The Short-Term Allure of the Proprietary Trap

by chromatic

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Citizens Against Government Waste released a press release today criticizing the Massachusetts plan for migrating to open document formats. There are two main arguments. One is that the migration will incur conversion and training costs. That part is likely true -- no migration is ever completely free.

I don't understand the second argument. CAGW president Tom Schatz said, "It is bad procurement policy for any state to unilaterally lock itself into one set of technologies."

That was my argument to the Oregon Legislature two years ago supporting a move to open standards! Any vendor, proprietary or free, has the opportunity to support open formats in its products -- even Microsoft.

It's possible that Schatz means that migrating unilaterally to open document formats may be a bad short-term decision if the software that supports those formats does not perform the job as well as the alternatives. However, I don't like that kind of short-term thinking, especially in the government. It's more important to me to provide open and unfettered access to documents in the long term than to stick with (perhaps better) proprietary software in the short term, especially because proprietary document formats make it more difficult to migrate to open formats in the future.

In my mind, that's the real waste.

I also wonder about the rest of this press release that criticizes the licensing model of software instead of the real issue -- openness of document formats. Hmm.

Is there a nuance here that I'm not seeing, or is this just a silly criticism from CAGW?


2005-09-21 13:45:52
I see two options
Either he really doesn't get it, or he is simply being a shill for business interests opposed to the move. I'm a fan of much of whatt CAGW does and says, but this is just nonsense. If you use Microsoft, you are locked in. If you use something else that's open, you can always convert to something else if necessary.

I think he just thinks MS is a "standard" and that it won't ever go away, and that he is just confused.
2005-09-21 21:18:12
You know "Citizens Against Government Waste" is a corporate front group, right?
I just posted a write-up about "Citizens Against Government Waste" ( over on my blog.

pudge: I'd be interested in hearing what specific things CAGW does and says that you are a fan of.