Editor's Disposition of Comments Out (OOXML)

by Rick Jelliffe

The Editor's Disposition of Comments is quite an important document in the standards development process at ISO. After National Bodies submit their initial positions and comments on a late draft standard, the editor of the standard puts together a document to try to satisfy the various comments. Even though the Disposition of Comments document is not official, in the sense that anything in it is automatically accepted, it is usually the starting point for comment resolution, and, given that most comments are uncontroversial, is often the end-point too.

Monday 14th Jan was the self-imposed deadline for the circulation of the IDS 29500 Editor's Disposition of comments. (The comments and disposition documents have been leaked to the web, with no tears from anyone.) Here is my rough characterization of them:

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The Editor (Rex Jaeschke on behalf of ECMA TC45) has accepted the lion's share. There is a small chunk of comments that are out of scope (typically concerning IPR or procedural comments.) There is a small chunk which the Editor has decided are issues for the maintenance phase, not the fast-track process: these are typically how comments like "ODF has feature X, why doesn't OOXML support it?" There is another chunk of issues where the Editor disagrees with the substance of the comment, but wants to address the issue by adding clarifying or helpful text to the specification: for example, the issue of bitmasks is handled by giving examplars of how to handle them in XSD, RELAX NG, Schematron, DTLL and XSLT.. And finally, another chunk where the Editor disagrees, and gives the rationale for the disagreement. These are typically where the comments cross ECMA's line in the sand: that no currently valid OOXML document should become invalid.

Of course, even in the comments where the Editor agrees with the comment, there may be some cases where the Ballot Resolution Meetinig next month decides to do something different from the Editor's recommendation.

So how does it compare with the touchstone issues I isuggested in Your Country's Comments Rated!?
The particular touchstone issues I see are that spreadsheet dates need to be able to go before 1900, that DEVMODE issues need to be worked through more, that the retirement of VML needs to be handled now, and that there needs to be a better story for MathML.


Lets see the suggested resolutions for each of them

  • Spreadsheet dates to go back before 1900 (and can use ISO 8601 date format),

  • DEVMODE concerns printer-dependent data which may be binary: the editor suggests some minimal changes to say "information" rather than "data structure" and to show how the system would work with some future XML-based print structure, but leaves the issue of a standard format to maintenance and justifies the need for these printer-dependent data chunks on the need to package information in legacy documents:

  • VML is being withdrawn from the places it is used in the specification, which now use DrawingML (e.g. for backgrounds in WordpocessingML); (furthermore, this provides a level of modularity that theoretically allows some kind of use of SVG for drawing, though I don't expect this would be a popular option unless Office supports it.)

  • For Maths, the Editor recommends allowing alternative formats in particular recommending MathML: this is not to replace the OOXML Maths, but in the context of "rehydration" which is where you want to round-trip through systems that don't support your full language, so they use some lesser one (such as a graphic) as a fallback, but the systems maintain the text of a higher-level format. This is probably good for MathML adoption, but also for professional maths systems developers.



Finally, what about that issue I have been tracking that I think is a crazy edge-case blown out of proportion: the AutospaceLikeWord95? Well, now we have a few pages of documentation about a tiddly bit of extra space between digits and full-width characters (as used by Japanese); in fact we have much more complete documentation of typesetting behaviour that should not be implemented compared to what should be implemented! It doesn't do any harm to have this documented, except that it is a distraction from more substantive issues and has notoriously been used as evidence that DIS29500 cannot be implemented.

20 Comments

omz
2008-01-21 07:55:33
Pathetic


Microsoft is using the fast-track mechanism to develop a specification in 3 months. +2000 page of changes, for god sake !


Bad for ISO, bad for XML ( i.e. see the bitmask response ), bad for consumers who think that the word "standard" worth anything.


The rush continues.


--omz

Ian Easson
2008-01-21 08:47:55
Omz,


It is your comments that are pathetic. More specifically, they are exaggerated and contrary to what Rick wrote above:


- The work is not being done by Microsoft, but by ECMA. You know this, of course.
- They are not developing a new spec. Note, in particular, that a) The proposed changes are not supposed to break any documents created to the original version; and b) No new features are being added; those are for the maintenace phase.


Of course, if you just mean that the ECMA did a lot of work in 3 months, I think everyone will agree with that.


The only real rush I see here is your rush to judgement, before the Editor’s Disposition of comments is even published!

orcmid
2008-01-21 09:43:43
"(The comments and disposition documents have been leaked to the web, with no tears from anyone.)"


The funny thing about this is that it is those who are out to impeach OOXML who publish the stuff where the like-minded can see it. Those of us who think DIS29500 approval is a good thing, but are not part of a National Body organization, don't get to see it, and the honorable NB participants, such as yourself, don't publish the underground links.


