More thoughts on last weeks BRM


Here’s a bit more information on the results of the BRM last week, and where we go from here. There were about 1,000 comments/issues raised last year with the spec, and starting last fall Ecma began posting responses and proposed changes to the specification to address the concerns. The final batch of responses was posted mid-January, and at that point Ecma had already begun discussions with the national bodies who had raised the comments to see if they were suitably addressed.


For the past two months, Ecma officially held 4 calls per week where national bodies could discuss the comments, and Ecma could explain their proposed resolutions. This meant that by the time we got to the BRM, the countries had time to find which Ecma responses they were not quite satisfied with, and raise those issues at the BRM. The purpose of this entire process is to make improvements to the specification, which in turn may lead countries to change their vote on whether or not they approve the overall spec.


While it’s a matter of opinion whether or not the BRM itself was a success, in my mind a number very important things happened (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to mention countries by name in terms of the work done, so for now I will avoid it):



  • 98% of Ecma responses approved – This was very important. The Ecma responses consisted of a number of changes to the specification in order to address the concerns raised by various countries. These were issues that one or more countries felt were problematic in the spec, so it was important to make sure the feedback from those countries were heard, and that the spec was modified to address those concerns. Most people at the BRM that I talked to agreed that without question, the changes proposed by Ecma made the spec better. Voting to approve a comment means that you feel the spec is better with the change than without. This is why it would have been odd to see the changes voted down, which would have meant countries felt the spec was better before the change. Some countries voted “yes” as the default for all the comments, some voted “no” as the default for all the comments, and most countries didn’t give a default vote. Then the countries picked any individual comments they had reviewed where they in essence wanted to give a direct “yes/no” vote (overriding the default vote). It shouldn’t be surprising that many countries only reviewed their specific issues, and in these cases they often decided to abstain from voting on the rest.

  • More changes were proposed at the BRM – There were a number of issues where folks wanted to see the proposed changes go further. Even in these cases, most of the countries felt that the Ecma responses made the spec better, so the original Ecma response was approved. We also would work in groups to add additional changes on top of the Ecma proposal. I’ll now list some examples of these changes.

  • Transitional and Strict conformance – A number of folks weren’t comfortable with the deprecated annex, and wanted us to go much further. So a few countries, with the help of Ecma folks came up with a new proposal where there would be two types of functionality: transitional, and strict. Conformance is defined in terms of transitional and strict, and there are even two versions of the schemas (transitional and strict). All of the legacy features that we had previously marked as deprecated, will instead now move into a new part called transitional. If you are going to create a strict document, than you are not able to use any of the transitional features (legacy compat settings; VML; old date bases; etc.).

  • Multi-part – We will split the specification into 5 parts. The five parts are essentially: OPC; Markup extensibility; Primer; Strict markup; Transitional markup. [update – I forgot that we changed this so that the primer is actually tied into the first part, so in the end we have 4 parts, not 5]

  • Dates – This was definitely a hot button issue. I worked with a large number of national bodies to come up with an updated proposal to solve the issue of dates in spreadsheets. One national body had an alternative proposal that we discussed, and between a number of countries we were able to come up with a fairly elegant solution. We introduced a new data type for cell storage which was “date”. Previously dates had been stored as numbers, but with this new proposal, we have a “date” datatype, and the only allowed way of storing date values in cells of this type is with ISO 8601. We also simplified the concept of date bases, which are used when converting from a number into a date (mainly done in calculations). ODF has a similar concept where you can essentially set any date in history as the epoch. In our case there is only one way of doing this for strict documents, and the two legacy bases can be used, but only in transitional documents.

  • Accessibility – Thanks to two very influential countries, there have been a number of very significant improvements in terms of accessibility in the file formats. A new accessibility annex has been added, as well as some additional functionality for tables that helps make them much more accessible.

  • Function clean-up – We had a couple countries work on cleaning up some of the spreadsheet functions, as well as introduce the concept of prefixing (sort of like namespaces) for functions. This will help as we move forward with the next version of the spec, as we can start to add new/improved functions in the ISO prefix, and keep the legacy behaviors in the Ecma prefix.

  • Bitmasks – We had a national body propose a change to the spec in order to remove the use of bit fields, and instead use XML markup to represent the same values. Ecma had discussed this for a few weeks before the BRM with the national body, and that’s how we were able to come up with a great joint proposal on these modifications. The original Ecma proposal was to not remove the use of bitfields, but to instead provide an XSLT in the annex that displayed how to work with bitfields. The feedback we received though in the weeks leading up to the BRM was that this did not go far enough, so in the BRM it was decided to actually change the format as well.

It was really a crazy week, and I know that a lot of people went without sleep as we worked around the clock to make the most of the opportunity. It was a chance for everyone to discuss additional things they wanted to see done with the spec, and also to meet those folks who will probably be involved in the next version of the spec as it enters into maintenance (assuming it is approved this month).


Thanks again to everyone who spent so much time helping to build a better specification. I know that it will continue to improve over the years, and I think we really have some great momentum now going into the coming maintenance.


-Brian

Comments (60)

  1. Andre says:

    BRM delegate Antonis C. answered some concerns:

    http://elot.ece.ntua.gr/te48/ooxml/brm-clarifications

    and also links to the Greek date proposal. He also writes:

    "Brian Jones and Jason Matusow of Microsoft have said that the BRM was a success because it fulfilled its purpose, which was to make changes to the text. Although this is technically correct, if the original text got 1 out of 10 and the BRM managed to improve it to 1.1, it is somewhat misleading to call it a success. Brian Jones says that there was consensus in the changes. This is also true, but the reason there was consensus was that we quickly became disillusioned, lowered our standards, and only discussed modifications which we knew could pass within the given constraints."

