OOXML Woes Continue as Norway Files Protest with ISO Relating to its Own Vote

Updated 4/1:  A press release has been issued by Standards Norge defending its decision.  An English translation of that press release is posted at Steve McGibbon's blog, and can be found here.  Geir Isene has posted a partial response here.

One of the things that most of us learn at our mother's knee is that you shouldn't rush things.  If you do, you'll make silly mistakes.  Mothers also tend to tell their children to play by the rules, but some apparently listen better than others to that advice as well.

The wisdom of the first truism was demonstrated most clearly during the Ballot Resolution Meeting in Geneva, although its effects had been evident throughout the entire Fast Track process.  In the latest evidence of the other truism, the first formal protest has been filed with ISO over a National Body vote.  The National Body in question is Norway, and the protest has been filed by...(wait for it)...Norway itself. 

How can all of this be true in a country like Norway?  Elections this flawed usually only occur in Florida.

The complete story has been developing at the blog of Geir Isene, who left a comment at my blog yesterday, pointing tohis account of what had transpired on Friday at a meeting of Standards Norge, the Norwegian Standards Intitute. That entry read in part as follows:

March 28th: Meeting in the Norwegian Standards Institute (Standard Norge).

Purpose: To decide the final vote for Norway on whether the document format OOXML should become an international standard.

The meeting: 27 people in the room, 4 of which were administrative staff from Standard Norge.

The outcome: Of the 24 members attending, 19 disapproved, 5 approved.

The result: The administrative staff decided that Norway wants to approve OOXML as an ISO standard.

Their justification: “Standard Norge puts emphasis on that if this [OOXML] becomes an ISO/IEC standard, it will be improved to better accommodate the users’ needs.”

This translates to: “Yes, we know the standard is broken, 79% of our technical committee have told us. But we hope that it someday will be repaired by someone. And we’ll be happy to help if someone can give us the resources.”

today, he sent me an email to another entry at his blog, in which he reports that Stephen Pepper, the chairman of the relevant Norwegian committee, has sent a formal protest to ISO, the text of which reads as follows:

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman (of 13 years standing) of the Norwegian mirror committee to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34. I wish to inform you of serious erious irregularities in connection with the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) and to lodge a formal protest.

You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway’s vote from No with comments to Yes.

Because of this irregularity, a call has been made for an investigation by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry with a view to changing the vote.

I hereby request that the Norwegian decision be suspended pending the results of this investigation.

It remains to be seen whether Norway could change its vote, if that is the outcome of the investigation,  whether it will simply lose its right to change its vote entirely, in which case its flawed vote to “approve” would revert to the “disapprove” vote that if filed last year, or whether ISO might refuse to change a vote after the deadline had passed.

Pamela Jones has posted a detailed analysis of the rules that relate to appeals of decisions in ISO/IEC JTC1, which you can find here.

One gets the impression that the tale of the final vote on OOXML will be in the news for some time to come.

For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

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Comments (19)

  1. Does it really matter? A lot of NB voted without consultation with technical committees (for example in Russia low-level clerk sent "Yes, without comments" since relevant technical commitee had NO meetings and no comments at all), many others voted "Yes" when technical committee said "No" (like US or Norway), but result is still "aprove" vote.

    Since Microsoft only needed rubber-stamp and is not interested in standards beyond that we can conclude that the battle was lost and move on. Yup: ISO was shown as whore (albeit not very cheap: Microsoft was forced to spend a lot of time, efforts and presumably money to get that "Yes" vote), a lot of good people lost faith in it, but this is not the end of the world…

    • I strongly disagree. Yes, the ISO Process has been gamed and all the checks and balances have been broken, *but* OOXML isn’t a standard yet.

      If the ISO executive is wise, they’d suspend approval until all investigations are concluded and reject it once the OOXML fails. Ultimately, that’s the last check and balance in place. If the ISO executive blocks OOXML, it’s credibility is not lost — just strained. And if ISO begins the process of standardizing their own standards so that this sort of thing can’t happen again, then ISO will be much stronger.

