What Just Happened? An OOXML BRM Resource Page

On February 29, about an hour after the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting closed, I posted this blog entry, based on information available at the time. Corrections were made over the next two days to take further information into account as it became available; those corrections are duly noted in the text. Due to the extent and energy of the debate that has erupted around the BRM, I turned that blog entry into an ongoing resource page, adding  first-hand accounts of many delegates to the BRM, the views of selected non-attendees, the text of public statements and press releases by ISO/IEC JTC1, Ecma, various National Bodies and other interested parties, and more.  In order to make that material easier to use, I've now moved that material to this new entry, reorganized it, and added the Table of Contents immediately below (the original blog entry, as corrected, now stands alone at the original date of posting, with a forward link to this resource page). You can also view the many press articles that continue to be written as I add them to the News Picks column to the right, as well as hundreds of additional articles from the past several years about ODF and OOXML, by bookmarking . You can therefore stay current on further developments and statements relating to the BRM by bookmarking this blog entry. My thanks to all of you that have pointed me to much of the data that appears below. Please continue to send me links to information as you find it or provide it, and I'll add it below. NOTE:  you must click through to the full text of this entry for some of the Table of Contents links to work Table of Contents I.    Updated Blog Entry - As posted on February 29 II.   Comments to Blog Entry - Includes an extensive exchange with BRM Convenor Alex Brown III.  Daily Updates -  Supplemental notes on the materials as added IV.  BRM Accounts by Delegates (interested and neutral) - Blog postings and interviews of delegates with their details and perspectives V.   BRM Commentary by Others - Both interested and neutral; for press accounts, see the ODF/OOXML News folder VI.  Public Statements and Press Releases - ISO/IEC JTC1, Ecma, National Bodies, and more

I. Updated Blog Entry (February 29, 2008)

A rather incredible week in Geneva has just ended, bringing to a close the Herculean task assumed by the over 100 delegates from 32 countries that attended the BRM.  That challenge, of course, was how to productively resolve the more than 1,100 comments (after elimination of duplicates) registered by the 87 National Bodies that voted last summer with respect to a specification that itself exceeded 6,000 pages. 

I have spent the week in Geneva, and have spoken with many delegates from many delegations on a daily basis.  Each believed that a body that purports to issue “global open standards” should not impose an obligation of secrecy on how the standards that people must live with are approved on their behalf.  It would be fair to say that, notwithstanding all of the charges and counter charges that have been made leading up to the BRM regarding how National Body votes were taken last summer, how delegations have been selected, and how they have been instructed to act and vote at the BRM, there has been a good faith effort by all to try to achieve a successful result.  The same appears to have held true within delegations, even those that contained representatives of the most opposed parties.

There are two ways in which you may hear the results of the BRM summarized by those that issue statements and press releases in the days to come.  Perhaps inevitably, they are diametrically opposed, as has so often happened in the ODF – OOXML saga to date.  Those results are as follows:…more

II.  Comments are here

III.  Daily Updates

Updated March 8:

1.  The following press releases are now available in English at the National Body sites that weren’t available in official form: Denmark and New Zealand,  (see the full text below in the Press Releases section of this post).
2.  Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society recommends to the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards that it not change its vote from “abstain” and also notes that “There will be a TTBS IT committee meeting on March 13th, 2008 to discuss the recommendations received. After, the TTBS will decide and will inform the IT committee on its decision by March 20th, 2008.”  I found this recommendation to be an interesting and even-handed read, and have added an extract to the “Press Releases and Public Statements”section  below.
3.  See Pamela Jones’
How NBs can register a changed vote on OOXML – and a Chart of Directives ChangesThe chart is quite detailed and impressive.

Updated March 7:

1.  Pamela Jones has posted another analysis of what happened at the BRM, drawing on the Edited Minutes and Resolutions posted yesterday, as well as material from Rob Weir’s most recent blog entry, JTC 1 Improv Comedy Theatre and the original BRM FAQ posted by Alex Brown some time back (and later amended).
2. Yesterday, Microsoft announced a “Document Interoperability Initiative” that “marks the start of a Microsoft plan to set up labs around the world to test the interoperability of various document formats, including Microsoft’s Open Office XML (OOXML) Format as well as the Open Document Format (ODF) originally developed by Sun Microsystems.”  Intriguingly, the same article states that “The initial lab work will examine document format interoperability on the iPhone operating system, Linux, Mac OS X Leopard, Palm OS, Symbian OS and Windows Mobile.”  To my recollection, this is the first time that Microsoft has announced an initiative that focuses on document interoperability on mobile platforms.
3. Microsoft’s Doug Mahugh reports that the US technical committee, VH1 (which deadlocked on OOXML last summer) has voted to recommend that the US maintain its vote to “approve” OOXML.

