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12.18.07

OOXML Discussions in the Australian Continent

Posted in Australia, ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Review at 6:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Writing specifications like you write your errors

To those who are here only for information about Novell — we apologise. It is important to understand, however, that Microsoft's deal with Novell has a lot to do with OOXML and the remainder of the proprietary stack which is attached to it. Those issues are inseparable and they need to be understood in context.

We turn our attention to Australia and New Zealand where a few things are being reported. In New Zealand, the readability of OOXML raises concerns. Structure is not self-explanatory. It is made cryptic and shortened for performance gains (shades of binary formats for efficiency).

“This DIS contradicts the goals of XML and best practices. The designers of XML knew what they were doing because while we can remember what “c” means in this case it becomes problematic when we get hundreds or thousands of these shorthand references. …. OOXML has hundreds of these cryptic names.”

Later on you’ll find Microsoft bragging about superior performance (in terms of efficiency) in OOXML, as it already did before to discredit ODF (in OpenOffice.org). Well, XML has little or no value if its semantics (structure) is only ‘robot-readable’. Yes, binary dumps are also fast and maybe even fastest, but it all comes at a cost. The same goes for closed-source programs whose source code is messy. Watch this short article from last month:

Seriously, how many people are there in the world who are going to go “Hmmm, error code 8024402F … ahhh yes, I know what the problem is”? I can’t, and I’ve been neck deep in the Microsoft ecosystem for what is getting to be almost two decades.

This relates quite nicely to the discussion at hand. OOXML is very ad hoc and it is not suitable to become a standard like ODF, let alone (X)HTML or LATEX.

Here is a recent report about the advisory group in New Zealand:

In September 2007, the European Computer Manufacturers’ Association (ECMA) 376 Open Office XML specification was not approved as an international standard when voted on by members of the international standards joint technical committee No 1 (JTC1). Standards New Zealand, as a member of JTC1 with the responsibility to vote on behalf of New Zealand, voted against adopting the specification as an international standard.

The situation in Austrlia sounds very reasonable, with the exception of characters like Rick Jelliffe, who gets free trips and money for Wikipedia edits that support Microsoft. It’s a strategic thing with a long history.

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