The Attacks on ISO

by Rick Jelliffe

I had a nice email from a person involved at the highest level with ODF yesterday, saying he didn't think I was being extreme in my recent blogs about contradiction at ISO. Very encouraging and gentlemanly. He also said Well, the gratuitous comments about people whipping up passions may have been a bit much but ... I was sure you are as tired of the hype as I am. Quite so.


Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 02:55:03
It seems that there is one pro-OpenXML person also getting too excited: see this anonynous post, to which the same comments apply.

Saying that there is some reason why a Kenyan or a Kazakhstani cannot have a credible view because they come from peripheral countries is obviously not something that an Australian (we are in the same boat) would accept. Indeed, the strength of ISO is that it is probably the only forum where the periphery can have some kind of level playing field with North West hemisphere.

M. David Peterson
2007-03-15 02:57:37
Absolutely unbelievable. You know, there are times I criticize folks like the W3C for not being more open, and then I see and read examples like this and wonder if maybe being more open is something that would do much good in the first place. I'm not suggesting that they shouldn't be; I believe there are better reasons to be more open than there are not to be more open, but after reading this, I certainly can't blame them for being weary.
Rob Weir
2007-03-15 06:03:11
There are conspiracy nuts on the internet? Really? Of all places, who would have thought they would be on the internet. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

Congratulations on taking on the weakest arguments of anonymous crazy people and fighting them to a draw. It is hard work, but someone has to do it.

But all kidding aside, I'm bit bemused by the fact that you never have anything good to say about ODF, or anything bad to say about OOXML, though you take every opportunity to profess how neutral you are and how you really like both standards. Also, you've stated that you've helped Ecma with their Schema, and you seem to be actively trying to tone down the criticism of OOXML on Wikipedia, though I've never seen you even introduce yourself at OASIS or offer a constructive comment to us. Is this neutrality for real, or is it just an editorial fiction?

I'd love to see you write a post on the 10 things you don't like about OOXML. Or the 10 things you like about ODF. Or both. That would help preserve the plausibility of neutrality.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 06:35:08
Rob: Why don't you condemn the bribery allegations? Instead of deflecting scorn on me, why not just say straight out "I am not aware of any bribery of ISO or national body officials and I call on ODF and OpenXML supporters to refrain from making unfounded allegations." It isn't funny Rob; a person's reputation is not fair game.
2007-03-15 07:37:52
Mr. Jellife,

I think that it might be hard to condemn bribery allegations without proof; there may be bribery. There is certainly lobbying on both sides of this issue. I definitely think that condemning libellous comments and any actual bribery would be good first step.

There will always be uninformed, mean-spirited irrelevant commentary. If you find yourself publishing rebuttals to it, stop - you are wasting your time (and mine). [Just my opinion, you need to follow your own compass as to your writing.] You are very well equipped to address the technical and procedural elements of this debate as few are, and I applaud your continuing interest in the face of sharp (and often (too often) blunt) criticism.

M. David Peterson
2007-03-15 08:26:18

Representing the group of folks who have actually read Rick's work, I can attest to the fact that he *HAS* written about both the good and bad of both Open XML and ODF.

Try and keep up, would ya Rob.

Luc Bollen
2007-03-15 08:26:42
I'm amazed to see how people can be short sighted !

Let's assume that finally NBs reject OOXML as an ISO standard, as happened for C++/CLI (I personally think there is a high probability for this).

Suddenly all the people who criticise ISO now will suddenly claim that the process is well managed and ISO was right. How stupid !

Let see what happen first. If the result is not what one expects, then investigate to check if something went wrong.

In the meantime, these people should address their bribery complaints to Microsoft (provided they have some evidence of it), surely not to ISO or NBs...

2007-03-15 08:30:10
This is a straw-man attack.

If the ISO will "look at the technical issues without fear or favour", why the fast track?

Here in the US (and probably in AU, to a lesser degree, as well), we've noticed a trend: when someone tries to push something through quickly, it usually means they are trying to get away with something (e.g. the PATRIOT Act) that would likely not survive normal scrutiny, not because they are magnanimously trying to reduce the cost to the decision process.

