a 'mooh' point

clearly an IBM drone

Post-decision after-math

Today the Danish NSB (Dansk Standard) changed their vote from ”Disagree” to ”Approve”. I will be honest and note that I did not see that coming. The process and the debate in Denmark have been extremely complicated and tough and especially after the final meeting in the Danish sub-committee, where we failed to reach a consensus on a recommendation to Dansk Standard, I was very pessimistic. Luckily I was proved wrong when I got the email with the new vote of Denmark.

It is difficult to conclude much without breaking the confidentiality rules of the committee work, but let me share a couple thoughts and feelings running my brain right now.

I think that we can conclude nothing but that our strategy proved to be the right one. We have consistently focused on the technicalities of the debates and we have insisted that the discussions taken place should be about the technical merits and basis of OOXML – not the commercial- nor software-political angle that some wanted to impose on us. We have insistently argued that claims about “lack of interoperability” and “impossible to implement by anyone other than Microsoft” should be backed by technical arguments. We have insistently demanded that the technical work in the Danish mirror-committee should be – technical – and not a discussion of who has the bigger one.

So not alone am I glad that Dansk Standard listened to us and changed their vote and I am proud to have been a part of the process. I am also proud that Denmark has confirmed, that “yes”, it is important to us that Denmark has a formal influence on the development and maintenance of the file format of the Microsoft Office productivity suite; a productivity suite that handles most of the electronic documents in the Danish public sector. We have that influence in ISO – it would be gone in ECMA (and OASIS for that matters). This is to me not a small thing.

Let me close by thanking all the companies and organizations that took part in the work in Denmark. It has been a pleasure to work with all of them (well, some more than others), and I would like to especially thank IBM for all their hard work on improving the specification. I sincerely believe that we all owe them a great amount of thanks for the state and quality of OOXML today. I would also like to thank Dansk Standard for their work. Much like Alex Brown they were faced with an impossible task at hand – but they managed to make sure that the opinion of everyone at the table was heard and accounted for. They really stepped up to the task.

(and now I hear the music start to play …)

I’ll see you all in the blog-sphere … and keep your fingers crossed that Denmark was not the only country to change its vote. It’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings …

This just in: Denmark votes Yes!

I will update shortly, but the press release is available at http://www.ds.dk/4225 .

Censored by Big Blue-hoo?

Today I posted a comment on Arnaud Lehors'  blog - I wanted to share my thoughts on his article about what JTC1's Fast-Track process was designed for. Arnaud moderated his blog and he has been critized for moderating his blog too rigid and not allowing posts that dissagree with him (check out the comment section of my previous article about IBM's trench war) and Doug Mahugs article Similar accusations have been made at the other two of "the three stooges", Bob Sutor and Rob Weir.

I don't know where Arnaud lives (presumably in US), so he might have been at sleep when I posted my comment, but it took a few hours before my comment appeared on his blog. In the mean time I couldn't help thinking about whether or not I had been moderated to death as well ... or if it was all a storm in a tea-cup.

So on my way home from work I thought I'd help out a little with straightning out the confusion. I don't moderate my blog (and never will) so I hereby put forward, as a service to you all, the option of using the comment section of this entry as a "Big Blue Comment censorship archive".

So if you are about to post a comment on one of IBM's blogs, feel free to also post it here with a link to the blog post you would expect it to appear in.

I think this would be a win/win situation for us all. It will provide means to say and claim, that IBM is really censoring their blogs ... and if IBM stops moderating so aggressively, they will be able to claim that we were all wrong.

I will cast the first stone.

Smile

Committee-stuffing (the anti-OOXML-way)

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up on some information I recently got on our cold (but warm at heart) friends way up in the most Northern part of Europe - the Norwegians.

It seems that Google and IBM have just within recent days joined the Norwegian NSB (National Standardisation Body). So much for critizising supporters of OOXML if they were late joiners in various countries, claiming abuse of the standardisation process by undue influence.

If I know the FOSS-community right, they will now be tripping over each other's feet for a shot at "first post" being pissed about Google and IBM's actions - demanding that they withdraw completely from the process.

(or maybe not) 

Now if you ask me, it's not that big of a deal that some companies arrive late.

Matthew 20:16 - So the last shall be first, and the first last.

What is a big deal is that people should naturally contribute to the work in the NSBs if they join ... but simply focusing on the admission-date is really stupid. Contributing in the work is about taking part in the debate and discussions in the NSB. It's about doing homework between meetings and knowing what the hell is being talked about. Basically, it's doing almost anything but simply attending the meetings, sipping in the free coffee. One could argue, though, that when paying DKK 20.000 for an annual membership, it doesn't really make sense to talk about "free coffee", but I am sure you catch my drift ...