  2. Anonymous Coward says:

    It is simply unheard of in the standard circles that a draft standard is in such a turmoil (deprecated vs transitional/strict, accessibility, bitmasks, dates, *ml, etc, the list is endless) at the time when it should have been already set in stone for NBs to review, especially regarding these kinds of fundamental issues.

    Honestly, who believes that the Fast Track was the most optimal choice for OOXML, really? Why the rush, use the not-so-fast procedures and we all get a better spec, no?

  3. I finally figured out why you think the BRM is a success, because no matter what happens, in the end Microsoft always gets what they want. It just feels like Microsoft has something up it’s sleeve and Brian can’t reveal what that is, but he knows there is something going on here that is more than what meets the eye.

  4. Jake says:

    "Why the rush?"

    Why do you even ask when we all know the answer? To prevent wider adoption of ODF and thus weaken MS Office’s dominant and very lucrative market position.

  5. Mike Brown says:

    This is so *not* what the fast tracking procedure is for.  We’re at the absolute final stage here, and you’re proposing entire new field types?

    ODF may well have a "similar concept where you can essentially set any date in history as the epoch", but I’ll bet it wasn’t shoehorned in at the last second for ODF.

    Aren’t fast track specs supposed to have two working implementations to get to this stage?  And who’s got a working implementation of this new stuff?  Who’s even got an Alpha of it ready yet?

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  6. Give me a break guys. 🙂

    If you are actually developers in this area that you already know that ODF has far more flaws and gaping holes that Open XML. If the same level of review had been applied to ODF, you would have seen far more issues.

    Even with the smaller amout of review given to ODF there were very valid criticisms logged, and as of yet none of them (minus the accessibility annex) have been addressed.

    There will always be room for improvement in any standard, especially one as large and rich as Open XML. Those issues continue to be addressed, and we continue to make progress.

    I met Antonis and had some great discussions with him. It’s also the case though that he is strongly opposed to Open XML in general

    so his statements aren’t too suprising. I believe he said he’s a member of FFII who actually run the NOOOXML site. He’s a sharp guy though, and it was great having him there. I think he was suprised to find that a number of the things he wanted to see changed though were also present in the OpenFormula work, which isn’t even a standard yet.

    -Brian

  7. Dave S. says:

    Perhaps if MS had done the date fix first, the last leap day would have gone more smoothly.

    Not sure about flaws in ODF – are they internal conflicts (same item with 2 names?) or does it encode data such that it cannot be decoded correctly, something else?

    On the subject of gaps, MS Excel 2007 still has no concept of units. The Office group did add a weak ‘convert’ function that stamped on the much more comprehensive one that I wrote.

  8. In the BRM we updated the ‘convert’ function to include a large and well defined set of units.

    -Brian

  9. Luc Bollen says:

    The OOXML spec is now of a better quality, and seems to be closer to ODF than previously (surely the strict version).  This is very good.

    If OOXML is rejected by ISO at the end of March, will all this work be lost? Of course not.  The new text will simply become ECMA-376 1.1 instead of IS-29500 1.0.

    If OOXML is accepted as an ISO standard at the end of March, will MS Office make use of the strict version in April ?  Of course not.  It will take years before MS Office becomes fully compliant with ISO-OOXML-strict.

    And the more discussions take place, the better the text becomes, as explained by Brian above.   I fully agree with him.

    So, why the rush ?  Who will benefit from ISO adoption now ? Only the Microsoft marketing department, and nobody else, even not the MS Office users.

    It is still time to stop it.  Reject DIS-29500 in March, keep the pressure on Microsoft, and continue the open process until the text becomes a good one.  As Brian testifies above, THE OPEN PROCESS WORKS (the current quality would have never been reached by Microsoft working alone).

    A new ISO standard for documents is justified only if it is better than the current one.  But there is still a lot of work needed to reach this status.

  10. Mike Brown says:

    @Brian,

    The whole "if the same level of review had been applied to ODF" argument is getting a little old, Brian.  You’re telling us that OOXML is in better shape than ODF at this stage, because the former is (supposedly) getting lots of problems fixed, whereas the latter didn’t have that happen?

    It’s like saying that somebody who’s in and out of hospital for major surgery every month must, thereby, be healthier than somebody who never needs to go to hospital at all.  (Of course, the latter may always have some undiagnosed illness of which he’s unaware; far more likely though that he just takes better care of his body).

    Gaps in ODF 1.0 there may well be (formulae etc).  But that’s a different case to a spec that actively contains nonsense, such as the aforementioned date issues ("thy shalt continue to pretend that 1900 was a leap year" etc).  Too late to fix it all now.  Way too late.  You don’t belong on the fast track with stuff like this.  You never did.  Get thee gone to the "normal" track with it.  See you in a couple of years.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  11. Francis says:

    Mike Brown: the human body analogy is tenuous. Standards are not living organisms! You seem to be implying that ODF was somehow "born" into this world, in perfect health, complete, without any birth defects: i.e., two arms, two legs, ten fingers, etc.

    That’s simply not true. There is no such thing as "complete" for a standard. Standards come in all forms, unlike people, and, unlike people, are not generalists. They are tailored to special purposes. And furthermore, unlike people, they *can* be improved by insertions, deletions, and edits. If anything, what ECMA has done since the first draft is not surgery, but genetic engineering–something which, in theory, could also improve man, even individuals with a clean bill of health  (e.g., in the form of more brainpower, a tail, reduced toothbrushing need, etc.)

  12. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    I’m surprised that Office 2009 beta 1 is still out of the picture at this point.

    Isn’t it including changes already? How can NBs spend their time cristalizing a specification whose only reference implementation is already at odds with it?

    Office 2009 beta 1 is supposed to become public right now. Why the silence?

