Standards to the People! (Updated Twice)

Updated again 4/9:  The International Herald Tribune now has a story here, which begins:
Roughly 60 data experts staged a rare and noisy street demonstration in downtown Oslo on Wednesday to protest the adoption of Microsoft Corp.'s document format as an international standard and against Norway voting for the move.
And also the first video is available here.

Updated 4/9:
  Aslam Raffee has posted two pictures and some brief notes on the Oslo protest.  You can find the full text here and here.  Many more pictures are here and here.  From the pictures, it appears that they had a large and enthusiastic turnout, and press coverage as well. Geir Isene has now also posted a blog entry, with the full text of Demonstration Convenor Steven Pepper's speech here.  Here are some excerpts from Pepper's speech:

Friends, Bloggers, Free Coders, Supporters of Open Standards!

We are not here today in order to bash Microsoft.

–We are here because we believe in open standards.

We are not even here today because we are opposed to OOXML.

–We are here because we are opposed to OOXML as an ISO standard.

We are not here because we want to discredit the ISO.
We are here because we want to defend ISO’s integrity.

–We are here because we want to draw attention to the scandalous behaviour of the people in Standard Norway whose job it is to represent Norwegian users and software vendors.

And we are here because we want to prevent the adoption of a damaging IT standard in Norway....

Documents are like hair dryers. We want to be able to plug them in to any piece of software and be able to work with them. But that’s not how it is today. If you create a document in Microsoft Word and send it to someone else, that person cannot use it unless they also have Microsoft Word.

I believe that is wrong.

People should not have to pay money to Microsoft in order to read my documents. The way things are at the moment, Microsoft effectively has control of the documents you and I create.

That’’s not how it should be….

We are not against ISO either. What we are against is the way in which what has always been an open and democratic organization, where each country has one vote, has been subverted by a large multinational corporation….

Microsoft now says that it now believes in open standards. They need to understand that it will take time before everyone really trusts them. They have to start showing less arrogance and more humility, and they have to prove in practice that they mean what they say.

They can take the first step by admitting that they were wrong not to support ODF.

I call on Microsoft to admit its mistake in trying to force OOXML through ISO’s fast track procedure, and I call on them to support ODF.

I call on Ecma to withdraw OOXML from ISO and keep control of it themselves. We need it for legacy documents.

I call on Standard Norway to admit that it was wrong to overrule its own committee of experts and on them to change Norway’s vote from Yes to No.

I call on the Norwegian Government to stand firm against Microsoft and not to approve OOXML as a Norwegian standard.

Finally I call on users all around the world to look to Norway and follow the example we have set. Raise a storm of protest! Uncover the irregularities that have taken place in your country! Insist that your Governments change their vote to reflect the interests of ordinary people and not the interests of monopolists and bureaucrats.

Kjære nordmenn, vi er ikke alene. Dear Norwegians, we are not alone….

Microsoft thinks it has won this battle, but I say it’s not over yet.

It’’s never over until the fat lady sings, and this fat lady only just got started.


It is with an eerie, but rejuvenating, sense of deja vu that I just received word of what may be the first public demonstration in support of open standards.  And what could be more of a ratification of the concept of Civil ICT Standards than the news that ordinary citizens are taking to the streets in their defense?

The details come from Geir Isene, who you may recall from this prior entry was part of the Standards Norge OOXML mirror committee that overwhelmingly  voted to disapprove OOXML, only to be overruled by Standards Norge officials (who voted to approve).  He later reported that committee chair Steve Pepper filed a protest with ISO over that vote (Standards Norge released an explanation of its action that you can find here).  Now, Geir reports that Pepper is calling for a public demonstration to protest the Norwegian vote.  The demo will be held on Wednesday when SC34, the same ISO committee that had responsibility for considering OOXML, will conveniently hold a meeting in Oslo. [Updated:  Alex Brown, in a comment below, reminds me that SC 34 is the committee of NB members with expertise and interest in document format standards that would normally review and improve document formats – as they did with ODF – had OOXML not been introduced through the Fast Track process.]

Having grown up in the era of civil rights and anti-(Vietnam) war demonstrations, I can’t help thinking it will be significant if any meaningful number of people respond to his call, bringing the same energy and commitment to the exercise of their civil rights on line that they have brought to bear to defend those same rights in pre-virtual days. 

Here are a few of the details, as told by Geir:

The demonstration will take place outside Håndverkeren, Rosenkrantzgate 7, Oslo, Norway, on Wednesday April 9 at 12.00. Among the slogans are:

* No to ISO approval of OOXML!
* Defend the integrity of ISO!
* Microsoft: Support ODF!
* Ecma: Withdraw OOXML!
* Norway must say no to OOXML!

…“I call on all those opposed to ISO’s approval of OOXML to join this demonstration”, says Steve Pepper. “Standard Norway defends its scandalous act by pointing to 37 identical letters that were formulated by Microsoft and sent to Standard Norway by Microsoft’s partners and customers during the open hearing.”

“If they want numbers, we can give them numbers. Join me on the street and show your disapproval. Please pass this message on around the globe. Let’s use *our* technology for everything it is worth.”


I certainly hope that there will be not only pictures, but video as well.  If there is a big turn out and news spreads, this will represent a new dimension in the recognition of the important role that standards can play in society, and of the importance of becoming involved to make sure that the process whereby they are created is truly open, transparent and inclusive.


For further blog entries on ODF and OOXML, click here

sign up for a free subscription to Standards Today today!

Comments (172)

  1. Business Lead Generation, as the term suggests,Sony Np-fa50 Camcorder Battery is the process by which a business finds prospective customers who may be benefited by its products/ service.

    The process and nature of lead generation is dependent upon Sony Np-f750 Camcorder Battery the buyer’s decision making. Though lead generation can be done in many different ways, the core strategies can be divided into the following types:-

    Broadcast and Ibm Thinkpad x30 Series Battery
    Concentration

    One of the most common forms of the broadcast method of Sony Np-qm91 Camcorder Battery lead generation is advertising. Here the nature/ benefits of the product/service are communicated to a large group of prospective customers.

    In the Concentration method, the business identifies Canon Bp-315 Camcorder Battery and narrows down the set of prospective customers and then communicates the features of their products/services to them. This method is at work in the case of trade shows and market segmentation. In fact trade shows are held for the single purpose of bringing together compatible businesses, that is, two businesses HP pavilion ze4300 battery where the requirements of one business can be fulfilled by the products or services of the other.

  2. > SC34, the same ISO committee that had responsibility for considering OOXML

    Except, err, it wasn’t. You may remember OOXML did not go through any committee (SC 34 or otherwise) – it used the Fast Track whereby it was considered by a large combined group of ISO and IEC members. That was/is rather the point.

    SC 34 was, however, the committee through which ODF was standardised using the PAS mechanism.

    Anyway, mustn’t let any inconvenient facts spoil a good demo, eh?

    – Alex.

    • > Anyway, mustn’t let any inconvenient facts spoil a good demo, eh?

      Well, I’ll bite – if these meetings and processes weren’t so secretive, we the hoi polloi wouldn’t have to resort to such extreme measures. What else is left for those of us who will have to live with the results of this tawdry and discredited process? Clearly, technical considerations carry no weight – they can be waved away by the hundreds with an unrepresentative vote – so we’ll have to revert to political means.

      (Sorry for this rant, Andy, but this pretense of normalcy by the ISO is a joke. I’ve seen no public acknowledgment from the ISO / JTC1 of any problem with this process. If this "standard" does slip past the appeals (on recent performance a given), it will delay the adoption of ODF, but not for long.)

      Phil Crooker

    • Alex,

      I find your tone and cheap shots incredibly juvenile. Given your position and status in the standards community, you would be better served by writing in a more mature manner. It is worthwhile that you spot these errors and omissions but there is no need to use it to score points.

      It does nothing but sour your reputation and integrity.

      An interested reader

    • Out of all the ISO committees SC34 had the most to do with OOXML.  It was under SC34’s ‘leadership’ (and I use the term loosely) that the (tainted) BRM was held last February.

      Face it Alex, SC34 had the responsibility for OOXML and dropped the ball big-time.

  3. Alex,

    Thanks for the reminder.  I’ll correct that now.

    Of course, part of the purpose of the demo will be to highlight how little having to do with OOXML happened in a way that would be best for the industry, the end user, or anyone other than Microsoft and its business partners (well, maybe its business partners).  I haven’t gone back to see whether this would still be the case, but I do recall that in the vote last fall, the long-term members of SC34 – ie., the subject matter experts – voted far more heavily against OOXML than the late arrivals. 

    If OOXML had taken a slow train, rather than the Fast Track, what was finally approved would very likely have been of a much higher quality, eh?

      –  Andy

  4. > If OOXML had taken a slow train, rather than the Fast Track, what was finally approved
    > would very likely have been of a much higher quality, eh?

    Too right comrade! (same for ODF too).

    • As far as I recall, ODF was adopted through PAS, not Fast Track. Also the adoption of OOXML should not be contingent on the number of defects in ODF. Alex your comment only reveals in the open your bias.

      Anyway adoption of ODF was unanimous. There weren’t scores of known unaddressed technical defects when it was adopted.

  5. Alex,

    I’m not sure I understand your comment on ODF.  ODF was created through a multi-year, open committee effort, and was already implemented in multiple, competing, interoperable products (both open and proprietary) before it was submitted to ISO/IEC JTC1.  Moreover, it passed unanimously, and only with comments that  were so insignificant as not to require a BRM.   This would seem to indicate that a standard that is properly prepared before submission can progress quickly, and could fulfill the original vision of allowing eligible and appropriate standards, already proven in the marketplace, to achieve swift approval.

    It was also introduced under a process whose name implies its appropriateness for ODF, just as the Fast Track process indicates the inappropriateness of that method for OOXML.  The PAS in the PAS Process name, of course, indicates "publicly available specification," which is intended to allow the de jure system to consider and adopt a specification that has earned sufficient credibility and use in the marketplace to merit global recognition.  The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length, stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML, which was clearly not appropriate for "Fast Track" treatment.  Hence the popular opinion (which I share) that Microsoft took advantage of the system by submitting something that was not yet ripe for processing, and particularly not under this process.

    I started to note in my original entry that the demonstration is being held almost to the day on the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.  Civil rights, I think, are quite precious, and great care needs to be taken that they are neither sacrificed nor compromised as we move on line.  Your reference to "comrades" seems to indicate a different attitude to civil rights, which, to borrow from a comment some left at my site a few weeks ago, I "deplore."

      –  Andy

    • Andy and Alex,

      For the benefit of us non-experts, is there documentation somewhere that steps through the reasoning for why the PAS/FT processes exist? Participating in a thread attached to the previous story, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to understand the logic behind them – and in particular, I’m confused about whether the purpose is to vet the standards or the bodies they come from.

      If the purpose is to turn the ISO into some sort of meta-standards body that rates other other standards bodies, then why not do a thorough audit of every 10th standard, so that you can better pick out minor-but-persistent mistakes?

      On the other hand, if the purpose is to do a full review of a standard, then why not put an upper-bound on the size of document that can be reviewed?

      – Andrew

      • Andrew,

        I’m sure that there is documentation on the two processes, but I’d have to go hunt for it.  I know that Rob Weir did a post within the last few weeks contrasting the PAS and the Fast Track process (and pointing out that the former was more stringent than the latter).  I assume that he included links in that post to the original source materials.

        As my comment above indicates, length may or may not be the most important gating factor for standards, although logically it does have appeal.  The point that ODF indicates is that "maturity" may be as important, or more so, than length. 

        ISO/IEC do not as such (as I understand it) rate organizations, although an organization does have to apply to be accepted as a PAS submitter, and meet the requirements set forth for that program.  So there is that minimum level.

        I apologiaze for not yet commenting at the earlier thread, which I still hope to do.  I’ve been on the road since I wrote that entry, and am sitting in a meeting right now, limiting the amount of time and attention I can allocate.

          –  Andy

      • Maturity vs. length is an interesting point, although maturity is somewhat harder to measure. I’ll have to think about that.

        As to the other thread – I agree that it’s a low priority item for you, with one exception. I’ve found a minor bug in the site’s comment functionality (previews of “plain old text” comments don’t escape HTML, but the final post does), and I’d appreciate it if you look into that some time.

        – Andrew

      • Andrew,

        Will do, but I want to make sure that I understand exactly what you’re experiencing, so a few questions:

        1.  Are you setting the post mode to plain old text or HTML?

        2.  Are you typing in your own tags, or are they showing up later?

        Thanks

        Andy

      • This message is an attempt to replicate the error. I have clicked on "Reply" then "Plain Old Text". I type my own HTML, like the ASCII purist that I am πŸ™‚

        Here is some mark-up:

        <p>This text is inside a "p" tag.</p>

        <foo>This text is inside a "foo" tag</foo>

        This line ends with a "br" tag.<br>

        This line ends with an XML-style "br/" tag.<br />

        When I click on "Preview", I get the following when I do "view source" and look at the preview text:

        === BEGIN HTML ===

        This message is an attempt to replicate the error. I have clicked on "Reply" then "Plain Old Text". I type my own HTML, like the ASCII purist that I am πŸ™‚

        Here is some mark-up:

        <p>This text is inside a "p" tag.</p>

        This text is inside a "foo" tag

        This line ends with a "br" tag.<br>

        This line ends with an XML-style "br/" tag.<br />

        === END HTML ===

        Additionally, the preview reverts to "HTML formatted" mode, and mangles my text somewhat (e.g. by removing newlines and changing quote marks to &quot;).

        I’m typing this in Firefox 2.0.0.13 on a Mac, my browser ID string is:

        Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X Mach-O; en-US; rv:1.8.1.13) Gecko/20080311 Firefox/2.0.0.13

        It looks to me like the preview function ignores the post mode and just assumes HTML. Assuming that other browsers give similar results, I’d say that "plain old text" mode has been hopelessly broken for ages and no-one’s noticed. You might therefore want to delete the feature rather than fixing it.

        – Andrew

        P.S. if the submitted message is broken in any important way, I’ll reply immediately with an explanation of what I expected/observed.

      • Andrew,

        The simplest way to post is to chose "HTML formatted" and they just type as if you were in a word processor, and let it do the work.  You can choose from the tool bar above the box to bullet, indent, etc.  If you want to hand tag anything that isn’t available as an option, click on the "source" text above, and then tag as you wish.  Click Source again, and your tags will have been incorporated (this is what I do).

        For better or worse, by the way, I chose Geeklog because it was open source.

          –  Andy

      • I normally edit the HTML source, as you say. It’s only because I’ve been away for so long that I’d forgotten what to do.

        If you’re saying that you haven’t made any relevant changes to Geeklog, I’ll take this up with them next time I’m waiting for my code to compile (which won’t be soon – catching up on my documentation all this week, <sigh>).

        – Andrew

      • No changes from what it’s been since I moved to Geeklog a couple years ago.

          –  Andy

  6. > This would seem to indicate that a standard that is properly
    > prepared before submission can progress quickly

    ODF passed with insufficient scrutiny, in my view (and the UK voted against the cancellation of its BRM). But that’s okay – now many faults are being found; those faults will get fixed. It was a good thing to standardize ODF.

    > The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length,
    > stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML

    There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got a lot of people agitated.

    In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That’s partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international standards). Nobody’s happy about that are they?

    > of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination

    There you go again invoking something completely disproportionate! My "comrades" ties in nicely with your "Standards to the People!" headline (and besides, the socialists supported Martin Luther King).

    Andy – the civil rights movement and the squabble over document markup method are in different universes of significance, surely!

    – Alex.

    • There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got a lot of people agitated.

      The fact that 29500 covers the same material as 26300 couldn’t have had any significance could it? No, it’s simply the anti "evil empire" people at work. 29500 has many things about it to disagree with regardless of who submitted it.

      In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That’s partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international standards). Nobody’s happy about that are they?

      The most appalling thing to me about OOXML was (and is) how the scope of the technical committee explicitly stated that the "standard" *had* to conform to a single product from a single vendor. No one else need apply. The fact that that vendor was Microsoft is irrelevant. The ODF TC had no such imposition.

      What a complete farce.

    • Time for the ISO to adopt the IETF methodology for standards creation; "rough consensus and running code" where ‘running code means /at least/ two interoperable programs from different sources.  Anything less is far too open to abuse (as has been amply demonstrated by the fiasco surrounding OOXML).

  7. First, a note to all:  for only the second time since I launched this blog almost three years ago, I’ve found it necessary to delete a comment as being incompatible with the level of respect that I’d like to see people pay to the opinions and actions of others when they offer their comments here.  Please – share your ideas, but not your emotions.

    Alex,

    >ODF passed with insufficient scrutiny, in my view (and the UK voted against the cancellation of its BRM). But that’s okay – now many faults are being found; those faults will get >fixed. It was a good thing to standardize ODF.

    That’s a difficult one for me to respond to.  I never read ODF, but I did read all of the comments.  As I recall, they almost all related to things like right to left reading issues to support Middle Eastern languages.  Having raised the issue, though, it would very useful if you could give us some sense of how many faults you feel were missed.  OOXML had c. 900 substantive, and c. 200 editorial issues, by all accounts.  What would you personally estimate the complementary numbers for ODF would be? 

    > The smooth passage of ODF through the PAS process, despite its length,
    > stands in stark contrast to the experience of OOXML

    >There was no concerted opposition (or indeed much interest at all) within the 26300 Project; not the case for 29500 of course, and the fact the "the evil empire" was involved got >a lot of people agitated.

    Not having the competence to evaluate OOXML myself, I have to rely on secondary evaluations.  But whether or not it took "concerted opposition" to find the faults in OOXML, they are still faults.  The fact that opposition might have been required to surface them, it seems to me, is more an issue with whether the existing process, which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations, whatever they may be, is actually adequate to ensure a meaningful degree of quality control for the ISO/IEC JTC1 imprimatur to be meaningful – especially for very long specifications.

    >In fact I think that PAS is even more pernicious than Fast Track, especially as embodied by the submitter agreement OASIS has with JTC 1, in which standards are expected to >be passed "as is" and maintenance is kept away from ISO. That’s partly why ODF has remained buggy, and stuck at version 1.0 in ISO (no other versions are international >standards). Nobody’s happy about that are they?

    Last point first:  I believe that ODF 1.2 is almost done in OASIS, by the way, with new important new functionalities completed, as well as existing issues addressed.  I don’t personally know what the schedule is for carrying those changes forward in ISO.

    Your first issue is a more complex issue, and one that would be too detailed to enter into here.   Consortia that have spent a great deal of time on a project have a hard time turning the baby over to someone else and feeling reassured that it will be properly nurtured.  I’ve negotiated a few agreements with groups like IEEE and ISO, and sometimes the concerns turn out to be justified – the standard languishes, or has other problems.  One could argue both ways on whether PAS standard contributions should transfer all rights or not.  To be fair, the same issues here apply equally as between ODF/OASIS and Ecma/OOXML as regards the maintenance phase.

    > of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination

    >There you go again invoking something completely disproportionate! My "comrades" ties in nicely with your "Standards to the People!" headline (and besides, the socialists >supported Martin Luther King).

    This may be an example of one language divided by an ocean.  The title actually echoed the Black Power slogan, "All Power to the People!" rather than any similar Socialist antecedent.

    >Andy – the civil rights movement and the squabble over document markup method are in different universes of significance, surely!

    Two responses:  Yes, I agree that the actions at issue are quite different in gravity.  Technology discrimination and (for example) lynchings and beatings are clearly on a different plane as regards the immediate impact on individuals.  But whether or not people – poor people, for example – can access government sites with a $199 Everex, Linux-based, OpenOffice machine, or whether British students, as advocated by Becta, can round trip documents at school using cheap open source software, do impact the long term ability of the poor to get ahead.  And much more so will this be true in the third world. 

    And if the poor can’t access government sites, what of the freedom to petition government?  Should they have to buy from a single subset of vendors in order to do so?  This seems to me like a legitimate question.  ODF enables an ecosystem of alternative, price competitive ways to do so.  OOXML fosters a monoculture whereby you  have to buy into that culture.  While I don’t think that governments should be able to compel vendors to implement certain standards for documents, neither do I think that they should encourage, through procurement, the promotion of a different standard by the monoculture vendor that refuses to support natively saving documents in ODF – although it could, with trivial effort.

    If you haven’t given this a read yet, give it a read, and see whether you agree more with me on the existence of the issues involved, even if we may disagree with their gravity:  http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/#feature

    As always, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      –  Andy

  8. > it would very useful if you could give
    > us some sense of how many faults you feel were missed.  OOXML had c. 900
    > substantive, and c. 200 editorial issues, by all accounts.
    > What would you personally estimate the complementary numbers for ODF would be?

    We do better than just estimate, I think. For 29500 most known problems were fixed at the BRM, mostly thanks to our block voting procedure. NBs will take different views but a figure I’ve heard from a technically impeccable source is that 30-40 of these issues remain badly unresolved from this process, but of a non-showstopper nature. However, since then the UK has found over 200 typographical errors to add to the tally. ODF 1.0 has around 100 errors reported by our esteemed Japanese NB members, ranging from the minor to the serious. They have many more "backed up" but have given up submitting them to OASIS because they are not getting fixed (tsk!).

    As to the *real* number of errors, I am sure there any many thousands of undetected defects in each standard. More in 29500 than 26300, I expect, because of its extra length and relative immaturity.

    Finding and reporting faults in standards is important work, because then they can get fixed! it is not a game of who’s got the least errors.

    >  which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations

    That seems to me a slightly strange characterisation of standards people, though indeed many of the greatest developers and standardisers of our time have been working under their own motivation (think Murata Makoto or James Clark). NBs typically also involve professional standardisers, vendors, and representatives of government, trade bodies and other national institutions. NBs make their own arrangements that differ from country to country.
     
    > Last point first:  I believe that ODF 1.2 is almost done in OASIS,
    > by the way, with new important new functionalities completed, as well as
    > existing issues addressed.

    ODF 1.2 does indeed sound like it has some exciting new features (RDF metadata for example), and everyone hopes work can begin soon on addressing known defects too. I look forward to seeing it in time and know there is a general wish that it will become an International Standard.

    > Consortia […] have a hard time

    Consortia play a completely different role to International Standards organisations, and their creations are differentiated accordingly by the various large consumers and procurers of standards and standards-based products.

    > the same issues here apply equally as between ODF/OASIS and Ecma/OOXML as
    > regards the maintenance phase.

    I’m hoping there will be more clarity on that very shortly.

    > Technology discrimination …. poor people … ecosystem … price competitive [etc]

    ODF 1.0 is an International Standard and there are suites like OpenOffice which support it (or a later variant of it anyway). Do you think this kind of combo has good claims on the people and organisations you mention? and indeed more widely? I do.

    I simply do not understand why so many ODF "advocates" have been obsessing, in a rather silly way, with OOXML rather than … well, advocating!

    – Alex.

    • Given what I read on other blogs, it seems to me that you are using the word "fixed" in something other than its usual meaning. I don’t call a "fix" which adds a 5th way of specifying a date to be a real fix. Also, the fact that the BRM was unable to talk about some of the issues of importance to many developers (patent issues, overlap with functionality with ODF) means that the usefulness of BRM is suspect. I find it interesting that some European governments and government agencies are announcing that OOXML will *not* be considered as a standard, even after it got through the ISO process.

      • The NBs decided on the date solution themselves, and could vote down the DIS if they felt the BRM was inadequate (the FAQ even said that explicitly).

      • Alex,

        I’ve deleted the comment to which yours relates, and will post another warning.  I apologize for the attacks and will continue to delete them as I encounter them.

          –  Andy

      • No thank you Alex,

        I find such self-serving propaganda offensive because it conflicts with all known facts.  It would not surprise me if your document was either written by MS or was written to MS talking points.

        I prefer to read independently-created documents that are not subsidized by one side or the other.  (The concept is called "getting to the truth").

        Feel free to keep pushing it though.

        I’ve lost all respect for SC34 as a result of their handling of the BRM.

        I’ve lost most of my respect for ISO as a result of this OOXML farce.

        Andy – I find most of Alex’s statements objectionable and an insult to free thinking persons.  Would you be as willing to delete his blog posts as you were to delete mine ?

      • Ed,

        Drawing lines is not easy.  This is clearly a polarized and polarizing situation.  Most people on each side, I expect, think that those on the other side are biased, while think that they personally are not.  There are a number of decisions that Alex has made that I am very disappointed in.  I suspect that he thinks he is unbiased, and that I am biased.  For my part, I try to separate my fact finding, which I try and make as accurate as I can, from my opinions, which I try to make clear (as opinions). 

        I personally think that Alex has a bias.  I am disappointed, for example, to see Rick Jeliffe on his blog roll (who I find biased, and who, I expect, also thinks I am biased).  And so it goes.  Because of Alex’s position as convenor, though, I think it is important that he be above taking sides – and hence my concern about seeing Rick in his blog roll, but not, for example, Bob Sutor or Rob Weir.  We are judged, after all, by the company we keep.

        So why did I delete your entry? Because you accused Alex of being paid off by Microsoft.  People are concerned about his company’s contract with the British Museum, which is receiving funding from Microsoft.  But those facts do not add up to anything without more.

        Ultimately, I need to set the tone for this blog to keep it from getting out of hand.  Many sites have codes of conduct.  The code of conduct for this site includes this:  no personal attacks alleging things like bribery, unsupported by evidence.  Having opinions, even opinions that you or I may not think could be grounded in facts, does not cross the line – as that would be real censorship, to my way of thinking.

        So all I can say is that your comment crossed the line I feel comfortable with, while Alex’s did not.

          –  Andy

      • Andy hi

        > fact finding

        Okay, while we are busy raising the standard, it might be worth retracting your statement of the "fact" that my company has a contract with the British Library. I know what you are referring to (my involvement with the LDAP project), as relayed by a libellous and slurring web page on the noooxml site. If you use that kind of gutter site as a source of "facts" then I am franky astonished; are you not a lawyer?

        For the record, my involvement on the project in question is as an unpaid advisor: it is, if you like, a free contribution to the public good on my company’s behalf. It is particularly irksome, for this reason, for it to be the basis of accusations of corruption. I would appreciate a correction here (I have given up with noooxml, in every sense).

        Now, my company has done (a little) business with the British Library in the past; I very much hope it will do so in the future — as one of the world’s largest consumers of digital publishing technology and services they are a very desirable client for us. The claim that because they have an employee on an Ecma committee and are involved with Microsoft (most large players are, in some way), then contracting for them is some kind of evidence of corruption, strikes me as real tinfoil hat stuff.

        As to blogrolls, the XML folks I link to are on it because they are experts (and often friends) whose views are interesting and who write good blogs. Rob Weir and Bob Sutor don’t make that cut. As a matter of fact, out of necessity for my standards work, I have many more blogs on my private blogroll, and this includes Bob and Rob, as well as the MS bloggers and yourself!

        As it turns out the people on my blogroll have a variety of attitudes towards OOXML from more enthusiastic (Rick) to more Skeptical (Tim, Lars Marius). Bottom line: sorry, but I’m not changing my blogroll, any more than I would choose my friends, to achieve some kind of spurious appearance of balance.

        Andy – thanks for your efforts to keep the debate at an adult level!

        – Alex.

      • Alex,

        Well.  I guess I’ll start with the observation that no good deed goes unpunished.  For quick reference, here’s what I said:

        >People are concerned about his company’s contract with the British Museum, which is receiving funding from Microsoft.  But those facts do not add up to anything without more.

        It appears that the only inaccuracy in that statement is in the tense.  It should have said, after looking at what you wrote, "his company’s _past_ contract…"  I don’t think that the acorn feel too far from the tree there, and I was, after all, defending you.  At the same time, I also added a "top level" comment that was more visible, which read in part,

        You [the author of the comment I deleted] and I may disagree with some of the decisions made at the BRM, but I do not question Alex’s sincerity in executing his role at the BRM in the manner that he believed to be appropriate.  Nor have I talked to anyone actually at the BRM who holds a contrary opinion, no matter how much they may disagree with the outcome.

        All that said, thanks for the additional information,  which is useful for all to know.  And no, I did not get the information from nooxml (which, to follow my own rules, I have never linked to from this site).