M. David Peterson
2007-03-15 14:05:23

So then ODF would qualify for the same scrutiny given they too took the fast-track approach, correct?

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 15:22:38
William, Luc: The bribery claims seem to be based on saying "She didn't do what we were assured she would do, therefore there must be a sinister reason". This is not just FUD against ISO, which we can expect from the commercial and free interests I suppose, but it libels her in particular and so deserves unambiguous denunciation. The trouble with it is that readers can find themselves in the position of thinking "oh, I guess that is plausible" rather than "there is not one shred of evidence, I refuse to descend to that level".
Kurt Cagle
2007-03-15 15:37:09
Actually I would have preferred if ODF hadn't been fast-tracked for precisely that reason - that it is all too easy to look at such rapid acceptance as being a sign that the right people have been paid off.

My objections to ISO acceptance of OOXML has more to do with a belief that a standard should be more than just a formal description of a single vendor's product, no matter how powerful. ODF is not such a standard - though Open Office was one of the first adoptees, they had a different format for OOo 1.0, which consequently meant that for 2.0 it required fairly significant code rewriting in order to more closely conform to the ODF specification. To me, if that was the case, then Microsoft could have just as readily put the Microsoft Word binary format up as a standard and saved themselves the legal expense and coding time of putting together an XML format in the first place.

However, I see these as being fairly technical arguments, and I have seen compelling arguments on the other side of the fence as well. That's the nature of technical debate, and I dare say I'm not raising any issues here that have not been raised by certain member countries. I find, however, when the debate descends to the level of ad hominem attacks and character assassination, then it serves the interest of no one, and only makes those hurling such epithets to be fools and simpletons.

If OOXML makes its way to an ISO standard, then it does, and there are some good reasons to see it there as well (the biggest being the fact that at that point schemas become frozen - which I think will have a manifestly positive effect on the web in the long term).

Mark Blafkin
2007-03-15 15:40:38
You couldn't be more right about PJ and Groklaw. She seems to embrace all the worst parts of the FCC in the way she regulates Groklaw.

The use of a few swear words by Linus Torvalds as he defended himself from the usual savagery found on Groklaw is a terrible thing that must be stifled.

Ironically, however, she cultivates a culture of hate, libel, and abusive language (as long as you don't swear) throughout her little kingdom. To borrow from Jon Stewart, Groklaw has joined the now-defunct "Crossfire" and the O'Reilly Factor as examples of what is wrong with America (and parts of the rest of the world).

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 16:08:11
Brianary: Yes, from the outside the US Patriot Act seems incredible.

As for rushing through, I think the fast-track procedure should be ammended to allow SC34 to opt in (any time after the five month period begins) to a discretionary three to six month review by SC34, ending one month before the DIS ballot stage can take place, to provide an input into National Body votes. These will then provide better informed comments on controversial issues, but not force SC34 to engage in work it is not interested in.

I have mentioned before four responses to the "rush" mem: first that conventional standards take more time because they involve development time, while the fast-track standards emerge fully-formed from the earth: the nature of the review and the changes that are apropriate to make are different; second that the minimum time before the final national ballots will be thirteen months of scrutiny, which is enough time for a reasonable review with feedback; third that you cannot base things on a mere page count...the editorial decisions about whether to generate text with a lot of boilerplate and enumerations of values (contrast OpenXML and ODF for this) alters the amount of effort in your finger for clicking the mouse but doesn't increase the mental workload in reviewing, because it is the things that are different between entries that need checking not the things that are common; fourth that the rush meme got oxygen because of over-enthusiasm on the importance and nature of the contradiction period in the scheme of things, but it will now join the cloud of FUD to be wheeled out right up to the end of the thirteen month period.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 16:50:55
David: AFAIK, with ODF the National Bodies did not have any "no with comments" votes that would have triggered the ballot resolution phase and the extra scrutiny, because some votes were made by the JTC1 committees of NBs not their SC34-equivalent commnittees (who give technical reviews not just gave up/down policy-based votes.) (Happy to be corrected here!)

