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Sinclair's Syndrome

A curious FAQ put up by an unnamed ISO staffer on MS-OOXML. Question #1 expresses concerns about Fast Tracking a 6,000 page specification, a concern which a large number of NB's also expressed during the DIS process. Rather than deal honestly with this question, the ISO FAQ says:

The number of pages of a document is not a criterion cited in the JTC 1 Directives for refusal. It should be noted that it is not unusual for IT standards to run to several hundred, or even several thousand pages.

For ISO, in a public relations pitch, to blithely suggest that several thousand page Fast Tracks are "not unusual" shows an audacious disregard for the truth and a lack of respect for a public that is looking for ISO to correct its errors.

From: An Antic Disposition by Rob Weir.

A response to Patrick Durusau: Who Loses If OpenXML Loses?

by Sander Marechal

Updated on 2008-03-26@17:34 I emailed a copy of this article to Patrick and he has responded. I have posted his response at the bottom of the article.

This is a response to Patrick Durusau's recent letter Who loses if OpenXML loses? (PDF). Before I discuss the various points that you make in your letter there is one thing that I would like to say; I find it shameful that you, Patrick, makes these kind of statements without a proper disclaimer that this is your personal opinion and not the position of the ODF committee (for whom you edit the ODF specifications), the V1 or any other technical body that you represent. In fact you seem quite happy that the media is running with headlines like “The ODF editor says…” else you would have done something about it after your previous publications. To lead by example:

The opinions expressed in this letter are my own. They do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of LXer Linux News, nor the viewpoint of my employer Tribal Internet Marketing. They do represent the viewpoint of The Lone Wolves Foundation though.

Now, back to your letter.

The only one who loses if DIS 29500 fails is Microsoft, whose Office 2007 cashcow will run into trouble. Everyone else, including the OpenDocument Format, do not need an ISO stamp of approval on DIS 29500. The current Ecma 376 standard, flawed as it is, is more than enough to work with.

This letter is also posted on LXer Linux News. This article on Digg

The Art of Being Mugged

by Sander Marechal

Last week was the Ballot Resolution Meeting on the 3,522 comments that were submitted on the failed Ecma proposal. Microsoft is spinning it as a victory, with over 99% of the comments approved with a 3-2 majority. But really, this is simply the most spin I have ever seen anyone give on a story, including SCO's spin on it's own laswuits. The reality is that from the 104 delegates, 6 voted to approve 90% of the comments without discussing them, 4 voted against it and the rest either abstained or refused to vote out of process. How does 6 out of 104 even come close to “consensus”?

Rob Weir was at the BRM in Geneva and has written an excellent story called “The Art of Being Mugged” on the proceedings at the BRM. To call it an utter failure would be kind. Now the National Bodies have 30 days to recast their vote on Ecma's OOXML proposal. My gut estimate is that it will be defeated again, and by a larger margin than the last vote.

But really, it should not even come to a vote. The BRM story clearly shows why ISO is quickly becoming the laughing stock of the IT industry. ISO needs to pull itself together now and remove OOXML from the fast-track process if it wants to have any credibility left. Practically all JTC-1 rules were violated at the BRM so there are plenty of excuses for ISO to act on this. Act now or become irrelevant.

My math-fu tells me OOXML has not passed JTC-1

by Sander Marechal

Updated on 2007-09-05@17:39. If my math-fu is anything to go by, it looks like Microsoft's Office Open XML will not become an ISO standard today. Various websites around the world are all busy tallying the votes as the news is dripping in. If their tally is correct then OOXML has been turned down by a very narrow margin. OOXML needed 2/3 of the P members to vote "yes", after subtracting abstains. With 5 abstains out of 41 P members, that means 24 "yes" votes. With 13 "no" votes already cast that means only 23 possible "yes" votes remain. Talk about a narrow margin.

Update: It's official! ISO has now officially stated that OOXML has failed.

A ballot on whether to publish the draft standard ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats, as an International Standard by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has not achieved the required number of votes for approval.

Approval requires at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative.

