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.
The identical three page letters, signed by Mr. M. Kuscus, Chief Executive Officer of SABS, include other concerns not directly based upon the language of the Directives, as follows:
In addition, South Africa wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards. The ability of large multi-national organizations to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting over-riding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern.
The letter then gives detailed arguments supporting its appeal under each of the subclauses (discussed below in greater detail), and gives the following summary in closing:
In conclusion, South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM. Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyze far too much information in far too little time, involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite the
Directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration.
It is our opinion that the process followed during all stages of the fast track has harmed the reputations of both ISO and IEC and brought the processes enshrined in the Directives into disrepute, and that this negative publicity has, in turn, also harmed the reputations of all member bodies of ISO and the IEC.
The closing of the letter is both telling as well as ironic, coming just after Microsoft’s announcement that it would support ODF in Office 2007, but not DIS 29500, the ISO/IEC JTC 1 version of OOXML, until the as yet unscheduled shipping of Office 14. As a result, the business basis for fast tracking OOXML to begin with – to benefit the enormous installed base of Office users – will be rewarded, at the earliest, in 2010. The Fast Track thus would appear to be a lose-lose all around: a huge imposition on all involved, a lower quality specification at the end than a more deliberative process would have proven, and a damaged reputation for ISO/IEC as well.
The primary bases given for the appeal are as follows:
A failure of the Contradictions process to be run in accordance with the Directives. The one month Contradictions period that begins a fast track process garnered of issues submitted by a number of National Bodies. However, no meeting was called to address these contradictions. The Directives do not require, but do provide for such a meeting when warranted. SABS notes that the Contradictions were not addressed to the satisfaction of the National Bodies, which continued to raise them during the following five-month comment period, indicating to SABS that a meeting was needed to give due consideration to the issues raised.
A failure to achieve consensus on most of the issues that were to be addressed by the BRM. SABS notes that more than three quarters of the issues raised prior to the BRM ("responses") were tabled, and ultimately dispensed with by "blanket voting." SABS calls this decision "procedurally flawed," concluding:
Effectively, this required the national bodies to write a blank checque approving the proposals of the authors of the proposed standard, which is inappropriate for any standard, never mind one that has generated considerable controversy.
The letter also challenges the voting procedure utilized at the meeting, which allowed all attendees, and not just P members, to vote, a controversy that has previously been aired an a variety of blogs, including that of Convenor Alex Brown.
ISO/IEC has failed to release a final version of DIS 29500 and the Meeting Report within 30 days of the close of the BRM: Clause 13.12 of the Directives provides as follows:
In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance.
The BRM ended on February 29, and although Ecma delivered a revised draft based on the BRM to ISO on March 29 (at the very end of the period during which National Bodies could change their vote), that draft has still not been released, even to the National Bodies. SABS concludes this point with this observation:
Given the magnitude of the specification and the number of identified edits required it was clear that the directive could not have been met. This is the clearest possible indiation that DIS 29500 as submitted by Ecma and as modified by the BRM is not ready for fast track processing. It was not incumbent on the participants of the BRM to modify this clearly stated requirement.
And so, with the implementation of DIS 29500 in Office now postponed for the indefinite future (and therefore, presumably, its implementation by any other vendor as well), the formal post mortem on the process that hatched this orphan standard begins.
The full text of the letter, titled, Appeal from the South African national body regarding the outcome of the fast-track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML can be found here.
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I’d like to clear up an issue that I think we’ve all been tripping over lately. Here are three related questions:
I think that people are getting confused at each other when someone makes an argument about one of the above, and it’s read incorrectly as an argument about one of the other two.
Alex Brown has long said that PAS and FT should be abolished, and it would seem that Patrick Durusau agrees. Although Rick Jeliffe has often spoken in positive terms about fast tracking in general, that’s mostly been in responsse to over-the-top criticism, and I don’t recall having heard him explicitly express an opinion about their future role. Andy and I have talked about ways to make fast tracking work, but personally that was before I knew that getting rid of them was an option. Many others have spoken pejoratively about the processes, leading me to assume that there’s no backing in the lay community for keeping it.
Answering the second question is trickier than the first, and standards folk have (with good reason) been reluctant to state their feelings one way or the other. Standards development means looking for ways to improve the future, so speculating about what things might have been like if we’d done things differently seems to be frowned upon. Nevertheless, Rick has talked about some issues being regrettable, and Alex has made no effort to suggest that DIS 29500 was a special case in his dislike of the FT process. I think it would be fair to say that Andy feels that the fast-tracking DIS 29500 was a mistake. As for myself, I think a long standardisation process would have produced some great stuff, which the fast track has put farther away, and perhaps out of reach altogether.
The final question is the knottiest problem, because of the realities of the ISO process. A super-majority of national bodies voted to make IS 29500 a standard, and suggesting that the ISO disregard such a vote is as serious a matter as repealing a constitutional amendment (if you’re an American) or disregarding Ireland’s vote on the treaty of Lisbon (if you’re European). Sorry, rest of the world – I don’t know of a more universal analogy. With the notable exception of the four NBs appealing the decision, standards folk have generally been opposed to anything so drastic, preferring to follow every avenue for making IS 29500 as successful as it can still be. Personally, I barely understand the implications, let alone feel qualified to have an opinion on the matter.
For the sake of clarity in future, I’d like to ask everyone what their answers to the above questions are, or why they’d prefer not to answer.
– Andrew Sayers
"A super-majority of national bodies voted to make IS 29500 a standard". True. But their votes were highly anomalous so it’s not a "super-majority", as inumerous evidences have proven. Using an analogy, it was not a fair election. In the end, if ISO in our dreams went against the approval of the standard, they would not be disrespecting anyone in my opinion. What matters is the quality of the standard and what should be done is to send the format again through the normal process.
It’s important to differentiate between allegations of corruption at the NB level and at the ISO level. As I understand it, the ISO’s job is just to count the votes – if every country in the world voted for a standard because Bill Gates gave them money, or because their governments thought it would be a vote-winner, or just because they thought it would be funny to annoy some bloggers, then that’s a problem between nations and their representative bodies. It’s only an ISO problem if there’s an error of process. Of course, none of this is to minimise the seriousness of the allegations – just that upgrading ISO from functionary to policeman isn’t the solution.
I take your point about the quality of the standard, but there’s a flip side to that argument: say you’re a brilliant technologist with enough income to spend some time making the world a better place without selling your soul to big business. Would you want to spend 18 months hammering away at a standard if you expected the ISO to throw your results away without giving you a chance to address their complaints?
Finally, your post made me realise we’re both assuming that getting the opinion of NBs is a possible but non-trivial process, so I wonder if one of the experts here could answer the following hypothetical: say everyone that worked on DIS 29500 woke up tomorrow and decided to reverse their opinion – all the doubters became convinced, all the convinced suddenly had doubts. How long would that message take to circulate, and how would that circulation happen? Would it be a mad week on a mailing list or a gradual realisation over three months of teleconferencing? Do subject experts even stick around after the BRM is over?
– Andrew Sayers
The way it preferably works is that each NB has a continuing mirror committee for every SC it is a P-member of, and perhaps some kind of committees for the SCs it is an O-member of. Sometimes these are amalgamated, so that the same NB committee handles multiple SCs, etc.
Anyway, the ideal is that these committees have a mix of experience and new blood, and that newbies who come along because they have only some particular interest can take advantage of the experience of the old-timers, and that the old-timers can seduce the newbies into seeing that there is indeed benefits to long-term participation (newbies quickly get to realize that standardization is a process and a program rather than specific discrete events), and that both can get exposure to different ideas and requirements, and the cooperative win/win mindset.
I think underpinning your comment is some idea that somehow the technical committees somehow fell asleep and will suddenly wake up thinking "Oh my Go what have we done?" I don’t think anyone was asleep, and that quite hard-nosed decisions were made.
Part of the problem with contributing around here is that I’m never quite sure how much explanation to put in to to avoid being misunderstood without being patronising – I guess a little more would have helped in this case. I wasn’t trying to suggest that anyone was sleepwalking through the process, nor do I think that that’s what happened. What I wanted to do was construct a situation where the maximum possible amount of information needed to be conveyed at once, in order to find some sort of upper bound for the lag time between someone changing their mind and someone else learning about it.
Based on what you’ve said, how accurate is the following guess:
Although it differs from NB to NB, mirror committees generally talk pretty frequently within each committee, using whatever technology they prefer – letter, phone, mailing list, wiki, etc. Inter-committee discussions are more sporadic, and depend on a range of factors such as language barriers, time zones, and personal inter-committee friendships. There are no formal rules about how a mirror committee should make decisions, but it tends to be that history is made by those who turn up, and that each NB tends to broadly agree a position before shopping it around to other NBs or formally to ISO/IEC.
Also, based on the above guess, to what degree would you say that you’re concerned when writing public comments not to throw out ideas that your own mirror committee has the right to hear first? For example, I seem to recall you took your initial assessment of the BRM down for that reason. I don’t mean this as an attack – it seems a perfectly legitimate thing to do – it’s just that it’s handy for me to know which questions it would be unreasonable for me to expect you to answer.
– Andrew Sayers
This implies that there is some time available to do useful thinking and communicating. That already answers the question in the subject of this comment affirmative.
You simply cannot discuss thousands of pages of complex technical matter in a few months in an international setting. So how can the FT not have been harmful to DIS29500?
And this again raises the question why this FT procedure for a new standard was chosen instead of adapting ODF, which was already in a functioning state?
(I have some idea about the answer, and it has nothing to do with technical aspects of Ecma376)
Every NB has different rules for committee membership.
In Australia, there has to be enough community interest to establish a mirror committee. Plus it has to be in an area that Standards Australia cares enough about to provide resources for (they have thousands of standards in development and maintenance: people have little idea about how important standards are to every industry…indeed, perhaps the software industry is the *least* affected by standards.) Then individual members have to show that they represent some constituency: in my case this would be getting letters of recommendation from a few different significant companies in my industry (industrial and technical publishing) or representing some agency or non-for-profit group like a user group.
In some countries, there is a fee (Australia is free.) In other countries, they pay you if you are an office holder (Australia doesn’t, but they do have some grants for travel and expenses that they ration out if you can make a case: I went to Geneva on this, for example, and in the past they have provided matching funding for travel.) In some countries there are sectoral quotas. In other countries, membership may be by invitation, or may be controlled by government policy. For some work involving grants or money, you may have to sign a contract-like document.
For Australia, merely being the editor of an ISO standard at SC34 is not enough to be guaranteed a seat on the local mirror committee, or even that there will be a mirror committee. You have to have recent local attestation. At SC34, you can participate by being a member of an NB delegation, or as an invited expert, or as a representative of some liaison body: SC34 have had experts from American Math Society, International SGML User’s Group, American Bible Society, OASIS, ECMA and others. The JTC1 Directives set out how consortia and not-for-profit interest groups can get representation. However, only NBs can vote ultimately (in plenary meetings of SC34), though any expert or delegate can participate in working groups which operate under consensus principles, with considerable leeway to the editor and to the working group convenor. The plenary meetings of SC34 are highly formal affairs with NB voting: SC34 even has a policy that all working group material has to be submitted six weeks before the meeting in order to be discussed by a working group, and that resolutions for the SC34 plenary have to be raised before the last day of the meeting, in order to guarantee translation and consideration by non-English speaking NBs.
There are good faith requirements on invited experts, which is that they must leave their prejudices at the door and work to make each standard the best it can be. I see Jon Bosak recently quoted saying something about ISO procedures being designed for a cooperative behaviour and falling apart in the face of antagonistic behaviour: I certainly agree that antagonistic groups intent on win/lose make bad standards, however I don’t see anything in the procedures of W3C or OASIS or ECMA that make them any better (or much different) than JTC1 (in fact, as I have mentioned before, I think direct voting by sectarian interests will positively promote cartelization.)
" I think underpinning your comment is some idea that somehow the technical committees somehow fell asleep and will suddenly wake up thinking "Oh my Go what have we done?" I don’t think anyone was asleep, and that quite hard-nosed decisions were made."
Andy made a comment that said the opposite. They were all fully awake, but some (how many?) got a phone call form the highest reaches of government and were ordered to shut down their technical judgment and vote YES. The problem is that the hard-nosed decision could have had little to do with techical aspects of OOXML.
That brings me to the problem of improving (saving?) OOXML.
I have difficulty in determining what there is to save?
MS has no real plans to implement the final DIS29500 standard, they essentially seem to stick with their implementation of Ecma376. (DIS29500 transitional, or deprecated?) So no-one will be using the final DIS29500 standard for some years to come. Improving DIS29500 while all applications of the only supplier even do not use the current standard would seem quite unpopular to me. And if past performance are any guide, MS will not touch the standard again after it has been approved (they never did with other standards).
And I think MS has given a quite strong signal in India, Malaysia, and New Zealand how they will act towards those who want to really improve DIS29500. Another reason I can see for experts to remain at some distance of this TC if you have real ideas for improvement.
I can understand that people outside MS & partners would have much more incentives to simply help out with ODF. The fact that even MS needed quite a lot of time to implement OOXML in MS Office on the Mac will also not exactly stimulate others to try. In my complete ignorance, I have yet to see anything that can be done with OOXML, but not with ODF (but I am sure you will be able to give me many examples). And with ODF, there are several implementations that you can actually work on (and see how they work).
In my ignorance I ask: what is there to save in DIS29500, and who would want to use the improved, new standard? Is it not simply much more efficient to improve ODF and add the functionality it is suggested to mis?
I appreciate your thoughtful questions. Here are my answers:
The first question to ask is whether there is an ongoing need for some sort of ISO/IEC approval for consortium-generated standards? While the purchasing rules of some governments remain as they are, the answer to that would appear to be "yes" (better a good consortium-generated standard than a bad formal one). So the question then becomes, if they were eliminated, should something new be created? Originally, I believe that the concept for the PAS (process, at least) was for already-established standards that the marketplace had decided were useful to achieve a degree of formal recognition. Hence, the process was more lightweight, since the standard had already been completed and decided by the marketplace to be useful.
This suggests to me that the right answer is to reform the system, rather than eliminate it. Otherwise already proven standards would not only need to go through a longer than necessary vetting process, but existing implementations could well be "broken" (i.e., made non-interoperable with new implementaitons). There would seem to be no purpose to this.
Thus it seems to me to be possible that one element of any reform should be that the PAS process could be limited to standards that had already achieved multiple implementations and meaningful market uptake.
As indicated above, it seems to me that a reformed PAS process should continue. Other reforms could include evaluation at the front end of how long the approval should take, taking into account all relevant criteria, including length of the spec itself.
It is less clear to me why a single organization (Ecma) needs a unique and different avenue (the FT process). As I understand it, Ecma’s relationship was a historical compromise related to the formation fo JTC 1 whose existence may no longer have a useful purpose.
I think that the four appeals should be taken seriously and then appropriate action should be taken. Those actions could include:
– Judging that NB approval was sufficient, notwithstanding the appeals, and progressing DIS 29500 to publishing (I think that this would be a regrettable result)
– As above, but also announcing a serious – and public- review of the OOXML process with a deadline for submitting a report recommending reforms intended to avoid a repeat performance (this would be the minimum that would make sense to me – note use of the word "public," as compared to whatever is going on behind closed doors right now).
– Deciding that the appeals have merit, and that (for example) the NB vote does not indicate that OOXML meets minimum quality standards. Would any of us wish a hospital to use a health standard, or the highway department to use a safety standard, solely because it got the required vote, even if there was evidence that the quality was not up to traditional minimum standards? Would we wish to have these improvements await the "maintenance phase?" I recognize that such a move might be extraordinary , but I don’t think that this should be a bar. This would be a sensible approach, in my view – conjoined with the review commission.
I have consistently written that I think that Microsoft took a calculated risk in pushing such a large and poorly prepared spec through so quickly, gambling that it would win the original vote. Now it has won the battle, but lost the war, with its own implementation not to be released until late 2009, at the earliest – perhaps no earlier than a more sensible schedule would have permitted, had it not pushed the envelope so aggressively – or, better yet, joined the OASIS ODF TC back in 2003 to begin with.
"Deciding that the appeals have merit, and that (for example) the NB vote does not indicate that OOXML meets minimum quality standards. Would any of us wish a hospital to use a health standard, or the highway department to use a safety standard, solely because it got the required vote, even if there was evidence that the quality was not up to traditional minimum standards? Would we wish to have these improvements await the "maintenance phase?" I recognize that such a move might be extraordinary , but I don’t think that this should be a bar. This would be a sensible approach, in my view – conjoined with the review commission."
But ITTF has no ability to conduct technical reviews, that is an NB and SC responsibility. The fact is you have a large majority of a large vote saying DIS29500 mark II did meet the minimum quality standards for a standard of that type, with an enormously successful and active review process. SA, India, Venezuela and Brazil already had their chance to vote about the quality of the standard, and they lost the vote: appealing on any grounds which merely rehash what they had a chance to vote on (and which other NBs knew about) is good for headlines but not much else. Shouting does not make an argument stronger. Hard objective NB votes trump subjective appeals to "tradition".
ITTF (and JTC1 and JTC1 Secretariat and the Secretaries-General of ISO and IEC) can look at procedural and policy appeals, of course. But, frankly, I think that ideas that they will overturn the clear text of the JTC1 Directives (yes, in some rare places they are actually clear!) and retrospectively go against the informed decision of the large majority of a large vote (whether or not they are happy with that decision themselves) is a nice fantasy, but a fantasy non-the-less.
The comment about health standards and highway standards is not realistic: JTC1 does not do health and safety standards, and the health and safety standards are not voluntary but get mandated by the adopting country. Furthermore, they may be necessarily exclusive (I believe in Saudi Arabia you are allowed to drive on either side of the road) while media standards are patently not exclusive: you can save a file as both ODF and OOXML for example while you cannot use a radio frequency for two different uses at the same time.
As to the question someone had about what I think of the various fast-tracks: I think in all cases standards should have technical scrutiny by the SC they are nominally going through. I don’t see any need for any process other than the "accelerated process" where standards come in as final committee drafts and have at least one round of scrutiny. JTC1 is concerned with information technology: it doesn’t seem to have particular haste requirements (unlike optical disk drives) to warrant PAS and fast-track.
I also think that omnibus technologies like ODF and OOXML should always be broken down into small component to allow mix-and-match more: standardizing "enabling" technologies is clearly useful, but standardizing "applications" (i.e. formats for particular classes of application) clearly is problematic because the high-level technical choices are, from the vendors POV, marketing choices not technical choices. However, this needs to traded off against the desirability that all market-dominating technologies should be (available as) RAND-z, QAed, voluntary standards (where a standard is understood as a document, not a regulated requirement.) Smaller components would have allowed much better handling of the issues of graphics languages for example: ODF’s inept and faked-up SVG would have had harder scrutiny (e.g. why didn’t they adopt SVG Tiny or SVG Basic and extend it with other namespaces?), and OOXML’s VML would have been sloughed off as a Technical Report early, for example.
I don’t see that the number of implementations (whether open or closed) has anything to do with whether some text should be adopted as a standard: sometimes the standard leads and consolidates existing practice. Sometimes a standard creates a market where there is only room for one commercial and one open-source implementation: IS8879 SGML was an example of this, with basically all open source people using James Clark’s (N)SGMLS/SP and all commercial people using Exoterica’s Omnimark. A standard is still useful even for a small market with a single player: in the case of SGML if Exoterica had gone broke another commercial company could have taken its place, but there was not enough business for two commercial players. These are standards where the substitutability of vendors or implementations that the standard brings is serial not simultaneous.
I still see underlying many comments the idea that somehow if something is an international standard, somehow that means that we should be using it and it should be better than other technologies. That is not the way that ISO or JTC1 talks about its standards, and the process of making international standards does not have universal preferability of every standard as a requirement or even aim. The sooner that people give up this dream the better. It is always the adopter or mandator of a standard who has to choose the best technology for the job, whether standard or not, whether from ISO or not. ISO speaks in terms of its standards forming a library (of technologies). Attempts to force JTC1 into some other role than this require a fundamental re-alignment and revision of its goals and operation: in fact, they would belong to some completely different organization, and require substantial funding. (There are tens of thousands of standards in active use and devlopement: think in terms of new government departments.)
The other aspect is that the more that users say "We demand standards free from commercial domination", the less that the consortia with direct corporate (or proxy) membership look attractive. What people want is for ISO to be *more* ISO-like, not less (which is what PAS and fast-track compromises); I don’t see the strange bedfellows of corporate interests also criticizing ISO lasting long, because what the corporations want is more power and direct voting: the ISO system disenfranchises them and severely complicates any efforts to dominate (as the anti-OOXML corporate rivals of MS have found out.)
There are clearly some things that we’re just not going to see the same way, so let me note just one point from this post:
I agree with this assessment for the non-government market. The problem is, though, that some governments have decided that they will give preference to such standards. This necessarily means that government workers, and to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the standard in question, people in those countries interfacing with government as citizens, contractors and so on, are stuck with the annointed standard if there is only one (please don’t go down that separate rathole here, since in many cases there is only one standard, so the point remains valid).
This means that if ISO and IEC choose not to care about minimum quality for standards, then governments might, and perhaps should, divest ISO and IEC of their preferred standards provider role. And perhaps that is what we will see, although I don’t know why ISO and IEC would think that this was a good result for them.
Yes, the governments should only have a preferential policy to JTC1 standards (and ISO and IEC and W3C and OASIS and ECMA standards) to the limits of what those organizations themselves say about their standards. Governments that treat voluntary JTC1 standards as if JTC1 was requiring or advising them to be mandated are in error, and it is *they* who need to change, not JTC1. Or, they need to work to set up new organizations and directives in order to subject standards to a much higher level of scrutiny: international fact-finding, international use-cases, the $$$$ and bureaucracy mounts up.
Simply put, ISO is not a world government agency in the way that the UN perhaps is. It is an international non-government organization with national body representation, some of whom may be government directed. See the things they say about themself at
JTC1 (and international body) standardization indicates that there has been certain kinds of openness, transparency, internationalization, IPR settling, technical editing, proofreading, reference integrity of subordinate technologies, review and that the outcome has been free from the cartelization or monopolization endemic (but not pandemic) to organizations which allow direct representation by vendors. That is far from nothing, and a reason to prefer the ISO standard ahead of other technologies with the same technical excellence.
But exclusive preference for JTC1 information technology standards is just as dumb as exclusive preference for W3C standards. It is a fantasy that standards are made by wise men in order to relieve humble folks of the need to make decisions; I know of no person who makes standards who thinks their collective opinion is unassailable. What standards (when done right) do is reduce choice to a manageable number of well-thought-through alternatives: as well as enabling the market in systems for each technology it enables the prior (and subsequent) markets between rival technologies. Internationalization isn’t a command economy by stealth!
So international standardization for voluntary standards means that the technology has reached certain quality constraints, however, in each and every case, it is up to the adopter to decide if the technology itself is suitable (and for what and where and who) and even whether the kind of quality attained at ISO corresponds to the kind of quality important for them. For example, if a government has an objective to only use RAND-z standards (an excellent idea and the way of the future for ICT at least) then ISO standardization will not be enough.
Maybe ISO (or JTC1 at least) needs to put up large CAVEAT EMPTOR signs on their website. But the people to complain to are the governments who get it wrong (though they may say, "yes we know, but it is better than nothing and in practice we are more flexible than our bald statements.")
I have mentioned before that the fact that ISO standards and processes are well-regarded in general (except by losers, not infrequently, and sometimes even by winners, though not frequently) and may have preferential treatment is one reason why the international standards bodies at the top of the tree do not have the luxury that the boutique consortia have in only standardizing one technical tradition for anything. In the case of the boutique bodies, someone who comes along with a rival to that organization’s already existing standard will be told to go somewhere else. But at ISO (e.g. at JTC1) there is nowhere else at the same level (in the reality of this preferential treatment, whether excessive or not) and the need to prevent cartelization and to create/maintain a market between overlapping technologies must override the supposed benefits of uniformity.
What you are saying (my interpretation) is that ISO standards committees go through a lot of trouble and expenses to create a standard. Then the governments should redo all this to check every standard again. Just so a political mess like DIS29500 should remain possible?
Sounds like a lot of extra work for no benefit. I can see governments preferring another option where they simply purge the process of commercial parties. This will not necessarily be better than the current system, but it saves them a lot of extra work.
I read Rick’s comment as saying that JTC1 should sign off on the technical and legal properties of a standard, then consumers should decide what collection of properties are most appropriate for them.
To take a less heated example, consider the humble screw drive (the shape of the hole you put a screwdriver into). When buying screws, you have to decide between slotted head, cross-head, torx, and any number of other varieties. Slotted head screws cause screwdrivers to damage the screw’s surroundings when they jump out – a big problem if you want to sell the scratched result, not a problem if you’re screwing in a door hinge you plan to paint over. Cross-heads cause screwdrivers to damage the screw when the screwdriver jumps out – a big problem if you want to unscrew the screw some day, not a problem if it’s going to stay in place for the object’s lifetime. Torx screws minimise the probability that a screwdriver will jump the tracks, but torx screwdrivers aren’t widely available – a big problem if you’re selling flat-pack furniture, a big benefit if you want to keep greasy fingers away from sensitive elecrtonics.
Standards organisations could specify the physical properties of each type of screw, but can’t rule on which variety you should use for your specific task. We wouldn’t pay any attention if the ISO declared that hexagonal sockets were the One True Drive Type, because they don’t suit our particular use cases.
– Andrew Sayers
And I appreciate your (and Rick’s) thoughtful replies – which of course raise further questions.
I’m not sure I follow your argument about keeping some sort of PAS-like process. Are you saying that government policy is something that the likes of us can’t hope to change, only adapt our behaviour to work around? Alternatively, are you saying that governments should leave it to standards bodies to decide which procedures to follow? If the latter, how can you argue that government behaviour dictates (a percentage of) industry behaviour, but should in turn be lead by standards that already have industry backing?
Both you and Rick make excellent points about what the ISO should/will/can do, and it usually takes me a few weeks to really digest those sorts of arguments, but there are two points I’d like to make now:
I’m very taken by Rick’s argument that the problem isn’t in the size but the complexity of standards, and in particular the bundling of discrete documents into a single standard for no sound technical reason. This strikes me as something that reduces the ability to create innovative new standards-based technologies (what if I want my new CAD program to use OPC?), increases the amount of commercial interest vendors have in “getting their way” at the ISO, and puts an unfair burden on mirror committees to require discussions between people with expertise in an overly broad set of subjects. It seems to me a very good solution to put each brick through the ISO, then have OASIS build a house called ODF and ECMA build one called Office Open XML.
However, I don’t understand why it would be so hard for the ISO to use a system like the IETF uses for RFCs – some are informational, some are historic, some are recommended for use, etc. It sounds like this happens informally anyway, with the use of Technical Reports being the most explicit way of doing so. Requiring submitters to specify what sort of standard they want to finish up with would reduce the level of misunderstanding both within and without the ISO, would give the ISO the flexibility to quickly recognise urgent standards without foreclosing the ability to give them thorough review, and would give the ISO’s customers the tools they need to do their jobs without expecting politicians to make technology decisions.
– Andrew Sayers
I would certainly say that it should be easier to change policies and procedures as ISO/IEC than in some significant subset of 200 countries around the world, or at 100 National Bodies. That just seems to me to make practical sense, if it is possible. Plan B would certainly be to try to change policy in a few countries, and hope that this would affect others. And the OOXML experience has resulted in some promising signs in this direction.
I think you have to be a little careful about what you ask for. I think when the system works well, that allowing market participants to set ITC standards quickly through an open process is better than setting them all by government regulation. The trick is in having just the right amount of government involvement to keep industry working for the benefit of all without getting in the way. That’s one reason why I like the concept of government procurement as a mechanism to lead the way. It’s a large enough market to provide incentives for the marketplace to do the right thing.
I’m not technically adept enough to know whether this would have been a good or bad idea in this instance. Note, though, that the market incentives are greater to put a house through the process than a door, a window, a roof, and so on, and then end up with not only a mishmash, but a house that’s finished (except for the door, where people aren’t done yet, and the furnace, where there’s deadlock over oil or gas). So I expect that sometimes the "brick" approach would be a good idea, and sometimes not.
Who decides what action to take on the appeal? How long do they have to decide? When will we hear the results?
Yes, those are the questions. Is this true?
"Steve Pepper, being so disgused about the intervention of a Norwegian bureaucrat reverting the decision of the Norwegian Technical Committee, is pointing at the fact that this person is also member of the ISO Technical Management Board (TMB), who will decide on the future of this appeal." ?
There will be a lot of eyes on this decision.
One hopes that if the guy thinks he has a financial stake in the outcome, he will declare his interest and abstain. Then ISO will have to find someone else to decide it.
It might, actually, be difficult to find someone who is qualified but financially-disinterested. IBM Lotus Notes wants ISO26300. Microsoft has an interest; we’re not at the moment sure what it is.
“11.2.2 Upon receipt, the JTC 1 Secretariat shall advise all its P-members of the appeal, and take immediate action, by correspondence or at a meeting, to consider and decide on the appeal, consulting the Secretaries-General in the process."
An additional information about how the process should go from the moment ISO receives the appeal.
The quotation of clause 13.12 of the Directive is wrong! It should read:
Otherwise it does not make sense.
This is where I found the correct version.
13 Preparation and Adoption of International Standards – Fast-Track Processing
Other than that I enjoyed the article and, being a South African, am pleased that the SABS is doing the right thing.
The PDF of the actual letter correctly says "not more than one month". It appears to be just a transcription error on Andy’s part here in the blog.
Right you are, and thanks for catching that.
Andy, you asked why Microsoft announced ODF support this week.
Does this help answer that question?
It’s hard to say, but my personal guess is "no."
I think that the die was probably cast last August 2, when they lost the first round vote. Had they won then, they wouldn’t have needed to do any major redesign work on Office 2007, and they would have been in the catbird seat. Once they lost, though, they had to give up a lot to get the yes votes to succeed, and somewhere along the way the realization must have started to sink in that while they might win the vote, they had still lost the war.
It may be that warning of the appeal might have helped choose the exact date of the announcement, but I have to wonder whether the EC investigation might have more to it. Note how quickly the EC issued a response, indicating that Microsoft had briefed them in advance. Maybe some day we’ll be able to find out for sure.
Andy, sorry for my english.
Let’s me be "crazy".
Year 2012 :
MS-Office support perfectly :
MSO (.mso) is specificaly designed for MS/MS-Office/Windows. Unlike OOXML, it does not try to be fully compatible with legacy formats. It is not an open standard nor an ISO standard. Designed by MS for MS.
OOXML is not supported, it was a mess and finally dead.
Gouvernments use MS-Office and read/write by default using ODF, and are very happy.
Other customers (perhaps the majority) are locked-in with proprietary format as usual.
Is it stupid ?
If not, how MS will get rid of OOXML ?
What I really don’t understand is (from the South africa Appeal) :
It’s just incredible.
What is the benefit of this irregularity ?
How such thing can happened ?
We are taking about the most monitored standard.
It’s a long well know issue :
http://www.robweir.com/blog/2008/05/release-ooxml-final-dis-text-now.html (May 04, 2008)
MS can’t take directly the decision to abandon OOXML.
But the ISO, with the South Africa appeal and proof irregularities, can refuse the OOXML ratification.
In this case, MS don’t have any reasons to support OOXML any more and can abandon it.
Any thought or I am just plain stupid ?
No, your not. I think it’s too early to be sure what Microsoft’s strategy is. Have they given up on OOXML as a standard in the way that they were pushing it a year ago? Perhaps they have. After all, if they can’t put a DIS 29500-compliant product on the market till 2010 at the earliest, then what ISVs will bother to build anything to DIS 29500, as compared to Ecma 376. And by 2010, will they be able to unseat ODF? That’s a pretty long time into the future, if governments begin to require ODF compliance, and if millions of people around the world as individuals and in SMEs start using OpenOffice.
The next few months and then the next couple of years will be interesting indeed.
I don’t think the timing of MS odf announcement has much to do with the SA appeal. At least not directly.
My own sense is that MS is a large company which, like governments, we tend to view mistakenly as homogenous. Just as in the wider world there are tendencies within the company which cheer or boo with the ebbs and flows. I gather, for example, that the strategic move to an xml based file format from doc, etc, must have been quite a turf war in itself back in 2002 or so. I am going to be really charitable and believe there is a voice within MS pushing the odf support (it’s what our customers are telling us …) and I’d like to really encourage that voice. Caught between falling OOXML stars and binary format dinosaurs ("we made this company what is today with these formats") they can and should represent the best hope of a voice of business reason in the company. So I’m going to keep applauding the move as long and as loud as I can.
It is qualitatively different to the mega interoperability announcement back in March which was (a) flag waving for the ISO vote and the EU, and (b) the clearest announcement yet of how MS can and will use its patent portfolio aggressively in the market. I don’t know if it is just me, but I found it all quite chilling. I believe this is different. The fact that MS plans to join the OASIS odf TC will in itself represent a historic gathering round the table. And that’s all good.
The SA appeal is as much about rescuing ISO as it is about document formats. I don’t belleve the CEO of SABS knows or cares too much about OOXML. That is not the point. The point is that ISO can and must follow its own rules if it is maintain its relevance in the world. The precedent set by DIS29500 is a dangerous one which should not be allowed to go unchallenged and potentially repeated in the future.
You may well be right that SA’s appeal could have the effect of saving ISO from itself / Microsoft / irrelevancy / whatever.
If ISO can be saved, it will not be without cost.
By it’s appeal, SA challenges ISO to enforce its own written standards and procedures (which is as it should be) and to admit that the passage of DIS29500 using the fast track process was improper and violated the written and established ISO policies and procedures. The implication should ISO enforce its own procedures, is that DIS29500 must fail and (by extension) ECMA’s access to fast track must be discredited or even revoked. This is an admission that ISO procedures are (or at least were) for sale to any corporation with a big enough interest in standards and that wants an ISO stamp of approval on an undeserving standard. This admission then potentially calls other ISO standards into question as to their neutrality and validity.
On the other hand, if ISO / ECMA are not discredited for failing to follow their own rules, they are discredited for apparently ‘selling out’ to the Microsoft agenda by passing (and then upholding against world-wide opposition and their own written procedures), a standard that many say (with justification) should never have been passed in the first place as it is not worthy of ISO certification.
The only long-term hope for ISO is to admit their failure to follow their own procedures and to reverse the approval of DIS29500.
Failure to do so will result in increasing irrelevance of ISO within the growing open-source community (and possibly parts of the commercial world as well) that will turn to other standards bodies for interoperability standards rather than to ISO. There will also be a growing impression that ISO standards are for the purpose of promoting the marketshare of large corporations rather than for the benefit and safety of consumers.
You wish. I suspect that what will happen is that ISO will find the most improbable excuses for the claims in the South Africa appeal and move on ignoring the thousands and thousands of citizens completely frustrated with ISO’s attitude.
Whether the SA appeal can be brushed aside or not will probably depend on whether any other countries step up to the plate in support of this appeal or not. And (sadly) who those countries are …
Ah, but you forget the difference between ISO and the real world.
In ISO (and in MIcrosoft’s dreams), ODF 1.1 is the ‘latest and greatest’ and is the latest standard to be used for development. Development will take 2-3 years (+ patch releases to get the code right). Office may be able to halve that development time, but given the frequency of Office releases, that’s doubtful and still to be proven.
