A frantic situation


As the ISO standards process wends it way forward, it seems that the anti-Open XML lobbyists are working one another into a frenzy. The sheer drama of some of the things that have been written lately makes for rich comedic fodder. Let’s take a look …


I first noticed things were getting a bit strange when a big garish “NO OOXML” banner appeared on Rob Weir’s blog. Apparently this new web site has been set up to help centralize the lobbying efforts of those who are “fighting against” the Open XML standards process. It’s worth a look, because some of the comments are great. My personal favorite so far: “Microsoft invading Denmark with puppets.” The mind reels.


WARNING: Open XML is eeeevil!!! Rob chose their biggest banner graphic, but I prefer the understated one shown here. They also have several others to choose from, including French, Spanish, or Portugese versions, with animated GIFs that cycle through various Open XML-bashing messages. Karl Rove would be so proud.


Karl would also surely be proud of the 2,500 Euro reward being offered on the NOOOXML site for “The team that makes the best effort to helping the International Standardization Organisation (ISO) fight off Microsoft’s lobbying.” Hey guys, if I take the summer off from blogging, am I elligible for the reward? That would be about the perfect amount to buy a new Nikon D200 like I’ve been wanting for a while, and with all the time I’d save by not blogging I could take a lot more pictures. Let me know … dmahugh at you-know-where.


Meanwhile, IBM lobbyist Bob Sutor is warning people that the sky is falling and helping folks in other states and countries exercise their right to help IBM lobby against Open XML …


Last week he encouraged Massachusetts residents to submit email comments to try to get Open XML removed from the ETRM, with the explicit goal of turning it into an ODF-only mandate. Apparently Bob feels this is in the best interest of the state of Massachusetts, although he doesn’t live there so the cost of legislating lack of choice won’t come out of his personal tax bill.


Bob also recently offered up some “questions for your national standards body,” such as “Who are the members of your national standards body, when exactly did they join, and what are their primary commercial partnership relationships?”


I assume Bob’s concerned about all of the Open XML developers who have joined the technical committees worldwide. It’s hard for IBM to convince everyone that the spec can’t be implemented when there are people sitting at the table who are making their living doing exactly that, implementing Open XML solutions from the spec. Ah, for the good old days of spring, when many of the TCs had nobody in the room who had actually worked with Open XML, and cheap stunts like bringing in printouts of all 6000 pages could draw naive gasps.  “You mean I’d have to read all that to create a document?  Oh my God!” 


Meanwhile, IBM invites people to join who have no experience with the technology, no intent to implement it, and have just joined to cast a NO vote. IBM execs come in and slap them on the back and thank them for coming — I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I guess, in IBM’s view, this is how standards processes are supposed to work: it’s not about expertise in the subject matter, it’s about loyalty. Again, Rove and Bush would be quite proud.


Bob also offers up some helpful tips on “Fighting OOXML in Spanish- and Portugese-speaking countries.” After a reader complained “you have crossed the line from having a different opinion to stuffing ballot boxes,” Bob wrote that “When all the details are made known about what the pro-OOXML folks are doing to secure victory, I suspect you wonโ€™t find these more grass roots efforts to be too much.” Hey, feel free to make those details known any time, Bob. We’re all dying to hear about them! ๐Ÿ™‚


And so it goes. Another recent post on Bob’s blog offers “info on fighting OOXML” and includes a link to the “DIS 29500/OOXML Fact Sheet.” This fact sheet is thoughtfully provided by the ODF Alliance, and offers insights such as this logic puzzler: “DIS 29500 is too long (6000+ pages) and even at that length is not fully published; it contains both undocumented and under-specified elements that prevent full implementation.” So … it’s both too long, and not long enough? Man, that’s evil.


Another interesting development lately is the beginning of rifts in the anti-Open XML camp. The sense of frantic urgency to some of the fearmongering, combined with the beginnings of finger-pointing regarding tactics used to date, seem to indicate some concern that all this lobbying and influence-buying may come up short. Time will tell on that front.