    Example : Custom XML parts. There is no Custom XML part bindings for Excel and Powerpoint documents. (the only XML bindings are with external XML data sources, a feature that was available way before Excel 2007 existed). If the Office team has added them in Office 2009, it will cause an update of the file format (xpath attributes and so on).

  13. hAl says:

    I think several of the changes that came out of the BRM make significant impact on an implementation. So I would not expect any Office version to support the changes before the publication by ISO/SEC which might still be half a year away.

    Mayby even it might take up to MS Office 2007 SP2 before these changes are supported in MS Office.

  14. Davide says:

    "a draft standard is in such a turmoil"

    I think the only thing in constant turmoil is the comments area of Brian’s blog 🙂

    Actually Brian could easily cool things down a bit rather easily: again, Rob Weir came up with a scenario that sounds frigthening:

    http://www.robweir.com/blog/2008/03/ooxml-macros-and-security.html

    Clearly proving those kinds of concerns to be invalid would surely allow people to calm down a little.

    Thanks.

  15. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    @hal, "I think several of the changes that came out of the BRM make significant impact on an implementation. So I would not expect any Office version to support the changes before the publication by ISO/SEC which might still be half a year away."

    I am not talking about that. I am talking about the changes that are already checked-in in Office 2009, and that Microsoft is not talking about.

  16. Open XML says:

    L’ ISO vient de publier un communiqué de presse concernant le BRM qui s’ est déroulé la semaine dernière

  17. Patrick Durusau, editor of ODF 1.0 and the upcoming ODF 1.2, now supports approval of DIS 29500 in ISO.

    http://www.durusau.net/publications/onbeingheard.pdf

  18. Davide,

    It gets pretty old responding to Rob’s FUD everyday. His post might as well be about the "horrors of ZIP", or any other container format.

    His specific comments around the macrobutton field are pretty out there too. The field doesn’t provide a way of storing anything, it’s just a button that has a name and a command both stored as simple strings. If you are an application and you happen to know what the command means, then you can go ahead and run that command when the user clicks on the button. It’s up to the application though to make sure that command is safe (just like the script tag in ODF doesn’t tell you how to do security, it’s up to the application). In reality, the main place I’ve seen this field used in the real world isn’t even for running a command. It simply allows template authors to put placeholder text in like "click here and enter your names", where the entire text is selected when the user clicks, and then when they start typing the "button" is deleted and the text they type replaces it.

    -Brian

  19. Davide says:

    Brian,

    I know it’s getting boring to see these kinds of postings popping up all the time on the other side of the fence but in this particular case the macrobutton was just a single example. The point was that all the information needed to implement macros in a compatible way is missing.

    PS. Again more noise, this time it’s Brazil complaining the lack of mapping data between bin/ooxml docs:

    http://homembit.com/2008/03/at-the-end-what-we-did-in-geneva.html

  20. marc says:

    Tough ones extracts from a recent post [1] of

    "the father of XML" ™:

    "Treated purely as a spec for representing documents, OOXML is lousy. Frank Farance of the US ISO delegation was quoted as saying there are probably hundreds of defects. He’s being way optimistic. Every time I open it and start reading, I pretty soon come across some unforgivably-ugly piece of XML or hideous piece of English grammar or statement that just doesn’t make sense. There are going to be interoperability problems up the wazoo."

    "ECMA, which claims to be a serious standards organization, blessed the process of generating a XML dump of the internal data format and publishing it in six thousand poorly-edited pages, in well under a year. This seems wrong."

    "ISO allowed the draft to be substantially edited and enhanced after the initial ballot. This seems wrong."

    "It tried to repair the damage by stuffing 120 people in a room in Geneva for five days to address a thousand changes to the spec. This seems wrong."

    [1]

    http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/03/02/On-OOXML

    —–

    disclaimer: “This is excerpted from Tim Bray’s On OOXML, which discusses both sides of the issue and which should be read in full for context.

  21. Rob Brown says:

    Brian: your response to Davide about Rob Weir is typically disingenuous.

    1) Zip is a container format, you are correct. It is not comparable to OOXML, which is a format for representing office productivity data, and allowing the editing of that data. OOXML obviously needs a lot more detail on the meaning of the internal data than zip does. Rob’s point that this detail is missing in some very important places, is valid.

    2) The MACROBUTTON discussion was just one example of a valid NB concern that got an unsatisfactory Ecma reply. His actual point, that "implementation-defined" content defeats interoperability if there is no way to identify and isolate that content, is valid.

    3) The point of the whole post, which is that there were many important NB concerns which were not discussed properly at the BRM because of lack of time, is valid.

  22. Rob,

    Open XML does not have macro embedding, that’s why any such behavior would have to be specified as implementation defined. If some application wants to extend the file format to embed macros, we can’t stop them. Microsoft Office doesn’t do this, and when you save as .docx any macros in the file are removed.

    The macrobutton field doesn’t have to map to internal macros, it just maps to an application command, which could be a macro not present in the file but on the user’s system.

    There will always be issues with a spec that people want to see addressed. Nothing is perfect. If you can suggest the text that you’d like to see added to the spec to address this issue, let me know. We can look to add it in maintenance.

    ODF, the format which many people claim is the "true standard" in this area has had a number of big complaints logged against it during the ISO review and beyond. Two years removed we still haven’t seen those issues addressed. I think the responsiveness from Ecma in dealing with national body concerns on the other hand has been outstanding.

    -Brian

  23. Mike Brown says:

    @Francis,

    "Standards are not living organisms!" Really?  I’d argue that in many ways, that’s exactly what they are.  Do they not grow and change as the demands upon them change?

    Indeed, ODF wasn’t "born in to this world, in perfect health".  A lot of hard work went into "growing" it.  Unlike OOXML, however, that "growing" was done long before it was presented to the ISO fast track. It was done within OASIS.  OOXML was supposed to have been similarly grown within Ecma, but it’s rather obvious that they didn’t do a good enough job.  And now they’re trying to ram through ISO fast track all the work that they should have done back then.

