The Standards Blog

Showdown in Geneva: Majority of Proposed Dispositions Fail to be Approved by a Majority

OpenDocument and OOXML
I have now created a very extensive, indexed BRM Resource Page to hold the many links, press releases, delegate statements and other material that were originally found here.  You can find that extra materials here.


A rather incredible week in Geneva has just ended, bringing to a close the Herculean task assumed by the over 100 delegates from 32 countries that attended the BRM.  That challenge, of course, was how to productively resolve the more than 1,100 comments (after elimination of duplicates) registered by the 87 National Bodies that voted last summer with respect to a specification that itself exceeded 6,000 pages. 

I have spent the week in Geneva, and have spoken with many delegates from many delegations on a daily basis.  Each believed that a body that purports to issue "global open standards" should not impose an obligation of secrecy on how the standards that people must live with are approved on their behalf.  It would be fair to say that, notwithstanding all of the charges and counter charges that have been made leading up to the BRM regarding how National Body votes were taken last summer, how delegations have been selected, and how they have been instructed to act and vote at the BRM, there has been a good faith effort by all to try to achieve a successful result.  The same appears to have held true within delegations, even those that contained representatives of the most opposed parties.

There are two ways in which you may hear the results of the BRM summarized by those that issue statements and press releases in the days to come.  Perhaps inevitably, they are diametrically opposed, as has so often happened in the ODF - OOXML saga to date.  Those results are as follows:

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM, validating OOXML

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the "Fast Track" process

[Paragraph updated]  In this blog entry, I will explain why the following is the best characterization, and help you read the various press releases and statements that may be made with the benefit of the appropriate context:

Only a very small percentage of the proposed dispositions were discussed in detail, amended and approved by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the "Fast Track" process

It did not take long for the delegates to conclude that it would be impossible to discuss and resolve all of the proposed dispositions, notwithstanding efforts to streamline the process.  After several days, only about 20 to 30 dispositions had been thoroughly discussed and voted upon [updated: the Edited Meeting Notes appear to indicate that a total of 63 resolutions were discussed and individually voted upon].  Approximately 200 dispositions [Updated: the Edited Meeting Notes indicate that the actual number was 126] in the nature of minor editorial corrections (misplaced commas and the like) were also adopted.  Discussion increasingly turned as a result to seeking ways to streamline the process in order to reach a conclusion within the five days allowed.  Those efforts included instructing interested delegates to go off-line to discuss a resolution and come back with proposed compromise language.  However, these efforts proved insufficient to do more than nibble away at the huge number of dispositions remaining.

Acknowledging the impossibility of achieving the stated goal of a BRM (e.g, to carefully review each proposed disposition and reach consensus on an appropriate resolution), a proposal was made on Wednesday to approve all proposed resolutions in a single vote before the end of the BRM, thus nominally "resolving" each remaining proposed disposition without any discussion at all.  It was agreed that this was the only available option, and a written ballot with all of the c. 900 proposed dispositions that had never been discussed was accordingly issued on Thursday.  Each National Body delegation was requested to complete the ballot and return it on Friday.  The alternatives offered were as follows:

1.  Indicate "adopt," "disapprove" or "abstain" after each proposed disposition.

2.  Indicate such a vote on as many proposed dispositions as desired (or none), and vote "accept," "reject" or "abstain" on all of the rest.

It is significant to note that voting to accept all dispositions that were not discussed is a less obvious choice than might be assumed. In fact, few if any of the dispositions that were individually discussed and voted upon during the week were adopted without change.  In other words, adopting a proposed resolution without discussion could result in making OOXML worse, rather than better, because of dependencies.

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.  The final tally (as recorded by participants, and subject to final confirmation) was as follows with respect to the "default" provision that on each vote covered all, or almost all, of the listed proposed dispositions:

                          P Countries Only                All Votes

Approve                              4                                       6

Disapprove                        4                                       4

Refuse to Register
  a Vote                               2                                       4

Abstain                             15                                     18

Total votes cast:            25                                     32


The appropriate rules to be applied to these results are as follows:

1.  Under Directive 9.1.4 under the standing rules of ISO/IEC JTC1, only the votes of "P" members are to be taken into account.  However, Alex Brown, the Convenor, decided in advance, notwithstanding the rules, to allow all attending delegations to vote.

2.  Only "approve" and "disapprove" votes are counted.

We can now turn to the two contentions that you will hear:

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM:  The argument is as follows:

 
-  Only "approve" and "disapprove" votes are to be counted.  The rules are the rules

  -  That said, ignore the standing JTC1 rule that only P votes count

  -  Ignore the protests and abstentions, regardless of the fact that, together with the "disapprove" votes, they represent more than 80% of the delegations

  -  Ignore the fact that only c. 20 [Updated:  20 - 3o] substitutions out of c. 900 substantive dispositions, were actually discussed

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM

  The purpose of the adoption process is to ensure that a quality specification is approved

  -  The purpose of the process is also to achieve consensus on the final result, so that a finally approved specification is regarded as being appropriate, useful and desirable around the world

It is clear to me that the first conclusion is, at best, technically accurate, and even that conclusion assumes that the decision to allow O members to vote was justified.  The better conclusion is that despite the good faith efforts of all concerned and their willingness to see this process through to its conclusion, it has proven to be impossible for as large and poorly prepared a specification as this to be properly addressed via the "Fast Track" process. 

[Updated:  it would be inaccurate to characterize choosing "abstain" as a default position on the last c. 900 dispositions as a rejection of those dispositions upon which the NB in question did not specifically vote.  "No opinion" and acquiescence would be a fair characterization.  The significant conclusion to take away is that while the National Bodies had a chance to stand up and say what there major concerns were, there was no opportunity for the great majority of the dispositions involved to be discussed in detail, and to be amended as necessary before being approved or disapproved.]

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn from this result:

1.  As many have contended, the Fast Track process was a totally inappropriate process for Microsoft and Ecma to have adopted for OOXML

2.  OOXML has not been adequately addressed within that process to be entitled to final adoption

3.  It would be inappropriate for the ISO/IEC members to approve the adoption of OOXML in the thirty day voting period ahead

Many, many, people around the world have tried very hard to make the OOXML adoption process work.  It is very unfortunate that they were put to this predictably unsuccessful result through the self-interest of a single vendor taking advantage of a permissive process that was never intended to be abused in this fashion.  It would be highly inappropriate to compound this error by approving a clearly unfinished specification in the voting period ahead. 

To paraphrase a former First Lady, it's time to "Just say No" to OOXML.


For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Comments

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Unfortunately, something like this was predictable. The amount of work required to address concerns with this proposed ISO standard was way beyond what such a large group could meaningfully address in the time allotted.

