03.25.08

ISO: Fail?

Posted in America, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 12:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fool me once, shame on you…

Hardly a day goes by without ISO managing to mishandle the process. Further to yesterday's roundup, consider this (emphasis ours):

More OOXML news. The Cuban National Bureau of Standards has reportedly sent an email to the three names NBs are supposed to notify at ISO, Toshiko Kimura, Keith Brannon, and Martine Gaillen, reporting that Cuba votes to disapprove OOXML.

But the startling news is that the email claims that Cuba voted no in September but that its vote was miscounted.

[...]

If you recall, the public announcement by ISO in September said that Cuba had voted to approve, which led to puzzlement. Not so, says the email, which was sent on Friday evening and broadly cc’d, including to all the NBs, perhaps to ensure there was no confusion this time. Cuba was deeply injured by the false report, the email says. Cuba voted no with comments in September. It never approved OOXML.

There are some equally-appalling stories from Cuba. Apart from political smears, watch Jeremy Allison thinking that Cuba voted “Yes” at the last minute [1, 2] and recall the story about Cuba being dishonoured for not using Microsoft Word. The deeply dysfunctional ISO actually requires the use of non-standards (or anti-standards) for voting. To make matters worse, it requires the use of pricey Microsoft products, with a proven history of deliberately breaking standards.

Would you believe that even Red Hat Magazine is now taking a hit at ISO?

ISO approval: A good process gone bad

[...]

Allegations have been made that Microsoft encouraged new countries to join the JTC-1, or to upgrade their status (from O-status to P-status) to influence the vote. Contrary to what has been demonstrated, the JTC-1 directives say that the “objective in the development of International Standards should be the achievement of consensus between those concerned rather than a decision based on counting votes.”

Before an individual country votes in the ISO process, it holds a vote within its own national body. An employee of Microsoft Sweden admitted to offering incentives to business partners to encourage them to vote for OOXML, leading the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) to declare its vote in favor of OOXML invalid. Critics have speculated that similar practices occurred in Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and other countries. Such allegations have prompted the EU to launch an investigation into Microsoft’s practices during the ISO vote.

Have ISO and Microsoft got any credibility left?

“This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.”

Martin Bryan, ISO Escapee
Formerly Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1

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