But I don't think there is any doubt that ODF would have passed ultimately, even with the involvement of SC34 who have traditionally been disinclined to standardize application formats, because it meets a market requirement and from my superficial inspection meets the appropriate editorial and technical quality; the difference in practice is that review and fixes by SC34 and national bodies will be done after the rubberstamping, as part of maintenance, rather than before. A bit cart-before-the-horse, but adopters will be cautious in the short-term anyway, and I think the various issues uncovered with ODF and OpenXML (e.g. by the fine-toothed comb of national body translation activities especially) will be dealt with in the short-term anyway. ODF is a very large spec, and I doubt that there would be zero defects, but it is not a cause for panic or FUD.

I have avoided detailing errors I find in ODF or OpenXML because I don't want to get involved in the tit-for-tat. I have mentioned errors I find in *some* of the public comments made during the review period because they are so bad.

Being independent doesn't mean you cannot come to a conclusion.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 17:05:27
All: Please no flames on PJ or Groklaw. Save it for somewhere else please. The last quote was intended to show that there are moderate people involved on the comments pages too, not as any kind of attack.
2007-03-15 17:22:47
Mr. Jelliffe,

The point in your third comment is well made - if there is no evidence of an offence then the closest anyone should come to an ad hominem attack should be a call for them to open their records to dispel such charges. I don't think that there is any reason to suspect bribery at this point. If there were legitimate suspicions they should be addressed by the relevant authorities. Potentially libellous comments should be curbed or apologized for if necessary.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't be alert for conflicts of interest, but there is no need to be rude about it.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 17:33:27
Kurt: Yes, there is *almost* a complete spectrum of views. That neither ODF nor OpenXML should be standardized (I associate this with some British/Canadian people), that neither ODF nor OpenXML should be fastracked but go through the normal process (many NBs made this kind of comment), that ODF should be a standard but not OpenXML (some ODF people), that ODF and OpenXML should be standardized (Ecma, most NBs are vaguely in favour AFAIKS), that if ODF can be fast-tracked then OpenXML can be (me).

The missing view? That OpenXML should be standardized but not ODF :-)

But there is definitely a particular tradeoff for government-sector adoption. If OpenXML is standardized, then there is the risk that ODF adoption will be slowed down (where procurement regulations are not smart enough to allow adopter discretion), which would hurt ODF-only vendors. (Its not so simple, however. Risk avoidance suggests that it is useful to have OpenXML lurking as Plan B even when ODF is our Plan A, and vice versa.)

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-15 17:56:13
William: Yes. But libel goes beyond rudeness and into damaging mischief.

A responsible anti-OpenXML person will say "This shows there is a lot of strong feeling, but they are not based on any evidence." An irresponsible anti-OpenXML person will say "There have been allegations of bribery you know, but I don't want to buy into that" which repeats the slur and participates in the libel.

If you make a personal allegation in good faith, and you later find you cannot support it, you try to clean up: contact the people you mentioned the claim to, remove or annotate material on your websites so that the disinformation doesn't continue. If you are the moderator of a site with libels or near libels, you remove or censor the libels or put in warnings. If you are the beneficiary of libels by others you distance yourself from them and try to create an environment where they don't occur.

Zaine Ridling
2007-03-15 23:32:01
[Rick]: Rob: Why don't you condemn the bribery allegations?

Wow, so now you're demanding that Rob Wier must apologize for someone else's remarks? That's a funny definition of accountability you got there, Rick. I also noticed you ignored his very honest challenge. Also, by giving credence to what you consider libel at every turn, you come across as hyper-sensitive and emotional rather than rational. Relax man. I remember all the Microsofties telling me how silly and irrelevant ODF's ISO-certification was... until Microsoft submitted Ecma 376. If the MS-OOXML spec is so good, why won't Brian Jones, et al. at Microsoft publicly respond to the contradictions raised so far? It's as if they're afraid of the light, and I don't think you'd be so reactive if you MS-OOXML was defensible in its own right. As many have said elsewhere, just because MS-OOXML is a published spec doesn't mean it should become an ISO standard.
Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-16 00:46:06
Zaine: So calling for unsupported claims of BRIBERY (on a serious and influential forum where people expect to find legal facts and discussion) to be condemned and rejected, rather than winked at, makes me "reactive", "hypersensitive and emotional", and not "rational", does it? Hmmm. I take a size 43 in Australian sizes, if you want to prepare my straightjacket ;-)

I'm not asking anyone to apologise for someone else's comments: how did you come up with that?