    People can’t be improved, you say?  Odd then that governments the world over spend billions every year persuading us to get off our fat, lazy asses and do some exercise!  People can even be "tailored to special purposes"; e.g. Sumo Wrestler <> 100m sprinter.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  24. marc says:

    "Even with the smaller amout of review given to ODF there were very valid criticisms logged,"

    This issues were alerted almost two years ago [1]

    and you systematically decided to not address them, i

    May be because you don’t want to make changes to office code-base?

    Face the problems and fix them !

    this is not an internal software documentation for god sake! this is about the fast-track of a specification that claims to have the merits to become an ISO international standard

    Please respect the final users and independent

    implementors community.

     –marc

    [1] http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2006/10/25/spreadsheetml-dates.aspx#877252

  25. Rob Brown says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment.

    As I’m not an Office 2007 user, I was unaware that .docx files never contain macros until I just did a bit of research on it. That’s interesting, but kind of irrelevant. How does Office 2007 "remove macros"? How does it recognise a macro for what it is?

    The MACROBUTTON, for example, contains a text field specifying the location of the macro. But even the format of this field is not defined!

    The validity of Rob Weir’s point is that by not describing the format of that field, you make it impossible to parse the field and discover the nature of the target entity.

    I don’t have any text to suggest about this particular issue. However, according to Rob Weir, 4 NBs *did* have suggestions, and they were denied the chance due to time constraints. THAT is the point!

    ODF and responsiveness are similarly irrelevant. The question is whether to standardise OOXML, and perceived shortcomings in "the other standard" shouldn’t be considered.

    The real level of Microsoft/Ecma’s responsiveness to change suggestions has been questioned in other fora. There are suggestions that after OOXML is standardised, Microsoft’s incentive to be open will disappear and the responsiveness will wither. The maintenance plan (the draft proposal for which is unacceptable in some people’s eyes) will not be discussed in ISO until later this year. Personally, I guess for now we just have to leave responsiveness out of the discussion altogether.

    Just on the subject of ODF, I love the term "snooze-rollered", and I do actually believe that apathy played some part in ODF’s ISO adoption. It has also probably contributed to the slow pace of updates to ODF.

    I (and many others?) would probably never have really thought at all about issues surrounding ODF as a spec and its standardisation process, had it not been for the press surrounding OOXML! Perhaps, regardless of whether OOXML is approved by ISO or not, it will lead to more effort and focus being directed at ODF.

  26. Rob, I agree with much of what you’ve said. You are a bit off though about the Macrobutton fields definitions. It states in the spec very clearly that it takes two arguments. The first is the name of the command or macro to run (and it’s up to an application to decide what that command or macro means); and the second argument is the text to display, such as "click here".

    -Brian

  27. Tom says:

    My assessment: OOXML is intended to be a spoiler.  It is not, and likely will never be implemented. It creates FUD for ODF, as a "standard" (but without a validation testsuite or reference implementation) can be used by Govs to mask their deals and by MS to claim to be open.  Its a darn good marketing deal.  Darn good – for one company and its NB stuffing partners.

    But Standards build marketplaces … the better the standard, the bigger the marketplace – think oh ROADS, or  the CDRom spec…  

    I contend that if Microsoft would do drop MSOOXML and deliver products for the ISO ODF standard set (and playFair in growing that standard), that in short order the RealStandards ™ marketplace would EXPLODE IS SIZE, and Microsoft could, with its Billion$ and Billion$ would have MORE business – a large share of a much larger, but SHARED marketplace then it does in its private Lock-in-Land. The landscape has evolved to "The whole world v MS" for standards based tools… think a castle under siege.  Sooner or later the door is based in, you run out of food or the stones crumble.

    I believe Microsoft is failing its duty to its  shareholders with their marketplace-limiting policies that drive customers to other vendors.

  28. Francis says:

    Rob, in regards to your question: "Do [standards] not grow and change as the demands upon them change?"

    The answer is no. Formats do grow and change, but the standard should remain the same. That’s the whole point of a standard–predictability. It never changes. RTF 1.0, ODF 1.0, HTML 4 will always be the same. The same should go for "OOXML 1.0." When format needs evolve, it’s time for a new standard, e.g. RTF 1.7, ODF 1.3, HTML 5, and "OOXML 1.1."

    Stephane: Do you have any reason to believe that Office 2009 will obsolete OOXML/DIS 29500 (dispositions included?) Presumably Office 2009 will include new functionality. However, this does not automatically mean a new format is necessary. (Many features can be implemented without any reference to formats, e.g. autocorrect, blog connectivity, SharePoint. And others, even major features  that might seem to call for format changes, can make do without, e.g. Publishing Layout and Notebook views in Mac Office 2008.) In other words, even Microsoft introduces major new features with Office 2009, it may be able to do so without any changes whatsoever to the specification.

  29. Dave S. says:

    "In the BRM we updated the ‘convert’ function to include a large and well defined set of units.

    -Brian"

    There is no way to detect that a number representing a weight in pounds is being added to a number representing time in seconds.

    This is a huge gap and MS Excel 2007 still has no concept of units.

    As I mentioned over at Gainer’s blog, MS Excel 2007 still forces mixing of row &| column titles with the spreadsheet data. How goofy is that in the 21st century? The gaps are huge.

  30. Bruno says:

    @Luc Bollen

    "So, why the rush ?  Who will benefit from ISO adoption now ? Only the Microsoft marketing department, and nobody else, even not the MS Office users."