It would be nice to think that Microsoft would follow the precident set by C++/CLI and now withdraw the standard.

But somehow I don't see that happening.

the Fast Track process was a totally inappropriate process for Microsoft and Ecma to have adopted for OOXML
I agree 100%!
Why would this of ever let happen? Ever heard of "trial and error?"

hdtv antenna

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Andy, I'm very familiar with the JTC1 directives... the one that you quote only applies if the room FAILS to get concensus, in which case the P members take over.

In this case though, looking at the numbers you quote, concensus was indeed reached in the room. So all that you draw on doesn't apply. You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present.

The decisions were made by everybody present, all views count. The result proves it.

Shame on you... this is a global society, we all count.

 

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"You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present."


You are intentionally mistaking things to discredit people. 

The same logic would apply to fast-track ballot rules ( like the last september/07 ):

P-members are who approves the fast-tracking. O members only count to "non-approve" . Will you say that this rule discriminates O member?

This has to do with the "nature" of a P-member: P is PARTICIPATING. O is OBSERVER. Can you understand this difference?

<noDiplomacyHereSorry>
So, if O-members want to cast votes in BRMs, they will have to ask Microsoft some bucks and upgrade to P-members, as have done:

Cyprus island,
 Jamaica island,
 Malta island,
Lebanon
and the representative of Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) , Wemba Opota, a senegalese citizen, who is responsible for Microsoft West Africa and represent the Ivory Coast national interests in standardization.

This mentioned NBs, with 0 ( zero ) background and expertise in Document Description and Processing Languages ( http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/ ) had been upgraded by ISO JTC1 to P-member status a few days before last setember OOXML fast-tracking ballot close and are deciding on behalf world countries ( like mine, Argentina who has no vote in this fast-track fiasco ) what will be the international document standards for my sons in the following years

</noDiplomacyHereSorry>

Shame on you

            Orlando Marcelo

 

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Andy,

I think the title of this piece is a bit misleading. Maybe the title will be correct, 30 days from now, when the final vote is clear, but right now I would say OOXML approval was not at stake at the BRM, deciding what ooxml would look like was at stake.

A second comment would be your remark that voting at the BRM should be limited to P-countries, I had the impression Alex Browns called the shots at the BRM, and what he says goes. An unenviable task but so far I think he did as best as he or anyone could.

Actually, I kind of like the outcome of the BRM. One thing that always worried me was that with all those comments being discussed and changed (one would hope) the final text would not be available within 30 days. With this outcome the final text of ecma 376 will be available within a week and it is really clear what the NB's are voting for

Peter G>

ps: well, really clear, it must be somewhere in those 9000+ pages ;-)

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I can see several of the larger delegations being able to mark an approval (or disapproval) for a lot of those 900 issues and then not give a general vote.

Andy would then list that as abstain even though such a country might have approved (or disappovred) hundreds of those issues.

 

 

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First, thanks to the comments so far - including the errors that people spotted for me that have now been corrected.  I spoke three times at the Open Forum Europe conference, have been in meetings formal and informal from early until very late every day, and there was a lot going on around me while I was trying to post this, and unfortunately, it showed.

On to other more "interesting," and invariably anonymous comments, such as one that included the following:

Andy, I'm very familiar with the JTC1 directives... the one that you quote only applies if the room FAILS to get concensus, in which case the P members take over.

Response:  Wrong.  There is specific rule for BRMs, as quoted.  I've cited it and you and anyone else can look it up to confirm

In this case though, looking at the numbers you quote, concensus was indeed reached in the room. So all that you draw on doesn't apply. You are essentially saying that you believe that the majority of the room should not have bothered making the trip, as you don't see value in their being in Geneva!

Response:  I'm having a hard time understanding what you are saying.  6 out of 32 voted "approve."  The only consensus I can draw from that is "not approve."

Your rationale essentially disenfranchises the many O countries present.

Response:  No, I'm simply citing the rule.  You can't say "follow the rules" for one purpose and "don't follow the rules" for another.  That would be inconsistent, now wouldn't it?  It is ISO/IEC that decided that O members' votes should count, not me.  If they were disenfranchised, it was not by me.

The decisions were made by everybody present, all views count. The result proves it.

Response:  We totally agree on this point, if not the conclusion to be drawn  form it.

Shame on you... this is a global society, we all count.

Response:  Again we agree!  Our averages are improving!  I have tried to be sure that the votes of the 26 who did not approve are not lost in the post -BRM reportage.

Thanks for your thoughts, and do let us know who you are the next time you drop by.
The next question:
Where is all this data from? I don't see it anywhere else on the web.

Response:  A good and fair question.  From participants in the BRM, who downloaded the results of the ballot from the SC 34 Web site.  Sadly, the public is not likely to be given access to it.  Happily, some delegates are already giving interviews to the press.
And next this:
I think you are missing the word 'task' after Herculean.

Response:  Sadly, yes.  See first comment above.

The most appropriate one for comparison might be cleaning the Augean stables in a day. So who in the allegory takes the roles of Hercules/Heracles, King Augeas, the rivers Alpheus and Peneus, and the cattle?

Response: 
I stand corrected - cleansing the Augean stables is unquestionably the more apt metaphor.  I believe that the rivers Alpheus and Peneus, in this instance, are the forces of public exposure and sunshine, and for Herakles, I nominate the community.
To Orlando:  Thanks for defending my arguments.

To this anonymous commenter:
Andy, you're deprecating your quality standardL Leave the propaganda to the no-ooxml folks.

Response:  Interesting.  I take your intention, but am curious what lies behind it?  Except for a small amount of commentary, such as the last paragraph, this is factual reporting based upon first hand accounts.  What troubles you?  Are there specific errors you would like to point out?

Thanks for your thoughts, and do let us know who you are the next time you drop by.
To Tim Bray:
Response:  I saw you once from a distance this week, but didn't get a chance to connect.  Thanks for the link, as first hand accounts are always better than second hand accounts, such as this.  Your account matches those that I received from all sources, with one exception noted below, and I couldn't agree more with your assessment of the failure of the process and it's causes.  The only area in which our accounts don't match is where you say:
Most votes on this were Yes, because whether or not you were 100% satisfied with any given ECMA/Microsoft Response, it was usually an improvement over what had been there before. So almost all the proposals that didn’t get brought up at the meeting passed, which is quite sane behavior. Obviously, we’d have liked to have brought more up for further improvement.
When I got the actual votes (which are rather different, with very few delegations voting to approve), I had the same question as you did - why not vote to approve resolutions, since presumably a resolution is better than the original problem?  I posed this question to Frank Farance, the Head of Delegation of the United States, in an interview that I'll post on Sunday or Monday when I have a chance to type it up and he has a chance to vet it.  His explanation was that almost every disposition that was actually discussed and approved required discussion and revision.  In his area of competence, he thought that adopting the proposed dispositions without amendment would have been worse than rejecting them.  This was a major reason that the United States delegation voted to "Disapprove"  (the US, incidentally, voted to adopt OOXML during the balloting period that ended on September 2).
I expect that there will be more comments to answer tomorrow.

