The anti-OOXML mob need to lift their game

by Rick Jelliffe

Here are three questions: they are not the same:

  • Does being pro-ODF require you to be anti-OOXML?

  • Does being pro-ODF require you to be against DIS29500 mark II being accepted as an ISO/IEC standard?

  • Does being anti-Microsoft require you to be anti-DIS29500?

A lot of the FUD over the last year has based on the idea that if you are anti-Microsoft you must be pro-ODF and if you are pro-ODF you must be anti-OOXML and if you are anti-OOXML you must be against the acceptance of DIS29500 mark II. It is George Bush-like simplification Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists that tries to excluded any middle ground.

However, you may find yourself in the position of wishing that Microsoft, since it does not seem to be going away, would behave itself; and you might believe that ODF is great because we need a good if sometimes lossy interchange format; and you might believe that is a good turn of events that MS is documenting and opening up its formats even though you may not be necessarily convinced whether it is by baby steps or manful strides; and you may find yourself thinking that while you might not use an eventual IS29500 yourself, other people surely will, and they would benefit from the stability and openness that a continuingly maintained and reviewed International Standard would foster.

You are not an extremist in this, but actually are being mild, accommodating of others, and reasonable. However, people with your kind of middle-ground views are being accused of everything up to (and including) corruption. For example, here is an comment that is quite typical, on a well-known anti-OOXML marketing website concerning a someone well-known who is one of the biggest experts in the field (I am removing the name, because I don't want to participate in repeating the slur):
You are of course very careful to avoid insinuations of foul play (almost); but I can't think of any motivations for XXXXXX's postings apart from naivety or subterfuge. And for someone as apparently experienced and knowledgeable as XXXXXX, naivety surely isn't an option.

and later
I don't know what XXXXXX has received in exchange for his "personal opinions", but I hope he values it more than his (now irrevocably shattered) credibility.

The logical fallacy here is called the fallacy of the excluded middle: the idea that reasonable people might reasonably disagree is not allowed. And thence to the imputation of corruption. This fortnight I have seen had four friends (and myself yet again, I must be so busy) separately accused in this way in various forums.

Now sometimes it is easy to write something that in retrospect reads in a different way to your intent. Everyone makes mistakes. But the responsible thing to do is to withdraw the comment and to take such personal attacks off any websites under your influence, and so on. And to refuse to link to sites which are not responsible in this kind of way.

The speed with which any differing opinions to the party line on OOXML are labeled corrupt should ring alarm bells. As my dear old Dad used to say about political speeches: "Argument weak: shout like hell!" Some of these guys will say anything.

Please guys, a bit of self control. If you are happy to see people's careers ruined due to differences of opinion on a file format, where are your heads at? (Credit where it is due. I was pleased to see that the moderator of that website called the commenters into order to say no more personal attacks. Let me be Mr Glass Half Full and say: Well done. However, as Mr Glass Half Empty, let me say that it is irresponsible to keep such libels online.If it is so bad or libelous a subject that new posts will not be accepted, why are the existing posts still up?)