        On the blog roll, I do think (and of course you may differ) that at the site you use as Convenor, it would probably be a good idea not to have anyone on the blog roll that is regarded by one set of folks that are affected as being controversial and biased.  We have an ethical rule as lawyers in the US to "Eschew even the appearance of impropriety."  Once past your understandable amusement over that apparent oxymoron, it’s not a bad rule.  Again,  I don’t expect you  to necessarily agree with me, but I would say that it’s not a bad thing to  consider.

          –  Andy

      • The trouble is using "bias" instead of merely "having an opinion."  

        I accuse you, Andy, of having an opinion. I accuse myself of having an opinion. 

        To use "bias" is to suggest that it is suspect or wrong or wrongheaded to have any opinion other than the speaker’s own. That is the same kind of indiscriminate intolerance, exaggeration and use of loaded words that ultimately assured OOXML its successful passage through ISO.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick,

        > I accuse you, Andy, of having an opinion. I accuse myself of having an opinion. 

        And on this I agree (progress!)  But also, Rick, you need to acknowledge that you have accused me frequently of being more than opinionated at your blog – "biased" would be the most lenient interpretation that one could draw from your characterizations.

        I think, as I have suggested, that we are all most responsible when we try and separate fact from opinion.  Clearly, I fail on that aspiration from time to time (as Alex’s last post makes clear) – but I do try.  I would define "bias" in part as "careless disregard for the truth,"  which begins by selective absorbing of news (i.e.,  choosing to listen only to Fox News in this country), failure to be skeptical and so on.

        In other words, a consciously uninformed, or selective opinion, ceases being purely an opinion, but an opinion that isn’t interested in absorbing contrary information.  The result, I think, can fairly be called "bias."

        That was the reason that I stated that you presumably regard me as biased (why else would you write what you do?), and that because clearly many ODF supporters believe you  are, that it isn’t the best exercise of judgement for the BRM convenor to link to your site, as it might make others wonder whether Alex is biased.

          –  Andy

      • A link to my site would only make dogmatic and small-minded people think that.  People who thought that there was only one topic of conversation in the world, and that in a Bush-ian fashion the world was only composed of people who were for us or people who were against us.  It is hard to find adults who believe that.

        Anyone who believed that reasonable people can reasonably differ on many subjects, even important ones, would merely think that Alex linked because at some time he thought I wrote something interesting about a subject of mutual interest that his readers might also be interested in.

        In particular, I write a lot on ISO Schematron, which is a schema language I edited and which is supervised by the SC34 WG1 which Alex is a member of; Alex has a particular interest in schema languages for XML and the kind of publishing issues that I am interested in too, which is presumably one reason he also links to James Clark’s blog, and other people associated with SC34 and W3C (Jenni Tennison, Lars Marius Garshol, Inigo Surguy, David Carlisle,  Michael Kay, etc) and I am sure he would like to a blog by (RELAX NG’s) Murata-san if he made one.  I don’t consider linking to my site an endorsement by Alex of my particular views, more that we are part of the same wider standards community centered on SC34. Indeed, I know that some of these other people have different opinions on IS29500: indeed Alex even links to one of Lars’ recent blog items on the subject in his latest entry, which is anti-OOXML.

        Since when does linking does imply endorsement? That would lead to an "echo chamber" effect where people would only get the same limited views, endlessly repeated and augmented from the same usual suspects.  Balkanization. There can be no openness without (small c) civil dialogue. 

      • Rick,

        It would seem that we are in violent agreement on almost everything on this point.  I’ll leave it at that.

          –  Andy

  9. They need to fly a few thousand folks or pay enough folks locally to provide for a "pro OOXML" rally.  Chief among the instructions will be no talking to anyone, else they say something along the lines of "OOXML, the best program ever written" or some other such blather.

    TripleII

  10. >Finding and reporting faults in standards is important work, because then they can get fixed! it is not a game of who’s got the least errors.

    The reason I’m curious to know what the real figures are is that I want to be accurate with things that I say. My sense from reading your email is that ODF was "cleaner" than OOXML, but tell me if that’s not an accurate perception.

    >  which relies entirely on people opting in for their own motivations/ your reply:  that seems like a strange perception

    Sorry – when I was referring to "people" I should have said employers (i.e., those the people represent).
     
     >Consortia play a completely different role to International Standards organisations, and their creations are differentiated accordingly by the various large consumers and >procurers of standards and standards-based products.

    I think that this is not really true anymore.  Standards by organizations such as the W3C, OASIS Opengis, and many others are as broadly adopted as ISO/IEC standards.  It is often said that the ultimate proof of a standard is its adoption, and in the IT sector, the consortium world is far outrunning the ISO/IEC system.  Meaning that the quality is considered to be the equal and/or that the ISO/IEC imprimatur is not seen by most in the marketplace to be meaningful.

    >ODF 1.0 is an International Standard and there are suites like OpenOffice which support it (or a later variant of it anyway). Do you think this kind of combo has good claims on the >people and organisations you mention? and indeed more widely? I do.

    >I simply do not understand why so many ODF "advocates" have been obsessing, in a rather silly way, with OOXML rather than … well, advocating!

    I’m not sure if I get your meaning here; if you’re saying that third world people are using LInux., OpenOffice and other free tools, the answer is yes.  And advocates are doing a great deal of advocating, and even developing (the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which loads OpenOffice and many open source programs designed by the community expressly for that purpose).  And do give my piece on Civil ICT Stndards a read – I’m advocating in it!

      –  Andy

  11. To Ed,

    I have just deleted your comment.  This blog is now going on three years old, and I’m pleased that the comments that have been left during this time have only very rarely been of a type that I did not want to see at my site.  I will never censor opinions, but I do not wish to host comments that are personal attacks on individuals.  You and I may disagree with some of the decisions made at the BRM, but I do not question Alex’s sincerity in executing his role at the BRM in the manner that he believed to be appropriate.  Nor have I talked to anyone actually at the BRM who holds a contrary opinion, no matter how much they may disagree with the outcome.

    So please.  Let’s keep comments to expressions of opinions on the issues, and not the individuals.  Accusations of bribery at this site will not be tolerated.  If you would like your comments to remain for all to read, please keep them on a higher plane.

      –  Andy

  12. <p>I’ve selected HTML formatted, but the preview is showing up as raw text for some reason.  I hope this shows up as HTML for everyone.  I apologize in advance if it doesn’t.

    <p>As I’ve read Alex’s responses here, I keep shaking my head in wonder.  Does he truly believe that the BRM resolved everything from a technical standpoint?  What world does he inhabit where every technical expert in Norway’s NB vehemently insists that the OOXML documentation was not ready and the BRM solved all outstanding technical issues?

    <p>Nope, the ISO dropped the ball on this one.  IMNSHO they need a rather large dose of common sense injected into the senior leadership.

    <p>By contrast, let me quote from a document which discusses how standards can be created:

    <blockquote>In many ways, the XXXX runs on the beliefs of its participants. One of the "founding beliefs" is embodied in an early quote about the XXXX from David Clark: "We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code". Another early quote that has become a commonly-held belief in the IETF comes from Jon Postel: "Be conservative in what you send and liberal in what you accept".</blockquote>

    <p>Some of you reading this blog will immediately recognize this as coming from the <a href=http://www.ietf.org/tao.html>Internet Engineering Task Force, or IETF</a>.  For those who aren’t familiar with this particular organization, they are the ones responsible for creating the network protocols that make the Internet possible.  Without their work through the decades, none of what we do (including post our opinions on this blog) would be feasible.

    <p>P.S.  Some of you out there may also remember that at the time that the Internet was in its infancy, the ISO had already established its own network stack.  For some time it was the only internationally recognized network stack available, yet it eventually failed to catch on.  Why that happened was more about a standard that was far too bloated in comparison to the alternative than any other reason.  I raise the point because a simple comparison between the sheer size of OOXML compared to ODF (~8000 pages to ~750, I think) would suggest a similar fate is in store for OOXML /even if/ the inevitable appeals fail.

  13. All,

    Alex Brown would like to give the facts relating to recent murmurings regarding an alleged relationship between his company and the British Library.  I’ve transposed them here from a comment above to make them more visible:

    I know what you are referring to (my involvement with the LDAP project), as relayed by a libellous and slurring web page on the noooxml site. For the record, my involvement on the project in question is as an unpaid advisor: it is, if you like, a free contribution to the public good on my company’s behalf. It is particularly irksome, for this reason, for it to be the basis of accusations of corruption. I would appreciate a correction here (I have given up with noooxml, in every sense).

    Now, my company has done (a little) business with the British Library in the past; I very much hope it will do so in the future — as one of the world’s largest consumers of digital publishing technology and services they are a very desirable client for us. The claim that because they have an employee on an Ecma committee and are involved with Microsoft (most large players are, in some way), then contracting for them is some kind of evidence of corruption, strikes me as real tinfoil hat stuff.

    I personally have no information of any sort that would contradict what Alex says, nor any reason to think that such information  exists.  As noted in my comments above, I think that unsupported allegations have no useful purpose in this debate.

      –  Andy

    • Alex,

      I think cooler heads will understand that someone had to do the job (of BRM convener); everyone is entitled to pursue a career; and that this ISO decision was always going to be contentious.

      In a way, it’s the ‘front line’ in an industry which in a previous age would have been "Phonograph Builders" (IBM) and "Gramaphone Record Distributors" (Microsoft); as each wants to grow into the other’s territory there will be a commercial collision. It’s inevitable; it’s not a reflection on you.

      What a thing to put on your CV, though. But we must move on. Just make sure only your own employer pays you, not somebody else’s employer. That’s the way to keep a clear conscience.

      What of ISO, though ? If the world’s engineers see that ISO standards are bought by the world’s businessmen, and not arrived at through consensus between the engineers, the engineers won’t bother contributing to ISO. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort.

      And if the businessmen’s standard tells us that a particular year is a leap year when it isn’t, we’re on the way to legislating that Pi is ‘3.2’. And then our wheel rims will not fit our wheel spokes.

      Will another forum emerge ? Or will ISO reform ? And how ?

      • What is objectionable is:

        When corporate-sponsored decisions and talking points are published as "official stances" of technical committees.

        When those in charge of supposedly-non-political organizations (like the former ISO and its various BRM activities ) claim that everything was done according to hoyle even while vote protests are being filed and widely reported.

        When the editor of ODF allows the use of his title as "Editor of ODF" in commercial propaganda without making public and numerous attempts to prevent the use of his public and official (non-political/non-commercial) titles for commercial marketing purposes, nor any attempt to prevent the slur on his previous activities (ODF project editing) that may be implied by his new (180-degree-turn) attacks on the ODF project.

        When BRM conveners (an official role that should *NEVER* be politicized), without resigning from the committee sets about belittling the opposing NB standards-body ex-presidents (Norway) for their personal views and actvities *AFTER* the Norwegian president resigned in protest.  By doing so Alex, you speak on behalf of SC34 and your comments and belittling remarks are to be taken as the official position of SC34 on that topic.
        When comments from the "Editor of ODF" and "Convenor of the DIS29500 BRM" are so derogatory towards those that believe that OOXML was never right for the Fast Track process, and then these folks tell the objectors to "just get over it".

        When these blogs link to each other for supporting rational and also like directly to the most interested party (here, Microsoft bloggers),  and where the only links to non-pro-OOXML blogs are associated with derogatory comments, the bias of the individual’s position becomes impossible to ignore.

        When these activities are observed in combination, they show a distinct bias in the ISO organization that should not be there and cause reasonable people to wonder not *whether* corruption occurred, but *how deep and how pervasive" the corruption went in the process and whether the process is salvageable.

        This type of bias is especially pernicious because It enhances the perspective that something foul was afoot and that the undue influence was indeed applied.  At this point, the louder the organization protests, the less they are believed because the ‘evangilists’ are out in force making things worse with each blog post.  The impression of corrupted process/corrupted officials is only made stronger if anyone has read the internal Microsoft Evangelism document on file at Groklaw that was copied from the Iowa trial documents before Microsoft got the site taken down.  One of the principle rules this Microsoft document in the "How to subvert a committee" section is to first get one of their pre-subverted analysts or employees or business partners appointed as chairman/convener, etc.  Then, with control of the committee chair, MS recommends that to get one-sided voting approved, offer the one option they want with a selection of votes that are even worse and that are totally unacceptable.  To get things past a committee that would otherwise never get approved, Microsoft recommends that a false sense of urgency be created to try to get the members to vote ‘en block’ without taking time ot review in detail.

        So, based on the comments here, it appears that official spokespersons of SC34 have determined that it’s OK to belittle those that disagree that DIS29500 should be passed by the ISO.  They keep doing so in their official capacity with no disclaimers that they speak only for themselves.  Worse yet, the convener of the DIS29500 BRM is now on record as belittling the Standards Body (Ex-)President of Norway for resigning his post in protest over his country’s vote as well as belittling all those world-wide that do not agree with the view most commonly espoused by Microsoft – that is that the BRM was all peace and harmony and was all done according to ISO rules with no irregularities observed.

        This is VERY difficult for me to swallow or believe in light of just what’s been posted as comments to this blog.

        Note to Andy – there are no accusations in this blog post – merely observations and opinions – the Microsoft attack dogs will probably even claim that I am biased !!   Imagine that !  πŸ˜‰

      • Alex’s role as convenor of the BRM finished when that BRM completed: it isn’t a job.  And membership of an ISO technical committee imposes no barriers on what members can say about matters that are outside the committee room. (In fact, in my opinion, it is important for the various experts who are involved to contribute to public comment on interesting issue, without fear of being accused of all sorts of things by rivals and conspiracy theorists.) Nor does membership of a committee make one a spokesperson for that committee, nor an envoy or proxy.  Nor does membership entail agreeing with every or any  of the committee’s consensus positions.

        To know what SC34 thinks, read the resolutions of its meetings. If it appoints a spokesperson, that person will clearly indicate when he or she is speaking as a spokesperson.  (And a spokesperson for an SC most certainly would not be dealing with any National Body’s issues.)

        This kind of conspiratorial fantasy and presumption of corruption shows a fear of a more-level playing-field which I don’t understand.  This libel and innuendo are just forms of bullying and intimidation and propaganda: and they don’t work but have exactly the opposite effect.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • I agree with Rick on this point.  There are very few "bad" people in this debate, although there are certainly vendor representatives whose comments are affected, consciously or otherwise, by their day jobs. 

        But there is an incredible amount of polarization, which moves an individual to the right or left of the center line.  I agree that a major cause of that is what "the other side" says, and that it is counterproductive.  The more you feel like a target, the less likely you are going to be to credit what is said by those holding the bows and arrows, and the more likely you are to think that the other targets are innocent bystanders, too.

          –  Andy

  14. A few hanging threads from my exchanges with Andy above …

    > ODF was "cleaner" than OOXML, but tell me if that’s not an accurate perception.

    I’d go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.

    > the consortium world is far outrunning the ISO/IEC system

    It’s not a sprint, but a marathon.

    A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

    > advocates are doing a great deal of advocating

    Hmm. I’m joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front page prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room for more effective advocacy, I think …

    – Alex.

    • >A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

      What a good place the world have turned now when everyone has been invited to sit at the table that discuss how to make OOXML into something that usuable without .net DLLs….

      Problem is just that there are very valid reasons to question if the invitation is so grand. Will Microsoft ever attend in spirit to the table offered to the world, or will they just sit there arguing about binary compability with unpublished Microsoft code to make sure that ISO group never finish any useful work?

      Please show me where Microsoft commited themselves to really support the future versions of OOXML!
      Please show me where Microsoft asserted that they allow GPL developers to use OOXML without being sued by  Microsoft!
      Please show me where Microsoft promised to publish what Microsoft Office does when OOXML state that the behavior is application defined!
      Please show me where Microsoft commited themselves to improve compability between OOXML and ODF!
      Please show me where Microsoft agreed to sharpen the conformance clause of OOXML so that it really measure anything worthwhile for interoperability!

      Until the above things are offered from Microsoft the only reasonable interpretation is that Microsoft only wanted an ISO stamp so they in name, but not spirit, can claim to implement an ISO standard.

      >Hmm. I’m joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front page prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room for more effective advocacy, I think …

      Why would not an ODF mailing list discuss the massive problems caused by the OOXML document been given ISO status even while the real text is not finished?

      You and Patrick Durusau might be content with that OOXML will be handled by ISO so that it can be improved, but for people that really care about using open standards the golden standard merger of ODF and OOXML that possibly wait decades into the future matters little compared with the impact of Micrsoft using "Our format is an international standard" when they sell their product even while they never have commited to actually implement the IS29500.

      If OOXML had been rejected Microsoft would pretty soon been forced to go for compability when the user base of ODF became too large to ignore.  With OOXML approved this is still true, but Microsoft can hold off the real move to interoperability until the golden standard has been made a couple of decades into future. Who can force them to devote resources to interoperability when they in name already implement an international standard?

      I hope that EU is one that can force them, but it is clear that OOXML will not help that effort one bit. The world accepted a flawed standard to sit at a table that will not matter to improve current interoperability.

  15. Alex,

    Thanks for tying those threads up.

    >I’d go with that. I think ISO/IEC 26300 (ODF 1.0) can be compared to a neat house built on good foundations which is not finished; 29500 (OOXML) is a baroque cliffside castle >replete with toppling towers, secret passages and ghosts: it is all too finished.

    That is certainly the most graphic, and therefore perhaps most useful, characterization I have seen yet.

    >t’s not a sprint, but a marathon.

    Consortia got their start in the mid 1980s, and the best ones (e.g., W3C, Open Geospatial, IETF and so on) are becoming as institutionalized as any SDO.  So that means that the de jure world has been losing ground for a substantial part of the history of information technology, and consortia continue to evolve to provide a more robust and respected platform.  If the tortoise is going to outpace the hare, it had better get started!

    >A discussion of the roles of consortia and International standards organisations is too big for a blog comment: suffice it to say the really big ICT players need to sit at the >International table, and if they supposed ISO/IEC can be substituted by Ecma, or OASIS, or even OASIS+bloggers, that could lead to an act of corporate folly that would see their >competitors in raptures and, ultimately, their shareholders in revolt.

    I think that the jury is still out on this one, or perhaps instead a better way might be to say that currently it’s a hung jury, and could stay that way if there aren’t some efforts to do something about it.  Currently, there are consortia such as the W3C that don’t see the value in submitting their standards to the de jure system, and just don’t bother.  And yet we have the Web as a result.  Indeed, we couldn’t have the free Web as we know it, because the W3C’s IPR policy would not have been allowed had the W3C initially opted into the de jure system, and sought accreditation from ANSI years ago.

    There have been many thousands of  globally adopted standards that were created in consortia that are never submitted to ISO/IEC, and haven’t suffered from it.  So while a counter current is also obviously in existence (e.g., as indicated by ODF and OOXML), I think that the older process has some work to do to demonstrate its usefulness, after losing so much market share over so many years.  I also think that it will have to work a bit harder post-OOXML than before it.

    That said, I’ve been advocating for years for more bridge building, but without much success.  You might find this piece interesting:  http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/may05.php#editorial

    >Hmm. I’m joined to an ODF mailing list (odf-discuss) which spends the vast majority of its time discussing Microsoft and/or OOXML. If I go to the ODF Alliance site the front >page >prominently sports an "OOXML Resources" button (no equivalent ODF button) — and a hefty proportion of material on that site is OOXML related.  There is plenty of room >for more >effective advocacy, I think …

    Hmm.  Did you read the blog entry above this one?  Also, it’s worth noting that ODF supporters cut their teeth in Massachusetts, when Microsoft and its supporters were trying to kill it in its infancy.  It was only after ODF established a beachhead that Microsoft went to a "two formats are just fine" public posture.  So perhaps ODF proponents can be pardoned for thinking that they need to think defensively as well as advocate for ODF.

      –  Andy

    • The last decade has seen ISO (e.g. ISO/IEC JTC1) trying to develop various models to allow consortium to do what they do well: in particular to allow consortia to look after the drafting and development. Fast-track grew out of this, for better or worse. But one of the criticisms of the IS29500 and IS26300 processes is that there has been too much vendor influence and too little ISO review!

      ISO is one of the *least* vendor-dependent standards organization in the world procedurally, in that National Bodies vote rather than allowing "private" or corporate member voting. So I find it quite difficult to  see how moving to any member-based consortium will actually address the complaints being raised: other systems are *more* stackable not less!  What people are wanting is ISO to be *more* ISO-ish not less (though they may not articulate it like that).  People will suspect a bait-and-switch if the answer to too much vendor domination of a standards process is an alternative process which allows even more vendor domination, even if just by a different mob of vendors.  It doesn’t matter if it is vendor-domination by 1 vendor, or vendor-domination by a gang of 3 vendors, it is still less credible than a process which makes vendor domination far from automatic (and, indeed, the cliffhanger on DIS29500 shows that at ISO even the two biggest rival groups engaging intensely does not guarantee a result for either of them: genuine debates and decision-making at NBs were going on until the last week.)

      And, of course, many of the surprises and complaints that people have are about the procedures of individual national bodies, and only "ISO" by extension.  In particular, people don’t have much idea of the regulatory/social presumption/culture of National Bodies, in particular the supervisory role that the NB officials exercise over technical committees, to prevent cartelization and promote markets, because in the normal run of things (with everyone acting in good faith and for unobtrusive standards) the supervision does not involve intervention.

      Cheers
      Rick Jellfiffe

      • Rick,

        Once again I agree with you, but this time only up to a point.  I would agree that the traditional system has _the potential_ to be less vendor influenced, but the recent example shows that even a global organization where 87 different National Bodies participated can still be subjected to undue influence if the stakes are high enough.  Also, it’s worth pointing out that it’s not that a consortium can’t be made the equal, procedurally, of the old process, although those consortia that are primarily funded by vendors are less likely to pass rules that would restrict them to that extent.  And you and I are both aware of situations besides OOXML where the the old process has failed before, only less publicly.

        It’s also important to note that there there are quite a few consortia, many of which I represent, that are quite neutral in their process and results.  Some of them have very few, or no, large vendors at all.  Others do, but the result is often more subtle.  Just as in the accredited world, not every (or even most) standards are clearly to the benefit of one or a few companies and contrary to the best interests of the rest, no matter what the venue.  In those cases, things run well, good work gets done, and useful standards result, some of which get "passed upstairs" to ISO/IEC and some don’t.  Where I see the bigger issue is that the generic interests of big companies, rather than (for instance) end users are over represented, with the result that the standards created are less informed by end user interests.

        That, though, isn’t from want of trying to get them to the table.  Just about every organization I represent tries to, with varying degrees of success.  The problem is less the dues, than lack of time and interest.

        Finally, the world isn’t just SDOs and consortia anymore, either.  ASTM, for example, sets more standards than any other organization in the world, and more than many countries.  And it sets them in just about every domain you can think of, across almost all industries.  It is a veritable standards machine.  Some of its processes are accredited, and some aren’t, and its membership is global, rather than national.  IEEE’s membership is global rather than national as well.  And BSI couldn’t be more different than, say, ANSI if it tried.  So the standards world has become less and less binary to the point that the distinction almost ceases to have validity anymore.

        Going back to the traditional system, though, I think the challenge is, "what is the traditional system going to do to make itself less vulnerable to domination?"  Presumably ISO/IEC could set new requirements for NB process in order to qualify, and certainly the NBs themselves should be considering some rule changes.

        I do continue to fault ISO/IEC for permitting the Fast Track process to proceed the way that it did with OOXML.  Why, for example, was there only one week for the BRM?  To the best of my knowledge, no rules required such a limitation.  At the end of the day, ISO/IEC is still solely responsible for the quality control of much of the process, and it’s hard for me to imagine who benefited from a one week BRM other than Microsoft. 

        Surely the final result would have been of higher quality, the stress on all concerned lower, and perhaps even Microsoft better off in the end, with less negative comments raining down on it.  I am not being facetious when I say that I find it curious that an organization that created the ISO 9000 standards would adopt a final act where everyone knew from the outset that the normal quality-oriented process would be impossible to achieve.  It simply made everyone look bad, including most significantly, the process itself.

        So I agree that the traditional process can be better.  The question now is, will it rise to that challenge?

        Thanks for the comments.

          –  Andy

      • Hi Andy !

        I’ve been giving some thought to why the ISO FastTrack has a 1-week BRM.

        Under the original intents of the FastTrack, it makes sense if you think about the BRM time-limit as a sort of check-and-balance on the process.

        Consider that the FastTrack was originally envisioned for standards needing on a *little* bit of polish and perhaps some simple word-smithing before they would be acceptable as consensus-derived ISO standards.

        Given the above mindset, it makes sense to have at most a short 5-month evaluation after a cursory contradiction process (anyone disagree with this being submitted for standardization ?), then a short analysis/voting period (5-6 months should suffice for this)  (there should not be much dissention or corrections after all), and an optional BRM of very limited time duration.  (If the BRM needs more than a week, then clearly the changes are either not minor or not contentious / divisive and the process should revert to ‘slow track’).

        Given this mindset, the 1-week BRM time limit as part of the overall FastTrack process in context makes a lot of sense.

        Unfortunately, the rules re-write just prior to OOXML being sumitted that prevented the automatic rejection during the contradiction phase, and the misinformation about "FastTrack has no length limit" may be according to the (then effective) rules, but certainly fly in the face of the intent (if such was actually the intent) of the concept described above.  Even the 3-4 month time period for comment inclusion should have been 100% doable on a standard that does not have much dissention.  When the BRM tried to force-fit the number of objections into the 1-week time-frame, and decided to abandon consensus in favor of a block vote, all sorts of alarm bells should have gone off and the standard should have been reject right there – in fact the rules of JTC/1 say that’s exactly what *should* have happened.

        That the rules were bent and the BRM failed to reach consensus in the time alloted by FastTrack on 900+ comments are just two more reasons to reject OOXML due to failure of the FastTrack process.

        Sad.   ISO used to produce good standards before being subverted by a committee-stuffing monopolist.

      • Mere contentious is not a ground for a contradiction claim.  (And neither is confusion, competition, and many of the other claimed problems.)

        And even some contradictions are not an automatic reason for a draft to be dropped.

        I don’t know why this kind of statement is still being bandied about. The thing to do is to 1) look at the precedent (e.g. how the contradiction in ISO Linux and ISO POSIX ABI was handled which gives a clear precedent in the case of standardizing existing technologies, and the other cases) and 2) steadfastly reject seeing ISO as some kind of court where lawyers can try to find loopholes (if there is any legal analogy suitable it would mediation).

        In *all* cases of problems reported or discovered, the function of the ISO secretariat and officials in interpreting the directives will be to try to get the various stakeholders talking to each other: discussing, brainstorming, lobbying, horsetrading, collaborating, competing, acceding, improving.  If people don’t get this basic idea (that ISO is a forum and publisher with a win-win process) then they can only expect to be mystified by what goes on at ISO.  And it makes attempts to try to "win" by finding loopholes or by demonizing absolutely a waste of time and energy: you can always expect the ISO reaction to be "Oh, a loophole is it? You should raise it on the technical forums to see if you can get any technical improvements."  or  "Oh, they are a demon are they? You should participate in the technical forums to get technical improvements."

        It is not that the ISO ecosystem does not take procedural issues seriously, it is just that the procedures are there to ensure equity and good order, not to allow psuedo- litigation.  They provide the forum and procedures and secretariat and publishing services, but basically it is the committees and ultimately the national bodies which make any hard decisions.

        On the specific issue of the time for the BRM, I also think a longer BRM would have been useful (I agree with Patrick Durusau on this.)  However, ISO meetings are terribly tiring (tracking issues and doing corridor meetings in the day, getting to know other people’s POV over meals, and having late-night drafting sessions) and expensive: more than week at a time would be delegate-abuse.  And a multi-session BRM would go against "the spirit of Fast-Track" (a dubious spectre that was invoked by ISO or IEC staff) to some extent.

        However, I think one’s opinion on whether the single week is merely sub-optimal or catastrophic will also be influenced by one’s knowledge (or expectations) of the ongoing maintenance at SC34.  If you thought there would be no maintenance, you only have two buckets and one chance to pour:  issues that would have been fixed in a longer BRM but were not and which had room for improvement, and issues that would have been fixed in a longer BRM but were not and which are showstoppers.   When there is a maintenance process, you have three buckets and regular chances to pour: issues missed by the BRM that can be fixed in maintenance but which can regrettably be tolerated for now, issues missed by the BRM where there is little scope for fixing in maintenance which are regretable, issues missed by the BRM where there is little scope for fixing in maintenance which are showstoppers. 