    ———-

    What was the rush for ODF’s ISO ratification?  Why was ODF approved with huge missing pieces of even basic functionality and flaws?  Why was ODF approved with the understanding that it would be "fixed" in ODF 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc (while OOXML is not being given that courtesy)?  Can you be intellectually honest and admit that ODF was rushed, not because it was "perfect", but just to say "We’re first!" so that lobbying of governments to mandate exlusive use of ODF 1.0 could begin (even though ODF 1.0 is nowhere near sufficient for gonvernment needs)?  

    And you have the intellectually honesty to admit that, then you can see that the "rush" for OOXML’s 1.0 ratification is to cut down on the amount of time IBM has to do its lobbying of governments to mandate exclusive use of ODF.

    Oh, I know you’d love for OOXML to take the "slow track", which would take what, 5 years?, which would give IBM plenty of time to convince governments to mandate exlusive use the broken ODF 1.0 standard, so that by the time OOXML made it through the slow track process, it would be irrelevant because it would be illegal for government use.  We’re not stupid, we know that’s the scenario that the anti-OOXML forces are pushing for.

    Here are the facts:

    ODF 1.0 was rushed through the ISO process despite being the quality of a 0.7 spec, on the understanding that it would be fixed in later revisions.  OOXML, on the other hand, is being judged according to the standards of a 1.5 spec.  OOXML’s ISO process has been an order of magnitude more rigorous than ODF’s.  OOXML 1.0, if approved, will be complete and polished, neither of which can be said for ODF 1.0.

    If you had called for ODF going through the slow track, then your calls for OOXML to go through slow track might have some weight, but as it is, you’re being so inconsistent as to be laughable.

  31. Rob Brown says:

    @Bruno:

    You may even be right about some ODF proponents wanting OOXML "slowed down" to remove it from the race for government blessing. But I think you’re overstating the case somewhat. "OOXML 1.0, if approved, will be complete and polished" is a clumsy and easily-disproven claim. Not even Brian Jones or Jason Matusow are saying that. And where did the "0.7 spec" and "1.5 spec" values come from? Is there an ISO standard for spec quality? I suspect that they are among the 87% of all statistics that are completely bogus 😉

  32. Stephane Rodriguez says:

    Francis said "Stephane: Do you have any reason to believe that Office 2009 will obsolete OOXML/DIS 29500 (dispositions included?) Presumably Office 2009 will include new functionality."

    These are not my words. I took a specific example, Custom XML part bindings.

    Here is the problem. Custom XML part bindings is only implemented in Word 2007. And since ECMA 376 was written *AFTER* what we now know as Office 2007 reached "feature complete" milestone, we end up with ECMA 376 in which there is no such Custom XML part bindings for spreadsheets and presentations.

    But Microsoft has sold us Custom XML parts in OOXML, i.e. for all three applications.

    See what I mean?

    So, presuming that with two more years they finally managed to add those Custom XML part bindings to all three applications, the consequence is that this will have to be reflected in ECMA 376 changes.

    My problem with that is :

    1) We’ve been sold features that do not exist right now

    2) The "standard" is a direct reflection of something that was not finished, and that is the consequence of a single vendor’s inability to do things right in due time. So the updates that are coming are less normal updates that follow the update of a standard (such as ODF 1.1 versus ODF 1.0) than poor handling of the subject, presumably for commercial reasons. I suspect Office 2007 was due to ship simultaneously with Windows Vista, back in 2006.

    So we are here paying for something we should not be bothered with, should it have been properly handled. VML anyone?

  33. Mike Brown says:

    @Bruno,

    With respect to you mate, you’re talking utter bollocks.

    As I said earlier, there may well have been gaps in ODF 1.0, but what was there was well thought through, easy to understand and made extensive use of pre-existing standards.  None of that can be said for OOXML.

    "OOXML 1.0, if approved, will be complete and polished".  Are you having a laugh?  (Is he having a laugh?)  The spec is full of nonsense.  The broken date mechanism is only of the more glaring examples.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  34. Luc Bollen says:

    @Bruno

    If OOXML was complete and polished, why is there a need to add 3 new date representation systems just 30 days before the final approval ?

    Check how much time was spent between ratification of ODF by OASIS and submission to ISO.  Then compare to the time between ratification of OOXML by Ecma and submission to ISO.  It should become clear which one was rushed.

    I’m sorry to be rude, but you are a troll, and your post don’t deserve to be replied to further.  

  35. NonSequitur says:

    @Davide

    "PS. Again more noise, this time it’s Brazil complaining the lack of mapping data between bin/ooxml docs:"

    Not Brazil, but an ODF Alliance lobbyist who was part of the Brazilian delegation. He does not speak on behalf of the Brazilian NB.

  36. hAl says:

    ISO has published the list of resoluiton of the BRM.

    Resolution 37 is the resolution that decided on using the form vote as a means to decide on the rest of the outstandting dispositions.

    The vote result on Resolution 37

    29 in favour

    0 against

    2 abstain

    So all in favour of this voting method before the vote, but a lot of noise after the vote. Why did those people speaking out so loudly not speak up when this voting method was proposed ?

    Some have suggested that certain ‘disapproval of all disposition’ votes on this form were out of principel. But if you first vote in favour of this form vote then it seems more like you tried to win it by disapproving all and then show to be a sore loser afterwards.

  37. Doug Mahugh says:

    I see over on Alex Brown’s blog that the results of the BRM are publicly available now. There are two

  38. I see over on Alex Brown&#39;s blog that the results of the BRM are publicly available now. There are

  39. orcmid says:

    I spent a great deal of time researching this and other occurrences of "macro" in ECMA-376.  Since I don’t fancy scripts in public documents, I never dug into this until Rob Weir expressed his concerns on the lack of explicit scripting support in DIS 29500.