To all that have followed this process in the long term, there are two conclusions to draw:  as close as the right thing happened today as could have been expected, and it ain't over yet.

Best regards to all,

  -  Andy

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I see one more comment before I log off for the day (I'm still in Geneva):

I can see several of the larger delegations being able to mark an approval (or disapproval) for a lot of those 900 issues and then not give a general vote.

Andy would then list that as abstain even though such a country might have approved (or disappovred) hundreds of those issues.

In the numbers that I reported, I have only called a vote an "abstain" if that is what the delegation marked on its ballot as the "default" vote on any proposed dispositions as to which it did not indicate a specific vote. 

  -  Andy

I'm not aware of any delegation that voted disposition by disposition on a large number of comments, but if they did vote on almost all, you're point would be well taken.  I'd be surprised if this actually happened, however.

  -  Andy

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Dear Shark,

Help me out here; can you please point to the inaccuracies?  If you follow the links that I've added at the end to blog entries written by delegates in the room, as well as read the articles in the press where delegates were interviewed and quoted, you'll see that my piece is entirely consistent with all of this information from direct participants.

Also, signing your name is always helpful for context.

  -  Andy

Alex,

As a distant observer of this process, I'll note that minutes of meetings are the common device used to forestall "surprising inaccuracies about what the subject of the vote was". I am still amazed that ISO see fit to conduct important meetings without public minutes.

Regards, Glen Turner

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Alex,

I would appreciate it if you would be more specific than to simply cast a
shadow over this blog post.  As you can see, some  people who haven't
signed their posts or been specific are attacking he post without saying
why..

I have confirmed the accuracy of this blog entry with several delegates, as
well as JTC1 rules experts.  While I respect your opinion, and while being
the convenor of the BRM makes you responsible for interpreting and applying
the rules, this does not mean that your interpretation of the rules will
necessarily be correct.

If you have issues instead with any factual data, what the delegates
thought was happening is in an important respect as important, or more so,
than what the convenor thinks.  The delegates have the responsibility to
vote and act as instructed.  If they understand that differently than you
do, then I think it is fair to say that you and Gabriel Barta, on the one
hand,  and the delegates, on the other, bear equal opportunity.if there is
any disagreement after the fact.

For now, I would state that "it is your opinion that there are
inaccuracies".  Whether that is in fact the case can only be determined
when you identify what you find to be inaccurate.  The kind of statement
you have left here does no good to anyone, other than the obvious.

  - Andy

Stephen McGibbon (Microsoft)

Andy why don't you say who the anonymous delegates you spoke to are? What you're claiming is essentially unverifiable, and as Alex was the convenor I'm sure many will be concerned that he doesn't concur with your thoughts.

As I understand, ISO have rules about what information is giving out by whom and when. I know that Bob Sutor disagrees with this, and imagine you may as well given that you've chosen to ignore the etiquette - but by choosing to ignore and not being open and transparent about who you're referring to you effectively poison the discussion as those who wish to respect ISO's rules are unable to engage on the substance of your comments.

At least this way we could loop in the folks giving you the information and find out whether they've got an axe to grind, are simply mistaken, or have uncovered the mother of all conspiracies.

> Andy why don't you say who the anonymous delegates you spoke to are?

Witchhunts are lovely this time of year…

> What you're claiming is essentially unverifiable, and as Alex was the convenor I'm sure many will be concerned that he doesn't concur with your thoughts.

Alex is free to point out his concern by posting here. His lack of description is as unverifiable as the anonymous delegates, no?

> As I understand, ISO have rules about what information is giving out by whom and when.

ISO controls blog posts now? It’s understandable why delegates would refrain from wanting their names published, because of unprovoked FUD from certain members of this process.

> I know that Bob Sutor disagrees with this, and imagine you may as well given that you've chosen to ignore the etiquette - but by choosing to ignore and not being open and transparent about who you're referring to you effectively poison the discussion as those who wish to respect ISO's rules are unable to engage on the substance of your comments.

This blog post is trying to be open and transparent, what little etiquette this BRM has earned be damned. Saying little about the facts and pulling the Microsoft PR partyline is poisoning the discussion, because you don’t say what really happened. Have you read Tim Bray’s blog post? He thought the process was bullshit. Yet yourself and Brian have praised it… who is likely to believe your version of events?

> At least this way we could loop in the folks giving you the information and find out whether they've got an axe to grind, are simply mistaken, or have uncovered the mother of all conspiracies.

How about you post what is wrong with this article, and the anonymous delegates will be informed thus.

Anonymous

Steve,

My primary source was Frank Farance, the Head of Delegation for the US.  Frank affiliation with either Microsoft or IBM, and, as a Head of Delegation, was in all HoD meetings.  He's also an old standards hand, and at least once corrected Alex on a vote that was about to be taken in a way that would have been invalid.

I conducted an extensive interview with Frank after posting this blog entry, which I hope to have posted (after he reviews my transcription of his comments) on Monday.

  -  Andy

Stephen from Microsoft says:

<blockquote>As I understand, ISO have rules about what information is giving out by whom and when. I know that Bob Sutor disagrees with this, and imagine you may as well given that you've chosen to ignore the etiquette - but by choosing to ignore and not being open and transparent about who you're referring to you effectively poison the discussion as those who wish to respect ISO's rules are unable to engage on the substance of your comments.</blockquote>

I could not agree with you more Stephen.  During this round of the DIS29500 BRM, I see that the Microsoft blogging machine is already claiming victory and is doing their best to "poison the discussion" concerning DIS29500 with mis-information and rumor long before any official information is released and long before final information is in.  At least sites like this one and Groklaw acknowledge that their information is preliminary and subject to change at a time when Microsoft is already claiming final victory.

Meanwhile other parts of the "Microsoft Blog Machine" are doing their best to shut down any-and-all bloggers that have opposing or conflicting viewpoints to the MS party line and any blogger in particular that attempts to provide analysis of the vote based on the publicized rules of the BRM + whatever scanty information can be verified from the BRM.  I suspect that over the next week, we're going to find out what really happened behind those closed doors and I suspect we're going to get really sick at the extent of the MS arm-twisting that went on behind those closed doors.