Granted, being late does make it difficult to achieve other influence than raising your hand when voting ... but having been a member of a committe for several years does not in itself ensure that you have participated. There are members of the Danish committee that I have never heard speak and there are members of the Danish committee that alter the attending employee for each new meeting. They may not speak at the meeting - but they have certainly raised their hands when voting.

What is also important to me is that the rules in the specific NSB are not broken. If the Danish NSB decides that members can join the day before a vote (they can) - it's probably because the Danish NSB felt that it was OK to do so. If the Danish NSB decides that a member cannot vote until after a month of membership - it's probably because the Danish NSB felt that it was OK. Different countries have different rules and it is up to each NSB to manage these rules and make sure members obey them.

So what can you do? well, how about rules that say:

  • You must have attended at least two meetings before eligible to vote.
  • You must be actively participating in the meetings by actively participating in the discussions.
  • Every two months point two above is evaluated and be simply majority it is decided who gets kicked out ot the committee.
Is it a bit extreme? Welll maybe ... but it is also a bit extreme to judge solely on the basis of the admission date.

IBM is now fighting from the trenches

After the BRM it seems to be more the rule than the exception to be denied "speech" on the blogs of the front-runners of the IBM bloggers. First it happened to me on Robs blog (where I commented on his patronizing tone towards a Czech delegate at the BRM and now it happened to me on Bob Sutors blog as well. Actually I thought it was just my point of view that was really stupid (so that Bob was essentially doing me a favour in not approving my comment), but today in the newsgroup comp.os.linux.advocacy I heard that Bob had completely disabled comments to this particular post and a post routing more of the, ahem, "balanced" views of the ODF Alliance. It seems to me that IBM has given up debating the issues at hand and are now using their blogs as mere portals with no user-interaction ... at least not interaction of the people opposing their views.

Well, to the amusement of you all - here is what I wrote:

Hi Bob,

I am a bit confused to why the lawyers of the Software Freedom Law Center has not compared the OSP of Microsoft to IBMs Interoperability Specifications Pledge at http://www-03.ibm.com/linux/opensource/isplist.shtml .

They seem to focus on two sentences from the OSP, but similar ones are present in IBMs ISP:

Microsoft:
New versions of previously covered specifications will be separately considered for addition to the list.

IBM:
IBM will evaluate new versions or additional specifications for inclusion based on their consistency with the objectives of this pledge which is to support widespread adoption of open specifications that enable software interoperability for our customers, and may, from time to time, make additional pledges.

Microsoft:
The OSP does not apply to any work that you do beyond the scope of the covered specification(s).

IBM:
IBM irrevocably covenants to you that it will not assert any Necessary Claims against you for your making, using, importing, selling, or offering for sale  Covered Implementations [...]. Covered Implementations" are those specific portions of a product (hardware, software, services or combinations thereof) that implement and comply with a Covered Specification and are included in a fully compliant implementation of that Covered Specification.

By decuction, shouldn't OSS-developers avoid ODF too?

I won't repeat Bobs response to me, since it was in a private email, but Bob, please feel free to comment here.

Smile

 

Blog-roll update

Small note:

The other day I was mistakingly taken as being a Microsoft employee by Bob ... due to the contents of my Blog-roll.

Smile

So now the persons on it are sorted alphabetically and not in the order they were added. I hope this clears up any confusion. 

OOXML "T minus 14 dage"

Slutspillet omkring OOXML er i disse dage virkeligt gået ind i sin sidste fase og det er tydeligt, at nerverne begynder at sidde lidt udenpå tøjet. Det er næsten som de sidste 10 minutter af dette års SuperBowl imellem New England Patriots og New York Giants, hvor spændingen også næsten var uudholdelig. Udtrykket "May you live in interesting times" kommer virkeligt til sin ret.

Det er måske derfor passende at lave en opsummering af, hvad der er sket i det sidste års tid:

I december 2006 godkendte ECMA dokumentformatet OOXML som ECMA-standard (376) og indsendte den et par uger senere til ISO via den såkaldte Fast-Track procedure. Der var herefter en 30-dages "contradiction period" hvor de enkelte lande kunne fx redegøre for, om OOXML var i modstrid med andre ISO-standarder og om der var andre ting, der kunne diskvalificere OOXML og dens anvendelse af FT-proceduren. ISOs JTC1-sekretariat afgjorde i april 2007, at det ikke var tilfældet. Omkring dette tidspunkt udlagde Dansk Standard (DS) OOXML til offentlig høring og bad om branchens input til den. Dette resulterede i omkring 500 indvendinger i alt.