Updated March 6: 

1.  Resolutions adopted at the BRM and Edited BRM Meeting Notes are now posted (thanks to James for providing the links); see also the original agenda.
2.  Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) briefing report on BRM titled Interoperability Woes with MS-OOXML is now available.
3.  ODF Project Editor Patrick Durusau posts endorsement of OOXML, recommending adoption.
4.  Intro added and title of blog entry changed to reflect current approach.
5.  As I read the Edited BRM Meeting Notes, there appear to have been a total of 189 resolutions that were exempt from the prior vote by reason of prior adoption or rejection (See the notation below the final ballot form on page 11).  Of these, it appears that 126 had been adopted via the earlier minor editorial corrections block adoption (see page 10, and the first notation below the date, ednesday, February 27) (the blog text previously had said about 200).  This indicates that a total of 63 dispositions were not only discussed but voted on, and I have made conforming changes to the text of the original blog entry below to this effect (the text previously indicated that “after several days,  20 – 30” dispositions had been discussed, but did not state the final number that were discussed). 

It should be noted that some of the dispositions voted upon in the final vote did receive some degree of attention during the BRM, in that the meeting began with each delegation stating its most important concerns.  Some of these were resolved and voted upon, some were taken off line and there was insufficient time for these sub-groups to report back, and hence the final vote was to accept or reject the original disposition text without improvement. I believe that it is accurate to say that some number of proposed dispositions were not addressed in any way other than by voting in the final ballot, although I do not know what the number of such dispositions would be.

Finally, it is significant to note that we still do not know the number of dispositions in the final vote that received no votes at all (i.e., only the 6 (adopt) to 4 (don’t adopt) votes would apply to these dispositions), how many received only one or two votes (which may be more than adequate, if such a disposition was of interest to only one or two delegations, or may not be adequate, if more delegations were interested, but simply did not have time to address the entire ballot in any detail), or many votes, which would indicate that while there was no opportunity to discuss or improve the disposition, there was at least consensus for the result.  Hopefully such a list will be released in detail.
6.  Link and excerpt with new first hand details from Malaysian delegate Yoon Kit Yong.
7.  Rob Weir, in JTC Improv Theater, analyzes the JTC1 Directives to find support for combined P and O voting, and fails to find it.

Updated March 5: 

1.  Excerpt from blog entry of Brazil delegate Jomar Silva, recounting inability to offer critical mapping proposal due to lack of time, added to “first hand accounts” below.
2.  Public Statements and Press Releases section added; excerpts added from Norway, Denmark, and ODF Alliance, and full text of  press releases from Standards Malaysia and ISO/IEC
3.  Rules discussion:  see Pamela Jones post, Malaysia Standards Says Most of Their Technical Concerns Unresolved at BRM; Fast Track Inappropriate

Updated March 3: 

1.  Alex Brown and I continue our dialogue in the  “Comments” section
2.  Blog entry of  Antonis  Christofides, of the Greek delegation, has been added to the “first hand accounts” excerpts.
3.  Ecma press release on BRM added below

Updated March 2: 

I have sent emails to various delegates and others in contact with delegates to respond to this blog entry, and several have begun doing so.  The BRM was a confusing affair, and particularly as it began to struggle with how to have an outcome of some sort notwithstanding the magnitude of the challenge.  Dozens of articles have been written in the on-line press that link to this entry, and as you will see from the Trackbacks, many other blogs link to it as well.  So rather than start a new blog entry, I will continue to update this one so that the discussion that follows will be as widely available to all.  I have also updated the text below to take further input into account; those updates are bracketed.

Please note especially that I am adding excerpts and links at the end of this entry from every separate account by a delegate as it appears on the Web. At the moment, you can find 8 first hand accounts there representing 6 National Bodies.  Finally, thanks in advance to all that choose to leave a comment.