      There really is nothing for ISO go gain by approving OOXML. It’s just one possible standard out of an ocean of ISO standards. To lose credibility over this would be the definition of stupidity.

      And it would be very bad for the rest of us, regardless on whether you believe ISO on OOXML or not. If you believe in ISO, then OOXML wins because using ODF in the defacto standard MS Word is more troublesome. All things being equal, OOXML appears to be "the better choice". The fact that all things are not equal evades you if you blindly trust ISO. And if you distrust ISO and other standards, then the defacto standard wins — i.e. MS Word.

  2. While it’s a bit off topic, since so much of the discussion here focused on ethics and actions by Microsoft, it seems appropriate to point out that today, the US federal government formally suspended IBM from new contracts for ethics issues!

    So while posters here want to paint a picture of Microsoft as the only questionable actor in the OOXML debate, I think it’s only fair to question how much of the anti-Microsoft fervor is being driven by IBM – a company who clearly needs an ethics lesson or two itself.

    • Well, whatever IBM and the EPA issues are, its pretty much irrelevant to this discussion on standards.

    • The evidence for Microsofts manipulations is quite overwhelming. It is quite unfair to disqualify all opposition to OOXML simply as IBM cronies. ODF has a lot of independent support that has no connections to IBM. You can’t say that for the other side.

      • "It is quite unfair to disqualify all opposition to OOXML simply as IBM cronies"

        No, this was not unfair, but part of a propaganda drive from MS.

        OOXML is a single vendor pseudo standard.

        In true MS fashion, the "opponent" MUST be labelled as a single vendor pseudo standard too. And thus appeared all kinds of "indenpendend" news and posts about ODF == SUN and ODF is SUN’s own private pseudo-standard. SUN’s opposition was just driven by unfair competition.

        At some time it became clear that IBM appeared in the news more than SUN, so the position was switched towards IBM as the evil, monopolistic attacker.

        Never, in all these years, have MS ever admitted that there were others interested in ODF or abhored by OOXML.

        Even now, they still refuse to admit that Andy, Yoon, Ditesh, or PJ have a genuine interest in ODF and document standards. They MUST attribute any and all opposition to one single vendor, eg, IBM.


    • Oh no!  One (count it, one) of the thousands of organizations that prefer Sun’s elegant, clean, well-designed format over MS’s half-baked, incomprehensible, memory-dump hack and governmental-lock-in attempt is in trouble with the law.  Gosh, that only leaves, um, thousands who aren’t.

      To answer your question: I would guess that at most, 2% of the "anti-Microsoft fervor" is driven by IBM.  And that’s a generous estimate.  Anyone with any technical competence and more than a smidgen of intelligence can tell just what a maldesigned crock MSOOXML is.  We don’t need some former evil monopolist to tell us how evil the current evil monopolist is.  It’s pretty obvious to anyone who looks.  (Although some of us occasionally miss the competence of that former evil monopolist, which is so utterly lacking in the new source of evil.)  🙂

      Anyway, I don’t see how asking for this proposed standard to be properly reviewed and edited to make it into a decent standard is "anti-Microsoft fervor".  Seems like just good sense to me.  Seems like something that would even benefit Microsoft in the long run—if only they weren’t so focused on making sure that nobody escapes their clutches in the short run, they might even see that.

      Xtifr (Debian Developer)

      • "Seems like something that would even benefit Microsoft in the long run—if only they weren’t so focused on making sure that nobody escapes their clutches in the short run, they might even see that."

        MS know that when "users" escape from their clutches in the short run, there will be no long run for them.


      • That’s just silly.  MS isn’t going to vanish even if they lose some of their monopoly power.  The transition from monopolist to market competitor can be a bit rough (as I’m sure IBM will be glad to tell them), but MS has plenty of customers and plenty of fans and plenty of talent.  Competing on quality may not be what they’re used to or what they’re good at, but they have all the tools in place to do so if they ever need to.

