The Non-Hell of Geneva

by Rick Jelliffe

I'm writing this sitting in the sun looking at the pool, somewhere tropical, en route from the exhausting ISO/IEC JTC1 SC34 DIS29500 BRM meeting (hoping for my lost bags to appear and with every flight delayed by up to 12 hours). And not an acronym in sight here!

Apologies to readers; I took down the rest of the article, because it was proper for me to report back to Standards Australia first. This is quite reasonable, I think. But several sites copied the following from caches:

I’ll blog some more, but the BRM clearly has succeeded in its formal aim, which is to produce a better text. Every response by the editor was formally voted on. The big picture issues were given extra time for detailed discussion, and the NBs had opportunity to raise their highest priority issue, in turn. It would have been great to have had more time to deal with more of the middling issues: where we would have preferred some variant or augmentation of the Editor’s response to our issue or where we didn’t like his answer.

The context of this was that the meeting was productive and calm:

The BRM went pretty much the way I expected: grinding through the issues, politeness, assertiveness, corridor sessions, strange bedfellows, a lot of newbies who made up for it with articulateness, candour and brains. In substance, it was a typical ISO meeting: issues, votes, different personalities and cultures interacting, some people happy, some people pissed off about individual results, limited time, stimulation, mind-numbing alterations to resolutions, convivial dinners with fascinating techoes, late-night study sessions and early morning drafting gallops. But in accidents it was very odd indeed: not just the size of the meeting and the size of the draft and the sewerage farm of disinformation surrounding it...what is atypical is the large number of non-technical delegates and that a few delegates seemed surprised that their delegations would have to figure out a position on each issue by the end of the week (which could be "abstain - we have no position".) It is not as if they hadn't been told!

And after that quote was material emphasizing that there is a maintenance process to fix outstanding issues and new ones that get discovered:

There are a lot of those, and they will have to go to maintenance, which really is the big issue: will MS continue these baby steps to openness or will it go soggy once out of the spotlight, which is not unprecedented by other standards stakeholder? Even after the final vote (assuming an acceptance vote, as seems likely) governments will need to keep the pressure on Ecma to continue working with SC34 and to get these outstanding issues addressed ASAP; it is not the case that unaddressed issues need to disappear down a black hole, but SC34's only power comes from having strong government and user backing to give this maintenance the steroids it needs: this not only means monstering MS to continue through maintenance, but also (for governments) to provide adequate resources: staffing, delegates, and long-term support for participation at standards meetings.

I have more details at What is in the new draft of OOXML?. Brian Jones has a fairly detailed Narrative of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 BRM Meeting that is very factual. I recommend readers take a lot of the other material on the web about the BRM with a large grain of salt.