Updated March 1: 

You can find an interview by Sean Daly at Groklaw where I go into greater detail on what was happening in Geneva and why it matters.  See also the links added at the end of this entry, most of which are by BRM delegates

IV.  BRM Accounts by Delegates (Interested and Neutral)

A.  Australia

1.  Rick Jelliffe

The Hell of Geneva (O’Reilly XML.com extract, c. March 1, 2008; blog entry later withdrawn):  I’ll blog some more, but the BRM clearly has succeeded in its formal aim, which is to produce a better text. Every response by the editor was formally voted on. The big picture issues were given extra time for detailed discussion, and the NBs had opportunity to raise their highest priority issue, in turn. It would have been great to have had more time to deal with more of the middling issues: where we would have preferred some variant or augmentation of the Editor’s response to our issue or where we didn’t like his answer.

B.  Brazil

    1.  Jomar Silva

At the end: What we did in Geneva?  (March 4, 2008 – blog extract):  Since a post on Rob Weir’s blog (a member of the US delegation) about the mapping of the binary data was published today, I’ve already received phone calls and e-mails from Brazilian colleagues who participated in the discussions on the issue in Brazil wondering the reason why Brazil has not submitted a proposal for it at the BRM. This was one of the things that we are committed to do in Geneva, but guys… we just could not make it….Seeing that I cannot comment any details about the meeting, I cannot explain the details of what happened but I have the duty to respond to those who worked with the theme here in Brazilian NB (ABNT): “They didn’t allowed Brazil to present its proposal about the mapping.”…Finally, as a protest, an excerpt from a music of Peter Gabriel, about Steve Biko:

”You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire”

What relief… Tonight I’ll sleep my first night in peace with my conscience since Friday…

C.  Canada

    1.  Tim Bray (Sun Microsystems)

BRM Narrative (March 1, 2008 – blog extract):Now that the BRM is over, I feel I can write about it a bit more; there are some restrictions, but I’ll lay them out. Summary: A lot of good work was done, but the process is irretrievably broken….

What Was Good · The people. With a very few exceptions, everyone really tried hard to work together and make the document better. Everyone freely acknowledged that the job was way too big, but there we were for a week to take a run at it anyhow. I include the nations’ representatives and the ISO people and the Microsoft people when I say this; they were, by and large, a pleasure to work with.

What Was Bad · The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit. I’m not an ISO expert, but whatever their “Fast Track” process was designed for, it sure wasn’t this. You just can’t revise six thousand pages of deeply complex specification-ware in the time that was provided for the process. That’s true whether you’re talking about the months between the vote and when the Responses were available, the weeks between the Responses’ arrival and the BRM, or the hours in the BRM room.

As the time grew short there was some real heartbreak as we ran out of time to take up proposals; some of them, in my opinion, things that would really have helped the quality of the draft.

This was horrible, egregious, process abuse and ISO should hang their heads in shame for allowing it to happen. Their reputation, in my eyes, is in tatters. My opinion of ECMA was already very negative; this hasn’t improved it, and if ISO doesn’t figure out away to detach this toxic leech, this kind of abuse is going to happen again and again.

D.  Denmark

1.  Jesper Lund Stocholm

BRM Aftermath (March 2, 2009 – blog extract):  I think the process chosen was the best process given the circumstances. All alternatives were in my opinion worse than the one chosen – and I think it is important to emphasize that the process was chosen by the BRM and not chosen for the BRM….When talking to the other delegates we more or less agreed that the number of Responses not dealt with would be something in the area of 800-850 in total. So we basically had two choices:

  • Do nothing
  • Do something

The BRM chose to do something. We didn’t all agree to what to do and as it has been reported all over the blog-sphere, most parts of a whole day was spent discussing what to do. I think most of the delegates disliked the position we were put in – but regardless of this we were in this situation whether we liked it or not. We had to do something.