The OpenMalaysia blog has already condemned ECMA with the statement that any substantive changes (that would have required MS to modify Office2007) were routinely shot down at the BRM and not even considered for evaluation or vote.  That statement alone says worlds about how MS has ignored or corrupted the ISO rules during the BRM and now you come along and want the world to wait 'until official information is released' while the time period for the NB votes and review expires and while MS continues it's mis-leading blog posts, behind-the-scenes arm-twisting, 'discussion-poisoning' blog comments, vote buying and various astroturf campaigns around the world unhindered.

Who is it exactly that is choosing to respect the ISO rules ?   You're going to have a hard time convincing me that Microsoft respects the rules of the IEC/ISO JTC 1 given that the EU has just launched an investigation into their conduct during the ballot period ending September 2, 2007 or convincing me that Microsoft is "respecting the rules" given the recent news that MS is using NGOs to pressure the India standards body using an astroturf campaign based on Microsoft-generated form letters from Microsoft partners giving 'fake' support to DIS29500 to change their vote, or that Microsoft is respecting the ISO rules when Jason Matusow has already blogged that the BRM is a huge win for the DIS29500 and quotes Tim Bray's blog post out of context in an attempt to manufacture some support for this blatant and increasingly desperate spin.

Ed

-- An individual citizen of the net that prizes openness, software freedom, marketplace choice, and open standards, but most of all integrity and honor in all dealings - business, personal and international.

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Seconding Brian Jones, the BRM made great progress.  Once the editorial stuff was out of the way [1] the BRM worked through 20 of approximately 900 issues this week.  It seems as though the only thing standing in the way of a quality specification is a bit more time to work out the remaining issues.  A back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me that another 45 weeks should do it for the fast-track process.

[1] In my own committee work, we've always had editors who were specifically chartered to correct stuff like that.  They would issue a report and it would be voted on (unanimity required for approval) in a flash.

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Other numbers here

http://blogs.msdn.com/jasonmatusow/archive/2008/02/29/the-open-xml-ballot-resolution-meeting-brm-was-an-unqualified-success.aspx#7976508

Seem like more than 20 countries accepted most dispositions. Not just 6.

Country         abst+no+refusal   Percentage

-----------     ---------------   -----------

China                     1027    100.00%

Ireland                   1027    100.00%

Ecuador                   1027    100.00%

Netherland                1027    100.00%

Mexico                    1027    100.00%

Malaysia                  1022     99.51%

Korea (s)                 1021     99.42%

New Zealand               1018     99.12%

Australia                 1008     98.15%

India                     1005     97.86%

Italy                      995     96.88%

Belgium                    986     96.01%

Israel                     983     95.72%

Kenya                      970     94.45%

US                         966     94.06%

France                     965     93.96%

Greece                     963     93.77%

Portugal                   935     91.04%

Japan                      934     90.94%

Denmark                    912     88.80%

Canada                     886     86.27%

South Africa               875     85.20%

Denmark                    871     84.81%

Brazil                     573     55.79%

Switzerland                349     33.98%

UK                         187     18.21%

Czech                        7     0.68%

Finland                      6     0.58%

Poland (O member)            4     0.39%

Chile (O member)             1     0.10%

Ivory Coast (MS HOD)(*)      0     0.00%

NO (MS HOD)                  0     0.00%

(*) http://www.noooxml.org/forum/t-43510/ivory-coast-represented-by-microsoft-senegal-at-the-brm

 

>Other numbers here

>http://blogs.msdn.com/jasonmatusow/archive/2008/02/29/the-open-xml-ballot-resolution-meeting-brm-was-an-unqualified-success.aspx#7976508

>Seem like more than 20 countries accepted most dispositions. Not just 6.

You can't count...it is a list of countries that did not approve things...only the last ones did actually want Ecma/Microsofts changes. The level of FUD and spin from the Microsoft camp reaches new levels.

Great work Andy...please keep us informed.That the Microsoft people can't point out real errors  in you blog posts are true indication that you are spot on.

How can those figures be right if we have the only confirmed result by everyone which is that almost all results are accepted.

Isn't the only offical result of a BRM a list with approved edits and as such the only result from the BRM seems very fruitfull.

 

 

How can those figures be right if we have the only confirmed result by everyone which is that almost all results are accepted.

Because the numbers are for everything except "approve" votes, abstentions included.  The only way to reconcile that with Alex' statement that most of the proposed revisions passed is to conclude that a the overwhelming majority of votes were dominated by abstentions.  Unlike a letter ballot, there's no requirement that one of these votes have a minimum percentage in favor, so if you have a solid bloc that voted "yes" to everything (see the Ivory Coast, for instance) you could get everything approved even if there was only one vote in favor.

Put another way, the winner by a landslide was, "What-EVER!

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Andy,

Your figures on default voting positions are accurate, but extremely misleading. The majority of countries adopted a default "abstain" position, and then voted individually on the issues (some countries on all issues, and some countries on just the issues that they had raised). Thus, to describe them as "abstaining" is incorrect.

Since you apparently have a source willing to provide you with information from the BRM, I suggest you ask them for the "BRM Voting Count" spreadsheet, and analyse the detailed numbers yourself. Pay particular attention to the "Total Yes" column, for the issues that passed. My analysis of these numbers paints a very different picture than yours.

Inigo

I agree with Inigo that you have used a few factoids to paint a very misleading picture.  And non-factoids too ... 80 percent protesting?  That is downright funny to anyone who was in the room.  Maybe 80 percent of the folks at the bar at the InterContinental each evening were protesting, or the people at the OFE event.

It's interesting to me that there was never a single complaint about O-Members participating in all of the votes we took all week, and O-Members were very active in the technical discussions and preparations of draft resolutions, but as soon as Sam Oh announced the voting results late Friday afternoon, your various friends from the InterContinental started protesting and making lists of O-Members who shouldn't have had any say in the matter.  Did you guy anticipate a different outcome?

- Doug Mahugh, member of US delegation (sorry, I didn't bother to create an account here because I'm posting from a Swiss keyboard at the Geneva airport and it's a time-consuming hassle to check my email ... somebody needs to standardize keyboards!)

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We apparently have a "Wall of Money" on one side ... how much could Microsoft afford to spend in an effort to have ISO issue a standard for "Whatever format Microsoft Office 2007 uses to store its documents on disk", and still  come out ahead ?

On the other side, there are a bunch of technical experts, some corporate, some academic, who answered the question of "how should we store long-lived reviseable office productivity documents" with what became ISO 26300 ODF XML; who answered "No, there is no point in ISO issuing a standard for Microsoft Office 2007, and in fact it is damaging if ISO do that.".

