Links 1-23-08

A few interesting links out there today:

  • A Closer Look At Those "Single Standard" Policy Mandates – Great post from Oliver Bell, as he provides a look at the actual facts in terms of Policy Mandates around file formats.

  • Altova's Alexander Falk Discusses OOXML and ODF – Great interview with Alexander Falk, a key figure in the XML community. He discusses some of the questions they get from customers around Open XML and ODF.

  • While you're waiting, don't save in OOXML format – in another Fox News style post (an approach that has now been fully adopted by the anti-OpenXML folks), Bob Sutor reaches a new level in FUD. Hey Bob, which version of ODF does Lotus Notes support? ISO? 1.0? 1.1? Are there extensions as well?

  • The Standard Trolls – Bob's sidekick, Rob Weir, goes on the defensive and claims that the Open XML support in IBM products is due to market demand, and is not necessarily a show of "support". Rob also makes an attempt to rip apart the Open XML conformance clause (which by the way has been significantly improved as part of the ISO process). It's a funny complaint though given that he's the head of the ODF committee, and their conformance clause basically says nothing: "There are no rules regarding the elements and attributes that actually have to be supported by conforming applications, except that applications should not use foreign elements and attributes for features defined in the OpenDocument schema." [ODF 1.1]

  • A gadfly's take on IBM's 'support' for Open XML – Eric Lai interviews Sam Hiser from the Open Document Foundation, and has some reactions to Rob Weir's latest defense.

Comments (16)

  1. Cmdr Flibberty Jibbitz says:

    Bob Sutor’s FUD is a good example that the company that invented FUD is still on top of its game.

    It is not worth posting on Bob’s site as I doubt that anything critical will make it through the moderation queue.

  2. Frequent Poster says:

    What’s telling is that Rob Weir censors his readers’ comments on his "personal" blog–he does not publish them when they contradict his point of view–whereas you, on your MSDN blog, allow everything!

  3. Mike Brown says:

    You accuse Bob Sutor of FUD, but tellingly, don’t refute any of his points.

    So, come on then.  What’s he said that’s wrong?  Not much that I can see.  OOXML *is* going to change if Microsoft/Ecma make good on all the comment responses that they’ve come up with so far.  Sorry (like hell!) for pointing out an inconvenient truth.


    – Mike

  4. To be fair, I have never had any of my postings (there has not been that many) on Robs blog censored.

    The col thing about Rob’s blog is that it’s fun. It’s not Rob’s articles that make me giggle, though, it’s the comments.

    Like this one:

    "The difference in MS pro-OOXML postings and (dare I say it?) IBM’s pro-ODF postings is that MS postings are mainly written by managers and people more concerned with "wide PR impact" than actual technical details. Pro-OOXML people are also less likely to check and confirm their facts first. They are more business-oriented people than pro-ODF cloud, making them less likely to be accurate. Sadly, although this means they have to check their fact more closely, they did not. As far as the technical aspect of this debate is concerned, they are out-classed."

    It’s amazing … everything is much clearer now.


  5. The Wraith says:

    @Frequent poster

    That is correct.

    I have had several reactions squashed in Rob Weirs moderation queue.

    The latest example actually on his latest article where I argued that the ODF conformance clause stated only one conformance item on ODF files

    "Documents that conform to the OpenDocument specification may contain elements and attributes not specified within the OpenDocument schema."

    A shockingly poor conformance clause which effectivly leaves files of ANY filetype ODF conformant.

    Both Office format specifications are lacking in having a minimal file conformance/definition clause.

    A conforming OOXML file should be defined as valid OPC package containing a minimal set of XML files that validate against the schema’s provided along with the standard.

    I am not sure if the current disposition of comments already provides a minimal definition on what actually constitutes an Office Open XML file.

  6. Fredrik E. Nilsen says:

    "In another Fox News style post (an approach that has now been fully adopted by the anti-OpenXML folks), Bob Sutor reaches a new level in FUD. Hey Bob, which version of ODF does Lotus Notes support? ISO? 1.0? 1.1? Are there extensions as well?"

    Please Mr. Jones, don’t sink to the same low level. In stead of just kicking back, provide us with some information on how you are going to solve these challenges. They are a major concern to many of my clients and they seek advise in what to do until OOXML is (probably) standarized through ISO and the final version OOXML is set.

    Will they have to convert their Office 2007 OOXML documents? Will there be any loss in fidelity or functionality? Will there be an Office update that reflects the changes in the format? Stop throwing accusations at eachother and provide us with some useful information.

  7. orcmid says:

    I love the "pot calling the kettle black" stuff, like bitching about stuff in OOXML where ODF does it worse but has a teflon yardstick applied to it.  And of course, proclaiming any rejoinder as FUD.

    In the long run, I do wish Rob would blog more about what is being accomplished on ODF and how things are being improved, and when, rather than consuming his energies in negatives.  I, for one, would really like to know when a defined spreadsheet formula scheme will appear in an ODF specification.

    Also, for Fredrik Nilsen, there is an interesting observation by Rick Jeliffe that I assume is well-founded: none of the currently-proposed repairs will invalidate any existing OOXML documents.

    That may leave Fredrik conserned about Bob Sutor’s claim that Office 2007 doesn’t even conform to the existing DIS29500 but I think he should ask Bob for the evidence about that.