E.  Greece

1.  Greek Delegate Antonis Christofides

Some Clarifications on the OOXML Ballot Resolution Meeting (March 4, 2009 – blog extract): The success or failure of the BRM:  Brian Jones and Jason Matusow of Microsoft have said that the BRM was a success because it fulfilled its purpose, which was to make changes to the text. Although this is technically correct, if the original text got 1 out of 10 and the BRM managed to improve it to 1.1, it is somewhat misleading to call it a success. Brian Jones says that there was consensus in the changes. This is also true, but the reason there was consensus was that we quickly became disillusioned, lowered our standards, and only discussed modifications which we knew could pass within the given constraints. Let me give an example. [several very interesting examples follow that are very worth reading to illuminate what the BRM was really like]…

The contrast with OOXML is sharp, and this brings us to another issue of contention. The Greek workgroup on OOXML had been handed only the Ecma Responses for Greece. It was at the BRM when we found out that we should have studied all responses, not only those for Greece. It is not clear if this is an error by Ecma or by the Greek NB, but, in both cases, we did not have the time to study one thousand responses, so there would have been no difference. In fact, even the 80 responses that Greece studied, we did not study at the level of scrutiny that is required when you inspect a standard. There was no time for that. What we did was glance through, and make fast decisions based on what seems right at a quick glance.

The conclusion is that the BRM did the best under the circumstances. OOXML is six thousand badly written pages, and the idea that it could go through fast track is laughable. What happened at the BRM was therefore expected.

F.  Malaysia

1.  Yoon Kit Yong

Geneva: Day Five (March 1, 2008 – blog extract):  The BRM in Geneva is over. As you might have guessed, the five day meeting failed to properly address the huge amount of comments and proposed dispositions, and a rushed vote on Friday tried to lump together all unresolved issues in a package where the ECMA dispositions were to be voted on without any discussion. Needless to say, that failed miserably. Only ten national delegations voted, and only 4 P-members were for approval. 4 P-members disapproved, a whopping 15 abstained, and 2 even refused to register a vote in protest.

The final day was absolute mayhem. We had to submit decisions on over 500 items which we hadn’t have the time to review. All the important issues which have been worked on repeatedly happened to appear on this final day. So it was non-stop important matters….Due to the quirks in the voting mechanisms, a reported 98.4% of Ecma resolutions were approved. This on the surface projects an impression that the BRM is a resounding success. Unfortunately this is not the sentiment of the majority of participants.This is not in criticism of the Convener Mr Alex Brown….It was not the failure of the National Bodies which attended. It was merely a failure of the process. And it may not be the failure of ISO as a process for creating standards, but mainly because a client chose the wrong method in forcefeeding a large draft standard in the conservative process of the ISO.It was a failure of the Fast Track process, and Ecma for choosing it.

MSOOXML BRM – XML Names (March 7, 2008 – blog extract):  Now that the Edited Notes of the BRM has appeared, I have been getting queries on Malaysia’s decisions at the BRM last week. So the best way I guess is to blog about it, and hopefully we get the story straight and not jump to any unwanted conclusions….Our first item was to raise the issue with XML Names (MY-0016), in that there seems to be no logical and consistent naming convention in the Office Open XML (OOXML) spec….So I was disappointed that Malaysia’s request for clearer XML names was pushed to a later undefined date to be addressed,…That work, I still believe, should have been Ecma’s responsibility 2 years ago, and I hope they address that soon as a work item in SC45, or at least come up with a comprehensive naming convention guide as a first step…I hope you can now understand the frustration of many National Bodies who found Ecma’s responses to be consistently poor and unresponsive. Oh yeah, they are really good with the editorial fixes, but the technical responses unfortunately has a poor track record. Read them for yourselves at www.dis29500.org. Its a great resource. 

G.  United States

1.  Head of Delegation Frank Farance (FARANCE Inc.)

As quoted in ComputerWorld and InfoWorld/IDG News Service (February 29, 2008):  Eighty percent of the changes were not discussed. It’s like if you had a massive software project and 80% of it was not run through QA. It’s a big problem.  I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been doing this for 25 years….There are likely to be hundreds of defects.Virtually every comment we processed did not survive unedited…I see no particular rationale for why we were limited in time. I don’t know how you can deal with 6,000 pages with 3,500 comments in a week. It’s like trying to run a two-minute mile.

2.  Brian Jones (Microsoft)

BRM is done…time to sleep 🙂 (February 29, 2008 – blog extract):  Well, the BRM is over and I can only describe the week as a lot of technical work and a lot of great people I was lucky enough to meet and exchange ideas with. The objective of the BRM was to work with all of the National Body delegations in the room and improve the specification on a technical level — and that we did. There were many technical changes the delegates made to really get consensus on some of the more challenging issues, but all of these passed overwhelmingly once they were updated. The process really worked (it was very cool).

