Jason: A Little Help Please?

I'm a bit mystified by a reference to me in a post that Microsoft's Jason Matusow added to his blog yesterday.  In that entry, Jason states in part:

The general discussion in the media and blogs has been about the vote itself, but Rob Weir from IBM came out with some comments that really should be addressed. Rob points out that membership in the V1 committee has changed in the past month, and the insinuation is that it is somehow inappropriate that companies and individuals would show up to voice their opinion. What’s particularly troubling is that this isn’t just happening with INCITS/V1 but Rob seems determined to question the motivations behind national body membership in Spain, Portugal and Italy as well.  So let’s take some facts into consideration.
Participation Hypocrisy:
  • IBM and ODF advocates (ODF Foundation, Andy Updegrove…) repeatedly have called for mobilization of those who opposed Open XML.

I'm having a bit of trouble following Jason's reasoning here.  Indeed, it's true that I have called for individuals to write to the Massachusetts ITD - in response to an ITD request for public comments - to make their feelings known on ODF and OOXML in a situation where those comments impose no obligation on the decision makers to accommodate those that offer the comments.

But I fail to see how where the hypocricy comes in (on my part), when Jason equates that conduct with what appears to be a global phenomenon of sudden interest by Microsoft business partners, that have heretofor taken no interest in document format stnadard setting, in becoming eleventh hour *voting* members of National Bodies that will determine whether OOXML is adopted as an ISO/IEC JTC1 global standard.  In the former case, those affected are letting those that can make decisions know of their feelings, while in the latter, a select group seems to be intent on (how to say this delicately) stuffing the ballot box. 

Am I missing something here?

There’s much more in Jason’s blog entry, such as this:

So, I am a little confused. V1 committee participation has increased with organizations who have technical and business interests with the standard being discussed.  If IBM is such an advocate for open standards (meaning process and technology), why then be so concerned when it turns out that the openness invites participation of those who disagree with them?

Hmm.  I’m a little confused here, too.  But indeed, perhaps Jason is right, and IBM should go on a global education quest, in an effort to ensure that each National Body enjoys an even wider level of voting participation, as compared to simple input.  Sun would presumably know many knowledgeable companies as well, and should pull out all stops to augment the richness of the dialogue.  Doubtless the ODF Alliance, ODF Fellowship, and countless others might wish to contribute to the voting as well.

Of course, some National Bodies might have difficulty finding a room large enough to accommodate so many dedicated truth seekersl.  Apparently that happened In Portugal when it was time to take a vote on OOXML.  It appears that the chair of the committee thought that there was plenty of diversity to be found in only two dozen attendees, with no reason to worry that this would exclude representatives of IBM or Sun, and despite the fact that some companies apparently already had more than one representative in the room.  Here is an extract from an attendee’s notes of how that transpired, as reported at Groklaw:

GH: Demands this item to be kept open for there are doubts about new members that beg the questions:

  1. Sun wasn’t admitted entry for lack of space. Does ONN maintain this decision, and is it sensible?
  2. Is this “rule” sustainable when there is more than one person per entity in the room? Is this in conformity with the rules?

CR: States new entities weren’t accepted because of

a) lack of space in the room (20 seating spots — this isn’t true, 24 people were seating at the beggining and there were still chairs in the room)

b) representativity had been achieved (this isn’t true, eg universities, public administration, libraries, etc…), there were software companies, software associations, and even an individual.

The alternative would be to go to an auditorium where one wouldn’t have the same conditions (an U disposition oriented towards the table with the ONS, and President and Secretary of TC).

GH: One shouldn’t sacrifice representativity because more than one person per entity would be present. Considers the decision should be reviwed, demands this request be registered in the minutes.

It seems to me that there is a strange disconnect between Jason’s views and those of Carlos Romero (the “CR” in the notes above, and identified by the note taker as “a MS Proxy” – a characteraization for which I cannot personally vouch). 