Herefter var der en 5-måneders afstemningsperiode, hvori debatten om OOXML fandt sted. Der kom en masse indvendinger imod standarden - både tekniske og politiske argumenter og disse lagde i store træk grundlaget for beslutningerne i de lande, der ønskede at stemme om OOXML i september 2007. I den periode deltog jeg via min arbejdsgiver CIBER i arbejdet i DS med at behandle alle indvendingerne. Det har været et hårdt - men også utroligt interessant arbejde at deltage i. Afstemingsperioden sluttede med, at hvert land valgte den stemme, som passede dem bedst. Danmark valgte "Dissaprove, with comments" og understregede, at skulle de danske kommentarer blive adresseret på passende vis, ville Danmark ændre sin stemme til et "Approve". Jeg støtter fuldt, at Danmark stemte "Dissaprove, with comments" i september 2007. Danmark ledsagede sin stemme med 168 kommentarer til standarden.

Det samlede resultat af afstemningen var, at OOXML ikke blev godkendt i ISO.

Hvis en afstemning om en standard falder i ISO, er ISO sådan indrettet, at der planlægges et "Ballot Resolution Meeting" (BRM), hvor man vil tale om, hvorvidt man kan rette nogle ting i standarden for at få nogle lande til at skifte deres stemme til et "Approve" eller "Abstain". Efter afstemingen begyndte ISO/IEC så at gennemgå de samlede kommentarer - der var 3522 i alt. Disse blev "kogt ned" til 1027 dispositioner, der udgjorde forslagsstillers (ECMAs) svar på det konkrete spørgsmål. I løbet af efteråret 2007 er disse dispositioner blevet sendt til de enkelte nationale råd og de er her blevet behandlet. I Dansk Standard har vi løbende fra oktober 2007 til februar 2008 behandlet disse svar og har været i dialog med ECMA omkring de svar, som vi ikke mente var gode nok.

I sidste uge af februar 2008 blev BRM-mødet afholdt i Geneve og Dansk Standard deltog i mødet for at varetage de danske interesser bedst muligt. Det var en meget hård uge, og de fleste af os var ret udmattede fredag eftermiddag, hvor mødet sluttede. Mødets formål var at tage stilling til konkrete ændringer til den oprindelige tekst og det var altså ikke et møde, hvor der direkte eller indirekte blev taget stilling til standarden i sig selv. Dette blev understreget af, at de enkelte landes delegationer arbejdede konstruktivt sammen omkring de enkelte emner - uanset om de var imod- eller for OOXML. Udfaldet af mødet blev, at godt og vel 98% af samtlige 1027 dispositioner blev godkendt - herunder alle de danske. Der var i ugen efter BRM heftig kritik og debat om udfaldet, men heldigvis er det nu faldet til ro, og der er efterhånden konsensus om, at alle regler blev overholdt. Der er i skrivende stund ikke indgivet nogen klager over selve processen.

Men hvad så nu?

I Dansk Standard er næste møde berammet til 26. marts, og her skal vi tale om, hvorvidt vi skal ændre vores stemme fra "Dissaprove" til noget andet. Det bliver et spændende møde, og jeg ser frem til nogle gode diskussioner til mødet. Målet er, som Dansk Standard skriver, at opnå en eller anden form for konsensus om, hvad Dansk Standard anbefales at gøre.

Indtil da sker der ikke så meget på formelt plan i Dansk Standard, så vi kan jo følge med i, hvad Morten Messerschmidt og Helge Sander finder ud af med konkurrencestyrelsens undersøgelse af konsekvensen af beslutningsforslaget B103 fra marts 2006.

Smile 

Why ISO-approval of OOXML is not an option

Now that the BRM has been done for about a week, I can't help but think back on what has happened in the past 9 months - the BRM was a pretty big mile-stone. It has been a crazy time and a crazy process to be a part of ... especially since the way the world usually works has been turned upside-down. On one side we have Microsoft making the file format of their Microsoft Office Suite publically available, thus being "open", and on the other side we have the OSS-community yelling "We don't want it, since it is too much like the internal format of your Microsoft Office Suite".

One of the first major mile-stones was when the EU-Commission in 2004 asked Microsoft to submit the file format of the Microsoft Office product line to an international standards body. Now, when the EU-Commission asks you for something, it is generally really just a polite way to say: "You must" ... much like when a police officer wakes you up outside of a bar and says: "You really should go home now".

IDABC: Microsoft should consider the merits of submitting XML formats to an international standards body of their choice;

So Microsoft did what they were told - they submitted their file format to first ECMA and then ISO. They didn't start from scratch and make the mother of all generic file formats - they took the file format of their Microsoft Office Suite and made it publically available for everyone to use. Essentially they said: "This is what we use - now you can use it too".