        There seems to be an idea that the short BRM would have favoured Ecma, to allow things to be swept under the carpet. However, in fact I’d say that if anything Ecma would have been better served by a longer BRM: more chance to address more specific issues and therefore get more NB acceptability.   I think people should be very aware that ISO/IEC stretched out the fast-track process very far (15 months total) to allow much more review time by National Bodies than normal, but did not stretch out the time or resources (at the BRM) in any way that would privilege DIS29500: I think the ISO/IEC gnomes implicitly drew a line in the sand that a fast-track draft that could not get a majority vote after a single-week BRM was not something the fast-track process needed to cope with.  There is some feeling about that ISO/IEC just ignored the opinions of NBs that DIS29500 was too big and crapulous and unsuitable for fast-tracking: however, I think the gnomes actually did take the issue pretty seriously and responded, within the limited scope they have (of the ISO ecosystem being win-win, blah blah, etc. as above)  in the prolonged review time and non-prolonged BRM time. 

        I don’t think ISO/IEC were positively trying to sabotage DIS29500 by not scheduling a longer BRM, however, I do think they have effectively established a precedent that large or incomplete or contentious standards (when fast-tracked) will not be given correspondingly large BRMs to fix them: they need to arrive with enough quality that a single BRM will get them up to scratch (as determined by the NB votes: noting that the positive and negative vote system actually gives a stricter requirement than even "absolute majority").

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • One of the problems with a system based on precedent is that it’s quite opaque to non-experts. If reading the rulebook doesn’t work, clinging to intuitive rules of thumb isn’t allowed, and I don’t have a decade’s experience in the ISO, how do I find out what happens next? More to the point, how do consumers of standards know that the scare stories about corruption aren’t true if they can’t verify that things are going properly?

        At any rate, a precedent-based system is what we have, so would you mind furnishing me with some of the aforementioned knowledge (or expectations) about the ongoing maintenance at SC34? In particular, I’m interested to know about the mechanics of how worldwide representation would affect the debate, and how the process of ISO maintaining a standard would differ from the process of ISO developing a new standard – not so much because these strike me as the most burning issues, as the ones most likely to shed light on the ISO’s inner workings.

        My main concern about worldwide representation is that it can degrade into a collection of squabbles between national interests. For example, the “Art Page Borders” feature specifies a number of possible artistic page borders, including a globe with America in the centre. What happens if everyone says that their country should have a globe too, and this most insignificant feature causes a major incident when Taiwan wants a globe and China gets upset? If that would never happen, how have the members that joined SC34 in the past year been brought up to speed so quickly?

        In terms of the difference in process, binary compatibility is the most obvious question, but choosing a name is usually where the real story is. How does DIS 29500’s success affect the prospect of Office Open XML becoming the Office Document Description Language? Is it more likely (because ISO can exert more pressure to use a standard name), or less likely (because ISO have blessed the current name, and don’t want to contradict themselves unnecessarily)?

        – Andrew

      • How do you find precedent? You ask around. You look on the web for discussions by the actual parties involved (third parties can be unreliable, just because of the Chinese Whisper effect.)   Knowledge does not come out of a can. (Perhaps in the age of Wikipedia people now have a expectation that everything important will have been synthesized and analysed and consolidated and published, but it has not.)
        Precedent is useful because typically if a matter was resolved in one way in the past, it will be resolved in the same way in the future. The same arguments will apply, ceteris paribus. 

        How do you avoid scary stories?  The first thing is being in touch with your emotions and your priorities: if you feel rage about a file format and apathy about starvation, I think either your priorities are screwed or you are being strung along. Emotions are easily whipped, and high emotions are a really effective means to lose or lose your way in a debate.  So when you read someone saying "ISO has been raped by MS"  you can progress to another page immediately, for example. 

        The  second thing is to be in touch with your prejudices: when someone quotes a 15 year old Bill Gates quote, are you more likely to think "Ah, gotcha" or "Hey, salutary museum piece but a museum piece": Steven Colbert’s distinction about truthy and facty is important.  Is there any actual evidence, or it circumstantial or absent or claimed as what "must have happened"?  If there is actual evidence, is it "Pilgerism" (the presentation of evidence in the most sensational way possible, to support a predefined position held regardless of the evidence?)

        The third thing is that if you are concerned enough about something, trace it to its original sources: for example, this week I read (in a comment on pulp fiction website  NOOOXML.COM) a comment that Patrick Durusau changed his mind on DIS29500 after a (secret) meeting in Redmond; this meme can be traced back to a misreading of a strange Rob Weir reference to Patrick changing his mind after a trip to Seattle– in fact, the trip was to speak at a Bible markup conference (I found it on the Web) and I don’t think that Patrick had a change of mind as much as a progression of thought based on considering the issues over the course of the year. 

        The fourth thing is to consider the expertise and credibility of the source: when Joe Slashdot or a fulltime non-participant says something about ISO, it has a lot less credibility than when Steve Pepper or Alex Brown or Patrick Durusau  or Martin Bryan or Rex Jaeske or Jan van den Belt says something.  But that does not stop people. And standards people only exposed to other standards organizations have some intermediate relative credibility: I consider Tim  Bray a friend with enormous general credibility because of his broad and specific interests, but when you read his comments he is scrupulous to point out he is speaking about the ISO process as a newbie.  

        The fifth thing is the basic one: humility. When you don’t know something, you cannot act as if it were certain. 1,000 pieces of innuendo does not make a single solid fact. Consider the claim that there is a statistical correlation between NBs who voted Yes and NBs from countries that are high on the corruption index. It is perhaps the most disgusting and brazen piece of racism I have ever seen in any debate I have been involved in, and strategically a daft thing to say in the context of winning NB votes: but when you look at it, there is no evidence anywhere in the world of money changing hands. 

        And the sixth thing is an understanding of logical fallacies. The excluded middle in particular.

        The seventh thing is whether the source of the information seems to have basic civility and integrity: do they reject comments containing personal attacks (as Andy has done this week)?  Do they go over their old material to correct mistakes, so that errors are not perpetuated?  Do they take material that they later recognize to be out-of-order offline? Do they reference primary sources? Do they quote themselves under different names, for example of different stooge organizations?

        And finally, you have to recognize that ISO is actually a small organization. (As indeed is Ecma and OASIS.)  Almost all important decisions are made at the National Body level: ISO (and JTC1) is in effect a machine that chugs along according to the rules that the NBs set up.  So calls for ISO to make decisions on almost anything miss the point that ISO doesn’t have decision-makers, really. If the process is wrong, ISO secretariat does not have the capability to arbitrarily set the process aside: the National Bodies have to meet and amend the process (the Directives are being tinkered with in this fashion all the time). And certainly ISO cannot change any large rules in mid stream for a draft (the process has to be equitable.)  And ISO has no investigative function, so they cannot scrutinize National Bodies: the most that ISO officials can do is table voting problems at the next JTC1 meeting (indeed, the JTC1 meeting in Australia last year did discuss supposed irregularities.)  I have been impressed at how vehemently people call for actions that are impossible to take: for example, you cannot withdraw a vote after the ballot has been taken (how on earth could you? the ballot is not perpetual). An example of this was the claim that Ecma was refusing to change anything in DIS29500 despite the fact that the process doesn’t allow changes in midstream (changes happen in a big chunk at the BRM and then in maintenance.)   So a lot of claims about "ISO" are actually about National Bodies, which are *above* ISO not *below* it in the organizational pecking order. And NBs all have different rules and priorities, and different legal status: the PRC standards group is governmental, so any idea that ISO officials could somehow supervise them is strange.  If you want to avoid getting swept away by scary stories, sorting out which group a comment actually applies to is probably half the battle.

        Which is a long-winded way of saying that almost all progress at ISO happens only when people participate in their local National Bodies. The standards movement is a grassroots movement, but not one susceptible to mob rule.  And people need to understand the roles that NBs play before they can judge whether ISO has fulfilled its responsibilities and whether the problems people report at national body committee meetings are  sour grapes or well-founded and whether the remedies that people suggest (and demand, and get offended by when their demands are not met) are actually possible.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick,

        And thanks once again.  I would endorse everything you said in this comment 100%.

        Before we sound too much in harmony (how boring would that be?), though, it’s worth noting that in this case, I don’t think that the system was up to the challenge.  Even after you debunk every exaggeration or "Chinese Whisper" example, and even if we were to throw out every charge against pro-OOXML behavior and credit only charges of anti-OOXML behavior, I think we’d still have an example of a process that everyone wished could have worked better, would have had more time, wold have achieved a better technical result without having to defer so much to the maintenance phase, and would have induced less wear and tear on everyone directly involved in the NBs.  In other words, just because a person is paranoid, doesn’t mean that someone is never following them.

        So one issue in polarization that could also be mentioned is that pushes even comparative "middle of the roaders" apart (I would count you and me in that category), leading each to spend almost all of their time defending their side of the line, rather than talking about how the next time could work better.

        That’s where I’d like to see the dialogue go next.

          –  Andy

      • Sure, but to a certain extent one can wish it would work better without having an expectation that it could have!

        If you start off with presumption, as I did, that DIS29500 could not be blocked by the ISO process (because it would just come out with a version that was satisfactory: the process is rightly entirely "biased" to win-win not win-lose) then the reasonable strategy is to try to make the draft as good as possible, and to try to get all sides civilly at the table together.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • I think we might be arguing at cross purposes a little here, so I’ll try to characterise the fundamental arguments as I see them, ignoring the special case of DIS 29500. Please tell me where I’m going wrong.

        It seems like we all agree that, in principle, some standards should be accelerated and others shouldn’t – otherwise, it wouldn’t be a fast track. Where we disagree is the manner in which the decision is made.

        Andy and I have, in our own separate ways, been looking at what you seem to be calling “lawyerly” approaches – setting up mechanisms that will automatically shunt standards onto the appropriate track when certain conditions are met. I can’t speak for Andy, but my feeling is that such approaches are more reliable, more transparent, and less vulnerable to claims of special pleading.

        It seems like you prefer an incentive-based approach – you can put anything on any track you want, but it’s your responsibility if you wind up with a train wreck. I think you’re saying that this is because it would be wrong for the ISO to use a rulebook to strong-arm the NBs it’s supposed to serve, and because the technical committees are best placed to judge which standards to accelerate and which not to.

        Is that a fair assessment?

        – Andrew

      • >If you start off with presumption, as I did, that DIS29500 could not be blocked by the ISO process (because it would just come out with a version that was satisfactory: the process is rightly entirely "biased" to win-win not win-lose) then the reasonable strategy is to try to make the draft as good as possible, and to try to get all sides civilly at the table together.

        You are of course free to have a presumption that OOXML could not be blocked by the ISO process….but that does not mean that it arguing for that it should be adopted give the most quality improvement.

        Seriously Rick, it might be true that you have done a marvelous job behind the scene to improve the document, but the public record contain only a long string of blog posts that seem aimed to lessen peoples interest in reviewing OOXML. After all the message is all the time that there are minor problems in OOXML draft that will be fixed so soon that the defects will not matter. In practice such comments does not make people motivated to help with the review, but rather they become convinced that you are biased towards Microsoft and want the draft progress no matter the quality.

      • I don’t mean to be rude, but [citation needed]. That’s not been the impression I’ve got, and since people’s opinions about DIS 29500 seem to correlate pretty strongly with their information sources, I’d be interested to know the difference between our sources.

        – Andrew

      • I am not the previous Anon poster.

        Actually, the impression I got came from the primary source of reading the DIS29500 submitted by ECMA.

        I don’t care what the reason – that document was clearly a tool that was intended to be used as a marketing wedge and that MS never intended to follow and that no one else COULD follow.

        DIS29500 was so bad (For example, Web browser support exists only for IE) and so biased that no on in their right mind could consider that document ‘ready for use as an international standard’.

        Rick – all your protestations notwithstanding, I cannot believe a word you are posting because they directly contradict the black and white print of the ECMA submission to ISO.

        There is no way that propsal should have been allowed and ECMA/Microsoft should have been slapped for attempting it.  The attempt was pure abuse of the system and they knew it at the time.

        None of the ISO SC34 attempts at plastering this over are going to be succesfull until this standard is pulled from approval and sent back to committee.

        SC34’s calls for less name-calling need to start with their own supporters and members.

        I note that you are still using pejoritive adjectives when referring to those that disagree with you.

        Please stop.

        It’s disgusting and insulting to most readers and actually causes more dissention than progress.

        Quoting Alex Brown and Patrick D. and Jan van den Beld as often as you do also harms your position as what is emerging is a clear consensus that the 4 of you are a team that may or may not be in Microsoft’s employ but that none-the-less re-inforce each other and use each other’s quotes as supporting evidence that the process ISO is not broken and nothing untoward has happened during the OOXML fiasco.

        You state that there is no evidence that money changed hands.  That is skating really close to the truth.  There *IS* evidence that promises of future advantage change hands in order to influence the vote in Sweden.  That ‘future advantage’ included money.  Given how closely you chose your words in spite of contradictory and publicly known and Microsoft-admitted counter-evidence, I’d have to question most of the other things you say that are not in agreement with the general over picture of what emerged from the BRM.

        I’d like to leave you with one last thought:  Perception is everything.  Microsoft got caught in several shady deals during the OOXML voting fiasco.  What do you think it will take for people to BELIEVE – not just think about or be able to prove in a US court of law – that MS is above-board on this issue.  Remember that in this case ISO and Microsoft are being tried in the court of public opinion where perception rather than provable facts carry more weight with the jury.

        Microsoft is known for its shady deals and coverups.  This plays into the public opinion vote as well.

        Good luck with your standard.  As for me, I will be staying as far away from it as I can.

      • > None of the ISO SC34 attempts at plastering this over are going to be succesfull
        > until this standard is pulled from approval and sent back to committee.

        SC 34 doesn’t have any choice in the matter. It has been given the 29500 project and has to deal with it.

        You’ll be happy to learn, however, that 29500 is "in committee" now.

        > SC34’s calls for less name-calling need to start with their own supporters and members.

        I can assure in its mention of "personal attacks" SC 34 had some things in mind that were rather more serious than "name calling".

        > Quoting Alex Brown and Patrick D. and Jan van den Beld as often as you do also
        > harms your position as what is emerging is a clear consensus that the 4 of you
        > are a team that may or may not be in Microsoft’s employ

        How very rich, "Anonynmous", for you to follow up your moral indignation above with an imputation of covert employment (hence undisclosed interests) in the next sentence!

        As for teamwork – gasp – how very wicked of us. You should know that we in SC 34 are all (well nearly all) happy cooperative compadres. As Patrick has pronounced: "standards do not have sides".

        > I’d like to leave you with one last thought:Perception is everything.

        I think that is an intellectually and morally bankrupt way of looking at the world. The truth is everything — and I am fully aware that saying that imports a whole value system that is alien to that evidenced in much of this OOXML debate.

        There are any number of popular fallacies based on such things as ignorance, superstition, fear and psychological self-need — so in the USA for example it has been reported that more people believe in the Devil that in the Theory of Evolution.

        There are some popular fallacies (that you point to) surrounding that modern-day devil Microsoft, too.

      • > As Patrick has pronounced: "standards do not have sides".

        Would you mind providing some clarification or justification for this pronouncement? I realize it is Patrick’s, but you seem to endorse it and I haven’t been able to find the information elsewhere.

        Clearly people and companies have taken sides with respect to OOXML as an ISO/IEC standard. A standard certainly could be written so that it addresses one company’s concerns while ignoring another’s. Doesn’t ANSI promote American standards in the International scene at least in part because doing so successfully would provide competitive advantages to  American businesses?

        I admit I’m not really sure what "standards do not have sides" means, so maybe none of this is relevant. To the extent that I understand the statement, the examples I mentioned seem to contradict it.

        Regards,

        Eric

      • The truth is everything

        So a bent copper doing things "not quite right" to make sure the mugger doesn’t get away with it is a good thing?

        I’d rather have the copper be seen to be doing things right as well as getting the right result.

        Saves problems from occurring later.

      • Sure there are fallacies regarding Microsoft, but it remains to be proven on which side those fallacies lie.  The truth is that Microsoft and their supporters have been caught often enough that the charges against Microsoft are very credible.

        Microsoft’s own internal documentation that is only coming to light as a result of court-ordered discovery are more damning than anything that may be said in Microsoft’s defense because the MS internal documentation describes the blueprints that MS has been following in its quest to destroy the IT field and own all information.

        Unfortunately for the MS-4, they find themselves arguing that MS has other than its own selfish greed at heart against common sense and against a growing body of evidence to the contrary.

        As to name-calling, get over it.  Most of the name-calling seems to be emanating from the MISO-4  (MISO = Microsoft ISO).  While you’re at it, get used to the concept that SC34 has lost respect with most of the open-source crowd – and that makes up much of the IT technical community as well as various managers and CxOs.  We know that the committee has been stuffed with MS partners and there is little expectation that the SC34 committee will do anything other than MS bidding from here on out.  Anticipate a spotlight on all activities and an expectation that all SC34 activities will be strictly according to the rules.  Also do not expect to change the rules at this late date to further favor MS without further outcry occurring.

      • >> Quoting Alex Brown and Patrick D. and Jan van den Beld as often as you do also
        >> harms your position as what is emerging is a clear consensus that the 4 of you
        >> are a team that may or may not be in Microsoft’s employ

        >
        >How very rich, "Anonynmous", for you to follow up your moral indignation above with an imputation of covert employment (hence undisclosed interests) in the next sentence!
        >
        >As for teamwork – gasp – how very wicked of us. You should know that we in SC 34 are all (well nearly all) happy cooperative compadres. As Patrick has pronounced: "standards do not have sides".

        The argument are not that you are a team, or for that matter that you are employd by Microsoft.

        We can’t know if you are acting on your own or are payd by Microsoft, yet we can know that if a little group of people claim authority by leaning on each other the claim is only thrustworthy if the little group are thrustworty before they start to reference each other.

        Pointing at each others post and trying to gain authority by that you are saying the same thing will not make you more thrustworthy.

        You options are to either present coherrent arguments based on hard evidence supported also by the opposition, or to get some major part of the opposition like FSF to support your interpretation.

        Actually it sounds to me like that is what you exactly are doing here…
        Since all the hard evidence support the ODF camp you are left with trying to make people like Andy Updegrove to agree with you about something substantional so that agreement can be used by you to gain leverage when you try to spread your own story about what is the truth about the OOXML debacle.

      • > We can’t know if you are acting on your own or are payd by Microsoft, yet we can know that if a little group of people claim authority by leaning on each other the claim is only thrustworthy if the little group are thrustworty before they start to reference each other.

        You can know: the various people have said they are not. For goodness sake, Patrick Durusau is paid by Sun.

        I am the only one who has done ocassional contracts for MS over 2007, in the areas of editing and education (which are among my normal working activities: I have presented training sessions on maybe a dozen different standard and draft-standard technologies for all sorts of clients), but I have tried to be scrupulous to disclose them.  I can assure you I am not now paid by Microsoft, and that I was not paid by them for any part of my involvement at the BRM or any of my blog comments. 

        Will you please stop spreading innuendo?

        Is your case really so weak that the only way you can win is by these kinds of evidence-free attacks?

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >> We can’t know if you are acting on your own or are payd by Microsoft, yet we can know that if a little group of people claim authority by leaning on each other the claim is only >thrustworthy if the little group are thrustworty before they start to reference each other.
        >
        >You can know: the various people have said they are not. For goodness sake, Patrick Durusau is paid by Sun.
        >
        >I am the only one who has done ocassional contracts for MS over 2007, in the areas of editing and education (which are among my normal working activities: I have presented >training sessions on maybe a dozen different standard and draft-standard technologies for all sorts of clients), but I have tried to be scrupulous to disclose them.  I can assure >you I am not now paid by Microsoft, and that I was not paid by them for any part of my involvement at the BRM or any of my blog comments. 

        So…you claim Patrick Durusau should be trusted since he is paid by Sun. You should be trusted since you have told people that you have done work for MS. If we ignore the weak logics presented….objectively this means that in the case that I find you trustworthy I have no reason to not trust your assurance, right?

        Problem is just that if I don’t trust you I have really no reason to trust your assurance, do I?

        >Is your case really so weak that the only way you can win is by these kinds of evidence-free attacks?

        Sorry, but trust or authoritity is something that you earn and most certainly not something you regain by killing the messenger.

        I think the truth is that the case is so strong that the OOXML supporters can not play fair and hope to win.

      • So you don’t give any credence to statements by people you attack directly; and if anyone who knows them stands up for them, they are dismissed and put on the suspect list too; and yet you have no actual evidence. 

        You are just operating under prejudice.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >So you don’t give any credence to statements by people you attack directly;

        Please tell me why should I trust your statements without any backing facts if I doubt  your intrigity?

        I most certainly listen to your argument even if I think your are pro-Microsoft, but in the absence of good arguments and you only repeating accusations about that I lack evidence the suspicion about you being in the bed with microsoft are only increased.

        >and if anyone who knows them stands up for them, they are dismissed and put on the suspect list too;

        Depends on the case.
        If they give blanket support without good arguments or ignore to adress main viewpoints they end on the suspect list.
        If they give coherent arguments that look at both viewpoints when they make their deductions they help your case.

        If we look at examples of the people supporting you in this case I would say Patrick is most certainly one of them that totally fail to discuss both viewpoints. All his open letters are accept-ooxml pamplets with total disregard of the issues that made me worried about the ooxml draft as a standard. For all purposes I view them as the same as PR-material from the Microsoft spindoctors. You Rick most certianly makes a better job at covering both angles in your posts, yet at the end of the day it is enough to give the impression that you really are objective.

        >and yet you have no actual evidence. 

        What kind of evidence would you expect me to have? Should I hire a PI to monitor your activities before I am allowed to evaluate if your blog posts give the impression of you being objective?

      • Having restated your case in lang=”en_US-standardista” for the past few days, I guess I should try restating Rick Jelliffe’s case in lang=”en_US-odfbonics” for a while.

        There are two groups here – standards experts and lay people, and a big part of the problem is that they’re separated by a common language. Part of that separation is that words that one group use have a different literal meaning to the other group (or no meaning at all), and part of the problem is that words have a different emotional signficance for different groups.

        Literal meanings are an important issue – hence my wanting to make point of information an accepted way of getting clarification about a disputed term – but emotional significance is what causes the breakdowns in dialogue.

        To standards experts, publicly saying that someone is in the employ of a vendor is as inflammatory as publicly saying that they molest children. Just using those words, even when you’re trying to express a perfectly reasonable position, makes the person feel wounded and defencive, and makes sensible debate impossible.

        That’s not to say that you should never make the claim, just that you need to be extremely careful about using those words, need to back them up with incontrovertible proof (rather than just the balance of probabilities), and shouldn’t use them if there’s any other way of expressing what you’re saying. Put another way, when you’re write words like “biased” or “employed by Microsoft”, ask yourself whether you would have used words like “paedophile” or “child molester” so lightly – if not, find another way of expressing yourself.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • >To standards experts, publicly saying that someone is in the employ of a vendor is as inflammatory as publicly saying that they molest children. Just using those words, even >when you’re trying to express a perfectly reasonable position, makes the person feel wounded and defencive, and makes sensible debate impossible.

        >That’s not to say that you should never make the claim, just that you need to be extremely careful about using those words, need to back them up with incontrovertible proof >(rather than just the balance of probabilities), and shouldn’t use them if there’s any other way of expressing what you’re saying. Put another way, when you’re write words like >"biased" or "employed by Microsoft", ask yourself whether you would have used words like "paedophile" or "child molester" so lightly – if not, find another way of expressing >yourself.

        Thanks for the comment Andrew.

        Actually I find it pretty revealing…the crucial question on many peoples lips at these days is how it is possible that so many well educated standards "professional" have let the ooxml draft become standard without standing up and saying "this is madness, the draft is for microsofts benefit only and every end users loss. It should be rejected outright". Your comment pretty much explains the problem…if it is so unthinkable that a standard "professional" chould be bought by a vendor that such questioning is on the level of  "child molester" then it is pretty given that they will be fooled by the microsoft smokescreens. You need to aknowledge that somebody with Microsoft resources can game the system before you become ready to act against such behavior.

        It is sort of like the standards "professionals" have ethical code that guard them against vendor capture and the people involved has followed it for so long so they have become blind to that this code is no a law. From my experience in playing games I would say that the only way to be certain that you have a fair process is to work with the assumption that some of involved will try to game the system and put safeguards. I really hope that the standards "professionals" learn this lesson before Microsoft force another monypoly enforcing standard on us.

        BTW I keep my suspicions about Rick and the others…a state of mind when "biased" equals "child molester" is the prefect shield to hiding a real bias. What really counts are their actions and not the professional code they should follow.

      • Andrew, Rick:

        It is a common technique used by the original MS astroturfers to work in teams.  The US cours (or was it the public exposure of the Astroturfer campaign ?) found that when MS hired people to simulate grass roots comments or to ‘spontaneously’ support their viewpoints with politicians that these people often worked in teams (usually fairly small groups).  These groups, instead of just presenting their individual arguments would quote each other, defend each other, and (if on slashdot), even mod each other’s posts up so as to give themselves better ratings.

        At the same time, you could find common threads within the arguments made by each group of astroturfers because they were (of course) all reading by the same Microsoft playbook.

        I don’t see how else we should interpret the actions of Rick, Alex, Jon vdB and Patrick.  Each has given evidence that they are (newly) biased toward MS and the goals of MS regarding OOXML.  Each has been recently been seen to quote the others and (on occasion) Microsoft bloggers.  Each has actively promoted OOXML and has publicly derided those that are against DIS29500.

        Rick uses terms like "pulp fiction site NO-OOXML".  Alex has also singled out NO-OOXML as well as Groklaw as sources of IBM-sponsored mis-information, knowing full well that Groklaw is independent and that the views expressed on Groklaw are those of the owners.

        As to the question of trust, regardless of what remuneration you may or may not have received from MIcrosoft, your ‘trust credits’ with me are overdrawn and drawing on what can only be seen as other astroturf teammates to try to regain instant credibility only makes your attempted manipulations of public perception and attempts at revising history that much more obvious.

      • There are two groups of people here – lay people and standards experts. The two groups are separated by language, by a lack of mutually-trusted third parties, by culture, and by their relationship with the standards world.

        One of the effects of having such distinct groups is that people see their group as honest, rational, highly individual citizens; while they see the other group as an army of deceitful drones. This can lead people to see only the bad in the other group (“pulp fiction” etc.), but it can also lead people to discard nuances in the other side’s position. For example, Rick Jelliffe has said that IS 29500 could be destandardised in a year or two unless Microsoft take efforts to improve it seriously, while Alex Brown described Jan van den Beld as famous for having been an energetic advocate of all things Ecma (scroll down to the comment dated 2008-04-05, 08:13).

        One of the effects of language differences is that the two groups can only communicate using the lowest common denominator language – “Groklaw smells”, “ISO is stupid” etc. When you actually dig into things, what seem like vitriolic attacks are actually intended as polite requests, from people exasperated at their inability to communicate any other way. For example, the open letter from SC34 was seen in the lay community as a request not to criticise SC34, but it’s more likely to be a reaction to experiences like Alex Browns’s having been called a traitor and a wanker, accused of taking bribes, compared to a Nazi, damned to Hell and had cancer wished on [him] (same comment as above, dated 2008-04-05, 08:13). Similarly, your argument about trust credits sounds to a standards expert like a blanket condemnation for failing to follow the anti-OOXML party line, rather than a polite attempt to point out some circular reasoning.

        Properly interpreting the actions of the other side is difficult when their group is so alien to you. All you can really do is try to express yourself in a way that they understand, and hope that they learn to reciprocate. In your case, I suggest you try phrasing your posts in the form of a question that they can give a useful answer to, such as “if you point to Alex Brown, who points to Jan van den Beld, who points to Patrick Durusau, who points back to you, how does that help me to trust you?”.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • > but it can also lead people to discard nuances in the other side’s position. For example, Rick Jelliffe has said that IS 29500 could be destandardised in a year or two unless Microsoft take efforts to improve it seriously

        It would be great if ISO destandardised OOXML when Microsoft continue to do work as usual…yet I am not holdning my breath.
        Why should we trust the ISO process when the person responsible refuse to admit there were any problems at all?
        Why should not Microsoft has learned the lesson better next time and bought even more people to have their way no matter what the experts say?

