12.13.07

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OOXML and ECMA: Same Scandal, Different Day

Posted in Australia, Deception, ECMA, GNOME, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, Standard at 7:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Confusion, obscurity, uncertainty

There appears to be plenty of energy dedicated to make the whole standardiatino effort cumbersome, secretive, and immune to outside scrutiny and innervation. This is unacceptable.

It’s bad enough that companies like Corel and Novell seems to have been ‘bought’ (bribed) to defect to Microsoft’s side, with other possibilities as well. It’s even worse when you are not allowed to know what’s going on in a process that must thrive in transparency. Aren’t transparency and openness what standards are all about?

Abuse in Disguise

First, consider this loud complaint about EMCA (aka Microsoft) shutting people out.

What is needed now is the public and unconditional access to the works of the TC 45. What is needed now is for the Ecma to give the password to their page. Give us the password!

Why is Microsoft so afraid of spectators? Why are there so many barriers? Isn’t the ‘openness’ of their standard something to boast and brag about? Or is it something to be embarrassed of and hide?

Gaming the Rules Again?

Andy Updegrove is already concerned. We’re still months ago from the BRM and questionable practices are all too commonplace.

A particularly contentious issue has been whether Ecma is trying to make it as easy as possible, or is trying to make it as difficult as possible while still scoring PR points, for interested parties to view proposed dispositions of comments, and whether it does, or does not, have the latitude under ISO rules to be more transparent. The fairly opaque, and sometimes contradictory nature of those rules, has not made the debate any easier, and gives rise to the possibility of confusion, at best, and serious mistakes, at worst, as Pamela Jones pointed out at Groklaw this morning.

The result is that there will be very little real data available to the general public until Ecma opens the curtains on January 19. And the import of what little data does become available is usually the subject of instant disagreement.

Here is the latest analysis from Groklaw. This must be one of the observations Andy spoke about.

I read that as saying that delegates attend the meeting, and then they go home and talk things over as a group, and if the group decides it wishes to change its country’s vote, it has 30 days to do so.

However, if you visit ISO/IEC’s JTC 1/SC 34 – Document Description and Processing Languages page, it seems to say a country can change its vote at the meeting itself. And later wording in the FAQ seems to confirm that understanding, as I’ll show you. But we’re also hearing that there may not be room for everyone to fit into the room booked for the meeting. So, I’m seeing a potential for some gaming of the rules.

There was an incident some months ago where Microsoft deceived those who would vote, leaving them little or no time to prepare (6 months for 6,000+ pages was never sufficient in any case). An analogy made at the time. Think of an election day where someone names that wrong date so that you can’t vote. You show up when it’s too late. The lies never stopped.

Oops! We did it again.

Check out the following report from the plenary meeting. [via Andy Updegrove]

…The meeting was well attended, both by (what might be called) the old guard, and by many new members who no doubt represent a wide spectrum of thinking on SC 34’s subject areas. There was no substantive discussion either of Ecma’s proposed maintenance agreement for OOXML (should it become a standard), or of the UK’s proposal to create a new working group for Office document formats. These will most likely be formally addressed in the next SC 34 meeting which will take place in Oslo in April 2008.

[...]

Finally, my own working group convenor Martin Bryan is stepping down in anticipation of his retirement next year.

[...]

Martin has been something of a mentor to me, guiding me along some of the more Byzantine passages of the ISO/IEC process. At the plenary Martin spoke to his paper which has been the subject of some comment in the blogosphere (and which was never intended for public circulation).

OOXML on the trash canThat is the report from the man who spoke about Microsoft's abuse of the whole process. It wasn’t a man watching from the outside, but one who has seen (from the inside) Microsoft bringing his group down to its knees. How shameful is the fact that this was not intended for public circulation. Should people not be aware of abuse in the system that is intended to serve them?

Assimilate-to-Destroy Strategies

Remind yourself what motivates Microsoft to undergo this whole 'open' charade. Here is another good explanation [via Andy Updegrove] which ought to remind you that OOXML’s purpose is merely to eliminate ODF. OOXML is still proprietary and it inherits the same legal threats as its predecessor/ancestor, which was entirely binary.

[The South African] Government’s decision to adopt open document format is a bold one and will not come unchallenged. In the wider market, open document format (ODF) could have an enormously positive impact, but gaining the benefits offered by the format depends on several key factors.

[...]

The possibility that the whole world could one day use open standards for documents is a positive one. In March, it will be decided whether Open XML will be ratified as an open standard. Should Microsoft’s standard successfully be approved, it will provide the company with much leverage to encourage doubt in government at its decision for ODF. By then, however, government will be well on its way to implementing the ODF standard and updating its departments, with a commitment to have finally completed the move by 2009. The public, therefore, should follow government’s lead. It was a bold move for government to put its documents where its mouth is and it should encourage the private sector to do the same.

In New Zealand, the NZOSS addresses the problems the right way, as opposed to what some have done in Australia, which is akin to the GNOME Foundation's mistakes.

At this stage of the ISO process the NZOSS would like to invite any technically and legally minded people in the free and open source communities to review ECMA responses: to New Zealand comments or to comments that might affect New Zealand interests.

Microsoft will be lobbying very heavily in all those countries that voted “No” or abstained. Given the corruption we’ve witnessed in the past, it will take more than good spirit to defeat the Microsoft Money Machine(R), which has even used people's jobs (putting them at stake) to blackmail. We’re not dealing with a candidate standard here; we’re deal with a bully that has an impressive track record.

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2 Comments

  1. Robert said,

    December 13, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Gravatar

    >leaving them little or no time to prepare (6 months for 6,000+ pages was >never sufficient in any case)

    Actually some important counties complained about this as an only comment:

    China: “it is a very complex technology which needs further more time to establish testing environment for thoroughly and deeply evaluation. We think the fast-track procedure is not suitable for this DIS”.

    Thailand: “We disapprove the draft ISO/IEC 29500 for the reason that the time given by the fast-track processing is not enough for consideration of this important draft.”

    and others…

    Obviouslly, MS new there was not enough time but still went ahead with the Fast track hoping that they can bang it threw ISO, another example of thier lack of regard for fairness and total disregard for all who will be effected by this format and the principles of open standards.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Gravatar

    I’ve compared this to a DDOS attack in the past (too much, too little time).

    Also see:

    Any criticism of the specification can automatically be dismissed as nitpicking. For example, if you are presented with a list of 500 faults in a 6,000 pages specification, you can respond, “That is less than 10%. You are just nitpicking. We can fix that in release 1.1″. Or you can even just rely on the familiar justification, “Shipping is a feature”. Any finite list of defects can be made minuscule by a sufficiently large specification.

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