In the real world, OpenOffice.org has moved on to supporting ODF spec 1.2 and has a VERY high refresh rate – much higher than Microsoft’s. KDE and others are at 1.1 and already writing code against the not-yet-sent-to-ISO 1.2 spec from OASIS. Due to additional interoperability features, look for everyone *except* Microsoft will be implementing the OASIS spec starting as soon as each feature is nailed down in the OASIS committee for finalization as soon as OASIS approves the next spec version.
ISO approval will come well after OASIS confirmation and after ISO ‘chews’ on the spec for a while, but in the real world, by the time ISO gets around to ‘approving’ the spec (such that Microsoft feels compelled to implement the changes), the rest of the world (and OASIS) will be well along the road to standardizing the next set of interoperable changes / features for the next ODF specification.
Think about this trend that is already occurring. OASIS is driving development in the open-source world – not ISO. This is shown by OpenOffice.org, KDE Office, and others already writing code for ODF 1.2 that is not even finished yet in OASIS and won’t be sent to ISO for some time to come.
Look for MS to make big noises in the marketplace that ODF does not comply with standards, then use ISO-approved standards (which significantly trail OASIS development) to prove that the added tags in ODF that everyone either supports or successfully ignores (but that are fully defined nonetheless) constitute ‘non-compliance’ on the part of ODF.
MS wants to join OASIS. Do you think they’ve realized that ISO is the wrong place to go for ODF standardization work if they want to be relevant in the market ?
MS took over SC34 WG1 and the open-source response is to encourage OASIS to not cede control of the ODF spec to ISO.
This tactic appears that it will be non-successful because Microsoft’s ability to hold up ISO approval will mean nothing to open-source office development and interoperability.
It is only by interfering with OASIS that Microsoft will be able to affect ODF development and forward progress. Without ODF support in their product, they have no feasible reason to join OASIS for the purpose of interfering wth ODF development.
The timeframe of 1H 2009 seems too short to do a proper implementation of ODF in MSOffice.
Could MS be claiming support for ODF simply as a ruse to get into OASIS where they can do real damage to ODF, then drop ODF support later this year once they are in OASIS in favor of their proprietary format ? Is there really any intention to ever support ODF (or ISO OOXML for that matter) in Microsoft Office ?
The time-frame for this action plan actually works with the advertised dates from Microsoft (join OASIS by 1H 2009 while continuing the pretense of ODF support until June of next year, then attempt to poison the true ODF standards body from the inside while claiming ‘slipped delivery’ until they can drop ODF entirely because of the ‘defects’ added by Microsoft).
True and honest development cycles do not fit the Microsoft-announced time-frames – addition of ODF to MSOffice is way too hard to do in a year due to the massive re-design / re-write required to MSOffice – if it can be done at all. Microsoft has said so on many occasions.
Reactos is a open source Win32/NT System and need c+ and ASM
programmers , can you help it ?! to catch hers whater and get
more honor back to the peoples ! "HTP" in pease and Honor
It is hard to see how this appeal could succeed. In all ISO procedures, you have to get any idea of a "court" out of your mind: there is no winning or losing on a technicality: the process is skewed towards getting a draft into a state where a more-than-absolute majority of voting national bodies can stomach it, and then moving it to maintenance. If you don’t believe me, read Steve Pepper’s comments on likely outcomes. Even if there is found to be substance in the claim, the result is more likely to be "How can we improve things and do better next time". JTC1 at plenary already looked at and dismissed various procedural issues raised by various parties about DIS29500; when they look at any other issues it will be with the knowledge that more-than-absolute majority found the draft with editing instructions acceptable.
The UK was also not happy how the contradictions claims (which are spurious and ignore precedent IMHO, but that is not the issue here) but they accede that a judgment was made. Readers should be aware of how the contradiction between ISO POSIX ABI and the new ISO Linux was handled: the Linux standard was allowed despite the (minor) contradiction on a couple of technical issues (let alone the total overlap of subject matter, which was *not* a contradiction in the ISO sense.)
For the BRM giving the editor a blank cheque, this won’t fly at all. JTC1 invented and approved the fast-track process, and it is unthinkable that they will retrospectively alter the rules to add some size-based criteria. National Bodies were told that delegates should be aware of their NB’s view on issues (which may be based on case-by-case consideration, block voting like abstain, or any other reasonable criteria.) Alex Brown had even raised the possibility of a paper ballot on the editor’s disposition of comments, and I consider that any delegation which did not bother to follow the discussions on the BRM before the BRM was ill-prepared: they shouldn’t blame JTC1 for their own shortcomings. If they selected unprepared people as delegates, after more than a year of discussion, that is their lot.
This leaves the issue of the timeframe for producing the final version by ITTF. The ISO directives use the strongest term "shall". However, as I said, to think in terms of "winning or losing on technicalities" sets expectations that can only be dashed. The purpose of the ITTF review is to make sure that the standard has text that accords with the editor’s instructions from the BRM. That is the big picture purpose. I think it is unreasonable to expect that the big picture purpose would be thwarted by a small picture provision: it is putting the cart before the horse to think that a provision aimed at making sure a document is processed in a timely fashion can be used to prevent the document being released even if a little late.
Now I have absolutely no idea what the hold-up is: I hope ITTF will issue some statement to say what the hold-up is. They are just inviting speculation.
I think the same expectations have to be brought to mind when thinking about how contradictory editing instructions might be handled: major ones could be a showstopper (I don’t see any allegations of these), minor ones could be left line-ball call to the editor and become fodder for maintenance (the editor has a lot of leeway on minor issues and you need a sense of proportion); but any mid-level ones are a little trickier to foresee the result of.
So my *default* expectation is that delays caused by ITTF (especially where merely caused by fine-toothed comb verification of editing instructions) are not in themselves anything that could override the will of the National Bodies *for* having a standard. When the BRM voted for detailed changes such as adopting ISO terminology for conformance (shall, should, etc) it was clearly a thing that could potentially blow out the editing process and the checking process: if ITTF does not have the resources to meet the Directive’s time constraints, it is an issue for ITTF resourcing not a cause for hopes that the standard can be blocked on a technicality, as far as I can see.
"major ones could be a showstopper (I don’t see any allegations of these)"
Ok.. so, NB’s don’t have the final version of the text. If editing instructions were not followed that would count as a major showstopper, right? So… As soon as they release the final text, they should also state clearly if a NB has the possibility to file an appeal. Or will they tell you that the deadline for that is over even given the fact that you don’t have the final textt?
"- questions of principle are involved;" Check!
"- the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO;" Check!
While I agree with you regarding the prediction of the final outcome of this process, one thing is certain: ISO stamp will become a joke for many many informed people around the world.
“When the BRM voted for detailed changes such as adopting ISO terminology for conformance (shall, should, etc) it was clearly a thing that could potentially blow out the editing process and the checking process:”
So, do I understand correctly ECMA provided a DIS for Fast-Tracking, knowing full well it didn’t conform to standard ISO terminology? Doesn’t that sound a little…. odd to you, offering a (sub-)standard riddled with ambiguities? Or do you try to argue the standard ISO terminology is needlessly restrictive, trying to dot all is and cross all ts?
No, it is explicitly not a requirement for a fast-tracked standard like IS29500 (including PAS standards like ODF IS26300) to conform in the directives. The idea of the fast-track procedures is that there is some external standard which is being transposed into ISO, and that hard technical details not editorial issues should be the focus of attention at the initial stage, to encourage more national review of industry consortia standards.
However, subsequent maintained versions do need to accord. OASIS lucked in by having Patrick Durusau as an editor: because of his experience he kept it pretty much on track with terminology (which has many flow on effects for interpretation: it is a surprising useful discipline).
So even though DIS29500 did not need it, many of us felt it would be a real barrier to maintenance that would in effect mean that maintenance at ISO would be impossible, and leaving resubmission of the next version through fast-tracking (i.e. the ODF route) as the foreseeable outcome. Now personally I can see that re-submission has many benefits, most especially that it reduces the need for bureaucratic interaction between standards bodies to a minimum: however, ODF-like resubmission is too much like rubber-stamping, even though for some reason the blinkers were on so that many people only raised the issue or danger for OOXML.
However, even though I do understand that the Directives had a reasonable justification for not making it a requirement, it was something that I (and the various NBs which adopted or supported it) felt too important in DIS29500’s case to let slip. So important that even if it meant that OOXML failed to meet deadlines which would give ammunitions to its enemies, it was the right thing to do in order to get an acceptable, maintainable standard.
I think that the first question is to define "success" or "failure" (a point that the appeal does not address, by not stating clearly what is the relief it seeks, which is a potential technical issue in the appeal itself). To me, "success" has less to do with whether the Fast Track approval of OOXML stands or is diverted into some other result, such as being returned for more consideration, than whether ISO/IEC takes a hard look at what happened and states publicly what it will do to prevent it happening again. Stating that it isn’t to pleased with the process, including some of its own judgments along the way, would be a big help, too (unlikely though such an outcome might be).
In that respect, I think that the important part of both the rules and the appeal are the parts that focus on whether there are problems of "principal" and "reputation" involved. Those issues do not go to the points you mention at all – improving technical quality. You don’t restore principal or reputation with small technical fixes.
In fact, it’s difficult to restore reputation at all, which again comes back to the question of "relief desired." That might be restored, to my mind, by doing a public, rather than the current private review, which no one knows the details about. It would also involve how the decisions were made on the vague Directives that were applied, and how a one week BRM was decided upon, and so on.
If ISO focuses, as you suggest on precedent, on minor technical decisions, then I think that ISO will lose most of all. Why use words like "principle" and "reputation" at all, if the appeal results only in a retrospective justifying minor technical terms. To my mind, ISO should take a hard look in the mirror and decide not to duck the bigger issues and forthrightly address them, not behind closed doors, but publicly.
But Andy, where the loss of reputation is due to palpable lies or reckless libels with a manifest lack of evidence, ISO/IEC JTC1 cannot possibly take that "loss" into consideration, without betraying everyone who works on its tens of thousands of standards and its integrity. Honi soit. The trouble is that the extreme anti-OOXML side has made itself into a laughing stock with standard makers and bureaucrats: basically every time anyone who is involved has their name released, they get accused accused of corruption and bribery by one nasty moron or another, dozens of people in dozens of countries all with no evidence; how on earth does anyone expect officials who know that they and their collegues are not corrupt to take seriously talk of loss of reputation that spring out of these same allegations and poisonous campaigns?
I don’t know why you talk of OOXML being "diverted" to some other result. There is no other result in the Directives: the standard will be overturned or allowed, as far as I can see. JTC1 will look at the complaint and consider "Does this complaint produce hard evidence that would cause us to overturn the absolute majority vote of the participating NBs?" For JTC1 to overturn National Body votes and invalidate a standard might be possible in the case of a standard which had few NBs voting, and which had little attention, and which there was hard evidence for general dodginess, or some showstopper had crept in unnoticed, I suppose, but the very high participation rate, and the high degree of scrutiny makes it difficult for me to give the appeal any chance of success.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the JTC1 people ultimately say "This says no more than was said during the review period: SA had its vote and now is attempting to steamroll its position through regardless of the support of the absolute majority of other National Bodies." Of course, they will be in a fluster about bad PR, but that does not mean they will compromise the integrity of standards because of a noisy minority which failed to get the vote.
Issues such as why a one-week BRM was chosen seem to be furphies. If there was more than a week, there would have been more discussion and possibly more abstains turned to accepts. So in what way does having a one-week BRM rather than a longer one somehow favour OOXML (and therefore lead to a reduction in reputation)?
I certainly think that technical issues are the focus of standards and procedures at ISO/IEC JTC1, so I don’t apologize if I focus on them. I think it is a mistake to see the ISO process (and appeal mechanisms) as political rather than being essentially technical: it will baffle people whose blinkers only allow them to see the political.
And the principles that I expect ISO/IEC JTC1 to uphold are: National Bodies decide what becomes a standard not gnomes in Zurich, the provenance of a technology is not considered when determining what can be a candidate for a standard, allegations without hard evidence cannot be used as the basis for challenges, that Directives cannot be overridden or reinterpreted retrospectively, that the process is a consensus one which not a legalistic one (or, at least, it belongs more to the mediation kind of laws rather than adversarial laws), and most of all that the primary purpose of standards making is to get agreed texts with as much consensus from the National Bodies as possible without fear or favour.
Where there was a loss of reputation when some standard had been adopted without scrutiny, or where it was clear that some cartelizing was going on so that one gang was *preventing* the legitimate addressing of technical issues of another group, then these reputation and principle ideas could have applicability.
We have known for months now that the extreme anti-OOXML side would, having lost its technical arguments, and having failed to intimidate National Body committee members, resort to trying to attack ISO. I am disappointed that SA has taken this course, and that its argument for it is so weak and unfocused. When looking at it, the first thing is to look for evidence: is the loss of reputation due to founded allegations or unfounded ones…it largely stops there.
The issue of not following procedures at the BRM has a bit more meat on its bones. However, again it is an utter mistake for people to take a legalistic view of the process, as if it were a court. That there was a favourable NB vote really puts the kibbosh on any attempt to claim that the BRM (no matter how defectively run, not that I think it was) did not produce an acceptable result against its limited goals of an improved draft. I think the only way that an appeal on procedure could work would be if there was some proof that there was some miscount or whatever at the re-vote stage (*not* the BRM).
"To my mind, ISO should take a hard look in the mirror and decide not to duck the bigger issues and forthrightly address them, not behind closed doors, but publicly."
+1, though I expect the outcome you want and the outcome I expect are different.
I would like clearer text in the Directives on the best practice role of abstention and the primacy of technical issues for voting, in particular. There was a lot of confusion on this issue, and I think the Norway and several of the "Reject"-voting NBs voted the wrong way by not abstaining. Currently the NBs have too much discretion: of course, it is not ISO/IEC JTC1’s position to tell any NB how it should be organized, but at least some best practise in this area would help. But that won’t come out of this appeal. (The Directives for JTC1 and for ISO are under perpetual revision, but as our Australian NB representatives mentioned recently, it is really hard to find people of the calibre, staying power and interest to participate at that level: it is phenomenally boring, I am told.)
It will be interesting to see what happens. I think as more people see that (as I have said repeatedly) the adoption of IS29500 as an ISO standard will not hurt but actually help OASIS/ISO ODF development and will not alter the drivers for ODF adoption (e.g. by governments), they will see how silly and quixotic the vitriol against OOXML has been.
On the side of ODF, we see scientists and engineers whose time is valuable for spending in university research departments and commercial research outfits. They are judged on the quality of their research; i.e. not on how long they sit in ISO at meetings.
On the side of OOXML, we see businessmen (or their representatives), who have infinite time to sit for however long it takes to achieve their result.
The businessmen also have infinite supplies of money; we do not know what the terms of reference for its deployment are.
All concerned are well advised to ensure they only take money from their employers, as salary and whatever other payments are proper.
We shall in due course see what’s happened.
But taking the advice of the scientists and engineers is the way forward for the businesses. Not ignoring and overriding them.
In the spirit of a long hard look in the mirror, it seems like you’re assuming that lay people are able to understand the way the ISO works, they just choose not to. The fact that people often try to fit the ISO into a system they already understand – like a democracy or a court of law – suggests to me that the ISO’s very nature is hard for people to understand. It’s hardly surprising then that the only lay people willing to speak up are those angry enough to vent their frustration without a complete grasp of the details. The solution to libel and lying is therefore to find ways to grow understanding about the ISO among the lay community’s cooler heads, so that they have the confidence to speak up when a voice is needed which can’t be accused of having any interest in the outcome.
– Andrew Sayers
I rather despair of getting somewhere, but I’ll take a crack at it anyway. From my point of view, the reputation part for JTC 1 goes primarily to two points:
– my points of principal and reputation could be boiled down to going the distance with a standard this size under the Fast Track process regardless of the obvious fact that what came in the one end was so big and poorly prepared that what came out the other end couldn’t meet minimum standards – compounded by scheduling a one week BRM. The best explanation I’ve heard for this from the inside (i.e., JTC 1) was that Microsoft would have to live with the result if OOXML failed to pass, so Microsoft was the one at risk. But OOXML did pass, IMHO, due primarily to pressure applied on enough NBs to secure that result, rather than because the BRM was successful. Yes, a relative happy ending occurred (if one agrees that OOXML was still not ready for prime time after the BRM, on which I know you disagree), in that Microsoft realized that its victory turned out to be Pyrrhic, but that wasn’t a result those involved could have relied upon.
– the Directives do appear to be so poorly drafted that all along the way – and now even as regards the appeals process – that there is much for many to disagree upon in good faith. When people can’t even agree on what the rules are, that hardly reflects well on the process. And the vagueness of the Directives is one thing upon which everyone actually does agree on.
Before you reply at length, let me add this: I think the discussion has been so polarized for so long that I don’t think those involved are likely to really ever resolve anything. As examples, I’d take (on one side) Patrick Durusau’s calling the standards war "fictitious" solely because Microsoft never opposed ODF in OASIS or ISO/IEC JTC 1, but ignoring all of the rather incredible things it did in Massachusetts (to which I can attest from first hand accounts told to me, and documentation I have seen), and on the other side, the willingness to accept any counter-charge as true once made, regardless of proof, or assuming bringing many open source proponents to a NB committee is any different than Microsoft bringing a bunch of business partners. All are symptoms of being too close and too passionate about deeply held beliefs to be objective.
As another example, I’d give the discussion above. You are one of the most deeply knowledgeable people that I’ve seen weighing in on the ISO/IEC process and on the subject matter of both ODF and OOXML. And yet some people slam you to the wall no matter what you say. And on the other hand, you regard all OOXML opponents as simply "anti Microsoft," and do not seem to give anyone credit for having any other belief, opinion or principle at stake. I submit to you that the latter is as untrue as the former. Neither side is willing or able to appreciate the fact that the other side may actually have something to say that is worth listening to (in a quieter moment, you suggested that we both have "opinions" and not "biases." Why is all opposition now simply "anti Microsoft?")
My honest opinion is that what would be a very good resolution – although sadly not in the cards – would be for ISO to invite in a non-partisan, non-involved _non-IT_ third party commission to look at the whole process, beginning to end (OOXML Fast Track and ODF PASS submission as well, to be fair) and suggest what could be changed to make a better, stronger system. I’d be delighted to see that happen, with the final opinion stipulated to have no impact on DIS 29500 at all, but just to have a better system going forward.
Thanks for the kind words, Andy.
One of the constraints on ISO is that the diversity of National Bodies, from non-profit NGOs in liberal democracies to government departments of plutocratic and totalitarian states. You have been to China, for example: I think the Chinese would certainly admit that transparency of decision-making by government agencies is not high in their list of priorities, and that they are very adverse to outside interference. Similarly, the Mahathir/Lee style talk about "Asian values" in South East Asia has quite a bit of currency. ISO is a service for its member bodies, not an organization that can dictate to them. Is the idea of ICT rights particularly resonant in non-Southern Africa at the moment, for example?
It may be that there should be some version of ISO in which only democracies with open processes can participate, which means disenfranchising most poor nations. I would not care to participate in such an organisation: even though normally P members for any ISO SC are indeed a rich country’s club, it is not exclusive. The biggest improvement I would like to see in ISO/IEC JTC1 is more sponsorship by corporations and governments of its activities, in particular towards national funds administered by NBs openly to allow the development and utilization of delegates and experts and editors. To see the biggest deficiency at ISO/IEC JTC1, don’t follow the money trail, follow the lack-of-money trail!
The Directives have evolved over the last 60 in response to the challenges of development of tens of thousands of standards, most boring, many contested, some controversial. (ISO, JTC! etc have a very characteristic mix of quite definite workflows and voting systems and editorial requirements with quite a bit of discretion for conduct of meetings outside plenary votes, and a strong awareness that ultimately procedure is subservient to the goals of the organization and the process: technocrats have a quite strong aversion to loopholery. ) The rise of consortia in the 1990s was one of those challenges: clearly the public was willing to accept as standards documents which had not had scrutiny from any national perspectives. Often of course consortia are preferred by large companies because they can usually dominate them quite easily whereas ISO/IEC JTC1 voting is almost impossible to dominate. (I dispute that MS "applied pressure" as if there was not active lobbying from all sides, and as if pressure from MS is somehow unendurable. I also think that bringing in Mass. into this brings in an irrelevant issue: the issue of what standards should be supplied by ISO and what standards should be adopted by a user are utterly, utterly, utterly distinct, and ISO information eg its website has always made this abundantly clear. To confuse supply and demand is just as muddying as confusing standards-making with regulating or legeslating.)
I don’t think enough mention has been made that there has been a substantive, if subterranean, debate over the last two years on the desirability of three in-tension qualities of office systems: fidelity, interchange and substitutability. Concentrating on the details of debate on the particular merits of ODF and OOXML and ISO processes should not hide the progress that has been made in this area. A couple of years ago, I think a lot of people came into this debate with the starry idea that somehow there was a format on-hand which could provide complete fidelity for any system that used it (round-tripability), perfect data interchange, and all MS Office to be replaced with Open Office (or whatever.) These people were irritated when reality intruded: when application tests were disappointing, or when anyone pointed out that their emperor had no clothes though he might well be on the way to the tailor. I think a lot of the early fans of ODF had a religious belief that it was so: even the salesmen started to believe their own spiel. But ODF 1.0 (as it was then, and even now with ODF 1.1) did not have the features to support the claims people made for it; they were jumping the gun.
Now I think there is much more awareness that there is a tradeoff by the market, and as the market makes a decision about which way to go, you get a split in the market: you get people who want interchange even at the expense of perfect fidelity (i.e. governments for public documents), you get people who will want substitutability even at the expense of perfect fidelity (e.g. free/open software advocates), you want people who want interchange but not substitutability (e.g. vendors of closed source systems which are losing market share, perhaps Lotus) and so on. I expect that if MS’ ODF 1.1 is not able to provide adequate fidelity, users will adopt a format that does (presumably OOXML). That only now the ODF people are getting serious about schema validation shows it is getting towards a level of maturity where wooly thinking about conformance is being replaced by objective testing.
And all this leads to a much stronger awareness that we are not nearly as advanced as many people assumed. ODF 1.2 looks good, but even it was largely free of input from the MS tradition. IS29500 has been accepted as an ISO standard and what is the result: the death of ODF? No, ODF is stronger now than it has ever been. As I have said many times before, the drivers for ODF are different for the drivers for OOXML. Some of that is surely due to misinformation and innuendo, but I think most of it is the positive reason that people are smart enough to realize that being an ISO standard does not mean a technology *has* to be used: ISO is really clear that it is the adopter’s responsibility to choose the appropriate standard for their application, and though many people may grumble about being empowered in this way (yes, life would be simpler if someone else made all the choices and we had no responsibilities) it is clear that people get it. They understand that one of the central planks of the FUD campaign that if there was an ISO standard for OOXML people would be *forced* to use it was bogus. And I predict we will see more of this: adoption of HTML, PDF and ODF as required formats, and allowance of IS29500 (at some stage in the harmless future) as an alternative. The trouble was that people were trying to fight a demand battle (what should be adopted) at the supply forum (what should be available): futile.
Thanks for the long and detailed thoughts. There’s a lot here that I’d like to trade viewpoints on, but I expect that it would be longer than people would want to read. So here’s a selection rather than the full boat.
>>One of the constraints on ISO is that the diversity of National Bodies, from non-profit NGOs in liberal democracies to government departments of plutocratic and totalitarian states….It may be that there should be some version of ISO in which only democracies with open processes can participate, which means disenfranchising most poor nations.
This isn’t really where I was going, but it’s an interesting point that’s worth talking about. I’ve proposed a few ideas on this, most thoroughly in a feature article in Standards Today titled A Proposal for a New Type of Global Standards Certification. The basic concept was to have a new organization that would create standards for standard setting. If the market associated value with those standards (for openness, FOSS compatibility, "greenness," and so on, then presumably market competition would lead consortia (first) and SDOs (eventually) to adopt those standards. I question, by the way, whether poor nations would necessarily be disenfranchised by good rules requirements. It may be that such rules would again provide incentives for countries to become more open, perhaps, than the US is right now when it comes to JTC 1 voting. Nor is this without precedent. Accession to the WTO requires quite a bit from countries such as those you mention, with China coming on board to policing IPR rules in a way that it presumably would not have otherwise. So I think that at minimum it’s an open question on which firm conclusions would be premature.
You mentioned my concept of Civil ICT standards in there as well. Here, in this small subset of all standards, I think that there is an even stronger case to be made. I think that any poor country that would be disenfranchised would be one where its people had already been disenfranchised – by their own governments. So requiring some opening up in order to get a seat at the table would be a good, rather than a bad thing.
>>The biggest improvement I would like to see in ISO/IEC JTC1 is more sponsorship by corporations and governments of its activities, in particular towards national funds administered by NBs openly to allow the development and utilization of delegates and experts and editors. To see the biggest deficiency at ISO/IEC JTC1, don’t follow the money trail, follow the lack-of-money trail!
With proper safeguards to prevent money from buying influence, I would very much agree.
>>(I dispute that MS "applied pressure" as if there was not active lobbying from all sides, and as if pressure from MS is somehow unendurable.
No question that there was lobbying from all sides. It’s just a question of whether you believe that the pressure was qualitatively different on one side rather than the other. It’s my impression that it was, but of course no independent investigation has been conducted, so this will remain a subject of dispute.
>>I also think that bringing in Mass. into this brings in an irrelevant issue: the issue of what standards should be supplied by ISO and what standards should be adopted by a user are utterly, utterly, utterly distinct, and ISO information eg its website has always made this abundantly clear. To confuse supply and demand is just as muddying as confusing standards-making with regulating or legislating.)
There’s an important point to be made here, I think, that goes back to the first one above. But let me dispose of the superficial answer first, which is that I was responding to Patrick’s point (endorsed in one of your columns) that the format war was a fiction – as if what happened in the technical committee was all that mattered. Let’s remember that a specification is simply a piece of paper until it’s implemented, so to pretend that the commercial war that was just waged around the world, and the popular emotion that accompanied it, are irrelevant and just the paper specification matters is rather absurd, at least to me. Which is, of course, my second point as well. Yes, ISO is clear about what it’s all about, but that doesn’t mean that what it says it is about will necessarily be what it ends up being used for in the marketplace. Just as genetics provides the raw data that be twisted by eugenics, ISO certification can be abused in the marketplace in the sales cycle. No, not many governments absolutely require ISO certification. But it is a factor in many places – why else do vendors push for it?
In this case, ISO/IEC, the home of much pedestrian standards activity of little interest to anyone else is caught in the middle. Bigger things are afoot, and ISO/IEC just happens to be caught in the middle. So the real issue is what happens next? How does the system adapt? Does ISO stay as it was, and something new is added, or does ISO choose to adapt?
That’s really up to ISO and IEC, but I think that it’s very likely that something is going to happen, either with ISO and IEC or without it. If ISO and IEC wish to think that supply and demand have no relevance to it, then the marketplace will certainly shop elsewhere, because after all, standards are simply products, just like anything else. If they are not market-relevant, then they won’t find a buyer.
>>I don’t think enough mention has been made that there has been a substantive, if subterranean, debate over the last two years on the desirability of three in-tension qualities of office systems: fidelity, interchange and substitutability.
You make excellent points in these paragraphs. This is the sort of thing that I was referring to that people should pay more attention to when you drop by here. But think how much better off everyone would be (at least IMHO) if Microsoft had joined the ODF working groups in 2003 rather than 2008? The gaps between the three qualities that you mention could have been much narrower, and much good work built upon the results.
>>The trouble was that people were trying to fight a demand battle (what should be adopted) at the supply forum (what should be available): futile.
As noted above, I think that at minimum this is an open question. In a perfect world, I would agree with you. And in 99% of the standards in this world, I would as well. In this case, though, I think that it has been a useful exercise, without which I think that the outcomes would be very different. You don’t always have the luxury of picking your battlefields. But if you refuse to take the field, you know who will win.
Thanks for your ongoing comments.
Patrick’s point as I understand it is not that there was *no* war, and especially not a sales war or reputation war (if the things are actually different). But the standards war that some people thought they were fighting had MS pitted against the rest of the world, relentless pushing OOXML down everyone’s throats in a naked attempt to thwart ODF was, as far as its application to the ISO process, a war against a shadow: this was in utter contrast to everything I saw and heard from MS who were much more concerned that whichever way things went, they should be positioned well, and that they could not afford to be stopped from getting their house in order as far as opening up their documentation and formats. I don’t think you should see Mass. as the central explicatory event for understanding MS’ position on OOXML and ODF; the European requirements for openness and things like the SAMBA court case are just as strong or stronger.
Now obviously I disagree with Patrick on many things. For example, he was one of the strongest insisters that DIS29500 was incomplete without mappings from the actual binary formats, and I think his strong views (with others) on this eventually moved MS to release them. I, on the other hand, think mappings to binaries are completely irrelevant to an adequate description of the schemas of the file formats for OOXML: merely historical interest but certainly valuable to implementers. But on the phony war issue I think he has an good point that should not be dismissed out of hand.
Of course, in Fantasyland he is some kind of MS stooge, which probably amuses his Sun employers who often say similar things to him, and ignores his history for example his efforts at OASIS to prevent MS and IBM (they were buddies in that case) from getting the royalty-bearing ContentGuard technology adopted as an OASIS standard.
I think that this illustrates a bit where I entered this thread, talking about polarization. I read Patrick’s piece, and I think like most of what gets written, it doesn’t "honor" the other guy’s point of view, but instead tries to negate it. It doesn’t always work, but in principle it’s better to say, "You know, I realize that there’s all this stuff going on over there that you see this way, but you know, you might be interested in knowing what’s going on in this room over here. You might be surprised." That’s a lot more likely to get people to take you seriously.
Too often, those on both sides, I think, are getting more pleasure out of poking sticks in the other side’s eye than in trying to actually build bridges and communicate. Patrick’s writing, as I read it, takes the position that there really isn’t another valid point of view. And with all due respect, I pretty much get that feel from a lot of what you (and Alex) write as well – that if people just "got it" they’d see that this is just a standard – get over it. In fact, people see other dimensions to this that are very valid to them that don’t automatically equate to anti-Microsoft goals. Denying that what they believe has any foundation isn’t likely to endear them (and, of course, vice versa – the rhetoric that some have used in the other direction has been a lot ruder, to be sure).
I think that we’d all be likely to make a lot more progress if each side took the other at it’s word, and then tried to work within that context. Otherwise, it’s not likely that progress will be as easy, quick and effective as it could otherwise be.
A couple of week’s ago, Patrick was satirically connecting the extremists on one side with Beavis and the extremists on the other side with Butthead (his writing makes it clear that he does not consider these "sides" to be the only possible positions, see his comments on the importance that "real’ ODF supporters need to be knucking down to improve ODF not getting sidetracked on OOXML. What would you expect a good editor to be asking? "Please don’t get involved, we don’t want to make progress!" ) Equal opportunity.
Butthead responded in a way that makes the correct first steps in addressing Patrick’s complaints; should he give up on Beavis just because it is more his own side?
I guess I have a different perspective of Patrick than many people, having received large numbers of emails from him last year with him venting his frustration with MS, and trying to get them into a position which could strengthen ODF. His positive contributions are worth 10,000 angry ipods repeating gossip as fact.
If asking that *all* parties adopt a civil, non-childish, disciplined and unhysterical attitude is taken as as an insult and an affront, that shows a touchiness out-of-proportion to his comment. And it only confirms that he is correct.
There is a great difference between using colorful language and analogies, and hating (or using the language of hate) and encouraging prejudice.
I think Hazlett’s amazing essay "One the Pleasure of Hatred" http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Essays/Hazlitt/Hating.htm is worth reading.
Not sure if you intended it this way, but give this a read:
>>If asking that *all* parties adopt a civil, non-childish, disciplined and unhysterical attitude is taken as as an insult and an affront, that shows a touchiness out-of-proportion to his comment. And it only confirms that he is correct.
Isn’t that precisely what my last comment asked for (for everyone to adopt a civil, non-childish, disciplined and unhysterical attitude?) The problem is that you are recharacterizing some of what Patrick says as if it hadn’t appeared, and focusing instead on other parts.
Patrick hasn’t always been too kind with those with another viewpoint, or acknowledged that their viewpoint could have validity. And of course, no reasonable person has ever taken a request for people to be civil as "an insult and an affront." This is simply tarring thousands of people with the same beliefs and opinions of the few that leave strong messages at blogs. And I’m sure that you don’t really mean that.
Anyway, I think we’re more or less in agreement, so that’ seems to be a good place to stop.
Andy wrote: "Patrick hasn’t always been too kind with those with another viewpoint, or acknowledged that their viewpoint could have validity. "
Patrick is indeed sometimes scathing, but he is most scathing towards those people whose opinion he actually shares (on the desirability of ODF, on the need for DIS29500 to be fixed, etc) when they go beyond the bounds into libel or obstructionism or vexatiousness or mischievous fantasy-mongering and conspiracy theorizing or hidden agendas. That is just even-handedness, and not living in a glass house. He decries Beavis *and* Butthead: the extremes not the view.
I don’t know anyone who has, in practice, acknowledged that people with different views than him are allowed to have their view: so much so that mad people see him (editor of ODF, historical opponent of MS at OASIS, contracted to Sun) as being somehow a fellow traveller with MS of all people, when he is staunchly associated with promoting ODF. His sin is that he dares say what he thinks outside its value in marketing wars between corporations and partisans, as far as I can see. (Contrast this with some other people who make really good reasoned arguments on limited access technical lists which absolutely contradict the alarmist positions they take on their public blogs or interviews, as if they had an evil twin, or a split persona where they put on their marketeering hat.) His basic view (as I understand it anyway) is that, at the end of the day, each and every standard has to be as good as it can be, and this requires diligence and lack of partisanship.
He has been extremely reticent to put his views in public: it is perhaps a dozen open letters in two years, only on issues where there is a lot of heat and he thinks there is some significant angle that is important to be in the mix of public debate but which no-one else has said and which he is in the best position to make, as far as I can see. Significantly, he takes these open letters off his site when they are no longer relevant or after he has made his point or changed his POV: they are corrective comments at a point of time not immutable stances. And the dominant theme of his open letters is to encourage the work on OASIS ODF and IS26300, that a lot of the opposition to IS29500 was diverting effort and causing unnecessary bad blood, to the extent that the ODF effort was being hijacked by anti-MS partisans who exhibited little practical resolve to improve ODF: what I think of as blockers rather than enablers.
But if you are saying (I am sure you are not) that we should allow that casual and mischievous libelers with no evidence have validity, I completely reject that. (For example, on my blog whenever I have discovered I went to far or got something wrong — which happens to everyone– that the facts could not support, I always take correct it or remove it when it comes to my attention. It is irresponsible to have a website with articles or comments that are libellous: if people want to see archives they can see use the Wayback Machine. The owner of a blog with comments must consider themselves as the publisher of comments, after they have read them, and take responsibility for their continued publication. I consider gossip sites where any noxious claptrap and libelous conspiracy theories will be published in the name of openness or freedom regardless of evidence without moderation or without subsequent warnings added to be immoral and anti-social: sometimes comments on NOOXML and Groklaw verge into this slashdottery, though I think you maintain a much tighter discipline.)
Is your post a long way to say the original quote of Andy was correct?
Or do you want to say that Patrick was right to be unkind?
And does the libel and defamation you mention include the smear campaigns organized by MS?
The ones were MS employees forged letters in at least 3 countries (which is normally called fraud).
(Just to comment, to prevent further misinformation, that on another thread in this article, it came out that forgery and fraud were not involved in those cases.)
People sometimes say to me "There will be a loss of confidence in ISO standards as being necessarily the best" and similar remarks.