        Even more important you can without doubt find numerous good bits in what RIck Jelliffe has said about OOXML. The critical questions are if these are lip service confessions to make the listener buy the idea to bury ODF in ISO and OOXML convergence or a sincere and realistic evaluation about what ISO really will do if Microsoft proceed doing what they are doing now when they exclude the GPL from using OOXML. My guess is lip service confessions.

        >Properly interpreting the actions of the other side is difficult when their group is so alien to you. All you can really do is try to express yourself in a way that they understand, and hope that they learn to reciprocate. In your case, I suggest you try phrasing your posts in the form of a question that they can give a useful answer to, such as "if you point to Alex Brown, who points to Jan van den Beld, who points to Patrick Durusau, who points back to you, how does that help me to trust you?".

        Just for the record there are plenty of anonymous people involved…I am the anom you talked too earlier in this thread…but I did not write the astrosurfing 101 post that you replied to.

        Anyway my opinion so far is that the standard "professionals" are anything but professional in their quality assertment. If you can’t raise bias concerns without court level evidence you can’t really ever find any evidence in the first place.

        On the other hand many of the laypeople are professional programmers that work with databases, xml and parsing of formats. We might not have the same knowledge about crafting standard language, but we are every day exposed to trying to implement specifications and know the hard way that there is no limit to how broken a specification can be while it still is officially approved by Microsoft. Unfortunately ISO ignored our viewpoint and we get very good reasons to doubt that there are anything professional or true quality promoting about the ISO process.

      • On the topic of anonymity – could I ask how you’d feel about upgrading to a nonsense pseudonym? It would make my life a lot easier if I knew that I was talking to anonymous #12345 instead of anonymous #54321, because I could use previous posts to provide context that would help me understand where you were coming from.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • I posted the original astroturfing 101 post, but I fully agree with the sentiments of the grandparent anon poster.

        He brings in the concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘language of standards’ really well and nicely ties them in with the concept of an analyst whose business model it is to ‘sell out’ to the highest bidder with the inability to determine how much of the pro-OOXML stance being pushed by Alex and Rick is pure lip service because that’s what their contract calls for and how much is true belief.

        Let me emphasize that regardless of what else Rick may claim, standards people live in the real world.  Standards people interact with non-standards (lay) people all the time (grocer, butcher, mechanic, church, etc) without ‘misunderstandings’ due to ‘language terminology’.  If they cannot produce a clear, concise, factual, convincing argument in favor of their ‘professional opinion’, then why does anyone pay for their services ?  Why would anyone believe anything they say ?  (Hint:  It’s not because they are speaking a ‘jargon-rich’ language – every profession has their own jargon and the developers/sysadmins/IT Professionals that read this and other blogs know the jargon, can parse the standards language (and legalese such as EULAs, OSP Promises, and DIS specifications for that matter), and can recognize when so-called expert opinions contradict the evidence of the written word.  These same IT professionals/developers/sysadmins have been dealing with MS and MS products for a long time now and could (and did) predict the outcome of passing the DIS29500 spec prematurely.  Arguments that ‘we will now have a seat at the table’ are pure marketing fluff and will never be fulfilled.  They were made for the sole purpose of getting approve.  Now that approval was granted and MS has its marketing ‘lever’, don’t hold your breath for MS to actually come into compliance with DIS29500.

        As to identifying which anonymous is which, consider the meaning of the term ‘anonymous’….

      • Thanks for phrasing your first point as a question – I think I understand what you’re saying now. It sounds like you’re comparing this to an ordinary producer/consumer relationship, where "the customer is always right". If so, that really helps me to understand your position.

        I still don’t understand your point about anonymity though. I suppose I should follow my own advice and ask: what is it you get from anonymity that you don’t get from picking a random number and appending it to every post you write?

        – Andrew Sayers

      • Andrew –

        As it turns out, I’m the grandparent poster.

        Point 1.  Rick is offering his opinion that he expects us to take at face value based on his ‘professional expertise’, yet cannot make a coherent, argument that is concise, documented, aligned with public information and convincing without resorting to name-calling and pointers to other (carefully selected) blogs that may or may not also be trying to prove their continued relevance in the aftermath of incomprehensible actions during the ISO debacle.

        If Rick is to be taken seriously as a technical analyst, he should be able to point out the technical superiority of MSOOXML.  I’m still waiting to be convinced, but am starting to feel that my inability to find any technical value in DIS29500 may actually be the correct answer and Rick’s attempts to state otherwise may well be misdirection.  If misdirection, I don’t have to look far to see who gains from that misdirection and would be the most likely to be behind Rick’s efforts.

        Point 2. To tag ALL my posts as me (as in "–anonymouse poster # 33") kind of defeats the purpose of anonymity does it not ?  I might as well make up a pseudonym and use that…  I choose to be anonymous for a reason.  (I’ll share my secret…)

        I want my posts to be considered for what value they have intrinsically not for who posted them or any reputation I may have with pro- or anti- MS people.  Consider that I have a career to protect and that I also do not want MS or their minions to deny me future work opportunities because they were able to identify me through my legitimate 1st amendment expressions on the internet.

        Besides – If you detect a similar style between my posts, good on you.  If you cannot do that, then why should I help you sift/sort my posts vs some other anonymous – especially if somthing I say riles MS sufficiently to take ‘unofficial’ retribution on me or my employer ?

      • So if I point out something myself, it is to be dismissed if it does not accord with "public information’? Yet  if I reference public information, it is to be dismissed because the source agrees with me?  So the only argument that is allowed is the party line.  That I dare call racism racism and libel libel and weak technical arguments weak makes me the bad guy, does it?  I simply don’t care.

        You have fallen into the logical fallacy of c um hoc ergo propter hoc, that correlation implies causation.  If I have an opinion on something, and MS has about the same opinion, my opinion must be caused by MS. That I have been working in standards at my own cost (on SGML, XML, XML Schemas, Schematron, and multiple others) for more than a decade to get viable document standards, before OOXML and before XML, and have a track record of working for these standards should be enough for anyone in good faith to see through it. That my major work is in an open source implemented ISO standard which neither MS nor  IBM support, could tell you something too. In fact, what has happened is that MS has (perhaps fleetingly, perhaps for the long-haul)  had to shift around to something closer (but not exactly the same) to my opinion. I don’t hold my opinions out of contrariness: changing whatever I believe this week merely because of what Microsoft thinks or doesn’t think. 

        Manichaeism = trolling

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >You have fallen into the logical fallacy of c um hoc ergo propter hoc, that correlation implies causation.  If I have an opinion on something, and MS has about the same opinion, my opinion must be caused by MS.

        If the opinion contradict facts that is a pretty reasonable conclusion. If it only was that your spin was rejected just because it is aligned with Microsoft you would have a point, but that is not so. The crucial problem is that you never dare to address the problems of Microsoft using the ISO label to avoid going for real interoperability. Everytime anyone questions the quality of OOXML draft you question ODF instead. Everytime anyone questions your way of presenting facts that only benefit Microsofts spin you start to ramble about your many years of working with XML and standards. Everytime anyone questions about interoperability you start to talk about sitting at the table so that some day we might have interoperability. All this are things that convince me and many others that you are biased towards Microsoft.

        >That I have been working in standards at my own cost (on SGML, XML, XML Schemas, Schematron, and multiple others) for more than a decade to get viable document standards, before OOXML and before XML, and have a track record of working for these standards should be enough for anyone in good faith to see through it.

        So…because you worked with XML before you can’t be bought by Microsoft now? Is this the final solution to people breaking laws? Just make them work for a standard organization for a few years and it becomes unthinkable that they would do something morally wrong. Don’t think so…that you even think about suggesting this as argument pretty much shows why the standards deciding process is flawed.

        >That my major work is in an open source implemented ISO standard which neither MS nor  IBM support, could tell you something too. In fact, what has happened is that MS has (perhaps fleetingly, perhaps for the long-haul)  had to shift around to something closer (but not exactly the same) to my opinion. I don’t hold my opinions out of contrariness: changing whatever I believe this week merely because of what Microsoft thinks or doesn’t think.

        So because Microsoft now pay lip service confessions to things you think yourself you must commit yourself to their cause….

      • I don’t know how global the expression is, but in Britain we talk about the sensation of "red mist" – when you get so locked into an argument that you start to lose your perspective. We all get it from time to time, and with respect, I think you need to watch the red mist here.

        Most anonymous posters around here don’t agree with you and don’t have much respect for you. It must be very cathartic to respond by showing that you don’t agree with or respect them either, but it creates a vicious cycle that doesn’t help anyone. If you want to talk usefully with those people, you’ll need to make some painful modifications to your behaviour to accommodate them. Alternatively, if you want to debate with lay people using the same rules you’d expect of standards experts, you’d be better to limit yourself to those of us willing to play by those rules.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • To Rick Jeliffe,

        I believe that you are an XML expert, and that you approve of the standardization of OOXML. Could you please say something positive and technical about OOXML then?

        Preferably, something it can do which ODF doesn’t yet have (Except spreadsheet formulas. Assume we know about the OpenFormula standardization coming in ODF 1.2).

        Thank you,
        anonymous from NL

      • As to your first point, I’m starting to think that this debate will only be resolved based on evidence that will take years to trickle in – how will Microsoft’s behave in future? What will SC34’s recommendations be? What will the ODF and Office Open XML ecosystems look like? We all have opinions about these sorts of questions, and opinion is divided enough that I don’t see any way to bring people together faster than waiting for proof. That said, I plan to continue emptying this particular ocean with my teaspoon πŸ˜‰

        As to your second point, I completely agree about statements being considered intrinsically, and it’s something I’ve long been concerned about. I don’t feel like I have the answer yet, but here are some points to consider:

        Anonymising yourself doesn’t really help your statements to be considered for their intrinsic value. If anything, people are better at forming biased opinions towards broad groups than they are towards individuals. So instead of people putting a value on a statement “because anonymous #33 said it”, they put a value on a statement “because one of those anonymous types said it”.

        Anonymising yourself does make it harder to consider statements for their intrinsic meaning. As Edward de Bono eloquently puts it, everyone lives inside their own “logic bubble”, inside which everything they do makes perfect sense. The problem is that my logic bubble doesn’t look anything like yours, so the only way we can meaningfully interact is for one of us to climb inside the other’s bubble. You’d be amazed how long it takes to really learn about somebody else’s logic bubble – for example, I have a fairly benign view of the software industry (to oversimplify, my view is that it’s run by engineers who get their kicks from inventing the future, so can’t be all that bad), so it takes me a long time to understand what it means to view the software industry as an entirely profit-focussed place where powerful companies can and will take retribution on those that sleight them. Attaching the same tag to each of your posts gives people the time to adapt to that deeper reasoning, and therefore to understand the implicit assumptions behind what you say (as opposed to what some other anonym with a similar language style might mean).

        To expand on the previous point, I get the impression that part of the reason that Rick Jelliffe resorts to name-calling is because he’s frustrated by his inability to understand the deeper reasoning behind people’s posts. Because he can only ever tackle one post at a time, he can only tackle the shallowest issues that he’s presented with. Asking him to understand your world after reading a single post of yours is as unrealistic as asking you to understand the minutia of OSI procedures after reading a single post of his. I don’t condone name-calling by anyone, but it’s hard to have a productive dialogue when you can never really dig in to people’s reasoning.

        Finally, although there are risks involved with putting your name online, there are rewards too. When someone else climbs inside your logic bubble, they give you another perspective and make you learn things about yourself. I’ve often gained insights from people I’ve disagreed with that improve my job skills, and sometimes even my life skills.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • I believe you are correct that this debate will take years to complete.  Many in the open-source community have come to the same conclusions as those posting here – that MS controls SC34, that MS will pollute ODF if at all possible (and if not, will attempt to destroy ODF), that DIS29500 approval was a mistake (Note the court case in GB and the protest in Norway and the conflict between the city of Munich and the German standards authority (Note that the technical German standards review body disagrees with the German decision on DIS29500 as well).  It will take time for MS to prove us right.  In the meantime, Rick can continue posturing as much as he wants, but he will be laboring against a growing body of evidence that has already been seeded by none other than that Microsoft’s marketing division.  The open-source community will be prepared to refute anything and everything but actual proof that MS has changed their stripes for the long haul – and that will require the long haul.  I’m not going to hold my breath for MS to actually follow through on any of their latest promises (when they have yet to follow through on any of their previous commitments from the past).

        Meanwhile, check out Rob Weir’s latest post – he basically destroys the credibility of Alex Brown’s latest ‘comparison’ of ODF vs MSOOXML validation, showing Alex’s technique, procedures, and results to be totally wrong and showing Alex to be a neophite to XML as well – despite how many times Rick has referenced Alex’s ‘expertise’.

        As to proof that MS is changing their stripes (or not), I notice that MS’s French office has gone from delaying a list of approved standards for office automation to rushing it through approval now that DIS29500 can be included not that is has gotton ‘approval’ from Alex Brown’s BRM.  Note that this is BEFORE MS even complies with the spec and before they’ve even committed to doing so.

        Rick can spin this as he will, but this tells me that the predications that MS wanted the ISO stamp of approval for the sole purpose of its marketing value.  Note that MS can now advertise that Office 2007 is ECMA-compliant, but that any claims that it is ISO compliant are currently fraudulent since they are not true (by Alex Brown’s own testing no less).

      • OK, there are no sides. Yet we have a massive PDF file filled with unimplementable shit, and it is now almost an international standard.

        How can this have happened to the world?

        What I find missing often in discussions is actual technical advantages of stamping OOXML a standard, i.e. explaining how it is actually not really difficult to implement, improves interoperability, is not platform-dependent at all, etc.: IANASE but from all that I’ve read there’s a very suspect lack of positive information about OOXML.

        And what to make of ISO’s own announcement: normally, they triumphantly declare that another item has been standardized, kudos all around, yet the press release for this one is titled:

        ISO/IEC DIS 29500 receives necessary votes for approval as an International Standard

        accurate, but not very positive.

        Please compare the text for ISO 19712-1:2008:

        This new ISO standard establishes a classification system for solid surfacing materials based on performance. The standard also specifies property requirements for the various types of solid surface materials, including: water resistance, thermal shock resistance, heat resistance, impact resistance, stain and chemical resistance, cigarette burn resistance, colour stability, hardness, bacterial and fungal resistances, cleanability, hygiene, seamability and renewability.

        The verbs are "this new ISO standard establishes…", "the standard specifies…"
        Compare:

        ISO/IEC 29500 is a standard for word-processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets that is intended to be implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms. According to the submitters of the document, one of its objectives is to ensure the long-term preservation of documents created over the last two decades using programmes that are becoming incompatible with continuing advances in the field of information technology.

        The verbs that sprung out at me (i.e. I know, I’m biased :-)) are "ISO/IEC 29500 is a standard … that is intended to be implemented by multiple applications on multiple platforms" and "According to the submitters of the document, one of its objectives is …"

        Uhuh. ISO clearly takes proud ownership of this one..

      • @E-man

        I think the thrust of Patrick’s remark is that once you have standards it’s wrong-headed to try and imagine conflicting "sides" for them; one may have a preference (for C over FORTRAN say), but the system does not allow for (good faith) opposition to a standard. If you don’t want it, don’t use it. Patrick’s latest post has more in this very vein, if you are interested.

        @Anonymous 1

        >So a bent copper doing things "not quite right" to make sure the mugger doesn’t get away with it is a good thing?

        No, that’s the end justifying the means, which is a different thing.

        @Anonymous 2

        Let’s see, at the last SC 34 meeting the following countries were represented (and remember, only countries have decision-making power):

        • Canada
        • China
        • Czech Republic
        • Denmark
        • Finland
        • Germany
        • Japan
        • Korea (Republic of)
        • Norway
        • South Africa
        • Sweden
        • UK
        • USA

        I’d like to see somebody try to explain to the Heads of these delegations that they were in Microsoft’s pocket. To anybody really believing that all I can recommend is to enjoy wearing the tinfoil hat (they are popular at the moment).

        You claim to speak for a "community" (and call yourself "we", which is actually a bit scary). When I look around in a SC 34 meeting I see real members of the FOSS community: Murata Makoto (work on NVDL, RELAX NG, etc etc), Ken Holman (work on UBL etc etc) and Rick Jelliffe (work on Schematron etc etc), and more — people, in other words, who have put a lot of effort into making a real contribution. There seems to be some kind of other "community" out there, the price of entry to which is intalling a Linux distro and writing "M$ suxors" (or lengthy equivalent) on a few blogs. Sorry – that doesn’t count.

        @Anonymous 2

        I love your new word "thrustworthy"!

        When people say wise things well, they deserve to be quoted. Patrick is very quotable.

        I’m not quite sure what "people like Andy Updegrove" means — Andy is surely unique! Is he being counted as a member of our secret gang now?

        I count myself as a member of the ODF camp (and the OOXML camp) — and if you want some "hard evidence" that relates to these specifications you might want to look at a recent blog entry of mine.

         


        – Alex.

      • I had to laugh at this – having worked extensively on local and central government contracts for the last 18 years, microsoft.gov.uk is well known. The poor civil servants that make the procurement decisions make them based on intensive lobbying and high pressure sales techniques (that would make Arthur Daley blush) from Microsoft and partners. They buy the marketing wholesale. Why do you think every major public sector IT contract fails of runs massively over budget – because the decision makers are under such pressure from Microsoft, that they are unable to make an informed choice. Perhaps the Heads of Delegations are not in Microsoft’s pocket, but they are certainly under phenomenal pressure from below, from the Astroturfing that prevails throughout the UK civil service.

      • Thank you for your reply. Perhaps it would have been better if Patrick Durusau had said, "Standardization is not a spectator sport where people are expected to pick sides". It does seem that at least some of what is going on is due to tribalism that is similar to what is seen in spectator sports. That said, I think it is unrealistic to expect people to never pick sides or cast judgments on standards. Even in your example, FORTRAN (especially FORTRAN 66) was tainted by "evil" GOTO statements, while structured programming languages, such as C, existed on a higher moral plane, apparently.

        I think one way Andy Updegrove’s Civil Rights analogy works is that it is difficult for many people who want to support ODF to know how to do it. I think many people underestimate how savvy people such as Martin Luther King were at judging how to best allocate the human resources available to the Civil Rights movement. Not very many people have that sort of leadership skills as well as judgment.

        In both cases there is a basic assumption that the playing field isn’t level. So there is an important question: Is it better to try to make the best of the current situation, or do you protest against the unfairness that you perceive in the hopes of making the situation fairer? I think many people don’t think that supporting ODF directly will be as effective as protesting or complaining about the situation because the playing field is not level.

        I posted a comment on Groklaw, where I said, in part, "Rather than getting all upset about what happened, wouldn’t it be better if people spent that energy volunteering at OpenOffice.org, for example?. The comment  was quickly deleted, but not before someone anonymously replied, saying: "All that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing (or something to that effect). Are you saying that *we* (excluding you), should tend to our ‘knitting’?" (My reply back to this was deleted or blocked, as well.) I think the reply represents much of the current attitude. Helping out OpenOffice.org seems to be considered to be a waste. I think people have the impression that things are so crooked, there isn’t much point in making the best out of the current situation. The optimistic arguments that Andy presented in "The Future of ODF and OOXML" don’t seem to have been taken to heart.

        Frankly, the latest ISO FAQ about ISO/IEC 29500 isn’t going to do much to convince people that things happened as they should have when it was being considered by ISO. There certainly seems to be some spinning going on in that FAQ. I reached that conclusion even before seeing Rob Weir’s latest graphs. If the goal was to get those who don’t trust ISO or JTC1 now to trust them, I don’t see how that FAQ will help.

        Eric

        P.S.: I’m not confident of my ability to make clicky links work here. The URLs I used were:
        Groklaw comment:  http://www.groklaw.net/comment.php?mode=display&sid=20080415150233162&type=article&pid=689900#c689925
        Andy’s blog entry: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080328080930159
        Rob Weir’s blog entry: http://www.robweir.com/blog/2008/04/sinclairs-syndrome.html
        ISO FAQ: http://www.iso.org/iso/pressrelease/faqs_isoiec29500.htm

      • You make some good points, but it seems like you’re assuming that the ISO is supposed to be a democratic organisation – actually it’s supposed to be a deliberative organisation. For example, if 90% of people believe that GOTO is considered harmless, it still won’t make it into a standard unless they can argue their case. Admittedly things didn’t really work out that way with DIS 29500, because opinions became entrenched and voting was the only way to break deadlocks. I personally see that as a bug that ought to be fixed.

        Because the ISO isn’t democratic, techniques that are appropriate for changing a democratic system don’t work there. For example, protesting and alleging conflicts of interest don’t work because they don’t invalidate the logic of any arguments. There’s only one way to change the ISO’s behaviour: show your evidence, state your premises, develop a logical argument, present a conclusion, and show the errors in any counter-arguments. If you believe that the ISO is systematically broken or institutionally corrupt, the solution is only slightly different: wait until ISO members start producing ridiculous counter-arguments and refusing to admit it, then take your battle-hardened argument to the public.

        It might be that the playing field doesn’t seem level to you because you’re expecting to see the tyranny of the many over the few, but you’re getting the tyranny of the best developed arguments over the most popular. I’ll admit it’s a weakness of this system that your voice only counts if you’ve spent the necessary years of work to develop a strong debating technique, but the benefit is that once you have that skill, your opinion counts even if (like me) you’re just some guy on a blog.

        – Andrew

      • @Andrew

        As you say, the ISO supposed to be a deliberative organization.  As such the question being asked is "Is DISxxxxx worthy (in its current state) of being an ISO standard ?".

        If there is a deadlock and consensus cannot be reached, the answer to the question is clearly ‘No’.  Instead with OOXML we get political voting.

        Politics has no place in standards setting – before the voting or now.

        Politics, once votes are taken are very credible.  If those that are perceived to have acted improperly during the ISO voting process don’t like the politics now, perhaps they are only reaping the actions they sowed.

        Since all the evidence of influence-peddling was in an effort to get a ‘yes’ vote on OOXML, and since the ‘yes’ vote was frequently obtained without consensus – contrary to the stated goals of ISO and contrary to the spirit of the question above, I’m surprised the MISO-4 can even *pretend* to be surprised by the public outcry.  Especially when the MISO-4 have access to (If they’re not actually running) many of the closed-door meetings in ISO at which this influence is being peddled.

        It’s all well and good for them to claim that ISO has no authority and that the NBs make all the decisions, but that’s not necessarily true either.

        A review of the MS evenagelist guide that was made public at the Comes trial in Iowa shows that if MS can get the committee chairman to do their bidding, they can then structure votes such that the only acceptable outcome will be the one that favors MS’ position.  This appears to have happened at the BRM as the publicized deviations from standard and previous BRM processes show.  This deviation and slant that so favors the MS’ position then supports the claim that the those in a position to control the meeting had been influenced by other than purely technical arguments.

        This is the perception of those that observed the ISO process.

        Now after the vote on OOXML, we find the person that ran the BRM (still under suspicion of being influenced) has been given the task of chairing a second committee to ‘fix’ the same DIS that his first meeting blanket-approved with irregularities.

        Any bets on whether appropriate changes will be made or whether ‘procedure’ will prevent him from doing anything other than rubber-stamp the MS/ECMA modifications to take this approved standard back toward the original ECMA spec during maintenance ?

        This is also a valid perception of SC34’s workings now that MS partners make up the majority of the committee.

        Public perception is what it is.  Arguing that it is not ISO’s fault that ISO standards are open to influence makes no sense.  Arguing that OOXML is useful in its current state makes no sense since more MS-bias is being found in the words of that spec each time anyone looks at it, but (of course), "ISO rules" forbid bringing those additional pro-MS-biases in the spec to the table where they can be dealt with.

        Instead, it appears to be much easier to simply state how good ISO’s product is and state that standards of this size are routinely fast-tracked – Rob Weir’s graphs notwithstanding.

      • While I agree that it seemed like there was too much reliance on voting during DIS 29500, banning all votes isn’t an answer. If standards could only ever pass by unanimous consent, it would be trivial for someone to block any standard they didn’t like.

        You mentioned the importance of perception a few times in your comment, so I’d be interested to know whether you’d agree with a previous comment that “perception is everything”? If so, would you agree that it’s the responsibility of everyone involved not to create false perceptions?

        – Andrew

      • @Andrew,

        First, on your comment of voting vs consensus. 

        I believe that in the case of ISO standards, consensus should always be achieved.  Note that I did not say ‘unanimous’ consensus, but ‘consensus’.

        The purpose of ISO is to apply an international ‘stamp of suitability for use’ to standards that are presented to it.  Given this purpose, it is no surprise that ISO tries to make any submission acceptable and attempts to judge standards on their merits.  Whenever ISO is unable to reach consensus therefore (not ‘unanimous’ consent remember), it really means that the standard under consideration has some serious problems (technical, not political) that prevent it from being ‘truly useful as an international standard’.

        Failure to reach even basic consensus within ISO is not  a failure of the system, but a shortcoming of the proposed standard in that it either conflicts with standards already in use in other countries or contradicts or omits some basic functionality needed by some significant proportion of countries world-wide.  The purpose of the ISO process is to allow standards that cannot be agreed upon today to be discussed, compromises reached, additions/substitutions made, and to eventually become a standard that the whole world can (generally) agree on.

        The concepts of voting and ‘majority of those that vote rules’ that appears to have occured at the OOXML BRM contradicts all the above and (I submit) defeats and subverts the primary purpose of the ISO process.

        Voting is a good way (in fact the only way I know) to measure consensus.  When the majority of the voters disagree with the standard, that standard should not be passed at the ISO level because it is ‘unsuitable for international use’.  When the only way to get approval of a standard is to prevent discussion, that standard is not suitable for international use.  Voting using a ‘majority rules’ method in a venue where the ‘deck has been stacked’ (so to speak), then claiming that all is above-board and fair is ‘selective fact reporting’, but is an effective way to get a favorable vote without discussion.

        In the case of the BRM, I submit that attempting to ‘address’ all comments in such a short time was the wrong approach.  Consensus is more important that coverage at a BRM.  Had the standard been even close to ‘acceptable for international use’, it would have generated far fewer comments and the number would have been manageable during the 5-day BRM.  That the submission generated so many comments of such substance indicates that previous safeguards in the system had already failed and that the submission was not (in truth) deserving of the ISO name.

        There is generally no shame in failing a vote at the ISO because if the standard is worthwhile, the ‘slow track’ approach will encourage participation and will eventually produce a worthy standard.

        If however, the standard is not capable of standing on its own merit, but is needed by a single vendor to meet its short-term marketing goals, then I submit the standard is not being submitted in good faith.  If that were ever to happen, we might wind up with a similar mess to what OOXML is today.

        Finally, as to ‘perception is everything’, I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to provide complete factual details and (optionally) some set of identified assumptions and logical thought process.  At that point, each individual is free to develop their own perceptions based on a balanced, complete set of facts.  That’s an ideal case of course, but in the absence of ‘ideal’ I’d settle for full factual disclosure if presented by a neutral (disinterested) 3rd party.

        As Rob Weir’s latest set of graphs indicate, Microsoft/ECMA/ISO SC34 has been less than complete with their disclosed facts.  As has been often been recognized in other contexts, ‘selective truth’ is often synonymous with ‘lie’.  In the case of ISO SC34’s FAQ, it looks like we had some ‘selective truth’.  When presenting facts to defend a viewpoint, the facts you select or ignore define your bias.  Selecting only convenient facts to disclose to the public (ESPECIALLY when you are considered the ‘expert’ on a subject) is equivalent to an unethical breach of public trust by attempting to influence any decisions being made based on your (presumably neutral) technical analysis/expertise.  By selecting the facts they chose to publish, SC34 (at least in my mind) demonstrated unacceptable bias toward OOXML and demonstrated that they are willing to bend/break their own rules to protect OOXML’s newly-minted ‘standard’ status.