The meeting closed with clapping and cheering, folks were really happy about the improved proposals for the specification and it was a very positive experience for me personally.

More Thoughts on Last Weeks BRM (March 4, 2008 – blog extract):  Here’s a bit more information on the results of the BRM last week, and where we go from here. There were about 1,000 comments/issues raised last year with the spec, and starting last fall Ecma began posting responses and proposed changes to the specification to address the concerns. The final batch of responses was posted mid-January, and at that point Ecma had already begun discussions with the national bodies who had raised the comments to see if they were suitably addressed.

For the past two months, Ecma officially held 4 calls per week where national bodies could discuss the comments, and Ecma could explain their proposed resolutions. This meant that by the time we got to the BRM, the countries had time to find which Ecma responses they were not quite satisfied with, and raise those issues at the BRM. The purpose of this entire process is to make improvements to the specification, which in turn may lead countries to change their vote on whether or not they approve the overall spec.

While it’s a matter of opinion whether or not the BRM itself was a success, in my mind a number very important things happened…:

3.  Rob Weir (IBM)

The Art of Being Mugged (March 2 – Blog extract)the meeting progressed into Thursday, the tension mounted. As new issues were identified, they were taken off-line and told they could be brought up “Friday morning”. But no one really believed that. It was clear that there was not enough “Friday morning” to go around.

Thursday 9:20am, a delegation objects that they were told only to review Ecma’s responses to their own comments, and that there was never sufficient time to review all 1,000 Ecma responses since January 14th. ITTF’s response: “Nothing we can do about it in the rules — Nothing we could have done in our judgment”….[Ono Friday]80%+ of the resolutions of the BRM were resolved by a ballot, without discussion, without taking into account any dissenting views, without reconciling any arguments. Indeed, there was not any opportunity to even raise an objection to an issue decided by the ballot. Many of the issues were decided in 6-5 or 7-6 split votes, with no discussion. How can that be said to be a consensus? This is an utter failure to follow the cardinal principles of JTC1 process.

There simply is not enough time. The anxiety-driven, frantic delegates push even harder. More resolutions are approved with 2 or 3 delegations trying to raise objections, but without being recognized. Tempers grow short. One highly respected Head of Delegation, of unimpeachable reputation and experience started to voice an objection “I am extremely disgusted by the way procedures have been…” before being called out of order by the Convenor, saying that discussion of procedural issues will not be allowed. Another delegation tries to raise a new issue, as they had for the last two days without luck. “We’re using the public money from NNN to come here to speak on our issue. Can we speak on our issue?” Convenor – “We have run out of time.”

And so the BRM came to an end, with the announcement of the results of the paper ballot. Four delegations gave blanket approval to every Ecma comment (Cote D’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Finland, Norway) and three gave default disapproval positions on all undiscussed Ecma responses (India, Malaysia, United States). Most delegations gave a default abstain position, or registered no position. The net is that, although the discussions on Monday and Tuesday demonstrated that the quality of the Ecma responses was such that almost every one required substantial off-line work to make it acceptable, we gradually lowered our standards, so that by week’s end, we approved 800+ comments without any discussion, even in the presence of clear objections.

JTC1 Improv Comedy Theater (March 6, 2008 – blog extract):  JTC1 has been improvising its Fast Track processing from the start of the DIS 29500 procedure.  The latest “let’s invent a new rule” came at the BRM in Geneva, where a novel approach to tallying meeting votes was surreptitiously foisted on delegations, one which is clearly against the plain text of JTC1 Directives.

The question is how votes should be counted at a Fast Track BRM, where consensus cannot be reached, in this case for lack of time. Specifically, in that final batch-vote on 1027 comments, how should votes be counted. I believe the rules call for positions to be established by the majority of P-members. The leadership of the meeting instead counted both P-members and O-members. In the balance lies the fate of over 100 Ecma proposals which may or may not be included in the final text of the DIS, depending on how this question is resolved.