Yes, I work for one of these corporations; but I don't represent them. I'm also a physicist and engineer; I can see how to reuse ISO26300 documents an all sorts of ways ; but I can't see what else you can do with a DIS29500 document apart from "Buy a copy of Windows and Office".

An ISO26300 document can be mine. A DIS29500 document is "marketing material for Microsoft".

If you got the 'technical experts' together again, they would come up again with something like ISO26300.

Is there a public interest in "caving to pressure from the wall of money" or "resisting the pressure of the wall of money" ? I understand there are a variety of private interests around ... Microsoft would obviously like the "caving to pressure" result ... but ISO is a "public interest" body.

How to establish the public interest, and keep it established ?

On your Dollar Bills, it says "Good for all debts, public and private". This is a "public" one.

I applaud the BRM ... it was a rare forum where things could be discussed without the intrusion of commercial lawyers, pointy-headed businessmen, heavily-invested shareholders expecting returns from their investments ... a place where engineers, scientists, and public officials could speak.

But what next ?

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Inigo and Doug,

First, thank you both for commenting.  I'm finding that there is a difference of opinion among delegates as to what they thought they were indicating when they were voting on the final c. 900 dispositions.  This is probably not surprising under the circumstances.  Some of the explanations that I have heard, though (I just got another by email), I'm having a great deal of trouble understanding, as they seem illogical on their face.  I'm hoping that a lot of delegates will do what you're doing in commenting here so that people can try and sort it all out.

With that by way of background, here are some responses to your comments:

1.  Inigo, on the subject of the votes on specific dispositions: I agree that what you say makes a great deal of sense, but my bet is that it will be impossible to draw conclusions in all cases based on such an analysis.  Assuming for example that the figures that someone has posted above are accurate, how would one know the following:
-  If the only vote received was from an NB other than the NB that had lodged the comment, it seems that this vote would prevail.  What exactly would that tell you?

-  If only two votes were received on that disposition, one from the NB most interested and one vote from another NB,  and the two votes were not the same, then two would cancel out, if I understand the process correctly.  What exactly would that tell you?

-  If no one voted on a single disposition (even the original NB that made the comment that generated the proposed disposition), does that mean that it's a good one, or that no one had the time to really think it through, or couldn't decide?

-  If the only vote was a disapproval by the NB that asked for the change, because they like the proposed change even less, then as I understand it,  no change will be made at all.  Is that a good result?
And so on.  What concerns me is that, according to Frank Farance, those dispositions that were discussed were almost invariably changed, often quite a bit.  So while a disposition might have been "approved" by as few as one NB in addition to all of the abstains, I'm not sure how much to be comforted by that. 

I would certainly agree that if the one vote that was received, or if one of the votes that was included in the "approve" category, was from the NB that had asked for a change, this would certainly be an important point to be taken into account (but not if that NB voted to disapprove - see above, and that carried the day), then I would agree that the 900 vote process was a useful device.  So here's the analysis that I would pursue:
  • Of all of the dispositions out of the 900 that received individual votes, how many included votes by the NB(s) that had originally asked for the change?
  • Of  those, when the votes are counted, how many went the way that those NB(s) voted?
  • Of those, how many of those NB votes were to approve rather than disapprove?
  • Of the total of c. 900,  how many were voted on at all?
Does that sound like a rational way to do the analysis?  If so, what's your guess on the number that remains after the first three bullets, and also for the last bullet?

2.  Doug, I don't think I said that 80% were "protesting."  What I was saying, and as the blog entry title indicates, 80% of the proposed dispositions failed to gain majority approval.  I'm not sure how you can call an "abstention" anything other than that.  If someone chooses not only not to vote on an individual disposition, but to abstain on the rest, then it's hard for me to see this as anything other than "no comment." 

That said, I agree that it would be fair to say that (for instance) if a proposed disposition got several votes to approve (including the original NB proponent(s), then it should be deducted from the 80% figure.

3.  Doug, I talked to a lot of delegates, both at the wine and cheese events and the evening keynote sessions and at lunch as well as at the bar at the Intercontinental.  They were from a lot of delegations, and few were affiliates of IBM.  All agreed that everyone was trying very hard, and that it was all very frustrating.  I also agree that doing the 900 vote was a good idea, if the goal was to come out of the BRM having done _something_ with everything. 

But was that actually a good idea?  My personal view is that a better result would have been to have voted something along the lines of  "this is as much as we had time to do; no opinion is expressed on the rest," or perhaps to deal with the last 900 on a different basis (e.g.,  "the indications on these 900 should be regarded as advisory, rather than authoritative"). 

It seems to me that no one's interests are well served by doing so much in so little time.  If those that want to see OOXML go through are successful, then we will have to live with a standard that could have been much better if more time had been spent.  And if it fails, then those that wanted to see it go through, and those that tried hard to try and make that happen, will have seen that work to have been in vain. 

In that case, hopefully Ecma would still make the changes and Microsoft would implement them.  If that happens, something would be salvaged, but more could have been accomplished.

4.  Doug, on the P vs. O point:  I've included this mostly because I know that it's going to be brought up by others.  I'm not personally that interested in it, because I think that the big questions are these:
  • Is OOXML now good enough to approve, leaving aside other issues like IPR, politics and so on?
  • Should OOXML be approved, given the fact that such an inappropriate vehicle was chosen to process (the Fast Track process) a specification that required so much work?
I'm not competent to judge the first, so I'll defer to others on that.  But I think I have heard enough on the second point to have an opinion.  Many delegates told me that OOXML as it came from Ecma was not ready for prime time (the words usually used were "total garbage" or similar).  Many also told me that the process was crippled at every stage by inadequate time to do a good job.  Thus, the BRM was just the latest and most clearly problematic example of an effort to cram something through in a way that is not conducive to producing a good result. 

Just because there was a "result" does not mean that it was an adequate or useful result.  Just that a lot of good people worked very hard to do the best they could in a situation that they really shouldn't have been placed in to begin with.  My concern is that it be made clear to all what the results of the BRM really were.  Needless to say, I don't think that Jason Matusow's Unqualified Success blog entry is consistent with what happened.  To the extent that my blog entry isn't either, I welcome and appreciate your assistance in tuning it up.

Again, thank you both for commenting, and responses to the above are welcome.

  -  Andy

Andy,

The votes haven't been made public by ISO, so I'm very sorry, but I can only speak in general terms. With that in mind:

"Assuming for example that the figures that someone has posted above are accurate" - I haven't checked them, but at first glance they look plausible. However, they conflate the "Disapprove" with "Abstain", which makes them almost meaningless. As I explained above, some delegations were abstaining on all issues except issues their own countries had raised. Since the figures that the BRM delegates have access to list "Disapprove" separately from "Abstain", I can only conclude that someone has deliberately merged the original figures to reduce the amount of information that they convey in the interests of promoting their own agenda.