      • > The concepts of voting and ‘majority of those that vote rules’ that appears to have occured
        > at the OOXML BRM contradicts all the above and (I submit) defeats and subverts the primary purpose of the ISO process.

        It is important to note, I think, that the JTC 1 Directives explicitly allow voting at Fast Track BRMs: "13.8 At the ballot resolution group meeting, decisions should be reached preferably by consensus. If a vote is unavoidable the vote of the NBs will be taken according to normal JTC 1 procedures."

        My own view is that the 5-day BRM time limit decided on by JTC 1 made voting "unavoidable".

        > In the case of the BRM, I submit that attempting to ‘address’ all comments in such a short time was the wrong
        > approach.  Consensus is more important that coverage at a BRM.

        That articulates the central challenge I faced convening the meeting. My solution was to ask the nations which was more important to then: consensus or coverage. They decided to reject the route whereby all decisions had to be a consensus one, and to adopt the voting approach, with no dissent. You could say there was consensus that the BRM was doing the right thing. If the BRM had not chosen this route, then DIS 29500 would almost certainly have failed, in my judgement, as the text would have remained unacceptably faulty.

        > As Rob Weir’s latest set of graphs indicate, Microsoft/ECMA/ISO SC34 has been less than complete with
        > their disclosed facts.

        It is really important to distinguish between the players here. The FAQ in question is from ISO. SC 34 is a subcommittee of JTC 1 (a committee of ISO and IEC), and is made up of technical experts. It didn’t issue the FAQ and it can’t defend itself, so I worry when I wrongly see it getting "blamed" for things beyond its control.

        Rob Weir is correct (if a little curt) in stating that the FAQ was issued by "an unnamed ISO staffer". It was a communiqué from HQ, not from the trenches!

        > By selecting the facts they chose to publish, SC34 (at least in my mind) demonstrated unacceptable bias toward
        > OOXML and demonstrated that they are willing to bend/break their own rules to protect OOXML’s newly-minted ‘standard’ status.

        Rob Weir performs just a little sleight of hand constructing the strawman which he then smashes down. The ISO release says "It should be noted that it is not unusual for IT standards to run to several hundred, or even several thousand pages." It is Rob (not ISO) who then makes the explicit connection to Fast Tracking when he says this "does not seem to ring true in the case of JTC1 Fast Tracks". Okay, this may be something a reasonable person may infer from the FAQ but it’s strange to see ISO getting attacked for claiming 6,000 page fast tracks are not unusual, when they never actually explicitly stated any such thing.

        What ISO did say (and what to my mind is more interesting) is that "the number of pages of a document is not a criterion cited in the JTC 1 Directives for refusal". So, far from bending the rules I think the people administering the process were bound by them!

        And (talking of being selective) Rob could of course have performed a similar statistical exercise with ODF. In my view a much less selective statistical analysis would count Fast Track and PAS together, and then include OOXML, ODF (and maybe Java, which Rob omits maybe because it failed to progress?) to give a broader view of consortium-sponsored specifications entering the accelerated standards tracks.

        The bottom line, I think, is that both OOXML and ODF were too large for accelerated standardisation, and their progression put too much strain on the system. My own view, as I have stated before, is that both PAS and Fast Track should be scrapped.

        – Alex.

      • Alex,

        Thanks for the insights, as well as for reminding us of your personal position on Fast Track and PAS.  I’d like  to explore that one a little bit further from the perspective of whether that’s because you think that there’s something fundamentally flawed in the concept, making them inappropriate, or whether it’s because you believe the two processes would be too hard to fix?

        I think it would also be instructive to block in a little history as to how the PAS process and the Fast Track process came about, so that people can understand why they exist at all.  Here’s what I’ve always understood to be the case, but I can’t recall at this point how much is what I’ve been told, and how much (if indeed anything) I received from a written source (and therefore how accurate the following really is):

        Fast Track:  My understanding of this one was that this was a special accommodation to Ecma as part of the give and take surrounding the original formation of JTC1.  As I understood it, Ecma was concerned about losing influence in an area that it had carved out, and that it’s being (uniquely?) granted Class A Liaison status was as part of a political compromise.  This then gave Ecma a special value in the industry (an expedited avenue to JTC1), as it now could offer a service that other consortia did not enjoy. 

        Does that match with your understanding?  If so, then the takeaway for me from this is that the issue would be primarily a political one, as it involves the special privileges of a single organization.

        PAS:  In this case, my understanding has always been that this was a response to the emerging reality that there were more and more useful standards emerging from the consortium community, and that it made sense to come up with a way to give some degree of recognition to those that were especially useful, as indicated by broad industry adoption.  This was conjoined with a coincident effort by SDOs more generally to counter contentions that the traditional process was too slow and bureaucratic, the two together being a market response to the competitive challenges evidenced by a loss of market share by the traditional standards process to the upstart, sectoral choice increasingly being made by the IT industry. 

        How again does that align with your experience and recollection?  Here, I think that the major takeaway is that (if my recounting is accurate) the PAS process was supposed to acknowledge standards that had already been widely tested by the marketplace, and therefore to acknowledge that as much as to "perfect" them.  From that perspective,  it had always been my understanding that the PAS process was not actually intended (rightly or wrongly) to indicate the same level of final development that would be involved with a standard that had "come up through the ranks," as it were. 

        Finally, I think it’s worth noting that the Fast Track process has been used far more often than the PAS process (on the order of 100 or more submissions, if I recall properly), while the PAS process has been largely neglected (I can’t find the right link at the ISO site at the moment, but I recall that there have been fewer than 20 specifications approved under the PAS process).

        So my takeaway would be that the Fast Track process has been used primarily by vendors, often specific vendors, that want a fast back door into JTC1, while the PAS process has been a largely neglected opportunity for consortium standards to receive a more traditional stamp of approval.

        My conclusions from all this would be that the Fast Track process could and should be abolished, and that a ground-up review could be performed on the question of whether there is a need and desire for an avenue for consortium-generated standards to be introduced into the de jure process.  Seemingly, the market for that service seems to be weak, although it is growing.

          –  Andy

      • Alex said:

        Rob Weir performs just a little sleight of hand constructing the strawman which he then smashes down. The ISO release says "It should be noted that it is not unusual for IT standards to run to several hundred, or even several thousand pages." It is Rob (not ISO) who then makes the explicit connection to Fast Tracking when he says this "does not seem to ring true in the case of JTC1 Fast Tracks". Okay, this may be something a reasonable person may infer from the FAQ but it’s strange to see ISO getting attacked for claiming 6,000 page fast tracks are not unusual, when they never actually explicitly stated any such thing.

        I thought it was clear from Rob Weir’s blog entry that he was accusing ISO of implying, rather than explicitly stating, that the sentence in question applied to Fast Tracked standards. He quoted the entire sentence as well as the preceding one, so obviously anyone would know what it actually said. It seems to me that the statement in the FAQ was an attempt at spin – a technically true statement was used to create a false impression. Since the FAQ seems to include spin, it does not come across as being impartial (at least not to me) – instead it come across as if ISO somewhat jumped in bed with Microsoft, so it’s no wonder that people are complaining about that FAQ, IMO.

        I agree somewhat with another point point you made: including data from PAS submittals would have created a more complete picture. It also would have taken more of Rob’s time. Rob didn’t even include all of the Fast Track submittals – he only included those from Ecma – but justified doing that on the basis that Ecma claimed to be responsible for around 80% of the submittals to Fast Track and it was easy to determine the page lengths of Ecma’s submittals. Unless there is a particular reason to suspect that the submittals he selected (other than OOXML) are not typical, I don’t see a major problem with his analysis. He didn’t claim that it was anything more than it was.

        Thanks for your reply (in a different branch of the comments) about SC 34 getting back to normal.

        Eric

      • > That articulates the central challenge I faced convening the meeting. My solution was to ask the nations which was more important to then: consensus or coverage. They decided to reject the route whereby all decisions had to be a consensus one, and to adopt the voting approach, with no dissent. You could say there was consensus that the BRM was doing the right thing. If the BRM had not chosen this route, then DIS 29500 would almost certainly have failed, in my judgement, as the text would have remained unacceptably faulty.

        Actually, that’s not what happened by the accounts that came out of the BRM.  What happened appears to have been:
           The HODs were told the day before the BRM that a vote would be taken.  All delegates were told that a vote WOULD be taken to decide the approval/disapproval of any point not discussed.  There was no vote on whether to take this vote, it was simply announced.  Four choices were offered:
             1. Automatically approve everything from ECMA without discussion – no attempt at consensus.
             2. Anything not discussed is not approved – no attempt at consensus and this suffered from the "if we did not discuss it, then the original, VERY flawed ECMA submission goes back for vote.  Not acceptable to those whose goals are to product a quality standard.
             3. ITTF determines the outcome of the BRM – why hold a BRM in the first place if this option is chosen ?
             4. Anything not discussed will be accepted / rejected by a vote in place of any attempt at achieving consensus.  This was was was eventually selected, but the caveat that at least 9 votes are needed was way too low and the preperatory instructions and discussion let to the impression that if an NB did not feel strongly about an issue, it should abstain to avoid overwhelming subject-matter-experts in that area.  (Of course the Pro-Microsoft lobbies completely ignored this guidance).

        I don’t see anywhere in that list of 4 options where the delegates were offered the option to declare the DIS29500 too big and too flawed to resolve at the BRM as Alex is now stating.  To the contrary,  it is obvious to me that instead of offering the option of rejecting the DIS because it cannot be handled at the BRM, the decision was made by the convener (possibly in consultation with others) ahead of time that all issues would be voted on so that the claim they were "addressed" could later be made by the Microsoft Marketing team.

        I do not think I could say with straight face that there was consensus that the BRM did the right thing – especially with all the objections and negative reactions from first-hand participants that were published after the BRM.  The BRM rule that attempted to squash public comment was an additional bogus requirement that apparently had no teeth since Microsoft immediately violated that request.  It did have the effect however, of allowing Microsoft to utilize this restricted information in its back-room marketing while preventing those with higher ethics from speaking up to publicize what went on.

        The fact that the BRM ‘accepted’ all the changes and therefore provided Microsoft the marketing leverage to further corrupt NB votes did not (as far as I can see) result in a ‘good’ standard.  In fact, most of the issues that pre-existed still exist,  no one but MS can implement the spec as of today.  The spec has not been published within 30 days as specified by ISO requirements.  On the contrary, it appears that SC34 won’t have the final spec until at least MAY with no schedule published yet to make it generally available.  NBs were forced to vote on a standard they could not read.

        Under what criteria does DIS29500 qualify as a standard worthy of ISO standardization ?  It still cannot be used and is still full of Microsoft-proprietary references and undefined elements.  Its use of  XML is invalid as the XML will not parse due to syntactical errors that are still being found.  How can the ‘passage’ of DIS29500 be justified given the above (current) state of DIS29500 ?

        You ask what can be done to restore the credibility of SC34 ?  Pull DIS29500 for being too immature to have been accept as an ISO standard.  Nothing less than correcting this mistake will restore faith in the ISO process / organization by the tech community at large.  The economic advantages of DIS29500 being approved to all Microsoft partners and Microsoft itself has been widely recognized.  What has not been widely recognized is the advantage that the public and non-microsoft parters (the business community at large) gains from ISO standardization of DIS29500.

      • Come off it.  Surely there is no-one left on the planet who doesn’t know that the BRM could only discuss issues relating to improving the text? That was its function in the scheme of things. 

        It is the main NB ballot (and the opportunity for an NB to change position following the BRM) which is where the NBs vote on "should we have this or not."

        People can go around demanding that cows lay eggs, and they can get followers incensed that the cows are being prevented from laying eggs, or that the eggs have been stolen, or claim that the people who point out the problems that cows have (and presumably eggs) are stooges and liars with hidden motives and hidden funding from the Big Omlette, but it won’t change anything.  

        At the BRM, the ISO/IEC officials went to great lengths (even offending some NBs) to make sure that delegates knew that they were responsible.  We all spent a half day IIRC discussing the various options: if any NB HoD had wanted to bring up any other choices, they could have insisted on doing so and if Alex or the ISO/IEC people had tried to stop any vote (that was in-scope for the BRM) that had any kind of majority or strong sentiment they would have had to have acquiesced. The conspiracy theories are just based on denying what happened in plain site: the NBs voted on the mechanism. 

        Rick Jelliffe

      • Interesting procedure.

        1. Setup people with an impossible task
        2. Tell them the rules do not allow to say the task is impossible
        3. If they insist the task is impossible, insist on no 2
        4. Give them choices, but deny the only one that makes sense as against the rules (see 2 and 3)
        5. Whatever they do afterwards, tell them they are responsible for it

        Don’t be surprised if you get people angry.

      • Impossible task?

        The goal was to issue an improved text.  So even if the week resulted in just correcting *one* typo (e.g. a misplaced delimiter) would have been enough for the BRM to have achieved its proximate, formal goal.

        However, that would not have resulted in any NBs changing their votes. The success of the BRM does not automatically mean the success or failure of the ballot. The ultimate goal of the BRM of course is to have enough improvements that NBs problems would be addressed.

        Saying the task was impossible is contradicted by the National Body votes. A clear majority voted that way after the BRM.

        Rick Jelliffe

      • "A clear majority" does not constitute sufficient votes to approve a standard.  That takes 2/3s of the P-members and 3/4s of the total members.

        In this case, the "improved text" had absolutely no effect on the vote as MS pressure and political and $$$ influence convinced sufficient politicians in positions of authority to over-ride their technical advisors and vote FOR this standard that is not up to technical standards.  This is the way M$ got their marketing ‘stamp of ISO approval".  Had the vote been uninfluenced by Microsoft Marketing clout, DIS29500 would not have passed the post-BRM approval.

        What turned the difference was the decision by the convener to hold a ‘mass vote’ without interest of discussion or analysis.  This vote was then used by the MS marketing and lobbyists and influencers to convince otherwise standards-illiterate politicians that thir issues had been ‘addressed’ and that their standards bodies were simply ‘anti-Microsoft’ for continuing to vote down DIS29500.

        This point of view is supported by the outcries in Australia, Norway, Germany and Malaysia – all places where know that Microsoft had particularly strong efforts to swing the vote.  Remember Doug MaHugh’s ‘job change’ so he could attempt to influence the Malasian standards body ?  The protests in Norway ?  The irregularities and hidden agendas in the Czech Republic ?  The German vote that only the choices of "yes" or "yes with comments" because they were told that going from ‘Yes" to "No" violated ISO rules ?  How about the protests over the Standards Australia vote because the vote that was submitted was 180 degrees out of step with the recommendations of the standards body ?

        If those 5 countries had not been heavily influenced by outside forces, it’s likely that vote of the standards bodies would have been taken as the most informed decision within that country and the DIS29500 would have failed.

        It remains to be admitted where, who, and how that extreme influence was applied.  I know where I think that influence came from.  Rick, do you have any proof to offer that my suspicions are wrong ?  My suspicions are based (in part) on who benefits the most from passage of DIS29500 before it was truly ready for publication.  What evidence do you have to indicate that my suspicions are unfounded or mis-guided.

      • The goal was to issue an improved text?

        I thought it was to bring the text into a state where is is suitable to be used as a standard.

      • > Actually, that’s not what happened by the accounts that came out of the BRM. 

        Actually, it is.

        > What happened appears to have been: The HODs were told the day before the BRM that a vote would be taken.
        > All delegates were told that a vote WOULD be taken to decide the approval/disapproval of any point not discussed.
        > There was no vote on whether to take this vote, it was simply announced.

        No – they were told they’d need to decide on a mechanism.

        > Four choices were offered:
        > 1. Automatically approve everything from ECMA without discussion – no attempt at consensus.

        Correct.

        > 2. Anything not discussed is not approved – no attempt at consensus and this suffered from the "if we did not discuss it,
        > then the original, VERY flawed ECMA submission goes back for vote. Not acceptable to those whose goals are to product a quality standard.

        Essentially correct. Note that if nothing had been decided, this is the default position, as all Ecma’s dispositions were only proposals and so would not be actioned without the explicit say so of the BRM. I’m glad you agree that this was not a good option.

        > 3. ITTF determines the outcome of the BRM – why hold a BRM in the first place if this option is chosen ?

        This option was not really discussed. I remember somebody in the room saying "can we just get to 4?" to murmurs of approval all round.

        > 4. Anything not discussed will be accepted / rejected by a vote in place of any attempt at achieving consensus.  This was was was
        > eventually selected, but the caveat that at least 9 votes are needed was way too low and the preperatory instructions and discussion
        > let to the impression that if an NB did not feel strongly about an issue, it should abstain to avoid overwhelming subject-matter-experts
        > in that area.  (Of course the Pro-Microsoft lobbies completely ignored this guidance).

        Essentially correct – but of course those running the meeting did not tell NBs how to vote.

        > I don’t see anywhere in that list of 4 options where the delegates were offered the option to declare the DIS29500
        > too big and too flawed to resolve at the BRM as Alex is now stating.  To the contrary,  it is obvious to me that instead
        > of offering the option of rejecting the DIS because it cannot be handled at the BRM

        Not an option. That was a question for the 87 countries with votes in the letter ballot, not a question for the 31 technical teams in Geneva: they were they to improve the text (which – bravo! – they did. A lot.).

        > the decision was made by the convener (possibly in consultation with others) ahead of time that all issues would be voted on

        I made the decision ahead of time to put the choices to the NBs. And yes, this was in discussion with others (JTC 1 and ITTF).

        > so that the claim they were "addressed" could later be made by the Microsoft Marketing team.

        Who knew what the result of the BRM would be? Nobody.

        > I do not think I could say with straight face that there was consensus that the BRM did the right thing

        But maybe armed with the information above, now you can, and with a contented smile πŸ™‚

        > especially with all the objections and negative reactions from first-hand participants that were published after the BRM.

        Despite a couple of voices off, NBs could express their opinion of the BRM in the ongoing ballot. By and large the result seems to have been of approval.

        > The BRM rule that attempted to squash public comment was an additional bogus requirement that apparently had no teeth since Microsoft
        > immediately violated that request.

        There was no "rule", but advice. The first salvoes in the information war that followed the BRM were not fired by Microsoft, but came through this very blog minutes after the BRM closed — "OOXML Fails to Get Majority Approval at BRM" was the headline.

        > It did have the effect however, of allowing Microsoft to utilize this restricted information in its back-room marketing
        > while preventing those with higher ethics from speaking up to publicize what went on.
        > The fact that the BRM ‘accepted’ all the changes and therefore provided Microsoft the marketing leverage to further corrupt NB votes
        > did not (as far as I can see) result in a ‘good’ standard.

        What "corruption" are you referring to? Whether or not the standard should pass was decided by the NBs: 61 of the 87 voting approved it.

        > In fact, most of the issues that pre-existed still exist,

        Wrong.

        > no one but MS can implement the spec as of today.

        A myth.

        > The spec has not been published within 30 days as specified by ISO requirements.

        It doesn’t need to be "published" with 30 days, but distributed. Ecma sent it on time but ITTF are sitting on it (checking it, I guess).

        > On the contrary, it appears that SC34 won’t have the final spec until at least MAY with no schedule published yet to make
        > it generally available.

        SC 34 does indeed want it ASAP. ISO does not normally issue publication schedules.

        > NBs were forced to vote on a standard they could not read.

        As with every Fast Track a BRM has ever amended. NBs have smart people who can understand editing instructions.

        > Under what criteria does DIS29500 qualify as a standard worthy of ISO standardization ?

        International approval (see above).

        >It still cannot be used and is still full of Microsoft-proprietary references and undefined elements.

        Myths.

        >Its use of XML is invalid as the XML will not parse due to syntactical errors that are still being found.

        Technically incorrect myth.

        > How can the ‘passage’ of DIS29500 be justified given the above (current) state of DIS29500 ?

        See above

        > You ask what can be done to restore the credibility of SC34 ?

        No I did not.

        > Pull DIS29500 for being too immature to have been accept as an ISO standard.

        SC 34 can no more do that than you can extinguish the Sun by blowing hard.

        > Nothing less than correcting this mistake will restore faith in the ISO process / organization by the tech community at large.

        "the tech community at large" should not be confused with a small subset of it who are vocal on blogs.

        > The economic advantages of DIS29500 being approved to all Microsoft partners and Microsoft itself has been widely recognized.

        That is true, but only arguably so.

        > What has not been widely recognized is the advantage that the public and non-microsoft parters (the business community at large)
        > gains from ISO standardization of DIS29500.

        Absolutely. The business community at large will almost certainly gain from this standardisation. But oh, are you claiming that’s a bad thing??

        – Alex.

      • ->"the tech community at large" should not be confused with a small subset of it who are vocal on blogs."
         
        The tech community at large should not be confused with Microsoft and those over whom it holds sway.

      • > I don’t see anywhere in that list of 4 options where the delegates were offered the option to declare the DIS29500
        > too big and too flawed to resolve at the BRM as Alex is now stating.  To the contrary,  it is obvious to me that instead
        > of offering the option of rejecting the DIS because it cannot be handled at the BRM

        Not an option. That was a question for the 87 countries with votes in the letter ballot, not a question for the 31 technical teams in Geneva: they were they to improve the text (which – bravo! – they did. A lot.).

        Alex, if this was not an option why is specifically described in the Directives governing Ballot Resolution Meetings?  They specifically describe "we can’t do our job properly" as an option for the BRM.

        In particular, I would ask whether any of the delegates tried to address the impossibility of the task and were procedurally prevented from doing so; my reading of the Directives is that this would be grounds for invalidating the whole procedure after the fact.

      • Would you care to share the number of the clause in the Directives for this statement?

        I have seen many people quoting sections that don’t apply to the BRM. 

        The BRM only had a single outcome: a set of editing instructions for the editor. An NB which felt it had not adequately prepared for the BRM could always vote ‘abstain’ on any or all issues.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • "The business community at large will almost certainly gain from this standardisation."

         

        Despite the number of repetitions of this statement that are surfacing, it’s amazing that not one concrete example is yet given of this ‘gain’ to the community.  The best sample we’ve seen yet is the illogical and weak argument about how multiple standards provide choice.  Not a single argument has been made (nor can be) about the technical merits of this so-called standard.

      • The Office Open XML has many benefits.

        The biggest benefit over for instance ODF is however is it’s excellent compatiblity with existing documents enabling 100% faithfull conversion.

        There are also other advantages.

        Like having a complete standard in stead of an unfinished one as ODF still is.

         

      • The standard in question doesn’t really have much relevant technical merit until it is implemented somewhere by somebody.

        Microsoft apparently hasn’t been able to do so yet, at least correctly, and I’m not aware of any third party implementations, or even a working reference implementation.

      • Alex,

        Regarding the idea that NBs had smart people who could resolve editor instructions then how to you suggest they resolve #1, or #222 and #691? These instructions from Ecma weren’t possible to resolve.

        Additionally, please refrain from speculating on whether NBs were able to fully comprehend understand the result of 1000 patches in 1 month. You have no evidence to suggest this, I’m sure of it. If you do actually have any evidence to directly support this idea that a majority of NBs fully understood the patches then please provide it immediately.

        A failure to back up this core argument will show that a fundamental part of reviewing OOXML was flawed, and how you are claiming the opposite. This is a challenge to you.

      • I really wasn’t thinking so much in terms of reforming ISO, but I don’t think there is a clean break between choosing to use a standard and judging the standards body itself. If an organization was deciding whether to use C or FORTRAN 66, I don’t think that it would have been surprising if someone criticized ANSI for publishing a standard that used GOTO statements or accused ANSI of bowing to pressure from IBM and/or IBM’s customers. (I don’t know if this actually happened, though.) With respect to OOXML and ISO, the decision to implement the standard will be made by governments or quasi-governmental organizations, so it’s reasonable to expect some democratic debate about those decisions.

        I think it would be wise for everyone to remember that organizations such as ISO involve humans, so it’s not realistic to expect ideal performance from them or perfectly logical decisions. I have to believe that often decisions come down to difficult value judgments. How do you compare the cost of FORTRAN 66’s use of GOTO statements with the benefit of officially standardizing a de facto standard (FORTRAN IV) that was already widely used? Whatever ANSI decided, there were probably going to be some people that wouldn’t be happy with the decision because it was contrary to their values.

        Eric

      • The FORTRAN 66 standard was created in March, 1966, while development of the C language wasn’t even started until 1969.
         
        C was not a valid alternative.  It didn’t even exist.  πŸ™‚

      • >I don’t mean to be rude, but [citation needed]. That’s not been the impression I’ve got, and since people’s opinions about DIS 29500 seem to correlate pretty strongly with their information sources, I’d be interested to know the difference between our sources.

        (I am the same anom that you replied to)
        Source for citation? You mean like an authoritiative source that present hard evidence presented from a truely objective viewpoint?

        Seriously I totally fail to see the point. Any educated reader should be reading all sources and form their own opinion about what he think those sources are worth. You don’t become more objective because you avoid reading what Brian Jones, Rob Weir, nooxml.org  or Rick writes because you happen to distrust anyone of them as relieable sources. If you don’t read them all you can’t form any educated idea about where the problem really is with their arguments.

        I have reading just about everything I can find about OOXML and the reason I posted my question to Rick is simple. I don’t care about if he is tasked by Microsoft or for that matter if he really affected the vote for OOXML, but I turn curious when he states his personal goal has been to get the OOXML draft as good as possible.

        If Rick really is honest about that he thought the OOXML would pass no matter what and wanted is at best as possible there is absolutly no reason for him to spend time on blog posts that rediculate or downplay the merit of comments about flaws in the OOXML draft. Why not spend the time to present solutions to the issues offered so that the person given them can start looking for other faults in the draft?

        Leaving that aside, why don’t he move on to work on improving the draft instead of making "PR" statements on a blog for a ODF supporter now when Microsoft have gotten ISO label they wanted? 

      • What on earth do you mean "tasked by Microsoft"? 

        I was not under contract or payment or promise by Microsoft in any way regarding my time or my talent at the BRM. My own company (and Allette Systems who I have worked with since the mid 1990s, and Standards Australia) funded it.  I am getting sick of  PR people spreading this noxious crap. You are liars and cowards, intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt: hypocrits, sore losers, and you do nothing to further your cause: quite the reverse, when people investigate the claims and find how much fantasy and speculation is involved, they write you off. 

        I am finding all these elaborate conspiracy theories fascinating.

        What is quite clear is that this is not just mistakes made in good faith. When I wrote MS had hired me pre-BRM for a couple of days to do a quick "Devil’s Advocate" review of DIS29500 Editor’s DoC before the BRM in order to help them identify where the DoC doesn’t go far enough (in order to *meet* NB objections), this gets mischievously converted into MS paying me to advocate for MS at the BRM! Similarly, I see claims that Patrick Durusau must have accepted something for his vote. 

        Childish arguments won’t win in the grown-up world of standards. And the habitual "He disagrees with us even slightly, therefore he must have been bought by MS, therefore it is OK to impute any kind of lie about him because he deserves it, and if he protests then he is being insulting and deserves more suspicion!"  is just that: childish.

        Patrick Durusau’s new posting about how to spot a real ODF supporter is entirely appropriate.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Now, now Rick,

        Let’s not resort to personal insults, name-calling and petty squabbles when you don’t get your way.

        That’s not only childish, but goes against the recent SC34 call for an end to name-calling as well – or do you believe that the SC34 committee call to stop the name-calling only applies to those that are *NOT* on Microsoft’s payroll or those that are anti-OOXML ?

        What is public knowledge is that you were at one point during the OOXML approval process hired by Microsoft to try to improve the MS image by editing Wikipedia’s entries on OOXML.  Microsoft as a sponsor was unable to do so due to Wikipedia rules and the fact that direct involvement by them would have been widely publicized and would have had all edits reversed, thereby doing more harm than good.

        There has been no publication or public indication that you’ve ever *stopped* working for Microsoft, so it’s not surprising to me that the assumption is that you continue to work for Microsoft.  Unfortunately for you, your recent activities and all of your recent blog posts have tended to re-inforce rather than refute the idea that you are *still* paid by Microsoft since you continue to try to defend the MS image and MS actions.

        Your presence at the BRM as an OOXML supporter from Australia does not refute this perception.

