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As India Picks ODF, Novell-Microsoft Influence in LibreOffice Raises Questions (the Unfortunate 'Go-OO Factor')

Summer palace



Summary: Novell staff is said to be pushing for OOXML write support in LibreOffice just when ODF becomes a standard in more and more large nations

Techrights is a supporter of LibreOffice because it is willing to believe that -- as promised to us personally -- the project is not steered by Novell employees. Last night in IRC one of or readers raised some concerns about what goes on at LibreOffice and its umbrella organisation. There is active discussion about it in Twitter and in Groklaw. If there are blog posts or articles about it, then we have not come across them yet. The short story is that OOXML write support becomes a controversial subject for all sorts of reasons, some more justifiable than others (and some are fictional). Charles from LibreOffice has kindly responded to us about 3 times already, denying all of the allegations (more on that in Twitter).



For those who are not familiar with this debate, start here in an IRC log from last night. This came at the same time as the news about India going with ODF, which is a fantastic development. To quote a Red Hat employee:

Here is some good news to kick off the new year. As a follow-up to the Policy on Open Standards for e-Governance, the Department of Information Technology has published the "Interoperability Framework for E-Governance in India (IFEG)."

The draft of the IFEG lists out the standards approved for e-governance in India. The last date for comments on this draft is 27th Jan 2011.


The current concern is that Novell, which was paid handsomely by Microsoft, may continue pushing for OOXML. We wrote about this last month and this question returns not just due to discussion in Groklaw but also because IBM's Rob Weir writes that the "Document Foundation debates OOXML support in LibreOffice. With freedom it is hard to be only half pure. http://bit.ly/hjPqMU". The FFII says: "A user is concerned about #LibreOffice #OOXML write support http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.comp.documentfoundation.discuss/3058"

As Weir added: "Half-pure is starting with the goal of being independent of a Oracle, but then doing what Microsoft is paying Novell to do."

“Half-pure is starting with the goal of being independent of a Oracle, but then doing what Microsoft is paying Novell to do.”
      --Rob Weir, IBM
As a result of this, Weir comes under another pressure offence from Microsoft, over ODF. He is having a long powwow (about 30 tweets back and forth) with Microsoft employees and also boosters like Jesper Lund Stocholm, starting with messages like this one which says: "if OSS doesn't add support for OOXML, .NET, XPS, SilverLight , etc., then they're "detroying your ability to choose"?"

It's like Microsoft speaking using a peripheral person, Jesper. They spin OOXML as "choice" again. We'll probably post a little more on this subject at a later date. A lot of it is in Twitter and in our IRC logs. Maybe it's just a manufactured controversy, it's still hard to tell without a lot of research and personal queries. There is more in Groklaw comments and interestingly enough, a longtime supporter of Groklaw, Brian Proffitt, opines that Groklaw should open up to more people:

The problem is that in the short term, Groklaw's mission (stopping SCO from hurting Linux) has basically succeeded. Yes, there are pending appeals from SCO, but Jones is concerned that any efforts to continue the fight against SCO will only serve to help companies like Novell. Other suits are out there, but right now the community interest for those seems to be waning. And, I suspect, Jones' own interest might be waning: she has been at this since 2003, while facing several personal attacks along the way. The potential for burnout has to be very real.

When one person, any person, gets so wrapped up in something and then has to deal with the lack of that issue in their lives--even if they have won--it has a profound effect.

My most constructive suggestion would be for Groklaw to become a more community-run site. Instead of being a strictly one-person show, perhaps a shift to a more collaboratively run organization is possible. There is precedent: Linus Torvalds is still leading the Linux kernel development, but over the years he has delegated a lot of responsibilities to the various kernel maintainers. Surely there are those in the Groklaw community who could step up and fill similar roles for Groklaw.

I believe this approach would enable Groklaw to dedicate more time to covering all of the different legal issues surrounding FLOSS these days. In effect, it would become a meta-blog, like Huffington Post, or Engadget, or what have you, with a focus on FLOSS legal battles.

Change isn't easy, but it can be an opportunity to do something bigger than you had ever planned.


The whole post is very thought-provoking and it has attracted Microsoft mobbyists too (libel and crazy theories in the comments).

Addendum: As this post comes into publication time Charles posts this rebuttal in his blog. He also told me: "I think it might be #Oracle trying run some brainfuck here. Oracle more #FOSS than #LibreOffice? Who does benefit from this?"

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