A little laugh, then something not so funny

by Rick Jelliffe

Readers may care to amuse themselves with this double think: Arnaud Le Hors Clarifiation about ASF and OOXML in which he says

In case anybody misunderstood my blog entry “Let’s be clear: The Apache Software Foundation does NOT support OOXML“, I did not mean to imply that the ASF has any official position one way or another regarding OOXML.

Err, except that the title of the blog was ASF does NOT support OOXML!

even stranger, le Hors is responding to a claim that he made up himself

OK, I’ll admit that nobody has claimed otherwise. Yet. But in these days and age you are never too prudent. It wouldn’t surprise me to see this or other similar fancy claim being published eventually.

So le Hors makes up a claim (that someone is saying ASF officially supports OOXML), then decries it (that ASF does not support it), then is forced to retract the decrial (that ASF has no position), then claims that that he never meant to imply what he had said in plain words in his own headline! O what a tangled web we weave! But quite a funny example of the mentality that seems to have possessed some people: truthy rather than facty.

I only read Arnaud's blog because I got a mention. He repeats Groklaw's decade old story about MS secret dirty tricks to maintain control of its proprietary binary standards as de facto standards, and somehow vaguely tieing me into it: daft given that I have been so open and my concern is with helping (force) MS out of its market-dominating proprietary standards. He also mentions Patrick Durusau's change of heart I see, and repeats the IBM mantra handed down in IBM VP's Sutor's Critical questions that dissenters should expect their reputations to be at stake.

As part of IBM's commitment to intimidation, le Hors reaches a new low, which kind of offsets the chuckles I mentioned at the top. Speaking in the context of me and other experts who dare dissent

the consequences when being caught to have failed to disclose any relevant affiliation could be far greater than they currently are. I’m not excluding judicial prosecution here.

Where are their heads at? People who wonder why I spend so much of time on OOXML issues in this blog, which is time spent at my own cost (and it is a real cost: I could be doing paid work instead of writing this) should recognize that it is largely in response to this kind of bullying and intimidation, that I saw glimpses of early on as the suits started to invade ISO in 2006.


2008-03-25 08:58:15
Rick really, you becoming an embarrassment, your total bias towards MS is becoming pathetic. How much are they paying you, its so obvious that you have a personal interest now. Dont you understand, your reputation is as damaged as all the critical defects in OOXML.

You copy titles from posts you want to respond too, like a 2 year old..... is just sad to see you drop so low. Good bye Rick, no one can take you serious anymore!

Rick Jelliffe
2008-03-25 09:20:04
Rlillysr: Good bye to you then.

Readers can see what is going on here: a sad attempt to get the narrative on track. Rick is corrupt, there can be no other reason for anyone supporting OOXML allowed. Resistance is futile. Evidence is unnecessary. Oops Rick states clearly again that he is not being paid for this. Danger...Danger...So quickly restate that it is "obvious" there is payment.

Or perhaps the real reason for this is just an attempt to tie me up, because self-defense often looks self-promoting and because they really don't want anyone to analyze too closely the latest flood of FUD.

2008-03-25 09:41:14
Rick, get real man, countries with XML experts are voting NO: India, Japan, Brazil, NZ, South Africa, more than likely UK and others..... Countries with not one XML expert like Lebanon, Cyprus, Kenya, Bellerus and many others are voting yes... What a joke and you part of it now. And dont bring up corrupt USA, Germany and other places where the tables are loaded with MS partners...
Doug Mahugh
2008-03-25 10:47:10
rlillysr, you're conducting exactly the sort of personal attacks that Rick is talking about: name-calling and avoiding the topic at hand.

And it's cute to see you do something so similar to what Rick described Arnaud doing: you made up a claim (that countries with XML expertise don't support DIS29500), then you found that argument doesn't hold up so you labeled all exceptions to your claim as "corruption."

2008-03-25 13:03:59

Why are those who get very large salaries from IBM not "corrupt?" You sound like James Carville calling Gov. Richarson "Judas" for supporting Obama. Disgusting.

2008-03-25 13:41:10
What you fail to realize is the ISO process was set up for a "Gentleman Agreement". Maybe the word "corruption" is to harsh, but what would you call parties joining in and voting Yes, when those parties are only there for economic and self-interest. So face the truth, most National Bodies do not find MS very gentlemen like and the ill effects will be felt for a long time.