Perhaps the method suggested by me, then, might be preferable.  Why not leave the voting to those who have shown consistent, knowledgeable, historical interest in document formats, and content ourselves with sending them our comments, to help inform them in their decisions? 

When emotions are high and (as Jason points out, self interest might be rampant), that seems to be the preferable course of action to me. 

And, moreover, not hypocritical at all.

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Comments (9)

  1. You would always fail to see hypocrisy when you sidle with justice. Justice, unlike personal or professional interests, is less about bias and more about reason.

    Fighting for justice is not lobbying. It’s an ethical responsibility.


  2. To me it seems that "The Godfather of ECMA" is giving offers that can’t be refused (Florida, Portugal .. and what else we will see…)

  3. Much of the response of MS/OOXML responses to the criticism is rather hypocritical.

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

    The relation between MS and a gold partner is not that between competitors, but more like that between a medieval king and his knights (with a few exceptions that have an independend existance). In most respects, they act as hired guns. Most of these companies will face immediate bancrupcy if they attract the ire of a MS CEO.

    Even suggesting that the dependend Gold partners mentioned in all these posts might vote on the technical and economic merrit of OOXML (if they are able to understand it) and not on MS’ orders seems to be the ultimate in cynicism .


    • If the "Gold Partners" are under some obligation of fealty, what do you say to the law firms retained by Microsoft who (as in Italy) suddenly become involved in the technology of document formats?

  4. "Am I missing something here?"

    I suspect it’s that from Mr. Matusow’s perspective all that Microsoft has done is "repeatedly called for mobilization of those who support Open XML" (Open XML being a proxy for Microsoft), i.e. (no pun intended) from his perspective Microsoft has just done the same things that the pro-ODF side has done.  Yet, Microsoft gets criticized for it.

    — Swashbuckler

    • Oh, I know.  I was just being a little snarky.  It is telling, though, where people choose to draw the line, and also the fact that some people recognize boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed better than others.  What I find most interesting about Jason’s blog is that he’d actually try and say that hauling in people around the world that had never participated before is just fine. 

      I expect you’ve already been there, but there’s a pretty interesting thread to this effect running over at Jason’s blog.  If Microsofr (and Jason) recognized the same boundaries, they would both get far less criticism.

        –  Andy

      • "I expect you’ve already been there"

        Yep, I’ve been there.  Haven’t followed the thread though.  I’ll go back and take a look.

      • My take is they draw two lines: one for themselves, i.e., One just above getting their partners into committees and follow their instructions is stuffing the ballot box; Another for their opponent: Anything just below a general "call to arms".

        As for hypocracy? Easy. Adjust the two lines by moving the whole range so that they meet. If they do somethiing just below their line and you did just above your line, you are a hypocrite.

        One thing I really cannot understand is given so much business at stake, why didn’t IBM/Sun participate in ballot box stuffing? It is a rather common technique. The rules of V1 and others are rather effective to stop vote stuffing from succeeding and to give as much warning as possible. They would had seen it coming, i.e. not difficult to miss the opposition as they have to attend two meetings before getting voting rights. Obviously they put their trust in the 2/3 voting rules.

        One way of seeing vote stuffing is the voting pattern: Rob Weir had explained to my (Ctrambler) blog that the OOXML bloc and ODF bloc voted exactly the opposite on the three major votes "Approval, with comments"/"Abstention. with comments"/"disapproved with comments" with OOXML bloc not accepting the last two type.  Any vote stuffing here?

        Initially this was a bit confusing to me: Surely Abstention is acceptable. Piecing information together from Weir’s and Matusow’s blog we can see the reason. MS is not happy with the comments formulated by V1.(The same article reference by Updegrove says that Weir is responsible for 83% of the comments) so the vote against "abstention" is effectively to block committee comments to be given to ANSI.

        In some sense, the anti-vote stuffing provision failed. It did ensure that the view of the original members prevail, but OOXML bloc did get exactly the second best results they are expecting.

  5. It’s only hypocrisy if MS isn’t doing it… For them, it’s just business as usual- sharp dealings…


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