Easy SC34 meeting

by Rick Jelliffe

Here is a quick summary of my impressions of the Kyoto meeting.

Japan is so cheap to eat and stay in hotels! As long as you avoid touristic places.

Kyoto is so beautiful.

A real changing of the guard at SC34, with new Secretarat Manager, Convenor, and changes to the heads of WG1 and WG3. These are some of the people I really enjoyed seeing at meetings, and often quite eccentric or wonderful, so I hope they will still participate.

We now have a fulltime professional Secretariat Manager. It seems she is crackimg the whip to get things tightened up. For example, under the new rules I will have to be a delegate from Australia again, not independent.

DSDL is ticking along OK. We worked through some of the very last issues for some of the specs. After the horror year of 2007, we all hope things will settle down.

We are going to have a new version of Schematron. This will include the various features requested over the last few years, notably a better import mechanism, XSLT2 support, and so on. I am pretty sure I want to fold in code for ISO DSRL, ISO CRDL and ISO DTLL to the skeleton implementation, which will give a lot more capabilities. We are looking at standardizing a streaming version of Schematron as Part 6 of DSDL.

I had been tasked with trying to contact PKWARE about a possible ISO standard for ZIP. They did not reply to me, but the OOXML editor said he was in contact with them, so I expect there will be some progress there soon. That is one advantage of having the big boys at the table.

One feature of this set of meetings is the increasingly strong desire by the chairmen to prevent any wandering off into off-topic matters. This is of course because of the impending BRM which loomed over many people's minds (but not me!) which looks like being a very disciplined affair, indeed.

It was great to see many new nations participate: we had two delegations from Africa, a delegation from India, more Europeans. Very often the delegations included a professional from the standards body, rather than a technical person, so I think they were familiarizing themselves with the lay of the land preparatory to the BRM. There are already more delegates registered for the BRM than can fit in the theatre provided (120) so it looks like the larger NBs will have to trim out excessive delegates. But lots of smart people will be looking at lots of issues. ECMA TC45 had their meeting the week before SC34, and it seems they have been ploughing through the issues.


Jesper Lund Stocholm
2007-12-11 05:17:40
I share your enthusiasme with the meeting in SC34 (I only attended the opening plenary) and as I noted on the blog of Jan van den Beld in the comment section of his post at http://janvandenbeld.blogspot.com/2007/12/publicity-transparency-time-to-ponder.html, I was happy to see and realize how easy it actually is to play a role in SC34 (and any other SC, I presume).

Btw, it was nice to finally meet you in person - as it was with most of the people I talked to. It was nice to finally have a face to put with the name in the blogsphere.


2007-12-13 06:19:17
A few quick Q's.
Will you be attending the BRM in Geneva for Autralia ?
Will the Australian national standards body have a meeting shortly after the BRM and/or will they give a mandate to their delegation to possibly change the Aussie vote whilst still being in Geneva ?
Rick Jelliffe
2007-12-13 07:34:05
Jesper: Nice to meet you too! Usually, the standards meetings are collegial and respectful. But it is not always like that. Also, there are many different cultures, some argumentative, some anti-argumentative, some formal, some informal, and these don't always sit well together. When there are commercial or personal or national pride issues at stake, things can get heated, too. But nastiness is always in every circumstance just wrong and inappropriate during the meetings; I think the new SC leadership will continue to promote civility, as Ken Holman did so well during his term. We may think that some people's views are idiotic, but the trick is to try to locate the real problem that is motivating them: articulating issues is difficult and we all put the cart before the horse sometimes.

hAl: No, I have fallen on my sword for that one at the moment. Standards Australia and I discussed it informally, and I suggested that I might be a bit too controversial a choice to go. IBM wrote a letter of complaint about me to Standards Australia, after I spoke on the history of SC34 and various issues about standards (at the invitation of SA) earlier in the year, and I don't want to expose the SA officers to more of that kind of trivial nastiness. SA accepted all my issues into the Australian comments, and I have discussed my POV with many other key technical participants, so I am quite happy to let things chug along.

In particular, I have pointed out that the issues of clear conformance language need to be cleared up. For a standard, clear conformance language is way more important that completeness (a standard is primarily something that can be part of a contract, but it is only secondarily something that may be used as a recipe book or tutorial for software developers.) And I am very sure that conformance issues are being addressed really seriously; it is something I talked about as a general issue to several people during the Kyoto meeting this week, and I don't have any doubt that key stakeholders have a good grip on the issue.

Unlike many others, I don't see there is much chance for the BRM will actually get derailed. All it has to do is to prepare (instructions for) a better text, that the participants think is better than than the current draft AFAICS. I cannot give away any details of discussions, but it is public knowledge from the ECMA responses that accompanied the initial ballot comments that ECMA already has accepted many comments already.

We had the SA meeting to discuss the BRM this week, but I chose to attend the SC34 meeting to participate in WG1 discussions, in particular Schematron an DSDL issues. (Document formats were strictly off the agenda at the SC34 meetings. Lots of corridor gossip though...) The office document format things are fascinating and fun and important, but (as with Patrick Durusau and many others in SC34) they are not the main thrust of our standards work.

As for Australia changing their vote, I think there are two issues. First, a participant in the BRM does not change the DIS 29500 ballot vote at that meeting. At the BRM they vote on editor's instructions. Then they go home with those and the NB decides what to do with the vote. (See Alex Brown's blog and Wikipedia entries for more details.) I was not at the meeting here in Sydney, so I have no idea what the local dynamic was.

I suspect that many of the NBs will be sending officials (rather than technical people) to the BRM. If an NB has voted No or Abstain because the FUD campaign, and then their officials and delegates come back and say "We have observed that procedure has been followed properly, and that the meeting was technically competent, and the stakeholders seemed serious, and our specific comments were dealt with with reasonable responses, and the comments by other NBs were dealt with reasonably" then I think many NBs will indeed say "OK, this is a good result." Win/Win.

One thing to note is that NB issues are not all of the same importance. It is not "We had 30 issues, the BRM accepted 16 therefore we will change to yes". It may be that there is only one issue that is important to the NB. Or it may be that by the time of the final NB vote, they have realized that their initial concerns were unfounded or inappropriate. But in general, I think it is quite hard for an NB to vote no for a standard if the issues they raised were dealt with adequately: making up new issues for example. (Usually at this kind of stage in proceedings, new issues belong in the maintenance phases. And the maintenance processes for these fast-track standards are far more problematic than the standardization phase IMHO.)

2007-12-14 06:10:09
There is a reason I used to call these kinds of meetings 'short sword work'. Sometimes the samurai are polite but keep their hands close to their blades; sometimes they leave the blades in their rooms (not often) and sometimes heads fly. There is a funny Flash cartoon in that somewhere.

It sounds like you are doing the honorable thing in all respects, Rick. Good luck!

2007-12-17 10:47:34
"If an NB has voted No or Abstain because the FUD campaign, and then their officials and delegates come back and say "... then I think many NBs will indeed say "OK, this is a good result." Win/Win."

Oh, didnt you recommend to vote NO?

Anyway, why is it a win to present a weak negotiation position esp. as the patent problems of the format are still not resolved? I found the Ron Yu analysis of the patent models quite enlightening. In short, these models are absolutely baseless. You took part in the conference as you know. It makes a lot of sense to withhold from support for the spec until all technical issues are resolved and Microsoft moves its ass in the patent area and provides equal conditions as SUN.

Let us assume all issues get resolved and we get decent patent conditions compatible with EU open standard requirements. Wouldnt that be a win?