You sound like the rest of them, Brian Jones and all the MS dudes, they cannot defend OOXML so they attack ODF. It only makes them a bigger fool out of themselves. Open standards are created by consensus, developed by a group and the list goes on. Last I heard MS is a member of Oasis and there is an open invitation for them to help further develop the standard for everyone with everyone. Not a single vendor lock-in Spec which only benefits one company.

And as for Rick, its just a crying shame the way he turned. He sounds more a more like "Côte-d'Ivoire", joining ISO, 2 days before vote, voted YES without any national review and with no comments. Get it, you guys are pulling off a scam.

Doug Mahugh
2008-03-25 14:11:38
You're digging an even deeper hole for yourself, Rlillysr.

> what would you call parties joining in and voting Yes, when those parties are only there for economic and self-interest

If you change the word Yes to NO, in the US V1 technical committee I'd call that "IBM's friends from Oracle and Red Hat." They were the last two organizations to join V1, never contributed anything to the technical debate, voted NO, and were thanked by IBM for getting involved. I was there, saw it with my own eyes, and will gladly stake my professional reputation on the accuracy of that statement. Anything else you'd care to discuss?

2008-03-25 16:00:06
You continue to pollute with your misinformation, deception and you have succeeded in deluding yourself of the truth like the rest at MS. It happens to all who continue to lie about the same thing repeatedly, they end up believing themselves. Lets not even start talking about V1 because before OOXML went threw this "standards mockery" it only had 7 member, Doug thats 7 members, it ballooned to 26 voting members, yes all interested in OOXML being approved. Should I go on....?
2008-03-25 17:54:41
@Rick: Wow, interesting choice of a post to turn on comments for!

There is a weird human thing of people taking evidence that contradicts their point of view and claiming it to be evidence for their point of view.

This post along with its comment thread would make a great social psychology case study, except I think the academic folk would think it was made up.

What's funny about Arnaud's sequence of posts is that he just can't let go of it, even when some Apache folk apparently objected being used as cannon fodder in a war they are not signed up for.

Of course Rlillysr can't seem to be able to say goodbye and mean it. Funny. I especially love the distorted effort to insist that Doug is living in a distorted reality out of his association with Microsoft, as if claiming it makes it so.

Reminds me of that great saying that I was told once: "The key to human suffering is to have a thought and to believe it."

Yup, you couldn't make this stuff up.

2008-03-25 19:56:57

IASA is the International Association of Software Architects. If you'd followed Yoon Kit's link, you'd find their home page.

IASA Malaysia is a regional chapter.

Doug Mahugh can answer as to the circumstances, but I think he's said he was already an IASA member. There is, of course, no doubt that he is a Microsoft employee. But he serves on INCITS/V1 (the committee of the US National Body) too, he was at the BRM (which I wasn't but Rick was), etc.

Oddly, looking at Arnaud's posts on insinuated skullduggery, because I am an independent, he expects me and other independents who favor approval of DIS 29500-bis to prove we are not on Microsoft's payroll. Very funny.

2008-03-26 00:40:53

I have a feeling that the IBM behavior we see here might have something to do with their widely distributed workforce. These people may not see each other face-to-face that often and probably have little contact with their management chain. In such an environment, there's isn't much of a check or balance against making statements that might seem good for the company at a particular time but is worse in the long run.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-03-26 01:04:57
NK: I don't see them as evil in this, at all: I think they have worked themselves into such a frenzy they genuinely only see the world in terms of us and them, and that OOXML is so bad no-one could reasonable support it, therefore if anyone supports it they must be corrupt, therefore it is reasonable to expose this. Early on they tried to say it must be emotional imbalance or lack of expertise that allowed anyone to dare to have a different opinion, but these more "charitable" ideas have dropped by the wayside now.

However, they are just plain wrong. I view them like undercover cops gone bad: by living in this conspiratorial fantasyland they have lost touch with common civility, reasonable behaviour, responsibility and the ability to weigh facts.

This nasty dedication to the party line shows itself in the way that they react to anyone who points out that (sometimes) the IBMperor has no clothes. What I hope will come out of all this is that they will take a sharp look at themselves and think "What can we do that is positive, rather than just being negative?"

