a 'mooh' point

clearly an IBM drone

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.

Comments (17) -

Hi Jesper,

Not sure how useful that "heads up" is... I mean, world+dog already realises that every interested party is doing everything they can think of at this point to sway the votes their way. Ethics are very pliable right now. Then again, as you say, as long as it's in accordance with established rules then we shouldn't really be too judgemental.

I do seriously think that a probationary period for new members, before being allowed to vote, would be a good idea.

And as for periodically voting to kick people out, it could be the hot new reality TV for geeks. "Survivor: Standards Committee!" Edge-of-your-seat entertainment guaranteed.

Just to clarify: The decision in Norway is not going to be made by voting. SN K/185 (the committee that deals with OOXML (amongst others)) gives advice to Standard Norge and Standard Norge makes a decision based on that advice. Stuffing the committee just to get enough people on one side will not necessarily influence the decision of Standard Norge. AFIK, there is already (even before Google and IBM joined) a majority against OOXML in SN K/185.

AFIK is of course meant to be AFAIK. ;)

So what percentage of the committee do these new members comprise?  Do they now dominate the committee?  I doubt it.  I tend to reserve terms like "stuffing" for cases like in the US, where the V1 committee swelled from 7 to 23 members.  

We do have the rule you suggest in the US -- a member must attend two meetings before they are given the right to vote.  But that just pushes out the stuffing so it occurs at the meeting before an important vote.  This really doesn't solve anything.

Well, this is interesting. Rob Weir blocks comments from both Jesper and me on his blog, but that doesn't stop him from debating with us here on Jespers blog.

Rob: You are well aware that there is only one reason for IBM and Google to join the SN K/185 at this time. They are trying to make sure they get the result they want. This is exactly the kind of behaviour you have been critisising Microsoft for.

You cannot criticize that you shoot when the villains go lethal. Right?

Hi Rob,

It's nice to talk to you again Smile.

Please note that there is a difference between how different NSBs deal with decisions. As you say, the US V1-guys vote on the subjects at hand, but this is not the case in the sub-committees in Norway and Denmark. The process we have here is "consensus-driven" (much as the BRM) where we thrive to see how much we can agree on and then pass this "up" to e.g. Danish Standards as a recommendation. I we cannot agree to something, we try to figure out some text that encapsulates the dissagreement and then passes this up.

You are correct, that when voting it doesn't really matter if e.g. a "17-4"-committee becomes either "18-4" or "17-5", but when the process is as the Danish and Norwegian, suddenly being upgraded with major players like Google and IBM the day before the last meeting in the subcommittee can be both intimidating and disruptive.

Also: you emphasize that using the words "stuffing" is only relevant when the majority tips in the committee. So I asume also, that even if you took out the 12 Microsoft partners in V1 (thereby still having a majority of 5-4 for OOXML) you should not use the term "stuffing" here as well?

But since you are here: Can you tell me why IBM chose to join the Norwegian NSB at this late stage? IBM has been present in the committee in Denmark for almost a year (since the committee was established, and making valuable contributions, I should add) ... but it was not important to participate in the Norwegian work?

PS: You are always welcome to post on my blog, Rob Smile

This just in: Google just joined the Danish NSB for the last meeting before the vote. I think it is great that Google world-wide has come to the conclusion, that participating in standardisation work should be done in NSBs (and not just spreading FUD on their blogs) ... I am just sad that they have, conveniently, come to this conclusion so late in the process.

I sadly fail to see how they can contribute to the work being done ... aside som chanting "Four legs good, two legs bad".


Jesper, in the US, crossing over the majority is not the threshold question.  Our rules say that the committee "shall not be dominated by any single interest category, individual or organization".  Domination is defined as "...a position or exercise of dominant authority, leadership, or influence by reason of superior leverage, strength or representation".  

So it is not something you can easily reduce to a mathematical formula.  But I'd suggest that when the committee swells from 7 to 23 members at the last minute, and the committee goes from having zero to now over 50% Microsoft business partners, that this would fall within our definition of dominance.

As for Norway, I haven't been following that too closely.  Except for Lars Gorshol's blog, which I read mainly for his beer coverage, I haven't seen much OOXML  discussion in English.  I do notice that I get a lot of referrals to my blog from digi.no, but I have no idea what that is about.  I don't read Norwegian.

Hi Rob,

The point I am trying to make is that is is really difficult to conclude anything from the numbers themselves - they simply say too little about anything. It is not unusual for me to be at meetings (not at Danish Standards) where OOXML-supporters are outnumbered by more or less the same factor as in US V1, but where the floor clearly belongs to "us". In these cases there was no real opposition since the opposing side didn't have their facts right. The point in these debates are not your oponions themselves but who you are and the credibility you have gained with what you say. My experience is that you can stuff a committee as much as you want, but if they are just sheep, it doesn't really make a difference.

(unless you vote)



I forgot to comment on the Norwegian part:

Well, I have participated a bit in the Norwegian debate (the Danish debate has almost died) but all in all the Norwegian debate has been centered on digi.no (eq. to Computerworld.com) and three other blogs where people have been fighting like maniacs.

At this point I think it is fair to say, that we should never have let Norway go and be released from the Kingdom of Denmark. Ever since - and especially since they fooled Denmark to give up on very lucrative oil reserves in the North Sea, they have been behaving like crazy people.

To all my Norwegian friends: We still love you and you (and especially your oil) are welcome back in our arms any day!


In the US I think it was Google and Redhat also joined the V1 committee just before the vote and made sure that no two third majority on approval could be reached.
Notable the executive committee of INCITS which is less prown to stuffing voted for approval 12-3.
Places where notable stuffing took place in general all failed to vote for approval even though Microsoft partners had a majority. This was for instance in the US, in Italy in Sweden where in all cases the committee size more than doubled. Effectivly where stuffing took place the opponents of Office Open XML in general were the more efficient stuffers.

Also notable that a lot of ISO committees dealing with these office documents had already a basis of ODF implementing and supporting organisations in them. Apperantly a lot of them joined before the ODF was put trough ISO showing clear evidence of why ODF came trough so easy trough the ISO committees

Jesper wrote:

At this point I think it is fair to say, that we should never have let Norway go and be released from the Kingdom of Denmark. Ever since - and especially since they fooled Denmark to give up on very lucrative oil reserves in the North Sea, they have been behaving like crazy people.

Hey hey hey! Be very careful about what you wish for. You don't want to have 5 million drunk Norwegians invading Copenhagen every summer, do you? ;)


Be very careful about what you wish for. You don't want to have 5 million drunk Norwegians invading Copenhagen every summer, do you? ;)
You have obviously not been to Copenhagen in the Summer-time. We already have about 5 million drunk Norwegians in our streets as it is.


No wait ... those are the Sweedes ...

I know, I spend at least one week in Copenhagen in July every year. ;)


We should meet in this Summer, then. I will unfortunately not attend the ISO SC34-meeting in Oslo next week.


That would be very nice. I have a Danish uncle who lives in Copenhagen and I spend a week at his place every summer during the jazz festival. I look forward to a bajer and "en lille". ;)

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