  8. Fredrik E. Nilsen says:

    These childish "they are worse than us"-games are very uninteresting for most people. No doubt Rob Weir is in a league of his own but I expect more from people that are in a leading position in their company. Most of us stop playing these games when we leave pre-school…

    As for Rick Jeliffe’s observations: They can be well-founded and perhaps even correct, but I would rather get this information from someone who actually work for MS and with OOXML. I am not afraid that documents will be invalid, I’m concerned about fidelity, functionality and ease of conversion.

  9. orcmid says:

    Hmm, going further off topic here.  I notice that we seem to ask Microsoft about Office 2007 and OOXML as if they are the same thing.  

    I’m not even sure it is fair to say that Office 2007 provides a reference implementation of an OOXML processor as of the ECMA approval.  I’m also pretty confident that OO.o is not a reference implementation of ODF.  This is a comment about what being a reference implementation entails, not about those products.

    Even though Microsoft is heavily involved in the technical committee work at TC45, I think Brian has said repeatedly that Microsoft does not own OOXML.  

    I think this leaves a large gap with regard to Fredrik Nilsen’s concern for fidelity, functionality, and ease of conversion.  Those are appropriate concerns.  It is not clear how well these are addressed (let alone should be addressed and even could be addressed) by any of the current specifications.  

    I don’t quite know how to factor out the importance of "how Office 2007 does it" or "how OO.o – some version from some implementer – does it" will work in the sense of fidelity and functionality (without any concern for conversion).  

    That’s a concern in collaborative work and successful interchange.  I think it is the problem that we only begin to appreciate and maybe even address as we learn the degree to which existence of these document format standards may be necessary but not sufficient.

    In the past, we dealt with this by having everyone in a relevant community adopt the same product (version).  I suspect that will remain the tendency until we demonstrate that there are other ways based on standard formats as the interchange vehicle.  Is anyone even prepared to test or qualify products for this, at this time?

  10. Blocked By Rob says:

    Yeah, I’ve been blocked by Rob on his blog too.

    I politely pointed out some obvious self-contradictions in one of his posts, so of course he didn’t allow the post.

  11. A says:


    I can tell you with absolute certainty that at least Excel 2007, when it comes to cell styles, does not follow the ECMA specs.  There are some posts related to that in the Developer Forum.  So yes, there is a huge question about "how does appX do it?".  Does one assume the specs are wrong and they just forgot to mention a quirky behaviour, or that Excel is wrong?

    Obviously if you’ve got a standard format then then Excel would be wrong, but really, if you try to show the file the "right" way, won’t people assume that you got it wrong, not Excel?

  12. says:


    When you says doesn’t follow, do you mean it’s a bit more strict than the Ecma spec says? Or do you mean it actually does things differently from the spec?

    I’ve definitely seen areas where Excel 2007 requires certain elements to be present that the spec says aren’t required. Those are bugs though that need to be fixed in the product.

    I think this is pretty common in any standard though (especially a new one). Browsers to this day still have oddities in how they implement HTML and CSS. I’m not trying to trivialize this though, and I do think it’s something that in the long run needs to be either fixed or clarified.


  13. A says:

    Does things different from the specs.

    Actually, it is more like a bug.  Being a programmer myself, I understand that its nearly impossible to create a complex product bug free.  A lot of the issues I found involved Excel "hardcoding" certain things such that even if the file is modified, the display doesn’t change.  

    One example is the Office Theme (the default), though I haven’t tried everything there, anything I have modified has had 0 effect on how Excel displays the file.

    Other examples are:

    They are little things, but they make you scratch your head a while trying to figure out what exactly you did wrong and why doesn’t Excel show what you tell it to.

    My main "pull out my hair" issue is Tint in DrawingML (SpreadsheetML and DocumentML are fine).  Though the ECMA specs describe a linear algorithm for applying tint, the colour does not change in a linear fashion.  Either the OfficeArt people did something wrong or it wasn’t documented right.  Hopefully that will be resolved in the ISO specs, though the committee would never notice anything wrong unless they tried to implement it.  I’ve tried contacting the DrawingML people through the PPT blog but I’ve gotten no response.  I still have no clue how to get the right colour.  It’s a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but chart styles are highly dependent on tint (or shade)…


  14. Damon says:

    I just wanted to add that I too have been "censored" by Rob Weir. I noticed he had a couple outright lies regarding OOXML support in the field, and pointed them out, but (not surprisingly) the comments never made it past the Rob filter.

  15. Dave S. says:

    Oliver Bell’s post doesn’t say much.

    I guess he thinks that every gas station should have its own gallon or litre.

  16. Fiery Spirited says:

    I suppose that if you can’t counter a person’s argument…people will go to other blogs and write comment about how the person censor you.

    Since you write here it must be the case that your ideas are so harmful that Rob must censor them since it would be totally unreasonable to think that they might be deleted because of them being of rubish quality and being unfounded FUD.

    Seriously start your own blog and write about what you think is correct.

    If you are correct Rob will loose readers when they read your stuff. If you are dead wrong Rob and others will let the public know. In any case, don’t whine about a blog author moderating the comments…such complaining is really really lame.

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