And I say "Good!" (And I think that ISO etc itself would agree.) An increase in realism and the acceptance of responsibility by adopting decision-makers can only be positive thing.
Not that ISO etc and its committees are not geared towards excellence in their particular and sometimes eccentric-seeming way, or that they do not hope that their standards are the best they can be, and maintained in a timely fashion. But that the idea that an ISO standard is necessarily the best suited for any particular purpose is an idea that people need to be disabused of. And this awareness that standards come out of traditions and involve tradeoffs and sometimes politicking needs to make people just as hard-nosed about standards from any boutique or industry consortia too. Take the standard I edit, ISO Schematron: I don’t make any claims that it is technically appropriate for any use merely because it is an ISO standard: what the standardization process gives a formalized review and at least minimal sorting out of many editorial, technical and IP issues (and sometimes it is maximal, if there is interest or criticality.)
What the ISO process does is provide a meaningful level of quality assurance, certain kinds of reviews and disciplines for a document, and that the underlying technology convinces the international reviewers that it is at least adequate for its purpose and desirable for meeting the requirements of some market. There are plenty of standards which turn out to be stepping stones: ISO DSSSL is a formatting standard for example: it never got much use (the Linux documentation uses it) but it made the development of the hugely successful XSLT (at W3C, but by the same people who made DSSSL at ISO) , but you can never know the lifecycle or flow-on effects of a standard from the outset.
> What the ISO process does is provide a meaningful level of quality assurance, certain kinds of reviews and disciplines for a document, and that the underlying technology convinces the international reviewers that it is at least adequate for its purpose and desirable for meeting the requirements of some market.
So this is what you think ISO accomplished with DIS29500 ? (I say this because you obviously felt the BRM was successful and you apparently feel that ISO has succeeded in its dealing with DIS29500. If both are true, then by your own words, you should be prepared to defend the above statment wrg to DIS29500.
I (and many others in the open-source & standards worlds) maintain that the BRM failed to achieve the above ‘meaningful level of quality assurance’ and that the entire ISO review of DIS29500 failed to properly and completely "review" DIS29500 to insure that it is ‘adequate for its purpose and desirable for meeting the requirements of some market’ other than as a Microsoft sales tool that only Microsoft can implement (Remember the OSP specifically excludes all commercial purposes and implicitly excludes competition by any GPL product). Note also that because of Microsoft’s past intimidation policies, there are no commercial office packages currently availabe to compete with MSOffice and that MS has been particularly effective at running for-profit competitors bankrupt through court-recognized product dumping and illegal bundling.
Could you perhaps point out in which markets DIS29500 is ‘adequate’ (or preferably above adequate) to use as a standard and what the requirements of that market are such that DIS29500 is uniquely suited to the needs of that market ? Given that Microsoft has public announced (and you fully endorse) their intent not to support DIS29500 for the next two years (minimum), I’m curious how you believe that DIS29500 has accomplished the purpose (any purpose) that brings honor to the ISO standardization process.
The only market I can see for DIS29500 is the market of a single monopoly user that wishes to use a not-really-open-ISO-standard to sidestep procurement rules that are designed to insure fair competition and interoperable, archivable document storage – rules designed to prevent vendor lock-in and higher prices due to lack of competition, and to preserve long-term document accessibility of crucial government records. For this market, the technologies embodied in DIS29500 seem ideal:
1. GPL products are barred from competing due to the OSP legal protections not being extended to GPL-licensed products
2. All commercial products are required to get a license from the monopoly that controls the standard and the dominant product in the marketplace
3. All implementations (commercial or FOSS) are at legal risk for incompletely or improperly implementing the non-documented (or ‘merely-referenced’) components of the standard. By the terms of the OSP, any ‘non-conforming implementation’ is not covered by the OSP at all, leaving them subject to lawsuits from the monopoly vendor.
4. Because the input to DIS29500 described what had already been implemented by the monopoly vendor, any commercial competitor faces the additional market disadvantage of not being ‘first-to-market’. Note that the input to the ISO fast-track process was a description of what had already been implemented by the monopoly vendor – not even an attempt at a proper standards document. Thus it is not surprising that ‘standards discipline’ (ie: language and interoperability language) was completely missing from the document. What *IS* surprising is the surprise of the monopoly vendor that an international body may want to object to clauses that provide special handling for monopoly browsers over competitors and that international review might object to references to non-documented or undocumented references in the international standard. These references still exist in the document approved by the BRM.
5. The large number of monopoly business parters that have joined national bodies and SC34 recently can be expected to vote the ISO standard in ways that benefit the monopoly over any competitor (commercial or FOSS). The playing field is no longer level within ISO maintenance due to the prevalence of so many monopoly business partners.
Perhaps my review of the document market is skewed and you have a different market in mind where DIS29500 is uniquely adequate-to-purpose and more desirable than ODF for the stated purpose of office document storage.
Please enlighten all of us dumb laymen and reationary zealots and pulp-fiction no-ooxml fans as to precisely what that market is and why DIS29500 is more suitable to that market than is ODF.
> The trouble was that people were trying to fight a demand battle (what should be adopted) at the supply forum (what should be available): futile. This argument borders on the ridiculous — not that I can speak for the noooxml crowd, but like most other representatives from academia, I have been fighting for a technically sound standard. After all, it is *not* the stated purpose of ISO to say: "Hey we have a number of standards, some crappy, some not (it is not our job to discriminate) just pick and choose and have fun." This is essentially what most arguments in favour of OOXML boil down to. Also I am not at all opposed to a "second" document standard if it has a certain minimum quality, but to deserve the name, a standard must be polished and forward-looking: OOXML is essentially "backwards": tons of ill-understood legacy stuff just rammed in ("autoSpaceLikeWord95") without any attempt to conceptualize the problems (why couldn’t this be made into a more general formatting directive?) to clean up the mess. If society didn’t do some housekeeping from time to time, we’d still be calculating in Roman numerals… Getting ISO-certified is all about prestige (don’t tell me you didn’t know that), it seems there is some severe difference of opinion how prestige is to be earned. You would sound more honest if you would plainly admit that in your mind technical excellence is not one of the requirements.
Given their past performance, MS’ OOXML effort has been hit hard by the fact that NO-one in the FLOSS world an NO competitor is willing to give them any "benefit of the doubt".
This is a company that has been found guilty of the worst of business practices time and again. Whose internal memos talk about large scale bribing of "independent" specialists and analists and "embrace, extend, extinguish" of standards. There is a whole library full of detailed court evidence that would support even the wildest conspiracy theory against MS. The story of Peter Quinn itself is horrifying. His counterpart in France has been fired recently. Tim Bray’s account of the attacks he and his family endured over his involvement with Netscape is also widely known.
So, I think there is no reason to label those who suspect the worst from MS anything than realistic.
Furthermore, I have seen no evidence that the complete chaos that resulted from fast tracking OOXML was not a calculated risk that MS and Ecma were willing to take just to get OOXML passed. The whole effort yelled "Apres nous, la deluge" for standardization. The complaint from SA is simply a recount of this willful carelessness.
When Rick Jelliffe speaks about IS26300 and IS29500 being a ten year effort, he talks about a common standard being in active use by several groups, and one that cannot even be suported in a meaningful way by its sole author. How OOXML can help ODF implementing MS documents formats (as he claims) is unclear. I really hope Rick can help the ODF committees in this. There is a lot of talk about OOXML being able to convert legacy documents better. But I still have to see why ODF should not be able to do that, with a little help from MS (read the comments from Stephane Rodrigues). The only difference is that OOXML simply refers to the internal code of Office 2007, instead of actually describing the structure (maybe the new annexes handle soem of that). That could have been done in ODF too.
I meant ten year effort from now, not ten years culminating in now. We are at the start, not the end: the long-term issue is not how to represent "bold" but how to represent what the user thought of when wanting "bold": semantic/rhetorical markup. The current WP generation of software is primitive, and documents format will need to progressively lessen the gap between mind and page as they evolve: this is something that ODF and OOXML only have the slightest capabilities in and where they need to go. ODF and OOXML bring document formats kicking and screaming into the late 1980s with a coating of creamy angle-bracket goodness: certainly OOXML is an experiment in trying to maneuver a non-structured system towards allowing structure, but structure (as the term is used in the markup community) is not first-class in OOXML or ODF: ODF has better hierarchies but the structures themselves are uninteresting.
It is irrational to block MS from doing the right thing in the name of old grievances. And to say that everything that MS does is always evil, or that they are the most evil corporation around, is religious and not my religion. Manufacturers of depleted uranium weapons and so on are in a different league than MS or IBM or any of the hyper-competitive suit-ridden high tech companies. Also, I think very often the corporation is blackened because of the actions of employees, and all these large corporations seem to attract sociopaths of one kind or another.
>It is irrational to block MS from doing the right thing in the name of old grievances.
People are not calling for a block of MS doing the right right, but rather that MS should be blocked from doing something different when the claim they are doing the right thing. Eveyone see it except the ISO people that busy bending and ignoring their own directives because they think it would be unfair if they didn’t put absolute trust in every word MS says.
>And to say that everything that MS does is always evil, or that they are the most evil corporation around, is religious and not my religion.
What is it that stop you from admitting that everything speaks for that MS in the OOXML disaster deployed all the dirty tricks they like Winter mentioned have been proven to used earlier?
What? I shouldn’t point out that there is absolutely no evidence here because in some other cases elsewhere in the world at other times involving different people there has been malfeasance?
Truth is no defense? Is that really what you are suggesting?
Steven Colbert is right: people prefer being "truthy" rather than "facty".
Rick, please open your eyes and look around, then take a deep breath and smell the coffee.
Expecting Microsoft to benefit the general IT industry by truly supporting ODF at this point in its history is like expecting a leopard to change its spots on demand or like expecting a skunk to NOT make a stink when it is challenged. There is no obvious gain for Microsoft in supporting ODf and there is much that Microsoft would gain by destroying ODF. Since it appears unlikely that control of ODF will be ceded to ISO by OASIS, Microsoft has to now join OASIS in order to destroy the ODF specification. Just controlling ISO is not enough.
You say that every big organization gathers some sociopaths. Why is it that with Microsoft, the sociopaths are running the corporation ?
For that past 10 years, Microsoft has been making promises to behave, then breaking those promises after the industry has spent significant time and money implementing their part of the ‘deal-du-jure’. Now you want that same industry to trust Microsoft on another 10-year deal and hold all comments for the full 10 years to see if Microsoft delivers ? Not. Gonna. Happen.
Most of those that currently distrust or dislike Microsoft are previous users of Microsoft products that have grown tired of broken promises, poor implementations, customer lock-in, partner lock-out, EEE, etc. These people have generally seen the true innovations in IT that are no more because of Microsoft’s unethical behavior. These people are usually somewhat anti-Microsoft because their sense of ethics is offended by Microsoft’s actions. These people simply no longer trust Microsoft to do anything in an above-board manner.
If asked, these people will likely readily agree that Microsoft is responsible for holding back the pace of IT innovation for approximately the past 15-20 years through various unethical and illegal means.
No quantity of analysts or standards experts that claim "there is no factual basis to distrust Microsoft" will change that history or those expectations. No chance. None. Zip. Nada.
This is because the facts of Microsoft’s unethical behavior are out in the public view. Fully documented in court case after court case. Multiple sites. Microsoft can no longer conceal their unetical intent in past dealings even if they can (temporarily) conceal their (suspected) unethical intent in current dealings.
Microsoft has succeeded in its hostile take-over of ISO and SC34 WG1. From all appearances, they apparently control SC34 as well. For sure they control Alex Brown’s activities and decisions which explains a lot about the outcome of the BRM. (It has not escaped my notice that the British Library book-scanning project has been closed by Microsoft now that their OOXML standard has been ram-rodded to approval by Alex Brown whose company deals heavily with the British Library.)
Perhaps you cannot recognize cause and effect in the real world because you do live in the real world (the world of industry and of the application of IT ethics, principles and products). If that is the case, please refrain from the name-calling and insults that seem to pepper your posts when referring to the noooxml website or the those of us in the real world that are ethically offended by Microsoft and their supporters and that have been burnt time and again by the Microsoft mis-representations. Many of us have learned the hard way how to read Microsoft press releases (hint: look for what is not being said and assume that Microsoft will always either have fine print that contradicts the apparent intent of their positive announcements or that Microsoft will add such print when questioned. There is a reason that Microsoft keeps all it’s legal contracts on an internet web page. It makes the agreements easier to unilaterally change without notice.
The truth to many is that Microsoft simply cannot be trusted. Not. Any. More. Not. After. The. Last. Twenty. Years.
"It is irrational to block MS from doing the right thing in the name of old grievances. And to say that everything that MS does is always evil, or that they are the most evil corporation around, is religious and not my religion."
Your reponse does not say why we should not expect MS pulling a "Kerberos" on us. Btw, this also seems to be the religion of the EU commission, who are at pains to tell us they believe MS when they see the results. And not a minute earlier.
You misunderstood my earlier comment. I was just saying that MS have a history of ALWAYS betraying those who have to deal with them. Foxes, henhouses etc.
And wrt sociopaths running MS. Name one (1) MS CEO who has NOT been shown lying in front of a US federal judge, under oath, and you showed me a CEO that hasn’t been in court. And that has been amply documented.
But I am not telling you what you should expect. Indeed, I have frequently said that I think we need clear standards explaining what goes on in MS (and other market dominators’) products because we *don’t * trust MS not because we *do* trust them.
I am saying that forums which do not have an anti-trust function cannot take on that function. It is not ISO’s role to say "USA, you bombed and killed hundreds of thousands of defenseless people over the last few years, you are not suitable for membership". It is not ISO’s role to say "Google, you collaborate with the Chinese government on tracking down dissidents, technologies that come from you are poisoned at their source." This is the postman argument: a postman should deliver mail even to someone he doesn’t like, even to a mass murderer. So the ISO process has to take the same constructive approach with EMCA standards that it does with anyone else’s standards.
Now I don’t think this is the NB’s role either: I think the more that votes are non-technical the less sound and justifiable the standards process is.
It is ISO’s role to say: the standard can not be accepted because it has not been given proper technical evaluation, or, better than that, the standard can not be accepted because the procedures followed do not guarantee that the technical defects found will actually be corrected. Simple.
Also, it is also ISO’s role to say:
* look, that proposed standard (electricity, health, etc.) may cause a lot of deaths… why did you not give it proper revision?
ISO is all about quality and standards reputation.
If anyone can submit whatever their likes are, and influence the decision… I see no point on having ISO.
I don’t see any of these problems coming out in other standardization organizations, such as W3C for example.
JTC1, whose process we are discussing, does not deal with electrical standards or health/safety as such. Don’t be hysterical.
It is strictly "voluntary" standards. You can see the list of committees at
You can read the business plans of the various SC at
The 2006 business plan for SC34 is here (I expect the new Japanese secretariat will make a new one reflecting the new WG organization this year)
But – if one then accepts this judgment, then we need to start thinking about how these other concerns do get addressed. That can be done by having another organization that certifies the process, or it can be done by ISO changing its own rules to make the process work better (e.g., by making it harder for vendors to induce outcomes). And this is _not_ something that ISO can say "isn’t ISO’s job," because it uses that same reason to justify some of its current rules. So either it’s within the ISO remit, or it’s not.
I think that this is one reason that a lot of your answers are frustrating people: you keep saying "it’s not ISO’s job," without suggesting how to make very real problems get solved, or, as noted above, explaining why ISO can be selective in when it decides it needs a rule. I think a lot of people find it pretty unsatisfying when you say "we’re just the postman" when there is no Fedex alternative.
And some arguments – such as "it’s hard to believe that an appeal will succeed, because a majority of the NBs voted in favor," sounds silly on it’s face. When would you ever need to appeal a decision, except when something had been approved? In concluding as you do, you eliminate any reason for their to be an appeal process at all. I think people are entitled to conclude (a) that there would not be an appeal procedure unless it was intended to be meaningful, (b) that it would apply in the face of a majority vote, and (c) that if the Directives speak of reputation, then reputation should be (among other named issues) a viable basis for an appeal – again regardless of how the vote went.
I understand your comment, but I think it doesn’t apply to the postman argument: Fedex should be as neutral as the post office.
I support improvement of ISO/IEC JTC1, whether it is considered reform or maintenance. That is motherhood. I don’t have particular thoughts on mechanisms for this, I don’t like going beyond the technical/editorial issues that I think are my expertise.
But the topic of my interest in these threads is more on what are reasonable expectations about what kinds of appeals could succeed. I just don’t see that any appeal based on supposed misconduct of the BRM could override an accept vote on the approved text from the BRM: a Ballot vote is not an endorsement of the process but of the text. Problems with the BRM stage of the process, whether significant or sour grapes, cannot invalidate the vote: problems with the conduct of the Ballot could. The convenor of a BRM has a lot of leeway and discretion to choose how to conduct the meeting, and the goals of the meeting are merely to produce a better text, which may certainly not necessarily be the text that any particular NB would prefer. The convenor has a duty to make sure that the meeting is not sidetracked or monopolized by black-hole issues, as much as possible: that is part of their job. Towards the end of the BRM, it is also their job to make sure that as much outstanding business can be finalized as possible. That this will disaffect people with black-hole issues is par for the course.
As for Brazil’s complaint on binary mappings, I would imagine the JTC1 response would be "Is this about an issue that can be dealt with by the maintenance process?" If it is (and binary mappings certainly are in that camp) then the response would be "BRM had finite time; convenor had discretion to run the meeting as best possible; final text was approved; take it to maintenance and we will oversee that it gets full hearing in SC34." I think it is important to be realistic about what the BRM would or could vote in favour of: the outcome of the BRM is highly specific editor’s instructions, usually the exact wording: vague instructions such as "provide binary mappings" had no chance of succeeding at ballot in the BRM even if allowed and large amounts of new normative text (e.g. hundreds or housands of pages) had absolutely no chance of succeeding at ballot in the BRM. The exact text would have had to have been prepared much earlier, in time for other NB’s committees to have considered it: even if it were non-normative it is extremely dubious. Maybe the Brazilian proposal had some clever way of overcoming these, but the convenor of a BRM is not bound to prioritize issues that seem doomed over issues that seem to have widespread support.
"I just don’t see that any appeal based on supposed misconduct of the BRM could override an accept vote on the approved text from the BRM: a Ballot vote is not an endorsement of the process but of the text. "
The rules are there to ensure that the vote is on the text. What happened in the BRM is that many delegates felt they were not voting on the text, or the standard, but on a very limited set of options. They were given a block vote option that did not allow their opinions be heard or even voted for.
Eg, Brazil asked for a mapping of the old binary formats to the OOXML. They were not allowed to bring this to a vote. That was because of the "rules". So the rules determined what could be voted on. And if the rules are broken, the votes are not about the real matter anymore. Also, the "rules" said they could not vote for a longer BRM, which they all knew was necessary to handle all the issues. So, again, the rules were followed to help OOXML, but broken when they hindered OOXML. That means the votes were NOT about what the voters wanted to say, but about what Ecma/MS wanted to hear.
You talk about "many delegates".
That a delegate feels unheard is tough and their problem. That a delegation feels unheard is a different one.
The delegations voted *for* the system that was adopted. We spent almost a half day on it, with an overnight warning that it would come up.
I also had an issue I felt strongly about that was shuffled into the too-hard basket: the convenor etc rightly judged that there were more productive things to go on with: this was the issue of naming the standard and taking product-specific names out of normative text. In effect it means changing the scope so that the scope was given in performative not historical terms: this is a standard for linear WP documents and so on. If I had specific final text ready, perhaps it might have made it to the list of things that could be considered (since the scopes were being rearranged anyway.) So was I miffed by this? Yes, a little. Did I think the Directives were clearly in my favour? Yes. Did I think it was important enough to raise several times? Yes (twice in the BRM and once in a corridor meeting). Was I successful in convincing other NBs that this was a high-priority issue? No (except perhaps for one delegate, though I expect that it would have been raised eventually) Did I understand that a large deadlined BRM is always going to have an agenda out of my control? Yes.
It is not unusual to go to meetings and have some pet issue rebuffed for all sorts of reasons. It was always clear that the BRM would have to ration time. It is absolutely no grounds for an appeal that the final text did not include material your national body considered important: the NB gets to vote on that. But it is the tough job required of a convenor that they prevent the meeting from being sidetracked, which is entirely possible. This is both why the convenors have some discretion in the conduct of the meeting and why the objective of the BRM (a better text) does not require that every NB at the BRM be satisified. At the BRM, you quickly get a sense of what will fly and what won’t fly. NBs who concentrate on what won’t fly are highly likely to be disappointed.
Don’t try to paint the BRM as a cordial meeting that ended in a cooperative vote.
We now have four countries a Danish delegate member filing official complaints.
All tell the same story: They were forced to vote on a small number of options for non-technical reasons. With all the other comments we have heard, there must have been indeed many ill feelings.
The latest Iranian elections were judged undemocratic because people could only chose between candidates selected by the ruling "party".
Why should a restricted vote in the BRM be different?
With 4 official complaints, the BRM is plain and simply CONTESTED.
And why should I take your word as more important than that of 4 complete national delegations and a dozen or so members who complained as loudly?
Because you are impartial and they are not?
In this, it is your word against them.
If there are three NBs who have appealed, that also means there are about 84 which have not. They don’t count for nothing do they?
Every NB can participate in the maintenance process at SC34 and get their additional issues discussed and balloted: the BRM is just one step in the process, not the end of the line. The NBs at the BRM decided (I think it was unanimous) to adopt the voting procedure that was used, it was not forced on them from outside.
I am sorry if my having different opinions to you is intolerable to you. If you could perhaps send a list of the recommended talk points for the day, I could get with the program better.
" If there are three NBs who have appealed, that also means there are about 84 which have not. They don’t count for nothing do they?"
This is the argument that when 10 million Americans protest in the street, 290 millions don’t, so we can ignore the protesters. Not a good argument. There are many reasons to abstain from appealing. For one, a country can decide it will simply ignore the results of DIS 29500 and don’t bother with an appeal (eg, China?). Anyhow, the protesters account for 1.5 billion people, so take your pick.
"The NBs at the BRM decided (I think it was unanimous) to adopt the voting procedure that was used, it was not forced on them from outside."
Then I must have been misinformed. My impression from other reposrts was that delegates could chose between 4 or 5 voting options that were all equally inappropriate for a RESOLUTION meeting. They were not allowed to discuss or suggest their own procedures. But I wasn’t there, so I will not argue it. In general, he who can decide the questions, decides the votes.
"I am sorry if my having different opinions to you is intolerable to you."
This is a bad debating technique. It instills the impression that you feel you have to resort to personal attacks. The problem with blogs is that your words will be there forever, only a search engine query away.
But my point is simple, you (and Alex) tell us all went well and good. But we have now a dozen eye witness reports that talk about mayhem and disillusions at the BRM plus four NBs filing a formal appeal, partly over the BRM. It is your word against theirs. Why should we believe you and not them? Because you are impartial?
> Don’t try to paint the BRM as a cordial meeting that ended in a cooperative vote.
But is most definitely was a cordial meeting (in the main), and the voting mechanism was unanimously approved by all the participating delegations.
I was there, Rick was there. We know.
If NBs thought the BRM was inadequate, they could vote against DIS 29500. Those who did clearly took that option. Obviously, a large majority of countries reached a different conclusion.
BTW, don’t believe the hate sites that quote people who weren’t at the BRM as though they were: this "Morten Kjærsgaard" character was not at the BRM. The head of Dansk Standards has been quoted as saying (in contrast):
This point has also been made (quoted in the article linked above) by Jonathan Buck, an ISO spokesman, who has stated:
It therefore seems a foregone conclusion that any appeal based on procedure will not even get started. On other issues, countries will have to negotiate a consensus.
It is also worth noting that the 2 month deadline for appealing against anything at the BRM passed a few weeks ago. By my reading the only subject in scope for an appeal concerns the events surrounding the end of the ballot period on 29 March.
– Alex Brown (ex-convenor, DIS 29500 Ballot Resolution Meeting)
I was going on the accounts of Andy and Open Malaysia, eg,
If Hassan tells us that 4 delegates even refuse to vote, there must have been something to trip them up. They came and worked hard, but seemed to have felt they could not even vote.
How often are fast tracks followed by complains? Even FOUR NBs complaining? Complaining about the complete process?
I simply do not beleive the BRM was concluded in complete harmony. Not after having read all the disillusioned reports form participants, and not after seeing these four well argued complaints (which included the organization of the BRM).
But I do beleive immediately that these civilized people were able to separate substance (OOXML, process) from personal feeling towards the other participants. So in that way, I do believe you when you say all participants were friendly and courdial.
As an example, I worked fine with Malaysia’s YK and the the members of the Greek delegation, even though we supposedly have diametrically opposed views on many things. I enjoy SA’s Bob Jolliffe’s conversation similarly. The US kindly accepted the AU suggestion as part of their proposals, even though obviously some members of each delegation may not be on kissing terms.
Don’t confuse disagreements with fights. There will always be disagreements. Why not concentrate on substance rather than gossip?
There have been misunderstandings here. I have never doubted for a moment that Andy, Yoon, Ditesh, Hasan, and Bob would not go for a drink with Alex and you. I am certain all participants in the BRM were civilized people that could separate the personal from the substance.
I simply disagree about the procedures followed in the attempt to ratify OOXML/Ecma 376 as an ISO standard
(for as far as you would consider my opinion worthwhile enough to disagree with).
And I keep reading disturbing reports that fuel my suspicions. From Heise-online:
I read from this, that things went really wrong and OOXML should never have been allowed on the fast track. I think I can sincerely say that I would never have even considered these possibilities had I been only reading your comments and posts.
Now, Germany is one of those countries that did NOT appeal, which, you implied above, I should interpret as that they agreed with the way the BRM and the rest of the procedure went. This quote tells us that they see a "serious" breach of the rules. Not small or causual. So I feel I have to disagree with you. Silence is not a sign of agreement, but just silence.
Whether the process is good is a different question from whether the BRM was orderly, or whether the DIS should become an IS.
PAS and Fast Track are inappropriate for big standards. ODF and OOXML were problematic in that respect. I don’t think anybody, now, is disagreeing there. However, if I might presume to summarise the consensus view of The World, I would say the majority belief was that the broken process is a separate problem to the desirability of the IS. That is evident in the voting. Some countries (among those who disapproved the DIS) see the process faults as inseparable, and are appealing, but I completely agree with Rick that this lawyerly approach based on "technicalities" is a non-starter.
What is needed now is process reform, and one benefit of the DIS 29500 project is that is has crystalised that need. In SC 34 may of us discovered during the ODF standardisation that there were big process problems, but that particular show played before a very sparse audience.
It’s often said that the ISO works more on precedents than on rules, and the DIS 26300/29500 processes could be said to demonstrate a precedent for preferring fast standardisation of adequate solutions over slow standardisation of excellent solutions. Would an appeal of the process be more likely to avoid (or reverse) that precedent than the less-formal disquiet raised elsewhere?
Andrew wrote "It’s often said that the ISO works more on precedents than on rules, and the DIS 26300/29500 processes could be said to demonstrate a precedent for preferring fast standardisation of adequate solutions over slow standardisation of excellent solutions."
Very few JTC1 standards are fast-tracked, but yes "Fast-track" can be presumed to try to be fast and a PAS can be presumed to have already finalized text: every different committee and body have different priorities, so of course SC34 partipants will probably see flaws in external standards they did not get a chance to review, and I think it is entirely unsatisfactory. JTC1 is historically quite strong on textual issues like i18n and translatability, and on the discipline of conformance requirements, and on generalizing technologies; other standards groups may have been stronger on accessibility or on issues traditionally out-of-scope for JTC1 standards:concrete test suites or running code; so most people from one "tradition" will find the standard from another tradition deficient. You can see from the thousands of changes that came out of the BRM (perhaps 10,000 individual changes), even with the current procedures, a certain amount of scrutiny still occurs: but it occurs in a single big fat lump. (I know the ECMA and OASIS people will say that we had the chance to participate in their development processes, these things don’t appear out of the blue, and I know at SC34 we had the opportunity to provide feedback that was acted on before the ECMA text was released–I pushed for the inclusion of the RELAX NG schemas for example.)
The fast-track theory was that agile and industry-based consortia were a much better place for the initial stages of developing standards; in the mid-90s this was quite clear, because the ISO committee process did not attend to tight user-requirements enough, frequently lead to giantism and wishful-thinking in standards, had promulgation problems with pricey standards, had new blood decrying old hands as dead-wood standards careerists, and was not a forum where developers felt empowered enough to participate. Hence the move towards industry consortia like W3C. (There were also other issues: I remember finding an ANSI document on the web a decade ago which outraged me, it was saying that their voting policy should be based on promoting US interests which I thought was completely the wrong approach: consensually working towards getting the best possible standards would be a better goal.) As well, goverments etc had started to allow W3C recommendations as standards and this looked like a trend that would continue; the fast-track procedures are an attempt to respond to the market shift towards consortia for agility then adding a measure of the ISO review process (in my view, not enough: I think the "accelerated process" where there is at least one full cycle of review would be much better.)
However, it turns out that most of these problems are just as much a problem of maturity as anything specific to JTC1, and that industry consortia were just as prone to them. For example, the ODF TC has just this week* got up to addressing issue 18 of their public comments on ODF 1.0. This is a comment from 19/10/2005! Ye Gods! So much for agility, openness (outside the clique) and responsiveness: it is *absolutely unthinkable* that an issue could take over two and a half years to get looked at in the modern SC34 (indeed, there are Directives about timeliness in this regard and delays in reviewing SGML in the mid 90s caused the XML split to W3C)! Whatever they have been doing, it hasn’t been attending to getting ODF up to scratch as a result of formal external comments, whereas you would expect anything with "open" in the name to want to put a premium on openness..sigh…
So SC34 co-operates with other standards bodies as much as possible. I don’t think the various standards bodies see themselves as competing, rather the issue is how to find the best relative position with each other to get the best outcome. IIRC only ODF and OOXML were fast-tracked above SC34’s head: the rest were put in through the normal process. In WG1, the Schema WG which I participate by invitation, this decade we have had:
* RELAX NG: came from OASIS
* RELAX NG compact syntax: came from OASIS
* Schematron: come from open source collaboration
* NVRL: came from open source collaboration of WG1 members
* Charref: came from W3C technical note by their then head of I18n which was not not webby enough to become a W3C recommendation
* DTTL: came from an open source implementation and private developer
* DSRL: developed in SC34 W1 as a response to certain requirements from other schema specs
Not one of these comes from a corporation and not one of these has had uptake from any major corporation: active member and former convenor of WG1 Martin (DSRL) Bryan made a firey speech when he retired as convenor last year in which he contrasted "standardization by corporation" with "open standards development". (He notably chastized single-interest participants at SC34, predictably one side ignored that it applied to them just as much as their opponents.) This is because there are many of us who see that practical, small, excellent ISO standards are one of the few ways of creating a parallel and viable stream of technology that avoids domination by US corporate (open and closed source) agendas on one hand and the uncordinated local optimizations that characterize non-corporate open source and dissapate their efforts so much. (But this is not to say that we should reject participation by corporations or contributions of their technologies: WG2 has the Open Type standard for example, which is the MS/Apple/Adobe? Open Type fonts that have a big market. ) I think most people involved in WG1 long-term are strongly committed to having cohesive parallel traditions of technology from those of corporate platforms, which is not to say that (closed and open source) corporations would not be thoroughly welcomed if they wanted to implement and participate.
And that is one of the main reasons why the JTC1 process at SC34 often works less efficiently than at industry consortia: most long-term SC34 participants are self-funded experts often from specialist businesses who are there because of commitment and talent and requirements for technologies which are outside the technical agendas of the (open and closed source) corporations: they are not motivated by the next bonus check or establishing a fiefdom. Now that XML is mainstream, it is regarded as an essential and productive tool in the toolbelt, but early last decade structured markup as promoted by SC34 was regarded as an eccentric dead-end with little mainstream support from the corporations. 22 years after the standard for angle-brackets, we are just starting to see the major desktop applications going over to using them as a no-brainer, but the SGML premise of rigorous markup is just being faced up to, and the value of retargetable semantic markup and alternative renderings is still not in the mainstream conciousness (e.g. people think of "word processor" and "spreadsheet" as kinds of immutable categories.)
An impressive and illuminating writeup.
But I cannot see where or how it explains that OOXML on the fast-track with a 1 week BRM for a thousand odd "issues" was a good idea?
Or where it explains what QA was applied on the OOXML standard before fast-tracking it?
I do not even see in what way the behavior of OASIS and ECMA are comparable? Or even in what ways OOXML Fast-Track and ODF PAS standardization are comparable, except in their underlying functionality.
And about XML stuctured markup with real ontologies/semantics, I prefer to look at the views of organizations like the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) rather than to Ecma.
I pondered a quote from Lou Burnard of the TEI:
"Standardization is not Do what I do but Explain what you do in ways I understand"
If anything, MS failed completely to explain what OOXML is supposed to do and why it does it that way. More important, OOXML does not explain what you are supposed to be doing at all. And there is no way of finding out because the only code that implements the "semantics" is proprietary and secret.
You once explained to me that the random tag names in OOXML are no problem because they can be translated. But you failed to explain why these random, non-unique, tag names were chosen (just as Ecma failed to do) and whether such a translation with semantics actually exists, or will ever exist. So even you seem to be in the dark about what it all means or what the aims are.
I have tried to understand it, but must admit that I failed completely.
Winter asked " Or where it explains what QA was applied on the OOXML standard before fast-tracking it?"
The ECMA process started with 2000 pages of text from MS. This initial text had material sometimes over a decade old from their documentation, cobbled together: one of problem with this text was not that it was new and untested but that it was old and carried on the deficiencies of the old material: some of this has carried through until today, for example the disconnect between what MS thinks Excel does and what it actually does. After six months at ECMA the draft had grown to 4000 pages and there was a public draft released for public comment. (I wrote a blog on it, for example.) At this time Ecma also approached many SC34 people directly as part of the informal review that the Directives encourage: I made some comments of a fairly general nature and I know several other SC34 people did, and the final ECMA draft did incorporate some of this feedback (I think all the feedback it did not include ended up being raised at the BRM in any case.) Then another six months at ECMA where another 2000 pages were added, and off to the ISO process.
Winter wrote "I pondered a quote from Lou Burnard of the TEI: "Standardization is not Do what I do but Explain what you do in ways I understand""
Lou is a great and interesting guy: he also said that markup (or DTDs or schemas) represent a theory about the document, which is a point Patrick Durusau also recently emphasized. Lou’s point emphasizes a meeting of the minds, agreement, the human aspect rather than the formalist/legalist idea of the standard being a text in isolation from a market or user base.
Winter wrote "If anything, MS failed completely to explain what OOXML is supposed to do and why it does it that way. More important, OOXML does not explain what you are supposed to be doing at all. And there is no way of finding out because the only code that implements the "semantics" is proprietary and secret."
So you say. I urge readers to actually look at the spec and see what they think. It is more tutorial than any standard I have ever seen, with more explanatory fluff than is remotely desirable. It completely errs on the side of providing too much information. I tried to get it stripped back at the BRM, but NBs (especially those from non-English backgrounds I think) found all the additional material useful. That the value of OOXML is entirely in how accurately it describes what is going in that generation of Office documents is exactly the reason why the maintenance process is so important and why people who think things are frozen with the BRM are drama queens. When a deficiency is reported (i.e. whenever there is a description that does not match observable behaviour) it can get fixed (either by amending the standard or by correcting the application behaviour.)