Kurt Cagle
2007-03-16 10:49:43
Rick:I suspect that "the missing view? That OpenXML should be standardized but not ODF :-)" is indicative of something important, but I won't push anymore there.

My own hope frankly would be to see that the ultimate consensus (though this is a bit late in the process now) would be to see a move to merge the two standards. Yes, it would be a lot of work, and it would slow the process down, but I really see that the only real resolution here if you assume OOXML makes it through the FT process would be for these to both be seen as betas for a consensual document in 2010. While its far from true in saying that there is only an XSLT transformation's difference between the two, (there likely is, but its going to be a heckuva transform), the fact that they are both XML formats would tend to make the argument for a consensual standard stronger rather than weaker for precisely that reason.

BTW, I thoroughly enjoy this thread - some very salient and thought-provoking comments on it.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-16 16:08:37
Kurt: Patrick Durusau, editor of ISO ODF and a fellow WG1 participant, has recently raised the issue of how to organise generating a mapping table between ODF and OpenXML. As I understand it, not only to help document conversion writers, but to find and document the differences (things which have no mappings or workarounds). ODF development will need such a list in order to persue its goals of interoperability and OpenXML needs such a list to show where it provides fidelity/legacy/alternative-semantics features that don't fit into ODF in order to justify it too (for example, at the five year reviews.)

When OpenXML and ODF 1.2 are bedded down (i.e. 2008!) and such a mapping has been made, we will be in position to *start* to talk about modularization, harmonization, mix'n'match, cross-pollenization and refactoring. I think there is good value in keeping archaisms out of ODF, however...the double kitchen sink effect I have mentioned recently elsewhere.

The thing is that I don't think *any* of the vendors or developers is actually doing more than providing some of the pre-conditions to interoperability at the moment. Its not deliberate, its just that the market hasn't thought through the issues yet and demanded the capability. Because interoperabilty requires profiles, profiles requires validation, and the only schema language that can handle the kinds of constraints is Schematron.

So the presence of ISO Schematron validators (or the equivalent) in office systems as part of the Save or Export subsystems is, IHMO, a necessary pre-condition to interoperability. For example, the biggest single thing to allow interoperability (in particular, retargetability) it to require the use of styles rather than ad hoc formatting: Schematron can check this (enforcement by removing menus may be part of the solution too).

Now it is all very well for IBM people to say to me "Why don't you spend more of your time whinging about OpenXML so that we can give you a gold star" but my rejoinder to them is "Why don't you add Schematron validators to your office products to be minimally ready for profile validation, if you are so concerned about interop?"

The Wraith
2007-03-16 16:59:28
It isn't strange that you reference Groklaw I guess.
This site is heavily moderated to remove any pro-ooxml commenting or even being critical on ODF. The site suggests itself as being a an open portal for oppinion but clearly if your oppinion is not matching the oppinion of it's fanbase then you beeter stay away !!
Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-16 18:14:06
All: Please flame Groklaw somewhere else. (I will remove subsequent comments that mention it.)

Wraith: My contributions on the comments page on the anti-OpenXML issues at Groklaws has not been censored. I think the main page is closed because it was prepared for a particular deadline. I don't imagine anyone thinks that Groklaw doesn't have a particular POV, but there is a difference from having a POV informed by facts and making wild allegations based on no facts.

2007-03-16 22:06:51
In case it's not clear, I completely join you in a call for serious work on profiles, certification if required, and an arrangement where conformance testing can be done. I don't see how the various civil authorities can follow through on a plan of adoption for open formats in the conduct of the peoples' business if they don't come up with something in that regard.

Thanks for the perspective on the ISO process and how important questions are dealt with. It is refreshing to see some folks approach this quagmire with both foots firmly on solid ground.

2007-03-16 22:22:55
Both foots! I said that? OK, time for sleep.
2007-03-18 08:30:55
I suppose after all of this electronic print and expressions of personal concern, I still can't figure out why there is a problem with two standards.

So much noise. I have to conclude we enjoy the conflict and there is something very primal going on.