V.    BRM Comentary by Others

A.  Directly Interested Parties

1.  Jason Matusow (Microsoft)

The Open XML Ballot Resolution (BRM) Was an Unqualified Success (February 29, 2008 – blog extract):  The DIS 29500 ballot resolution meeting (BRM) finished up in Geneva today and was an unqualified success by any measure….There was an unprecedented number of delegations from national standards bodies that came to Geneva and participated in the BRM. I have the utmost respect for the contributions from all of the national bodies (P-members and O-members alike). The result of this week’s discussions, by any reasonable measure, has greatly improved the specification and produced a great result. The BRM was a complete success – congratulations to all who were involved with it.


B.  Non-Interested Parties

1.  AFNOR (France) TC Member Charles-H. Shultz (while not in the BRM itself, Shultz was present in Geneva for at least a part of the week)

OOXML Issues Not Solved During the TRM  February 29, 2008):  I think the article from CIO says it all. The Head of Delegation of the ANSI (USA) explains what  went wrong. I think it’s a pity that the BRM ended up like this. In a nutshell, the whole idea of the BRM was to discuss the proposals from Ecma and the comments made by the delegations, and it just didn’t turn out it was possible. Delegates were rushed to vote on hundreds of comments in bulk , were told new rules had to be applied, and when many of them tried to propose solutions to technical or legal issues they were simply dismissed.

We’ll talk about this more in detail later, but as it stands today, the BRM has failed -failed to work, failed to impress, failed to create consensus and failed to succeed. Rules that were not part of the existing JTC-1 corpus had to be invented to come up with the astounding result of 6 countries approving the bulk voting versus 4 countries formally disapproving them, 18 others abstaining, while four others even refusing to vote as a way to show their complete disapproval of the way the BRM was being handled.Only committees of countries that were present in Geneva could vote, so they do not speak for the rest of the world. It is unfortunately likely that  Microsoft and the European Committee of Microsoft Advocates (Ecma) will declare victory, based on what is a pathetically weak relative majority and on the set of rules that go against both the letter and spirit of the JTC-1 legislation. Would this then be a pyrrhic victory? Hardly. It has yet to to be shown if the Ecma and ISO can actually do anything with that result and the growing resentment of national standardization committees. 


2.  Pamela Jones, Groklaw

OOXML Fails to Get Majority Approval at BRM – Updated 3Xs (February 29, 2008 – extract):  …Basically, there were too many proposed changes to be able to cover them in the BRM, so they tried a workaround, but the upshot is … it’s a mess. Oddly, despite the rules, Alex Brown, Updegrove reports, allowed non P countries to vote, but OOXML still couldn’t get a majority of the delegations to back it at the BRM. Nor is it clear that allowing non P countries to vote is even legitimate. Now it’s the 30-day voting period, but Updegrove asks, if they never could discuss all the issues, which is the purpose of a BRM, what’s the basis for a vote? And with the vast majority either voting to abstain or even refusing to vote as a protest, I think one may conclude this proposal didn’t belong on the fast track, and it isn’t getting the kind of support you would have thought it might, given all the muscle that has gone into the push to get OOXML approved.

Malaysia Standards Says Most of Their Technical Concerns Unresolved at BRM; Fast Track Inappropriate – Updated  (March 4, 2008 – extract):   Standards Malaysia has now issued a statement [PDF] regarding the BRM. The title says it all, “Malaysian delegation at the ISO meeting in Geneva (25 – 29 Feb ’08) finds the technical issues in the draft standard OOXML unresolved satisfactorily”. They were there. And they contradict the stories being put out by those in charge and by Microsoft. They did *not* have the opportunity to have their concerns addressed totally. Malaysia voted to disapprove the undiscussed bulk dispositions, although they had earlier voted to approve some dispositions that were discussed. Most of their concerns were never discussed:…

The Edited Notes and the Resolutions from the BRM – Updated 2Xs (March 6, 2008 – extract):   Alex Brown has provided two documents from the BRM on OOXML on his blog. He got them from the open collection of documents published by ISO, another resource for us. You’ll find many other documents in that same collection. One of the documents Brown has provided is an edited version of the notes from the meeting [PDF]. Obviously, that isn’t sufficient, since one has no way to know all that was edited out. The other is a list of the resolutions. Apart from wanting to see unexpurgated notes, and to listen to the audio reportedly made of the meeting, what is the most interesting from the documents, as Groklaw member PolR emailed me, is that even the edited notes confirm some details we’ve been reading. I think they also raise some procedural questions….