Some days I feel like I’m trying to learn number theory by listening to Newton discuss calculus 🙂
The basic question I’m left asking today is best expressed in terms of an analogy:
If I go on a course, I learn and change, and I get a certificate to say that I’ve done so. The certificate is useful for getting jobs, while the learning and changing is useful for keeping said jobs. How would you compare that to the value of the ISO process and certificate? In particular, does ISO certification carry any value at all beyond letting people know that they can go home?
– Andrew Sayers
p.s. in case there’s any doubt, I’m the same person as signs off “ – Andrew”. I’m trying to remember to add my last name nowadays, but sometimes I forget.
"ODF and OOXML were problematic in that respect."
Please, explain in what respect ODF going through PAS was problematic?
Correct me when I am wrong, but where in the whole, years long standardization process of ODF did a problem surface? What dissent what aired?
I have not seen any "problems" surfacing until ODF was encroaching on MS’ turf and MS started their own, completely private (invitation only) standardization effort of OOXML.
Please, could you explain what I missed.
Problems with ODF standardisation aren’t nearly as public or as rancorous as with Office Open XML, but are there when you dig into it. Alex’s general argument seems to be that ODF passed with insufficient scrutiny, leading to an ISO/IEC 26300 … which is not finished, and has > 100 defects known.
Additionally, I read the discussion between Rob Weir and Murata Makoto in the comments of this article as a sign that the formal requirements of the PAS process don’t scale to a standard the size of ODF, leading to informal back-channels being created for rapid communication.
None of this is to say that DIS 29500 and DIS 26300 are comparable in terms of controversiality, just that they’re both cases where different procedures would lead to a better result.
– Andrew Sayers
"100 defects know"
And OASIS are working on it?
A sampling of DIS29500 by Rob Weir came to an estimate of 15000 errors in OOXML so the problems there seem to be even worse by two orders of magnitude.
But OASIS had been working on ODF for a few years with a lot of comunity input, and I remember that SQL had some errors too. SQL was not on PAS. So what solution is there? Error free standards are possible?
"the size of ODF…"
is 10% of that of OOXML. And OASIS worked 10 times as long on it as Ecma on OOXML, with many more people.
I still see using phrases like "ODF and OOXML" having comparable problems as a rather strange way of talking. If we take ODF, XML, and SQL, we see "comparable" problems. With OOXML we see two orders of magnitude bigger problems. And OOXML gave LESS time for community scrutiny.
None of these ODF problems were big enough to raise any serious questions then, let alone appeals to the standardization process. OOXML is really unique here. I have heard it described as by far the biggest standard EVER to go through ISO (in page count). And it went without public scrutiny nor an existing implementation straight into fast-track. Even the minutes of the Ecma or BRM are not public.
I still cannot see how ODF in PAS and OOXML in Fast Track had similar problems.
According to the last article I linked to, OASIS is indeed working on the problems raised by ISO, just not in a way that fits well with the requirements of PAS. As much as anything, this seems to be a problem with PAS, which ISO people are apparently discussing how best to fix. As to what that fix might look like, I’m really not the person to ask.
I agree that there is no strict moral equivalence between errors in the DIS 26300 process and those in DIS 29500 – the only comparison is that they’re both cases that the ISO can learn from.
– Andrew Sayers
All these processes need continual reformation. Standards-making is a process not an event.
And there will always be conflicting priorities that make it difficult for one organization (or even individual) to fulfill its commitments to another organization. The important thing is to be constructive and press on.
Look at Alex Brown’s uncovery recently of problems in the ODF schema. He reported the problem, proposed a fix, SC34 WG1 members discussed it including on the public dsdl.org mailing list, the RELAX NG editor Murata-san wrote to ODF proposing the preferred change, and we are discussing changes to RELAX NG (and, indeed, a new part of DSDL: part 6 path-based integrity constraints) which may provide better support for ODF’s requirements. All productive, non-emotional, and positive. (That some touchy people interpreted Brown’s issues falsely as some kind of attack is their problem, and that they didn’t want it publicized shows their commitment to marketing over openness, but it doesn’t alter the basic cooperative stance that ultimately holds between the various standards groups as consenting adults in private.)
Well, you’re "going on" the third-hand report of somebody who was not at the BRM, and who was basing their blog entry on the rather confused post-BRM reporting that appeared here. FYI, "delegates" do not vote at the BRM, *delegations* do, as as I recall none refused to vote – they all registered some position.
I believe the last appeal following a fast track was the China/WAPI affair, though I think that was not a JTC 1 project.
I fail to understand why you are so desperate to believe the BRM was not harmonious. Whatever disagreements people had – either with the DIS or with the process – they nearly always behaved with respect for their fellow delegates, even when expressing views strongly. I has to use my "mute delegate" button 3 times – which for a meeting as potentially fraught as this one strikes me as remarkable. The conduct of the BRM delegates was (with only one or two exceptions) one of the high points of this project. Standards people are generally nice, you see …
"Standards people are generally nice, you see …"
I know and I never wrote otherwise. My choice of words might be sub-optimal, but I never wanted to imply that the people were not of the highest standards.
That is not to say that the OOXML fast-track process, BRM included, was up to those standards. Far from it. In another comment I quote a DIN spokesperson who talks about "a serious breach of … rules". So my informants were not that far off.
Btw, I have tried to base my opinion on actual eye witnesses, like those blogging on Open Malaysia. They used the words "mayhem" to describe the last day of the BRM. I believe some Brazilian delegates used even stronger words.
I think there were many participants who were inexperienced and did not realize the amount of preparation required for successful participation at these things. You could see the lightbulbs go on over the first couple of days: some responded by knuckling down, some responded by feeling disenfranchised.
In particular, proposers of changes need the actual specific editor’s instructions for all text changes. And the proposers need to be prepared to change them based on additional requirements that come along. And, indeed, they may even need to prepare multiple versions with different changes, depending on how the meeting progresses. And they may have to be prepared to compromise some less important things to get their main issues addressed. And you may have to split up your proposals into multiple parts to make sure that you get something rather than nothing. And they may have to go actively seek out other NBs to explain the details.
At a BRM, no NB would accept large changes to text which they have not seen and discussed ahead of time, it is utterly ludicrous to expect such a thing could ever happen. Indeed, it is notable that the detailed changes that *were* available for discussion ahead of time (the Editor’s responses) were mostly adopted even without explicit discussion during the meeting time: NBs already had positions on whether they represented an improvement or not. (NBs had been instructed to have these, including by the JTC1 directives.)
So the only reliable way at these meetings to get large chunks of normative text changed is to have consensus *before* the BRM. And that is what the six+ month period before the BRM allowed. And this involves putting up your opinion, discussing it, getting it known, and so on. I know first-hand that many delegates had no idea before the BRM that *they* would have to provide text changes if they wanted them: they wouldn’t magically appear. And this would involve late-night sessions and negotiations and compromise and last-minute checking with contacts in other standards bodies, and going over other standards, and checking back with the experts at the home NB and other contacts: this work at the BRM occurs outside the confines of the formal meeting, and the reason for the various social events is to enable the networking and exchange of views necessary.
For example, in Australia’s request for splitting the standard up into multiple parts, we went right down to clause level, quite detailed. The more issues that are on the table for any kind of meeting, the more that you need to have your ducks lined up in a row before the meeting. The large participation in the BRM necessarily involved the presence of many new people who I think now are much more aware of the kind of preparation involved. Perhaps some don’t (for example, I think Tim Bray’s comment about the bullshit of the process comes out of an expectation that the BRM would be less about ratification of pre-existing alternatives and more about grey-beards working up new material.) I would expect that now-more-experienced delegates from NBs who continue on to participate in the maintenance processes for OOXML and ODF and PDF will come with much better drafts prepared, or at least try to have specific ideas about the details of any improvements they champion.
Actually, what you are saying is that those who complain were incompetent. Do I read that right?
The same holds for those who filed official complaints.
Obviously, that must be extended to those who felt that they somehow were not able to discuss all comments before the BRM because they "misunderstood" Ecma’s instructions, like the Greek delegation or simply received too much text too late. Or the Brazilians should have filed this request for a map between OOXML and legacy formats at a different moment and place?
And do you think inexperience also explains the comment from the head of the US delegation?
My understanding was that 80% of all proposals from Ecma were changed during the BRM, when they were discussed. However, most proposals had to be decided on in bulk votes. You have given no reason why these other proposals were of any better quality than those that were discussed and changed.
In short, there were a lot of complaints that there was too little time to discuss the proposed resolutions before and during the BRM. And now you bring up the explanation that the delegates were simply too inexperienced (~incompetent) to handle such a standard?
Rick, somehow, I hessitate to believe your explanation.
I sometimes feel like we are living in two different worlds. You say:
As you know, the text was released only in pieces, with the first batch being made available to a limited list of folks (heaven forbid non-NB committee members should see it) something like three months, and not six months, before the BRM. The last batch, if memory serves, was something like six weeks or less before the BRM. And the whole of the comments and responses totalled 2300 pages.
Now just how was all of this activity supposed to have occurred on a global basis among the 86 NBs that voted in the first round? How could it even be arranged into peoples’ schedules?
This is the kind of comment that at best makes people think you’re trying to midlead them. Note also that NBs in emerging countries may or may not have subject matter experts in all of the thousands of areas of standards that are also old hands at JTC 1 process. To me, your comments are simply another illustration of why the Fast Track process, including the long run out of the comments before an only one week BRM, were patently ill advised and inadequate. As at least 4 NBs that filed appeals agree – and these were not totally unseasoned NBs, either.
Andy, did any of the appeals mention irregularities pre-BRM regarding access to the text and deadlines? Your points are very important.
Rick, this might seem off topic… for now, but I will put it in proper context if you provide an answer. What operating system, productivity suite, and web browser do you use the most in your daily life?
There are two statements in your long and thoughtful post which get to something of the heart of the problem as I see it. On the one hand:
"National Bodies decide what becomes a standard not gnomes in Zurich, "
"Currently the NBs have too much discretion"
Whereas I too would also hate to see a situation where it is the "gnomes" determining what becomes a standard, it is also true that NBs should be given as much discretion as is required, within a clear framework to provide the checks and balances which are required to moderate this discretion. Its a really hard balance to get right and regardless of what directives you have it will never be perfect.
Now I think most folk seem to agree that the JTC 1 directives do not provide a particularly clear framework around some of the processes surrounding fast track submissions, but in those instances where they are abundantly clear – such as the obligation of the editor to produce a text within the prescribed 30 days – the NBs, the BRM, the editor nor the submitter can not simply take it upon themselves to modify that, on the fly as it were, in order to accomodate the squeezing of a specification through a hole into which it does not fit. That would be allowing them too much discretion. And that is at the heart of the SA appeal.
And I do not think of myself as an "extremist", at least not on this issue. Though it seems that just as there were some whose instinct was to characterise all supporters of OOXML as being in some way corrupt, there is clearly an equal temptation to attempt to portray all its opponents as extremist. Neither caricature is really helpful.
PS. Regarding the (im)proper preparation of NBs for the BRM, I have to say in my inexperienced ignorance that it was far from straightforward. In the last few weeks NBs were asked to prepare and submit a list of their top priority issues. In SA we met and did exactly that. My expectation was that we would then see the consolidated list of these issues prior to the meeting in order to focus our preparatory efforts. In the final week we discovered that these were not going to be taken into account at all and that we should rather be prepared for whatever happens. I for one was not prepared for what happened. At one point we even found ourselves approving proposals which had not yet been submitted to the chair. You might recall South Africa objecting to this. Couple this with what I can only describe as an orchestrated effort by certain parties to persuade NBs that they should in fact only be concerned with their own comments just to add to the confusion. There was such a lot of wasted effort over the past year. It need not have been like that. It was clear from September last year what the scale of the BRM problem would be. With due respect to those concerned, it could have been organised better which in turn might have allowed NBs to organise themselves better.
No, I don’t consider you an extremist in that sense at all: I think I pretty much understand and certainly respect your POV. You have always focussed on real issues from an actual stakeholder not polar conspiracy theories and armchair abstractions of non-stakeholders, and it is a crucial difference. To the contrary, I think you are a great example of how people with strongly different opinions can interact civilly during standards meetings and in general debate.
As far as I know, the editor did submit the final text for ITTF review by the deadline. (I saw a late draft under the counter before the deadline, and all the edits I checked for had been made correctly: it looked pretty good but I am not vouching anything.) The hold-up is presumably the ITTF review (especially if they decide they don’t like an edit or want to discuss things more) but who knows? I agree with everyone that it would be nice to have more info from ITTF on this.
[On the issue of SA making objections during the BRM about things not chaired, I don’t recall that (remind me off channel if you want) perhaps I was distracted by drafting or whatever, but I don’t see how any shortcomings of the BRM (whether normal SNAFUs or unusual SNAFUs) can possibly be grounds to successfully appeal a standard which has been voted in by NB ballot: the purpose of the BRM was to generate an improved text and it clearly did this: every NB got to express its opinion on the resulting text in the final ballot. ]
I don’t see how any shortcomings of the BRM (whether normal SNAFUs or unusual SNAFUs) can possibly be grounds to successfully appeal a standard which has been voted in by NB ballot: the purpose of the BRM was to generate an improved text and it clearly did this: every NB got to express its opinion on the resulting text in the final ballot. ]
In other words, all of the mandatory wording in the Directives with regard to BRMs are in fact at most advisory. The "ballot resolution meeting" could as readily have been a simple letter ballot on the proposed edits submitted by ECMA, and as long as enough NBs stepped up to approve it would be a case of "no harm, no foul."
Dare I say that this seems a remarkable interpretation of the same language that ISO expects implementors of its standards to take seriously? Should the "shall" and "shall not" wording in (D)IS-29500 be taken to be entirely advisory in all clauses, as long as enough of the right stakeholders go along?
The JTC1 Directives do allow for ad hoc variation of procedure to cope with extremities, but only with the explicit sanction of the Secretaries-General (s1.2).
Where there the draft+editing instructions have been accepted by NBs, where the editor has complied and produced the final text, but there is a slow-up at ITTF before gettting the final "endorsed text" but the process has not stalled, I would expect the Secretaries-General would be quite loath to override the will of the NB ballot which accepted the standard. (I don’t think people should see this as SA versus ITTF, or SA versus JTC1; from the JTC1 POV this is balancing SA against all the NBs which voted accept. Which is not to say that they won’t take SA’s appeal seriously.)
But there is undoubtedly a cultural aspect too.
When I was studying law years ago (IANAL), I remember a lecturer commenting on the different expectations that citizens of countries with codified legal systems (e.g. Code Napoleon) have from citizens of countries with Common Law systems and those with unwritten constitutions. For example, here in Australia we have a written Constitution but many parts of it (e.g. the role of the Governor General, who is the actual Head of State) are unwritten though they exist in practice. In pre-Meiji consitution of Japan, they had an idea that if you made a law, you shouldn’t tell people what it was, to prevent them from finding loopholes! I think there is a religious aspect too: liberals versus conservatives.
It is very noticeable how Secretariats from different National Bodies bring different cultural attitudes to administration: in particular, how much flexibility and leeway. For example, I think US people tend to see administrative rules as challenges to be worked around. Currently in SC34 we have a professional secretariat, not a technocrat, paid by JSA not sponsored, and she takes a pretty hard line on making sure ts are crossed and is dotted. The ISO process has to accommodate these differences.
However, my point stands. To use a particular clause to subvert the intention of the standard (e.g. the Directives) is just to mis-use that clause.
For example, Sun’s Eve Maler found a great loophole in the W3C XML Infoset specification:
"Even a refrigerator can conform to the XML Infoset, as long as it has a door sticker saying ‘No information items inside’."
But to use that to actually claim that refrigerator was an XML Infoset would be to subvert the intention of the standard. That is an issue of reasonableness and proportionality: of common sense. And that is why ISO standards have a mandatory scope section, so that individual clauses have context in which they are interpreted. (In some jurisdictions, judges interpreting statutes can even consider statements made in Hansard or the parliamentary record when introducing the bill to provide context: the need for context is hardly a novel idea: "The letter kills but the spirit gives life." if I may quote that without claiming that St Paul was offering a theory of legislative interpretation.)
Now obviously delays reach a certain stage where they are untenable. And you would expect that where a delay is caused by ISO gnomes they would buffer any subsequent time periods accordingly. But to look at the individual provisions outside their purpose is to mistake that this is a human process not an assembly line. Already, JTC1 has increased the time period for review by as long as they could before the BRM, in order to give NBs the maximum time possible (in response to the comments from NBs about time); and they declined to give the BRM extra time which would favour DIS29500 over other fast-tracked standards. ECMA handed in their draft on time, and I expect (and I think National Bodies demand) that the draft be given a thorough review: it is a much greater priority that the Editor’s instructions from the BRM have been faithfully carried out than that some arbitrary time limit be kept (remembering that a blowout in the ITTF review would be reflected, I would expect, in a corresponding alteration of any subsequent deadlines.)
As I have said repeatedly, to see the process outside its goals, for example to see it as kind of US Court with lawyers trying to get their client off on a technicality, is to mistake the nature of the process. But this flexibility has limits, and must have reasonable causes, and should be transparent. The longer the delay, the less likely it will be that this is the normal flexibility that I would expect is needed to cope with such a large number of changes (as many as over ten thousand individual changes depending on the conformance language edits!) and more likely that something else is going on (e.g. an unresolvable contradiction in the editing instructions for normative text where the editor goes one way and ITTF goes another.) In particular, I would expect the release of the IS text to NBs needs to happen independently of any clockstop caused by NB appeals such as the SA appeal.
I disagree with your point of view Rick,
Your point of view appears to have at least the following two major logical flaws that color and pervert your conclusions:
1. You assume that there was a ‘vast majority’ of NBs voting FOR DIS29500. The facts and results of the BRM vote (as well as a the post-BRM voting) actually show that the vast majority of NBs abstained from voting during the BRM or were barely sufficient ot pass the measure in the post-BRM voting. Since there was no way to protest the decisions of the BRM convener other than to abstain from voting, there is really no way other than anecdotal evidence to tell after the fact how many BRM NB votes were abstain-due-to-no-opinion vs abstain-due-to-protest. The number of ‘blanket votes’ on that last BRM ballot (and it was NOT a letter ballot by the way) were much fewer than a simple majority – let alone a ‘vast majority’. The number of pro-OOXML votes post-brm was barely enough to pass – not qualifying as a ‘vast majority’. Because there was no ‘vast majority’ of approval votes from the NBs, the ‘overwhelming support’ you keep alluding to and that seems to form a basis for your defense of DIS29500 simply does not exist. As one sign of that, notice that no-one (and that includes Microsoft) intends to utilize DIS29500 as other than a marketing tool to sell MSOffice to governments whose written procurment policies require "ISO standard formats".
2. You assume that the directives of the ISO should be followed where it benefits DIS29500 and ignored where they do not. Directives are just that – directives (as in ‘you are directed to….’). IF ITTF has held the release of the document beyond the time limit (and by your own argument in the previous post, the post-BRM vote was a sham (because ITTF will buffer and adjust deadlines – right ?) and the time-line for voting on DIS29500 has not yet passed and will not pass until at least 3 week after ITTF released the final draft text. Oh – but wait – the text is so large that three weeks of review will not be enough, so lets extend the post-BRM review time by the same amount of time ITTF is taking to release the document (3 months) giving us until sometime in September or October for countries to determine their post-BRM vote. Therefore all claims (your included) that DIS29500 (by your own twisted logic) that DIS29500 has actually passed ISO approval are premature and false.
The alternate explanation (that ITTF is late getting the final text out and that lateness prevented proper review of the final text and therefore constitutes an irregularity that may be sufficient to invalidate the post-BRM vote) makes more sense and seems to be the one that most people are going with – This alternate view is also the only one supported by the rest of the JTC1 directives that concern Fast Track procedures.
Either ITTF is excused from following the rules because a special dispensation is being given for OOXML that no one outside of a few of the top ISO officials are aware of (including it seems – the NB from SA), or there are no exclusions from the rules and ITTF is in the wrong and the vote by the NBs is subject to invalidation. You assume that the final BRM document was timely submitted to ITTF. That statement may or may not be true. There is no proof that anyone but you seem to be aware of. But *IF* the document was timely, was it complete and accurate. If not, the failure is on the OOXML editor or on a spec that was too large and too broken for the Fast Track process and its limited time constraints. Failure also applies to the BRM that approved the document and to the ISO organization that failed to abort the Fast Track process when it became obvious that DIS29500 did not fit the process.
In summary, where it appears that you assume (and use as a pre-requisite for many of your arguments) that DIS29500 was ‘overwhelmingly approved’ by the NBs, the evidence is not there. Where you assume (and use as a pre-requisite for many of your arguments) that DIS29500 has passed all hurdles, the evidence is not there. While you assume (and use as a pre-requisite for many of your arguments) that DIS29500 brings something unique and valuable to the table, the total (100%) lack of interest in using the final document for anything but a marketing tool by Microsoft refutes your assumption.
I would not yet be crowing about ‘victory’ at ISO if I were you. Your logic and conclusions seems not only to be a bit shaky, but somewhat skewed as well.
Now you have the gall to clamor for OASIS to cede control of ODF to ISO ? I hope they don’t. Being vocal about my wishes and the other FOSS supporters being vocal about their preferences in blogs & other media is doing nothing other than what you yourself are doing – advertising and hoping to convince decision-makers.
One primary difference between your position & the FOSS camp is that your goal seems to be part of a ‘power grab’ on the part of ISO/SC34/Microsoft to gain control of ODF management and is contrary to the wishes of those that have already implemented the ODF specifications and that use ODF and the ODF specifications on a daily basis, yet you have no plans to product an ODF-compliant application yourself and it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will ever produce an ODF-compliant, ODF-interoperable product.
I now ask you to trust the open-source community, give open-source the benefit of the doubt and support OASIS remaining in control of the ODF specification for the next 10 years until we determine whether or not the latest Microsoft promises are anything more than hot air. In ten years time, if Microsoft has provided full support of ODF in their office products and has implemented full interoperability without resorting to EEE tactics, then we can re-visit the management of the ODF specification. I will remind you that many people will take refusal on your part of the very generous offer just made to be evidence of your radical and irrational attitude toward FOSS supporters and all open-source software and as proof of your pro-OOXML support and lack of impartiality in this debate and on this topic.
In total the votes were approx
Under any rules you like to name (simple majority, absolute majority, simple majority of P members, absolute majority of P members) it had the numbers. But please don’t quibble over "vast" if it obscures the point I am trying to make: pick some other word: "convincing", "strong", "inarguable", "obvious", "clear" majorities for example.
I think it is a mistake to say that "abstains" are necessarily protest votes. I have said I was surprised there was not more abstains (from both accept and reject votes.) In Australia’ s case, for example, it was because we did not have a formal technical process to produce a view even if it had resulted in consensus, which it wouldn’t have. I expect that a lack of consensus is the usual cause of abstains.
Similarly, it stretches credibility to claim that "reject" votes are necessarily protest votes against the BRM in some muddle-headed way (in what way would the protest be registered to connect the vote to the complaint?): IIRC almost all reject votes were reject before the BRM and were merely unchanged.
I have a chart of the final votes against GDP up at
if people are interested.
You don’t get it, do you? The thing here is that artificially changing NO votes to YES votes, not on technical grounds, but through active lobbying is the major reason why the final result was not a simple NO! That is why people got extremely upset… namely, the ones you call "extremists". If you digg in all the technical committees around the world, the most reputable and independent participants only have one word on this: NO. It’s pretty clear, and that’s why those which have time to protest, actually protest.
Another thing… Fast Track is for standards naturally established.
That is mere assertion without foundation.
I personally have met many of the delegates from NBs who changed to Yes after the BRM, and follow their blogs: in every case I know directly of, it was because the draft had been improved sufficiently that the showstoppers identified during the NB’s review had been overcome. It doesn’t mean that they think the result was perfect, or that they were happy that the thing existed in the first place, and it certainly does not mean that they were responding from pressure or inducements from Microsoft: it just means that the BRM improved the text enough to overcome their particular objections at the time. (The particular case that sticks out as different is Norway, where something else is going on: clearly the official does not have confidence in the technical committee and vice versa. It would be wishful thinking to extrapolate the Norwegian case to other NBs where the technical committees opinion was given good weight. I have written several times, but IMHO I would expect that when the standards officials do not have confidence in the technical committee, and when the standards organization was not a branch of government and therefore subject to government policy, "abstain" would be the preferable vote: not either "accept" or "reject".)
You met the delegates? So what?
Just to give you something to start with: Portugal – there were two representatives, one with power, the other with no power. Guess for whom the guy in charge works for?
A reminder: don’t stop with Norway.
What you should do is read the minutes of the TC meetings (when available, and blogs otherwise) before the BRM and do an extensive analysis of the composition of the Technical Committees in all the countries. I’ve done that already and it’s pretty clear: in average, university teachers, experts in the field disagree completely with the standard and are astonished by the lack of quality ISO showed in this process (come on, ISO? the same organization of ISO 9001 quality management systems?); FOSS people in general disagree totally with the duplication of standards, and with the fact that OOXML is not easily implementable by GPL projects, etc.; non-technical people that landed in the TC have no clue on what is going – this is not rocket science, they should have some clue… but in general, they don’t – why? since they all voted YES ,that should tell you something; company representatives – the dominance of allies of one of the major software companies in the market resulted in – technical comments being pointed out but no assurance at all if or when they would be fixed; political guys … well, they vote where the money is, which is fine, as long as they don’t overturn the decision of the TC as a whole.
By the way… what you think is minor: the BRM voting process on the proposed standard changes is another example of how ISO is far from ISO 9001!
Also: I would like a comment from you about the essential thing – why the heck was this proposed standard allowed in the Fast Track Process? Come on! It’s pretty clear that all the deadlines would not be met, and it’s all pretty clear that the Fast Track Process is for standards already mature!
Who is ISO serving? the participating countries economic countries, specific companies, or the interests of human kind as a whole?
"Also: I would like a comment from you about the essential thing – why the heck was this proposed standard allowed in the Fast Track Process? Come on! It’s pretty clear that all the deadlines would not be met, and it’s all pretty clear that the Fast Track Process is for standards already mature!"
Where do you get that from? The JTC1 Directives, (5th Ed v3) s13.1, say
"Any P-member of JTC 1 or organisation in Category A liaison with JTC 1 (the proposer) may propose that
a) an existing standard from any source be submitted without modification directly for vote as a DIS;
The criteria for proposing an existing standard for the fast-track procedure is a matter for each proposer to decide."
I can see nothing about size restrictions or maturity, please let me know what I have missed. Is it in a different version? Or just made up? (In fact, the history of Fast-Track as I understand it is that it was developed to meet a need for standards that are very new but quite short-lived: think optical disks. The opposite of mature.)
That said, I don’t care for any of the fast-track procedures, Fast-Track or PAS, for software or document languages: I think the "accelerated timeframe" (18.104.22.168) where items come in at Enquiry Draft stage is much better. When the party of the North submits something fast-track, of course the party of the South will follow suite. International standards are much better for standardizing "enabling" technologies, not end-user applications. I think many SC34 people thought "a curse on both their houses" during the last two years.
>International standards are much better for standardizing "enabling" technologies, not end-user applications.
… and herein lies the problem.
Clearly DIS29500 is an attempt to standardize an *APPLICATION* not a *TECHNOLOGY*. This is one of the core problems with this whole ISO fiasco from the standpoint of anyone with a neutral viewpoint.
ISO should not be trying to standardize MSOffice. It should be trying to standardize office formats in general in a vendor-neutral way (which it has already done with IS26300).
The use of ISO to get Microsoft to publish it’s file formats is totally inappropriate and beneath the SC34/WG1 committee. It also damages and abused the reputation of ISO (as we can all – well nearly all of us- plainly see).
I understand your point, but I by application I meant anything as distinct from an enabling technology. So ODF, SVG, HTML, and so on are all in the same category. (I was told that SC34 used to have a policy against "application formats" (as disctinct from "enabling technologies") but relaxed it for ISO HTML because ISO itself required it for some purpose. My memory is not clear on this though.)
My own thinking is like the following sieve:
* Enabling technologies = good at ISO; "application" or terminal technologies = to be avoided at SC34
* Fast-track (of ODF and OOXML) = regrettable; accelerated process would have been more suitable
* RAND-z standards for all market dominating technologies = good
* Suitability of ODF 1.0 as document to be a standard = bad
* Suitability of DIS 29500 mark I as document to be a standard = bad
* Suitability of DIS 29500 mark II as document to be a standard = just acceptable
* Suitability of ODF 1.1 as a document to be a standard = acceptable
* Suitability of ODF 1.2 as a document to be a standard = looking good
* Likelihood that IS29500 would not eventuate = slight; likelihood that DIS29500 would be accepted without revision = slight
* ISO process geared to win/win; win/lose and "win on technicality" approaches futile.
So while I think it is good for there to be application standards at ISO, I came around to the opinion that having standards for market dominating technologies ODF and OOXML are important enough to put up with the competitive unpleasantness as people try to suck you into their marketing vortexes, but I don’t think the fast-track process is optimal, and as I studied the drafts of DIS29500 it became clear that even after removing the mountains of juvenile and incorrect flaws that were being claimed about it there were still enough problems that it could was not acceptable as it was, but the BRM delivered change in enough significant areas that the many smaller remaining ones could be dealt with by maintenance. That MS is delaying making the few trivial changes needed to be compliant is good too, because it gives more chance for another few rounds of fixes to the standard before MS flips over to it: they are clearly averse to having too many OOXML dialects around. And, as I believe is being proven this month, I have never thought that the drivers for ODF adoption would be diminished by IS29500, and I came to the conclusion that in fact one of the biggest users of IS29500 would be the ODF TC. And I believe that it is very difficult to stop a standard from being improved enough to get accepted through the ISO process; principles of equity would ensure it would be given a fair hearing, and the win/win nature of the process would surely frustrate people attempting win/lose outcomes.
This is a little more complicated view that the OOXML = good, ODF = bad view of my caricature.
Also, the discussion is flawed from the beginning: multiple standards are not good, period.
>* Suitability of ODF 1.0 as document to be a standard = bad
>* Suitability of ODF 1.1 as a document to be a standard = acceptable
Errh…that put a very strange light on your review capabilities. You imply that very large things changed between 1.0 and 1.1 when all people really implementing ODF says it was a very minor update about improve accessibility items.
Tell you what….I think that you are just spreading FUD about ODF. Lipservice confessions about ODF that are only given so you can hide your bias for Microsoft that has employed you to better how OOXML is percieved by the public. You can’t argue that ODF is not useful since it is used in real applications, therefore you start telling the fairytale about the broken 1.0 version to act as a smokescreen for your own activities
>* Likelihood that IS29500 would not eventuate = slight; likelihood that DIS29500 would be accepted without revision = slight
Too bad you helped the DIS29500 become IS29500 without the best possible quality. If OOXML would be approved eventually no matter what the only sane choice would be to force it to be as good as possible. Having the IS29500 emerge in a mature from around the same time as Microsoft Office actually implement it faitfully would been a great idea. The ODF TC and Microsoft would have benefitted from the information found during the normal SC34 process even without OOXML as ISO standard. Now on the other hand….who knows if Microsoft ever will come to the table in good faith to make OOXML better….sounds much more credible that they will use the same tactic as when the win 3.11 interface was documented.
> That MS is delaying making the few trivial changes needed to be compliant is good too, because it gives more chance for another few rounds of fixes to the standard before MS flips over to it: they are clearly averse to having too many OOXML dialects around.
Is there anything at all that MS could do that would make you say "I find that action to be wrong"?
>And, as I believe is being proven this month, I have never thought that the drivers for ODF adoption would be diminished by IS29500,
How has it been proven? The fact that drivers for ODF adoption are still high enough to force MS to play along does in no way indicate that ODF adoption have not been diminished by having the flawed OOXML draft as an international standard.
>And I believe that it is very difficult to stop a standard from being improved enough to get accepted through the ISO process; principles of equity would ensure it would be given a fair hearing, and the win/win nature of the process would surely frustrate people attempting win/lose outcomes.
Put people are not saying it did get a fair hearing, but instead a biased hearing. A number of NBs voted yes without comments, implying that they did not review it at all. Your assertion that there were flaws in draft that the BRM fixed conflict greatly with the idea that the NBs gave it proper review. It totally breaks reason to assume no foul play has happened when we can clearly see that NBs have voted for the draft without real review.
I found this response by Rick to be pretty interesting and helpful. I think we’d all make a lot more progress and learn a lot more if we’d remember that just because someone has a different opinion does not imply more than just that – they have a different opinion. You can find plenty of other instances in life (politics, religion, etc.) where people look at the same evidence and form different conclusions. We don’t assume more than that they see the world differently in those cases, and there’s no need to do any differently here.
I’m personally grateful that Rick continues to take the time to drop in here, and I’ve learned a lot as a result.
Rick, "An existing standard" means a standard that exists in theory or/and that is actually implemented? that is scrutinized at minimum levels by multiple stakeholders or it is just a dump of ideas?
I’m sick of this lobbying, sick. Look at what happened in the Brazilian meeting for the discussion of the appeal:
"At the end of this presentation, the representative of a company (guess which ???) has taken the line of defense for his companions in the room: “I am not prepared, at this meeting, to evaluate the arguments and decide. I need more time. “It is worth highlighting that this meeting was scheduled on May 8th (date of our last meeting) and officially convened on May 19th (lack of time !!! again !!!)."
As a comment says, this is a Monty Python Level. The guys that had to review 6000 pages in a short time have all the reasons to be upset.
Where is ethics on these human beings.
Rick, that was a lot of words to avoid giving a straight answer to a simple question:
Should the "shall" and "shall not" wording in (D)IS-29500 be taken to be entirely advisory in all clauses, as long as enough of the right stakeholders go along?
Now, if I understand you correctly you could have simply written "yes," of course understanding that "yes" should be read in the spirit of your intentions rather than the strict literal meaning of the word. I realize that you’re not proposing 2 Corinthians 3:6 as a guide for textual interpretation, but since we’re dealing with the common language of standards it’s not too great a stretch if we apply the same latitude that applies to the ISO standards process to the output of that process.
As for myself, my own standards work (and yes, been there and chaired that) has been guided more by Matthew than by Paul.
First, the JTC1 Directives allow variation if that is needed to move things forward, on approval by the Secretaries-General (of ISO and IEC I think). So any of this absolutism is ill-founded in the first place.
Second, that procedures always need to be interpreted in alignment with the goals of the process is not odd, but a fundamental principle of interpretation of any administrative giudelines.
I am not suggesting that low-level staff can make these decisions, where there is a misalignment between goals and procedures, it gets escalated up the chain of responsibility and dealt with appropriately. You would expect that any organizational guidelines of any duration would have this kind of thing in it:.
>First, the JTC1 Directives allow variation if that is needed to move things forward, on approval by the Secretaries-General (of ISO and IEC I think). So any of this absolutism is ill-founded in the first place.
So if you buy the Secretaries-General anything goes….you keep saying that SA appeal won’t fly because a majority voted for the standard. Obviously SA thinks that the Secretaries-General and ISO should have followed the directives. The essence of the objection are that the Secretaries-General granted variation that makes the process in conflict with the goals of the process. You keep insisting that this issue is not something of principle, and that the spirit of the ISO process require the variations. It is a kind circular logic…since SA argue that the priciple (aka spirit of process) was broken you start with a redefining the spirit of the process to be "any flaws will be solved in maintance so the goal of the process is fast approval no matter the quality".
>Second, that procedures always need to be interpreted in alignment with the goals of the process is not odd, but a fundamental principle of interpretation of any administrative giudelines.