"those dispositions that were discussed were almost invariably changed, often quite a bit" - this is true. However, countries were naturally going to bring up for discussion those dispositions that needed change! There were also, inevitably, many dispositions that were simple and straightforward and required no discussion. I think the interesting question to ask is where the line between those positions should be drawn; i.e. "What proportion of the issues that required discussion were discussed to the NB's satisfaction?". I think you would get many different answers to that.

I have been going through the votes to help inform my own national body. I have been checking the positions that we adopted against the vote outcome, to see whether everything that we approved was accepted and that everything that we disapproved was rejected. I have also been working out the margin by which "approve" votes were passed, and how many votes there were made on each of these issues. If ISO makes the votes public, then I'll be delighted to publish my analysis, but until then I must respect their decision on publication. I think I reasonably can say, though, that your concern about dispositions being voted on by only a single or very few delegations are unfounded.

Inigo

Thanks for your quick response.  I'll  look forward to seeing the numbers if they are released.  It seems like people did the best they could under the circumstances, but necessarily quite a bit less than they would have, had there been no boundaries on the amount of time they could have spent.

I have heard from many others (and I'll try to get them to blog with comments here as well) that adopting the ballot approach at best was a necessary evil.  Another way of looking at it is that if a ballot was deemed to be acceptable, there would not be a requirement for BRMs at all. 

I am told that someone from the Indian delegation made this point in a different way, saying that if he had known that all he was going to be able to do was to fill in a ballot, he would have preferred to have saved the public the cost of his transportation, and had more than one night to do the job as well.

  -  Andy

> all he was going to be able to do was to fill in a ballot

Andy, are you under the impression that filling in a ballot was the _only_ thing people did all week. That might explain some things!

Andy hi

Allow me to sympathise with your difficulty in understanding the JTC 1 rules, the BRM resolutions, and the conceptual framework surrounding them. These are hard topics. Normally standards people learn about such things through training, experience, mentoring and study. Not through floundering around in the comment section of a contentious blog entry, whose key assertions are the highly misleading consequence of a lack of understanding and suitable data.

Would you agree with me that your blog has become the epicentre of much of the current public understanding surrounding the BRM? Are you proud of that?

First, I simply _cannot_ _believe_ your entry title, which states "OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM". Anybody who has read any of the key documents associated with this process (the Directives, the FAQ, the agenda, even my blog for heavens sake) knows that the BRM does not "approve" or "disapprove" OOXML. That is BRM 101 stuff. Had you really not grasped the basic fact that the meeting only changes the text, and does "approve" or "disapprove" the spec?

Now, turning to some of your other issues:

> If the only vote received was from an NB other than the NB that had lodged the comment
> it seems that this vote would prevail.

This is a nonsense statement. NBs vote on proposed dispositions, not comments. This concept of the comment sponsor having extra weight in their vote is completely alien to ISO and IEC voting procedures. What strange place is this stuff coming from?

> If only two votes were received on that disposition, one from the NB most interested
> and one vote from another NB, and the two votes were not the same, then two would cancel out,
> if I understand the process correctly.  What exactly would that tell you?

The only two kinds of vote that would "cancel out" are an approve and a disapprove. In this case the vote on the disposition would be a tie and the disposition would not be approved. Draw from that what conclusion you want!

> If no one voted on a single disposition (even the original NB that made the comment
> that generated the proposed disposition), does that mean that it's a good one, or that
> no one had the time to really think it through, or couldn't decide?

Who knows what it means, this is voting not mind reading. BTW, there were no such "unvoted on" dispositions.

> those dispositions that were discussed were almost invariably changed

well yes, obviously. If a country brought up a disposition for discussion it would probably be to get some change made, right? It is a false inference from this that _every_ comment would require NB change.

> Does that sound like a rational way to do the analysis?

Andy, I wish you many happy hours with the spreadsheet. But I'm not sure what you propose will get you anything useful or significant.

> if someone chooses not only not to vote on an individual disposition,
> but to abstain on the rest, then it's hard for me to see this as anything
> other than "no comment."

NBs abstain for all kinds of reasons, so you should hesitate to interpret it in any particular way. In my experience, abstention most usually signals the wish to register a lack of technical understanding or engagement (which is perfectly ok).

> But was that actually a good idea?  My personal view is that [...]

The key point here is that it was, almost by definition, a good idea because it is WHAT THE MEETING VOTED TO DO. With no dissent.

Andy, you then go on to make some general criticisms about the Fast Track process which are all fair play (not that I will comment). However, I am very concerned about the misleading headline of your article and the misleading presentation of figures which supports it, leaving aside sundry other inaccuracies which are less important but which could usefuly be corrected once accurate information is available from ISO and IEC, and a fuller picture can emerge.



Alex,

Thanks very much for taking the time to leave detailed comments.  I appreciate that, since clearly you are the most informed and knowledgeable person about what happened at the BRM.  Let me start by clarifying a few things, and then maybe you would feel more comfortable in our having a friendlier dialogue.
1.  If you haven't already done so, look at the updates to my blog entry.  As you can see, I'm gathering as much information as possible, and making changes as needed.  In short, I'm trying to be informative as possible  (cf. Jason Matusow's blog, which looks like it could have, and perhaps was, written before the BRM was even completed and I expect will stay that way).

2.  Everyone that I have talked to has been unanimous in their praise of the job that you performed in an almost impossible situation.  I respect that and congratulate you on getting through the week and in displaying Hemingway's definition of courage ("grace under pressure").

3.  Nothing I write is intended to be an attack on you personally or on the way you handled the BRM.
With that as prelude, let me also say the following before I come back to your individual points:
  • I believe that we need to separate _how_ the BRM was handled from whether a Fast Track BRM should have been necessary to have been held at all, but then return to that question at the end to see what is the impact of doing so.
  • I believe that I understand better now the rationale behind the final vote and what people were thinking when they completed that vote.  But - the question remains whether nominally completing the consideration process by the only means available, regardless of how thorough that process and how much improved the specification would be as a result of the efforts of the BRM in the time available,  was a good thing to have done.
  • Given the intense behind the scenes pressure that will be applied to NBs around the world, did the BRM achieve the nominal obligation of completion within one week at the expense of creating a misleading result that would make it harder for the NBs to vote on technical merit given the claims that would be made by OOXML supports and popularized ad nauseum (see Jason Matusow's blog entry).
I personally believe that there is a limit to how far one should go in trying to cram 600 pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag.  What I mean is that at some point I believe that it would be more useful and forthright for the final vote to have been something like the following instead:  "Do you approve, disapprove or abstain from the following conclusion:  "The National Bodies believe that it would be misleading to attempt to vote on any dispositions beyond those that have been discussed and amended, as necessary, in the ordinary course of a BRM" beyond the 200 or so that included only minor editorial issues.  At some point, I think that loyalty to the goal of completion becomes counterproductive, and even unwise.  After all, true democracy has been achieved only as a result of the willingness of those in the breach to revolt against the rules.