Curious. Of course I found the material simply by going to a site that is created and dedicated to the rejection of OOXML, DIS29500 included. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.

omz
2008-01-21 10:34:00
> The work is not being done by Microsoft, but by ECMA. You know this, of
>course.


mmm... sorry for this ian but i have to say it: santa claus is a myth ( your parents pretend every year ;-)


>those are for the maintenace phase.


DIS 29500 is in maintenance phase ! rather: it is on "elaboration" phase.


>Of course, if you just mean that the ECMA did a lot of
>work in 3 months, I think everyone will agree with that.


there is nothing wrong with work "per se", the problem is the rushed work. The result are evident [1] ( i.e: fifth date systems when you could have only one and interoperable , surviving bitmasks , lot of deprecated material [ in a brand-new standard! ] , etc )


>The only real rush I see here is your rush to judgement,
> before the Editor’s Disposition of comments is even published!


they *are* published [1]


--omz


[1] http://www.itn.liu.se/~stegu/OOXML/DIS29500-2008-002.pdf ( found via http://www.noooxml.org/forum/t-36002/the-2293-pages-of-the-ecma-comments-are-here )

Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-22 02:12:45
omz: It took NASA about 8 years to put a man on the moon. It is completely in the realm of the possible to put together largely existing documentation into a usable form for a standard in the two years that OOXML is taking.


To say "three months" or "two thousand pages of changes" shows you are just trolling. 1 year review at ISO, 1 year development at ECMA, plus up to 20 years of documentation goes into this spec. It is not 2000 pages of changes, it is 2000 pages explaining the changes, with the same issues being repeated again and again due to the large number of repeated issues.

omz
2008-01-22 03:23:46
>To say "three months" or "two thousand pages of changes"
>shows you are just trolling


if you consider defending the quality of standards/standardization to be a troll, well yes i'm a troll


>1 year review at ISO, 1 year development at ECMA,
>plus up to 20 years of documentation goes into this spec


mmmm.. your sense of timing still is over-optimistic ( at least in older posts you fix some of this reducing 3 months of optimism ;-):


http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/03/no_showstopping_contradictions_1.html
http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/03/no_showstopping_contradictions_1.html#comment-545467


i hope the ISO quality baseline wouldn't be as your baseline of standards quality, some national bodies ( UK, USA, Japan, France, Norway, India ) give me hope


and you must thank that ECMA and Microsoft don't make NASA standards!


happy standardizing !


--omz


Stef
2008-01-22 05:20:52

Who said VML is withdrawn?


1) Office 2007 has already shipped, so implementers have to support VML.


2) If the VML root namespace is replaced by a DrawinML root namespace, you will still call that removing VML?


We would not have that kind of discussion with a serious organization working in the open. But remember, it's Microsoft, the digital nazis of our time.


Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-23 20:46:10
Stef: Withdrawn in the sense that it will not be required for a conforming implementation, that all cases where previously it had to be used have been replaced by DrawingML, that it will be removed to a different section where its status as legacy documentation is clearer, and that its use for new documents may be deprecated. The BRM may go further and suggest it just be completely removed (e.g. to go into an ISO Technical Report) since the size of DIS29500 is a common complaint, I wouldn't be surprised.


omz: Sorry, I completely don't understand your last comments. DIS29500 was submitted early December 2006. The BRM will be late Feb 2008. After that there will be a month for National Bodies to review at the proposed editorial changes from the BRM. So actually it is actually working to about 15 or 16 months of review time.


I see you quote NOOOXML.org. This is a site set up by the FFII where they be immoderate as they like without caring about who they hurt: a clearinghouse for slurs. I see they recently published a press release from Digistan.org, using statistics to impute corruption to the ISO ballot on DIS29500 (the same statistical approach could probably be used to say that corrupt people are more likely to be non-white, to give you an idea of what I think if its methods). The interesting thing about Digistan is that it is itself just a front for the same handful of people from NOOXML, together with someone from ESOMA (which is itself set up the same people from FFII.) When people have to make up fake organizations to give themselves material to quote from, that shows a certain attitude to candour, doesn't it?

M
2008-01-27 03:56:27
It seems strange that Ecma can "agree" to something and then not do it (eg, remove DEVMODE binaries)
marc
2008-01-27 13:24:04
"It seems strange that Ecma can "agree" to something and then not do it (eg, remove DEVMODE binaries)"


beats me


at least, ECMA(Microsoft) "agrees" with himself in many changes ;-), example response 467 [1]



What standard do you want to fast-track today? (TM)


--marc



[1] http://www.itn.liu.se/~stegu/OOXML/DIS29500-2008-002.pdf

Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-28 02:38:01
Marc: Yes, indeed ISO-ese "Agreed" is sometimes more like the Japanese "Hai" or English "OK" rather than the English "Yes". It is an agreement that the issues raised has some substance and needs fixing, though not necessarily that the issue as stated is exactly the way the Editor sees things. (It is certainly not always an approval of the NB's suggested course of action, of course.)