In this regard, I was delighted by an article on Rob Weir's website yesterday calling for more standardization participation by FOSS people: finally an actual positive suggestion! (Of course, at the end of the article he called me a paid Microsoft shill which suggests that he is still a divisive and too-factional person to be productively involved in any standards-related work.)

Gareth Horton
2008-03-26 08:57:19

I think you should have words with Standards Australia. They should have stood up for you the same way the Kiwis stood up for Matthew "Holloway" Cruickshank.

The extreme slurring - "far from objective", (his goal) “has always been to de-rail OOXML rather than making it a better specification” seems pretty tame compared to what you got.


What makes me laugh is that NZOSS are kicking up a stink about this, when they back these "slurs" up on their own web site!

“Matthew is also making significant contributions to the on-going opposition to OOXML’s adoption by the ISO as a second office document standard”


(Don't be surprised if that page has conveniently disappeared by now)


2008-03-26 10:48:50
In the distant past at standards meetings, if the talk became too hot, the chair called a break. If a party insisted on bad behavior (character assasination, refusing to drop a tabled topic, etc,,) they were asked not to come back and might have been asked to leave the room

Today is different. For reasons to numerous to enumerate (or even query for), we seem to tolerate this outside of countries that tolerate very little non-conformist behavior. We pride ourselves on our tolerance and rightly so. It is a strength. On the other hand, we have to recognize when institutional behavior crosses the line from strong objections into incivility.

I REALLY don't want to get into the comparisons with the American elections, so all I want to say is when politics becomes entertainment, the media becomes a ring master and the tigers and clowns become objects of fear instead of fun.

At IBM, Sutor keeps posting articles against OOXML but he turned off the comments. That is civil. I don't agree with his positions and offline, we've gotten hot about that and other issues such as IBM and 3D. Still, I continue to read his blogs by choice. Outside of the subjects we disagree on, Bob is a very agreeable guy.

Sometimes the only way to disengage is to quit reading what upsets one and start looking for common tastes. I don't think OOXML will NOT be an ISO standard or that ODF is entitled to be the only ISO standard for office systems. That is too anemic. I don't think it tolerable that Rick Jeliffe be pilloried for doing his job and speaking his professional opinions. Outside of the topics some disagree with him on, Rick is a very agreeable guy.

At some point, possibly after OOXML is approved or sent back for more work, we will want to move on to more productive topics. Experience with my own moats informs me that swimming across the honey buckets of the day dumped out the window of my own ivory tower is just as unpleasant as swimming into another castle.

Word to the wise: try to keep a list of what we agree on so when this bitter butter battle is over, we can get back to productive work. Otherwise, we are just ring masters who can't turn our backs on the tigers and the clowns.

2008-03-26 13:50:38
As usual, you're spinning like a top over nothing because you feel you have something to go on the offensive with, and you didn't read through Lars' post a couple of times to get his meaning. It also came at a time when lots of silly bloggers started telling us about Apache supposedly supporting OOXML. Microsoft has rammed the concept of XML down peoples' throats as being open so much that there is some implication that anything can support OOXML. That is not the case, as we have been over again, and again, and again, and again, and again.

This was even in his original post. Read:

"But what really is at the bottom of Microsoft’s claims is that basically any software that handles XML supports OOXML. While technically this is true to a certain degree, such a bold claim without any further qualification is pure misinformation........Obviously, one of the advantages of using XML is to make your format, whatever it is, easier to handle, it’s one of the fundamental benefits of using XML. But as I previously touched on in my entry on XML vs Open, there is a big difference between being able to handle XML files at the XML level and truly supporting the particular format at hand."

Readers can see what is going on here: a sad attempt to get the narrative on track.

No, it's a just sad attempt to make an issue over nothing in particular about a blog post where you couldn't even read what was actually in it.

Honestly, I hope they're paying you enough for this embarrassment for it to be worth it.

2008-03-26 14:51:11
"... XML vs Open, there is a big difference between being able to handle XML files at the XML level and truly supporting the particular format at hand."

Seg, that is a cosmic d'oh of XML and actually ANY format. Data needs a handler (what was once specified in a NOTATION att). Handlers have layers (hopefully) for each distinct process. So?

I doubt Microsoft is confusing anyone about the difference between a file and a file handler. The misleading memes about XML interoperability started ages ago at the dawn of the thing. That is why the repeated posts:

Data is portable.
Systems interoperate.