        Bear in mind that Microsoft’s own internal handbook on evangelism states that it is the business plan of consultants to sell out to the highest bidder.  It also states that an illusion of credibility can be gained by Microsoft by utilizing the credibility of paid consultants.  All appearances indicate that that is what has happened in your case.

        If you actually were still employed by Microsoft to attempt to improve the image of both Microsoft and of OOXML, why would we expect you to admit or publicize that situation ?  Doing so would nullify your benefit to Microsoft and would mean the termination of what is no doubt a lucrative consulting job.

        Additionally, the arguments you put forward for why ISO did not fail to follow its own procedures as well as the debating techniques you use seem to be more-or-less straight out of the Microsoft playbook.   These include personal attacks in the form of name-calling of those that disagree with you, use of perjorative adjectives (remember the term "pulp-fiction site NO-OOXML" ?), demonstrations of teamwork by quoting a (few) friendly bloggers (that also quote you) (this is actually an astroturf technique that was used very successfully by Microsoft and continues to this day in an attempt to control discussion on various blogs.  This technique was either exposed in court or in the news (I’m not sure in which location I first read about the technique of astroturfing in teams)), emotionally loaded verbiage (re-read your last post for examples), and denying counter-evidence to your assertions when that counter-evidence is inconvenient.

        It’s very telling to me that out of the entire world of IT consultants not publicly and directly employed by Microsoft, only 4 seem to be vocally on Microsoft’s side of this debate.  Those 4 ‘consultants’ quote each other, defend each other, and re-inforce each other’s arguments.  Arguments have also been presented that directly contradict established history in a few cases (Yes – Microsoft likes to re-write history too when it thinks it can get away with it).  An example of such an argument was Alex Brown’s recent assertion that the NBs at the BRM had a vote on whether consensus or coverage was more important.  When called he was called on this, Alex Brown changed his claim to "the NBs voted on this issue as part of the letter ballot".  I don’t believe that assertion either, but do not (currently) have direct proof that that assertion is wrong.

        Your arguments during the lead-up to the votes on OOXML were unabashedly Pro-OOXML – rarely arguing the technical merits of DIS29500, (because there weren’t any) but usually trying to justify Microsoft’s ‘right’ to having OOXML be a standard utilizing a combination of Microsoft’s playbook arguments and name-calling of those that disagreed with you.  Various arguments like "Let’s standardize OOXML and put it’s maintenance in a public forum so Microsoft cannot continue to utilize proprietary protocols" simply played into Microsoft’s marketing game as we now see.  There were (and are) lots of those on the other side of the debate that predicted the current actions from Microsoft.  You, as a long-time and ‘senior’ industry analyst, somehow either totally missed this consequence of your actions or disregarded it.  Surely you don’t expect kudos and respect from the rank-and-file for being this wrong for so long and for continuing to mis-predict what MS is going to do next ?

        You seem to somehow have obtained the ear of various standards officials (at least I hear that you have a reputation in that area, though I personally have never heard of you outside of your statements indicating that you are a strong OOXML supporter).  Now you use that influence to further Microsoft’s goals.  Just what opinion should I have of you and your objectivity ?  (Hint: "trust me, I’m Rick Jelliffe" is not good enough, nor is "trust me – I’m an objective observer".)

      • Point of information: when you say “Rick Jelliffe works for Microsoft”, how (if at all) is that different from saying “Rick Jelliffe makes illogical arguments that benefit Microsoft“? For example, should I draw some conclusion from the argument that he’s got n Microsoft dollars in his bank account that I can’t draw from the argument that his statements are nonsensical?

        – Andrew

      • I am not the same anonymous you asked this question, but I can answer.

        Two points.

        1- It is about the agenda. When someone is paid, we know for sure he has to fulfill the task he is paid for. It is useful to know the existence of such agenda. It helps find our way in situations when we received contradictory accounts of the same events and contradictory expert opinions.

        2- It is about credibility and who you talk to. There are people that understand the influence of money trails on credibility better than technical arguments. It is a matter of differences in the personal skills.

      • I hadn’t considered the skills issue before – good point. If I could ask a follow-up question, what would count as evidence that he’s not in Microsoft’s employ? All I can think of are his word (which he’s given) and his behaviour (which can only be judged if you have skill with technical arguments).

        – Andrew

      • I am the original anonymous – and you’ve summarized my point nicely – all we have is his word.

        I don’t know what kind of proof would be required.  I do know some of the requirements that proof must meet:
           It must be believable and credible.
           It must explain and be consistent with all his blog postings both before and after the OOXML vote.
           It must be verifiable either by anyone that cares to review the data or by a well-known, credible source that is considered to be either impartial or disinterested in this controversy.
           It must consist of multiple independent sources such that any one source (if found to be unreliable) does not constitute a single origin for all sources.
           It must NOT be sourced from Microsoft or Microsoft-allied (Microsoft-dependent) sources.

        There may be other requirements, but those would be convincing to me.

        The alternative is the way anyone else would regain trust when that trust has been lost – a long-term program of being trustworthy.

        One thing to look for is a (new?) history of producing unbiased opinions that present and discuss both sides of an issue as well as the logic and assumptions that are used to go from undisputed raw facts to (perhaps controversial) conclusions.

        I’m sorry I cannot give you a single ‘silver bullet’ consisting of one ‘act of contrition’ to your answer, but it’s the best I can do.

      • This might just be an instance of “my pet theory can explain everything”, but it sounds like you’re describing a web of trust (and to a lesser extent, a web of understanding). If there was someone you trusted, who trusted someone else, who trusted someone else, and so on until you got to Rick Jelliffe, then eventually you’d be able to get a trustworthy read on the man.

        Since the standards communities have historically been pretty isolated (through lack of interest on all sides), that web of trust hasn’t had time to develop. That’s probably exacerbated by the fact that standards people don’t really want you to trust them, they want you evaluate the arguments on their merits (after spending a decade or so learning the subtle code they talk in).

        Incidentally, the trust problem goes both ways – standards people don’t understand your subtle code, so they just assume you’re trying to stir up trouble (“pulp fiction” etc.).

        – Andrew

      • Andrew: Are you really saying that anyone who at any time in their life agrees with something that MS also agrees with is therefore "works for" them? 

        MS supports SQL and ISO C++. By that count, aren’t everyone else on those committees "working for" MS? 

        The Web Standards people have spent years trying to get MS to adopt proper CSS implementation. Now that MS has decided to go for it, are those people now "working for" MS, just because MS has (apparantly) changed its position on this issue?

        I have been working in standards since the mid 1990s. After all this time, MS has finally caved in in a major area, to an extent no-one thought possible even 4 years ago. The aim of calling for MS to adopt and participate in standards is not merely to point out that they are a bad citizen, it is also to motivate/enable/redirect them to become a good citizen. You seem to have a view that standards should be some kind of trap for them, that our views should be formed just to thwart whatever they want, even if it means us backflipping whenever we get a victory. 

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • I wasn’t saying anything, I was asking for a clarification. It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that standards people and lay people are separated by a big language barrier, which makes it all the more important to be absolutely sure you understand what people mean (not just what they say). I hope that, if prefixing a statement with point of information catches on, it’ll be a useful mechanism for clarifying what people mean.

        In this case, the point is that when someone says “so-and-so is paid by Microsoft”, they’re actually using that as a shorthand for “so-and-so’s agenda is in line with Microsoft’s and opposed to mine” and “so-and-so hasn’t earned my trust”. This is important because when you say something like “Patrick Durusau is paid by Sun”, that’s a great counter to the literal interpretation of “Patrick Durusau is paid by Microsoft”, but it doesn’t address the actual issues that people are raising – what is his agenda, and how do you trust him? Explaining your agenda in layman’s terms would help with the former question, but my opinion is that trust between both sides will only develop as connections are formed between the disjoint sets of trust relationships in the standards and lay communities. To put it another way, if you want people on blogs to trust you, work on reducing your PJ number.

        By the above definition, SQL/C++/CSS committee members would only be “working for” Microsoft if they took the standards in a direction that was seen to be against the interests of the person making the claim. I’m not a huge fan of the terminology, but it’s unambiguous and relevant once you know what people are talking about. As a wise man once said, standards work sometimes means accepting regrettable features when it’s too late to change them.

        I suppose at this point, I should lay out my own agenda. At the moment, my agenda is to learn more about the worlds of both standards and lay communities, so that I can try to bridge the gap between them. I’m interested in this because it’s a fun and worthwhile contribution to make with my downtime, because it’s a great learning experience, and because it lies exactly in the intersection between “things I’m good at” and “things nobody else wants to do”. I’ve been interested in document standards in the past, and reserve the right to be interested in them in the future, but right now I’m already getting plenty of crufty XML at work πŸ˜‰

        – Andrew

      • @Andrew,

        While you make many good points, I find it difficult to believe that the ‘standards’ crowd uses language that is so far different from ordinary people in ordinary life.  Possible, but difficult to believe.

        As to the meaning of ‘paid-by-Microsoft’, you are correct in that there are multiple meanings to the phrase.  The first meaning (and I think the one deliberately chosen by Rick Jelliffe is "Receives normal and routine weekly paychecks from as part of a day-to-day routine employment contract".

        The second meaning is "received additional compensation of some kind – including non-monetary compensation or additional job opportunities or a promise of future job opportunities – for taking the action he did or for using his position or influence to accomplish some favor in exchange for said compensation".  This is the meaning that makes more sense in the context of the comment.

        If Rick is having trouble distinguishing between these meanings, how much should I trust his understanding and judgment of complex technical issues ?

        If Rick is deliberately choosing to mis-understand and mis-interpret this phrase, then I would  expect him to address the comment with a non-answer or a non-responsive answer such as what he appears to have done.  Again the question of trust is raised.

      • Andrew: You write

        "In this case, the point is that when someone says "so-and-so is paid by Microsoft", they’re actually using that as a shorthand for "so-and-so’s agenda is in line with Microsoft’s and opposed to mine" and "so-and-so hasn’t earned my trust"."

        Surely you are not serious? In what dialect of English does "pay" not involve money or recompense? It is a usage unknown in the dictionary (I checked).

        If we can just use any old word, why not say "Rick child molests for Microsoft"  where "child molest" is a ‘shorthand’ for something entirely unknown to the dictionary? 

        But perhaps you are right: obviously if these people use "paid" to mean "is a fellow traveler on a particular issues" they then must mean something else not in the dictionary by words like "bribery" & "corruption."  Perhaps you could prepare a glossary, in which any of these seemingly-reckless lies, libels and innuendos can be shown to be harmless and all a hilarious mistake.  Or perhaps readers could put some kind of flag on their posts, perhaps lang="en_US-odfbonics", to indicate that they have left the realms of standard English rather than just the realms of fair play and reality.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Hang on a minute, I think we’ve got our scripts muddled up. It’s supposed to be me who gets upset when things don’t make sense, then you explain how in the real world, evidence trumps logic. That’s how it’s always been with us, and this whole role reversal thing is weird and confusing.

        Even if you accept at face value all the claims that are being made against standards people, very few lead to the conclusion that Microsoft is physically giving out money in return for support – and yet, it’s a conclusion that’s being trumpeted pretty loudly. Therefore, people are either failing elementary logic on a large scale, or there’s a communication error going on.

        I asked for my original clarification to try investigate the possibility of a communication error, and my previous post was basically just paraphrasing the clarification I was given. I’ll grant that it’s dictionary abuse, but you must have been through arguments before that turned out to be disagreements over definitions of “standard” terms – especially when talking with people from very different cultural backgrounds.

        Also, I don’t think I was clear before about the significance of the trust dimension. If the details of a debate are too technical for someone to understand, the only way they can make a decision about it is to find someone that they already trust, and ask them. People that have come to this debate in the past year don’t know anyone in the standards world, so they don’t have any reason to trust them, and can’t evaluate their trustworthiness, because that would require them to understand the details of the debate. Given that they have a strong desire to process the issue but no ability to critically evaluate it, it’s human nature to be suspicious of the people on the same side as the Great Satan.

        – Andrew Sayers

      • On the issue of globes, IS29500 has an Eastern hemisphere globe as well as a Western.  If any NB wants a globe centered on their country, they can certainly ask for it, and you would expect NBs to abstain in most cases (because usually one NB does not block some localization request by another NB just because it does not need it itself.)  

        On the issue of standards names, I don’t know of any standard that has changed its name after it has been approved. That horse has bolted.  I think it is inappropriate to have product names in titles or normative text, however Office is not a trademark. I raised this product-name issue a few times during the BRM but no NB’s (apart from probably South Africa) seemed interested.  It was one of the Australian issues. I think the only thing that will stop ODF from becoming the mandated primary document format for public (writeable) documents is ODF (e.g. if it stagnates rather than aggressively persuing its own development).  After all the controversy, I don’t think the name change would particularly useful in educating people about the differences in format and strengths: there is a fairly high level of awareness now.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick,

        Thanks for this, as I think it’s very helpful for people to understand the "culture" of how the process works.  Although i don’t like how the ISO FAQ released yesterday handled the last question (to paraphase from a Federal Aviation Authority point of view, it was "in the vast majority of cases the wings never fall off the plane, so we don’t think we have to investigate this crash"), I do agree that the process works well enough he vast majority of the times.

        That said, what could be done (and in my view, should be done) in the future, given that this could, and will happen again, although perhaps not so publicly?   I think that the morals from this story at 60,000 feet are primarily two (leaving aside other issues, such as transparency): 

        –  Putting some sort of better vetting procedure at the front end on what is eligible for Fast Tracking (an issue that Andrew has commented on before).  Would this be difficult to come up with and perhaps even arbitrary?  Probably, but many things in life that need to be done are.  In my view, Fast Tracking should be more of a privilege than a right, although currently the rules set it up as a right.

        –  Coming up with what I have referred to as some sort of "circuit breaker" provisions that would permit a mid-process appeal from someone involved (in this case, absent the previous point,  it could have been, "This isn’t appropriate for Fast Tracking"). It would need to be able to be speedily and impartially resolved to avoid abuse.

        Times and circumstances do change, and standards are becoming much more strategic in the ICT industry, making repeat performances of varying degrees of magnitude likely.  Every process needs to evolve, and it seems to me that this event provides notice that the time has ripened for this one.  I for one will be disappointed if careful attention given to what changes might be in order, and I’m certainly not alone in that view.

          –  Andy

      • In addition to issues you raised, I am curious what (if anything) needs to be done with respect to SC34 returning to normal and functioning well. My curiosity is prompted by SC34 having a too few members casting votes in the ballots for standards other than OOXML a few months ago. Is this still a problem? I understand that SC34 would like to set up subcommittees to handle the maintenance of OOXML and ODF, and has already created a couple of ad-hoc subcommittees for the purpose of beginning maintenance of OOXML. Will that be enough to allow SC34 to operate as well as it normally would? Does the issue of cajoling members to become more active in other matters or drop back to observer status still exists? Should something be done to make that problem less likely to occur in the future? Rick Jelliffe suggested splitting SC34 earlier; has he changed his mind? Eric

      • @Eric

        > In addition to issues you raised, I am curious what (if anything) needs to be done with respect to SC34 returning
        > to normal and functioning well. My curiosity is prompted by SC34 having a too few members casting votes in the ballots
        > for standards other than OOXML a few months ago. Is this still a problem?

        No, things started to return to normal last year as I reported in a blog entry at the time.

        > I understand that SC34 would like to set up subcommittees to handle the maintenance of OOXML and ODF, and has already
        > created a couple of ad-hoc subcommittees for the purpose of beginning maintenance of OOXML. Will that be enough to
        > allow SC34 to operate as well as it normally would?

        I hope it will allow SC 34 to function better! It is only one working group (WG 1) which has really been impacted by the ODF and OOXML sagas. The new working groups will, I suspect, be populated by new people. Fortunately the great interest in SC 34 from national bodies makes me confident we will have an excellent pool of fresh NB expertise to draw on. There are also synergies between existing SC 34 work (validation, information presentation, and knowledge management) and these new document formats.

        > Does the issue of cajoling members to become more active in other
        > matters or drop back to observer status still exists?

        Not really – this is something ITTF will monitor and act on if necessary.

        > Should something be done to make that problem less likely to occur in the future? Rick Jelliffe suggested splitting
        > SC34 earlier; has he changed his mind? Eric

        Don’t know about Rick and splitting — making new working groups achieves the same end.

        As to encouraging proper participation from new members in future – yes. Maybe amending the Directives to make a NB’s voting status conditional on them (1) sending a delegation to a plenary and (2) performing a couple of dummy votes. It might also be useful for JTC 1 to issue some guidance on best practice for NBs.

        – Alex.

      • I hope that OASIS does not allow control of ODF by SC34.  I believe they are leaning towards the decision to NOT turn over ODF precisely because SC34 has been tainted and is no longer an unbiased committee.  SC34 has been successfully ‘owned’ by Microsoft and given all of Microsoft’s history, cannot be trusted with the ODF standard.

        It is my belief that if OASIS were actually dumb enough to believe the MS and SC34 and ISO retoric that SC34 can manage ODF in an unbiased manner and without MS influence, that SC34 would be influenced by MS to modify ODF in ways that would first incorporate MS proprietary (and patented) elements (strictly in the name of interoperability you understand and only because the MS customers ask for it), then MS would start demanding unreasonable royalties and license terms that it knows are fundamentally unacceptable to open-source projects.  —  In other words the standard MS Extend-Embrace-Extinguish approach.

        There are so many MS partners on SC34 that such an eventually is unavoidable.  Rick is, of course welcome to try to convince me otherwise….  — and no – I don’t know what kind of proof he would need to use to do so.

      • The splitting suggestion was made quite a while ago as an approach for handling maintenance, and has been overtaken by events.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

  16. Eric and Andrew,

    [For others reading this, this reply is to the two comments posted earlier today that are at the deepest levels of the last thread above this]

    There are some very good observations in both of your comments.  One thing that I would add into the mix that I haven’t mentioned in a while is one of the reasons that I decided, after quite a bit of thinking, to speak out against OOXML adoption by ISO, given that there is certainly precedent for more than one standard being approved there to address the same, or at least an overlapping, concern.  Other reasons included not feeling that endorsing a standard that primarily benefits a single vendor that hasn’t even implemented the standard yet and could have worked with the alternative – ODF (as compared to PDF, where it appeared that there would be real market benefit, and there was no existing standard that Adobe could have adopted).

    The one I’ll focus on here is that the ISO process as just completed, and as described by Alex and Rick, really isn’t a venue that has been created to deal with questions like what a vendor "should" do, but only to deal with what it does to.  And even then, the system is designed to progress the proposed standard, once introduced, to a conclusion based upon the technical merits. One must note also the great degree of vendor influence, which can be used either to push through a standard like OOXML, or could be used to kill the chances of a useful standard as well, for competitive reasons.

    So if this is the only system we have, then what do we do to get not only good technical results, but good societal results?  One is to reform the existing system, to make abuse harder, and try to enlist the interest of the National Bodies in taking societal, and not just technical criteria into account, and the other is to go outside the system.

    That’s where the concept of Civil ICT Rights come in, in my way of looking at things, as a way to separate the purely technical standards, where the vendors can go bash heads as much as they want, and to the extent that other process participants are willing to tolerate it, from those in which non-participants and vendors have a legitimate interest and stake in the outcome.

    From this point forward, I’d be repeating myself, but this is where I think a crucial decision point needs to be dealt with and addressed.  Is ISO interested in this question (and if it isn’t, that’s actually something that can be dealt with – it’s mostly important to know what the existing system can be looked to address and what it can’t) and if not, where do we take the question?

    That’s a hard one, because as the Massachusetts example shows, a lot of intolerable pressure can be put on a State CIO.  And it’s tough to look to a legislature, because they have many other issues to deal with, and few of those involved have the technical competence to adequately address the underlying issues.

    Net result: I think we are at the beginning of a long dialogue.  I think that in the end, the OOXML experience will  be primarily significant less for the outcome, than for exposing the issues and importance of certain standards, and leading on to a next step where (hopefully) solutions will be found for the important issues that have been identified.

      –  Andy

    • Having re-read your original article on civil ICT rights, I’m trying to digest the wider issues. This e-mail presents three unrelated points on the topic.

      On the moral argument, I’ve argued myself into a corner that I’d like to get some input on. I would like to say that people should have the right to control the data they generate – to access or destroy it at any time, and to allow or deny others the same right. Fundamentally, this seems to be a sound first principle, but it does lead to some odd conclusions.

      Firstly, and most easily resolved – like any right, this has to be balanced against the rights of society, and can be suspended in some cases. For example, just as criminals are sometimes stripped of their right to freedom, they’re sometimes stripped of their right to privacy.

      Second, more trickily, this is an argument for perpetual copyright. It follows from the above that if I create a great work of art, I should be able to deny access to people that want to see it in 200 years time, unless they pay a certain amount of money. The obvious alternative is to say that all my data becomes public domain after a certain period, but I don’t particularly want strangers to look at X-rays of my pancreas, even in 200 years.

      I don’t see a clear way of separating personal data into different categories with different rights – what rights should I have over my warts-and-all autobiography? Or my diary? Or the blog that I only tell my friends about?

      Moving on from the moral issue, there is an economic issue around personal information standards. The great complexity of modern ICT standards means that it takes a long time for the market to make a good decision. To take the classic example, people can decide very quickly whether they want better video quality (Betamax) or a wider range of content (VHS), then feed that information back in a matter of a few years. On the other hand, it will take a very many years for people to decide whether they want better backwards compatibility (Office Open XML) or a larger ecosystem (ODF), because the benefits won’t become apparent until people have had time to see the benefits of each. If the market is going to take that long to decide, the standards community should take the extra time to make sure they’re offering high quality standards to choose between.

      Finally, it seems to me that the days of absolute incompatibility between computer programs are drawing to a close. It’s important to draw a distinction between a world in which OpenOffice can never import a .DOC file, and one in which the imported file loses significant fidelity. Neither is a good alternative, but the logic of the two positions are very different.

      – Andrew

      • I suggest you spend more time digesting the differences between privacy rights and copyrights. Both restricts the dissemination of information, but the parallel ends there.

        Privacy concerns the control of the information about you. The author of the information may not be you, but you still have a right to control it. The X-ray of your pancreas might be a good example. You don’t have a copyright over it because you didn’t author it. But you still have privacy rights on this image.

        Copyrights concerns the control of work you did author. If it contains private information about other persons, their privacy rights superpose on your copyrights. As an author you may sell your copyrights to a publication house, but even the document’s author can’t sell the privacy rights of other persons without their consent.

        I am not sure what your interrogations are, but since you ask for input, this the what I offer.

      • I agree 100% with the poster, but would like to add one thought on the differences.

        With copyright works authored *BY* you are protected by an artificial government monopoly granted to you by the government for a limited time in exchange for them entering the public domain to enrich the entire culture.  Nothing in what you produce will or can cause lasting discrimination to anyone (and that includes critical works of current celebrities).

        With privacy rights (such as the x-ray of your pancreas), I would suggest this goes in the same category of Indian burial grounds and should be a perpetual non-disclosure.  Why ?  Because there are some inherited diseases and genetic deficiencies and genetic pre-dispositions that exist in this world.  By requiring that the X-Ray of your pancreas become public domain after any period of time allows future insurance companies or future employers to gain this information once it becomes public domain and to deny your descendants insurance / medical treatment / economic opportunities based solely on the presence of any genetic predispositions.  Alternatively, your descendants may have to pay higher prices or submit to other discriminatory conditions in order to get employment, medical care, or other benefits because the presumption of equality has been destroyed by the loss of privacy to them as a direct result of their genetic makeup having been disclosed by having *your* x-ray put into the public domain.

        Which is a long-winded way of saying that I see the two categories posited by Andrew as completely seperate and as two cases that SHOULD be under different laws and protections.

      • The problem is that there’s a continuum of issues, with easy cases at the extremes.

        If I tell you that my name is Andrew Sayers, that’s personal information that could lead to discrimination against me by a future employer. Does that mean that I can sue you if you pass my name on in conversation?

        Alternatively, if I win the Turner Prize with my new exhibit “Pancreas X-Ray”, which I then sell for a lot of money, do I still have a right to privacy about it? Does entering the exhibit violate the privacy of my unborn great-grandchildren?

        Finally, if I sell my prize-winning X-ray, do the public have the right to refer to me as “pancreas-fixated artist Andrew Sayers”? It would be an extremely private statement synthesised from my public behaviour, not a statement I authored, therefore not subject to copyright.

        The more I think about it, the more I think that these are all issues of balancing the rights of the individual with the rights of society. So if I diffuse information into society (even when it’s personal information), then my right to control the information I created has to be weighed against society’s right to control the information it’s absorbed.

        – Andrew

      • I don’t see this is a continuum of issues.

        You have the fundamental rights that should be defined clearly.

        Then you have circumstances that affect how the rights work out in practice.

        Then there are how one individual’s actions affects his right. Some rights can be waived, some rights are limited by other people rights and some rights can be sold.

        There is complexity there I agree, but that complexity is not a continuum. It is more like multiple layers of thinking. You need to sort out issues at their proper layer, fleshing out details and figuring exceptions as you move from the fundamental rights to the specific circumstances. This process does not negate the existence of the fundamental rights.

        Also the law has many or most of these issues sorted out already. There is no need to reinvent the wheel unless you are unhappy with how current law works out.

      • Now I can agree with you 100%, Andrew.

        Balance is everything.  Copyright is artificial.  Right to privacy is inherit in being an individual.  Right to non-discriminatory treatment is inherit in being an individual – regardless of what corporations may try to say.  Right of a corporation to be treated like a natural human is artificial.  Inherit rights trump artificial rights.

        Balance between needs/desires of society and the integrity of the individual is what it’s all about.

      • Andrew,

        I’m answering here rather than at the end of the thread that’s already started, because I want to point out that that thread, while interesting and worth pursuing, is actually orthogonal to what I am calling Civil ICT Standards.  You are talking about _content_ whereas the the standards that I am talking about are purely technical in nature, and therefore independent of whatever _rules_ you develop relating to rights in content and privacy.   So while Civil ICT Standards will be involved, as I suggested, in areas such as privacy and security, they would be at best informed in their requirements by the legal rules that they would serve.

        One observation on the thread that you are developing:  I don’t see much there that isn’t old wine in new bottles.  Artists already have "moral rights" in their creations that give them limited control over what happens to their content after they sell it.  Copyright is (for better or worse) what content is.  How all this develops is, I think, standards independent, although the rules that people develop may be impacted by what new technologies make possible (e.g., mashups).

        A final note, also from existing law:  once you release something (e.g., by selling it, posting it on the Internet, etc.), your reasonable expectation of privacy is pretty well over, although the economic value of an image (e.g., a photograph or animation) continues to be controlled by copyright, and cannot be reproduced without permission unless the conditions of the copyright owner have been met.

          –  Andy

      • The other thread has gone off at something of a tangent, and I don’t think I did a particularly good job of explaining where I was coming from in my original post. Hopefully I’ll do better this time.

        In trying to digest the Civil ICT standards argument, I came to the opinion that I can accept, for instance, that one has the right to communicate with government using one’s software of choice. But I can’t accept that such a right is axiomatic – it’s too complex and high level a statement. Fundamental human rights are usually timeless things that speak to basic human desires, like the right not to be killed. So if Civil ICT Rights aren’t fundamental rights, how do you justify them?

        I don’t believe Civil ICT Rights are free speech rights, because my right to speak freely doesn’t place any burdens on the listener (e.g. if I can only speak Spanish, you don’t have to learn Spanish for me to have free speech). Reading through The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some could be interpreted as arguing for Civil ICT Rights, but none really speak to the issue strongly. Therefore I believe that Civil ICT Rights are an instance of a fundamental human right that wasn’t important enough to talk about before the information age:

        All people have the right to control the creation, distribution, acces and deletion of information they generate. People have this right both for information they generate through deliberate action and for information generated by others based on observation of them.

        When you suggest a new axiom in your reasoning, the first thing you need to do is to look for ways in which it might be self-contradictory, which is what I was (clumsily) trying to do in the other thread. My brief discussion there leads me to believe that, though this right would have many fascinating implications within and without the realm of ICT, it’s no more unworkable than any other fundamental human right.

        If you accept the above as a fundamental human right, it follows that there must be accepted interchange and storage formats for information, so that rights aren’t arbitrarily limited by technology. Reading through your list of rights, the only ones that don’t follow from the above (which I’ll call the “right to information control”) are the right to equal market access and the right to cheap Internet access.