This is especially true where the NB has failed to state the general principle on which they are making their technical complaint.Things are always ultimately judged on principle and practicality. Without a statement of principle from the NB, it is in the realm of the possible that the editor will miss the real underlying principle that the NB is basing their complaining on, and in effect provide a solution that addresses the topic of the issue but not its substance (from the POV of the proposing NB.)


It is not easy to get a meeting of the minds. It wouldn't surprise me if a quarter of the "agreed" technical issues needed fine-tuning or more, compared to the editor's dispositions.


At this stage in the process, NBs are weighing up the disposition of their comments and how other NB's comments have been responded too. We had our Standards Australia meeting last week: very professional I thought.

marc
2008-01-28 05:12:35
>Marc: Yes, indeed ISO-ese "Agreed" is sometimes more like the Japanese
>"Hai" or English "OK" rather than the English "Yes". It is an agreement
>that the issues raised has some substance and needs fixing, though not
>necessarily that the issue as stated is exactly the way the Editor sees
>things. (It is certainly not always an approval of the NB's suggested
>course of action, of course.)


so.. it is something like saying "mmhmm" ( http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mmhmm )


>We had our Standards Australia meeting
>last week: very professional I thought.


when you say "very professional" i don't know what to think. Some people thinks that ECMA TC 45 work ( +6000 pages of a poorly worded specification and now +2000 pages of rushed fixes ) was "professional".


but ... all in this world is relative



Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-28 07:46:55
Marc: I don't know that most are rushed in their thrust really. The ISO process doesn't really give ECMA any chance to respond with changes until this part of the game, so they have had over a year of saved up responses on many issue. Fast-track is slow.


For example all the technical comments that NBs submitted for the contradiction (in the wrong-headed/deceived notion that it was possible to have a contradiction about standards that were not even referenced in DIS29500, whereas you can only contradict something you actually reference and use) did not vanish into no-where. TC45 certainly had its work cut out for it organizationally to get the 1000 comments (under their count, I count many fewer generic types) answered, as a matter of production.


I have been reviewing the NB comments, and I am pretty irritated by NBs who have just parroted existing comments, especially if they also complain about unnecessary work caused by repetition in the draft! What is good for the goose should be good for the gander: I would prefer a much shorted spec, much less parroted comments, and more consolidation of the responses.


As to Standards Australia being professional, what has that got to do with TC45? Your response makes no sense. I guess you are a troll.

marc
2008-01-28 10:36:34
>I have been reviewing the NB comments, and I am pretty irritated by NBs
> who have just parroted existing comments,


yes, i'm irritated too, but not for this ( i prefer excess of quality instead of lack-of ), but for National Bodies that upgrades to ISO JTC1 P-member status few days before ballot closing, which don't have expertise in XML nor DDL but cast an inconditional "approve" to +6000 pages, just because Microsoft submitted it ( i'm talking about COTE D IVOIRE, CYPRUS, JAMAICA, LEBANON, MALTA, PAKISTAN, TURKEY, URUGUAY and others )



>Fast-track is slow.


i would say: subverted fast-track is slow


>As to Standards Australia being professional,
>what has that got to do with TC45?
>Your response makes no sense. I guess you are a troll.


you mentioned Standards Australia


regarding my response, i would ask you, with my "troll" respect ( i'm aware of your background and work ), please honour and think twice before using the following words:


"standard"
"professional"
"interoperability"


thank you


--marc

Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-28 14:55:49
Marc: Ah yes, the standard behaviour. Ignore whatever the thread is about and cycle through a tired list of canned responses. Why not actually respect other readers and participate in a conversation rather than thread-hijacking into a monologue?


It is not proper behavior just to find a word used and then begin a rant on that. I use the word "professional" about some Standards Australia meetings and you go off about the size of the standard: absolutely no connection. I use the word irritated and you go off about new P countries (ignoring that the previous round of NB P countries had been recruited and favoured the other mob, no difference in behaviour between the different sides at all.)


I have seen this time and time again: don't you think readers can see through it? Just cycling through the same set of canned talking points regardless of whatever anyone else is talking about may not be the sign of a troll, but it certainly is the sign of a bore.