    My fumbling analysis of the macro situation is at

    http://orcmid.com/blog/2008/03/document-interchange-ooxml-without.asp

    There was a response on the request for more details.  The response that was approved affirmed that treatment of the macro or command in the text is entirely implementation determined.  This is consistent with all other statements about macros in ECMA-376.  

    That may not be a satisfactory resolution, and Rob Weir gives his argument about that.  But it seems pretty clear that ECMA-376 and DIS 29500 do not incorporate any provision for macros and scripts other than implementation-defined ones that any other implementation is free to ignore.

    On reflection, I accept this as a safer way to start out.

  40. Bruno says:

    @Luc Bollen

    ODF 1.0 does not even support basic spreadsheet functionality (among other things), making it unsuitable for government use, but IBM is lobbying governments to mandate exclusive use of that format based on the ISO imprimatur.  IBM is, in effect, LYING to these governments when IBM claims that ODF is sufficient for their needs.  Are you really applauding that?  Rather than constantly trash OOXML, why not look at the flaws and dishonest marketing of your own format of choice, ODF?  Is it because you simply refuse to admit that ODF is flawed and being dishonestly lobbied for, or just don’t care?

    If you think OOXML was "rushed", fine, but if you don’t have the honesty to admit that ODF was rushed and received much less rigorous review than OOXML has, then *you* are the troll, hiding behind psuedo-intellectual babble.

    Too many like you run around pretending that ODF 1.0 is perfect, or nearly so, ignoring that it has huge defficiencies, and two years later, those defficiencies still have not been addressed (ODF 1.1 and 1.2 still haven’t been submitted to ISO, probably because this time people will actually bother to look at it (ODF 1.0 was rubberstamped because nobody really cared so nobody examined it).  

    The double standard is quite striking regarding the slack you’re giving ODF vs the zero slack you give OOXML.

  41. Dave S. says:

    @Bruno -If ODF covers text documents – the majority of all documents – and does not support spreadsheets, then why can’t it be used for text documents? Is it to be all-or-nothing?

    In the wake of the EU judgement of the more open Microsoft over interoperability standards, it makes sense to more carefully scrutinize MS behavior in other areas where interoperability is key. Besides, when ODF gets a majority hold on document format usage, it too will be examined with care.

  42. Rob Brown says:

    @Bruno: Your complaints about ODF are just bunkum. "ODF is crap" is not a reason to adopt OOXML!

    I’m sure you’re right about IBM (or whoever) lobbying like mad at the moment for OOXML to be rejected. It’s likewise certain that Microsoft (or whoever) will be lobbying for it to be accepted. I would certainly hate to be in an NB at the moment, they’ll be getting their ears thoroughly chewed off!

    Personally I find all this quite distateful, but that’s just how it is. In the end however we have to have faith that the NBs are capable of independent analytical thought, and will ultimately come to their own decisions based on their own criteria. Remember that they have a lot more information than we, getting drip fed highly-spun morsels from the blogosphere, are aware of.

    By the way, ODF 1.0 specifies quite a bit of "spreadsheet functionality". It doesn’t have a rigorous description of formulas, but then again, OOXML’s formula description is a dump of the Excel help file. Nobody should ever use the word "perfect" about either spec. And finally I love the irony in you accusing Luc Bollen of being pseudo-intellectual, but misspelling it. Hilarious, keep it up 🙂

  43. Mike Brown says:

    @Bruno

    >> ODF 1.1 and 1.2 still haven’t been submitted to ISO

    Gee, I wonder why not?  Certainly not because the committee membership is currently stuffed full of Microsoft proxies, ready to vote it down on orders from Redmond. No siree.

    In fact, they don’t even have to vote against it, do they?  They just have to sit on their hands and watch it fail by default.  Just like they did for months after the first OOXML vote, until somebody poked them with a stick and said "hey, you’re actually supposed to *do* some things here, now that you’ve signed up".

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  44. Mike Brown says:

    @Bruno (again!)

    >> ODF 1.0 was rubberstamped because nobody really cared

    >> so nobody examined it

    Hmmm… I believe that Microsoft itself was one of the parties that voted in favour of ODF 1.0, as the company never tires of telling us – "hey, we scratched your back, why won’t you scratch ours?"

    Are you saying now that Microsoft didn’t read the spec beforehand?

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  45. Doug Mahugh just posted about a call this afternoon where the U.S. V1 technical committee reviewed the

  46. Doug Mahugh just posted about a call this afternoon where the U.S. V1 technical committee reviewed the

  47. Bruno says:

    @Mike Brown

    Yes, I say that Microsoft didn’t read the ODF spec during the ISO rubberstamping.  Nobody that wasn’t involved with its development did.  THat’s why it passed in such an incomplete state.  It’s easy to get things approved when nobody gives a damn.

    But now that ODF forces are advocating that governments mandate exclusive use of ODF, in effect making it illegal for governments to use other formats, subsequent ISO reviews for ODF 1.1, 1.2, etc, will be a lot more thorough (also the precedent of OOXML’s rigorous examination (which got to be so petty that it nearly got to the point where any undotted "i" or uncrossed "t" was enough for calls to reject OOXML)), which is why ODF 1.1 hasn’t been submitted despite being "ready" (so we are told) for months now.

    The irony is that ODF 1.1 and 1.2 are *required* to bring ODF to a usable state for government use.  ISO OOXML 1.0, if approved, will need no such revisions to be sufficient for government use.  Meaning, the ISO approved version of OOXML will be usable by governments, but not the ISO version of ODF.  How do you like them apples?

  48. Mike Brown says:

    @Bruno,

    >> ISO OOXML 1.0, if approved, will need no such revisions

    Who knows what it will need?  Who knows what it looks like?  It doesn’t even exist yet in any state that anybody can test, does it?  I mean, a version that includes the changes that Microsoft/Ecma nodded their heads to at the BRM.  And yet we’re hearing that the US delegation has already voted to approve it.  It all shows just how corrupt this entire process has become.