This article was originally posted on LXer Linux News

The Legend of the Rat Farmer

A long time ago in a land far away there once was a prosperous town called Hamelin. Everything was perfect in Hamelin until the year the rats came. The rats ate up the grain, bit the townsfolk in the toes and scared the young children. Something had to be done!

And so begins Rob Weir's allegory The Legend of the Rat Farmer. An allegory in which the Bürgermeister and Council of Hamelin try to find a solution to their rat problem, discover the importance of appropriate metrics and learn a thing or two about standardization in the process.

Rob gives a very good explanation of exactly what is wrong with Microsoft's latest claims that “choice [of standards] is good for the consumer”. Read it at An Antic Disposition.

The Contradictory Nature of OOXML (Part II) – 19 Nations Respond

Well the results are in, and an unprecedented nineteen countries have responded during the contradictions phase - most or all lodging formal contradictions with Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC), the ISO/IEC body that is managing the Fast Track process under which OOXML (now Ecma 476) has been submitted. This may not only be the largest number of countries that have ever submitted contradictions in the ISO/IEC process, but nineteen responses is greater than the total number of national bodies that often bother to vote on a proposed standard at all.

Ordinarily, contradictions would be posted at the JTC1 site relatively quickly. However, in this case I am told, Ecma will be given the opportunity to prepare responses before the contradictions will be posted, with a deadline of February 28. On or before that date, Ecma will respond with its proposed "resolution" for each contradiction. Once this has been received, JTC 1 will publish the response, accompanied by the text of the contradictions themselves, as submitted by the national bodies. At that point, a decision can be made on the next step.

From: The Standards Blog.

Yankees in the Court of King Arthur, with a Microsoft Agenda

ANSI/INCiTS has completed their review of Ecma 376, and is ready to cast their ISO/IEC Contradiction Review Phase Fast Track Ballot in favor of Ecma 376 being rammed through ISO, as Sam Hiser points out in his PlexNex blog:

Rather than confront the clear evidence of contradictions and inconsistencies, the brave hearts at ANSI/INCiTS choose to narrow the definition of what a contradiction is. And narrow it they did. They decided that one standard contradicts another standard only if the proposed standard causes the existing standard not to work. […] Because both files can physically exist on the same disk without interfering with each other, our champions determined that OOXML did not contradict ODF. Maybe they thought this would go unnoticed, but as one disheartened friend of open standards pointed out:

“this argument can be used for every XML format, every programming language, every operating system, in fact every software standard, since software is ultimately data, and data can be segregated on disks. So they essentially chose a definition so narrow that it nullified the concept of ‘contradiction’ for most of what JTC1 has authority over.”

I can only hope that the European standards institutes have more sense and see ANSI's recommendation for what it is and fight this thing untill the end.

From: Open Stack.

IT standards hijack threatens European economic competitiveness

Two organisations, OpenForum Europe (OFE), a leading organisation set up to advance the use of open standards, and ODF Alliance, a campaigning group promoting open document format, representing over 210 organisations in 30 countries, highlight that the new standard, Microsoft licensed Office Open XML, is being fast tracked to become a new European ISO/IEC standard. This new standard has been submitted by ECMA, the European Computer Manufacturers Association with a completely unrealistic deadline for stakeholders to engage.

One of the OFE’s and ODF Alliance’s main criticisms targeted at ECMA’s standard is its complexity. It is over 6,000 pages long, excluding supporting material, making it time consuming and ultimately more expensive for the future development of software. It also duplicates an existing comprehensive and recently ratified) standard Open Document Format (ODF) which causes a major issue of system complexity, development, maintenance, archiving and licensing. Furthermore, elements of ECMA’s standard contradict the recently ratified ODF standard, which if implemented, would lead to confusion for software developers, increase cost and leading to problems sharing and archiving documents. There are also serious doubts that the standard could be implemented outside the Microsoft environment, due to license requirements that are not made explicit.

ACTION: Write to your local standards organisation setting out your concerns, recommending that an issue of this importance should be reasonable given time for proper consideration and due diligence. A 30 day Fast Track Procedure is not appropriate for a 6000 page document. Contact list on the ODF Alliance European Website.

From: SourceWire