Nothing has changed but I still see those two conflated and confused in everything from XML discussions, to Semantic Web discussions, to 3D avatar discussions. Dr. Goldfarb has a charming retort for that which I heard aeons ago: "Nothing happens until a byte changes state."

So Microsoft didn't ram that meme down anyone's throat. The web 90s monoculture did. I really don't believe MS is confusing anyone here. What is typical of the response you quote is the misattribution to MS of a tactic any knowledgeable programmer will know is silly.

2008-03-26 18:22:13

"But what really is at the bottom of Microsoft’s claims is that basically any software that handles XML supports OOXML. While technically this is true to a certain degree, such a bold claim without any further qualification is pure misinformation."

So Seg, the only problem with this discussion is that you assume this statement is based on clear facts. It would be interesting to see the actual claims by someone speaking for Microsoft, whatever they were, in their context, and how that supports the inference about "what really is ... ."

For me, that kind of assertion without evidence and careful analysis is a yellow flag on the play.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-03-26 22:53:59
Gareth: Actually, Standards Australia did stand up for me, and repeatedly, for which I was very grateful. For example, when the local ComputerWorld ineptly and biasedly printed that I am a Microsoft programmer, Standards Australia's General Manager issues a press release: see

However, I do not expect them to go around the globe defending me everytime anyone says anything bad about me or misrepresents me. That would be a fulltime job for a small army!

I have met Matthew Cruikshank a couple of times, and he has always been entirely delightful, smart and civil. We obviously disagree with a lot of what each other says, perhaps even to the extent of being mutually mystified at how someone could hold such views, but the standards world starts from the assumption that people have different views: it is not a big deal or strange or unusual.

Standards and expertise is supra-national and we should expect discussions to be international. When Google, a closed source company, flew Free Software Foundation Europe president, Georg Greve out to talk at our Standards Australia meeting, no-one complained about the contradiction or the foreign involvement AFAIK. When I was overseas teaching courses last year, MS teed up info sessions with local standards people where they were interested. Malaysia's Yoon Kit helped the Philippines, supposedly. Someone from IBM wrote some third world NB's response. Doug Mahugh went along to a Malaysian meeting recently. And there have been a lot of bits sent around the globe on it. Objectively, OOXML has had a more thorough review that many drafts get, but it is quite straightforward technology compared to many standards, I suppose.

Now, there are definitely some people who are spoilers participating in the standards system that requires them to pose as fixers, and people do need to be aware of this. Many people in this class are completely candid that their purpose is no OOXML standard at all costs. (And we may indeed be pridently cautious about such people as bad faith participants, not in the sense of being immoral, but in the sense of attempting hijacking a process and work against its intent.)

But *most* people who are generally against OOXML are not mere spoilers in that sense, in my experience: they can see that there are trade-offs and arguments on both sides and that some of the arguments on both sides are tenuous and others are strong. I think the same is true of most people who are generally pro a standard for OOXML too: they recognize it is not a simple issue. This is an issue where reasonable people can reasonably differ: and they should be allowed to.

That does not mean it is inappropriate to point out that people have and reach points of view. The sloppy way people use "independent" to mean in effect "having no opinion" says a lot: in fact, the more you *are* an expert the more that you can see many sides of the issue but the more that you probably will adopt one particular stance, and therefore the more that people who also have that view will regard you as an ally or fellow traveler.

This is the maddening thing: I find when I talk to general people they are very aware of the nuance, yet the public debate (certainly from the extreme anti-OOXML side) is largely driven by fanatical and specious sites that try to demonize opposition opinion makers.

I hope the MS NZ guy clarifies to T&T that he is not representing the NZ standards body: it seems a responsible thing to do. As to pointing out biases and conflicts of interest, that is fine: almost everyone involved has them and it all needs to be out on the table, without inculcating self-righteousness or being nasty or insulting. AFNOR and other standards bodies need to insist on knowing who has ever written whitepapers for large multinational companies, for example. But going beyond that to inventing relationships and inventing corruption, let alone threatening legal consequences, for people who disagree is a quantum leap from that, and I hope MS avoid swimming in the sewer so enjoyed by the noise-makers on the extreme anti-OOXML side.