    "The precedent of OOXML’s rigorous examination" came about because the spec was so large and of such poor quality. Microsoft and its apologists can moan "if it wasn’t because we’re Microsoft, and because of big, bad old IBM" all they want.  The spec is full of rubbish, and far more so than uncrossed "i"s and undotted "t"s.  

    The truth is that if Microsoft hadn’t "encouraged" so many of its partners to get involved -i.e. stacked the votes – then we wouldn’t even be here today.  The only question now is whether they’ve stacked the vote by enough.

    If OOXML gets passed then it will be the end of ISO standards as we know it.  Standards will be for ever more divided into two groups:those that we’re earned, and those that were bought.  This month will be the dividing line.

    For sure, if I put on a car safety belt with an ISO stamp on it, I’d be checking to see it got that ISO approval before March 2008.  If not, then it might be made of tissue paper.

    Why does Microsoft need to blow all that money on Yahoo, I wonder?  It could make a fortune hiring out its ISO committee partners to vote in any kind of standard that you care to pay for.

    If this was an election for political office, then some people would probably be in jail for what they’ve done here.  With the EU now taking an interest, maybe that will happen eventually.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  49. Luc Bollen says:

    @Mike

    The pity is that, whatever the result at the end of March, Microsoft has already reached one of his goals: discredit ISO.  They perfectly knows that a weaker ISO means a stronger Microsoft.  

    ISO having a strong reputation in defining de jure standards means that de facto "standards" imposed by Microsoft are less highly regarded.  

    Weakening the reputation of ISO clearly benefits Microsoft.

  50. Luc,

    You should check your facts there. It is in fact the chair of the ODF TC (and IBM employee) who has come out and attacked both ISO and the process. There have been numerous statements from IBM employees suggesting that OASIS is the only true standards body. Not only did the OASIS TC completely blow off feedback from national bodies during their equivalent of the fast track process, but since then they have taken no steps to include SC34 in the maintenance of ODF.

    Ecma on the other hand reached out to ISO folks early on in the process, and included public drafts of the standard for review. Since submission, Ecma has also reached out to a number of folks on SC34 to identify a maintenance that allows everyone to have a voice in the furure evolution of the standard.

    -Brian

  51. Mike Brown says:

    @Luc,

    Out to deliberately discredit ISO?  Hmmm… maybe.

    But I"m not sure that the company is thinking that way.  I’m not sure Microsoft is thinking at all, in fact.  They’ve gone beyond rational thought and inhabit a world in which they honestly believe that what’s good for themselves must necessarily be good for the world in general.  They really do think that they’re "refreshing the old guard" of the ISO committees (or whatever it was that Microsoft’s Tom Robertson called it), and are puzzled that everybody else sees it as ballot stuffing.  It’s just like how Bush and Blair genuinely believed that their illegal war in Iraq was the "right thing to do" and simply couldn’t comprehend why anybody else might disagree.  Unfortunately for them, belief in what you’re doing doesn’t exempt you from the rule of law.

    @Brian,

    >> It is in fact the chair of the ODF TC

    >> (and IBM employee) who has come out

    >> and attacked both ISO and the process

    The process has been corrupted by Microsoft.  Those that attack "both ISO and the process" are merely pointing out that corruption and are trying to get ISO to put its house in order.  Termination of the OOXML fast track submittion is the logical first step of this process.

    If Ecma "reached out" to Uncle Tom Cobbly and all so early in the process, then why was it in such a mess when it was submitted to ISO fast track?  All that consultation, and still Ecma thought it was okay that a 21st century spreadsheet format couldn’t handle dates before 1900?

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  52. Mike,

    OpenXML has improved as part of ISO, but it was never broken. The number of changes indicate that there was room for improvement, but that will always be the case.

    Do you think ODF was a good refection of an ISO process working? That seemed far more flawed than what you’re seeing now with Open XML.

    -Brian

  53. Mike Brown says:

    @Brian,

    >> OpenXML has improved as part of ISO

    Maybe, it has.  But "improved" <> "any damned good", as one of the Greek BRM representatives pointed out on his blog.  There was way too much "room for improvement" for a spec that was at this very late stage of the fast track process.  E.g. adding an entire new date type field to try and fix the notorious broken date issues.

    >> Do you think ODF was a good refection of an

    >> ISO process working?

    Microsoft’s answer to everything: "ODF had an easy ride, so our one should too!"  And that kind of approach works well when Mom is dishing out the sweets between her two children, but this international standards that we’re talking about now.

    But let’s for a moment say that you’re right , and that ODF *was* just as broken as OOXML and that it *should* have received the rocky passage that OOXMl is now getting.  So what?  Do two wrongs make a right?  Does one lapse in the system mean that every submission thereafter must be held to the same low standard?

    Your argument is irrelevant, even if it were true (which it isn’t).  It’s OOXML that’s up for standardisation now, not ODF.

    >> That [ODF standardisation] seemed far more flawed

    >> than what you’re seeing now with Open XML

    You think?  I don’t recall any allegations of ballot rigging, vote stuffing and bribery during the ODF process, and yet that was somehow more flawed than now?  

    You really have no idea what you’ve done, do you?  (I mean "you" as a company, rather than you personally).  Companies and (more importantly) governments are utterly repelled by the tactics to which Microsoft have stooped this time.  And just when Microsoft were trying to convince the DoJ and the EU that they were reformed characters too!

    Whether you win or lose the vote, there’s a lot of people that are not going to forgive the way that Microsoft blatantly gamed the system to its own ends.  As UK journalist Jon Honeyball said:

    "Bringing the whole ISO process into disrepute is an offence that Microsoft won’t escape from lightly in the end"

    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/realworld/127718/standard-practice/page4.html

  54. Mike,

    Welcome to the real world. Not sure if you are aware, but much of the "anti-OpenXML" push out there also involved advocating/mandating ODF. So while you may think it’s juvenile to point out the large number of flaws/short-comings in ODF, in reality it’s just where we are.