Could you find the right to  take such a vote in the Directives?  I don't know the answer to that, but I don't think that the Directives ever contemplated having to process a poorly written 6,000 page plus specification being submitted for Fast Track consideration.  So again, being too bound to the rules could lead to an unfortunate result.

With that by way of orientation, let me try and respond to your comments:

Alex:  Allow me to sympathise with your difficulty in understanding the JTC 1 rules, the BRM resolutions, and the conceptual framework surrounding them. These are hard topics. Normally standards people learn about such things through training, experience, mentoring and study. Not through floundering around in the comment section of a contentious blog entry, whose key assertions are the highly misleading consequence of a lack of understanding and suitable data.

Andy:  I do agree.  I should clarify, though, that what I have been writing is not just someone's clueless wandering around in the dark, but of an ongoing dialogue throughout the week with a number of delegates forming an opinion over time, including several who are quite adept at applying those same rules.

Alex:  Would you agree with me that your blog has become the epicentre of much of the current public understanding surrounding the BRM? Are you proud of that?

Andy:  If the alternative would have been that the public would only have had Jason Matusow's blog entry, absolutely.  His entry reads like a set of Microsoft talking points that were written before the BRM even ended.  I would be staggered if they have not been sent already to hundreds of Microsoft marketing people around the world.  Do you disagree?  The difference is that I will incorporate all changes into my record as they become appropriate (and have already done so).  I do not expect that changes will be made to Microsoft's marketing message.

Alex:  First, I simply _cannot_ _believe_ your entry title, which states "OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM". Anybody who has read any of the key documents associated with this process (the Directives, the FAQ, the agenda, even my blog for heavens sake) knows that the BRM does not "approve" or "disapprove" OOXML. That is BRM 101 stuff. Had you really not grasped the basic fact that the meeting only changes the text, and does "approve" or "disapprove" the spec?

Andy:  I agree that the title should have read "OOXML _Dispositions_ fail..."  However, I have consistently made clear in everything I write, and the text of this entry makes clear, that the final vote is only now taking place.  I was putting in 18 hour days all week as well (I do have a day job), so we shared fatigue all around.  I've changed the title now that you've flagged it, but will stand by the proposition that "abstentions" do not represent approval under these circumstances.

Alex:  Now, turning to some of your other issues:

> [Andy's comment} If the only vote received was from an NB other than the NB that had lodged the comment it seems that this vote would prevail.

This is a nonsense statement. NBs vote on proposed dispositions, not comments. This concept of the comment sponsor having extra weight in their vote is completely alien to ISO and IEC voting procedures. What strange place is this stuff coming from?

Andy:  From common sense,  which makes me wonder whether the rules display any?  Tell me where I go wrong here:  A proposed disposition is created in response to a comment appended to an NB vote.  Let's assume that the comment was, "OOXML only supports Western texts that read from left to right; we request that it also support languages that read in the opposite direction."  The proposed disposition agrees.  The original NB doesn't bother to vote on this, or does vote "yes," and two NBs vote "no."  Is the disposition then defeated?  If so, is this a good result?

Alex:  > [Andy's comment} If only two votes were received on that disposition, one from the NB most interested and one vote from another NB, and the two votes were not the same, then two would cancel out, if I understand the process correctly.  What exactly would that tell you?

The only two kinds of vote that would "cancel out" are an approve and a disapprove. In this case the vote on the disposition would be a tie and the disposition would not be approved. Draw from that what conclusion you want!

Andy: 
The conclusion that I would draw is that this is a poster child example of why disposing of 900 proposed dispositions with an overnight ballot does lip service to completion and serves noones best interests.

Alex:  >[Andy's comment} If no one voted on a single disposition (even the original NB that made the comment that generated the proposed disposition), does that mean that it's a good one, or that no one had the time to really think it through, or couldn't decide?

Who knows what it means, this is voting not mind reading. BTW, there were no such "unvoted on" dispositions.

Andy:  As someone who will have to live with the consequences of OOXML if it is adopted, I say again that this is an example of why the decision made to batch vote on all 900 was unfortunate.  Before you say that the NBs will be well able to factor this into their responses, recall the intense pressure that they will be under. 

Alex: 
> [Andy's comment} those dispositions that were discussed were almost invariably changed

well yes, obviously. If a country brought up a disposition for discussion it would probably be to get some change made, right? It is a false inference from this that _every_ comment would require NB change.

Andy:  No, but when we are already dealing with a specification that came in the door with very poor quality which then had to be worked over in a limited time period with the input of only selected parties, many of them interested, then making it a bit better is not much of a victory.  I say again that if the best that can be done is to make something a bit better, then a more forthright conclusion of the BRM would be not to lend its credibility by approving that proposed disposition at all.

Alex:  > [Andy's comment} Does that sound like a rational way to do the analysis?

Andy, I wish you many happy hours with the spreadsheet. But I'm not sure what you propose will get you anything useful or significant.

Andy:
  Actually, I was responding to the suggestion of a delegate that if one took on this unusual and arduous job that I would be comforted.  I tried to accept that suggestion and see how such an analysis could be productively performed.

Alex: 
> [Andy's comment} if someone chooses not only not to vote on an individual disposition, but to abstain on the rest, then it's hard for me to see this as anything other than "no comment."

NBs abstain for all kinds of reasons, so you should hesitate to interpret it in any particular way. In my experience, abstention most usually signals the wish to register a lack of technical understanding or engagement (which is perfectly ok).

Andy: 
I agree that this would be the normal situation.  It's a bit harder to tell when someone who is already frustrated and tired is checking off a ballot overnight that has over 900 items to vote on.  Had each of the 900 been brought up in the normal course, would some of the abstainers have joined in the discussion?  Unquestionably.  Would the vote have come out differently on some of them?  Statistical probability makes that almost inevitable.  Would the text of some of the dispositions be changed as well?  I don't think this can be questioned.  Would the final dispositions in toto have been improved?  The answer to me is obvious

Alex:  > [Andy's comment} But was that actually a good idea?  My personal view is that [...]

The key point here is that it was, almost by definition, a good idea because it is WHAT THE MEETING VOTED TO DO. With no dissent.