Indeed, and that is problem with your biased towards Microsoft analysis. The goals of ISO is to achive good technical quality yet you are arguing that the variations used in OOXML case are valid and reasonable even while they lower the technical requirements of the standard. It is given that OOXML was too flawed to be solved on time for the fast track procedure, but that fact does not excuse lowering the quality demands on the standard.
"Buy"? What do you mean by that?
Are you alleging that the Secretaries-General of ISO and IEC have taken bribes from Microsoft?
Do you have a shred evidence, or are you just a defamer? Is "bought" just your response to everything because you cannot imagine that other people could come to a different conclusion to you, or that an organisation’s rules fairly conducted could lead to a result that was not to your taste?
>"Buy"? What do you mean by that?
>Are you alleging that the Secretaries-General of ISO and IEC have taken bribes from Microsoft?
No…I don’t know if he has taken bribes, are black mailed or are incompentent so I can not say what the problem is. What i can say that the logical conclusion from what you say is that if you get Secretaries-General in your pocket anything goes. I can also note that SA and now brazil thinks the spirit of the process has been violated, something that if it is true makes the activity of the Secretaries-General very on topic to question. He is the one that approved all the strange variations, right?
>Is "bought" just your response to everything because you cannot imagine that other people could come to a different conclusion to you, or that an organisation’s rules fairly conducted could lead to a result that was not to your taste?
Short answer no. I am anonymous so you can’t know what other points I have raised on different blogs on the net.
Anyway…Rick Jelliffe is a former(?) employee of Microsoft that claims all the errors are insignificant. SA’s and Brazil’s NB has sent in appeals, so obviously they disgree. Should I trust the former (?) MS employee or the NBs from two countries? The answer is pretty given.
If you’re one of the anonymi I’ve talked to in previous threads you’ll know this already, but I’m somewhat interested in the reasoning behind people’s choice to post anonymously. As you say, you’re posting anonymously so that one post can’t be traced back to another. People generally say that they don’t want to be traced because they want their posts to be considered on their merits and/or because they don’t want their careers to be jeopardised by loose online talk – I assume that’s true of you?
My question is this – if you want your statements to be judged on their merits, surely you should judge other people’s statements on their merits, rather than the reputation of the speaker? Similarly, if you don’t want your career to be jeopardised, surely you should refrain from repeating career-jeopardising allegations?
– Andrew Sayers
>If you’re one of the anonymi I’ve talked to in previous threads you’ll know this already, but I’m somewhat interested in the reasoning behind people’s choice to post anonymously. As you say, you’re posting anonymously so that one post can’t be traced back to another. People generally say that they don’t want to be traced because they want their posts to be considered on their merits and/or because they don’t want their careers to be jeopardised by loose online talk – I assume that’s true of you?
Effects of the future career is without doubt an issue. Very many of the companies out there are Microsoft Gold partners. Those few gold parterns that came on Microsoft’s call to trick OOXML through ISO are most likely educated enough to understand that opposition to OOXML is not a reason to questions a persons character. Unfortunately the rest of the companies did not care to learn about the matter truely and will probably only have read Microsoft’s spin articles about the matter. I suppose that it is always possible to explain the issue, but it is bad point to start a job negotiation at.
On the other hand the point of making the posts considered on their own merits is even more important. Rick’s and the other Microsoft bloggers favorite tactic have the whole time been to focus on any error said by the opposition no matter the magnitude. For the fun of it you can make a cross reference on how many time they dare to address the main argument of for instance Rob Weir and how many times they only talk about something minor and the picture becomes quite clear. Basically when OOXML opposition finds something they start to recycle talk about old small errors instead of really answering. When faced with such argument tactics going anonymous is the only logical response because then Rick must then answer the post alone or create a revealing silence.
>My question is this – if you want your statements to be judged on their merits, surely you should judge other people’s statements on their merits, rather than the reputation of the speaker?
The downside of publishing with a real name or nickname is that you must stay consistent over time. Rick is pretty much suffering from this now. He writes very well crafted answers that in most cases would be end-of-discussion liners. Problem is that when you put a statement like Ricks "I have always said ODF is superior and is a supporter" in light of what he actually have written before it becomes shallow speak. Looking at the quality of the arguments I don’t particulary care what Patrick and Alex writes, they are so obviously ignoring facts that none will listen to them. Rick makes much better arguments and it is only keeping in mind what he posted a couple of posts away that you see the real pattern.
>Similarly, if you don’t want your career to be jeopardised, surely you should refrain from repeating career-jeopardising allegations?
Well, if he want put his name on that "this is the truth, with no kind of subterfuge", he better make sure that he really can back up it with fact. Arguments of authority only work if there really are no career-jeopardising allegations around. You can’t come saying "my opinion is fact because I am professional" when somebody question if you are biased. I have no bad feelings about reminding Rick that repeating his call for authority without facts only makes him sound more and more biased by the day. How Rick will try to explain himself in upcoming job negotations is something he should have thought about before he embarked on the current route. My repeating what many people thinks will probably not matter much in the long run.
If you’re one of the anonymi I’ve talked to in previous threads you’ll know this already, but I’m somewhat interested in the reasoning behind people’s choice to post anonymously.
It’s branding. "overshoot" is a handle I use in multiple fora, so there’s no problem with identifying inconsistency. On the other hand, my meatspace identity is well-enough known that using it in a controversial environment has the possibility of being associated with $EMPLOYER. I’m not really concerned about my senior management finding out about my online activities, but it’s best for all concerned to keep the company brand separate from my own.
Err, I am not now and never have been an employee of Microsoft.
The company I consult for is engaged in systems development and standards training programs, and I have been working with them for most of the last 15 years particularly in the technical and reference publishing sector: typically these are FOSS/Linux/Java projects because they like the platforms but the commonality is SGML/XML. They run the OASIS Open Standards conference over here for example. I took time off a decade ago to write my book "The XML & SGML Cookbook" and I went to Taiwan for three years, where I was involved in various standards efforts. MS was a (minor) client in 2007, and we are happy to have them on our books, joining companies like Sun, Novell and IBM at various times; however, most of our projects do not involve US multi-nationals, but are related to government, legal, defense and industrial electronic publishing: we like IS29500 and ODF because they make it more straightforward to build good system. My company, Topologi, which has been quiet for the last few years following my tumours, is 100% pure Java. I spend a lot of my time on figuring out issues related to the RAND-z ISO Schematron standard and (mis-)managing the open source implementation at schematron.com, which MS (for example) does not support.
Rick, as you have presented it there is no practical purpose to the Directive providing for objections. According to your analysis, no matter what South Africa cited, no matter whether their complaint was provably true, the outcome is unalterable.
That may well be true in a practical sense, but Andy and anyone else familiar with statutory, contract, or even Scriptural interpretation will tell you that it flies in the face of one of the most basic principles of textual analysis. Generally speaking, if you can interpret a normative document to make a section totally inoperative you can justify ANYTHING — you’re back to rule by whim.
Now that you mention it …
Well, the best thing to do would be to check up any previous appeals and figure out what their commonalities were.
No, I don’t think all appeals are useless, but they would have to be really strong, and the larger the absolute NB vote for acceptance was, frankly the less chance that they would succeed unless they had some new information that was not appreciated at the time of the vote. (Actually, any NB can appeal any standard at any time, even outside of the particular procedures IIRC.) (Whether or not the BRM was conducted correctly (I don’t see that it wasn’t), it produced editing instructions which were then voted on independently of the conduct of the BRM by NBs: that different conduct of the BRM (even within the discretion of the convenor) would have produced different editing instructions, it doesn’t alter that there was a subsequent vote independent of the BRM and that vote succeeded. )
But they would need very specific reasons, not fuzzy ones. For example, I have heard of a case where there was a standard (not at SC34, and more than a decade ago) which was designed to reduce RSI for users of the particular product. But several large companies felt that if the standard was accepted, it might be used as evidence in lawsuits that their existing products had paid no attention to RSI issues, and expose them to billions of dollars of compensation. So when the votes were tallies, several were "lost". The votes were tallied by someone who worked for one of those large companies (which no longer exists.) Of course, the editor was double checking and found the "lost" votes and things were corrected. But this kind of case where there was specific evidence of vote tampering or Secretariat malfeasance would certainly be a compelling cause for appeal, I would think.
Another cause might be where there was some kind of cartelization going on: where some NB’s legitimate positive requirements for something had been unfairly blocked. Now this goes back to the fact that since the international standards bodies like IEEE, ISO, IEC etc are the top of the tree, they must be more supportive of plurality. The boutique consortias can be a little more arbitrary, because someone who doesn’t get their proper requirements met in one can jump ship to another. Take the case of networking standards: at IEEE you have support for a multiplicity of rival technical standards in the 802.n series, token ring, token bus, collision sensing, and so on. It is a very different thing for NBs to say "We don’t like this feature on technical grounds" and "We don’t like this feature on economic grounds", and I certainly think the latter is grounds for an appeal (if it can be proved): it comes down to saying "our needs were not given a fair hearing". (I think this is the kind of line that the Chinese ran in their recent appeal at IEEE on encryption.)
What I suspect will happen is that there will start to be more appeals for wherever there are standards made that are royalty-bearing, yet there are no RAND-z ISO standard alternatives available. I don’t imagine that they would succeed, but if this SA appeal marks the start of NBs using the appeal process to try to make political points after having lost the vote, it may happen. I am not saying this would all just be mere grandstanding or an inability to accept defeat: there are some instances I would support it even: t in particular I find the MPEG group’s royalty-raising approach inappropriate for international standards. I find it odd that there is so much complaint about MS saying "Alright already, here is our technology, we won’t sue if you implement it or ask for royalties" while there is absolutely no fuss about the MPEG group saying "You will be sued": think about how much Linux adoption has been held back because of the IP/licensing issues with MPEG codecs compared to the complete absence, in practice, of licensing/IP issues on file format import/exporters for common office applications.
(SC34, by the way, has an unofficial policy of only having standards for RAND-z technologies.)
This is either a newbieish question or rather a profound one: is the statement “the ISO is functioning properly” empirically testable? If so, how?
The W3C is a Berners-Leeocracy, so you can test whether it’s functioning properly by asking Sir Tim. Google is a publicly traded company, so you can test whether it’s functioning properly by looking at its share price. Is there a similar metric for how well the ISO is doing? Andy mentioned uptake of ISO standards, but there are plenty of cases where that’s not appropriate. Rick has hinted at satisfaction amongst NBs, but it seems odd to suggest that the ISO is just there to keep standards experts off the streets.
If the measure of the ISO’s quality is simply whether it continues to get funding from member countries, then what are some of the common themes? Obviously America will have a different measure to China, which will have a different measure again to Brazil, but there must be some common ground or else you’d never be able to get anything done. Promoting free trade seems like one commonly agreed goal, but Digistan’s lukewarm reception suggests that promoting social equality isn’t. One of my personal interests is accessibility to the general public, which seems to be viewed as a worthy goal that the organisation should really get round to one day.
So how, if at all, does one tell whether the ISO is working the way that it should?
– Andrew Sayers
"This is either a newbieish question or rather a profound one: is the statement “the ISO is functioning properly” empirically testable?"
I think it is a very good one.
Without attempting to answer it, I can see three levels of issues:
1) Are its goals good enough? Obviously the surprise that people have that ISO does not have any court-like power to involve itself in discriminatory anti-trust antics and has to work hard not to be subject to anti-trust action itself shows that there is a lot of fuzziness about what its goals are, especially to people who don’t bother to look at ISO’s own material. A related issue to this is whether the JTC1 Directives are clear enough.
2) Are its goals being met in aggregate? There are tens of thousands of standards, and tens of thousands of individuals participating throughout the world, and the standards underpin lots of efforts, or give extra boost to existing external efforts. But issues such as how to get better involvement from poor nations, the challenge of RAND-z, the need for more transparency without making participants liable to intimidation, how to cope with smarter documents, are all up for grabs.
3) Are there particular problems that have surfaced which need urgent attention? The fast-tracking of ODF and OOXML avoided any SC34 (as SC34) scrutiny and its involvement was limited to secretarial and convening meetings, yet even many people who are sophisticated enough to realize that ODF and OOXML are just tiny parts of ISO activity, that ISO/IEC JTC1 is chugging along as always, then substitute SC34 as the villains.
Concentrating on the transparency issue for a moment – do you know whether any of ISO’s gnomes have blogs, and if not, how would you feel if they did? It seems to me that it would be useful to have a place to discuss process free from the details of content – or at least where we can get some perspective by watching people be accused of being bought off by Monsanto, Time-Warner and Shell.
– Andrew Sayers
I think that it’s an excellent question as well. There are a number of metrics that are logical to consult, but not ones that are very indicative over short periods of time. That said, here is some disparate data as a starting point:
1. Except as noted in the next point, the ISO/IEC system seems to work pretty well everywhere it applies (there are other global bodies, with other areas of competence, such as the ITU – for telecommunications – and the Codex Alimentarious – for food standards) except in the information technology, and to a lesser extent the communications technology industry.
– Metric: hundreds of consortia have been formed in these areas that have set standards that have become broadly adopted, but few consortia have been created in any other area.
2. Some national SDOs, notably ASTM have gone global, developing more standards more year than ISO/IEC combined approve. ASTM sets standards in most of the areas that ISO/IEC does, and does not invariably send up its standards to be approved by ISO/IEC. It has therefore become a formidible competitor in many existing markets, and an ambitious first mover in new areas, such as nanotechnology.
– Metric: ASTM alone maintains over 15,000 standards
3. "Hybrid" processes have not been too valued in the industry.
– Metric: Very few consortia have used the Fast Track process, and while Ecma has submitted many standards, those standards together are a tiny fraction of all standards created by consortia in the same area
Alex and Rick,
First, thanks for continuing to visit here and for sharing your comments. I’m very pleased with the degree of communication that has gone on here, and it’s been heartening to see that happen.
That said, I feel that I have to try and hit the reset button on some of the discussion and go back to the high level issues. These comments take into account all of the thread so far, but were sparked by Alex’s comments that read in part as follows:
I wasn’t at the BRM, but I talked to a lot of people who were in the room, and have read the various post-BRM accounts of those who participated. It’s my understanding that few or none of those that attended had any say in the decision to hold a BRM that was only a week long.
It’s clear that many people who attended were extremely unhappy about many aspects of the week – items that couldn’t be discussed, the block voting, and so on. It seems unfair to me to say that the current appeals are based purely on "technicalities" simply because the process continued and achieved a conclusion of sorts. And I can’t think of a better word than "lawyerly" to describe many of your and Rick’s explanations of why things should be accepted
The way I see your argument applying, this was a "lose/lose" proposition for those that were at the BRM. They traveled great distances at significant cost to attend a BRM, and were good enough sports to see it through, only to be told then that because they saw it through that their objections could be dispensed with as technicalities.
Does the fact that a majority approved the block voting mean that the minority should be deprived of the right to appeal that judgment? This was an extraordinary level of comments to be disposed of this way. People could not discuss all of the comments they wished to. Some issues that were taken away in small groups were denied the right to be brought back.
This raises the question then what an NB that objected to the process could do. Should they have walked out in order to be able to register an appeal without having it disposed of as a technicality? Or would that not have made any difference?
I personally am not at all sure that you could find a majority of the NBs that were there who would agree with the consensus view that you offer. It just seems like another way to take advantage of those that attended to use their presence to reach that conclusion.
I think that what frustrates so many people with many of your and Rick’s responses are the ongoing answers and statements made to the following effect:
– because the powers that be interpret the rules _this way_ , then that’s it – no matter how difficult that interpretation may be (I am recalling a recent blog entry where you talked about how much work it was to parse through a rules situation). If it took that much work, how certain is it that the interpretation is correct? And can it be said that any interpretation is "correct" if it takes that much effort, or is it simply a fog that people are groping around in?
– why _should_ process reform be independent of the result of the BRM, if so many people are unhappy with that process? If this many NBs are filing an unprecedented number of appeals, why should your conclusion be taken as accurate?
– that even though the rules allow appeals based on reputation and integrity, accepting them is still subject to the judgment of those with knowledge of the arcane process involved. Reputation and integrity are in the eyes of the beholder, not the interpreter. If there is a perception issue, then _it_is_an_issue – and one not to be lighlty dispensed with through process reform only – otherwise, the damage is no only already done., but worsened by a body that does not recognize appeals of integrity issues unless it agrees that there is a basis for the perception.
To me, these discussions have seemed like a step through the looking glass, where all of the normal rules of democratic process are suspended, and where the only things that matter are that the process was completed, and that those who had control of the rules came to conclusions.
I always feel like there is some strange inability of those on the inside to grasp why those on the outside are reacting as they are. I sometimes have the eerie feeling that I’m talking to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld – because an action was taken, it must have been right.
Perceptions _do_ matter. When four legitimate appeals have been filed (I know of at least one other that would have been filed but for the fact that a higher-up position in government is vacant, leaving no one to give the sign off) are filed by this many standards professionals – and not outside zealots – I don’t know how anyone can not be upset about the decisions that were made in how the process in general, and the BRM in particular were run.
I truly do think that it’s time for people – with all due respect, Alex, including you – to say, "We meant well, and we weren’t biased. But I guess these were bad decisions. Let’s talk about what we should do now about OOXML as well as process reform."
The fact that the shroud of silence continues to hang over why the revisions draft remains hidden, exactly what is being discussed, and more simply amplifies what is terribly wrong with this picture.
I can’t help feeling truly disheartened at what I’ve seen. Speaking for myself, it will take quite a bit for me to have any faith in the ISO/IEC system unless it becomes much more open and much less sure of its own rectitude.
I’m not feeling optimistic.
To some extent, I agree with you that an overwhelming ‘yes’ doesn’t negate process errors – to build on Overshoot’s example, nobody would accept it if I wrote a program that never produced closing tags, then claimed it was valid XML because my users were happy with it. However, I’m not clear what your position exactly is about the fact that the world overwhelmingly voted to drop the D from DIS 29500 – if the level of dissatisfaction amongst delegations was comparable to the level of dissatisfaction you saw amongst delegates, why did so many vote yes? In particular, are you suggesting that there were systemic errors at the ISO level or systematic errors at the NB level?
I agree with you that perception matters – my interest in public perception probably isn’t news to anyone that’s been here for long – but if the problem is in perception, then the solution has to be in communication. A large part of the angst that I’ve seen has come from traps and other gotchas in the process – for example, there are votes but it’s not a democracy, there are laws but it’s not a court. Part of the solution is therefore to rewrite ISO rules to be less ambiguous and jargon-laden, and to build up explanations of what the ISO is (and isn’t) using “ISO for dummies” terms. Another part of the solution is of course to build on the sterling effort of people like Alex and Rick (and yourself and all the other bloggers in your own ways), in actually discussing things with people, one person at a time. Fixing the substance of the ISO process is of course welcome too, but will be of limited use next time an angry mob turns up expecting ISO to be something it’s not.
Finally, my personal frustration isn’t based on assumptions that ISO people have held too long to question, but assumptions that they’ve held too long to remember that they’re assumptions at all. It seems quite common to dance round an issue with Alex or Rick for a week before they finally exclaim something in frustration which is completely obvious once they’ve said it, but which it would take a leap of genius to guess. The reason I’ve been so keen lately to tackle minor points (like the value of a piece of paper with little more meaning than “ISO ♥ Office Open XML”) is because I can often expose implicit assumptions by getting people to justify minor, uncontroversial points which I can’t justify using the assumptions I’ve been given already.
– Andrew Sayers
> It’s my understanding that few or none of those that attended had any say in the decision
> to hold a BRM that was only a week long.
That is correct. None of the attending NBs were involved in that decision; neither was I as convenor; neither was MS/Ecma (who would much have preferred a longer meeting). The decision to limit the meeting to five days was taken by ITTF on the basis (as I understand it) that a "fast track" has – by its nature – a time constraint, and that there was precedent for such limitation. Only they have that kind of authority. Practically speaking too, allowing NBs to extend the meeting would have opened the door to mischevious extensions, and could have priced certain NBs out of the process. Also, purely in human terms, I’m not sure us BRM’ers could have taken much more …
> It’s clear that many people who attended were extremely unhappy about many aspects of the
> week – items that couldn’t be discussed, the block voting, and so on.
A small minority, I would say. I think the vast majority of attendees recognised that we collectively did what we could given the constraints. That is (I have said) a different question to whether a one-week BRM was an optimal way to proceed – I don’t think many people would agree with that!
> It seems unfair to me to say that the current appeals are based purely on "technicalities" simply because
> the process continued and achieved a conclusion of sorts. And I can’t think of a better word than "lawyerly"
> to describe many of your and Rick’s explanations of why things should be accepted
Well, no. What it comes down to is that the great majority of countries want this Standard. That is the real "big picture" here. Most countries also recognise the process was poor and that reform is required. Countries were told repeatedly that if they thought the BRM was inedequate their recourse was to disapprove the DIS. They didn’t.
> The way I see your argument applying, this was a "lose/lose" proposition for those that were at the BRM.
> They traveled great distances at significant cost to attend a BRM, and were good enough sports to see it
> through, only to be told then that because they saw it through that their objections could be dispensed
> with as technicalities.
The BRM always was, quite clearly, a technical working meeting for improving the quality of the DIS text. It did that, no question. Appealing it using different criteria makes little sense.
> Does the fact that a majority approved the block voting mean that the minority should be deprived
> of the right to appeal that judgment?
NBs understood the situation and voted unanimously (not by majority) for the voting option which, incidentally, was not "block" voting. So there is no "minority" here. NBs can hardly appeal something they endorsed. It seems to me the basis for some complaints is that the BRM wasn’t a forum for approving/disapproving the DIS, and that somehow that should have been on the table. That shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the purpose of the meeting.
> This was an extraordinary level of comments to be disposed of this way.
Yes, but it was a gamble that worked reasonably well (so I am told by the experts from countries who assessed every decision). If the textual result of the paper voting had been poor, the DIS would have crashed and burned.
> People could not discuss all of the comments they wished to.
Of course not, given the time constraints that would be impossible. That was the entire reason for the discussions that led to adopting the voting option.
> Some issues that were taken away in small groups were denied the right to be brought back.
Of course, given the time constraints; I had to visit the work done in the fairest order I could.
> This raises the question then what an NB that objected to the process could do.
It’s quite simple: they could disapprove the DIS. I believe they did, didn’t they? (South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela and India, for example). But, moving on, the way to mend a "process" is not to appeal the particular DIS decision, to to work on reform of that process, in my opinion. See Patrick’s latest on this: http://www.durusau.net/publications/appealprocess.pdf
To have an argument with real integrity, I personally think those who are suggesting DIS 29500 should be abandoned because of poor process, should also be arguing for the de-standardisation of ODF, because of its poor process (though less publicised, of course).
> Should they have walked out in order to be able to register an appeal without having it disposed
> of as a technicality? Or would that not have made any difference?
In the BRM, the overall mood was certainly not AT ALL tolerant of any theatrics that would have held up technical work. I believe (overheard conversation) there were some plans for last-day disruption which evaporated in the face of this mood.
> I personally am not at all sure that you could find a majority of the NBs that were there who would agree
> with the consensus view that you offer. It just seems like another way to take advantage of those that attended
> to use their presence to reach that conclusion.
Look at the votes, not the gossip.
> I think that what frustrates so many people with many of your and Rick’s responses are the ongoing answers and
> statements made to the following effect:
> – because the powers that be interpret the rules _this way_ , then that’s it – no matter how difficult that interpretation
> may be (I am recalling a recent blog entry where you talked about how much work it was to parse through a rules
> situation). If it took that much work, how certain is it that the interpretation is correct? And can it be said
> that any interpretation is "correct" if it takes that much effort, or is it simply a fog that people are groping around in?
To return to a "lawyerly" state of mind, in law for such interpretations there ultimately needs to be a Supreme Court, or a House of Lords, or whatever. The Standards equivalent body (ITTF) that the NBs had empowered to make such decisions, made them. (That is not to say that, in future, such high levels of empowerment are desirable).
> why _should_ process reform be independent of the result of the BRM, if so many people are unhappy with that
> process? If this many NBs are filing an unprecedented number of appeals, why should your conclusion be taken
> as accurate?
Again, we need to take into account that the International constituency voted for ISO/IEC 29500. The hard fact of that vote forces process reform to be a distinct issue. Overturning the Standard would mean overturning an International consensus. That is simply not going to happen, in my judgement.
> that even though the rules allow appeals based on reputation and integrity, accepting them is still subject to the
> judgment of those with knowledge of the arcane process involved. Reputation and integrity are in the eyes of
> the beholder, not the interpreter. If there is a perception issue, then _it_is_an_issue – and one not to be lighlty
> dispensed with through process reform only – otherwise, the damage is no only already done., but worsened by a
> body that does not recognize appeals of integrity issues unless it agrees that there is a basis for the perception.
I’m not entirely sure where you’re coming from here. But an appeal needs to be at least factually correct if it is to get traction. As it happens I personally have a lot of sympathy and respect for some of the sentiments expressed in the appeals. The appeals will all be taken seriously, I am sure of that!
> To me, these discussions have seemed like a step through the looking glass, where all of the normal rules of
> democratic process are suspended, and where the only things that matter are that the process was completed,
> and that those who had control of the rules came to conclusions.
> I always feel like there is some strange inability of those on the inside to grasp why those on the outside are
> reacting as they are. I sometimes have the eerie feeling that I’m talking to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld –
> because an action was taken, it must have been right.
Funny that, I see the boot on the other foot, and those with pre-conceived notions of "freedom" assuming that their brand is the only way and finding not everybody agrees!
But perhaps invoking Bush/Rumsfeld is a new variation on Godwin’s law …
> Perceptions _do_ matter. When four legitimate appeals have been filed (I know of at least one other that would
> have been filed but for the fact that a higher-up position in government is vacant, leaving no one to give the sign off)
> are filed by this many standards professionals – and not outside zealots
> I don’t know how anyone can not be upset about the decisions that were made in how the process in general, and
> the BRM in particular were run.
Lots of people are "upset" about a lot of things in the process, including me. I hope it is not merely my amour-propre which makes me note, however, that the BRM was "run" well enough.
> I truly do think that it’s time for people – with all due respect, Alex, including you – to say, "We meant well,
> and we weren’t biased. But I guess these were bad decisions. Let’s talk about what we should do now about
> OOXML as well as process reform."
I’m not quite sure what particular decision it is that you’re asking me to confess was bad. As for OOXML, the world has spoken and has said – in the main – "yes".
> The fact that the shroud of silence continues to hang over why the revisions draft remains hidden, exactly what is
> being discussed, and more simply amplifies what is terribly wrong with this picture.
All the more reason for reform, agreed.
> I can’t help feeling truly disheartened at what I’ve seen. Speaking for myself, it will take quite a bit for me to have
> any faith in the ISO/IEC system unless it becomes much more open and much less sure of its own rectitude.
> I’m not feeling optimistic.
Whatever "it" is I’m sure you’ll find nobody sure of its rectitude at the moment, paticularly in regard to PAS and Fast Track standardisation for large standards. I would agree some fundamental reform is in order!
Thanks as ever, Andy, for the time and the forum …
– Alex Brown.
>> It seems unfair to me to say that the current appeals are based purely on "technicalities" simply because
>> the process continued and achieved a conclusion of sorts. And I can’t think of a better word than "lawyerly"
>> to describe many of your and Rick’s explanations of why things should be accepted
>Well, no. What it comes down to is that the great majority of countries want this Standard. That is the real "big picture" here. Most countries also recognise the process was poor and that reform is required. Countries were told repeatedly that if they thought the BRM was inedequate their recourse was to disapprove the DIS. They didn’t.
So a NB that worked correctly and was not subverted by people biased towards Microsoft could disapprove the the DIS. What if a large number of NBs did not work properly and ignored technical merits aspects when they voted for the standard?
>NBs understood the situation and voted unanimously (not by majority) for the voting option which, incidentally, was not "block" voting. So there is no "minority" here. NBs can >
hardly appeal something they endorsed.
You ar basically saying that if you get approval from a person for a plan that person loose the right to say that plan did not work out in practice or that they after further review has found the plan to be in violation with directives that direct what plans that are acceptable. Approval by all is only proof that none at that moment in time could see any major faults with the plan and nothing else.
>To have an argument with real integrity, I personally think those who are suggesting DIS 29500 should be abandoned because of poor process, should also be arguing for the de-standardisation of ODF, because of its poor process (though less publicised, of course).
In what ways does problems with the ODF standardisation excuse problems with the OOXML process or the resulting document?
How can you equate the ODF standard that are supported by many different vendors with OOXML that is not even supported by Micrsosoft themselves?
>Again, we need to take into account that the International constituency voted for ISO/IEC 29500. The hard fact of that vote forces process reform to be a distinct issue. Overturning the Standard would mean overturning an International consensus. That is simply not going to happen, in my judgement.
An international consensus based on what? Can you please explain to me how countries that voted yes without comments in september vote can be interpretated as anything else than bribed by Microsoft?
>Lots of people are "upset" about a lot of things in the process, including me. I hope it is not merely my amour-propre which makes me note, however, that the BRM was "run" well enough.
How would we disapprove such statement if it was false?
You are basiaclly saying that since NBs voted for the DIS, and because NBs can’t be corrputed, the BRM must have been good enough. I am pretty certain that if the DIS had been disapproved you would have said the BRM was good enough but the standard itself was not good enough. In any case you are hardly a neutral observer that can make a evaluation. In a world where ISO and NBs really had counter measures in place towards vendors stuffing NBs you might have a weak point, but in the world we live in your point is nonexistant.
This is actually a fundamental problem with any system that amounts to the tyranny of the many over the few. Democratic governments are another example where this problem occurs – minorities that fall out of favour with the majority often find themselves on the end of discrimination, as anyone knows if they’ve ever been young, old, a smoker, fat, an uncommon colour, an uncommon religion, or part of any other group of a few that’s looked down on by the many.
There’s only a certain amount you can do to solve this problem – for example, how would you feel if your country required people to pass an exam before they were given the right to vote? Who would you trust to write a fair exam? Would politicians get a say in who heads up the exam board?
The only saving grace of the tyranny of the many over the few is that the alternative is much worse. As usual, Churchill said it best: democracy is the worst form of government – except all the others.
– Andrew Sayers
> So a NB that worked correctly and was not subverted by people biased towards
> Microsoft could disapprove the the DIS. What if a large number of NBs did not
> work properly and ignored technical merits aspects when they voted for the standard?
NBs make their own decisions. If you have an argument with a NB, take it up with that NB. The JTC 1 appeals process has no role to play in such local disputes.
> You ar basically saying that if you get approval from a person for a plan
> that person loose the right to say that plan did not work out in practice
> or that they after further review has found the plan to be in violation
> with directives that direct what plans that are acceptable. Approval by
> all is only proof that none at that moment in time could see any major
> faults with the plan and nothing else.
I’m not "basically saying" that. What I’m saying is that if a country took a decision its ridiculous of them to appeal that decision. If they are claiming the decision was not implemented as described, then that is a different matter (and perfectly proper to appeal). However, I know of no appeals on those grounds.
> In what ways does problems with the ODF standardisation excuse problems
> with the OOXML process or the resulting document?
I never claimed they did. They don’t.
> How can you equate the ODF standard that are supported by many different
> vendors with OOXML that is not even supported by Micrsosoft themselves?
What have vendor claims got to do with it? Such claims are irrelevant to International Standardisation.
> An international consensus based on what?
On the votes of International standards bodies.
> Can you please explain to me how countries that voted yes without
> comments in september vote can be interpretated as anything else than bribed by Microsoft?
Tinfoil hat time folks!
Such changes can be (correctly) interpreted as the effect of the improved text changing NBs’ positions.
> You are basiaclly saying that since NBs voted for the DIS, and because NBs can’t be
> corrputed, the BRM must have been good enough.
The BRM was only to improve the text. Nobody has denied it did that (though there is disagreement about the degree of improvement). Everybody worked hard (including countries both "for" and "against" the DIS in principle).
> I am pretty certain that if the DIS had been disapproved you would have
> said the BRM was good enough but the standard itself was not good enough.
The BRM did what it could. As I have said, whether the BRM was a good idea is another question.
> In any case you are hardly a neutral observer that can make a evaluation.
I am as neutral as they come.
> In a world where ISO and NBs really had counter measures in place towards vendors
> stuffing NBs you might have a weak point, but in the world we live in your point
> is nonexistant.
Your complaint is with the "the world we live in" then. What are you going to do about it? Getting involved in standardisation would be a good start (if you are not).
– Alex Brown.
" the world has spoken and has said – in the main – "yes"
That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no… unfortunately, powerless citizens with good intentions, and good reasons too, were not enough to stop the committee stuffing who changed the real "NO" votes to "YES" votes. And those, whatever the irregularities at the BRM or some other stage, would always vote "YES", obviously. So when you say that: oh yeah, if they didn’t agree with the process they could always have voted NO – sure, sure…
It just comes to my mind 4-5 countries where this happened with very strong evidences.. .and those, would be enough to revert the decision. Look at that poor indian guy, full of good intentions, completely offended by improper attitudes… Moral values still have some importance for some at least, and I’m proud of him, defending ethics.
This process got political because of this. Because it is not a fair process. ODF process, was fair! Even with some problems, it was fair.
Now, given that the process got extremely unethical, I can not see how an ISO top manager does not agree that ISO’s reputation is in risk. If it is not in risk now, it neverl will! I can not imagine a worse situation than the OOXML process to damage ISO’s reputation. An appeal based on this would be sufficient for me. To me, is the most important point at this moment.
But no, I’m imagining ISO very soon, in a press release, all happy, giving excuses to all the points mentioned in the appeals, without addressing the fundamental issue: ethics, proper revision of a standard. They will probably agree with you "the world has spoken and has said yes". Right….
It is entirely justifiable that people move away from ISO if indeed the appeals do not succeed.
OOXML might never be implemented. But if it succeeds in the market and for some reason some less informed governments like the ISO stamp thing in the documents they officialy produce, there will be millions of people locked in for many years with this format. It is a very serious subject that ISO has in its hands… or at least, it is a potentially very serious subject.
> That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no…
You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that 75% of the participating countries do not care about standards.
I’m sure all the participating countries "cared". As a matter of fact, I cannot remember any of the countries appealing DIS 29500 contributing to document format standardisation activities in SC 34 before the arrival of the 29500 project.
> That is the problem. The world who really cares about standards voted no…
"You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that 75% of the participating countries do not care about standards."
Ok, let us make it 15% (it is more than that actually, since caring about standards implies independent revision of the standard not influenced by other interests), where does that leave us? no OOXML!
"I’m sure all the participating countries "cared". "
You can clearly see that your argument is ridiculous when it hinges on a belief that ALL of the participating countries cared. Have you been reading reports of the meetings pre-BRM in all the participating countries? It does not seem that, at least those 15% (just not scare you), cared a lot about having a really good standard.
"As a matter of fact, I cannot remember any of the countries appealing DIS 29500 contributing to document format standardisation activities in SC 34 before the arrival of the 29500 project."
So what? As long as their work is good I see no problems. It’s not like the late arrivals that voted YES with NO COMMENTS at all or countries with hundreds of comments that trust the maintainer on the implementation of their proposed changes or are not going even to make sure that they are actually implemented… well, they couldn’t do it right now, even if they wanted since there is no final text yet circulating.
Why ISO never thought of applying ISO 9001 quality standards to their own internal processes?
Again, you seem (in a self-validating circle) to be equating "good work" and "caring" exclusively with disapproving the DIS. The facts tend to point somewhere else.