    I wouldn’t leverage Antonis’ view of the BRM as the balanced perspective either, as he is a member of FFII who actually runs the NOOOXML site among other anti-OpenXML propaganda.

    As far as the allegations of shenanigans you’ve launched… can you give some more specifics? I’ve seen IBM employees such as Rob Weir travel all over the world lobbying governments and standards bodies to block OpenXML. While Rob is a member of the US national body, he’s also participated in the phone conferences and debates within other countries of which he obviously isn’t even a citizen. This may be fine from a process point of view, but it’s a clear indication of the huge amounts of resources and lobbying you see from IBM in the other direction.

    So, get off the ivory tower man and look around. The other side isn’t as rosy as you’d like to think.

    -Brian

  55. Mike Brown says:

    @Brian,

    I’m sure IBM has done all the thing that you say, Brian.  I can’t speak for them, so I’ll take your word for it.  But the things of which you accuse them: "lobbying", "debates" and even "propaganda" aren’t exactly crimes though, are they?

    And what exactly is "[Rob Weir] debates within other countries of which he obviously isn’t even a citizen" all about?  Debating in a country in which you’re not a citizen is not a crime either, as far as I’m aware; not even in George W’s United States…. not yet, anyway.  Such an accusation takes me back to George Bush the Elder’s TV Presidential debates with Bill Clinton in 1992.  In case you’ve forgotten, Bush Senior tried to sully Clinton’s patriotism by repeatedly reminding everybody that Clinton had demonstrated against the U.S. Govt when he was on foreign soil.  (Clinton had demonstrated against the Vietnam war when he was at college in the UK; I guess that he was supposed to hop on a plane back to the States whenever he wanted to join a demo).  In case you’ve also forgotten, Bush Senior lost the election.

    >> As far as the allegations of shenanigans you’ve launched…

    >> can you give some more specifics?

    You know the allegations of which I speak.  They say that Microsoft has, to all intents and purposes, stuffed the ballot box by encouraging its partners to join the various country’s committees and vote for OOXMl without conditions.  Do you deny that this took place?

    None of this broke any country’s laws or any ISO rules, of course, but is it ethical?  Do you really believe that lobbying and debating your position – yes, even in a country of which you are not a citizen – is morally equivalent to ballot stuffing?

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  56. nksingh says:

    @Mike:

    What do you define as ballot stuffing?  I’d say that lobbying officials and companies to vote against OpenXML is at best morally equivalent to lobbying officials and companies to vote for OpenXML (I think its worse because they are lobbying against a standard that would be in most peoples’ interest).

    Microsoft has publically stated that it has not and will not offer any compensation in return for votes on OpenXML.  The unfortunate issue in Switzerland was an exception to this policy that came to light because it was reported by Microsoft itself before any damage could be done to the integrity of the process in Switzerland. Do you have anything else, other than innuendo, to suggest that Microsoft did something unethical?  It certainly would be odd for Microsoft to spend so much time on a standardization effort only to leave the review solely to competitors interested in killing the standard regardless of technical merit.

  57. Mike Brown says:

    @nksigh,

    >> What do you define as ballot stuffing?

    There’s plenty of examples at:

    http://www.noooxml.org/irregularities

    Take your pick.  Why not start with Italy, where the committee "suddenly grew from 5 to 83 after Microsoft introduced a lot of its local partners".  Is that your idea of "lobbying"?

    >> The unfortunate issue in Switzerland [Microsoft’s

    >> attempted vote buying] was an exception

    I’ve no doubt that somewhere in a dusty cupboard, there’s a Microsoft policy book that says "thou shalt not offer compensation in return for votes in any committees".  However, a company’s publicly stated policies are one thing; its actions on the ground are something else.  Sure Microsoft admitted to overstepping the mark in Switzerland, and sure "it was all a big mistake".  But really, wasn’t that incident just a logical extension of their actions all over the globe?  

    So Microsoft reported the incident themselves.  Good on them!!  But really, having committed their faux pas via email, they must have known that it would come out eventually.  These things always do.  The Laws of Damage Limitation say "better to own up first".

    >> It certainly would be odd for Microsoft to spend

    >> so much time on a standardization effort only to

    >> leave the review solely to competitors interested

    >> in killing the standard regardless of technical

    >> merit.

    I rest my case.  Microsoft’s attitude to standardisation (and to the world in general, for that matter) summed in a single sentence.  I don’t know if you work for them, and I don’t care either.  But you’ve absolutely nailed them here.  I’m not even going to begin to explain to you what’s wrong with this picture.  If you don’t get it now, you never will.

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  58. Mike,

    Again, both sides are doing what you mention. I don’t think there is anything wrong with what IBM is doing, as long as they follow the rules. The same goes for Microsoft.

    As I’ve said numerous times, you have to look at both sides.

    -Brian

  59. Mike Brown says:

    @Brian,

    >> both sides are doing what you mention

    Are they?  Then perhaps you could give me an example of where IBM bought the pot, in the way that Microsoft did in Italy?  I mean, from 5 members to 83 members?  That’s "lobbying", in your book?

    For those unfamiliar with Poker, "buying the pot" is the tactic of betting so much money on a single hand that your opponents will fold, either out of fear ("wow, he must have a great hand to be betting that kind of money") or because they don’t have the money to cover your bet.  The tactic can also be used to cover the fact that your hand is actually rather weak….

    Cheers,

    – Mike

  60. Mike,

    Have you looked at who the 78 new members are? It is my understanding that a large number joined from both camps.

    -Brian