        If MS were able to overcome their Not-Invented-Here mindset long enough to add decent ODF support to Office, I have no doubt that they’d become the dominant player in the ODF market virtually overnight, even if OOXML were to die the horrible death it so richly deserves.  ODF isn’t a threat to them and never was.  They simply prefer not to compete if they don’t have to—hence OOXML.


    • Well at this point in time, if ever there was a bought and paid for agency, it’s the EPA.  There’s no way they’d blacklist anybody for actual ethics violations–not anybody who was rich.  Heck, pretty much everyone in a serious administrative position at the EPA was previously in a serious administrative position somewhere like Monsanto or Cargill.  I suspect that to the contrary, this too will turn out to be a result of Microsoft chicanery.

  3. "One thing we have got to change in our strategy — allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company" (Bill Gates).

    That’s what guarantees the MS Office cash cow, and any means are legitimate to ensure that it continues.

      • More to the point, <i>when</i> is it from?

        … and the answer is: 1998, in an e-mail to some other Microsoft execs.

        Microsoft’s done plenty of <b>new</b> bad stuff in the intervening period, I think it’s time to let that old quote die. Or are we still lampooning him for saying "640k should be enough for anybody"? 😉

  4. Steve Pepper is not "Norway" as your headline claims.  Standard Norge is.

    As a respected and leading committee member, his concerns certainly should carry weight in Norway and at Standard Norge, however you know he is not "Norway" so why do you write it?

    Rick Jelliffe

  5. Rick,

    It’s a long headline which makes efficient use of the space available.  Also, have you checked to see whether  the rules allow the Chairman of the Standards Norge mirror committee to issue a protest?  If they do, then he is authorized to speak for Norway in this fashion, and the title of the post is accurate.  Please get back to me when you have checked the rules, and we can see whether a correction is necessary.

    More importantly, if I were to spend even ten minutes going through your blog entries, I could find a half dozen statements that could be picked at with equal validity.  I haven’t spent my time doing that at your blog, because I have more important things to do with my time.  Be assured that this would be a time consuming process if I were to read your blog regularly.  Moreover, there have been many times that I believe that you have seriously misrepresented something, and when I have had the facts to back it up. 

    One thing that’s interesting I’ve noted when you leave these comments at my blog is that when I give a refutation that shows that your point was off base, rather than acknowledge it, you just move on an make another point.  Often the same thing happens again with the next point.  You never acknowledge it if your point was wrong.  Instead, it all smacks of a dog that just wonders into another dog’s yard from time to time simply to raise a leg.

    Clearly, you and I have different base views on ODF and OOXML.  Unlike you, I haven’t included ad hominem statements about you in my blog.  Although I don’t read your  blog  that often, I’ve seen enough such staements when I do visit your blog to know that you’ve made such statements a staple. 

    Perhaps one day you and Patrick Durusau will realize that there is more of importance going on here than document specifications, that people that are sincere in that belief are neither automatically  technically biased, "flakey" or "only one step up from Rob Weir" (very efficient snub to both of us in a single phrase).  They just see some things that you don’t, one of which is that partisanship can cloud your vision and judgment as much as anyone else’s.

    Or, to quote an Indian partner of my father’s many years ago, "You are not only wrong, Sir, but wrong at the top of your voice."


  6. The reply from Norway essentially breaks down into…
    since there were more yes answers in the august hearing we can’t really listen to the march meeting.

    Problem with the argument is that there are very little ground for making the poll equal with technical commitee.

    It is disingenious to assume that the people answering in August had the full information about the number of errors in OOXML. There are even less reason to believe that they could anticipate a BRM that must use a paper ballot since they did not have time to discuss the solutions proposed.

    It is an open question if the people answering in august would still stick to the same oppinion now. The reason why this is the case is that it is unknown if these has kept themself updated about the truth about OOXML. If standard Norway really wanted to use a the hearing method to decide things they should have done a new hearing with the evaluation from the march meeting included to the people voting. Limiting correct information is the key for how Microsoft managed to trick the world to accept OOXML.

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