I suppose your response will be: "Bore? What is a bore is the leap year bug in SpreadsheetML!" Or perhaps "Time? What about the lack of time when we only had thirty days, six months, one year, oops 16 months to review!" or perhaps "Talking? What about the lack of accessibily in OOXML for people who are hearing impaired?"

marc
2008-01-29 08:27:11
>Marc: Ah yes, the standard behaviour. Ignore whatever the thread is
>about and cycle through a tired list of canned responses. Why not
>actually respect other readers and participate in a conversation
> rather than thread-hijacking into a monologue?


sorry, i disgressed when you said the thing about SA and that you were irritated


"ignoring that the previous round of NB P countries had been recruited and favoured the other mob, no difference in behaviour between the different sides at all"


( mmmm ... how much i have to say about this ... but no comments... for the reason stated before )


back on topic


"The Editor (Rex Jaeschke on behalf of ECMA TC45) has accepted the lion’s share.[...]
I thought it best not to add the numbers to the chart, because I don’t want people to fall into the 'raw page count' trap and read all sorts of things into an inadequate metric. The chart is a sign that the editor thinks most issues are resolvable, not necessarily that all or most critical issues for any NB have or have not been addressed: the devil is in the details. What it is a good indication of, IMHO, is that the ISO process is moving forward, the various parties are being engaged and stretched, and the 'formalized conversation' I have written about before has progressed to its next stage."


"Marc: Yes, indeed ISO-ese 'Agreed' is sometimes more like the Japanese 'Hai' or English 'OK' rather than the English 'Yes'. "


so basically, this chart shows how many comments have the word "agreed" in the text ( something like a grep -c -i 'agreed' ECMA_Microsoft_responses.txt )


i can stop to wonder: what is the usefulness of such a table, if what matters here is the NB opinion. They will make the verdict about the "agreement" on this fixes/additions/deletions/deprecations/proposals.


just my opinion


--marc

Rick Jelliffe
2008-01-29 19:12:26
marc: Yes indeed it is of limited usefulness, but that is not to say it of no use. People want slogans and headlines, and they prefer "MS agrees to nothing" or "MS agrees to everything" to "Editor agrees to most but not all issues raised and makes suggestions in response usually prompted by the suggested solutions of the national bodies."


For example, propagandists frequently opined that it would be impossible for Microsoft to accept any changes, that there was no semblence of openness, and that MS was ramming things through and would only adopt the fewest changes to get the extra (two?) votes they need to get DIS29500 accepted: I think this kind of chart indicates that the raw numbers are rather against this position: it is clear that the ECMA agenda here is not to get the minimum number of issues resolved to get the spec passed, but to get the maximum resolved so that the spec is acceptable to the maximum number of National Bodies. (Of course, hilariously the same people who were saying there would be no change, openness, co-operativeness, etc are now saying the problem is there are too many changes! Any port in a storm, I suppose.)


The people who say today "There are 3500 flaws in DIS29500" (rather than 3500 comments by NBs, and rather than the 1075-ish unique issues that Ecma use for categorizing, and the 750-ish I count when you combine problems reported in multiple sites) will tomorrow may be embarrassed because MS will turn around and say "Here are 3500 examples of us being open!" Where the more moderate position is that there is clearly a measure of openness in the process, both at Ecma and ISO, and clearly standardizing an already deployed mass technology limits the scope for surgery: it seems that "openness" is more of a spectrum than we would perhaps like.


(And I think it is useful to note that these are Rex's proposed resolutions, which come under instruction from ECMA TC45, of which MS is obviously the championing stakeholder. So to say "Microsoft says blah" when really it is "Rex says blah" is inaccurate: Rex's experience leading various programming language standardization efforts over the last few decades will have given him ideas and strategies which have nothing to do with Ecma or Microsoft. It always comes down to people.)

Firery Spirited
2008-02-22 01:33:56
>For example, propagandists frequently opined that it would be >impossible for Microsoft to accept any changes, that there was no >semblence of openness, and that MS was ramming things through and >would only adopt the fewest changes to get the extra (two?) votes >they need to get DIS29500 accepted:


I do agree that it is silly to think that it would be impossible for Microsoft to accept changes. I mean how stupid would it be of Microsoft to agree that something is a serious issue, but then neglect to really do something about it. A more reasonably tactics would be to disagree about there beeing a problem and invent some explanation about why this is so.


The critical question is...what does it tell us if Microsoft/Ecma can't come up with a good enough explanation that they dare to disagree about if something is a problem?


The only logical interpretation is that every one of the answers that include the word agree, but refuse to really do something, are that these are issues that Ecma think need to be adressed but where Microsoft has used their veto against any change.

Rick Jelliffe
2008-03-05 01:24:40
Fiery: Or that they don't see any way to fix it, or that think that this is not the time to fix it (i.e. it should be left to maintenance) or that it requires a lot more discussion, or that it goes in a different direction than they have decided to take. There are all sorts of reasons, and they certainly could include that MS really doesn't want to do something. But no-one gets everything their way, including MS.
babychild
2008-05-02 19:57:10
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