I have often been accused of being too gullable by those opposing OOXML - especially those that don't trust Microsoft as far as they can throw them. Sadly, they just don't get it

I'm not advocating ISO-approval of OOXML because I trust Microsoft to do the right thing -  I am advocating ISO-approval of OOXML because we as society cannot afford the possibility of Microsoft not doing the right thing

Microsoft opponents should actually be the ones screaming "Microsoft, put OOXML in ISO - we don't trust you". Instead they say "Microsoft. we don't trust you - kep your file format to yourself". I'm sorry, but I don't understand this. Rick Jellife has advocated that all protocols, APIs and document formats of major players in a given industry should be made part of the public domain (Rick, I have been trying to find the blog-entry where you mentioned this, but unsuccessful. If you (or anyone selse) have it, please send it to me and I'll update this article) (update: I found it myself). I agressively second this notion. We should not only encourage ISO-approval OOXML (and other important file formats) - we should demand it. This is what the EU-Commission wisely did.  In contrast to the American way of letting the marked decide what to do (my American friends, please take note of this) - the EU-Commission said that it is totally unacceptable that the file format of the Office Suite with a 95% install base is out of reach of governments, NGOs, competing companies etc. I totally agree. We want it to be defined and maintained in a forum, where we have a say - and that forum is the ISO. Rob Weir is correct when he on Tim Bray's blog said "IMHO, this really isn't a question of whether OOXML should exist or not. OOXML is here, just like the binary formats before". But he shows a slight lack of understanding of the big picture in his next sentense where he says: "The question is whether OOXML should be given ISO standard status in addition to being an Ecma standard.".

Rob seems to be under the impression that ISO-approval is some kind of quality badge of honor that you can proudly carry around. First of all, I think we can all agree that ODF itself is a clear example that ISO-approval not necessarily implies quality, interoperability and clearness. Secondly, how the specification was made is not the first priority when talking ISO-approval. The first priority should be:

We need to take control of OOXML out of the hands of Microsoft and back into society as a whole

This was imho the focal point of Patrick Durusau's support of DIS 29500 approval. Amongst other things he said that

Patrick Durusau: The cost of rejection is that ordinary users, governments, smaller interests, all lose a seat at the table where the next version of the Office standard is being written

This is my point!

Let's talk ISO-approval first - then quality. This is a whole new approach of ISO-usage (at least within IT), where we as society demand proprietary formats, APIs and protocols to be put in ISO - because the costs to society of not doing so are simply too big. We should use ISO as a tool to gain greater insight and control of important parts of the IT infrastructure. We need it in ISO, since IS's members are countries and not companies. This is our turf!

Some might say "hey, Microsoft will never abide by the format put in ISO - they'll simply extend it". Well, we should demand something else of them. We should do as the Danish Government wisely chose last year: A procurement requirement saying that new software must support, in our case, ODF and OOXML. Stop talking about applications - start talking about file formats! The bottom line of the Danish decision is that if Microsoft Office doesn't follow the rules of OOXML, it will either not be bought or not upgraded to. Microsoft Office being Microsoft's #1 revenue stream - they will not be able to ignore this. So to enhance competition we need to do two things:

  1. Demand that e.g. a file format is put in ISO
  2. Demand that the applications conform to this format

 

That should be our focus - and not trashing and badmouthing the competing format. In his latest article, Patrick Durusau tells a story of an angry Russian pessant.

One evening, through a cold miserable rain, a hungry Russian peasant was walking home. A luminous being appeared in their path. "Please! If you will make one wish, it will free me from my prison!" The genie pointed to an oddly shaped lamp on the side of the path. "Wish for anything you want, food, power, wealth, ..., anything!" The peasant grunted, "I wish my neighbor's cow would die," as he pushed past the genie to continue home.

The strategy behind NOOXML strikes me as being quite similar to that of the Russian peasant. It seeks nothing that would benefit itself, no new product to sell to customers, no new service to serve as a revenue stream. It is simply a wish that "...my neighbors cow would die."

Come on, guys ... let's move on! Let's stop bitching about the file formats and their differences and let's start doing what we all love the most - building applications on top of them.

Smile

... which brings me back to the headline of this article:

ISO-approval of OOXML is not just an option - it really should be a requirement. 

BRM resolution documents now available

The BRM resolution documents are now publically available from the JTC1-SC34 website.

Take a look at them on

http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/open/0989.pdf

http://www.itscj.ipsj.or.jp/sc34/open/0990.pdf 

Smile

Patrick Durusau supports approval of DIS 29500

Now, this is one of the times where I realize that all of us supporting OOXML in ISO are not complete morons ... even though it is the point of view of many of the participants. Patrick Durusau has now openly stated his position on OOXML in ISO, which is: Welcome to the party!

I am sure everyone supporting OOXML in ISO will run around in the next days chearing their heads of ... and that the anti-OOXML-wolf-pack will do the same ... but more in the way of "chicken without a head".

Please read the statement from Patrick Durusau yourself - let me just make this small quote:

That point of agreement is that everyone at the table was heard. That may not seem like a lot to an Oracle or IBM, but name the last time Microsoft was listening to everyone in a public and international forum? At a table where a standard for a future product was being debated by non-Microsoft groups?

Smile