Meanwhile, back at Rob’s blog, it seems the discourse has reached a new level: like terrorists, Open XML now represents a lethal threat to our safety. Yes, you read that right: Open XML can kill. Rob’s post today, “The Formula for Failure,” warns that the Open XML spec “has incorrect formulas that, if implemented according to the standard may cause loss of life.”


Frankly, I agree with some of Rob’s comments, such as the need to specify whether arguments for trig functions are in radians or degrees. That’s why I’ll be supporting a “yes with comments” vote in the technical committee I serve on, because there are a bunch of these editorial errors and omissions that should be cleaned up. 


In my next couple of posts, I’ll be going through some of those specific editorial issues that have been raised in the documents being distributed by the anti-Open XML lobbyists. There is room for improvement in the spec as it stands, but — in my opinion, anyway — the sky is not falling, and we’ll all benefit from having the huge corpus of existing Office documents move into an XML-based standard. Open XML is here to stay.


Comments (24)

  1. Interesante post de Brian Jones que me encantaría replicar aquí enterito, pero que prefiero que lo leáis

  2. jim says:

    >Apparently this new web site has been set up

    >to help centralize the lobbying efforts

    >of those who are "fighting against" the Open XML

    >standards process. It’s worth a look, because some

    >of the comments are great.

    >My personal favorite so far:

    >"Microsoft invading Denmark with puppets."

    >The mind reels.

    i’m wrong or you are feeling envious ? ๐Ÿ˜‰ …

    it seems that *your* petition/lobbying did badly, uh?:

    http://www.noooxml.org: 20000 _independent_ signers in couple of weeks

    microsoft uk petition: can’t tell… the site is gone !

    <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20070510005507/http://www.microsoft.co.uk/openxml/">http://web.archive.org/web/20070510005507/http://www.microsoft.co.uk/openxml/</a&gt;

    <a href="http://www.microsoft.co.uk/openxml/">http://www.microsoft.co.uk/openxml/</a&gt;

  3. Bob says:

    Funny – there’s speculation as to why FFII and IBM are now partnering: http://www.ipjur.com/2007/06/ibm-now-partnering-with-ffii.php3

    And now we see FFII puting a bounty out to get people to block Open XML: http://press.ffii.org/Press_releases/FFII_puts_up_a_prize_in_fight_against_Microsoft_Office_standardisation

  4. Bob says:

    It looks like the “www.noooxml.org” site was set up by the FFII’s Benjamin Henrion

  5. John Hensley says:

    "So … it’s both too long, and not long enough? Man, that’s evil."

    Isn’t this the same complaint the EC competition commissioner came up with? Not surprising, since IBM co-wrote the script in both cases.

  6. W^L+ says:

    Did you see Waterworld?  That movie was too long, and even with all of its length, it failed to specify some things that might have made it understandable.  The movie needed to cut about 90 minutes of wasted footage and then add in another 15 to 25 minutes that showed us why we would care.

    Now do you get it?

  7. Shaun says:

    The quote was actually that it’s too long, and "incomplete" (not "too short"). In non-technical terms that means it "waffles" and doesn’t fill its function. You attack the quote and convieniently miss the point.

    You also waffle on about lobby groups and such and convienientely side-step (actually ridicule is more accurate) the serious allegation that inconsistent evaluation of technical and medical data in a global standard could put lives at risk. You cry ‘scare-mongers’ while simultaneously admitting that the errors are of concern.

    Are you a medical professional? Are you a nuclear physicist? No, you’re a sycophant in a crappy t-shirt.

  8. Martin Schoch says:

    "Frankly, I agree with some of Rob’s comments, such as the need to specify whether arguments for trig functions are in radians or degrees. That’s why I’ll be supporting a "yes with comments" vote in the technical committee I serve on"

    Here we agree on the facts but not on the conclusion. I’d make it a "put on hold until fixed" vote.

    It is acceptable to miss such details when drafting a specification – writing perfect specs is hard. But it is a lot less respectable to ignore the errors once they are discovered.

  9. mcgurk says:

    "Karl Rove would be so proud."

