A new test for objectivity

by Rick Jelliffe

I would like to propose a new test which you can use to see whether your favoured spout* of technical information is biased (or possibly just a re-printer of press releases, if there is a difference) or not. Here it is:

  1. They reported that the UK Unix Users group had take the British Standards Institute to the UK High Court, and

  2. They didn't report in the same detail the outcome: that the High Court utterly rejected it.

Surprisingly, the Inquirer gets the guernsey here, in the marvelously titled UK unix beardies appeal for $cash. No sign of it so far on CNET, ComputerWorld, ConsortiumInfo, Slashdot (references welcome). (Groklaw perhaps did not have space for this, given that it has two interesting posts in its news about IBMs RoadRunner supercomputer which is "to ensure the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile." Terrific boxes! Perhaps the High Court needs to put out its findings disguised as product press releases in order to get into independent media?)

Quoting from the Inquirer:

Mr Justice Lloyd Jones rejected the UKUUG's application for a judicial review last Thursday, giving the group until the break of dawn this Friday to raise a legal fund for an appeal.

"This application does not disclose any arguable breach of the procedures of BSI or of rules of procedural fairness," said Justice Jones on Thursday.

"In any event, the application is academic in light of the adoption of the new standard by ISO," he added.

For terminology. In JTC1, the terminology is that a standard is accepted by a ballot and consequently published. This general process is called adoption. So IS29500 has been accepted as an ISO standard, but not yet published. The UKUUG's reported comment that
OOXML had not been ratified as a standard, it had merely been put on the fast track to certification.
is mumbo-jumbo.


Alex Brown
2008-06-10 04:08:36
Come on Rick, that's not playing the game.

The decision by the High Court just proves it has been corrupted, surely ;-)

- Alex.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-06-10 04:36:02
Alex: So you are defending His Lord$hip with your snide comment?

That is a rather superior position, as if the whole thing was ridiculous and patent grandstanding on behalf of people who would spend their time and money better by actually participating in BSI, OASIS, W3C and ECMA rather than waste their members funds on eccentric legal cases. That kind of crazy talk is just one step away from saying that it was just the tail end of a campaign of intimidation: I refuse to provide a forum for such conspiracy theories or triumphalism. Clearly it was just a matter of money and time that defeated them, not the case itself: I think it is more likely that Microsoft's army of lawyers with their tricky confustications made mincemeat of the naive judge, rather than that he succumbed to their serried blandishments.

Alex Brown
2008-06-10 05:35:12

Indeed, this has already been demonstrated to be concrete proof of the deficiencies of the legal system. (http://boycottnovell.com/2008/06/10/ooxml-fiasco-protests/)

It's obviously not enough for M$ to p0wn the ISO, now they have the British legal system in their sights. I used to believe in British Justice -- now I am not so sure.

Luckily the UKUUG chairman is not a quitter and is reported as saying '"there was still a case for the UKUUG's appeal on the grounds that there had been "procedural irregularities"'. Huzzah, lucky for us there is somebody willing to fight and tell BSI how to do standardisation, and our hapless judges how to do law!

- Alex.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-06-10 05:54:53
Alex: I suppose I cannot ask you about any secrets of the BSI technical committee, if you were a participant, but perhaps you could tell me whether BSI does have a policy that consensus = unanimity?
Alex Brown
2008-06-10 06:21:06


BSI's procedures are set out in BS 0 "A standard for standards", which is available for public download at:


In Part 1, consensus is defined as follows, mirroring the ISO definition:

"general agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments NOTE Consensus need not imply unanimity."

So explicitly, "consensus need not imply unanimity".

BSI issued a press release stating "IST/41 reached a consensus decision and BSI voted in accordance with the committee’s recommendation". (Note that in the UK there is a division between the committees, which are always merely advisory, and BSI which is the body who actually votes).

Now committee work is confidential, but what we can deduce from this is that any opposition to approving DIS 29500 within the UK technical committee was not "sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests".

- Alex.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-06-10 10:53:46
Alex: I just re-read the article. Did UKUUG really claim that there was no consensus on the basis of a member *abstention*? Yikes, that is a completely novel view of consensus, more than unanimity of yes votes. Did they not bother to read BS 0?

What were their lawyers thinking?

Anyway, I hope these are not the same people saying that you shouldn't change the rules half-way through.