Bonum Certa Men Certa

Massachusetts -- Bullied, Battered, and Defeated

The outcome is now public and defeat has been heralded. Andy is disappointed and PJ is unsurprised ("Surprise, surprise. Not. So my first instinct was right after all. They didn't care one bit what you or anyone said."). BetaNews is just one source among several that already have a detailed report.

Late today, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts announced that it has formally ratified the 4.0 version of its Enterprise Technical Reference Policy. As a result, Microsoft's Office Open XML format -- recently ratified by the ECMA standards body -- is now considered in equal stature with OASIS' OpenDocument Format, for use by state employees.


Those of you have followed the developments in the world of document formats probably come across plenty of corruption. The funny OOXML game continues to this date. Massachusetts is no exception and it is probably one among the first places from which 'funny' stories arrived. Let's remind ourselves of the 'Greatest Hits' from the State of Massachusetts.

Here we have the first state CIO talking about his departure.

Almost to a person, to anybody involved or who knows about the ODF issue, they attributed the story to Microsoft, right, wrong or otherwise. Senator Pacheco may be a bully but I do not believe he is disingenious and would stoop to such a tactic. Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin's office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their playbook and words, in my opinion.


Here is his successor, who held a similar position and stance that defends the interests of the citizens, not the cashflow of a convicted monopoly abuser.

As CIO of Massachusetts from February to November last year, Louis Gutierrez had to endure most of the brunt of Microsoft Corp.'s political wrath over a state policy calling for the adoption of the Open Document Format for Office Applications, or ODF -- a rival to the software vendor's Office Open XML file format.


To Microsoft, his departure was a sweet victory. Two CIOs then had their influence inherited by a Microsoft lobbyist. Microsoft essentially took control of the state.

That person is Brian Burke, the Microsoft Regional Director for Public Affairs, and if that surprises you, it surprises me as well, given the degree of acrimonious debate and disinformation witnessed in Massachusetts over the last 15 months involving the Information Technology Division's transition to ODF.


If you think that's bad, check out what they did in Florida.

Microsoft's 'Men in Black' kill Florida open standards legislation

It was just a bit of text advocating open data formats that was slipped into a Florida State Senate bill at the last minute with no fanfare, but within 24 hours three Microsoft-paid lobbyists, all wearing black suits, were pressuring members of the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations (COGO) to remove the words they didn't like from Senate bill 1974.


Thereafter, adoption of ODF was no longer significant.

And Microsoft itself lobbied heavily against the original open formats policy after it was announced by the ITD.

[...]

The slower-than-planned adoption of ODF in Massachusetts appears to have influenced state legislators in Texas who recently quashed a bill calling for the use of open document formats -- one of five such proposals that have been defeated or shelved in the U.S. this year following strong opposition from Microsoft and its allies in the IT industry.


A campaign was born to protest against this type of abuse.

We the activists of BinaryFreedom created a coalition to link all of our issues relating to computing freedom...


It was followed by an interview.

Unfortunately, companies like Microsoft have thrown around their financial and political weight to combat our work. They defeated a measure in Florida through lobbying and the only way this abuse will stop is if we continue to fight them.


It was too little, too late, however, because Microsoft had already gained too much control over the state.

Massachusetts caused a stir among governments and the technology industry nearly two years ago when it mandated the use of "open formats" in desktop applications.

[...]

"We completely agree: ooXML looks backward, while ODF is an international ISO standard, and is forward looking. The public understands this, too, as nearly 15,000 people opposing ooXML have signed an online petition circulated by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure. We look forward to seeing the public discussion in the Commonwealth," Sutor said in a statement.


Andy's coverage of this has been commendable and one of his writeups, "The Sorry State of Massachusetts", says it all.

In its anti-ODF journey, Microsoft also 'dumped' free software on schools. This was clearly an attempt to stifle adoption of software such as OpenOffice.org, which is not only rival software and pro-ODF software. It represented open source, freedom, and true standardisation. Microsoft also started messing about with the US Senate at one stage.

More coverage of the disturbing events can be found here. it involves lots of FUD and use of FUNDS to prevent ODF adoption, not to mention the use of "accessibility" as an excuse, the smear campaigns, and coordinated disinformation in the media.

Unfortunately for the Information Technology Division (ITD) in particular, and state government in general, the new bill would provide only a fraction of the funding that would have been provided under last year's legislation. As proposed by Patrick, the bond would offer only $95 million, rather than the $250 million originally proposed. According to MHT, $75 million would be dedicated to planning and procurement, a further $15 million would fund a statewide system to mange performance and measure efficiency of agency databases, and $4.9 million would be given to the state attorney general's offices for IT projects.

As a result, it the new bill will fall far short of accomplishing what had long been hoped by the ITD. This follows on the heels of damage already done, as stated by Gutierrez in his letter of resignation

[...]

What does this portend for ODF in Massachusetts, and what does it tell us about Deval Patrick's plans for the future?

First, here's what I don't know: as you may recall, both Gutierrez and Microsoft lobbyist Brian Burke were appointed to a transition working group formed to advise governor-elect Patrick on IT matters.


Here is another eye sore:

E-mails show that the vendor lobbied for hardball legislation over the file format controversy -- and then backed off.

Less than a week after he became CIO of Massachusetts last February, Louis Gutierrez sensed a serious threat to his power -- one that was being promoted by a seemingly unlikely source. Within a matter of days, Gutierrez confirmed that Brian Burke, Microsoft Corp.'s government affairs director for the Northeast, had been backing an amendment to an economic stimulus bill that would largely strip the Massachusetts Information Technology Division of its decision-making authority.


It did not take long for OOXML to get a foothold. The deal with Novell certainly played a role.

In the meantime, the state government is committed to begin using the competing OpenDocument Format beginning January 1.


In contract to Andy's "The Sad State of Massachusetts" we'll always have a happier history to remember. He once published "The Happy State of [ODF implementation in] Massachusetts".

Q: Is ODF adoption proceeding on schedule in Massachusetts?

A: Yes. I spoke with someone in the Information Technology Division (ITD) late last week, and was assured that the adoption plan described in the Mid-Year Statement Regarding ODF Implementation issued on August 23, 2006 remains on course and on schedule.

Q: What will happen next?

A: As originally planned, early adopter agencies will begin using converter technology to save documents in ODF format beginning in next month, meeting the goal of beginning the rollout of ODF by January 1, 2007.


There is also "Massachusetts accepts ODF, rejects MOOX".

Massachusetts was once actually called the State of Open Source. At the time, however, it was managed by different people.

Massachusetts' plan for adoption of open standards has been in place since 2003, according to Tim Vaverchack, manager of shared services for Massachusetts' information technology division. "Our main focus is to bring in as many open source products as we can and also [to promote] an open source mindset."

Massachusetts' embrace of open technology, open standards and open source Latest News about open source software was simply routine strategic planning, the way Tim Vaverchack tells it. However, the state's stance to strongly consider alternatives to proprietary solutions -- such as the Open Document Format -- has fueled one of the biggest technology firestorms in government IT history.


Massachusetts, we know what happened. It was written. And it will be remembered.

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