Fred Arnold
2008-03-31 22:22:25
"and I hope MS avoid swimming in the sewer so enjoyed by the noise-makers on the extreme anti-OOXML side... Many people in this class are completely candid that their purpose is no OOXML standard at all costs. (And we may indeed be pridently cautious about such people as bad faith participants, not in the sense of being immoral, but in the sense of attempting hijacking a process and work against its intent.)...OOXML has had a more thorough review that many drafts get"

Are you for real? And you expect to be taken seriously, it seems. I guess you missed the BRM debacle (thoroughly reviewed?? holy delusions, batman!), and the bit where Microsoft has completely trashed the ISO process in their zeal to force OOXML through at all costs. Microsoft is the sewer. Bribery, stacking the votes, rampant and blatant corruption, all for the sake of ramming through a deliberately-flawed non-standard. It's obvious why so many people are against OOXML- it's not a gray area at all, but clear as scorched earth. Why on Earth should this horribly flawed non-standard be approved by an international standards body? OOXML's only purpose is the same as all of Microsoft's document formats- lock-in and deliberate incompatibility with competitors. The only difference is this time Microsoft wants ISO blessing, to be an official standard rather than a de facto standard.

I have read many of your blogs on this issue, and you have yet to come up with any persuasive reasons to support OOXML. In fact your defense of it is as convoluted and verbose as the 6,000-page "spec" itself, which is not a true spec, but yet another deliberate obstacle. You have yet to shed any light on the issue, which in itself says everything.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-04-01 00:13:18
Fred: Apparently there were two very different BRMs. The one I attended, we had been warned to prepare national position, we had been warned that there could be a paper ballot, delegates worked together to get an improved text, and nothing happened that did not have consensus. And no-one was forced to take a stand on any issue they were not up to speed on. (And if any delegate came along not up -to-speed on *any* issue at all, what on earth were they doing there?)

As to your list of problems:

1) There has been NO case of bribery of any official

2) There has been NO case of accepted inducements to any delegates

3) There was one case of an offer that went too far to a local business by a local MS person, but it was hurried withdrawn when discovered, it was reported properly, investigated by the national standards body and had no effect: it was a case of non-bribery--a SNAFU handled the correct way.

4) There has been NO case of corruption which actually has the slightest evidence. The evidence-free nature of the allegations says a lot.

5) For "stacking", it is normal (and positively good) that people who are interested in a standard should join up and get involved. It is not surprising that once one side does it, the motivated competitors will join too. It is correct (and regrettable) that once a committee is clearly split on commercial lines rather than technical, the over-seeing standards body must be exercise a lot more caution and judgment in accepting its comments. It should be expected (though bad for everyone), that this means that to some extent the wider technical committees get disenfranchised and standards body will tend to stick with objective issues such as "were proper procedures followed?"

So what to do when you get this kind of arms race? You have to go back to the foundation qualities or attributes that are core to the standards process: equity, plurality, voluntariness, openness, formality, market support and creation; there certainly tradeoffs within these, and no standards process is perfect, but judging a standard process without considering these issues is utterly superficial.


Fred Arnold
2008-04-01 17:29:31
Wow. I am almost speechless. Microsoft completely trashes the ISO process and commits the most amazing string of blatant abuses and corruptions, which is all documented by a large and diverse number of people, including people who were there, and you just wave your hands and say it's all OK. Truly amazing- you're stuck on supposed bad manners, while ignoring the most egregious behavior by Microsoft. Subverting and damaging the whole process is rather more serious than a bit of harsh language from people who dare to object to Microsoft's nasty antics, sheesh.
Rick Jelliffe
2008-04-01 17:55:24
Fred: People's concerns about supposed irregularities does not let them off the hook for not making wild allegations and spreading innuendo. Why are concern for a good process and concern for honesty (in not stretching what you know) in any conflict? It is no use saying "Freedonia had something strange happen, therefore anyone who disagrees with me, even people with no connection to Freedonia, can be called any name and their protests can be dismissed."

Issues of making sure the correct process was done are better done in an atmosphere of civility rather than one of nastiness.

Farting in a lift is bad manners. Spreading innuendo about bribery and corruption with absolutely no evidence is not bad manners.

The trouble is that there are lots of reasons why people do things that you don't expect or don't approve of. They make mistakes. They make judgment calls and get it wrong. They have different priorities than you. They have different ideas of their authority. or responsibility. They read the rules differently. And so on. To treat every single case of this as evidence of corruption merely shows prejudice from the outset.