2007-03-18 12:27:52
>I still can't figure out why there is a problem
>with two standards. So much noise

yes, go Corel, submit your own format of Wordperfect to ISO too, Textmaker, what are you waiting for?

Free standards for everyone... happy hour for standardization

Ad: "Get a standard and foster your office application market presence. Come on and sign on ( presenting an ECMA voucher, you get a fast-tracking treatment ! ) "

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-18 17:44:15
Len: Two standards because they embody different development principles and uses (interchange versus replication/access/documenation) for which there are separate present market requirements. And they have different features sets. And they have release strategies. And they are not the end of the line. And because having ODF alone wouldn"t have an anti-trust effect.

Ralph: Yes, indeed, now that ODF has pioneered this, it would be fine for other leading traditions to submit to standardization, IMHO. The trouble with standards is that there are no enough to choose from.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-19 21:10:03
I was glad to see ODF lobbyist Charles-H Schulz come out against the extreme claims (though without ceding any ground to his opinion of OpenXML, the total conspiracy of Microsoft, the total lack of conspiracy by IBM, etc.)

"However it should be understood that the secretary general who took this decision did do it based on a set of rules defined by the ISO. ...
The Secretariat took the « wise » decision to grant the fast track procedure to the Ecma 376, obviously thinking that if there were any real objections to this specifications these could be either validated or rejected during the process."

Well done, Charles-H!

2007-03-20 06:00:35
And they have two different groups of users with some overlap.

That is the real elephant in the room. Cagle and I have been debating it a bit. There is a substantial benefit to an ISO standard for what is in effect, a large aggregation of Microsoft technology. The benefit accrues to the Microsoft customers and they constitute a very large percentage of computer users worldwide.

It gets down to minority vs majority rights. That is the peanut snarfing issue which will not be satisfied by counter claims of moral majesty or conspiracy. A competent judge would look past these claims and assess the greater good.

Yes, I understand the two different feature sets etc. I also understand that noise has sources in systems. And perhaps more importantly, I know where the KISS philosophy goes wrong in complex systems: sometimes a complex control is preferred lower in the stack to offset the problems of compounding choices higher in the stack. See SGML Declaration vs InfoSet. See the tri-part claims for conditions of open source and contrast the simplistic assumptions for transparency vs the requirement to legally and publicly obligate the contributor to royalty-free and unencumbered contributions.

Charles-H. Schulz
2007-03-23 04:26:22
Rick, what you quoted in my blog is misinformation. I do encourage anybody interest to read the entire text to get the context of my words:

Now, I did write these words. But by reading my blog, you will also understand that while I'm not accusing the secretary general of the ISO without evidence or even private disclosure of some facts, I am also saying that MS exerted a pressure on the ISO that has been unseen before.

Please do take the time to read whay I have written and not interpret some words that seem to match your position!!!

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-23 17:12:56
Charles: Actually I explicitly mentioned that you subscribe to "the total conspiracy of Microsoft".

Charles is "in charge of the worldwide coordination of the communities of users, developers and documentation teams of the project." according to the bio on his consulting company.

He has an blog entry which finishes with Last but not least, Rick: why do you have to bring the most extreme reactions from the FLOSS community and highlight them as representative of what every ODF proponent is supposed to think? I see you don't do the same with the Ecma 376 folks.

My reply would be, of course, 1) I have never bought into the idea that being pro-ODF means you must be anti-OpenXML, therefore any comments about anti-OpenXML are not against ODF proponents. 2) I explicitly sandwiched the comments in examples of moderate behaviour. 3) I did apply the same standard to pro-OpenXML people, see the first comment on this blog. 4) Indeed, I quoted Charles himself as an example that the slurs were not universal. 5) I never mentioned FLOSS, and in any case ODF does not mean FLOSS, since there are several major suites that use ODF that are closed source. 6) The second last paragraph of the blog addresses the point directly and limits it to a "small few".

Charles-H. Schulz
2007-03-24 06:36:15
"Charles: Actually I explicitly mentioned that you subscribe to "the total conspiracy of Microsoft".

Charles is "in charge of the worldwide coordination of the communities of users, developers and documentation teams of the project." according to the bio on his consulting company. "

I really thought you knew about this, Rick. Yeah folks, I am a volunteer of the project. Free downloads, anyone?

