On OOXMLDIS 29500

by M. David Peterson

Update: via a recent follow-up comment from Rick Jelliffe, we have ourselves our QOTD,

If DIS 29500 mark II has been accepted, then the narrowness of the victory needs to be something that Ecma and Microsoft take very seriously: standards maintenance needs to be a budgeted, normal cost of doing business. They should be aware that they are being thrown a lifeline, to some extent. If this becomes a one-off publicity stunt, as is the dire warning of MS' competitors (and therefore, their own publicity stunts!), and timely, real maintenance is not performed, I would expect OOXML would be de-standardized at ISO.


[Original Post]
Open XML appears to clear ISO standard vote | Tech news blog - CNET News.com

Early reports Sunday indicate that Office Open XML (OOXML) appears to have enough votes to be certified an ISO standard. An official tally is not expected until Monday.


Some of you may have noticed that I decided a while back to ignore the whole OOXML/DIS 29500 debate here on XML.com. Two reasons: 1) Too much cost, not enough gain. 2) Rick Jelliffe had things covered from top to bottom, someone *MUCH* more qualified and capable than I to provide a proper perspective of what was going on and what it all meant.




13 Comments

Rick Jelliffe
2008-03-31 04:49:57
Dave: Thanks for that, it does mean a lot.


The nice thing out of all this, regardless of the outcome, is that I had a regular and constant support and encouragement, and much support from colleagues and friends who disagreed with many of my opinions but recognized that reasonable people could reasonably differ.


I think what a lot of people didn't get was that as part of the standards process, when negative issues are raised, these issues will be themselves be vetted. I did quite a bit of that, and found many of the issues to be over-stated: I think the exaggeration of issues played well to the crowd but not to document experts. (Which is not at all to say that there are not still large issues that need to be addressed, and sooner rather than later.)


If DIS 29500 mark II has been accepted, then the narrowness of the victory needs to be something that Ecma and Microsoft take very seriously: standards maintenance needs to be a budgeted, normal cost of doing business. They should be aware that they are being thrown a lifeline, to some extent. If this becomes a one-off publicity stunt, as is the dire warning of MS' competitors (and therefore, their own publicity stunts!), and timely, real maintenance is not performed, I would expect OOXML would be de-standardized at ISO.

M. David Peterson
2008-03-31 07:08:28
Hey Rick,


Thanks for the follow-up! I agree, this has to be seen as nothing less than a critical juncture in MSFT's focus towards the future. If they mess this up in any way, the world will never find reason to forgive.

Inigo
2008-03-31 07:45:40
David - thank you for saying that, it echoes my opinion. Although there are some OOXML-related issues that I have disagreed with Rick about, I've been very impressed by his commitment to accuracy, and his honesty and competence throughout the process. Meeting him in person in Geneva only confirmed the good opinion that I had formed of him.


I've also been impressed by Patrick Durusau. Again, while I have disagreed with some of his opinions, I have nothing but respect for the thought he has put into them and his bravery in stating them, when he knew that he was likely to be attacked for expressing an unpopular view.


So, while I'm not sure I owe either Rick or Patrick a whole 20-year-old bottle of whisky, I'll happily buy either drinks next time we're in the same country.

M. David Peterson
2008-03-31 08:55:52
Hi Inigo,


Thanks for taking the time to follow-up!


>> So, while I'm not sure I owe either Rick or Patrick a whole 20-year-old bottle of whisky, I'll happily buy either drinks next time we're in the same country.


How about the four us each grab a friend the next time we're in the same city and share that same bottle of Scotch? My treat! :D

Alan Bell
2008-04-01 01:40:54
Rick Jelliffe was paid by Microsoft to update wikipedia. Rick was paid by Microsoft to act as a devils advocate consultant on OOXML. Rick was on the Australian delegation to the BRM. These facts together gave reasonable cause to ask the question "is there a conflict of interests here?". The question was asked, Rick answered, pointing out he was not the head of delegation, but a technical expert (which few would argue against). The question was asked a few too many times, and not everyone accepted the answer (personally I was quite happy with the answer).


http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2008/02/significant_open_letter_from_p.html


"@Rick,
great question about Fondue, I will try to find out.
There are indeed several people with different points of view sailing close to the wind on the 'conflict of interest' issue. I fully expect everyone to put everyone else under close scrutiny and we appreciate the clarification of your position as a technical expert alongside the head of delegation and that you have been working for Microsoft and not ECMA."


It is a shame Rick didn't make it to the keynote of the OFE conference, we went out for fondue afterwards and it would have been great if he had been able to join us.

Douglas Phillipson
2008-04-01 21:53:43
This will go down as one of the worst things in history, next to MS Vista. The standards process should be scrutenized by the EU courts and the results thrown out. The process should start over with rigid rules that aren't changed midstream, no closed doors and if you are affiliated with MS are not allowed to vote. Screw you Mr Gates! Two standards are not a standard! The monopoly wins again. Why didn't the US fine Microsoft enough to actually hurt them for their abusive monopolistic practices, like this!
Douglas Phillipson
2008-04-01 21:53:58
This will go down as one of the worst things in history, next to MS Vista. The standards process should be scrutenized by the EU courts and the results thrown out. The process should start over with rigid rules that aren't changed midstream, no closed doors and if you are affiliated with MS are not allowed to vote. Screw you Mr Gates! Two standards are not a standard! The monopoly wins again. Why didn't the US fine Microsoft enough to actually hurt them for their abusive monopolistic practices, like this!
M. David Peterson
2008-04-02 15:41:18
@Alan,


Thanks for your follow-up comments!