Countries participating in the process must (by definition) have at least cared enough to participate in the first place. Among them, many countries did a lot of good technical work commenting in the September ballot, and this led a lot of them to disapprove the DIS at that time. These same countries then did a lot of good work before and during the BRM, and the result was that sufficient votes switched for there to be a comfortable consensus in favour of publishing the Standard. There is (I repeat) the hard central fact of a strong International consensus in favour of publishing ISO/IEC 29500 — despite flaws in it, and flaws in the process.
> ISO 9001
I think, in reality an ISO 9001 attitude is the last thing we need, since it tends to emphasise dumb repeatability, rather than any more meaningful concept of quality. And note this was not an "ISO", but a "JTC 1" process — different bodies; different rules.
" Countries participating in the process must (by definition) have at least cared enough to participate in the first place."
Cote d’Ivoir was represented at the BRM by a single Senegal citizen who was an employee of MS and on his own seemed to have been the whole NB of Cote d’Ivoir. His actions have been scrutinized and his contibutions to the world of standardization were only a few votes in favor of OOXML. (but you should know, he was at the BRM to vote)
Somehow, I cannot see even a suggestion that his "care" extended beyond doing as he was told from Redmond. But please, correct me if I am wrong.
The Malaysians cared a lot, they were at the BRM and worked pretty hard to improve DIS29500. They wrote extensively about their work (and frustrations). Both Malaysian TCs were unanymously AGAINST accepting DIS29500, only to be overruled by a government minister on some political platitude. The same in France.
Both the Malaysians and French delegates really cared and considered DIS29500 failing completely. And now you claim they were happy with DIS29500 because their government simply ignored them. You are NOT polite towards these people who worked really hard to help making the BRM a "success".
The Dutch NB cared a lot too. However, a single MS employee at the NB (and a bad voting process) was able to block all the other members from contributing ANYTHING to DIS29500 improvement. Not even their comments on the standard were allowed to be send to ECMA. Telling us they were happy with the process and standard because they didn’t vote against it is insulting.
And then we have not even gone over to the Czech republic, who was not happy with DIS29500 originally but very happy with a $24M deal from MS a month after they changed their vote to YES. To me, it doesn’t seem impossible that the care for DIS29500 quality shown by the Czech delegation could have been diluted with other thoughts at higher levels.
All together, even Rick and you have been unwilling to present reasons why DIS29500 is a decent, implementable standard. As Andy wrote, we heard a lot of lawyerly rule "interpretation", but little about why, eg, 5 different date formats and three different color definitions (or more?) in DIS29500 are good?
Rick is an XML standards expert, but has never gone further than saying "there are precendents for these [bad] choices", "we will iron out these [15,000] problems in maintenance", and "no rules were broken". Never ever telling us why this is a really good standard for document storage, good use of XML, useful for each and every competitor of MS, and also good for non-windows/non-MS Office users.
Even the argument that we now are able to "see" what Sharepoint and MS Office do is fake. OO.o already has better legacy support than MS themselves. MS Office doesn’t use DIS29500 but some derivative of an existing Ecma376. Furthermore, DIS29500 contains too many unreadable elements and is grossly incomplete in the crucial areas, eg, macros, to be really useful to see what Sharepoint and MS Office do.
So what makes DIS29500 a technically good and implementable standard, improved by the care of the NBs and their delegates? 5 date formats instead of the original 3?
MS seem to agree with this analysis, as they have decided to dis DIS29500 for the foreseeable futre.
"Rick is an XML standards expert, but has never gone further than saying "there are precendents for these [bad] choices", "we will iron out these [15,000] problems in maintenance", and "no rules were broken". Never ever telling us why this is a really good standard for document storage, good use of XML, useful for each and every competitor of MS, and also good for non-windows/non-MS Office users."
Yes, when people say "This looks strange to me" I have pointed out the rationale and precedents. Many people regard being informed as quite a positive thing in forming a view.
And yes, when people overstate the time considerations, as if there is no chance to fill in gaps and clarify and consolidate IS29500 after it was accepted, I have pointed out that the maintenance process if vital. Standardization is an ongoing process not an event.
And yes, when people use wild-eyed words such as bribery and corruption, I do point out they have absolutely no evidence and are speaking merely out of prejudice or FUD-mongering.
The reason OOXML is a good format for document storage is because, as the native file format for the world’s most numerous office application, it by necessity has all the information for the document, with no shoehorning, in the XML. Which is not to say that other formats do not also have attractive points: there are also benefits for document storage in ODF, HTML and PDF, all with different properties. The future is multiple-format storage, not universal formats. I have written about this many times on my blog.
The reason OOXML is a good use of XML is that in most cases it uses a common set of conventions (structured attributes and the "Pr" property naming convenetion.) This is a shock for people who have only seen hierarchical XML, but largely follows the accepted best practice that became fashionable about 2001 (on the coat-tails of the SML ideas, with attributes and mixed content being deprecated in favour of element content and using elements for "structured attributes".) Several ideas are pretty neat: for example the shared string tables. Good XML is not XML that corresponds to some arbitrary set of rules: in fact, every different kind of document has characteristic structures that are differerent from others, look at SVG’s defaulting rules for an example of something almost unique, or Ant’s rules for defining new elements within the same document. Good XML is based on looking at the particular problem, examining the trade-offs and coming up with a rational strategy and approach; good XML may well be ugly, unfortunately. However, I have never made the case that OOXML is not ugly. And I have pointed out that people who claimed that the XML Goal of "human readability" was a goal of XML development (largely concerning which characters to allow in names and markup) not some principle that everyone should be able to understand any XML document even if they had no knowledge of its convention or application area.
The reason OOXML is useful for each and every competitor to MS is that it brings out and collects (and allows further fact-checking by the maintenance process) information together in a way that was not available before. This is not to say that any of them should be obliged to use it, if they don’t care to. I have said several times that I thought the ODF TC would be the ultimate main customers for IS29500. But I don’t see why it is not obvious to everyone that in the medium term *no* developers can afford to ignore *any* major format: the choice is not between OOXML and no OOXML in the world, nor have I ever thought that ODF’s momentum would be stopped by OOXML; so even as ODF grows, we are better of with OOXML being collected and corralled as a voluntary standard, rather than being inhouse, proprietary and unscrutinized.
As for it being good for non-Windows/non-office users, I can only think that your answer is somehow based on the idea that saying my saying we should *have* a standard is the same thing as saying we should *use* that standard. This is as far from my position as possible. I think all market-dominating interface technologies should be RAND-z, QA-ed voluntary standards, because that reduces barriers to integration, archiving, and exchange, but the best technology for a job may not be the market-dominating technology, and it may not be the standard technology.
I have made all the points multiple times before.
I must admit that I had not interpreted your opinion in this way. The idea that you consider that ISO DIS29500 could be for reference only had never occurred to me.
But then I do not understand why MS went on after publishing Ecma376?
A "private", documentation, standard does not have to be approved by the ISO? They are for those standards that are implemented by others. Moreover, one of the main criticisms of DIS29500 has always been the references to internal code, the lack of semantics of the naming, and missing parts (like macro language and scripting). All of these would "hamper" the reference function seriously. Some of these seem to have been improved at the BRM, but that document is still MIA (I wouldn’t be able to understand it myself anyway).
The same about why the BRM had to take place? Any change by the ISO process would cause a discrepancy between DIS29500 and Office2007. Why push that, if you only want to document Office 2007? There was much more on the table than just "explaining MS Office better".
In another point, the OSP is a patent license which is no license, but a promise, and excludes the very license under which the main ODF applications are distributed. Such a pseudo-RAND license would be counter-productive to your "documentation" scheme. Especially as MS has never published the patent numbers covering DIS29500 as far as I know (that would have been incredibily useful).
Now you present it this way, I remember. But somehow, I must have misunderstood them completely at the time. For instance, you have earlier responded to comments from me on your own blog about "inconsistent tag names" (a comment from me), you write:
I don’t agree that the names are "just" mnemonic, they positively look like C/C++ variable names, not XML tag names. But that is beside the point. If you really see OOXML as a "documentation" standard, then this solution is completely inadequate without a sane tag name map. The same map that was asked for by the Brazilian delegation to the BRM. But for all their efforts, MS and Ecma have always refused to present such a thing.
So to summarize, I had indeed not understood your position before. But even under your position that DIS29500 might be used (useful?) for reference only, I still cannot see the logic behind DIS29500 and MS and Ecma’s actions. Somehow, I am missing the point. Sorry.
"The reason OOXML is useful for each and every competitor to MS is that it brings out and collects (and allows further fact-checking by the maintenance process) information together in a way that was not available before."
Errh…so it could not be found in the Ecma standard? Why is that an ISO label is needed if the purpose of OOXML is to document Microsoft Office? Why not just improve the Ecma standard until it acurate and possible to implement with sane effort by the competitiors and after that make the final result an ISO standard.
At what date do think that maintaince will have managed to get accurate enough about how "OOXML" in Microsoft Office works so that it becomes useful? Keep in mind Microsoft yet have not announced a date when they will conform to the ISO version.
The reality of the situation as I see it is that Open Office is by far the most complete documentation of Microsofts legacy formats. What Microsoft have released themselves are no where close enough to be useful for anyone that want to interpretate the legacy files. What Microsoft did with the Ecma standard is to change how their software work and produce yet another faulty description of what their software really does to deduce interoperability. The ISO version of the format made changes to improve the format. Unfortunately this means that Microsoft can hide behind "the weird behavior you see is because Office does not implement the ISO version yet" and the situation turns even worse.
"This is not to say that any of them should be obliged to use it, if they don’t care to. I have said several times that I thought the ODF TC would be the ultimate main customers for IS29500."
Unfortunate that the Microsoft drafted the OSP so that any competitior using GPL can’t use the information then.
It is interesting how you always write answers that on themselves are correct and convincing, but always disregard the full picture. The reason Microsoft started with the OOXML effort was that EU required them to document their existing format. Microsoft solved the "problem" by changing their format and send a faulty description of the new format to Ecma for approval. Given Ecmas charter this is kind of understandable that this happened…the same excuse does not hold for ISO and their NBs. I say the explanation for the approval is most likely stacked NBs, you fail to see any problem since NBs are free to mind their own business. For your sake let’s hope the appeals succeed so that you don’t have to suffer from explaining to the world how you could be so mistaken.
… all this activity rather goes to demonstrate the countries did care.
You seem happy to believe and pass on the second-hand bigotry and weasley insinuations of the hate sites (maybe that is what you call "scrutiny"). As it happens, one of the things at which there was wide agreement at the BRM was that the personal attacks on the Cote d’Ivoire delegate had been completely deplorable (this specifically came up at the HoD meeting). In an International process nations are free to order their own affairs and vote freely for whatever reason they want. If the way they do that doesn’t fit into your world view (and in international affairs, this will nearly always be the case for some nations) then — tough.
> All together, even Rick and you have been unwilling to present reasons why DIS29500 is a
> decent, implementable standard.
What Rick and I say doesn’t really matter in the context of this blog. What matters is that the International consensus is that the Standard is published.
> As Andy wrote, we heard a lot of lawyerly rule "interpretation", but little about why, eg, 5
> different date formats and three different color definitions (or more?) in DIS29500 are good?
Why not work it through yourself? The date formats were made as they are at the specific behest of the nations participating in the BRM (a 19:3 vote ratio), because for the transitional schemas there was a strong desire to keep the weird date representations of the legacy formats. In reality we have to face the problem that a lot of spreadsheets exist which make use of these representations for their calculations; that can’t be broken. The non-transitional date formats, on the other and, are clean ISO 8601 — so if you’re implementing DIS 29500 for non-legacy content that is the one way dates are represented.
The "5 dates" thing is a typical example of something that has been picked up by the technically illiterate and trumpeted around as a reason why 29500 is poor (because it kind of sounds bad), whereas in actual fact there are good reasons for it being done this way with strong International support.
As for Rick – I wouldn’t want to presume to speak for him but I believe he has been recommending ODF rather than OOXML as a general purpose format for Office documents. OOXML has a rather more specific purpose.
> MS Office doesn’t use DIS29500 but some derivative of an existing Ecma376.
It uses Ecma 376 currently. I don’t believe anybody has been able to show otherwise.
> Furthermore, DIS29500 contains too many unreadable elements
What’s an "unreadable element"? Sounds like more technically illiterate puffery to me …
>and is grossly incomplete in the crucial areas, eg, macros,
So a document format that doesn’t define a macro language is "grossly incomplete" is it? Uh oh.
> to be really useful to see what Sharepoint and MS Office do.
What on earth has Sharepoint got to do with it?
> So what makes DIS29500 a technically good and implementable standard, improved by the
> care of the NBs and their delegates? 5 date formats instead of the original 3?
That was one improvement over the original draft; getting it took a lot of care (this was probably the most worked-on resolution of the BRM).
I stand corrected on the work of Mr Wemba Opota, Microsoft’s representative for West Africa. If you say he does care about the quality of DIS29500 or XML document standards in general, I will not contest it as I do not know Mr Opota. So I should appologize to those hurt by suggesting otherwise.
I understand your reaction as saying that those who were not at the BRM and are unable to scrutinize the DIS29500 (as far as it is available) should NOT comment? This includes Andy, I assume.
About insinuations from hate sites, I would remind you that I refer mostly to OpenMalaysia, this blog, and Groklaw. None of which can be considered hate-sites.
But about hate-sites, I would like to draw your attention to the open letter from Prof Deepak B Phatak, IIT Bombay, India (http://deepakphatak.blogspot.com/2008/05/this-is.html ) and the blog post of Ditesh on Open Malaysia (http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/06/the-weed-whispe.html). Both explain in detail and with evidence how they and their colleges were targetted by smear campaigns from Microsoft. Microsoft India has even appologized in some form.
I don’t think it is prudent to label Ditesh and Yoon Kit as hate-mongers, and they were indeed at the BRM. If I may be blunt, I must admit that, outside your area of professional expertise, I give their opinions more weight than yours or Rick’s. But that is probably because I am a complete amateur on this area.
To be fair, I think that the truth is in the middle. I wish we had an ombudsman who could jump in to these exchanges and establish the facts. I believe, for example, that the following statements are true, and that each undercuts the absoluteness of your statements:
– All of the appeals are by long term JTC1 members, whether or not they were involved with formats before
– Many new countries involved in the final vote were late arrivals in SC 34, or late upgrades
– Many of these late arrivals had far less experience in the standards process
– The final vote would have looked very different had they not participated
I’m not saying this to invite correctionsa to this list or for a counter list, because a counter list could also be made that would add nuance to the final conclusion What I am trying to point out that when all we do is play "did too!" "did not!" we don’t really get anywhere, because neither set of statements really honestly addresses the state of affairs, or leads to either an answer or a path towards a better solution.
Yes, I really don’t think there’s too much to be gained by trying to second-guess the worth of a NB contribution from their length-of-service within the system. In votes, all votes are equal irrespective of length of service. For technical work, the contribution boils down to individual experts.
Interestingly, contrary to what is sometimes stated, among the old-timer "core" of SC 34 the spread of opinions on DIS 29500 was extremely close to that of the real International ballot (taking a snaphot of Jan 2006 countries, for example, their proportion of votes in favour of the DIS was 75%).
I might be able to expand on Andy’s frustration a little (and I’m sure Andy will correct me if I’m wrong).
At different times, we’ve been told that rules for standards development are standards like any other, that rules for standards development are actually just precedents, that ISO members are functionaries who implement the wishes of NBs, and that their decisions are final and may not be questioned. Maybe this is just a miscommunication, maybe the relationship between Zurich and the NBs is more complex than we’re understanding, but it feels like we’ve been given a 500-piece jigsaw with 600 pieces in the box.
I suspect Andy’s Bush analogy lost something in the translation, because we’re used to a monologue rather than dialogue with their president. A more appropriate analogy might be that the impression given to ISO outsiders is similar to the impression given to the British public when politicians insist that the EU is a powerless bureaucracy one day, then claim the next day that their hands are tied over an issue because they have to comply with new EU regulations.
– Andrew Sayers
> At different times, we’ve been told that rules for standards development are standards like any other,
It is true that the Directives are a Standard.
> that rules for standards development are actually just precedents,
No, they are not "just" precedent, though precedent may – naturally – be drawn on when interpreting the Directives.
> that ISO members are functionaries
> who implement the wishes of NBs,
Yes, but note the NBs have given ITTF a certain amount of power, particularly when it comes to administering procedure.
>and that their decisions are final and may not be questioned.
Generally decisions are made by NBs. Decisions can be questioned by NBs using the JTC 1 appeals procedure (as is happening now). In my experience the "officials" take care to try and find and work with the consensus view of NBs. Note, that in JTC 1 consensus does not mean unanimity.
> Maybe this is just a miscommunication, maybe the relationship between Zurich and the NBs is more
> complex than we’re understanding, but it feels like we’ve been given a 500-piece jigsaw with 600 pieces in the box.
Yes, I think, it is more complex than any of the things simply stated above things (and it’s Geneva, not Zurich) 🙂 Any system with lots of people and different cultures and interests mixed in is always going to be complicated.
I also think the problems in the Directives have caused too much uncertainty and confusion.
> I suspect Andy’s Bush analogy lost something in the translation, because we’re used to a monologue
> rather than dialogue with their president. A more appropriate analogy might be that the impression
> given to ISO outsiders is similar to the impression given to the British public when politicians insist
> that the EU is a powerless bureaucracy one day, then claim the next day that their hands are tied over
> an issue because they have to comply with new EU regulations.
I’m not quite sure what this all means. Is the question being asked why the BRM was run with such tight restrictions while the 30-day "rules" seems a bit more relaxed? I’m not sure I can answer that question!
I am also not sure exactly what concrete steps Andy is proposing. He says he wants me to "talk about what we should do now about OOXML". Well, I am doing that in a formal context in SC 34 by helping decide how its maintenance will be handled.
I think it’s important to differentiate here between problems of procedure and problems of perception – as an outsider, I feel rather less qualified to talk about the former than the latter 🙂
On the issue of Directives as Standard, I think the problem is that the public expects the word “standard” to have a broad meaning that applies to all standards, whereas standards experts think themselves lucky if two standards they’re involved in bear any resemblance to one another – I remember having explained to people that “Ecma standard” and “ISO standard” are qualitatively different terms that happen to use the same word. Beyond that, I think what Rick was trying to tell me earlier is that there’s no reason to believe that the logic applied to one standard should apply to a standard in a different field within the ISO. For example, take the value of precedent: one of the earliest arguments against Office Open XML was that it ignored the vast body of precedent about how XML documents should use hierarchical data structures rather than runs. That argument was batted away as merely being one tradition amongst many, and yet nobody would think to bat longstanding standards development precedents as one tradition amongst many.
I suppose the point of the above is that the word “standard” has become loaded in the public’s mind, implying that membership of an infallible canon of laws, developed in a repeatable, industrialised manner. If the above rings true, my only suggestion is to be very careful when throwing the word around in public.
The point of the EU analogy wasn’t to highlight any particular decision, but to give a general sense of the way that statements from ISO members are read by the outside world (fairly or otherwise). If you think about situations where politicians gave contradictory statements about Europe depending on the issue, giving you the impression that reality was somehow being reshaped to suit an agenda, that’s similar to the impression that is sometimes given about ISO rules. In the specific case of the BRM, I’m not personally worried about the strict nature of the rules, but I do find it hard to understand how ITTF has the power to impose a 5 day BRM despite widespread disquiet, yet doesn’t have the power to review that decision after the fact. As with the EU, it seems intuitive that either it’s a bureaucracy with neither power or a leader with both powers – making one argument before the BRM and another after gives cynics room to believe that you’re redefining the ISO to suit some hidden agenda.
As to concrete steps, my suggestions are less about document formats and more about the process in general. First I’d like to recycle a suggestion from another thread – how would you feel about encouraging some of the bureaucrats to maintain blogs? It seems to me that hearing the ISO’s role from the horse’s mouth would help to publicly demonstrate the complexities of the relationship in an accessible way. Second, is there a glossary of terms that will tell me what the group noun for PAS/FT is, and when to say “ISO” as opposed to “ITTF”? Having tripped over such issues (including in this post), I suspect it’s a partial explanation for the lack of commenters that are interested both in being polite and in not looking silly in public.
– Andrew Sayers
I tend to use small-f fast-track as the generic term for Fast-Track and PAS. However, I don’t imagine people will pick up on that in reading.
I think it is normal language to use the largest grouping word for something, and only use specific terms when specific meanings are intended.
So "Australia outraged as effects of UK atomic tests on Aboriginals emerges" is fine as a headline, but when you start to use more detailed sentences more qualifiers are needed: the general population of Australia, the military of UK and its government, the unevacuated nomadic Aboriginals in the desert region near Maralinga, etc. Using general words in specific sentences results in sentences that are substantially inaccurate: just the thing for propaganda.
So people say ISO, but really they mean (or should mean) ISO/IEC JTC1, and often they mean (or should mean) ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34, and often they mean (or should mean) the National Bodies P-members of SC34. So you get mad statements like "MS has bought ISO" when at most what is meant is that "MS has unduely influenced some NBs P-members of ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34.
Thanks for the long and thorough reply. Our cross/posts will become endless if I offer comments on your comments on my comments, so here are just a few thoughts.
Clearly, you’re in a better position to judge this than I am. I have to wonder, though, whether the collegiality that was displayed (a good thing) masked some of the frustration. Also, it is important to note that appeals are filed by NBs and not those who attended, so there is the secondary question of whether those on the home front were happy with the decisions that those in the breach acquiesced in.
This, I think, is an illustration of what I was trying to discuss here; that reaonable people can draw very different interpretations from what happened. I don’t think that it’s possible to know what most countries "want" when it comes to OOXML. The degree of pressure applied (without trying to distinguish between one side or another) was great. For my part, I’m not convinced, after what I’ve heard from many quarters, including those who took part in decisions made by NBs, that the vote is indicative of whether most countries really wanted DIS 29500.
I think that it’s fair to point out that NBs are free to disagree with their technical committees and rule against their recommendations. It seems (at minimum) like a weakness in the system if they can be held accountable to decisions made by representatives in a BRM, but then are free to vote as they wish. And if they can vote something down because they are not saistied with the result, why cannot they object to the criteria, process or anything else that happened? This doesn’t make any sense to me.
Fair point. I’d forgotten that (but see prior comment).
which, incidentally, was not "block" voting.
We’re just using different words to describe the same thing. I’m clear on the vote and the process as conducted.
Hmm. I didn’t get that impression from the two out of three I’ve seen.
It’s hard for me to respond to that, as all of my information is secondary. On the one hand, I don’t subscribe to the "I read on some blog somewhere that someone on some other blog said A is B, so A must be B," but on the other hand I have talked first hand to people like Frank Farance, and read the blog entries and exchanged email with people like Tim Bray (and more), all of whom have respected credentials and experience. And while they would agree that progress was made, it doesn’t seem that they think that the gamble paid out so well (and see comment above on pressure applied to the final vote).
Alex, I think this is a good example of why the appeals make sense. Everyone got together in a pressure cooker and did their best. All kinds of decisions like those above were made. It doesn’t surprise me that people after the fact – and their NBs – might not be too happy. Decisions made on Monday or Wednesday can look a lot different on Friday.
Here’s where I think we’re talking past each other again. One NB can cast one vote. If the process was flawed, your remedy doesn’t work. Appeals are filed by individual countries.
I think you’re mixing two arguments here: they are appealing the outcome, based on the process – not appealing to reform the process – although they may also want to do that, just as those that voted in favor of DIS 29500 might want to reform the process. I’m not sure why you are imputing a different motivation to the appellants than they are expressing?
Again, I can’t speak to that, because I’m not competent to judge. But I don’t hear other people voicing the same concern about ODF. The following, I believe, are facts: many countries did participate in the ODF voting; only pro forma objections were raised; there were already multiple implementations in full or partial compliance with the OASIS version that was submitted; ODF moved rapidly into 1.1, and now 1.2, with improvements in integrity and important additions; that will be resubmitted. So even giving a lot of slack for the vendor pressure, and populist groundswell against OOXML, this is a very different picture, to my mind. It seems rather remarkable to contend that a one week BRM was justifiable, but that ODF and OOXML must be equally condemned because they were both approved by the same committee. Again, I think this is an example of how I just can’t help seeing things differently.
You miss my point here, and it’s important: if you are saying that a country that participated in the BRM doesn’t have the right to appeal, then what was their choice to preserve that right? Again, this seems like a "heads I win, tails you lose." If you try to cooperate, you’re snookered. If you walk out to retain your rights, you’re engaging in "theatrics." Can you see why we’re so far apart?
I’ll let it go at this point, because while the examples continue, I think these demonstrate that we’re looking at the same animal from very differen viewpoints. Perhaps the best way to leave it is that this is true with a thousand other things in the world that people feel passionately, and oppositely, about.
Sometimes it helps to remember that it’s an election year, and to note that while unity is desirable, it’s not often achievable.
> The following, I believe, are facts: many countries did participate in the ODF voting;
You can see the voting results here
23 P-member NBs in favour
32 P and O member NBs in total.
That is about 1/3 the number who were involved in IS29500, and indicates strong interest.
> only pro forma objections were raised;
What is your source for this?
You can see the OASIS responses to SC34 NB comments: most of them seem to be dealt with by promises that they would be dealt with at some future time. It was not the objections that were pro forma, but the response! You can read the initial issues and responses at
The problem is that most of the reviews are clearly cursory: UK, Japan and China go into more detail though. The UK objection #10 is not remotely pro-forma but very critical. (You can see that China’s comments, in particular, mostly go to issues of maintenance and new features rather than to corrections: I think OASIS is quite right to shunt those to the maintenance process, though I am not sure whether they have actually been looked at seriously by ODF subsequently: a pointer to the appropriate minutes of the OASIS ODF TC would be appreciated!)
Subsequent more thorough review has detected more issues: see the 98 from JIS at http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0942.htm
I was delighted to see that the ODF TC is now dealing with comments again: progress at last! (2005? Is this some kind of record?)
> there were already multiple implementations in full or partial compliance with the OASIS version that was submitted;
And what is your objective proof for this? For XML it is trivial to test basic compliance: you validate against the schema. That is the first step, and the bottom line: it is one reason that gives XML systems an enormous leg up over other syntaxes: it removes the need for an enormous number of test suites and provides rigour. Where are the websites showing validation results for the various implementations? With XML-based systems, subjective claims are unnecessary and unsound because there is a basic objective criterion: validity against a schema.
But in any case, so what about implementations? The 1.0 spec was vague in areas that are critical for interoperability. If you say "anything goes" or "we will get to that soon" it is not hard to have compliance! (Recalling again Jenni Tennison’s comment that a refrigerator was formally an "XML Infoset" according to the W3C Recommendation.) This is not a negative criticism of ODF 1.0, just a matter of calling a spade a spade. Living standards are always in some state of incompletion.
> ODF moved rapidly into 1.1, and now 1.2, with improvements in integrity and important additions; that will be resubmitted.
Yes. Every standard has a different journey. And they all have different personalities involved, and different development strategies, and some parts come together faster than others.
"But in any case, so what about implementations? The 1.0 spec was vague in areas that are critical for interoperability."
Do you mean the spec was vague on how koffice could interoperability with lotus and OO.o? Or do you mean 1.0 was vague on interoperability with legacy MS Office formats?
The former meaning is rather incomprehensible to me, the latter was impossible otherwise.
As far as I remember, MS refused to cooperate with the ODF committee and the legacy MS Office format specifications were unpublished. As OOXML did not even exist, you could not mean that format. Or am I missing something?
So I am at a loss at what you mean here with "areas that are critical for interoperability". Could you explain?
Btw, could you also elaborate about the interoperability specifications in OOXML towards ODF? That seems to be an important issue, according to your remarks, and the ODF specifications were already an ISO standard when Ecma started OOXML standardization. I must have have missed completely the discussion about the way OOXML tries to relate (interoperate) with ODF. Was that discussed at the BRM?
I also remember Brazilian delegates asked for the mapping (interoperation) between OOXML and the legacy formats. Is that already available? If not, do you know hen it will be made available?
I found the answer to my own questions here:
Sorry for the inconvenience.
>>23 P-member NBs in favour
>>32 P and O member NBs in total.
>That is about 1/3 the number who were involved in IS29500, and indicates strong interest.
And even closer to the number of members involved in consideration of OOXML before the surge of late arrivals.
>> only pro forma objections were raised;
>What is your source for this?
I guess "pro forma" is in the eye of the beholder. I read the comments when they were received, and they are made up largely of comments like the following:
England (first six out of 14 by way of example, with some responses include):
Canada (all comments)"
Hungary (single comment and response):
Germany (only comment and response)
There’s no standard for "pro forma" that I’m aware of, but this meets it for me. Are there a few real comments? Yes. Are there many as a percentage of the whole? Hardly. Were there many countries that submitted comments? No – only 8, 2 of which submitted only one comment (one of which was an "Attaboy!") and 2 of which submitted only 2 comments.
Rick, no one has claimed more often than you that comments to OOXML were over blown, so I’m a bit perplexed about your comments here. I think you need to be more consistent in your criticism – and also assume that people will actually go and look at the comments to see whether you are smoking them or raising a valid comment.
>> there were already multiple implementations in full or partial compliance with the OASIS version that was submitted;
>And what is your objective proof for this?
The same sources as there are for every other new standard until there is a certification test and authority. Vendors (or projects, as the case may be) race to bring their products into compliance, and then claim that they are. They do a good job or a bad job, and the market figures out who has done a good job, and favors there products. And now, as you know, OASIS is running a 90 day listserv to see if there is sufficient interest and support to launch a Technical Committee to work on conformance tests. So hopefully that will be on the way soon as well.
Andy> there were already multiple implementations in full or partial compliance with the OASIS version that was submitted;
Rick>And what is your objective proof for this?
Andy>The same sources as there are for every other new standard until there is a certification test and authority. Vendors (or projects, as the case may be) race to bring their products into compliance, and then claim that they are.
Your evidence is that vendors say so? Yikes, I bet they love that approach…
Validation is objective proof. An HTML page giving some sample documents with validation results would be objective proof. It does not require or depend on an independent testing authority, it just needs to be verifiable by running the same test. The provision of schemas and validatability means you don’t need to wait for test suites or authorities: there is base-line of conformance testing for the document standard immediately available. Indeed, in SGML such testing was mandatory, and it was removed in XML to reduce transmission size for documents (and because, for automated streaming production, validity is a quality testable on the process not each individual document) not because it was unimportant for interoperability. The reason SC34 spends so much effort on schema languages is because they are a key enabling technology for making all sorts of other standards practical without elaborate infrastructure or barriers to entry.
Validity (against hard not artificial constraints) is necessary but not sufficient for interoperability.
"Validation is objective proof."
Are you referring to the silly discussion between Alex and Rob Weir?
It might be difficult to get original validations (or documents) from 2005 when ODF got an ISO standard, I think. But there are plenty now. So maybe someone can go down and harvest old files or application versions from those days. But in those innocent days, no one thought their words would be contested, one character at a time. So they probably didn’t notarise their document files.
Given the duration and extent of the cooperation between OO.o, IBM, and several FOSS projects (eg, Koffice), there were partial implementations available around that time and I understand that OO.o tried to make sure reference implementations were available during standards development.
But your use of "Vendor" to refer to OO.o, Koffice, and Abiword might be misleading. Claims from FOSS projects are generally more serious than those of commercial vendors. So dismissing claims by OO.o or KDE like those of Caldera/SCO or Enron is largely unwaranted.
Are you saying that out there there’s an office application that consistently produces valid ODF?
I’m impressed, as nobody else has been able to name one. Which is it?
"Are you saying that out there there’s an office application that consistently produces valid ODF?"
But I say that in your rather silly discussion (sorry for the word choice), Rob Weir showed he could produce documents that validated against the ODF schema.
I like watches, rulers, scales, and thermometers that keep to the standards for time, lengths, weights and temperature within useful margins. If I need perfection, I buy the Platina meter or Kg. The same in HTML, PDF, and obviously, ODF.
Given that you do not seem to use neither ODF nor OOXML, you are very outspoken in criticizing Open Office, Koffice, and Google for being imperfect in implementing ODF.
And this post was about complaints against OOXML. Even if ODF and its implementations were completely broken and useless, that doesn’t make DIS29500 any better as a standard. Especially as even MS seem to have given up on the "real" standard and will stick to the "transitional" mess for the forseeable future. And without MS implementing it, the "final" standard ends up as a waste of time and paper.
In short, I am afraid all the work you and many others did for the BRM might have made DIS29500 a (somewhat) better standard was wasted and we will be stuck with Ecma376 forever.
No, what Rob showed was that if he turned off some checks, he could produce documents that reported as valid.
To you it may be a silly discussion, but to SC34 WG1, who look after schema language issues, it is highly important and serious. Please don’t join any technical groups if you think that this kind of thing is unimportant: the devil is in those details! Schemas and validation are the basis of a lot XML work and contracts and standards, and needs to be well understood. The discussion exposed that there was a reasonable-seeming pattern in schemas using RELAX NG which would create formally impossible schemas, and that rather than fixing the schemas, some users were merely turning off the messages about this.
For detailed info see http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2008/05/dont_show_me_problems_show_me.html
So you agree with Alex, there do not exists any valid ODF documents anywhere? Because that was what I found the silly part.
Validating documents with the wrong version of a standard, like Alex apparently did, does not convey any confidence in his efforts (and conclusions).
But the simple translation of what you write is that you suggest Rob Weir ran the wrong validation tests on his documents and they were, in fact, not valid ODF documents?
Is that right? Or do I read you wrong?
Because that was what the discussion was all about, are there validated ODF documents.
Yes. The *actual* schema was discovered to be formally wrong IIRC. Therefore it is impossible for any document to be valid against it. (Or to be invalid against it.) Validity is validity against a correct schema, not wishful thinking.
That is not silly. But it is a matter of formality: there hopefully are tons of ODF documents which conform to the intent of the schema and which would be valid against the corrected schema. Indeed, IIRC Dr Brown contributed a fix for the schema to make them correct.
Why is this seen as any kind of threat against ODF? Is ODF so divinely inspired that it is impossible for it to have any flaws? Is the process so closed that no-one is allowed to mention it in public but take it directly to committees? Is someone on the committee that maintains ISO RELAX NG and which also formally paper-shuffles ISO ODF not allowed to do even the most basic tests of the standard? If the ODF community takes the attitude that every test result that is not to their liking is treated as an attack, ODF has no chance of meeting its potential.
There seems to be a misunderstanding about the place I put the silly label.
You yourself have gone to great lengths to convince us that having thousands of errors in an approved standard is not a problem.
So if two grown-ups discuss the fact that one has found an inconsistency in a standard, eg, ODF, they should keep it to the point of how and when this inconsistency can be solved. As you said yourself, there is no big point in having thousands of inconsistencies and plain errors in a standard. So a standard with an odd hundred of errors should be perfectly fine.
If, instead, these two grown-ups then get involved in a pointless discussion of how to use the "correct" standards version and flags for the validating application, continuing in an "IS-IS NOT" fight, then I find that a silly discussion.
"You yourself have gone to great lengths to convince us that having thousands of errors in an approved standard is not a problem."
Every time you summarize what you think I mean, you get it so wrong that I cannot even recognize myself in the caricature that results. I apologize for being such a bad writer, or of having such arcane, unthinkable and jesuitical nuances that they escape you so relentlessly.
