On January 29th the Danish politicians finally got their acts together and did something about open document formats. After almost 3 years of debate and endless dragging of their feet - a consensus and agreement was finally made on that Friday.
The agreement made had this content:
For use in the public sector in Denmark, a document format can be used, if it is on the list of approved document formats. To get on the list, the document format must comply with these rules:
- It has to be completely documented and be publicly available
- It has to be implementable by anyone without financial-, political- and legal limitations on neither implementation nor utilization
- It has to have been approved by an internationally recognised standardisation organisation, such as ISO, and standardised and maintained in an open forum with an transparent process.
- It must be demonstrated that the standard can be implemented by everyone directly in its entirety on several platforms.
If you ask me, this list is pure rubbish. Apparently a deal was made on that Friday morning literally minutes before an open hearing in Parliament and this bears all signs of a job done in too much haste.
(of course, all this happened when I was away on family weekend, but as you can imagine the blog-sphere went crazy and twitter buzzed like a hive of bees with the gent's of "big blue" and "big red" taking swings at each other)
Devil in the details
The problem is that it is written all over it that this list will be taken very literally and we are going to continue to have to discuss stupid details with stupid people - instead of getting to work to start giving value to our customers.
The problems pertain to item 1) and item 4).
Item 1 is actually not that big of a deal, but it is an example of a requirement that cannot be verified. Because what does "completely documented mean"? Does it mean that a mere list of all elements and attributes is enough to give a "thumbs-up"? Does it mean that a single ocurrence of the phrase "... is application defined" provides automatic rejection? Now, I agree with the idea behind this, coz' shit has to be documented but this item should be removed or altered to provide real meaning.
And what about item 4) ?
Well the problem with this is that no document standard of today can be said to comply with this requirement - thereby making the list Ø. The only way a document format can be said to comply with this would be to have 2 independant applications, each claiming to be implementing the specification in "its entirety". And still we wouldn't be able to actually prove it. We would, at best, be able to show that with high likelyhood the applications do actually implement the specification "in its entirety".
Two to go ...
So that basically leaves us with two requirements. The only requirement we should think of adding would be "It has to be relevant in the market" ... ODA, anyone?
The silver lining
But do not fret - it is not all bad. No, because the agreement effectively puts the final nail in the coffin for the "there can be only one document format"-line of thought. The Danish parliament has has turned its back on any exclusivity with regards to document formats and has turned its focus to "open standards". This is no doubt a positive move, because now it doesn't make any sense any more to argue "which one is bigger (or, smaller)" or over who got to the playground first.
With this decision Denmark follows other countries like Norway, Belgium and Holland where the notion of "open standards" is also the center of thought - and who have also discarded the idea of "value can only come if we only have one document format". This is fantastic - and I applaud our politicians on making this decision - even though some of the details lacked consideration.