>> It is a shame Rick didn't make it to the keynote of the OFE conference, we went out for fondue afterwards and it would have been great if he had been able to join us.


Mmmm.... Fondue. :D And, of course, I can't help but agree that a keynote presentation by Rick and a follow-up dinner afterwards would have been fantastic!

M. David Peterson
2008-04-02 15:49:04
@ Douglas,


>> Screw you Mr Gates!


Wow, such hostility. When's the last time you got laid?

Fred Arnold
2008-04-07 21:02:17
Sigh. The problem is you equate the people who oppose Microsoft's bullying, bribing, vote-stacking, and other dirty tactics with Microsoft's dirty tactics. Shame on you and all the other Microsoft apologists who can't tell the difference between the ruthless, scorched-earth tactics that made a farce of the entire standards process, and the people bold enough to speak out and expose them. Mr. Jelliffe's comments were rarely clear, never to the point, and certainly did nothing to bring greater transparency, bur rather were designed to obfuscate. The trouble with blogging is all those people out there with reading skills- you don't fool us.


You still haven't presented one single valid reason for OOXML getting the ISO stamp of approval. "Because the monopolist will leverage their lockin and market share to make it a de-facto standard" is not a reason. You have to work very hard to ignore the thousands of flaws and valid objections, and the mockery Microsoft has made of the the ISO. It's no wonder readers cry "shill" when your words are contrary to so much well-documented and blatant flaws, and abuse.

M. David Peterson
2008-04-07 21:49:58
@Fred Arnold,


Answer me one question: Why is OOXML (now DIS29500) becoming an ISO standard a good thing for MSFT, but a bad thing for everyone else?


Does DIS29500 have it's flaws? *YES*! But so so does every standard, an ongoing process of fixing and tweaking that will span for many years to come.


Every person I have seen argue against DIS29500 does so from the standpoint of "It's a win for MSFT, and a loss for everyone else." But they never actually provide any solid reasons as to why this is beyond the typical,


[quote]"Shame on you and all the other Microsoft apologists who can't tell the difference between the ruthless, scorched-earth tactics that made a farce of the entire standards process, and the people bold enough to speak out and expose them".[/quote]"


Bold enough to speak out? You mean bitching and whining and moaning about everything from the number of pages to the date formats counts as "speakin[ing] out and expose[ing] them."? Sorry, that just counts as bitching and whining and moaning because you seemingly believe that in doing so it will "expose" DIS29500 for what you seemingly believe it is. But are you a document expert? Are you a voting member of ISO? Have you actually taken part in the process of creating a standard? If no, then why does your opinion count and the document experts who disagree with you not count?


>> You still haven't presented one single valid reason for OOXML getting the ISO stamp of approval.


I've actually provided plenty. You just don't like what they are, so claim I've never provided any. On the contrary, you haven't provided one single valid reason for OOXML *NOT* getting the ISO stamp of approval beyond the typical "I hate Microsoft, so therefore this is a bad thing." response. Claiming foul play and imperfection of the specification doesn't suddenly lend you any credibility just because it sounds like the right thing to say.


Lou Steinberg
2008-04-09 03:55:28
"whereas gaining an official ISO approval will at very least ensure that the Office document formats from this point forward will remain open and accessible. "


How will ISO approval ensure this? On the one hand, OOXML was already an ECMA standard. On the other hand, there is no reason to think Microsoft will keep the Office document formats and this standard in sync "from this point forward", if they see competitive advantage in doing otherwise.

M. David Peterson
2008-04-09 16:38:11
@Lou Steinberg,


>> How will ISO approval ensure this?


As per Miguel de Icaza's follow-up @ http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2008/Apr-02.html (please see his post for direct links),


Once OOXML went for discussion at ISO, a number of good things came out and are major community wins:


1. The specifications for the old binary file formats were published under the OSP (February of 2008).


2. The above documents were backed up by the British Library in case Microsoft ever stops publishing them (announcement).


3. Microsoft is funding the development of a translator between the old binary file formats and OOXML which should assist folks that have experience in one format and want to understand the other, or just want to convert documents back and forth. If your app lacked support for OOXML, but had support for the old formats, you can use these tools.


4. Microsoft agreed that future versions of OOXML will be covered by the OSP a concern that some people had about future versions of the document.


5. Microsoft pledged to modify future versions of Office to implement the ISO version of OOXML.


6. working group was created to look into harmonization of OOXML and ODF, something that many developers involved in office suites have been advocating for a long time.


7. Microsoft pledged to support features to support other file formats as native file formats in their office suite:


Last year we sponsored a translator project that gave people the ability to read and write ODF files from Microsoft Office. Last month we announced that we would update the Office product so that the ODF translators could natively plug into Office and give people the same options they get from the other file formats. People will be able to set ODF as the default format in Office if that's what they want by simply installing the translators and then changing their settings.
8. Lots of clarifications went into the spec, and people should be happy about that.


9. And finally, now that OOXML is an ISO standard, as Patrick Durusau implied there are many winners.