Having thousands of errors in a large draft is not a problem (indeed it may even be a benchmark of decent review*): as long as they get addressed to a good extent (which is what the BRM did.) Having thousands of errors in a standard would be a problem, especially in normative text. However, there are many changes and inadequacies in a standard that are not errors at all: unclear text and wordsmithing issues, incomplete details, changes when it is figured out that the underlying technology does something different to what the champion thought it did, clauses for technologies being phased out, clauses for technology being phased in but not completely finalized. But ultimately standardization is a process not an event.
What *is* a problem is when legitimate issues stall, such as comments that remain unaddressed. A pro-active maintenance process where prompt resolution of external user comments have at least as much priority as vendor-driven changes is required for even minimal openness in a standards process.
* IIRC Penguin used to demand that its copy editors find at least one error every three pages (or was it three errors per page) even though they were reprinting existing published material, because it was unimaginable that humans would not produce that kind of error rate.
"Having thousands of errors in a large draft is not a problem (indeed it may even be a benchmark of decent review*): as long as they get addressed to a good extent (which is what the BRM did.)". Now I’m sure you live in a parallel universe.
In the aftermath of the BRM, Rob Weir has sampled the resulting document and found so many errors that you can easily estimate the grand total to 15,000 for DIS29500.
You always consistently stated that OOXML was fine with those error rates. The fact that you redefined errors to make the numbers smaller doesn’t change the fact that everyone else finds thousands of errors. We didn’t even start about the Excel functions.
There are several different concepts floating about here. As usual, you mess them together for them most sensational result.
For a start, not all defects are errors. And not all gaps are defects. And not all improvements are from gaps. For example, is the lack of a proper formula language in ISO ODF an error, a defect, or a gap or a new feature? If you regard all new features and gaps as defects then you certainly may get tens of thousands of "defects". This is the mistake that Rob Weir makes in that page you give, lumping them all together. (As well as utterly bogus points, such as the comment about "id". Lawdy spare us. The ODF people ought to pray that no-one attempts the disinformation campaign about the ODF standard that was unsuccessfully attempted on OOXML: the legitimate defects of DIS29500 were almost swamped by a sea of indiscriminate claptrap and shoddy technical commentary. This kind of denial of service attack does not work, and it just antagonizes the people who would be better off working through the real defects.) Which is not to say that everyone will necessarily agree on what is a gap and what is a defect, etc: people have different perspectives and legitimate priorities (as distinct from mischievous agendas).
Secondly, there is a difference between a defect found in a draft and a defect found in a standard. It is a victory to find errors in drafts, it is a defeat to find errors in standards. However, it is not at all uncommon that gaps are left in standards, again ODF 1.0 being the poster boy for this. So if errors are unacceptable, and gaps are tolerable in the short-term, defects are always at least regrettable, and ISO has a formalized defect report and maintenance process to attempt to get defects resolved in a timely fashion. The mistake you make is switch between talking about the draft (and its defect rates) as if it were a defect in the standard. It is like all the web sites that still have comments about errors in DIS29500 that were actually fixed by the BRM; I suppose it is easy to train a parrot to say one thing but difficult to get them to stop.
Third, when estimating error rates, you need to look at the kind of text (repetitive or not) and where errors occur (normative or non-normative text.) To make error rate estimates by treating all drafts or standards as if they all contain no informative text and no repetitions is plain misleading. But you know all that…
You are still beside the point. This discussion is not about DIS29500 having thousands or tens of thousands of errors. But about whether an ancient "IS-IS NOT" fight between Alex Brown and Rob Weir was silly. The simple point was that if thousands of errors in DIS29500 (pre- and post-BRM) is fine, as you always claim, then the 100-odd errors in ODF are fine too.
For your information, Rob Weir used the post-BRM text. So the estimate is about what can be found in DIS29500 after the BRM. Furthermore, the errors he publishes are not less bad than those you published for ODF above (see Andy’s comments). And there have been enough complaints about the "informative text" (or the lack thereof) to ignore that for the moment.
About the 64 errors Rob found in 25 randomly drawn pages he writes:
You are free to debunk them all 64 (and not just a single one), just like Andy discussed all "errors" you argued about in ODF. But this list looks rather tough, as I see no way that, eg, including a password in plain-text as anyway "correct". (And if ODF does the same, that would be equally wrong).
And I won’t care whether the grand total in the normative part is 5,000 or 15,000 (no-one uses the normative part anyway). If thousands of errors are fine for DIS29500 post-BRM, then the odd 100 must be fine for ODF. And the original "IS-IS NOT" fight between Alex and Rob was still silly.
Furthermore, I don’t see your point about "maintenance". The quality of a standard is not the quality of the maintenance committee. A bad standard can become better in maintenance (or vice versa), but that is not part of the standard itself. Maintenance can be easily improved or worsened. Much more easily than the standard itself (as we saw in the DIS29500 BRM).
And the fact that ODF 1.0 did not have spreadsheet formulas defined might be much better than DIS29500 having them defined incorrectly. Excel (and other "compatible" spreadsheets) is generally seen as completely unfit for serious calculations. The definitions in DIS29500 show exactly why.
What will be easier? Adding mathematically correct spreadsheet formulas to ODF 1.2 (1.3?) or replacing the horrible Excel mess in DIS29500 1.1?
"And the fact that ODF 1.0 did not have spreadsheet formulas defined might be much better than DIS29500 having them defined incorrectly. Excel (and other "compatible" spreadsheets) is generally seen as completely unfit for serious calculations. The definitions in DIS29500 show exactly why."
That is easy to say. But the trouble is that a large amount of the world’s population actually *does* run on Excel spreadsheets. It is a fact that has to be assertively dealt with not one to be denied, as if we can click our fingers and make the whole thing disappear. I know of a large corporation working out hedging funds for billions of dollars of sugar using spreadheets. The standardization of OOXML has flushed out quite a few problems that would have remained undealt with and unknown otherwise (and there still needs to be more.)
But even if one’s goal is to allow all existing Excel users to switch to some non-MS ODF-based substitute application, you still need to provide a viable off-ramp for Excel. ODF uses a different syntax, so people cannot just re-type their current formulae, it seems. Standardization is a route exactly made for providing forums and procedures and participants for getting this information explicit and vetted and out there. Voluntary disclosure does not cut it, there needs to be some critical eyes (whether they are negative or nurturing) applied to the documentation. Look at the problems with the SAMBA disclosure…courts do not have the will or means to appoint anti-trust technical documentation evaluation armies at one end, and mere disclosure of existing information in unstructured bundles does not make the grade at the other end. Standardization is a practical mid-point between voluntary and enforced disclosure.
Please, look at the subject line.
I cannot see how putting unsound mathematics through ISO standardization solves this problem? The solution should be to outphase bad calculations, not enshrine them.
But "phasing them out" cannot be a matter of arbitrarily correcting the functionality. That throws out time series data and creates changeover anomalies. You cannot simply break hundreds of thousands of spreadsheets without asking their owners, that is the height of dictatorial un-openness.
Instead, the only way forward is
1) Get the current functionality well documented
2) Get a mechanism so that the old and new functionality can exist side-by-side
3) Make the new functionality the default for new documents and warn/guide old users to change over.
So for OOXML
1) We have clarified many functions (but there always may be more) through the BRM process
2) At the BRM we paved the way for a proper library mechanism, providing ISO.CEILING() and ECMA.CEILING() which aliases to CEILING() so current stylesheets maintain their behaviour but users can obtain the correct behaviour
3) User interfaces are encouraged to provide ISO.CEILING() as CEILING() in the future. (Some spreadsheets localize the formulas when presenting them to the user, so this should not be any kind of implementation burden.)
This kind of practical approach has a hope of success. Merely demanding all problems disappear overnight without thought about its impact and implementation is a waste of time.
Somehow, it looks as if you are conflating ISO standardization with accurate documentation. It is true that MS fails horribly in both areas, but I do not see why that matters for this discussion. I still do not see a point in putting an ISO stamp on bad math. Especially as it is MS that knows the problem, controls the application that makes the errors, and can migrate the users.
So tell us, what were you and all those other people doing at the BRM?
1) Get the current functionality well documented?
What did anyone there know that MS didn’t know? Why bother to come there?
They even were not involved in documenting a mathematical sane new functionality.
2) Get a mechanism so that the old and new functionality can exist side-by-side
You weren’t doing any of that, were you? I heard a lot about other things, but nothing about getting any sane mathematical formulation of the spreadsheet formulas.
3) Make the new functionality the default for new documents and warn/guide old users to change over.
You weren’t doing any of that either, were you? Anyhow, that is the task of the APPLICATION, not the document format.
Personally, I don’t see why you need hundreds of outside experts to move all MS Office users to an existing ISO date format. MS can do that silently all of themselves.
So, please explain why dozens of NBs with dozens of members each were working for years only to document MS Office 2007 native format? And make it an ISO standard not necessarily in a form to be implemented by others?
Nothing you said about the formula part makes any sense in the context of this ISO standardization drive.
It was David A Wheeler who found out that the formula part of OOXML/DIS29500 was ruefully incorrect, did not describe Excel functionality well, and even had completely bogus examples. And David was trying to do EXACTLY what you proposed for ODF formulas. With no help from MS. In the end, he had to spend countless hours to test Excel even though he had OOXML available (which should have described the Excel behavior).
In short, the whole Ecma 376/ISO DIS29500 procedure did nothing, really nothing, to achieve the aim of improving spreadsheet formulas. MS/Ecma even failed to describe Excel functionality correctly (which widely differs between versions).
In the end, it was the ODF Open Formula effort that finally documented the inaccuracies and opaqueness of DIS29500 formula definitions.
As an example, DIS29500 only illustrates the utter uselessness of the ISO process to document standards from monopolistic companies.
I must admit that I was totally ignorant, and are somewhat less so now. You are right that ISO standardization actually did some good to the formulas in DIS29500. Thanks for explaining these points here for the first time (the BRM was secret, as far as I remember).
But I did not get your opinion on whether DIS29500 actually describes Excels functionality well? Does it?
Must the conclusion now not be that MS and Ecma did really screw up Ecma 376? Or must we conclude that both MS and Ecma were totally incompetent?
The first round of standardization should have done the work of the NBs by inviting comments from all knowledgable parties. Or is that not the aim of Ecma? The problems with the formulas are so glaringly obvious that I cannot see how the Ecma review missed them. But, on the other hand, I understand there was so much to review and so little time.
I understand that most of the formula stuff in OOXML gives the impression no one seriously looked at them for years. The examples you give are so shockingly fundamental. Even a total ignorant like me would have known about Normal Forms. The CEILING thing got some publicity from OpenMalaysia long before the BRM (I am not sure the discussed solution addressed the same point). It is not like the CEILING definition is anyhow difficult to find. More likely, no one bothered to look at all.
My conclusion from your comment is that MS and Ecma should never have developed OOXML behind closed doors. They were both unable to finish such a task to any standard of quality. And they should have taken some more time to check the standard, instead of pushing it to ISO after less than a year (or was it more?). I really cannot see how a week long BRM is in any way sufficient to handle even the formula definitions in OOXML.
The fact that David Wheeler found such glaring errors in so little time suggests that Fast Tracking of OOXML was not such a good idea either. They should have taken somewhat more time to check their formula definitions. It is not that this is unknown to mankind. ODF did organize a committee to add formulas. They did not just dump Open Office’s formulas into ODF.
But was that not the whole point of criticism: That there should have been much more time to evaluate OOXML/DIS29500? Do you agree now?
In the ISO process, the BRM is the time when all the defects collected in the last year get resolved. So the fact that MS or ECMA did not fix this or that error when it was first reported is quite misleading: they are *unable* to change the draft once it has been put into the process. The reason for this is so that reviewers do not have to face a moving target. Unfortunately, mischievous people added noise and heat by then claiming that MS was not being responsive and was ignoring problems and was pushing the thing through regardless of errors, when it was actually out of MS’ hands.
Now this is yet another thing to dislike about the fast-track process, they spread out the time from a problem being identified to the time when it can be fixed. It used to be conventional wisdom that the ISO process reacted very slowly to change, however since we have an example of a consortium being much slower, it seems like an issue for everyone.
> I understand that most of the formula stuff in OOXML gives the impression no one seriously looked at them for years.
Some of it, I think that is correct. Hooray for standardization, which can provide a circuit-breaker or log-unjammer for large disfunctional organizations.
> More likely, no one bothered to look at all.
There is a technical cultural aspect at work: MS has consistently taken the line that where there is a mass market product that is being used for mission critical work, it is irresponsible to alter functionality arbitrarily: what is a fix for the MS software might be a break for the customer’s system. Now this is of course the reason so much of the software ended up so crappy after their first decade, they didn’t have a culture of fixing bugs. Instead, they would document them. So that has been one of the big challenges for IS29500 and for MS: how a culture of document-don’t-break can fit in with a culture of say-what-you-do-but-do-what-you-say and the rectification of names.
> My conclusion from your comment is that MS and Ecma should never have developed OOXML behind closed doors.
Closed doors? Ecma released a public draft for comment in May 2006. Ecma is not a closed organization. And *all* the vendors were coming from some of close-enough-is-good-enough culture. The Ecma process resulted in the initial MS draft going from 2000 page to 6000 pages, including 1000 page on spreadsheets. That is hardly nothing. Remember that their model on what kind of thing was acceptable was ODF 1.0: six (or was it 12) pages only…
> I really cannot see how a week long BRM is in any way sufficient to handle even the formula definitions in OOXML.
The BRM is not there to find errors per se. The six month review period (which stretched to 8 months) had that purpose. Then they had time to weigh each others comments and negotiate with the editor to suggest resolutions. Then they had a month or two to review the Editor’s suggested changes. And now there can be extra review, and if we can get them to move for a fully fledged library, we might even be able to get good interconvertability with Open Formula’s library mechanism.
But yes, anything as long as the formula language takes time: it has to be a process not an bigbang event. However, the time required for a work of documentation with its rough edges knocked off (which is what IS29500 is) is different from that needed for a new standard. And it is work that is eminently suited for maintenance. When you have a new standard that is unimplemented, errors and ommissions are serious because there is no back channel for figuring out what is going on. For something like OOXML, there is a clear back channel available as a workaround when the spec has an error or ommission (pending it getting fixed): they can see how the application works.
It’s often said that the reason the DIS 29500 appeals are doomed to failure is that there’s already been a vote contradicting the positions the appeals take. Ordinarily, I would see that as a very strong argument – the ISO functions by global consent, and voting is an acceptable way of measuring that consent when an informal consensus can’t be reached. However, uninformed consent is no consent at all, and as you say, very often things emerge only because of questioning. Ignoring the practicalities for a moment, who’s to say that South Africa wouldn’t have made a point during an open-ended BRM which caused Russia to ask a question that made Japan see a showstopper that we’d all missed before now?
One could argue that the super-majority shows that nobody felt that lack of time was a serious issue, but that seems a little implausible – in an environment so heavily tilted towards producing a win, and where voting to protest the process seems to have been frowned upon, such concerns could easily have been brushed aside as irrelevant or hypothetical.
None of this is to say that the standardisation process shouldn’t be win/win, that votes should be politicised by encouraging protests, or that standards must be perfect. My question is simply this: surely the question of whether NB consent was sufficiently informed is exactly what an appeals process is there for, and that no amount of reform to the letter of the Directives will affect a cultural change amongst ISO gnomes away from allowing international organisations to “circumvent the consensus-building process”, as SA’s appeal puts it?
– Andrew Sayers
Andy commented that some delegates told they were ordered by their governments to vote yes irrespective of technical or procedural considerations.
It is not strange that countries that do not share the interests of these governments (or even have competing interests) complain that they are now "burdened" with a standard that was not selected on merit. Even though Rick tends to play it down, there are national (EU) laws and international and bilateral treaties that put some leverage on ISO standards. It really is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that it was this leverage that induced MS to drive down the standardization of OOXML at all costs after ODF received their ISO stamp.
Andrew wrote: "Ignoring the practicalities for a moment, who’s to say that South Africa wouldn’t have made a point during an open-ended BRM which caused Russia to ask a question that made Japan see a showstopper that we’d all missed before now?"
Or vice versa. Who is to say that Australia mightn’t have come up with some comment that made China reconsider? I don’t think there is a lack of time argument that goes in any direction. There was a year for interested people to participate and review at ECMA, including a public draft midway through. There was more than a year of very active public comment before the BRM. Then there was another month.
But the BRM didn’t consider the issue of whether the standard was acceptable, it was just to attempt to make whatever improvements it could in the constraints and deadlines it had. The decision of NBs was not at the BRM but at their subsequent meetings. There was no guarantee that a successful BRM (one that produced an improved text) would necessarily improve it enough that the enough NBs would be satisfied and change their votes (though by about half-way through the BRM it became clear that there would be enough changes made, and I think this threw some opponents into a rather desperate and pissed-off mood, since the outcome they wanted was a continued no vote, not a yes vote.)
> "One could argue that the super-majority shows that nobody felt that lack of time was a serious issue, but that seems a little implausible – in an environment so heavily tilted towards producing a win, and where voting to protest the process seems to have been frowned upon, such concerns could easily have been brushed aside as irrelevant or hypothetical."
Of course voting to protest the process is frowned on: that is not what the vote does, so you are not protesting you are disrupting the process and being disorderly. There are already channels in place. A NB who votes one day on some procedures at JTC1 would be quite out of line to then go to some SC meeting and put in a protest vote about those procedures. Perhaps delegates did not realize they are delegates of their standards NB not of their technical committees or their own interests per se. If a soccer player decides that he doesn’t like the rules of the game and starts tackling, he will get a yellow card. If he wants to change the game, he has to go to the rules committee or start his own code. It isn’t mob rule or DIY.
There is a difference between acknowledging something is a serious issue and thinking it is a showstopper. If there were no maintenance process, and if there were no thriving alternative to OOXML (i.e. ODF) and if the BRM had not resulted in thousands of changes, and if MS and ECMA did not seem to have a cooperative attitude, and if the anti-OOXML side had showed a little discrimination in their fault finding, and if the fast-track had not stretched out to more than a year, then the time issue might have been more important. But every NB at the BRM got to vote individually on the editor’s responses to every NB comment raised at the first ballot, and every NB got to discuss their one or two highest priority issues explicitly.
Please explain this a little.
This comment differs so much from what has been published before that I cannot "integrate" it.
Previous reports stated that the Ecma committee consisted of Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, The Library of Congress, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, and Toshib. I always understood that these members were hand-picked and the committee was not open to the public or other interested parties. No minutes were published and neither were questions/answers about OOXML.
Completely absent from this list are any competitors of MS in Office suits (with Apple so much depending on MS Office that they can hardly be considered a competitor). For instance, IBM, Sun, Koffice, Abiword, and OO.o all produce office suits that try to be compatible with MS Office. Were they invited to join? If yes, why did they decline. If not, why not? Was the committee really large enough to process thousands of pages in a year?
There was an interim draft, but this was so massive that it was outdated before anyone had a chance to read it. Were comments from the public requested? In what form? Any feedback?
Did Ecma really install a procedure for public comments? My memory must fail me here. The proposed resolutions were not open to the public before the BRM, so what was there to comment on for the public? Neither are there minutes of the BRM. After the BRM, there was a month of debate without anyone present actually being allowed to comment on what happened. They did anyway, but only after MS widely published "selected" results.
So please, Rick, what did these earlier journalists and publications do wrong to come to such a different conclusion?
Thanks for updating me on the Ecma procedure.
Thanks for this; it’s helpful for those of us that are not technically experienced to understand better what those who are are saying/meaning when they use the words that they do. Even if they still don’t agree.
I don’t really accept your point. As you know, the majority of software standards _never_ have a formal certification test, the reason largely being cost. Test software costs a lot to develop, and the costs of creating them and offering them are rarely recoverable to the extent that they would deliver a commercial profit. Hence, they are never created. I’ve represented over 95 standards consortia and SDOs (announced or currently in creation), that together have developed many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of standards. My top of the head guess is that fewer than 20% of these standards were every supported by a software test suite, and of that 20%, perhaps 20% of those standards benefited from third party testing, as compared to self-testing. Yet many of those standards are now cornerstones of their respective commercial niches. This is the simple reality of the marketplace, as you know.
Market demands (e.g., consumer or business product?) and realities (small market or large?) dictate where tests exist. If you are selling a WiFi home router or building an ATM machine, you can bet that the test will be rigorous, and there will also be investment in a brand campaign, because there is no tolerance for lack of robust interoperability without great commercial damage. If you’re talking about a limited market B2B product, then it’s likely it won’t, and the customer will expect that it will have some jiggering to do, or that vendors behind the scene will have already one that one on one.
And, as you know, different standards deliver different degrees of interoperability, for many reasons, including level of complexity. A really good standard or a standard that is really simple may get you really close – or in the case of a physical standard, all the way. An average software standard or a really complex one may not. That’s why – as you know – "plugfests" are very popular, regularly scheduled, ongoing parts of the standard scene, so that vendors can get together in a confidential setting and work the kinks out of their "compliant implementations" among themselves, to get the last yard that the standard or other factors couldn’t deliver.
Rick, you have a habit of delivering statements – like the pro forma one – that you throw out, and then when confronted, you abandon without comment. You then go on to toss out another similar statement, that you deliver without market context. This doesn’t really advance understanding at all, and leaves me feeling more like you drop in here to stir up the audience more than try and educate people.
Complex standards are a tough business, as you know, and they don’t usually deliver clean results. That’s why you create the type of tests that you’re talking about, so that you can tell which implementations are of higher quality than others. And that’s why vendors create them themselves, as development tools, to test and improve their own products that they have already made as compliant as possible. So finally, you are confusing people by conflating the thoroughness of a standard with the "compliance" of an implementation. There are plenty of useful standards and totally compliant implementations that don’t deliver plug and play interoperability, for many reasons, as noted above.
What matters is how widely a standard gets implemented, and how hard vendors try to get to a high level of interoperability – and whether they succeed. The important thing about ODF is that as soon as the standard came out, a meaningful and varied pool of enthusiastic vendors and open source projects, with a wide variety of models – software, Web-based and so on – jumped on board to adopt the standard, and work expanded within OASIS to extend the coverage of the standard still further, to provide for greater accessibility, and now to try and provide testing tools. These are attributes of a healthy and growing ecosystem that will deliver choice, price competition and innovation. Sniping about what "compliance" means and holding ODF to an unnaturally high standard for a specification at this stage of development serves no useful purpose.
Andy, I don’t understand your point. Which XML-based standards don’t have a schema of some kind?
I don’t think I have ever seen such a thing (except for RDF where the lack of a schema hid an ambiguity, XSLT which is a special case since it allows arbitrary elements (but which ISO DSDL can handle now), and SVG which is another special case (which which ISO DSDL can handle now.)
One of the value propositions of XML (and XML for standardization) is that by having a schema you largely obviate the need for any test suites as far as the data format goes, to the extent where as you say it is rare to have an formal test suite.
> Rick, you have a habit of delivering statements – like the pro forma one – that you throw out, and then when confronted, you abandon without comment. You then go on to toss out another similar statement, that you deliver without market context. This doesn’t really advance understanding at all, and leaves me feeling more like you drop in here to stir up the audience more than try and educate people.
I think I have contributed more column inches to the comments pages on this topic than anyone else. I do have a job to do as well… But I agree that it would more productive of me to respond to issues you raise rather than some lies and issues some others raise, which just go around in circles. But I am not deliberately avoiding any subjects.
> What matters is how widely a standard gets implemented, and how hard vendors try to get to a high level of interoperability – and whether they succeed. The important thing about ODF is that as soon as the standard came out, a meaningful and varied pool of enthusiastic vendors and open source projects, with a wide variety of models – software, Web-based and so on – jumped on board to adopt the standard, and work expanded within OASIS to extend the coverage of the standard still further, to provide for greater accessibility, and now to try and provide testing tools. These are attributes of a healthy and growing ecosystem that will deliver choice, price competition and innovation. Sniping about what "compliance" means and holding ODF to an unnaturally high standard for a specification at this stage of development serves no useful purpose.
"Unnaturally high standard"? The stage of development that ODF is at is that for more than a year goverments are buying into it with the expectation that it will bring them interoperability, data integratability and product substitutability. Either ODF is ready for prime time, or it isn’t. If it is, there should be no fear of rigorous testing. If it isn’t, this should be made clear so that deployment strategies can be realistic.
As I said, *all* major XML standards use schemas. When a document does not validate against the schema, the document is invalid and non-conforming. When the application produces or doesn’t accept valid documents, it is non-conforming to that extent. That is not an "unusually high standard", that is the base level from which SC34 started off with SGML in 1986 and which has been universal (unless the document has unusual structures) ever since.
Just a quick point of language – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a country constituted of the three countries on the island of Great Britain, one country in the northern part of the island of Ireland, and some other small territories dotted about the world. If you think ODF supporters can get angry, try conflating “England” and “UK” during a trip to Scotland 😉
– Andrew Sayers
Right you are, of course. I stand both chastised and corrected.
I am not saying that countries have no right to appeal. Of course they do. But in my opinion there are particular things which it is pointless to appeal (I do not think everything in the appeals I have seen fall into the category of pointless, by the way). It is also pointless to appeal things based on statements which are factually incorrect. So when South Africa states that the BRM meeting report has not been produced (it has), or Brazil claim that Ecma was invited to make "half hour speeches" (they didn’t) this just wastes everybody’s time.
I think the nub of our difference lies in your statement: "For my part, I’m not convinced, after what I’ve heard from many quarters, including those who took part in decisions made by NBs, that the vote is indicative of whether most countries really wanted DIS 29500."
For this statement to be true there must be countries who did not want the DIS, who somehow ended up voting for it. In other words, there were some votes which were "yes but should have been no".
Now, you might say that some countries’ votes were not representative of what you believe is their "true" national position (which, in all cases, will be anti-DIS I assume). In that case though, the dispute is between Andy Updegrove and that country’s NB; not between that country’s NB and JTC 1.
Let”s boil it down. It seems to me countries had 9 positions they could be in at the close of the ballot, as in the following table, which shows how countries vote according to the view they hold.
I have put in the final voting positions that are obviously derivable from holding an opinion about the DIS and an opinion about the process. In two circumstances there is a decision to be taken.
If a country disapproves the DIS everything is straightforward: they vote NO. If a country has no opinion on the DIS then it is a little more complicated if they think the process is broken. They might in that case decide to disapprove the DIS on principle (maybe some countries, like China, took this view).
If your statement is correct it must, I think, hinge around the countries who approved the DIS but who disapproved the process. I can see no other way for there to exist this category of vote of a "yes that should have been a no".
Countries in this position (and I know this from first-hand reports) will have wrestled with the decision on their vote. The question would have been to what degree the question of process was distinct from the question of the DIS. By and large, countries appear to have taken the view that these things were distinct, and – in this position – voted to approve the DIS (while perhaps resolving to do something to fix the process).
Many anti-DIS people took the view that the question of process overrode the question of the DIS — naturally enough, as this would be a means to the end of their view prevailing. I believe, Andy, you would share that view? However these arguments did not prevail.
So if the basis of an appeal is really to be "countries said yes when then should have said no", then ultimately the only way that can be maintained is to argue that countries didn’t know what they were doing, or were behaving somehow incorrectly or incompetently. I don’t need to extend that line of argument any more — it is instantly apparent that such a view strikes at the heart of the International compact undelying participation in ISO and IEC. In International standardisation (as in world politics) countries may order their affairs in ways counter to your world-view; they may take decisions that are different from ones you would take, they will (and frequently do) take decision which we find incomprehensible. But it is they who call the shots. That is what International standardisation is.
>For this statement to be true there must be countries who did not want the DIS, who somehow ended up voting for it. In other words, there were some votes which were "yes but should have been no".
Actually I would suggest that you check up what happened in Norway, France and other countries.
That a NB representive sent a yes vote does not prove that is the countries true position. Quite simply a phone call from ISO asking "Did you really mean to vote yes and did any irregularities happened?" will probally be answered by the same person that made irregularities happen so he could change the descission to yes. On the other hand appeals are something that must be answered formally. The likelihood is large that the same kind of manipulation will be attempted again, but hopefully people will be more ready this time.
Also making appeals in any social situation are not based only that the individual may have made the wrong vote. In many cases the appeal process give room for people to have a second thought about if why they voted as they did. It is perfectly possible that a NB might have voted yes, but has started to doubt the wisdom of this even while their concerns are not great enough for them to make an appeal themselves. Given a chance to question the process leading to their answer they might be ready to reject the DIS to defend the reputation of ISO.
> Actually I would suggest that you check up what happened in Norway,
> France and other countries.
Uh huh. If countries have decision making processes of which you disapprove, then you need to take it up with those countries. In International affairs countries are sovereign and get to order their own affairs. ISO and IEC don’t get to meddle, let alone vendors or "activists" with axes to grind.
> That a NB representive sent a yes vote does not prove that is the countries true position.
By definition, it does. You might disagree with how this "true position" is arrived at but again, that’s something between the NB and its national stakeholders.
> Quite simply a phone call from ISO asking "Did you really mean to vote yes
> and did any irregularities happened?" will probally be answered by the same
> person that made irregularities happen so he could change the descission to yes.
ISO and IEC have no right to interrogate countries about their intentions. ISO and IEC (in theory) serve the NBs, they do not rule them.
> Also making appeals in any social situation are not based only that
> the individual may have made the wrong vote.
To my knowledge, no appeals are on the basis that votes were made by unauthorised people. In any event a properly made vote (as they all evidently are) cannot be withdrawn or altered.
> In many cases the appeal process give room for people to have a second
> thought about if why they voted as they did.
No. The vote will not be affected unless (for example) some sort of clerical error comes to light.
– Alex Brown.
You seem to be unable to decide between a legalistic stance following the letter of the rules and ignoring the outcome on the one hand, and claiming that DIS29500 is technically sound and ignoring all the technical criticism (an estimated 15,000 serious errors) on the other hand.
Alex, mrs Kroes of the EU commission gave us the following quotes:
It is obvious from the context who she is refering to.
Now you might categorize Mrs Kroes as an "activist" with an "axe to grind". But she does have the ears of the courts.
She seems to know things we don’t.
Like, some country getting a $24M package deal after changing their vote to yes? Some NBs overruled by political appointees after they voted NO but the politicians were visited by a commercial party? Some technical specialist being the subject of smear campaigns in, say, India, Malaysia, or New Zealand?
It seems the EU commission is seeing things completely different. Didn’t you notice anything like the things Mrs Kroes refers to? Are you really surprised she airs these views? Are we living in the same universe?
It’s probably unintentional, but the way you talk often makes it sound like you’re trying to paint the person you’re talking to as a bad guy. For example, the last post gave me the impression that you were saying Alex could reasonably be assumed to know about Neelie Kroes’ comment, and that he’d been deliberately ignoring or deriding it. In fact, since she only made the remark the day before his comment, it seems to me more likely that he just hadn’t heard it yet. If I were Alex, that would make me feel defencive and want to find a way of disagreeing with you, just like Alex’s "tinfoil hat" remark makes people want to find ways of disagreeing with him. Given the sometimes-rancorous nature of debate around here, it would probably be a more effective strategy to try to avoid asking questions in ways that could be read as accusations. Word to the wise 🙂
– Andrew Sayers
"For example, the last post gave me the impression that you were saying Alex could reasonably be assumed to know about Neelie Kroes’ comment, and that he’d been deliberately ignoring or deriding it."
That was unintentional.
What I tried to say was that several participants of the BRM have indicated extreme frustration with the process. Two even publically accused MS of organizing a coordinated smear campaign against them (Ditesh in Malaysia and Deepak B. Phatak from India). A sizeable number of NBs were overruled by either administrators (Norway) or politicians (eg, France and Malaysia) on non-technical grounds. One country got a $24M deal from MS after changing their vote to Yes.
Mrs Kroes simply confirmed that such dealings were common and indicated that they might very well break the law.
If you had read only Alex’ comments, would you have even guessed that the BRM was not a love-in event resulting in a healthy, universally supported standard? Would you not be surprised that mrs Kroes would come with such accusations out of the blue?
Alex has a knack on telling us the NBs technical expert delegates supported OOXML when they voted against the standard, but were overruled for political reasons. That is extremely rude towards these delegates. A country voting YES is not the same as the delegates supporting OOXML, and if Alex wants to blur this distinction for polemic reasons, I will will ask why he is so impolite.
Remember, when I sited Open Malaysia, Rob Weir, and Groklaw’s reports from several BRM delegates, it was Alex who said:
"You seem happy to believe and pass on the second-hand bigotry and weasley insinuations of the hate sites (maybe that is what you call "scrutiny"). " .
If you accuse participants of the BRM of running hate sites, you must not be touchy when you are called on that.
It’s worth noting perhaps that the EU is a rather less mature institution than many European standards bodies. Nevertheless, what Neelie Kroes says makes a lot of sense. I do not, however, apply the same "it seems" and "she seems" and "it is obvious" interpretations to her words to get where you get to – but tend to agree with Rick Jelliffe’s sage analysis.
This analysis is indeed sage and impersonal. It also ignores the accusations of illegal conduct by a monopolist of "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure" which were exactly the accusations waged against MS in the OOXML standardization process. Think about it, Neelie is accusing MS of breaking the law again. And there is currently no other monopoly around to doubt that she was refering to MS.
It also ignores the smear campaigns organized against technical experts that were critical of OOXML. You and Rick were indeed wronged by the open hostility and personal attacks you find on the internet. Think how it feels when your opponents send around anonymous forged letters to your boss and political bodies and seriously attempts to get you fired?
It is nice to write about "commercial parties" in general, but not nice to ignore the abuses "your side" (metaphorically speaking) commited. I am convinced that without MS’ abuses of the Fast Track system, ISO would still have been fine.
No one is so naive to assume other parties are not willing to bend the rules to get the upper hand. However, I still have to find a single example of Sun, IBM, or Google sending forged letters, stacking NBs with yes men/woman (a MS partner is a paid serf), and making $24M deals with countries after they change their vote in an attempt to get OOXML rejected. I also have not heard about CEOs from these parties contacting the heads of state before the vote.
But if you know about such abuses, please inform us.
I am more inclined to agree with Yoon Kit’s "analysis".
That is, we are talking about the probability that MS have acted illegally. But legal or not, within the rules or not, we do have evidence and witnesses enough that MS acted immorally and gamed the ISO Fast Track system.
Rick’s analysis goes right to the heart of the question of "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure". As he points out, such concerns will naturally centre largely on the legitimacy of vendor consortia as standards-setters. It’s you who are mentioning Microsoft, not Dr Kroes.
You are probably aware, SC 34 issued an open letter condemning all "personal attacks".
As to illegal behaviour – a common mistake in this episode has been to confuse an investigation of an allegation with proof of it. You might like to read my latest blog entry as an example of this in the UK.
Then you might want to read an earlier discussion I had with Rick about just this subject: The input of vendors in ISO standards:
The nuclear option
If I look at Rick’s current analysis, I see his position has evolved considerable from then.
I am afraid I do not completely understand his current analysis and the following might be the result of severe misunderstandings. But back then, Rick did not mention "mandatory standards", as I remember, he even denied their existence. I am also at a loss how he comes to the conclusion that voting by NBs "provides the workable immunity from direct control by vendors (singly or in collision)". It was my distinct impression that MS spend millions ($100M – $1G?) to control the NBs voting behavior. And succeeded.
You will probably disagree, but it seems even Mrs Kroes suspects as much
(I use the word seems as I cannot look into Neelie’s head, nor is she in a position to accuse the subject of an ongoing investigation directly)
To be clear, what it boils down to is that you are one of a number of people who believe (without any evidence) there has been widespread corruption in which Microsoft has improperly expended large sums of money to buy off a large number of corrupt standards people.
