I Among twenty snowy mountains/ The only moving thing/ Was the eye of the black bird.
II I was of three minds/ Like a tree/ In which there are three blackbirds...
V I do not know which to prefer/ The beauty of inflections/ Or the beauty of innuendoes,/ The blackbird whistling/ Or just after...
Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, 1917
Although much of the brouhaha of the OOXML adoption process has abated, the post-partum process of reviewing how Joint Technical Committee One (JTC1), the ISO/IEC body that gave birth to both ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF) and OXMLISO/IEC IS 29500 (OOXML), continues. More specifically, meetings continue to be held in which a variety of related matters are being considered, including the ongoing maintenance of each standard, and whether and how the Directives that control the deliberations of JTC1 committees might profitably be amended to address the concerns that arose during the consideration of these two overlapping document format standards.
Most recently, representatives of JTC1 and the SWG Directives committee met in Nara (JTC1) and Osaka (SWG), Japan to review these weighty matters. As has been the case in the past, a variety of those directly involved in the ODF/OOXML saga wrote about the results of this latest meeting, including three bloggers who attended the Ballot Resolution Meeting that served as the climax of the OOXML adoptive process: Alex Brown, Rick Jelliffe and Tim Bray. You can find their alternately contrapuntal and contrary observations here, here and here, respectively. I did not attend the gathering in Nara, but I have read the recommendations made at that meeting (as well as Alex's, Rick's and Tim's commentaries on them), and ruminated a bit on the recommendations and the events that inspired them. Here is my own sense of what others have also observed.
Note: Nominations for the awards noted below will close on October 8, so please act now
I almost missed this story, until I caught a link to it at Bob Sutor's blog. As I was about to do the same and simply add a link to it to my News Picks column, it occurred to me that there's more of a story here than meets the eye.
That said, let's start with the superficial story, as announced in a posting at the ODF Alliance Web site, issued on September 9, which begins as follows (as usual, the full text appears at the end of this blog entry):
Know someone in your community—an individual, government official, NGO or other entity—who has significantly advanced the cause of document freedom, yet whose actions have not received the public recognition they deserve?...The purpose of the award is to recognize the contribution of individuals or entities in promoting ODF adoption, the mission of the ODF Alliance. Here’s how you can help! Nominate an individual or entity you work with closely or someone you have observed who stands out as a leader in the ODF community.
What's remarkable about this story, of course, is not that the ODF Alliance is giving awards to those that deserve them it (why not? It's a great way to advance the Alliances cause as well), but that there are so many people in so many countries around the world that are eligible by reason of their service in support of what was once an obscure software standard. Now, how often does something like that come along?
As I reported yesterday, the OOXML appeals brought by Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela have been rejected by the Technical Management Board (TMB) and Standardization Management Board (SMB) of ISO and IEC, respectively. I have now received the actual voting results for the IEC vote, and an indecipherable screenshot of the ISO votes. I'll hope to add the ISO votes later on when I get more comprehensible information, but in the meantime, here are the IEC results.
In each case, the questions included in the ballot were the same:
a) Not to process the appeal any further
b) To process one or more of the appeals, which would require setting up of a conciliation panel
For each appeal, a board member could vote "yes," "no" or "abstain," with only the yes and no votes counting for purposes of determining whether or not the vote would pass, and a two-thirds vote being required for passage (the "Conclusion" at the end of the voting results cites clause 10.4, Rules of Procedure, as the reference for these rules).
Update: For the appeal by appeal details of the IEC Board vote, see this blog entry.
ISO and IEC have announced the rejection of the four appeals submitted by the National Bodies of Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela. The rejection follows on the heels of July 9th recommendation of the Secretaries General of each of the two standards organizations to their respective management boards not to give the appeals further consideration.
Under the ISO rules of process, this now paves the way for the as-adopted version of OOXML, now called IS0/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology - Office Open XML, to proceed to publication. That version is substantially different than the current implementation of OOXML in Office 2007, and its text has still not been publicly released by ISO/IEC. According to a joint press release, "this is expected to take place within the next few weeks on completion of final processing of the document." Intriguingly, the press release goes on to say, "and subject to no further appeals against the decision."
Last night someone sent me a copy of a document delivered by the CEOs of ISO and IEC earlier that day to the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB). That documents summarizes the four appeals filed in relation to the adoption of DIS 29500 (OOXML), and provides a response to each claimed basis for appeal. Those appeals, you will recall, were registered by the National Bodies of South Africa, India, Venezuela and Brazil, not all of which have became publicly available. Under the Directives, the next step in the Appeals process is for the TMB to vote on each appeal, with each member being entitled to vote yes, no or abstain on one or the other of the following resolutions, in each case as to each appeal separately:
a) Not to process the appeal further
b) To process one or more of the appeals, which would require setting up of a conciliation panel
If more than one appeal is approved for further consideration, the CEOs recommend that a single panel be formed to address them (I've previously described the ongoing process in greater detail here). The TMB's are asked to vote by August 4.
The recommendation of the CEOs is as follows:
The processing of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 project has been conducted in conformity with the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, with decisions determined by the votes expressed by the relevant ISO and IEC national bodies under their own responsibility, and consequently, for the reasons mentioned above, the appeals should not be process further.