And yes, I am a tad biased when it comes to office suites and document formats. You see Rick, I never believed people like you or me could stay very neutral for very long. But we can remain transparent to our audience and our customers. That's what the most important, at least for me.

So to repeat myself and so that there can be no mistake: My name is Charles-H. Schulz, and I'm the Lead of the Native-Language Confederation of . I'm the proud lead of an international team that averages the several thousands persons and we're smacking off Microsoft Office market shares and the business practices of this software vendor on a worldwide level.

It seems that we're pretty good at it: we have around 15% market shares in the office suite market. And yes, I like ODF, and my company that provides strategic consultancy in the field of Open Source and Open Standards turns out to be incidentally a member of the OASIS consortium.

That's about it. Do I buy into the Microsoft's conspiracy? What do you put into the word "conspiracy"? I don't like this word. What I am witnessing day after day is a broad set of questionnable business practices from that software vendor, and a company that has an influence far qreater than entire governments and citizen.

Do I call that conspiracy? No. I call this "gaining power and trying to keep it at all costs".

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-25 05:32:52
Charles: I think you have backed yourself into a corner where because Microsoft is so bad, every action they do today must be opposed, even if it something that yesterday we called for. Opposition regardless of consistency; if they concede something we should do an about face and then oppose it, just because it is them involved. If they concede something, it must be some kind of trick or deception and we must have got it wrong to have demanded it in the first place?
2007-03-25 06:15:19
"Why do the heathen rage?" - Is that the kind of rude talk you wish to discourage? I'm confused by this lesson.

It's probably a fair point that the ISO remit is primarily technical. The rest of the world however can analyse this measure in the context of it's wider implications and to give due consideration to Microsofts wider record.

Governments for example must be vigilant against monopolies, what's Microsoft's record in this regard again? I won't dig up all those old chestnuts, they're all in the past aren't they, we don't have a pattern of behaviour whereby Microsoft abuse their position and by the time the law catches up it's too late.

Oh wait, Neelie Kroes just told MEPs "Microsoft is constantly gaining market share and that is what is worrying me in the work group server market ... As a consequence of your abusive behaviour you are getting positive results for the company - that's not acceptable."

Still playing the justice lag card? This is infuriating, wait, I'm at risk of being impolite, better order some extra large blinkers so I don't have to deal with the whole truth, could you be a jolly good fellow and tell me where you got yours?

2007-03-25 11:32:32
"Why do the heathen rage?"

Because it feels good. Endorphin addiction.

If you oppose MS on any act merited or unmerited, then you have set yourself up as the contrarian without sense or sensibility. If any product has a large customer base, the technology on which the product is built is a standards candidate.

After that, it comes down to picking an organization based on the participation agreement and the terms it binds a participant to and the processes of binding. MS is accused of monopolization and bullying tactics. Open source advocates are accused of being wild-eyed dupes.

There is something reminiscent of the cold war in that. In that one, whole parts of the globe were hostage to the politics of fear of the weapons, misunderstanding and misdirections of both sides. It will do no good to note how many MS customers will benefit from standards for Microsoft technology, nor much good to note that 15% is not a large enough base for other technologies to proclaim themselves "The Open Standard" and that be meaningful to a larger group.

So its back to sales and deals. The time to negotiate is done because any negotiation requires sides to come to a table and bargain with those things and ideas they value and if they come only to use them to beat the other side into submission, it is not a negotiation, it is a knife fight. We all know the rules.

2007-03-25 21:09:55
We already have odf, and now ecma376, so if that is approved odf is 'a' standard but not 'the' standard. vhs v beta, hd-dvd v blu-ray. Great. I thought the ISO was about preventing that kind of toss.

Anyway, are they interoperable?
Is ecma376 in accord with existing ISO and w3c de jure standards?
Are all features open and unencumbered with patents, ie freely reproducable without any ms software?
Does the spec today close the door on any future no's to the above?