Andy:  Ah, here is where we finally get to the nub of the matter, and where I think the process and the fast track questions must come back together.  Just because a decision is made in accordance with rules does not make it a good decision - just a conformant decision.  I accept that you,  as convenor, were under a duty to try and cover all 1,100 dispositions, and you deserve credit for upholding the rules and achieving that result.  But I do not accept that the result was a good result, or that the delegations should have passed this vote.  When the rules were not made to address such a contingency, then following the rules blindly does not serve an honorable purpose.  For some time now, the phrase "We were only following orders" has not been as credible as it used to be, eh?

Alex: 
Andy, you then go on to make some general criticisms about the Fast Track process which are all fair play (not that I will comment). However, I am very concerned about the misleading headline of your article and the misleading presentation of figures which supports it, leaving aside sundry other inaccuracies which are less important but which could usefuly be corrected once accurate information is available from ISO and IEC, and a fuller picture can emerge.

Andy:  I acknowledge some inaccuracies, which I have already addressed; if there are any remaining, do bring them to my attention and I'll address them as well.  After all, you have to acknowledge that the public wasn't allowed to listen in first hand, although they do  have to live with the results. 

But I disagree that we can really separate the issue of whether OOXML should have been fast tracked with how the BRM concluded.  This whole OOXML process from the beginning has been like a runaway train careering down the tracks, with no one willing to pull the emergency brake line.  Blindly following the rules can, and often does, result in disaster.  If OOXML is finally adopted at the end of March, the BRM will have assisted in a far less useful standard being adopted to ensure that those "billions and billions of documents" remain accessible.  As an interested party in such a result, along with everyone else in the world, I look  to those that control and participate in the process to protect me.

There have been situations in my career where I have resigned positions rather than remain part of a process that I thought was off the rails.  I think that those in the BRM process who were trying to do the right thing simply lost sight of what the right thing might be.  I also expect that this is much easier to realize from the outside than it was in the inside in the heat of the moment and under the fatigue of the effort.

I'm sorry that we didn't meet in Geneva, and hope we have the opportunity to do so in the future.

Andy

In all the different (political) meetings I've ever been in as either a participant or a chairman, it was customary for the chairman to draw up the agenda for a meeting according to the following rules: 1) schedule proposals on which the decision is a formality (to do away with stuff that can be implemented) and decide on them right away 2) then do a tally of the remaining proposals and draw up a schedule on what needs to be discussed 3) suggest (controversial) proposals where a large number of the participants indicate their urge to be heard to be taken off-line, either to resolve them by the end of the meeting or at a later date. 4) schedule proposals with little comments to be handled first. Alex, as far as I can tell the way you approached this BRM is the exact opposite of what I described above and (as you indicate yourself) in the end leaves a lot of room for interpreting the meaning of the votes on the comments not being discussed. With 20-20 hindsight, would you have chosen a different approach to the BRM, for example with the (universally) tried and tested method I described here?

Andy,

"If those that want to see OOXML go through are successful, then we will have to live with a standard that could have been much better if more time had been spent."

In all of the discussions about the BRM, there is talk about an attempt to make DIS 29500 a better standard. But I have never been able to figure out who wants a better DIS 29500?

MS and Ecma have never shown any interest in a "better"  DIS29500 standard, only in one that is even more closely aligned with MS Office 2007. I remember that MS have not committed to implement anything in DIS29500 that deviates from Ecma 376 (or Office 2007).

Few, if any, outside MS have been able to implement anything more than partial read-only access to MS Office 2007 Ecma 376 documents.  I believe even MS Office for the Mac has not been able to do high fidelity processing of Ecma 376 documents. But anything easier to implement will be incompatible with MS Office 2007 documents. So why bother?

Who are those people not paid by MS waiting for a better DIS29500 that will not be implemented by MS?

Winter

Winter,

From a pragmatic point of view, there are many developers in the Microsoft ecosystem who I expect don't care which standard wins, so long as they one they have to deal with is well documented, or may even prefer OOXML (Aptiva is one that comes to mind, which plans to make money off of OOXML).  Same for customers, who don't yet "get it" about why they should care.  And then there are all of those delegates who have tried in good faith to do what they were asked to do.

As you can see from my own comments, I think that this attitude is counterproductive, but hey, it's a big world, and I'm sure that different people are going to have different opinions.  And then there's the simple truth that if ISO/IEC JTC1 does approve OOXML, the better it is, the better everyone will be that has to live with it. 

  -  Andy

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Alex Brown has been kind enough to offer some comments, to which I have responded.  They are in the set of comments just above this post and are, I think, quite useful in fleshing out what those in the room were trying to accomplish with their vote on 900 proposed dispositions,  and why I personally think that this decision while well intentioned, was not a good decision.

  -  Andy

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For those that have asked for additional information on my sources, I see that Frank Farance has been quoted in a number of articles now.  While there were many delegates I spoke to in addition to Frank, he is a Head of Delegation (for the US), and therefore was a part of discussions in HoD meetings as well as in general meetings.  Here are some of his statements, with links to where they can be found:

ComputerWorld article (Eric Lai):
"Eighty percent of the changes were not discussed," said Frank Farance, head of the U.S. delegation to this week's ballot resolution meeting (BRM) in ISO, which voted against the changes. "It's like if you had a massive software project and 80% of it was not run through QA."

"It's a big problem," Farance continued. "I've never seen anything like this, and I've been doing this for 25 years."

"People were doing the usual amount of lobbying," he said. "Was anybody doing anything egregious or out of process? No."

EfluxMedia article (Alice Turner:  Same quotes


InfoWorld/IDG News Service
article (Peter Sayer):

If the specification for the OOXML file format is adopted as a standard in its current form, "there are likely to be hundreds of defects," said the head of the U.S. delegation at the meeting, Frank Farance.

"Virtually every comment we processed did not survive unedited," he said.

The 80 percent of comments that were not discussed during the meeting were put to a "default vote," resulting in the automatic adoption of ECMA's recommendations without modification by delegates, he said.

"I see no particular rationale for why we were limited in time. I don't know how you can deal with 6,000 pages with 3,500 comments in a week. It's like trying to run a two-minute mile," he said.

ComputerWorld article (John Fontana):

"I have been doing standards work for 25 years and I have never been through a BRM like this," said Frank Farance, head of the US delegation. "We made good progress on 20 per cent, but virtually everything we were able to approve this week needed review, so it is highly likely that the other 80 per cent would have required some degree of editing."

Farance said: "a lot of rules were made up on the fly," after the delegates realized it was mid-week and their task was only 20 per cent completed. "We were able to get some things corrected, but it was sort of like putting your finger in a dike and then seeing another hole and then another hole."