some changes to the article. Thank you for doing that. I think it is much improved. Unfortunately, I doubt corrections will as noticed or propagate as well as the original text. One relatively minor thing that might help would be to call attention to the fact that you changed the title. That change is not mentioned under the March 02 updates (I think that's when you made the change), yet it is certainly as significant, in my opinion, as the changes you listed.

Actually, I'm still not satisfied that the title is accurate; how about "Most OOXML Dispositions Not Even Discussed at BRM" if you don't like Dr. Brown's ideas?  While I am at it, I don't think the word "and" should be in the second sentence where you describe the the March 02 updates - that's just a matter of grammar, but it did confuse me for a while.

The remaining complaints that I still have about your blog entry, but which you have not yet addressed, involves your tabulation of "votes" and the text near your table. What you were doing, if my understanding is at all accurate, is using default values for the ballot as proxies for ~900 votes that were officially cast. (The tilde indicates the value is approximate.) That the default value was simply intended as a means to cast a large number of votes easily and that you were using the same default value as an estimate or approximation of how ~900 votes were officially cast is hardly clear from what you wrote. Certainly many of the comments at Groklaw indicated that the authors missed those points. I think you should have made much more clear that  the table was not a table of actual votes.

It appears that many people didn't understand your explanation of the default value for the votes. Compounding that, when you begin using the default value as a proxy or an estimate, you didn't really announce that fact, and as a result people became very confused and misunderstood what was going on, I think.

The labels you used in your table indicate that you tabulated results for actual votes, which is not the case. One column you have labled "All Votes". Actually, that is "All NBs" or "All Default Values". Likewise, you have a row labeled "Total votes cast". Actually, the total votes officially cast would be ~900 times those figures, given that there were ~900 dispositions on the ballot, so again, the label should be "Total NBs voting" or something like that.

You also describe the table's contents as: "The final tally (as recorded by participants, and subject to final confirmation)", as if it were something to be officially tallied as part of the BRM process. Can you blame people for interpreting it that way if you don't don't make it obvious that they shouldn't? Unless I'm very wrong about something, it was you who decided to draw conclusions based on the default values. No doubt others trying to get an early understanding of the voting did the same, but I very much doubt ISO has approved doing that.

I am also concerned, for a somewhat different reason, with this statement about the ballots: "On Friday, the ballots came back.  Some contained votes on a small number of dispositions and some adopted the default option for all of the listed dispositions." How accurately (and completely) does that describe how all NBs voted? It is important to know that in order to understand the usefulness of the default value as a proxy for the ~900 votes. It is particularly significant in this situation because the number of cases where "approve" was the default value was so close to the number of cases were "disapprove" was the default.

I realize that you talked to some delegates who were actually at the BRM. The question is: Were they telling you what all NBs had done, or were they telling you what almost all NBs had done?  I find it hard to believe that there weren't at least a few cases where the NBs arrived at the BRM already knowing how they were wanted to vote on any dispositions that weren't changed at the BRM, who liked (or disliked) a significant number of dispositions, but  took a different position on a significant number of other ones, and who then applied those votes when it was time to cast the ~900 votes.

My expectations seem to be confirmed by the data that someone has anonymously posted in your comments. That data supposedly indicates how the NBs voted on all votes, as I understand it. If  that information is accurate, even if it includes votes other than the ~900 that you are talking about, your statement certainly does not describe how Brazil and Switzerland cast their votes and it is questionable with respect to a couple of other NBs, as well. So, despite what you may have been told, I don't think that your statement describes the way all NBs voted.

I know it is difficult to describe how the vote was taken and how you are using the default values and how people should interpret the results. I've tried doing that myself, and am not terribly impressed with what I've managed to come up with, either. (There are things that I wrote in Groklaw's comments that I certainly would change if I were permitted to edit them.) Also, I know there is only so much you can do with respect to how people will interpret and use what you write, but in this case I think much of the misinterpretation was predictable. Frankly, some of it wasn't misinterpretation at all - your title did say (originally) that OOXML was rejected at the BRM. Naturally, my comments at Groklaw reflect you blog as it was written at the time.

I appreciate the new material you have added and the changes you have already made to what was originally written, I still think you can make it better, though. Please consider what I have said here.

Regards,
E-man
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