        When I look at equal market access through the lens of the right to information control, I don’t see how this can be justified as an ICT-specific issue. In fact, I believe that this is something that should be ensured for all international standards, and I’ve yet the hear a good counter to Marbux’s old argument that it already is.

        While the right to cheap Internet access is a laudible goal, and something that I would support, it strikes me as a matter of social policy rather than a matter of information rights. If a government disenfranchises the poor by making it impossible for them to read Wikipedia, that’s wrong because it reduces social mobility, not because it reduces the freedom to control your information.

        I would say that Civil ICT Standards are an attempt to ensure the right to information control, just like health and safety standards are an attempt to ensure the right not to be killed. I’ll leave discussion of how to implement Civil ICT Standards for another post, as I suspect I’ve already generated quite enough controversy for one day πŸ™‚

        – Andrew

      • Andrew,

        I’m not sure exactly how to respond to much of what you’ve offered.  Suffice it to say that the initial issue that I was writing about does not relate to controlling your own information, although that is a relevant avenue to go down once having launched the overall dialogue.  Rather, I was focusing on the narrow, rather mechanistic question of what happens when the exercise of civil rights moves from the real world to the virtual world, and most particularly, are there technical aspects inherent in the new avenue of expression that can be manipulated to limit those freedoms, or which simply through neutral market forces can suffer such a limitation.

        My using the label "Civil ICT Rights" therefore is not intended to indicate new or different rights, but only to highlight the fact that we need to examine whether the old rights are as protected as they used to be.  And next to demonstrate that standards can play a role in avoiding such erosion.  And finally that a different process may be needed to ensure that result.

        As always, thanks for your insights and observations.

          –  Andy

      • Are you asking "Is there such a thing as civil ICT rights?" Your post sounds very much like it.

        I will ask a counter question. Do I have a right to send and receive electronic documents without having to pay a corporation for using the file format? Depending on your answer, a corporation may be allowed to own a monopoly on essential technology for electronic communication and culture. This is the modern equivalent to owning a monopoly on the printing press.

        ICT rights are questions of fundamental rights transposed into twenty-first century technology. When human life moves to new technological realms, the human rights must follow them. Otherwise they may as well disappear. It is very reasonable to ask what form these rights take in the new realm. Unless we have the answer, we won’t recognize them for what they are.

    • Andy,

      I am not sure that I can offer more than a few disjointed thoughts. I have no expertise in this area.

      You looked at things from the point of view of ICT standards first, but suggested that the idea had broader implications. My initial reaction is that I don’t see any particular reason for starting with ICT. To me, if ISO is going to address the social implications of standardization proactively, they should address it across the entire spectrum of standards. I don’t know if any field would be more likely to run into social issues than another – it seems that social issues would tend to pop up rather randomly.

      I think its in the nature of engineers to be interested in the purely technical matters and tend to assume that social matters are  someone else’s problem, will work out themselves, or aren’t really important. If ISO works according to this assumption, it certainly would simplify their work, and often that wouldn’t be a bad assumption. For those cases where the social factors seem to be important, the existing solution seems to be to allow outside agencies with more of a social bent to become involved in the standardization process as needed. ISO has worked with a few UN agencies and JTC1 has 3 UN agencies among their liaison members. (It is interesting that Ecma is a Class A liaison, while the UN agencies are Class B, though.) I do not know how this works in practice. I seems to me that the Fast Track and PAS procedures wouldn’t allow for this sort of participation. I wonder if there is a need for some sort of pre-review of standards intended for fast tracking that might not allow standards to use the fast track if the social implications require special attention.

      I can see how an argument could be made in the case of DIS 29500 that the enfranchisement of the citizens is an internal matter for each nation and so the question of whether or not OOXML disenfranchises citizens too much would be an internal matter as well. Certainly a country that did want to participate in the DIS 29500 ballot process would still want to decide how its citizens should communicate with its government. The people with the best moral argument in the matter would be the nation’s own citizens.

      I realize that organizations such as ISO want to avoid offending those who will make decisions about participating in the standardization process as well as those who will make decisions about adopting the standards that result. Still, it’s frustrating to see neither ISO nor JTC1 even mention some of the social issues with respect to DIS 29500. They could have at least stated that the social issues were not considered by them, but could be a consideration when choosing which standard to adopt. Instead, they only said something about the market choosing. (They also didn’t mention the fact that Microsoft has previously been convicted of not allowing the market to choose, but that’s another subject, I guess.)

      Andy, you have obviously given this matter much more thought than I have. As I said, I have no particular standing in this area. It would be interesting to see what those with experience have to say.

      Eric

      • Andy,

        I’m sorry, but in the process of trying to put down my thoughts, I forgot about one of yours.

        > That’s where the concept of Civil ICT Rights come in, in my way of looking at things, as a way to separate the purely technical standards, where the vendors can go bash heads as much as they want, and to the extent that other process participants are willing to tolerate it, from those in which non-participants and vendors have a legitimate interest and stake in the outcome.

        I don’t think it is a good idea to define what is acceptable behavior for a vendor based on how purely technical a topic appears to be. Think of safety systems, for example. They can seem to be purely technical, but obviously it is important for the decisions to be made for the correct reasons. What people consider to be purely technical really doesn’t mean that there isn’t a social component, it’s really that the social component is obvious. What is technically best is best for everyone.

        I don’t think any engineering society that I have ever been a member of allows for the kind of distinction you are making here in its code of ethics.

        I think the issue is that neither ISO nor JTC1 have defined how the NBs should go about making their decisions. As the "FAQs on ISO/IEC 29500" says: "SO and IEC national members cast their vote on the basis of input from stakeholders in their country. They are fully responsible for the way national votes are formed and relevant national interests consulted." So it’s really up to the NBs how much they will allow themselves to be influenced by a vendor and what, if any, protections they will put in place to prevent undue influence. If ISO was going to change this, the NBs would have to vote to create a policy that would take this freedom away from themselves. I think that would be a tough sell.

        I assume that this was a very atypical situation. I don’t think it is normal for a vendor to be a position to influence the outcome as much as what happened here. Normally, if one vendor acts out of line, other vendors would react and counterbalance the situation. Also most vendors might be very strong in some markets, but usually weak in others. In this case, IBM, Sun and (eventually) Google tried to counterbalance Microsoft, but apparently Microsoft has too much power everywhere for them to stop it.

        I have to admit that it is much easier to criticize what happened than to figure out how to solve it. How do you define how much vendor influence is too much? How do you decide how many business partners with similar opinions are too many? I would say it’s rather like [a word that triggered your SPAM filter] – you know it when you see it – but it’s not easy to see it. Obviously the vendor and whoever is influenced by them don’t really want to talk about it.

        Eric

    • So if this is the only system we have, then what do we do to get not only good technical results, but good societal results?  One is to reform the existing system, to make abuse harder, and try to enlist the interest of the National Bodies in taking societal, and not just technical criteria into account, and the other is to go outside the system.

      The present system, governed as it is by National Bodies, does take societal benefit into account.  In fact, one of the primary objections in the last few months is that it gives (as the critics would have it) too much weight to societal benefit.  That is, after all, how the vote in Norway came about: the technical committee was overridden by Government considerations of other issues.  Pretty much the same thing happened last year in the USA, where the decision was made at the Cabinet level, and this year in Malaysia where the Cabinet officer voted against the recommendation of the technical committee.

      Rumors of similar processes (up to, in some cases, Heads of State) are not confirmed but would still fit your description: societal good, as determined through the elected representatives of the people, being given status at least on a par with technical considerations.

      If what you want is democratic consideration of societal benefit, the present system seems to do so better than any proposed alternatives.

    • The difficulty I see with the way that your ICT Rights concept is being discussed (apart from the idea of "rights" in the first place, which are not really part of my country’s legal system: in Australia have duties rather than rights, and no Bill of Rights or constitutional rights in the sense that an American would probably think of) is this.

      It seems to conflate information (and what can be expressed by any human or literary form) with applications (what can be expressed by an application family.)  Most people have some kind of awareness that it is practical to think of some kind of hierarchy of textual richness: from ideas that can be expressed in plain text, to ideas that need headings and paragraphs and italics, to ideas that need tables, drawings and so on.  The Japanese need ruby annotations. 

      In fact, the SGML/XML experiment is largely about the idea that while it is possible to abstract away individual presentation details from human communication (and mark up in terms of topic, rhetorical structure, etc rather than particular format) when you do this you do not converge on a single representation.

      So this gives three big problems for any kind of guaranteed interoperability:

       1) The agreement on the significance of the features of the document.
       2) The agreement on presentation features, and their availability and fallback and alternatives
       3) The agreement on the schema (the theory of the document), and their availability and fallback and alternatives

      Put bluntly, the only way to guarantee that every document is universally interoperable is for people to limit themselves to the lowest level of expression, as followed by all. HTML 4 + CSS2 perhaps. What about animations (e.g. Flash)? Where is there a standard for that? Do we exempt animations from ICT Rights, or do we encourage exploration and extensions of standard formats?  But the idea that it is a matter of rights for people to restrict themselves to low-richness formats is as odd as saying that people should not be allowed to write in Latin language because it is dead, or that Taiwanese cannot make up new characters because Unicode Consortium cannot keep up. 

      The technology world is continually churning and what makes it tick is support for plurality: allowing experimentation, graceful degradation and multiple representations, standard and non-standard.  I can see it being an argument for preferring and requiring ODF, but I cannot see how it is an argument against IS29500 being a standard.

      Cheers
      Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick,

        Let me start with the concept of heirarchies, but from a different perspective than the one that you use.  In this case, what I’m really talking about is priorities, which are helpful in deciding what are acceptable levels of compromise.  Standards have always involved finding the right balance between locking things in in the pursuit of interoperability (and thereby precluding innovation) and allowing vendors to do whatever they want (with less plug and play, and more fiddling, as the cost).

        In the case of safety standards, we may sacrifice a lot of innovation, while if we wanted to set a standard for, say, widgets for FaceBook, we would want to be as minimally restrictive as possible, since a big part of what they’re all about is innovation.  Where that takes me is that if a citizen couldn’t include animations when interacting with government, so what?  The sacrifice is almost at the theoretical level, and there could still be an exception-handling mechanism. 

        Now let’s contrast that with the gain.  I’m looking right now at an add for an entry level Dell desktop computer (p. A15, New York Times, 4-24-08) for $399, after rebate, and including a 19" flat panel display.  At the bottom of the add:  "Dell recommends Office Small Business Edition 2007 – add $279."    OK, so now let’s imagine a single mother with a low salary and three kids buying a first computer.  Would she be happier with a free download of OpenOffice, or the Office (even at cheaper price)?  The Becta report is particularly interesting in this regard, as it speaks about kids being able to "round trip" homework to school.

        Case two:  Internet enabled devices.  If you can only afford one wireless device, it’s going to be increasingly likely that it will be some kind of mobile device, and if you are poor, that’s going to be device that you’re going to rely on for everything.  It’s increasingly likely that that device will run on Linux.  Today, you could load KDE on it, for free.  Again, that person should be able to interact with government without having to spend much more.

        The fact is that everyday communications with government for 99.9% of citizens require only basic office suite features that never have, and almost certainly never will, require functionality above the level of a standard like ODF.  And it would be more than an acceptable compromise, in my view, to leave that extra functionality on the table to allow more people to be able to interact with government, as government preferentially switches as much as possible from face to face to on line.

        So bottom line: at the government level, I think that the restrictions of an ODF-level standard are trivial in comparison to the benefits.  And, of course, the ODF standard will continue to grow.

        So turning to your closing point:

        >I can see it being an argument for preferring and requiring ODF, but I cannot see how it is an argument against IS29500 being a standard.

        That’s a fair observation in a vacuum, but once you jump back into the real world, it becomes problematic.  Early on, Microsoft could have joined the ODF working group and helped shape a result that would have worked not only for itself, but for the end user as well.  It chose not to do, which it had every right to do.  When Massachusetts went for ODF, it did everything in it’s power to get that decision reversed – I know, as I’ve talked to those involved at the State level, and have seen much of the evidence first hand.  Since then, it continues to do everything it can to kill open document bills in state legislatures (of course, Microsoft’s vendor opponents are behind those bills, acting in their own self interest and not for the public’s benefit).

        The point is, vendors will do what vendors will do, and what they will do is what’s best for them.  I could go on at great length (as could you), but suffice it to say that in my judgment, according ISO/IEC JTC1 adopted status for a specification, submitted in poor shape, will help maintain a single-vendor ecosystem, with less choice, less innovation, and far fewer governments taking the time and effort to make the changes needed to accept documents generated by any other vendor’s products other than Microsoft’s and Adobe’s.  In my view, that’s an unfortunate result.

        Since ISO/IEC JTC1 isn’t structured to take that type of consequence into account, that then suggests several questions:

        1.  Is it interested in becoming involved in this type of question?

        2.  If not, should another organization be formed to rate and rank standards from such a perspective?

        I’d be happy to see the former as a result.  But if that doesn’t happen, then I hope I see the latter.

          –  Andy

      • All exclusive standards (except for health, safety and intrinsic standards) run the risk (and perhaps likelyhood) of being cartelized. Whether the cartel includes or excludes the market dominator is irrelevant. This is particularly true of what Goldfarb (or was it Jim Mason) called "application" standards (eg Office ones) rather than "enabling" standards (e.g. XML).  And standards processes which allow market vendors as members are particularly prone to this: industry consortia.

        There are only two approaches that provide some escape: not allowing vendors to vote directly, and prudently allowing overlapping standards. ISO does both these things. Industry consortia typically do neither, but the thing that lets them off the hook for being merely tools of cartels is that vendors can shop around.

        As to MS joining in ODF, I think you have been overtaken by events.  MS and ODF are now in the same committee: SC34. As a participant in SC34, MS is participating in ODF and the OASIS liaisons are participating in OOXML.  The amount of venom makes it impossible for OASIS or Ecma to be adequate forums for any voluntary convergence (and there is no scope for anything else on the radar, is there? ): voluntary in the sense of making a virtue out of necessity. And member-based voting is inadequate for this situation. (Which is not to say that member voting is sometimes not OK, nor that ISO procedures are necessarily enough to cope with getting the commercial vendors to act well.)

        If the OASIS ODF people are serious about wanting convergence, and being willing to give up power, they should consider completely handing the ODF spec over to SC34. Get OASIS and Ecma both out of the picture…

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Rick,

        The question, of course, is how well SC 34 will be able to manage the process.  Absent some real reform, I think there will be many that will have a healthy degree of distrust, or at least concern over how well the process would work.  As you know, there are plenty of ways to not only influence votes in National Bodies, but within a single committee to block, tackle, delay and subvert.  One has to wonder, given the history to date.

          –  Andy

      • >If the OASIS ODF people are serious about wanting convergence, and being willing to give up power, they should consider completely handing the ODF spec over to SC34. Get OASIS and Ecma both out of the picture…

        Why should OASIS feel that SC34 is better positioned to enable convergence?
        *because the ISO process totally failed to adress the concerns about the OOXML format raised by people working with ODF?
        *because Microsoft has not commited themselves to actually implement IS29500 and future versions of it?
        *because Microsoft has declined to remove "application defined" spots in the draft like the macro button?
        *because Microsoft refuse to provide a mapping between legacy formats and modern formats?
        *because Microsoft has not made the OSP compatible with the GPL?

        Sorry, but I am at loss to come up with any reasonable argument why SC34 should be trusted. You really need to do some explanation about why OASIS is the guilty part when Microsoft and Ecma has gamed the system. There are plenty of venom around, but it is all caused by the behaviour of Microsoft so who is it that should change their behavior?

        One common concern about OOXML becoming ISO standard are that the Microsoft marketing machince will use the approval to slow adoption of ODF. Given such valid concern it is pretty crazy that a person that claim to not being biased towards Microsoft suggest that ODF development should be moved from OASIS to ISO. Of course…in case you really are biased towards Microsoft it is pretty easy to understand why you would like to freeze development of ODF until that ISO has figured out how OOXML can be patched so that merger is possible.

      • Microsoft has flooded (stuffed?) the SC34 committee with its business partners.  SC34 was paralyzed due to this influx of new members that were only interested in promoting OOXML.

        Microsoft (through its ‘business partners’) now ‘owns’ SC34.  ISO is doing nothing about this situation, so cannot be relied upon to resolve this situation.  In fact, indications are that ISO is also now ‘owned’ by Microsoft if their recent FAQ publications can be relied upon to determine the ISO mindset.

        It would be extremely foolish of OASIS to turn over management of ODF to SC34 unless the goal is destruction of the ODF format.

      • Companies or individuals do not vote at SC34.  National bodies do. 

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • So what’s your point.

        Microsoft "owns" SC34.  This means that Microsoft controls the working committee that prepares the documents for vote.  Given the extent to which MS was willing to go to get MSOOXML approved, I don’t see how they would be willing to do any less if means modifying the ODF standard in ways that are fundamentally incompatible with open source software or in ways that put their IP into ODF allowing them to exclude open-source through their licensing restrictions.

        All they need then is to quietly push these changes through when the community at large is not watching and they will have destroyed ODF – and all their major competition to the desktop monopoly.

        Again – what’s your point ?  I stand by my position that SC34 management of ODF would be a disaster and I want no part of SC34’s meddling with the ODF specifications until such time as it is no longer owned by Microsoft or until ISO has grown a backbone and de-standardized MSOOXML.

      • It is quite an elaborate conspiracy theory, but quite nutty I am afraid.  And completely ignorant of the personalities or NB dynamics in play.

        If MS "owned" the national bodies, at the first ballot for DIS29500 mark I the NBs would have all voted according to MS’ preferred position: which was a "Yes with comments" vote.  However, that did not happen. It was only after a substantial number of issues were responded to that enough NBs were satisfied the bar had been reached. That ODF’s PAS had lowered the bar in the minds of many of us, and that both of the fast-track procedures (PAS and Fast-Track) mean that drafts need a lot of attention late in the game, is not something that anyone thinks is optimal.

        What *will* weaken SC34 is if ODF proponents and OOXML proponents (and HTML, SGML and other proponents)  have a fit of pique and move out. In particular, if ODF proponents pull out, it will show how hollow their commitment to openness is: that they only want to participate in a forum that gives exactly the result they wanted.   (Ditto OOXML proponents.)

        The ODF 1.2 editors need help. For example, the ODF versions of "SVG" have incompatibilities with W3C SVG, such as allowing some extra attributes. ODF proponents could usefully be spending their time alerting and lobbying the W3C SVG WG to get these extras added to W3C SVG, or even a profile (like SVG Basic) made with just the things needed to support ODF.  There is a lot of technical work that can be done.  RELAX NG versions of all the component schemas need to be made.  And programmers can join the KOffice or Open Office efforts.  Get the MathML support up to the correct version, and so on.  All this kicking against the pricks does nothing but impede ODF, which will only "win" ultimately by being better and better implemented.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • Please don’t put words in my mouth.

        The last-minute flood of Microsoft partners joining SC34 was not lost on the community.

        The fact that the NBs don’t participate in the day-to-day work of SC34 is quite obvious to anyone that’s been watching what’s going on.

        The potential for MS to subvert or pollute the ODF standard in SC34 through their influence with their ‘Partners’ is too great to ignore.

        This is not conspiracy theory.  This is Microsoft saying ‘trust me’ once again with a carrot in one hand and a knife in the other.

        Surely you’re not trying to convince anyone that DIS29500 is actually better implemented than ODF ?  There are several working implementations of ODF and *NO* working implementations of DIS29500.

        Surely you’re not trying to say that DIS29500 is ‘better’ than ODF ?  ODF passed the BRM unanimously and did not need political arm-twisting to get ‘yes with comments’ votes that were ultimately unanimously ‘yes’ votes.  DIS29500 had (and still has) *MANY* ‘no’ votes indicating a feeling on the part of many NBs (as well as many in the IT field and most technical people that have reviewed it) that it is still not up to the standard required of an ISO standard.

        DIS29500 also has several investigations on-going into corruption of the NB committee & decision makers because of inexplicable decisions to vote ‘yes’ when the clear NB technical consensus was ‘no’.  This simply did not happen with ODF.

        DIS29500 is calling into question the continued relevancy of ISO for IT technical standards and ISO’s ability to function as a non-political standards body and ISO is coming up wanting.  This also never happened with ODF.

        Please enlighten me – in what ways is DIS29500 better than ODF ?  Number of outstanding deficiencies ?  Number of compliant implementations ?  Quality of conformance clauses ?  Likelihood that any and all ‘compliant’ implementations will interoperate ?  Inability of a single vendor to ‘hijack’ the specification through abuse of the ‘legacy compliance clauses’ ?  Obviously I’m not drinking the same kool-aid that you are…

      • You imply all sorts of motives and actions that are not there. I am not trying to convince anyone of anything to do with implementations.

        And I have always recommended ODF for public documents ahead of OOXML. Repeatedly. Constantly. Tediously. On the record.  In public speeches. To clients. On my blog.

        We all agree, I think, that MS should be using a standard(ized) format for its data interchange.  We disagree on whether ODF 1.0 was usable for that (I don’t think it was), whether MS proprietary extensions would be acceptable for filling in the gap with features (I don’t think it is), what the best way to get ODF 1.3 (or 2.0 I guess) to have the missing features supported (I think by having MS at the table and their technology stabilized, documented, clearer IP, and the other benefits of standardization), and what the best forum for getting there is (I think through SC34 and not member-based consortia, at least as significant inputs and vetters).

        Overlay that on other issues: the gullibility of people for marketing by large corporations wearing open source clothing, and the credibility of people to accept even the most ludicrously bogus issues as real errors (and to vilify anyone who dares to double check any of the problems and find them lacking) and you get our situation. ISO is not an anti-trust court, and cannot act differently to technologies that come from MS through ECMA than from ones that come from Sun through OASIS.

        Cheers
        Rick

      • >We all agree, I think, that MS should be using a standard(ized) format for its data interchange.

        Yes – I can agree with that statement.  Instead of forcing their own incomplete and (as events have shown) inadequate/unready standard through the inadequate mechanism of Fast-Track, MS should have either standardized-on/joined ODF (which was already published when they started their OOXML push) or taken their OOXML spec through the (more proper) normal-track.

        >We disagree on whether ODF 1.0 was usable for that (I don’t think it was),

        No – We disagree on whether ISO should have ever accepted a 6000 page spec through the Fast-Track path.  We disagree on whether OOXML was of sufficient quality (‘broadly accepted in the marketplace by multiple vendors’) to qualify for Fast-Track handling.  We disagree on whether MS applied undue or illegal (or even unethical) influence in an effort to get its spec approved once it became clear that the spec was not up to even a level to be submitted to ISO – let alone approved by ISO.  We disagree about whether it is an appropriate ISO policy to accept an obviously unready and inadequate  standard on the sole hope (not expectation – hope) that acceptance of a standard that no one has implemented would cause a repeatedly convicted monopolist to give up their monopolistic ways by opening their file formats to competing products.

        >whether MS proprietary extensions would be acceptable for filling in the gap with features (I don’t think it is),

        Had Microsoft joined ODF, they would have had a place at the table where ODF was being defined/discussed.  They chose not to work with ODF, apparently expecting that they could bully their way through ISO by abusing ECMA’s Fast-Track privileges with ISO.

        >what the best way to get ODF 1.3 (or 2.0 I guess) to have the missing features supported

        Hint – I doubt that filling SC34 with Microsoft Business partners will speed this process up.  The best way to do this would have been in a non-confrontational, reasonable approach that respects the ethics and procedures already in place within OASIS and ISO.  By taking the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach, Microsoft has simply created division, termoil, and distrust both within ISO and toward ISO.  It is the newly-minted Microsoft dominance of SC34 through their business partners that has me hoping that OASIS *never* turns ODF over to SC34.  The open source community in company with anyone else that wants to has the ISO-approved ODf 1.0 standardization already.  1.1 is published by OASIS and for interoperability purposes that is sufficient.  1.2 is in work and because all versions are open available through OASIS I, personally do not hesitate to utilize ODF over MSOOXML and I really don’t care if ODF 1.2 is *ever* approved by ISO as ISO is not largely irrelevant to ODF interoperability issues.

        >(I think by having MS at the table and their technology stabilized, documented, clearer IP, and the other benefits of standardization),

        When this happens – when Microsoft has committed irrevocably to following the ISO-managed standards, when their document formats and protocols are documented and verified, when they license their IP under terms that the GPL and other open-source licenses can use it without royalties or sublicenses or restrictions on commercial use, and whenever the Microsoft technology stabilizes, come back and we’ll talk again.  I’ve been waiting 20 years for their OS technology to stabilize.  Please don’t be insulted if I move on with Linux and ODF while waiting for Microsoft to get their act together.

        >and what the best forum for getting there is (I think through SC34 and not member-based consortia, at least as significant inputs and vetters).

        I disagree because of the dominance within SC34 of companies that are totally dependent on MS products and can be expected to vote against anything that benefits any MS competitor and for any MS technology whether or not that technology can actually be utilized by anyone except Microsoft.  The OASIS ODF TC has not been flooded by MS partners and it appears that the OASIS ODF TC has safeguards in place to prevent such a situation from happening (unlike ISO and SC34).

        >Overlay that on other issues: the gullibility of people for marketing by large corporations wearing open source clothing,

        Don’t forget the gullibility of Technical Analysts and Standards Consultants…

        >and the credibility of people to accept even the most ludicrously bogus issues as real errors (and to vilify anyone who dares to double check any of the problems and find them lacking)

        I can’t help but think of Alex Brown’s current debate position that the ODF specification is broken and that there are therefore no valid ODF documents in existence today – is that what you were referring to ?

        >and you get our situation.

        Sounds pretty untenable to me.  Why did you take that position ?

        >ISO is not an anti-trust court, and cannot act differently to technologies that come from MS through ECMA than from ones that come from Sun through OASIS.

        No one’s asking them to be an anti-trust court or to show favoritism.  Just the opposite.  It is expected that ISO will consistently enforce its own already-adopted rules.  Or just enforce its own rules (consistency not withstanding).  Lack of doing so by bending/breaking those rules in order to allow the MSOOXML spec to pass each hurdle that should have resulted in rejection of the spec is hardly treating each specification fairly.  The Fast-Track rules were re-written by ECMA just before the MS spec was submitted to Fast Track.  This rule re-write removed the options and mandatory rejections for specifications that had unresolved contradictions and that could not be reviewed in a timely fashion.  — Just in time again for MSOOXML.

        When these actions are overlayed onto the excessive (and unethical) conduct on the part of MS to influence NB votes and to mislead the NBs and when these actions are also overlayed onto the MS/ECMA position that was described by BRM participants that no change would be accepted if it would cause MSO2007 to become non-conformant, you see a completely different situaion – one where it appears that MS successfully applied their influence within ISO to abuse and corrupt the ECMA process, the ECMA access to ISO, the ISO process, SC34 and the DIS29500 BRM.

        ISO’s continued attempts to justify their behavior and the attempts of Microsoft and their supporters to justify this ISO behavior are not healing this rift.

        There is currently a HUGE body of evidence (circumstantial as well as some actual hard evidence)  in support of the ‘MS Conspiracy’ theory.  Against that body of evidence is arrayed the professional reputations of 4 individuals: 1 that has been previously employed by Microsoft, 1 that resigned from ECMA for a lucrative consulting contract with the ComTIA lobbying group (known for its strong support of and backing from Microsoft), 1 that currently works for a Microsoft Gold Business partner and is currently attacking ODF for reasons that are unclear unless considered as diversionary efforts to distract attention from the general DIS29500 unsuitability for ISO approval, and 1 that had a ‘sudden’ change of perspective after a trip to Redmond.  Though it is true that those 4 individuals are both strongly supported and quoted directly by the Microsoft bloggers (Jason Matusow and Doug MaHugh), is this truly coincidence ?  Or something more insidious ?

      • There is a huge body of evidence?  The trouble is, there isn’t.