If not then the standard cannot be open as it needs to be for users, ie vendor neutral building on and not in conflict with existing vendor neutral standards. That's really the basic requirement.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-26 22:31:32
Democrates: It is a reference to Flannery O'Connor's short story of that name. Which in turn an ironic reference to Psalm 2, "why do the heathen so furiously rage together?" The story and thought are too complicated to summarize, but they touch on O'Connor's regular theme of well-meaning people leading themselved into folly and fallenness by zeal from being quick to judge others.

Rick Jelliffe
2007-03-26 22:39:18
Domocrates: What do you mean by "W3C de jure standards" ? W3C doesn't make standards as such, but "recommendations"; W3C is an industry-sector consortium largely made up of industrial interests, like the boutique standards bodies OASIS and certainly Ecma, but it is not an international or regional standards body.

I am aware that the term "de jure" has been bandied about, but even with ISO standards it is used by analogy. ISO creates what it calls "voluntary standards". Any "de jure" really comes from regulators in nations or treaty groups that adopt the voluntary standard. (De jure is conventionally constrasted with de facto.)

2007-03-27 05:48:20
Is it open? Is it royalty free? Is it unencumbered?

1) Those are not requirements for standards.
2) Those are conditions of participation in a given organization.
3) Those conditions are not common across all organizations.
4) Where those conditions are a requirement for participation by signatories to participation agreements, the signatory balances investor rights (ownership) against participation benefits. To not do so is to abrogate fiduciary responsibility to the owners. This is law.

To demand it in all cases is unrealistic. To demand it by force of buying power is the market at work. To demand it by threat or increasing zeal demonstrated by making false claims or claims unsupported by evidence crosses a line being noted elsewhere these days in the blogosphere, but has been noted as a side-effect of anonymous contribution on the Internet in technical lists for many years before the web. It is to use the web as a raw amplifier where seizing a microphone and pushing it into the speakers creates a disturbance irritating enough to clear most rooms.

If there are to be open, royalty-free, unencumbered standards, they will come not from irritation but by the signatories understanding of their power to increase marketshare by increasing the size of the market itself. They are created voluntarily. The products that conform to them must be sustained if not by profit based on sales, then by loss leader status or by other sources of revenue.

There can be values we all share for common good or majority good. We have to judge each opportunity on its merits. While the open source community is quick to claim a moral majesty for its values for its products, it is slow to recognize the greater good that other standards can create for even larger groups of customers and too often, members of that community will use any form of irritation or obsfuscation to deprive a larger community of such benefits when not offered in accordance with the open source conditions for participation.

Doing so plays into the hands of lesser angels. You will not believe it because the use of irritation has become an enjoyable habit just as critique of music by those who cannot perform it becomes a way to assume a superior pose, but it is seen by those who do play as exactly that: a pose.

All ecosystems are systems of niches, some large, some small, some brief, some sustainable, some symbiotic, some parasitic, but all niches. Convenient facts can make a case in a given context, but in no context establishes a truth for all.

2007-03-28 20:33:16
Rick, Fair point on 'de jure', I hereby coin "d'accord standards" :-)

Len: I get the fiduciary duty, in fact the Financial Times ran a column where it was argued that CSR or anything else which interferes with the process of concentrating wealth is open to challenge.

I know too well that my preferences are not the practice, netiqutte (following W3C or IETF standards) is not legally binding. I'm not demanding anything, simply expressing my opinions and preferences, even if I had the wealth to influence as others do, I am committed to genuine democracy rather than wealthocracy.

As for the variety of niche relationships in an ecosystem over time, freedom demands that people can always try, but I'm sure you agree it doesn't follow that all must be deemed acceptable, eg slavery or paedophilia. I like to think we can progress.

For me corporations with their economic caste system of owner and employee are a sad reality, little more than a modern version of lord and tenant, so I've been working on establishing another democratic co-operative with a genuine community mission, call it Capitalism for all. It's a multi-generational process and I'm just doing my bit.

Of course I'm in the minority here as I am in the free software community, so I guess we'll agree to disagree for now on standards as it would seem from your references to the power of money in the market that our views probably arise from incompatible philosophical positions on the most just way forward for humanity.

But I'll keep listening to different views with an open mind and analysing from first principles, I want my life's work to be worthwhile and something I can be genuinely proud of, but playing along with capitalism for the few just doesn't cut it.