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New ISO: Denial and Damage Control, as Standard

Posted in Deception, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 2:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Muhammed Saeed al Sahaf

ISO has become rather weird. It’s excessively defensive rather than authoritative. Having been replaced or accompanied by Microsoft, at least in some sense (ISO shuffles amid Microsoft's abuse and intervention), those two seem to have been enjoying each others' comfort in embrace of systematic denials. They hope that the world will forget what happened and then just move on. They hope to redeem and to heal the reputation of both Microsoft and ISO.

ISO standards for saleWere there no problems with the scandalous process which was hinged on OOXML? Surely there were problems, even according to Alex Brown. Martin Bryan was more explicit about it:

“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
Formerly Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1

Later evidence supports this. Mr. Bryan saw in advance what was coming and it was already miserable enough when he decided to leave. Some people at ISO appear not to have the same level of integrity though.

Alan Bryden, for example, just like Mr. Frost on the face of it, has taken a different strategy: denial. He doesn’t want people to know what happened. Everyone is stupid and only ISO knows what’s right! It’s like that sculpture with the three monkey.

Reuters has just published this hugely-imbalanced article, which seems like a somewhat of a placement/press release for ISO. It extensively quotes Mr. Bryden, who is their top man. It’s filled with damage control and denial where he concludes with:

“Irrespective of the outcome of the current appeals, we are confident that the robustness of the system will again lead to the answer the market place wishes to see and, in fact, reinforce ISO’s credibility,” he said.

Robustness of the system? Is Bryden talking about the GNU system? ISO sure wasn’t robust enough and the mountains of evidence won’t go away any time soon. Even people inside ISO have already acknowledged the severe issues (c/f references at the top).

It does not seem like ISO’s leadership is even willing to recognise the problem, let alone do something about it. ISO is, by its own choice, opting to stay irrelevant. Thank you, Microsoft, for ruining an important establishment.

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  1. John Wilson said,

    June 29, 2008 at 11:31 am


    First of all the article is a straight news report not an analysis or opinion piece.

    It’s also a report on an interview where Bryden responds to written questions.

    Now, if you know how to read these things that says volumes that he wouldn’t sit down with the reporter and do a real interview. None of them good.

    Both he and IEC are trying to spin the OOXML debacle in a way that preserves their preeminence in standards setting.

    And trying to recover some of their tattered credibility in that if you have enough money and run things through “standards for sale” ECMA you get what you want no matter how ridiculous.

    The report did provide balance in straight reporting of the issues around what seems to be a stillborn standard and the views of those who feel the entire process was corrupted in one form or another.

    In fact that takes up some 1/3 of the words in the article.

    And Microsoft while showing how to game the ISO process is partly to blame for the mess they only need to be thanked for illustrating it. The wound is self-inflicted and won’t heal until ISO/IEC recognizes it and corrects it.

    Dumping their link with ECMA would be an excellent start though I’m not going to hold my breath for that to happen.

    Until some of this happens ISO/IEC has lost considerable credibility and the continued denial of this only erodes the little that is left.



  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    June 29, 2008 at 11:36 am


    For more information [via]

    New Report Critical of ECMA’s role in Standardisation of OOXML

    The report applies the Brinkburn Analysis™ to evaluate the validity of Ecma’s privileged status within ISO, one not enjoyed by any other Consortia, and criticises ECMA for having “virtually no representation for many points of view” and “no outreach and no liasons with other consortia”. Most damning of all is the conclusion in respect of OOXML – “It is a breach, almost, of common sense. Ecma, through its members, has created, with the exploitation of a loophole, a precedent that may well enable the breakdown of the formal standards process”.

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