    Because Karl Rove is well known for relentless bashing of political opponents based on irrational hatred.

    Oh, wait, that’s the left.

  10. goatse man says:

    not surprising to see all this rather pathetic bravado on an MSDN site.

    The fact is that MS is a convicted monopolist whose business practices would make a con man blush.

    Everything from excessive FUD, (c’mon Ballmer; WHICH patents does OSS infringe? put up or shut the fuck up.) to threatening OEMs with higher volume licensing costs if they dare ship competing OS’s. (Thank Science that Michael Dell has more balls than that.)

    I suggest anyone who wants a raw and untempered history of the company read this site:

    http://www.vanwensveen.nl/rants/microsoft/IhateMS.html

  11. Hey Doug,

    you forgot to mention that major opponents don’t have read the Open XML specs yet, and that most of them are not even technical people … however they bring in ISO subcommittees a 600 technical comments spreadsheet with them …

  12. Doug Mahugh says:

    Actually, Shaun, they’re nice quality t-shirts: thick cotton, well-made.  I’ve washed mine many times and it’s still like new.

  13. John Hensley says:

    Yes, I "get" that OOXML needs work, and that there are certain parties that would rather see it buried than fixed.

  14. Ted Swart says:

    Doug Mahugh misses one very  important point.  There is no need for endorsing OOXML with an ISO seal of approval.  MS served on the OASIS committees which brought the ODF document specs into being but deliberately behaved as lurkers and not collaborators.  There would be no problem at all about legacy MS formats if MS provided the relevant information.

    Doug crows over the fact that there is some dissension within the ranks of those opposed to making OOXML an ISO standard but, once again, misses the point that OOXML should never have been fast tracked in the first place.  

  15. Ted, I think you haven’t really been following along closely enough. Open XML and ODF were essentially developer in parallel. ODF was based on StarOffie and Open XML based on Microsoft Office.

    I posted about this a few days ago: http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/07/09/open-xml-timeline.aspx

    Also note the quote at the end. Compatibility with the legacy base of Microsoft Office was an explicit non-goal.

  16. "Compatibility with the legacy base of Microsoft Office was an explicit non-goal."

    ROFLMAO

  17. Andre says:

    "Compatibility with the legacy base of Microsoft Office was an explicit non-goal."

    See ECMA answer to fast-track objections which says the opposite: "First, while both formats share the high-level goal, to represent documents, presentations, and spreadsheets in XML, their low-level goals differ fundamentally. OpenXML is designed to represent the existing corpus of documents faithfully, even if that means preserving idiosyncrasies that one might not choose given the luxury of starting from a clean slate. In the ODF design, compatibility with and preservation of existing Office documents were not goals. Each set of goals is valuable; sacrificing either at the expense of the other may not be in the best interest of users."

    http://www.ecma-international.org/news/TC45_current_work/Ecma%20responses.pdf

  18. marc says:

    dough mahugh said:

    "As the ISO standards process wends it way forward, it seems that the anti-Open XML lobbyists are working one another into a frenzy. The sheer drama of some of the things that have been written lately makes for rich comedic fodder."

    yes totally agree, this nooxml.org site is embarrasing

    oh! wait! what is this ?

    http://www.voicesforinnovation.org/TakeAction/OpenXML.aspx

    strike what i said !

  19. hAl says:

    Offering money for a best effort in opposing an ISO standardisation.

    That is just ridiculous.

    In fact I find it very strange that an ISO national body TC representative is highly involved in promoting a site that tries to influence ISO voting for commercial reasons.

    And Dough if OOXML ballot fails you could probably  easily keep the crucial update for v1.2 of OpenDocument of the ISO list forever as IBM has already shown that manipulating only 1/3 of a vote is much easier that manipulating 2/3’s.

  20. PlatformAgnostic says:

    I don’t think IBM is manipulating 1/3 of the vote.  There are enough people in this world ready to jump on Microsoft for perceived offences, such as proposing an international standard, that IBM only needs to supply them with a few facts before sending them off to bomb the committees with spurious complaints and generally irrational behavior.