How NBs can register a changed vote on OOXML – and a Chart of Directives Changes  (March 7, 2008 – extract):  …PolR has done a helpful chart of three versions of the Directive. It’s a fascinating project, because in the latest Directive, it notes on the first page that recent changes are in purple, and earlier changes are in blue or red. But section 13, all about fast tracking, is completely in purple, which, it turns out, distorts the reality, making the actual changes harder to spot.

That’s what Groklaw is for, of course. He compares:

  • Edition 5 version 3 current since 2007-04-05
  • Edition 5 version 2, effective 2006-04-12
  • Edition 4

Edition 4 has no date, but metada indicates the last modification was July 30, 1998. If you note any errors, please let me know, so we can be positive we have it right. Of course, for anything that matters, go by the original PDFs, which you can find here. Here is the comparative chart in ODF format, and you can download it. And here it is in plain text:…


3.  Patrick Durusau (ODF Project Editor)

On The Importance Of Being Heard (March 5, 2008 – personal site post):  As a non-attendee to the BRM on DIS 29500, I have been trying to sort out fact from fiction in the highly imaginative accounts of the meeting. I have been able to isolate only one common point of agreement in all the published and unpublished reports that I have seen.  That point of agreement is that everyone at the table was heard. That may not seem like a lot to an Oracle or IBM, but name the last time Microsoft was listening to everyone in a public and international forum? At a table where a standard for a future product was being debated by non-Microsoft groups?  So, now that Microsoft is listening (something we should encourage), in an international and public forum, what are our options?  Reject DIS 29500? The cost of rejection is that ordinary users, governments, smaller interests, all lose a seat at the table where the next version of the Office standard is being written. Approve an admittedly rough DIS 29500? That gives all of us a seat at the table for the next Office standard. Granting that I wince at parts of DIS 29500, it is hard for me to argue with that rationale.  Because approval of DIS 29500 insures an effective international and public forum whose members will be heard by Microsoft I recommend approval of DIS 29500 as an ISO standard.


VI  Public Statements and Press Releases

A.  National Bodies

1.  Denmark

Outcome from the Danish delegation to BRM OOXML (March 4, 2008 – complete): The Danish delegation to BRM OOXML, which was appointed by an unanimous Danish committee at Danish Standards, has just returned from the BRM meeting.

The mission of the Danish delegation designed to make its mark on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML, thus enhancing the standard, turned out a complete success, as all Danish comments were approved and will thus be incorporated in ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML.

Representatives from ISO and IEC were present at the meeting to ensure that the rules governing BRM were observed. To consider so many comments in five days meant that it was a very intensive process. As for those comments that were not discussed during the meeting, a majority of the delegates decided that the solution would be to express their position in writing. And so the Danish delegation did.

The committee is to meet again on March 26 at Danish Standards, at which meeting the outcome of the delegation is to be presented and a position is to be taken on the next step in the process.

The next step is for the committee to examine ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML with the improvements prescribed  by the BRM meeting. At this meeting, the committee in consensus is to advise Danish Standards on whether the committee requests that the Danish vote be changed.

2.  Norway

Representatives from 32 countries discussed OOXML in ISO/IEC (March ?, 2008 – extract.  Note:  Source is a translation posted at Jason Matusow’s blog):  Every country had the opportunity to put forward their most important comments at the meeting, and most of the Norwegian comments got a good run-through. This goes for instance to the Norwegian proposal on multi-part and “scope” of the separate parts. The meeting was also conducted in an efficient and proper manner according to the instructions and rules for ISO/IEC BRM-meetings. The standards proposal for ISO/IEC 29500 will now be changed by the Editor according to the instructions given during the BRM-meeting

3.  Malaysia

Malaysian delegation…finds the technical issues in the draft standard OOXML resolved unsatisfactorily (March 4, 2008 – extract):  Malaysia’s Department of Standards (STANDARDS MALAYSIA) recently found the Draft ISO standard, ISO/IEC DIS 29500: Office Open XML (OOXML) specification for electronic document formats, had the majority of its technical issues still not addressed satisfactorily. STANDARDS MALAYSIA sent a delegation to attend the “Ballot Resolution Meeting” (BRM) in Geneva, Switzerland where they deliberated on OOXML submitted by Ecma International, a standards setting organization.  Malaysia voted to ‘Disapprove’ by default on Ecma’s dispositions due to the quality of their technical responses during the week. Malaysia approved on certain resolutions, which were found appropriate and discussed during the BRM, but this was by far in the minority. There have been structural changes and important contributions to the Draft by other National Bodies which alter the Draft significantly. Malaysia will review these changes before making a decision on its final vote by end March 2008.