Those who have been disappointed by how the Fast Track process was conducted will also be disappointed by the reasoning they will find in the document, which can be effectively be summarized as follows:
Regular readers will notice that I've been woefully silent the last few weeks, at first due to having too many irons in the fire, and for the last ten days due to being on a family vacation abroad, returning not till July 2. As a result, I've been not only behind on blogging, but also on keeping up with the news while limited primarily to Blackberry access since I left. But I thought that it might be useful to take a break and share the "Huh?!?" I experienced when I stumbled across this article by Andrew Donoghue at ZDNet while briefly enjoying an island of laptop connectivity in a hotel lobby in Florence. The article is titled, "Microsoft admits to standards ignorance pre-OOMXL" and is based on remarks by Microsoft national technology officer Stuart McKee. Even more incredibly, it bears the following subtitle:
Microsoft has admitted that, despite being one of the dominant names in IT for over 30 years, it had little or no experience or expertise around software standards until the company was mid-way through the process of getting Office Open XML approved by the International Organization for Standardization.
Why "Huh?" Because Microsoft has been playing the standards game, butting heads over prior technologies such as ActiveX, Java and much, much more with the best of them for decades as a member of hundreds of standards organizations. Moreover, it has held many board seats along the way, and has had a staff of attorneys for some time dedicated to standards matters. That staff includes the former General Counsel of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Still, while McKee has over-spun the point by a few hundred RPMs, there is an important point to be made on the subject of Microsoft's standards-related capabilities, as I'll explain in greater detail below.
Update: This is an overdue update to this blog entry, noting that a late appeal from Venezuela was received and accepted after the deadline recognized by ISO/IEC. I had thought I would write a separate entry on it, but as it is now old news, I am updating this entry so as not to leave a misleading impression that the final count was only three.
Last night was the deadline for filing appeals to the adoption of OOXML by ISO/IEC JTC 1. This morning, a spokesman for the IEC acknowledged the receipt of a total of three appeals by the deadline, with the third and final appeal being filed by India, as reported by Peter Sayers, of the IDG News Service. I have no news as yet whether the fourth country that planned to file an appeal has decided not to do so, missed the deadline, or sent its letter only to ISO (Peter reports that an ISO spokesman declined to confirm how many appeals it has received at this time. The deadline date is a matter of some confusion, as some National Bodies were under the impression that the deadline was June 2, so it remains possible that a fourth appeal will (or already has been) received.
In other technicality news, the IEC spokesman noted that the Brazil letter had been improperly addressed - duplicate copies should have been sent to the CEOs of both the IEC and ISO - but that this technical irregularity would be waived [Jonathan Buck, the IEC spokesman, inaccurately stated to Peter that the Indian appeal, rather than the Brazilian appeal, had been improperly addressed; the IDG story will be corrected shortly]
More substantively, what happens next? Ironically, "what happens next" is described in the same general and sometimes vague Directives that have caused ongoing dissent in the process to date, and figure prominently in the South African and Brazilian appeals themselves.
Associação Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT), the National Body representing Brazil, today filed an appeal to the approval of OOXML by ISO/IEC, bringing the current total of appeals to two, with as many as two additional appeals to come, based upon what I have heard from private sources. The text of the Brazilian appeal appears in full at the end of this blog entry, supplied by a trusted source in Brazil.
While this latest appeal overlaps the South African objections in part, it also raises new concerns, some of which are particular to the interests of Brazil, rather than applying to the process as a whole. As a result, it raises not only additional issues, but also ones that present a categorically different basis for appeal as well.
Brazil's objections fall under two main headings, the second of which was also raised by South Africa. That objection relates to the fact that the reconciliation draft of DIS 29500 that was delivered to ISO on March 29 still has not been released, even to the National Bodies. Despite the fact that this release has been requested by many different parties representing multiple viewpoints, no public or private explanation has thus far been given for the failure to follow rules calling for the releasee of the draft within 30 days of the close of the BRM.
SABS, the National Body member of ISO/IEC JTC1 for South Africa, has filed a formal appeal with both ISO and IEC, challenging the Fast Track adoption of OOXML. With the filing of this formal appeal, DIS 29500 is now formally in limbo (i.e., cannot become an approved standard) until the appeal has been addressed.
The cited basis for South Africa's appeal is found in the following text of Clause 11.1.2 of the applicable Directives:
A P Member of JTC1 or an SC may appeal against any action or inaction, on the part of JTC 1 or an SC when the P member considers that in such action or inaction:
- questions of principle are involved;
- the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO; or
- the point giving rise to objection was not known to JTC 1 or SC during earlier discussions.
Microsoft today announced that it would update Microsoft Office 2007 to natively support ODF 1.1, but not to implement its own OOXML format. Moreover, it would also join both the OASIS ODF working group as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 working group that has control of the ISO/IEC version of ODF. Implementation of DIS 29500, the ISO/IEC JTC 1 version of OOXML that has still not been publicly released will await the release of Office 14, the ship date of which remains unannounced.
The same announcement reveals that Office 2007 will also support PDF 1.1, PDF/A and Microsoft's competing fixed-text format, called XML Paper Specification. XML Paper Specification is currently being prepared by Ecma for submission to ISO/IEC under the same "Fast-Track" process by which OOXML had been submitted for consideration and approval.
Yesterday afternoon was when I first began to hear news through the grapevine that Microsoft's Jason Matusow (director of corporate standards) and Doug Mahugh (senior product manager for Microsoft Office) would announce native support of ODF. later in the day, I started to get email from journalists who had been alerted that Microsoft would make a format-related announcement, and were trying to figure out what it would say. Now that the announcement has been made and the first press reports are beginning to surface, there may be more questions to ask about ODF support now than there were yesterday. In this blog entry I'll review what has been said, what has not, and what questions remain.