        What I see is that every time some official or body does anything that stymies the anti-OOXML agenda, it is used as evidence of a conspiracy and corruption, with no actual evidence (no money passing hands, etc).  The possibility that they may be just doing their job in good faith (even if one doesn’t agree that they did it well), or even that they acted correctly, never is raised as a serious possibility.  Inventing a crime called "stacking" (where in fact the standards process is designed to help people get the standards they need, and to prevent their competitors from stymieing them) then ignoring when your own side does looks just hypocritical: I have in my blog gone over the numbers of when NBs joined to show that there were two waves of stacking: a three month period when some generally anti-OOXML NBs joined followed by a three month period where some generally pro-OOXML NBs joined. And the fuss about chairs in Portugal that turned out to be a mistranslation but was still bandied about months later.  

        Or the current court case in the UK, where you see a group who could have participated but didn’t getting upset that their preferred position did not obtain. Pathetic.  Threats of legal action were made before the re-ballot, as part of a scurillous intimidation campaign, and the UK case is the rump of that. But this kind of intimidation won’t work: experts who may become more discrete in their public statements because of the bullying and libels just become more determined in their hearts to do the right thing regardless.

        Alex Brown is right: it is just a matter of logic that if the schema has a formal flaw, no document can be formally valid. Big deal, why should anyone think this makes him anti-ODF in *any* way? Why are you so touchy? The formal status of a schema is not a "position" someone takes, but a matter of fact. You find a problem and you fix it: that is the way standards work. That some ODF people cannot accept any statements they consider negative, even from deep experts raising a tricky issue and offering a solution, shows a level of immaturity and party spirit that is antagonistic to making good standards.   Even saying that "negative" comments should be sent directly to the OASIS committee and not mentioned in public reveals a deep antagonism to real openness: openness is what you criticize others for not doing, not what you practice yourself I guess.  If Dr Brown’s comments were intended as a test of what the ODF community really thinks about openness and participation by outside experts then some of them would have failed.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • I’d say Alex is wrong and Rob is right.

        Contradictions *enlarge* the set of valid documents.

        Simple: in a proof, you use *some* axioms, not all of them.
        No new maths would be possible if all proofs had to be consistent with all axioms.

        Of course, some documents may be both valid and invalid. Tough. That’s just the way the logic works out.

        Or are you saying that the ODF standard says that *all* requirements apply? Surely not—what do spreadsheets
        have to with greeting cards? Surely there can be simple schemas based on only part of the standard?

        If so, you should not try to defend Alex, and he should admit being wrong, and so should you.

        Henri

      • It has been said that "There is none so blind as he who will not see".  The evidence is there for those that choose to see it or for those that approach the evidence with an open mind.

        It has also been said that "There is a sucker born every minute" – in reference to the ability of flim-flam artists to successfully profit from the good will and general lack of suspicion of the common layperson.  This is clearly the ‘credo’ of the con artist – when one scam fails, simply move to a different area and a new scam and continue to trick well-meaning people into paying for worthless goods or services.

        Finally the phrase "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" applies to the open-source and general IT professional’s decisions on whether to trust Microsoft (or Microsoft partners) or not.  Remember the MS Plays-For-Sure DRM scheme that was the basis of the (now defunct) Microsoft music store ?  What is the equitable solution for those that were suckered into buying from Microsoft ?  What is the disposition of all those Microsoft competitors that actually were successful in producing 3rd- party enhancements to Microsoft Windows ?  (Stac ? Makers of disk encryption software such as ‘bitlocker’ ?)

        You claim to see people that base decisions on less than court-room facts, while you dismiss the evidence in front of you due to your "extensive experience in standards development" and your deep knowledge of the arcane "language of standards" that no mere human can ever *hope* to understand.  In this you-vs-the-world conspiracy battle, perhaps it is not the world that is deluded after all.

        By all means, keep defending Alex Brown.  His wild and unsubstantiated claims are losing this battle of public opinion for him, for you and for Microsoft.  I’m sure it’s not escaped your standards-work-sharped attention-to-detail that in the debate between Alex and Rob Weir, it is Rob that first quoted the standards and continues quoting the standards.  It is Rob that is demonstrating code, it is Rob that seems to be highlighting the rather obvious flaws in Alex’s procedures and techniques.  Rob even pointed out that the portion of the ODF spec that jing is complaining about is an *EXTENSION* to Relax NG.  Surely you know what the term ‘extension’ means ?  To those that speak English as well as many of those that speak the newly-identified language known as ‘Standards’, an ‘extension’ (for this purpose) is that part of of an application that implements functionality beyond the specification.  For further study, I refer you to the Microsoft process known as ‘EEE’ which stands for ‘Embrace’, ‘**EXTEND**’, ‘Extinguish’.  Those extra bits that MS adds to public standards are known as ‘Extensions’ to the protocol – their purpose is to make products that follow the standards *NOT* work with Microsoft products, allowing Microsoft’s Monopoly market position to exclude and eventually to extinguish products that compete with (and are often better than) Microsoft’s products, especially when Microsoft refuses to properly document them or when Microsoft keeps the information necessary to interact with the protocols secret or prevents competitors from producing competition through legal mechanisms and the court system.

        As has been established, SC34 is now dominated by Microsoft business partners.  Microsoft will be presenting future versions of OOXML to that committee for rubber-stamp approval.  That committee also wants approval authority over ODF.  Alex is already complaining that the ODF schema does not comply with all the extentions supported by the jing validator, and therefore OOXML need not comply with any portion of the DIS29500 standard that Microsoft finds inconvenient.  The more he espouses this position, the more foolish he makes himself appear and the more damage he does to the reputation of SC34 and ISO in general.

        If Alex wishes to continue this self-destructive behavior, the IT industry will be better for the loss of one more Pro-Microsoft mis-information source.

        I recommend (for your sake) that you not continue to defend him lest his reputation rub off on you.

        The people that read this blog are neither stupid nor disinterested in the effect of standards on IT and on their day-to-day lives.  Some are even willing to speak up when bad standards are forced on the industry.

      • For Dr Brown’s "wild and unsubstantiated claims" I hope it is not unbearably embarrassing for you do discover that the inventor of RELAX NB, Dr Murata Makoto, agrees with Dr Brown.  If you think anyone in the world knows more about what the current state of RELAX NG than Dr Murata, the editor of the standard at OASIS and ISO, then you need to keep your eyes peeled for colonic polyps while your head is there.

        You can see this on the SC34 WG1 mail list, at http://www.dsdl.org.&nbsp; (Note that for the last six years, this has been a list with public archives, contra the impression you might get from the liers.)

        SC34 needs fresh blood. We have too many people who have been toiling in this field for ten, fifteen, twenty years, and most active participants have been full-time researchers or fulltime industrial workers in the specific area of validation. And we still still get it wrong, sometimes. But the fresh blood we need is not the blood of idiots, tribalists, conspiracy-theoriests, point-scorers, blow-ins, armchair theorists, sectarians or people without enough discipline to subjugate their personal preferences to help the group effort.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >For Dr Brown’s "wild and unsubstantiated claims" I hope it is not unbearably embarrassing for you do discover that the inventor of RELAX NB, Dr Murata Makoto, agrees with Dr Brown.

        Then Dr. Murata needs to go back to school (logic 101) and figure out what’s wrong with using an old standard to try to ‘validate’ a document written to standards two revisions later (and that specifies a schema two revisions later than that being used).  Hint: check out ‘Logic 101’)

        Pretty much any high school graduate that has a basic familiarity with software and/or protocols can tell you that attempting to utilize protocol specification version 1.0  with a system that claims to be using protocol version 1.2 will result in compatability errors and false claims of ‘protocol incompatability’.  .. And Dr Murata agrees that Alex was right ?

        Likewise, most high school students can tell you that applying a standard to a document written by a program that is generally acknowledged to *not* follow that standard is a pretty silly idea – like trying to apply DIS29500 to the output of MSOffice2007.  Since MSOffice2007 predates DIS29500 by a significant period of time, (and since we know that ISO is *not* dominated by Microsoft and that the BRM resulted in many improvements to the spec, it is not reasonable to claim that MSOffice2007 complies with DIS20500 Post-BRM.  Of course we don’t really know this because the ISO refuses to produce the post-BRM document as required by their own rules.  Dr. Murata agrees with Alex’ test of MSOffice2007 output as validated against – what ?  There can be no validater for DIS29500 yet (or even IS29500 should the IT industry acknowledge that such a document does or will exist) since the spec is not yet public.  It is a waste of effort to attempt to validate MSOffice2007 output against ECMA if you attempt to hold ODF to ISO 1.0.  The proper way to do this is either to validate against the appropriate version of the Consortia spec or the current ISO spec.   …Oh wait – MSOffice output *has* no ISO spec and therefore fails to produce any compliant documents.

        >If you think anyone in the world knows more about what the current state of RELAX NG than Dr Murata, the editor of the standard at OASIS and ISO, then you need to keep your eyes peeled for colonic polyps while your head is there.

        Insults do not help your argument – much as you may feel a need to attack the messenger when you run out of valid arguments.

        Dr Murata may or may not be an expert on Relax NG.  I do not know the man and have not worked with him so he holds no credibility with me (and most likely most of the rest of the world).  Being the editor of Relax NG tells me nothing other than he was asked to edit the spec at some point in the past.  I note that Patrick D. is the advertised editor of ODF, but I now see him apparently trying to use that influence to push Microsoft’s agenda (OOXML instead of ODF) which tells me he’s either not overly familiar with the ODF spec or that he is now biased against his own product in favor of Microsoft’s pet specification.  I also note that ODF has several interoperable implementations as of this writing while DIS29500 has none.  ECMA 376 also has no implemetations while OASIS version 1.0-1.2 have several interoperable implementations – implementations that even interoperate between versions 1.0 and 1.2.

        >You can see this on the SC34 WG1 mail list, at http://www.dsdl.org.  (Note that for the last six years, this has been a list with public archives, contra the impression you might get from the liers.)

        Which liars are you talking about ?  Microsoft bloggers ?  SC34 WG1 committee members ?

        So the list is public – I don’t propose to read the last 6 years worth of correspondence looking for your point that may or may not be buried in one of the postings on that list.  If I really thought that SC34 WG1 was worth my time, I would have to question whether the list is ‘public’ in the sense that it is used to announce the results of closed-door proceedings (as I suspect) or whether it is also used for public discussion of issues prior to votes being taken.

        >SC34 needs fresh blood. We have too many people who have been toiling in this field for ten, fifteen, twenty years, and most active participants have been full-time researchers or fulltime industrial workers in the specific area of validation. And we still still get it wrong, sometimes. But the fresh blood we need is not the blood of idiots, tribalists, conspiracy-theoriests, point-scorers, blow-ins, armchair theorists, sectarians or people without enough discipline to subjugate their personal preferences to help the group effort.

        Agreed.  All new members that derive a significant amount of business revenue from sales of MS Office or ODF software (or that receive any monetary discounts on other software for exclusively selling/supporting either MSOffice or ODF) should be removed from the SC34 committee and barred from rejoining or participating unless they commit to recusing themselves from any vote where the outcome could (not ‘would’) have a monetary business impact on their bottom line.  Once that is done, insure that all new members have no current financial or contractual obligations that would result in a conflict of interest concerning the standards they wish to work on.  SC34 does not need the MS point-scorers whether they are also idiots or not.  It also does not need the conspiracy-theorists from MS that claim that all anti-MSOOXML resistance is being orchestrated by IBM and that cannot believe that the so-called anti-MSOOXML resistance is actually true, spontaneous objection from the general IT industry.

        Sometimes it’s necessary to compromise and give up ‘scored points’ for the good of the overall group.  In this case, it appears that retraction of MS-OOXML may be the cost of keeping ISO SC34 (or even ISO) together and relevant.  When will ISO / SC34 become a ‘group player’ ?

        Basically, the old-timers (the experts) should be allowed to continue their work unimpeded by the commercial allegiances of the new membership that blockvotes to override reasoned decisions whenever MS’ interests are at stake.

        If SC34 WG1 cannot deal with specifications on a purely merit-based, non-commercial, non-political basis, then SC34 WG1 should be dissolved or declared irrelevant.  At this point, I believe they are currently border-line irrelevant already as they currently serve no constructive purpose concerning OOXML and ODF and are acting as a divisive force in the industry instead of as a neutral or inclusive unbiased party producing top-quality standards.

        Your opinion will no-doubt differ.

      • > using an old standard to try to ‘validate’ a document written to standards
        > two revisions later (and that specifies a schema two revisions later than
        > that being used).

        Actually it’s one revision later, not two (1.1 vs 1.0 — which is what I tested).

        If you bother to read my blog entry you’ll see this is openly stated: "while MS Office has not caught up with the ISO standard, OpenOffice has rather bypassed it (it aims at its consortium standard, just as MS Office does)".

        The test does not care about ODF 1.1 (just as for MS Office it did not care about Ecma 376). The whole point is to get an idea roughly how far off International standards these tools’ documents were.

        As a matter of interest (and as even Rob Weir confirmed), OpenOffice 2.4 doesn’t emit valid ODF 1.1 either. (In fact nothing can anyway, since the ODF 1.1 schema has the same defect as I noted in the ODF 1.0 schema.)

        > Dr. Murata agrees with Alex’ test of MSOffice2007 output as validated against – what ?

        If you bother to read my blog you’ll see I was validating using draft schemas prepared by Murata-san (the DIS 29500 BRM instructed the Japanese NB to supply these schemas for inclusion in ISO/IEC 29500). The whole point is that the schemas used *do* represent the final ISO/IEC 29500 decisions.

        > I do not know the man and have not worked with him so he holds
        > no credibility with me

        What a ridiculously narrow notion of trust if you have to "work with somebody" before they can be credible. Shame about all those dead people you cannot find credible.

        [verbiage snipped]

        > I don’t propose to read the last 6 years worth of correspondence looking for your point
        > that may or may not be buried in one of the postings on that list.  If I really thought that
        > SC34 WG1 was worth my time, I would have to question whether the list is ‘public’ in the
        > sense that it is used to announce the results of closed-door proceedings (as I suspect)

        If you bother to look at the archive, you can see this suspicious is false.

        [more verbiage snipped]

        > Basically, the old-timers (the experts) should be allowed to continue their work unimpeded
        > by the commercial allegiances of the new membership that blockvotes to override reasoned
        > decisions whenever MS’ interests are at stake.

        Good: I’ll take that as a vote of confidence in Patrick Durusau, Rick Jelliffe, Murata Makoto and myself then (to name four SC 34 "old timers"). Though at ~ 5 years in WG 1 maybe I’m not quite so "old" a timer as my respected colleagues.

        However, Rick is right – we do need new blood. Fortunately SC 34 is attracting a lot of international interest, and there are some very talented new young people among our number. Our meeting calendar is full until 2011 – the first time ever in my experience we have been booked so far ahead!

        > If SC34 WG1 cannot deal with specifications on a purely merit-based, non-commercial,
        > non-political basis, then SC34 WG1 should be dissolved or declared irrelevant.  At this point,
        > I believe they are currently border-line irrelevant already as they currently serve no constructive
        > purpose concerning OOXML and ODF and are acting as a divisive force in the industry instead
        > of as a neutral or inclusive unbiased party producing top-quality standards.

        Errr, you do know that WG 1 has been responsible for ISO ODF don’t you? (29500 will be somewhere else). WG 1 is also responsible for DSDL which is becoming a cornerstone of many XML applications developed elsewhere (ODF, UBL, XBRL, XHTML 2.0, etc. etc.). If that’s not "constructive" I don’t know what is!

        > Your opinion will no-doubt differ.

        To be entitled to an "opinion" a basic level of understanding must first be achieved.

        – Alex.

      • "Asked to edit"?   Dr Murata invented RELAX (the predecessor of RELAX NG) and leads its merger with James Clark’s TREX at OASIS as RELAX NG. He has continued with it at for its ISO transposition as editor. He was also for a while a participant in the W3C XML Schema Working Group, so he has a good grip on what happened there. He has worked pretty much all day every day on schema-related issues and research and applications for most of the last decade, much of it at IBM.  He is also the lead Japanese translator of the JIS standard for ODF IIRC.  How can you speak against him without even bothering to check up who he is? Doesn’t that ring any warning bells with you that you are not engaging in discussion but just ranting and repeating the talking points of others?

        If the inventor of something doesn’t have any credibility to speak on that thing, who does?   

        (As for mentioning OOXML, what on earth does that have to do with anything?  There are a lot of standard people who became tired of spending their time in 2007 figuring out how to improve IS29500 and will be looking at how to improve IS26300, and if every time some serious issue is raised it gets fed into some kind of defensive, conspiracy-theoretical kneejerk machine by ignorant jerks without even basic awareness of the technical issues, it will be a very tedious 2008. )

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >If MS "owned" the national bodies, at the first ballot for DIS29500 mark I the NBs would have all voted according to MS’ preferred position: which was a "Yes with comments" vote.  However, that did not happen.

        How dumb do you think we are?
        Of course we both know that MS does not "own" all NBs…else none of them would have voted no. Still the implications of "does not own all" is not "does not own any". I am totally at loss to imagine how you can expect us to be so stupid.

        >That ODF’s PAS had lowered the bar in the minds of many of us, and that both of the fast-track procedures (PAS and Fast-Track) mean that drafts need a lot of attention late in the game, is not something that anyone thinks is optimal.

        You are saying that you promoted the OOXML because you find ODF quality to be lacking? Sorry, but it totally lacks reason to approve a standard with lacking quality because some other standard is not perfect yet. Of course….if we for a moment imagine that you have a bias towards Microsoft it becomes very understandable why you would promote OOXML even while you know it is of to bad quality.

        >What *will* weaken SC34 is if ODF proponents and OOXML proponents (and HTML, SGML and other proponents)  have a fit of pique and move out. In particular, if ODF proponents pull out, it will show how hollow their commitment to openness is: that they only want to participate in a forum that gives exactly the result they wanted.   (Ditto OOXML proponents.)

        Ah…maybe we have the means for you to catch up with reality here. What the ODF proponents want is true interoperability. Not token interoperability, interoberability 2050 or the Microsoft kind.
        What part of the interoberability demands do you think is acceptable for us to drop?

        >The ODF 1.2 editors need help. For example, the ODF versions of "SVG" have incompatibilities with W3C SVG, such as allowing some extra attributes. ODF proponents could usefully be spending their time alerting and lobbying the W3C SVG WG to get these extras added to W3C SVG, or even a profile (like SVG Basic) made with just the things needed to support ODF.  There is a lot of technical work that can be done.  RELAX NG versions of all the component schemas need to be made.  And programmers can join the KOffice or Open Office efforts.  Get the MathML support up to the correct version, and so on.

        To bad that the world will be busy with trying to sort out the flaws in OOXML then. I don’t understand how a person that is not biased towards Microsoft can hold problems with ODF as excuse for why OOXML with it numerous flaws are acceptable.

        >All this kicking against the pricks does nothing but impede ODF, which will only "win" ultimately by being better and better implemented.

        Then OOXML is totally futile since ODF already has the support of a numerous of office suits while OOXML is not even properly supported by Microsoft Office.

        What is the gain of forcing the world to spend resources on a second format of questionable quality? Let me give you the answer…for microsoft it is a win but for everyone else it is clear loss.

      • >Put bluntly, the only way to guarantee that every document is universally interoperable is for people to limit themselves to the lowest level of expression, as followed by all. HTML >4 + CSS2 perhaps. What about animations (e.g. Flash)? Where is there a standard for that? Do we exempt animations from ICT Rights, or do we encourage exploration and >extensions of standard formats?  But the idea that it is a matter of rights for people to restrict themselves to low-richness formats is as odd as saying that people should not be >allowed to write in Latin language because it is dead, or that Taiwanese cannot make up new characters because Unicode Consortium cannot keep up. 
        >
        >The technology world is continually churning and what makes it tick is support for plurality: allowing experimentation, graceful degradation and multiple representations, >standard and non-standard.  I can see it being an argument for preferring and requiring ODF, but I cannot see how it is an argument against IS29500 being a standard.

        Most certainly we eventually add Flash animations to ODF if these are important….yet their absence is by no means an argument why something like IS29500 that is not open will ever improve society.

        If Microsoft want to include Flash in office files interoperability faster they are free to use ODF extensions for storing the data and to publish all information that is needed for how to decode the data. The flaw with IS29500 is not that it has become an ISO standard, but rather that it is not open, only partly documented and not free to be implemented by GPL developers.

        Microsoft keep claiming that it would have been worse if they had added their own material as extensions to ODF. The assumption added to make this argument fly is that interoperability would suffer when they obfuscate what they add in their extensions. Microsoft could chose to give this information for free to avoid the whole problem.

        OOXML is a answer to a problem that Microsoft created by choice when they refuse to give mappings for their legacy formats. From Microsofts view the OOXML must be a dream come true…they both get to keep revealing their legacy formats undocumented and add new hard to decode formats so that full interoberability with Office remains a fairytale.

        All this sums up to that we need ICT standards because ISO is not ready to protect the end users from Microsofts abuse of their position.

      • "All this sums up to that we need ICT standards because ISO is not ready to protect the end users from Microsofts abuse of their position."

        But it is not ISO’s job to protect end users from Microsoft or IBM or anyone.  It is is not an anti-trust court, it is a kind of enormous co-operative publisher of voluntary (i.e., opt-in) technical specifications with national-body voting. 

        A technical specification becomes a standard because

        1) There is some market requirement for it (some credible people say they need it, whether in fact people who claim to know better think otherwise:  if Office is not a large market, it is difficult to see what is)
        2) The text has been through a formal process of development and review (including some very minimal IP commitments by participating stakeholders)
        3) Enough National Bodies vote for it
          3a)  Typically there will be  technical committee at the National Body which is the major input
          3b)  Plus typically the National Body supervisors will have confidence that the technical committee is not acting to cartelize or inequably.

        The whole process is skewed *against* cartelization and *towards* win/win. The only way to lose is to have a win/lose mentality.  It is a forum for negotiation and collaboration. not a kangaroo court with judges. If you don’t understand this, you will completely misunderstand what goes on.  It is very difficult for a draft to be stopped merely because one mob of people don’t like another mob of people: in fact any standards body (unless it had legislation to back it up or was a branch of government) that was "unfair" in this regard would be untenable.  The price of fairness is that it operates towards those who you don’t like as well as those you do: the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  (The Post Office is fair because it delivers letters to Microsoft and to Linus impartially; treating even large companies equably is not unfairness or bias.)

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

      • >"All this sums up to that we need ICT standards because ISO is not ready to protect the end users from Microsofts abuse of their position."
        >
        >But it is not ISO’s job to protect end users from Microsoft or IBM or anyone.  It is is not an anti-trust court, it is a kind of enormous co-operative publisher of voluntary (i.e., opt-in) technical specifications with national-body voting. 

        The thing is that it should be ISO’s job to make sure that it does not accept conflicting standards that will cause problems for the general public.

        The call for Civil ICT Standards is motivated since ISO and its NBs are making choices that have great impact on society but they are refusing to take responsiblity for what damage they cause. That you as a standards "professional" fail to see the problems with OOXML accecpted or that the ISO organization has been gamed are pretty hard evidence that Civil ICT Standards are a must.

        >A technical specification becomes a standard because
        >1) There is some market requirement for it (some credible people say they need it, whether in fact people who claim to know better think otherwise:  if Office is not a large market, it is difficult to see what is)
        >2) The text has been through a formal process of development and review (including some very minimal IP commitments by participating stakeholders)
        >3) Enough National Bodies vote for it
        >  3a)  Typically there will be  technical committee at the National Body which is the major input
        >  3b)  Plus typically the National Body supervisors will have confidence that the technical committee is not acting to cartelize or inequably.

        Actually with OOXML quite many supervisors did not listen to their technical committee…other NBs skipped the review entirely. Why are you not spending your time attacking that lack of professional conduit instead of trying to clear Microsofts name?

        Is it really so that this kind of abuse is so common in ISO that it feels like second nature for you standards "professionals"?

        >The whole process is skewed *against* cartelization and *towards* win/win. The only way to lose is to have a win/lose mentality.  It is a forum for negotiation and collaboration. not a kangaroo court with judges.

        This is pure commedy…you are basically saying that since you have the assumption that standards are about win/win you have failed to evalute if OOXML damage interoperability. You might not say it outright, but that seems to be the reasoning behind all your mircosoft spin.

        Earlier we have come to understanding that standards "professional" are so out of touch with reality that bias is unthinkable for them. They need not discuss it because it does no happen in their line of profession. If anyone notice bias they must already have court level evidence before they can voice their concerns.

        Actually I have reached another conclusion from listening to you…it seems like Rick Jelliffe are so out of touch with implementing specifications and standards that he view every standard no matter their quality as a win/win. Just because it has a standard label it must be good. It throws some light on why some people has failed to perform a real evalutation of the impact of OOXML to be accepted.

        >The price of fairness is that it operates towards those who you don’t like as well as those you do: the rain falls on the just and the unjust.  (The Post Office is fair because it delivers letters to Microsoft and to Linus impartially; treating even large companies equably is not unfairness or bias.)

        Stupid argument…it is fair that all companies should have their chance to propose a standard, that is the case in ISO. Yet you are using that argument when the true problem is that the ISO process has had a bias towards Microsoft and accepted a draft even while it has severe technical problems in it. 

      • What’s your opinion about the trend in recent years for governments to prefer document formats that are international standards? Although I like the model of the ISO that you put forward, it seems to me that it ignores the game-changing effects of that government behaviour.

        By encouraging the industry to standardise before their formats are mature, surely governments are passing on responsibility for purchasing decisions to the ISO? In turn, doesn’t that force the ISO into the position it’s not supposed to be in – protecting end-users and deciding anti-trust issues?

        – Andrew Sayers

      • Andrew,

        It’s not a recent phenomenon, or one limited to document formats.  A number of governments preferentially choose ISO/IEC adopted standards (of any type) in comparison to those that are not.  It’s not a bad concept in principle, as it means that those that standards that have been adopted under a process that allows all countries to have input, if they wish, will be preferred.

        Note also that this is in some cases not discretionary.  For nations that have acceded to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and become parties to the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, requiring conformance to a local standard where there is a globally adopted standard constitutes a treaty violation.  The purpose is to prevent countries trying to keep foreign goods out of domestic markets, often by adopting local standards, and then requiring imported goods to conform to them. 

          –  Andy

      • I suppose when you put it that way, there’s nothing particularly unique about this piece of the puzzle. Do you know what the experience of other industries has been with sudden government pressure to standardise?

        – Andrew Sayers

      • However, it is important to remember that ISO strongly emphasizes that it is the responsibility of the adopter to decide which standard (if any) is appropriate.  There is no implicit warranty in any voluntary ISO standard that it is optimal for any purpose.

        Wander around the ISO site at  http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm&nbsp; for more info.

        In particular, on the voluntary issue  http://www.iso.org/iso/about/discover-iso_the-iso-brand.

        ISO is not a court, and it even says in bold for the slow "ISO itself does not legislate or regulate."  Note the other distinctives: equal footing of national bodies, market requirements, consensus, global requirements.

        I think what people don’t realize is that if a country has an automatic procedure that says (for a voluntary standard: health and safety are different buckets here) "We always prefer the ISO standard" then that procedure itself goes beyond what ISO recommends. The ISO process ensure that a particular set of QA procedures are followed, but that does not mean that a high quality ISO bucket should be used when you need a high quality OASIS dustpan.  There is just as much a danger to the ISO "brand" from having too high expectations of it as there is from having too low expectations. If you talk to ISO people, while they want a brand of high repute (which they have), they have no conceit that ISO technology A is always better or more appropriate to non-ISO technology B: standards are a service. Indeed, there is ISO material that talks of ISO standards as forming a library which interested users can adopt where appropriate.

        OOXML people who say "Adopt us, we are an ISO standard" are just as wrong as ODF people who say "Adopt us, we are an ISO standard". The best that can be said is "Because we are an ISO standard, you have an basic QA assurance about certain issues, but certainly not about suitability or optimality."  And certainly, ISO standardization does not imply *any* kind of political/economic positioning of the technology. ISO is neutral and fair to all: that this means (and IMHO *requires*) that it adopts both ODF and OOXML may be galling to some people, but it is the price of neutrality.  If government procurement needs to be reminded of this, so that they don’t abdicate their testing responsibilities, then that does not lessen the standing of issue, it just corrects it from an unrealistic and lazy illusion.

        Cheers
        Rick Jelliffe

Comments are closed.