4.  New Zealand

New Zealand’s Voice Heard at Geneva OOXML Meeting March 5, 2008 – Press Release extract): In 2007 Standards New Zealand voted against adoption the specification because of stakeholder concerns about technical omissions, errors and inconsistencies within the draft Standard as well as interoperability and intellectual property issues.

With the meeting focusing on the most important issues raised by each country New Zealand’s delegation was successful in getting their proposed resolutions adopted for two key areas of concern for New Zealand.

Comments (4)

  1. Hello again Andy 🙂

    I have just read that INCTIS is advising the US to maintain a YES vote on MSOOXML

    Link to story

    After all the behaviour at the BRM and the US HoD’s comments… how very disappointing..

    Any comments on your part?


    • James,

      I agree that it’s disappointing that this committee has reportedly come to this conclusion.  Last summer, they couldn’t reach consensus on whether to recommend to the INCITS Executive Board whether to vote to approve or not.  While their recommendation now should certainly carry weight, it remains up to the Executive Board to  decide whether or not to change its vote (last summer they voted to "approve, with comments.")

      So – to the extent the article suggests that the final decision has already been made, it is inaccurate.  I expect that that decision won’t be taken until later in the month.

        –  Andy

  2. It seems to me that, if this DIS gets approved, a lot of details of the actual standard depend on the votes of a small number of countries, or, for the resolutions that didn’t receive enough attention, ECMA’s decisions themselves.  It seems very obvious that if the DIS succesfully completes this shaky Fast Track, we all get stuck with a half-baked standard that in the short term only Microsoft and its partners profit from and in the long term will have to be thoroughly cleaned up anyway.  Also, in the last voting round (september) a lot of strange things seem to have happened to say the least.  Thus my question: is there any word from ISO/IEC willing to start some sort of investigation as to how such abuse of the standardization could be avoided in the future?  If ever another evenly controversial standards candidate shows up making the ISO/IEC processes more robust seems in order.

    Also, what happened to Patrick Durusau?  Him being the ODF editor, I thought he was one of the Good Guys.  He speaks as if the only possibility is that OOXML will get the ISO/IEC stamp in a month and we’ll better make the best out of the inevitable.  (Excuse my being naive:) I’m not sure if a standardized OOXML is a bad thing, but only on the conditions that it has a clear purpose (giving the ‘legacy docs’ a standard form seems like a good idea; just being a rival to ODF not) and that it’s well thought over.  The last point seems a little too much for the combination OOXML – Fast Track.

    – – Steven

  3. You may be interested with a comment on Groklaw that further discuss the chart comparing the versions of the JTC 1 directives. It ties the chart with a time line of events in the OOXML Fast Track process.

    Quoted from the comment:

    • July 30th 1998, release of Edition 4 of the directives according to file metadata
    • April 12th 2006, release of Edition 5 version 2 of the directives. (version 1 was March 6th 2006)
    • December 7th 2006, ECMA approved OOXML and simultaneously approved its submission to the ISO/IEC Fast Track process.
    • February 5th 2007, Twenty countries submitted their responses to the contradiction phase.
    • February 28th 2007, JTC1 distributes the ECMA responses to the contradictions.
    • April 5th 2007, release of the Edition 5, version 3 of the directives.
    • September 2nd 2007, end of the five-months ballot period.

    Then the comment author continues with this observation:

    I noticed two things:

    1. Edition 3 amended the directives one-month after ECMA’s response to the contradiction period was distributed to the members.
    2. If you work out five month back from the end of the ballot period, this is around the beginning of April. The directives must have been amended a few days before or after the beginning of the ballot.

    This is very odd. The next question is what were the change in the directives that affected the handling of contradictions and how would that have affected the OOXML Fast Track? The answer is there are such changes. There are many of them and to the extent I understand the text correctly they make the difference between having to withdraw OOXML from the Fast Track and being required to let it proceed. Let’s refer to the chart.

    Then there is a detailed analysis of how the changes allowed OOXML to proceed to the Fast Track when it should have been stopped.

Comments are closed.