    IBM has an interest in it, but the whole Free Software world is opposed to OOXML as well, since ODF is in a sense THEIR standard (even though it really is not much more than a SUN-IBM joint development).  

    I think it should be clear right now to everyone that the ISO standardization for both formats are just a part of the marketing stances of both companies. IBM wants ODF as a mandatory format because it would allow them to lock governments into SmartSuite (which wouldn’t be able to compete on the open market, but will do just fine against the likes of StarOffice and the pure OSS solutions).  Microsoft wants ISO to prevent that from happening and to maintain its Office dominance.  And the Open Sourcers want to see Microsoft lose by whatever means necessary (it doesn’t really even matter if they win), because it is the devil in their collective religion.

    I personally think IBM is looking really bad in this effort and that they should just fold this round and come back with a stronger office suite which consumes OOXML.  They’re putting too many eggs in the ODF basket.  It may turn out that ISO standardization isn’t quite enough to really sway people towards IBM products, if OOXML loses the final vote.

    I don’t think you did your side any favors by mixing politics into it, though, Mr. Mahugh.  I see some parallels between Weir and Sutor’s behavior and Karl Rove, but frankly the consequences of Rove’s actions are far more serious than anything that will happen to OOXML.  Even if you guys are defeated in ISO, you’ll have contributed greatly to Office engineering efforts and you should feel proud of working to improve the sustainability of enhancing your product without breaking back-compat.

  21. Stephen O says:

    "I don’t think you did your side any favors by mixing politics into it, though, Mr. Mahugh.  I see some parallels between Weir and Sutor’s behavior and Karl Rove, but frankly the consequences of Rove’s actions are far more serious than anything that will happen to OOXML.  Even if you guys are defeated in ISO, you’ll have contributed greatly to Office engineering efforts and you should feel proud of working to improve the sustainability of enhancing your product without breaking back-compat."

    Agreed. Not everyone in the software world has an axe to grind against Karl Rove. I don’t think it does much to mix personal politics into this discussion.

  22. Yes, IBM and FFII are cooperating, as are thousands of people around the world, in order to beat back the worst excesses of Microsoft’s attempts to colonise and occupy the desktop and server.

    You wonder why Microsoft draws so much anger from the Community?  Perhaps it’s your support for software patents in Europe, or your cynical use of proxies like the BSA to promote your special interests, or your use of patent FUD to attack Linux, or simply because you are unique among all firms in your ability to treat ethics as a handicap, and business as war.

    If Microsoft declares war on the Community – and this is not IBM, nor FOSS, but a whole economy of independent technology-oriented firms and people – don’t act surprised when the Community fights back.

    You think the FFII is sponsored by IBM, perhaps?  Wrong.  We’re sponsored by thousands of individual donations, by tens of thousands of hours of donated time.  THAT is what you’re up against.  But you probably find it unbelievable that people would do anything except for money, so wasted is your sense of ethics… your loss, not mine.

    We don’t have fancy graphics or professional PR people to write clever messages like "two standards means more choice".  But we do have real people, thousands of them, who are deeply offended by what you do, and who will go to extraordinary lengths to punish you for it.

    So it is with patents, and so it is with OOXML.

  23. Doug Mahugh says:

    Pieter, I make a big distinction between the anger you and a few others exhibit online, and the attitude of the community.

    I’ve spoken on Open XML in 16 countries this year, and I’ve run into a few people who oppose the standards process, but in every case we’ve been able to have polite and respectful discussions about the technical details that form the basis of our disagreements.  I’ve spoken at Linux and open-source events, and have found common ground with people from a variety of technical perspectives.

    The anger and slander (what do YOU know of my ethics?) seems to be an online phenomenon, limited to a small number of individuals.

  24. Dating says:

    As the ISO standards process wends it way forward, it seems that the anti-Open XML lobbyists are working one another into a frenzy. The sheer drama of some of the things that have been written lately makes for rich comedic fodder. Let’s take a look ..