I think such a view is prejudiced, irrational and unintelligent. I think such a view at large in the blogosphere evidences a kind of witch-hunt, mob rule mentality which I find, franky, disturbing.
Now if firm evidence of foul play emerges, on the part of any participant (it is not as if every player other than Microsoft is incapable of transgression), then there should be consequences to face and censure would be in order.
However, as this is evidently a religious matter (the anti-MS mob have faith in their view independent of evidence) it is not worth discussing it surely?
There must be some misunderstandings which might be resolved be re-reading my comments. But I will try to answer your comments here.
No. I never, ever wrote that there were standards people who received money or other renumeration from MS. That accusation I find offensive. I can only hope that it was my lack of command of the English language that gave you that idea.
Yoon Kit and Ditesh have informed us about widespread attempts by MS to do such thing in Malaysia. But they never said it succeeded. They wrote about it several times, eg,
However, what I did write was that MS have stacked NBs, eg, that of the USA, with people whose livelyhood depends on MS’ grace. MS partners earn most, if not all of their money from doing bussiness with MS. They are nothing but serfs. As far as I know, in none of the NBs did a MS partner who joined after the OOXML submission raise their voice or contributed anything of substance except an unconditional YES vote.
What I did also write was that there were several cases, eg, Czech Republic, where a YES vote was preceeded by commercial negotiations with MS and a sizeable rebate ($24M). There were also several cases where countries voted AGAINST the advice of the NBs (eg, Malaysia, France). In all these cases, politicians have been in VERY close contact with MS representatives.
You might want to read up on the history of MS. Starting at Groklaw’s MS litigation page, you will be surprised what MS all have done to keep their monopoly.
In short, MS has already been proven guilty on each of these accusations several times. Since the early nineties, MS pay around $1B a year in settlements and fines for exactly these types of transgressions. And next year they will do it again (all legally documented, see link).
So why should it be disturbing if I think MS will do today what it has been proven guilty of doing for the last two decades?
In the OOXML saga, the only documented smear campaigns are from MS who tried to oust critical experts in New Zealand, India, and Malaysia, with forged letters and fake astroturf campaigns. MS reminds me of that 8 year old bully who once accused a 4 year old crying girl of attacking him. I didn’t believe him then, I don’t believe MS now.
In my opinion, there was strong oposition to OOXML ISO standaridization. This opposition was both on technical, legal, and political grounds. MS and Ecma stonewalled all opposition and subverted the voting and fast track procedures. MS "negotiated" directly with political leaders about the vote, and stalked and harrassed the experts. They organized astroturf campaigns where even a girls school send form letters to urge the NB to vote YES on OOXML, and did receive special care from MS (this is documented in India).
You haven’t even acknowledged that MS organized a smear campaign with forged letters in the three countries I named. And there is ample written evidence for it (MS even appologized in India).
Nor did you even blink about the Czech republic getting a $24M rebate from MS after changing their vote.
But the only thing you complain about are the "hate" sites and "witch hunts" from the opponents. Please name them. It is not this site, nor Rob Weir’s, nor Open Malaysia. Not even NOOXML or Groklaw will attack you personally (trolling commenters excepted). So which are these hate sites?
Therefore, in view of this history, I must admit that I find it hard to believe that you will admit on any serious MS wrongdoing under any circumstances. But, please, surprise me.
Btw, I am also eager to hear about abuses from the anti-OOXML camp. And then not from anonymous trolls on slashdot. So, does "any participant" in your experience include IBM, Sun, Google, or OO.O? Have you evidence or even suggestions that they abused the OOXML fast track procedure in ways that come close to what MS did?
I see it differently. As citizens in defence of an open society against a ruthless monopoly whose CEOs have all, without exception, participated in perjury, fraud, forging and destroying evidence, and obstruction of justice (this is all documented in trials around DR-DOS, Stack, and several anti-trust cases).
But in this case, the "anti-OOXML" camp offered to talk about things. About the OPS, which specifically excluded all GPLed applications, about the standard, eg, to include W3C and ISO standards, about ODF, to support MS Office better.
Never, ever, in all these years were MS willing to even talk seriously to those who "opposed" OOXML. Only at the last moment, when there was a fear that OOXML might fail ISO were there moves to adapt the standard "somewhat". But even then, there came very little that was of use to any competitor of MS. The result was a standard by and for MS. And those who have to implement it say it cannot be done (given the time it took MS to get OOXML support in Mac Office, I believe them).
Neither you, nor Rick, nor anybody else have implemented a non-trivial part of MS OOXML in an Office application. At most some limited "read" support has come out for the Mac. But, again, maybe you know of more complete implementations of OOXML that do not simply use MS DLLs for the "real" work.
To summarize, one of the primary tactics of MS PR is the preemptive accusation. Whenever, MS did something unethical, immoral, or plain stupid, they immediately started to accuse the victims of doing exactly that. Thus making any charge looking like "he did – she did" games. I am afraid that I have become so sensitive to this tactic, that I see it also in your accusations of "hate sites", "witch hunt", and "mob rule". Indeed, that I do find disturbing.
I find it difficult to reconcile this:
> No. I never, ever wrote that there were standards people who received
> money or other renumeration from MS. That accusation I find offensive.
> What I did also write was that there were several cases, eg, Czech Republic,
> where a YES vote was preceeded by commercial negotiations with MS and a
> sizeable rebate ($24M).
Why are you mentioning this sum of money if you do not mean to imply that its payment somehow corrupted those people who decided the Czech Republic’s vote?
Such an allegation (if you are making it) is rather more than just "offensive", or even "prejudiced, irrational and unintelligent" (in my book it would be all of those things).
So, just to be very clear, and you alleging there WAS, or WAS NOT a connection between this large sum of money, and the vote decided by the representatives of the Czech Republic in the DIS 29500 ballot?
The short answer, NO! But you ask leading questions and your text does not match your title.
The vote was probably decided by the Czech government on some level. Which does NOT imply that the members of the Czech NB received recompensation or even agreed with the vote. I simply don’t wan’t to speculate on that.
You consistently conflate the opinions of the experts on the TCs and NBs with the position of their government or even the people of their country.
In NO way is the fact that the Czech republic could have "sold" their vote illegal, or even corruption. Your use of the word "corrupted" is "leading" here. Any state has the right to make deals for the "public good" in any form they feel fit. Even selling votes in standards processes, if they would want to.
So I make very careful distinctions between the behavior of individuals on the NBs and TCs, and the policies enacted by their governments. I would prefer you make that distinction too.
So if Neelie Kroes talks about "side agreements, inducements, package deals, reciprocal agreements, or commercial pressure", then this is clearly directed at governments who are in their right to do that. However, under EU anti-trust rules, companies are not allowed to make such deals if they have market dominance.
In this sense, I have never, ever accused people in standards committees of taking bribes or other renumerations from MS or anyone else. I simply assumed they served the interests of their employers, their country, or their conscience.
You are conflating things again. What representatives do you mean. The members of the committees or NB, or the politicians who had to make the decision in the end?
I have no clue how the Czech process went, but in many countries, government officials have either directly or indirectly (as employers of the NB delegates) power over NB decisions.
Yes, a very large benefit coming right after a favorable vote does ALWAYS suggest the possibility of improper influence. Especially if a politician is in her or his right to make such a "package deal". Personally, if I was a Czech citizen, I would have serious questions for my "representatives". If you, Rick, or Andy got very favorable deals from one of the parties right after a vote, I would be suspicious too.
In NO way does this mean that I suspect the members of the Czech TC or NB to have been benefiting personally from this deal. If we look at Malaysia, we saw impeccable TCs doing whatever they could to improve OOXML, and then deciding that it still fell short of their standards (pun intended). The relevant government official then decided, on her own, to overrule their advice and vote ABSTAIN. We can ask very serious questions about why this minister ignored the advice of her TCs. But nowhere do I even want to suggest that anyone got "bribed" personally. Something like this happened also in both Norway and France.
So, yes, I do have a suspicion that the approximately $24M benefit that the Czech republic got from MS could have been related to their YES vote and might have influenced their government to interfere with the decisions of the NB. No, I do NOT accuse anyone of corruption or taking bribes. And I won’t go into word-plays over the ambiguous use of the word "corrupted" in English.
And to respond to your earlier comment. An entity like MS who, on average, settles or is convicted once a year for serious market manipulation, fraud, and other unethical and illegal practices does have to do more to gain our trust than the average company.
On the other hand, you still have not acknowledged the documented practice of smear campaigns by MS, don’t you.
Why should I trust a company that sends forged letters to discredit critical experts? Not once, but at least in three different countries. (and then we do not even refer to all the earlier cases, like Peter Quinn in MA and Tim Bray)
> I have never, ever accused people in standards committees of taking bribes
> or other renumerations from MS or anyone else.
You wrote last year, following a report about the votes of of INCITS V1 and other NBs (http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php) :
"If these had be national elections, people would have gone to jail. In every country it is illegal to ‘sell’ your vote for money."
So tell me, who was selling their vote for money here? who would be going to jail?
> I do have a suspicion that the approximately $24M benefit that the Czech republic got from MS
> could have been related to their YES vote and might have influenced their government to interfere
> with the decisions of the NB.
What makes you say the Czech government "interfered" with the Czech NB? From what I know of the Czech NB’s response to DIS 29500 that is totally incorrect. As you later write:
> I have no clue how the Czech process went.
So why then are you harbouring "a suspicion" based on your admitted cluelessness? Is that not irrational?
(As for MS’s past trangsressions they, like the past transgressions of other monopolistic corporations, are well documented, frequently retold, and have caused MS much deserved harm. But as I have written elsewhere corporations, like people, can change. And that change should be encouraged.)
" You wrote last year, following a report about the votes of of INCITS V1 and other NBs (http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php) :
"If these had be national elections, people would have gone to jail. In every country it is illegal to ‘sell’ your vote for money."
So tell me, who was selling their vote for money here? who would be going to jail?"
MS partners who joined the NBs in Portugal with the explicit intention to vote according to MS’ wishes. I added that MS partners are not independend, but paid by MS. If you do that in a national election, it is reasonably called "selling your vote", and that is a crime.
See the quotes around ‘sell’, which indicates this is not intended to be in the literal meaning.
MS did not "bribe" these delegates in the legal (or common) sense, but I consider them second (third?) class MS employees. These delegates voted according to the wishes of their employers and weren’t paid privately to vote against those they represented. In that post, it is made completely clare that I did NOT accuse anyone of illegal activities. I did not use the words "corruption" or "bribe", nor did I consider the delegates as corrupted persons. I was addressing their employers and the dependend situation these are in.
See, I do distinguish between people and institutions. And I am very careful with the use of the words "bribe" and "corruption".
But it is nice to know you read all my comments. That makes the discussions much more easy.
> I did NOT accuse anyone of illegal activities
No, you tried and convicted them of it. Why else should they (in your judgement) deserve going to jail?
" No, you tried and convicted them of it. Why else should they (in your judgement) deserve going to jail?"
I used a (bad) metaphore that said in DIFFERENT circumstances in a DIFFERENT vote, they might have been thrown in jail.
So, I am a bad writer. Tough for me. You still refuse to respond to the real smear campaigns of MS that show they were absolutely not interested in critical comments from real experts (io of ignorant fools like me with a bad temper).
Btw, this is not about my bad writing skills, but about MS intentions with OOXML and ISO. So I already admitted to be an ignorant fool with a bad temper and bad memmory. So don’t waste your time trying to prove that and go to the real substance.
It’s difficult to know where to start with this comment, as I disagree with a number of your fundamental assumptions.
One of the recurring features of this debate is that people look at structures they don’t understand — the ISO, the blogosphere, Microsoft — and assume that because it’s not intuitive to them, the only possible explanation is that it’s a monolithic organisation out to get them. It’s difficult to take the moral high ground against other people doing that when you commit the same error yourself in the next breath.
In particular, grouping “everyone that opposes Office Open XML” together is as misleading as grouping “everyone that worked on DIS 29500” together – the range of viewpoints and interests is so diverse that you can’t make any useful generalisations about them. I’ve always found Winter to be an intelligent person who bases his opinions on evidence, but because he doesn’t have your years of trust and experience of ISO/IEC, evidence which strikes you as sufficient proof of ISO’s innocence can look weak or even nonsensical to him. Using words like “prejudiced” and “irrational” to describe people that aren’t native speakers of ISOese strikes me as highly unconstructive.
If you would like people to be more willing to accept that you’re an individual acting in good faith rather than a cog in a gigantic conspiratorial machine, you should make that same assumption of others, even when their behaviour indicates they haven’t done the aforementioned hard familiarising themselves with a huge body of complex process.
– Andrew Sayers
Just a small correction. I do not distrust ISO. Nor have I any reason to think they were more than "collateral dammage" in this case.
I do distrust Ecma to be a hired gun (with the associated ethics). And for MS, I just have read too many court reports and discovered evidence to even discuss their integrity.
If you would ask me in a pub, in a far away place, late at night, after a nice diner etc., I would probably profess that I think Ecma was paid (handsomely) by MS to get OOXML through the ISO fast track. Neither Ecma nor MS (or OOXML) were up to the task, they bungled the whole process, and ISO was simply trampled in the resulting stampede
But obviously, that would not be based on any evidence whatsoever. Just my own personal speculation.
What is the difference between speculation and libel?
MS has no need to pay ECMA to get OOXML through JTC1: they can just participate vigorously in the ECMA and JTC1 processes, make their case, and show a willingness to make the necessary changes. They made their case successfully, and they showed a willingness to make changes.
That MS and IBM/Google spent so much money and lobbying time, and at the end neither got exactly what they wanted, should be a clear sign that the JTC1 system in fact resisted being "bought". Patrick Durusau’s poster child comment is relevant. OOXML did not go through unchanged, which was MS’ preferred position; but neither did OOXML get blocked, which was IBM/Google’s preferred position. In fact, the changes from the BRM and, even more so, the message that more work needed to be done to OOXML before it would move from being a good standard to *have* (on the books, to provide documentation on Office) to being a good standard to *adopt* (e.g. to require or allow in contracts), clearly has registered with MS who are delaying implementing ISO OOXML until the first wave of revisions hit during maintenance this year.
> In particular, grouping “everyone that opposes Office Open XML” together is as
> misleading as grouping “everyone that worked on DIS 29500” together – the
> range of viewpoints and interests is so diverse that you can’t make any
> useful generalisations about them.
I agree, and if you think otherwise there has been a miscommunication. That is why I carefully say a particular anti-MS view is "at large in the blogosphere" — so, not crudely equating such a view wholly with "the blogosphere".
You put quotation marks around "everyone that opposes Office Open XML". Who wrote that?
> I’ve always found Winter to be an intelligent person who bases his opinions on
> evidence, but because he doesn’t have your years of trust and experience of ISO/IEC,
> evidence which strikes you as sufficient proof of ISO’s innocence can look weak or
> even nonsensical to him.
There is a problem when "proof" is needed for innocence. Such a need is, of course, an absolutely classic symptom of a witch hunt.
> Using words like “prejudiced” and “irrational” to describe people that
> aren’t native speakers of ISOese strikes me as highly unconstructive.
To be clear I described the view, not the person (this is much bigger than one person). And I don’t think ISOese comes into it. It is prejudiced (literally) to assume Microsoft must be "guilty". It is irrational to reach judgements in such matters that are not based on evidence.
> If you would like people to be more willing to accept that you’re an individual acting in
> good faith rather than a cog in a gigantic conspiratorial machine, you should make that
> same assumption of others
I didn’t say anything about "conspiratorial machines". I mentioned witch hunts and mob mentality – these things happen (as, indeed, do conspiracies).
> , even when their behaviour indicates they haven’t done the aforementioned hard
> familiarising themselves with a huge body of complex process.
Again, this is not directly related to that complexity.
I should have used italics rather than speech marks in my third paragraph, as I was trying to paraphrase rather than quote directly. I also shouldn’t have used the word “innocent”, which implied a more legalistic statement than I had intended. As to miscommunication, I think it’s important we clear that up before we continue.
I accept that you don’t believe all opponents of Office Open XML can be grouped together, but when you talk about “a particular anti-MS view” and “a witch hunt”, I’m not sure how much commonality of opinion to read into your use of the singular rather than the plural. In my opinion, there’s very little relationship between people like Winter that want to discuss the intricacies of the DIS 29500 process and those that want to work out the first principles of their world view, using DIS 29500 as a convenient example. Is that something you would agree with? If not, what significant relationship is there?
– Andrew Sayers
And yet there is a point. I agree that there is very little reliable proof of activities such as bribery, so whether it did or did not occur is something upon which people can have opinions. but cannot point, so far as I know, to incontrovertible proof in any broad fashion.
But it is also true that technical merit had little to do with voting or decision making to a greater or lesser extent in NBs. I have had first hand conversations with people who were direct participants in the decision making in several NBs where there was no question that the decision was made at a political level senior to the NB. As recently as yesterday I had a conversation with someone who was part of the group making the decision on the part of an NB, who confronted another committee member on why he changed his vote. His response was, "I had no choice in the matter. I was told what to do by [insert equivalent of White House, No. 10 Downing Street, etc.]" Interestingly enough, most of the first hand stories that I have heard involve first world, long term standards participants (probably just because I’ve gotten to know more of them).
These are not things that I have read at blogs, but direct face to face conversations with those involved. Alex, it’s important to recall and (assuming that you think I am a credible source) acknowledge that just because a story may grow in the telling, it does not mean that there is no story at all.
"Very little reliable proof"?
Where is there *any* proof? Where is there a single smoking gun?
To say "very little" when you mean "no" is weasel wording: it is not being neutral but gives credibility to libel. It is saying rather than yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre.
>To say "very little" when you mean "no" is weasel wording:
Rick, you have a short memory. Microsoft admitted that one of its employees had offered free marketing incentives to offset membership fees to two marketing partners in order to get them to join the TC in Sweden.
When I say "very little" I mean that there was proof of some such behavior and not "no proof" of any such behavior, as you suggest. Surely you remember that case?
Andrew: You wrote "very little reliable proof of bribery"
In the Swedish case, MS sent an email to some (2?) Swedish partner companies asking them to participate in the Swedish SIS standards process (not just the August meeting, but the meetings after: genuine participation) and wrote that if the $2000 fee for joining SIS was a problem MS could provide "marketing contributions" and "extra support in the form of Microsoft resources" . When Microsoft management discovered this "inept" phrasing, "within hours" they made sure the recipients were contacted and that the offer was retracted. Furthermore, they reported it to the Swedish Standards body SIS.
1) It has never been established that the kind of helpful offer made actually is a bribe under Swedish law or EU law. (Or is it just "bribe" in some loose, non-criminal, weasley sense, or some foreign sense that I am not aware of: IANAL? I suppose it really means that it offends some notional pan-national bottom line for behaviour: it is just a sensational term that sounds technical but is used loosely for propaganda purposes and to prop up an existing, closed mindset.) From Wikipedia, a bribe "is an act usually implying money or gift given that alters the behaviour of the recipient in ways not consistent with the duties of that person or in breach of law." The offer was an inducement to join the process *because* MS expected that the partner would vote according to its interests, not for an existing player to *change* their vote. Now there is a crime that this might fit under: attempted collusive behaviour, not attempted bribery. (As a lawyer, especially one who has web-pages on these issues, your comments are very valuable for laymen like me, and I am sure many of us come to your pages anticipating precision. )
2) The Swedish standards body reported that it had investigated and found that no harm had in fact been done to any process.
3) The offer was not accepted AFAIK (it was caught by MS management early) and no action on any of the parties ensued: no acceptance, no consideration passed hands. And in fact, the offer was against company policy anyway: management immediately publicized this to MS staff around the world. In an international campaign, with hundreds of people involved in hundreds of companies, most of whom have never had any involvement with standards, it is not surprising that someone should mess up sooner or later.
So I haven’t forgotten Sweden: whether you think it is a snafu-style mistake or more sinister attempted collusive behaviour, no bribe was made, no process or person was corrupted. There is *no* proof of bribery (or corruption) anywhere that I have seen.
We can split hairs over the meaning of bribery. We can also split hairs over whether being the first to bring the situation to official notice after others had already blown the whistle in the blogosphere on what had happened. Would they have owned up if copies of the actual letters had not been produced? One might also wonder whether there were only two letters to admit to, or that they only admitted to the two letters that someone else accessed.
And we could also have a difference of opinion over whether it was an over zealous, unauthorized employee (I have run into this so often, at so many levels, in so many instances, in so many countries that I think that there are only two possible conclusions: either the culture encourages behavior and is built on looking the other way, or that in fact the conduct was authorized). I expect that we will continue to differ on this, but you should know that I am not alone in this cynicism, based upon first hand accounts from the field.
Cynicism is one thing. Encouraging libel is another. A black person robbed me; I know several white people who were robbed by blacks; robbing is the kind of thing black people do; if a black person has something, we can expect them to have robbed (profiling?); if something is taken, it was probably taken by a black person (lynching?); that white person does business with black people therefore he may be a fence or even secretly black and therefore probably a robber; that charity project helps black people among others therefore it is an attempt to institutionalize robbery.
At some point, extrapolating behaviour from old facts becomes idiocy (prejudice) not wisdom, though I certainly admit it is not always possible to know when the tipping point has been reached (or the shark has been jumped)
What I see increasingly is this attitude "Well it is the kind of thing everyone knows they would do, therefore it doesn’t matter whether they actually did it or not." (Or the perplexing reverse attitude: "We have to stop them doing this thing which we know is the kind of thing they would like to do whether it is what they want actually to do or not" (perplexing because then if they don’t do it, you can claim victory for something that was never going to happen anyway: a winning combination of self-importance and useless exertion. I have actually had this conversation with a well-known anti-MS advocate! Like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.)
I guess it comes down to whether you think the world is better run erring on the side of hysteria or erring on the side of evidence (clumsily put, you know what I mean…)
At some point, extrapolating behaviour from old facts becomes idiocy (prejudice) not wisdom, though I certainly admit it is not always possible to know when the tipping point has been reached (or the shark has been jumped)
I would like to draw your attention to the open letter from Prof Deepak B Phatak, IIT Bombay, India (deepakphatak.blogspot.com/2008/05/this-is.html ), the blog post of Ditesh on Open Malaysia (www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/06/the-weed-whispe.html), and this article on Groklaw (www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080318151252279). All explain in detail and with evidence how technical experts and members of TCs in three different countries were targeted by smear campaigns from Microsoft. In all cases, forged letters were send by MS employees to employers and politicians.
The same happened a few years ago with Peter Quinn in Massachussetts (www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20060123132416703). Although there, it was never completely clear who "tipped" the reporter and organized the article to appear during a public holiday. All available evidence points towards MS’ local lobbyist. Even a cursory search will reveal a lot of first hand witness reports that show this is really standard operating procedure at MS.
I assume you denounce such actions. But they were a staple part of MS’ DIS29500 drive e and strongly suggest that MS were not really interested in technical input to improve DIS29500.
There is also ample (written!) evidence of astroturf campaigns organized by MS where random entities, including a secondary school, forwarded form letters of support for OOXML (www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/03/microsoft-lobby.html).
You fixate on legal "bribery", but always ignore all other illegal/semi-legal/highly immoral actions. There were reports of MS trying to pay off critics and politicians (read OpenMalaysia: http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/03/how-to-royally.html). The fact that we don’t have "hard" (enough) evidence for a conviction does nothing to dispel our suspicions. MS have a very bad legal track record going back to the very beginning. And they have rarely, if ever, even admitted guilt, or showed any remorse. Not even after having been convicted at the highest courts.
I do not think your "innocent until proven guilty" approach will convince anyone who has seen the stack of evidence for continuous misbehavior. And, given the scores of convictions and settlements (at $1B/year), a lot of illegal misbehaviour.
Sorry, but using the "wrong" letterhead or in other respects misrepresenting as speaking for another legal entity is considered "forgery" over here. People have been put in court for that. And it was serious enough for the New Zealand NB to contact all those addressed:
But you might know a better English word to describe these actions?
Sad indeed. You are right, filing false complaints is not forgery in the strict sense. The Indian case was important enough for MS to replace their Indian management.
It is indeed debatable whether these are "forgeries" in the legal sense. But in your opinion, what would be a better name for writing false accusations and statements and making others write statements that are not their true opinion (that is, making others write letters that are lied) ?
You have a tendency to hook yourself onto a tree to prevent seeing the forest. You might limit the word forgery to criminal law in a particular country, but then I challenge you to find a better word to describe the above actions of MS (which are only a subset of those reported).
Letterhead? There is no mention of forging letterheads in any of the material. Is this another thing you have just made up?
On my reading, the MS guy sent email explicitly from himself, but went too far in a comment in saying something that was his opinion was the opinion of a standards committee, and then was forced to clarify. That is not forgery, and neither were the other two.
As someone who myself was misrepresented just as badly by another person who should have known better, during a standards meeting, this kind of thing is deplorable but only too human. Someone goes to far, unmaliciously, others call them into line, you all dust yourselves off, rise above it and progress towards your goal with no hard feeling if you can.
"Someone goes to far, unmaliciously, others call them into line, you all dust yourselves off, rise above it and progress towards your goal with no hard feeling if you can. "
So I stand corrected, and there was only defamation left. No crimes at all. Whether it was "unmaliciously" I will leave to others, more private to the details, to decide.
Indeed, I settle for "ungentlemanly, ill-considered or obnoxious behaviour." on the part of MS employees in New Zealand, Malaysia, and India.
Teaches me to read better and sort out cases before I comment.
Instead of using the word Forgery, would you settle for Fraud or Swindle? Part of it is simply defamation, I guess. But pretending, in writing, to speak for others is a little different.
And what is the legal term for filing false charges?
"Instead of using the word Forgery, would you settle for Fraud or Swindle? Part of it is simply defamation, I guess. But pretending, in writing, to speak for others is a little different."
In the cases you mention, as far as I know them, I would settle for "ungentlemanly, ill-considered or obnoxious behaviour." Defamation has nothing to do with forgery, fraud or swindling, but they are all crimes and I don’t see any crime here. Please don’t make up crimes and evidence. Then I get Andy on my back for not answering his issues when I spend time trying to sort through your claims.
‘At some point, extrapolating behaviour from old facts becomes idiocy (prejudice) not wisdom, though I certainly admit it is not always possible to know when the tipping point has been reached (or the shark has been jumped)"
Also, at some point, not extrapolating from a consistent history of bad behavior becomes idiocy.
From the first I started paying attention to Microsoft, back in the OS/2 days, to the present time (on more fronts than I care to list), Microsoft has been performing shady, predatory acts. How does one continue to give them the benefit of the doubt, after all of this time and all of this history of abuse? I realize the old stuff is old, but the new stuff doesn’t show improved behavior, it shows the same behavior, more or less.
To admit that some of MS recent actions are positive steps does not require one to deny their history. And it is irrational to deny them positive avenues by which they can become a better citizen, and by which the famous playing-fields can be leveled. Indeed, if they are coming from an immoral position, how can it be moral to actively prevent them from reforming where they can? Or are we allowed to be moralistic only when it applies to people already deemed bad?
Recently, they have opened their formats, documented their binaries, submitted to some standards review (started to get community review of their formats is a big deal, to me: it makes a joke of so much of the Open Source rhetoric about community involvement, in practice…maybe that it too strong), paid for open source projects to allow data conversion to competitors technologies, and started to get involved with ODF. All those things are not nothing. Not altruistic, to be sure; forced, to be sure; incomplete, to be sure; needing mid-term eyeballing, you bet; capable of collapse, indeed. But not nothing.
>It’s worth noting perhaps that the EU is a rather less mature institution than many European standards bodies
This a rather strange comment. The only European-wide bodies, to my knowledge, are those of recent vintage, such as Ecma, ETSI, EBU, ECSS and ebix. I don’t know their pedigree well enough to know if any of these had national body or regional antecedents prior to WWII, but in any event, I think that this is besides the point. Standards bodies, as has recently been demonstrated (and as you have observed) can have vauge rules, their processes can be abused, and so on.
The European Commission, in contrast, is a creature of laws that have been approved by legislatures and interpreted by the courts. As a result, the laws that it applies are continually severely tested in courts, and the rulings of those courts are often appealed, placing them, and the facts upon which the rely, under the strictest scrutiny. The results are an evolving and tested system that yields guidance that people can rely on.
In contrast to European standards bodies, the European Commission also has paid, professional, full time investigative staff that are trained to loook at alleged abuses, get to the bottom of them, and apply the law. And they are not subject to vendor pressure, or worries over offending the judgments of people that they have worked with.
There is well developed law in multiple countries around the world involving the standards process that they can also look to for advisory guidance.
They are also used to looking at situations of all types and educate themselves on the realities of what is under examination. And finally, they will learn more about what happened in the corridors that may then have affected what happened in open meetings than you or anyone in JTC 1 is every likely to know.
I think that the EC is far better able to look in, from the outside, at what happened in situations like the OOXML saga and decide whether laws were violated than can anyone who was immersed in that process. They may decide that nothing actionable happened at all, or they may decide the opposite.
Just as many who criticize the BRM should defer more to your knowledge, I think that you should not underestimate or denigrate the EC and its capabilities here. It will be interesting indeed to see whether they decide that something happened that results in a prosecution or not. If they do, then I think that ISO, IEC, JTC 1, SC 34 and everyone else involved in the formal process may learn some interesting things about process that they could well take to heart.
And they may have no choice, as ETSI found when the EC decided to investigate its process on the subject of ex ante disclosure.
I don’t believe I was "denigrating" anybody, just noting a fact. DIN and BSI (both European standards bodies – I did not say or mean "pan-European") are both for example much older than the EC, and are full of experienced full-time professional standardisers. Eurocrats/bureaucrats both tend in my experience to be rather good at their jobs.
Far be it from me, however, to get into an argument about European politics. That might make OOXML look like a picnic 🙂
Facts about the 29500 project are always to be welcome — and the cool heads of the law can be useful in bringing these to light and dispelling unreason (as has been happening – to a resounding silence from the anti-OOXML blogosphere – in the UK).
Cool heads also see a stronger resounding silence from the pro-OOXML campaign. Although those, prefer phones than blogs.
One could look for a different word, but I’m not sure what the point was if not that the standards groups are in some ways older and wiser. I would say older, yes, but complacent rather than wiser. I think that those on the outside are frustrated by the consistent Panglossian responses that, a bit of vagueness in the rules aside, ISO/IEC are the Best of All Possible Worlds. The problem is that the traditional standards world is a close, cosy system that old hands understand and are comfortable with. But that doesn’t make it the best system, or one that can’t be abused. Or any different or better than other close, cosy systems.
I mentioned in my last note that a couple of years ago the EC informed ETSI that its patent disclosure rules were inadequate and harmful as regards anticompetition, and therefore had to change. You have consistently taken the position that "it’s not the system’s job to do this or that, so don’t complain if it doesn’t meet your expectations." The fact is that the traditional standards infrastructure fulfills a quasi-governmental function, and can’t just opt out of the responsibilities that go along with such a role. And even short of that, if it is going to conduct a process, then it has to be sure that its process facilitates competition, rather than facilitates abuse. In other words, if wants to assume a role that has effects, it can’t stick its head in the sand.
I do think that it will be interesting to see where the EC goes. If it decides to look at the system as well as any conduct by Microsoft, you may fine find that it comes to some very different conclusions even about how the BRM was held.
Now wouldn’t that be interesting?
> One could look for a different word, but I’m not sure what the point was if not that the standards
> groups are in some ways older and wiser.
At standards making, of course.
> I would say older, yes, but complacent rather than wiser. I think that those on the outside are frustrated
> by the consistent Panglossian responses that, a bit of vagueness in the rules aside, ISO/IEC are the
> Best of All Possible Worlds.
Well, my own personal position has consistently been that reform is required, and even ISO and IEC have themselves stated "because continual improvement is an underlying aim of standardization, ISO and IEC will certainly be continuing to review and improve its standards development procedures".
> The problem is that the traditional standards world is a close, cosy system that old hands understand and
> are comfortable with.
There is an element of cosiness that needs to be addressed, but there’s always a risk of that in complex systems where the price of admission is a lot of hard hard familiarising oneself with a huge body of complex process (as a lawyer you should know that!)
> But that doesn’t make it the best system, or one that can’t be abused. Or any different or better than
> other close, cosy systems.
International standardisation is certainly "different". The International angle pretty much guarantees that.
> I mentioned in my last note that a couple of years ago the EC informed ETSI that its patent disclosure rules
> were inadequate and harmful as regards anticompetition, and therefore had to change.
As a pan-European vendor consortium that sounds like a risk they could have easily fallen foul of. And of course they fall under EU jurisdiction.
> You have consistently taken the position that "it’s not the system’s job to do this or that, so don’t complain if it doesn’t meet
> your expectations." The fact is that the traditional standards infrastructure fulfills a quasi-governmental function, and can’t
> just opt out of the responsibilities that go along with such a role.
Your words reveal precisely the problem. An "infrastructure" cannot "opt" in or out of anything because it is "an infrastructure". There seems to be a belief floating around that ISO and IEC are somehow powerful autonomous bodies. They are not; they are merely a framework in which the National Bodies participate. Other than in some administrative senses ISO and IEC don’t have opinions, or behaviour, or powers. It is the participating countries that exhibit those things.
Of course a common complaint (especially fom vendors – particularly thwarted ones) is that they don’t like International Standardisation, and that it is quite wrong for countries to be in charge of such things. That is why there is a constant ongoing battle in which vendors try to introduce themselves into the International process, or promote vendor bodies over International ones (and this bigger game has been much in evidence during the 29500 project).
> And even short of that, if it is going to conduct a process, then it has to be sure that its process
> facilitates competition, rather than facilitates abuse.
Again, "it" (ISO and IEC) would have rather a job doing that. Who’s notion of competition would apply? China’s? Switzerland’s? Who would decide? NBs order their own affairs.
National Bodies may well have to make sure their activities do not fall foul of competition legislation that apply in their localities, that is true. And it tends to be in the anti-trust hypersensitive USA that this is more of an issue; Europeans tend (in my experience) to have a notion of competition that is rather more admitting of cooperation.
> In other words, if wants to assume a role that has effects, it can’t stick its head in the sand.
And again, the "role" is for the NBs. They decide the rules which govern standardisation. You need to change NB behaviour if you want to change anything.
So Andy, in your own country how would you perceive ANSI’s role in International Standardisation in general, or the 29500 project in particular. Is it a closed, cosy, complacent and irresponsible anti-competitive body with its head in the sand, in your opinion? The USA (as both chair and secretariat of JTC 1) has a great deal of influence. What would you want or expect to see happen in the USA so that it might have an effect on ISO and IEC? Those are the sort of questions that need to be addressed if you’re serious about change.
> I do think that it will be interesting to see where the EC goes. If it decides to look at the system as well as any conduct
> by Microsoft, you may fine find that it comes to some very different conclusions even about how the BRM was held.
> Now wouldn’t that be interesting?
I think you somehow got the word "fine" into your words (Freudian slip?) 😉
If the EC look at this, and have considered views, then yes – they may well be of interest (maybe outside Europe even). Thoughtful contributions can always make a difference.
And for yours, as always, many thanks …
I’d like to have another go at clearing up a misunderstanding – this time, the statement that appeals can be made if “the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO”. Would it be fair to say that, if an acceptable draft is produced by an unacceptable process, the draft itself is not detrimental to ISO/IEC’s reputation, therefore appeals on those grounds aren’t allowed?
– Andrew Sayers
Well I can only guess – but my assumption is that to appeal on the basis that some content was detrimental, there would need to be a clear demonstration that some content was detrimental; "process" doesn’t seem to enter into that consideration.