Being Heard: A Reasonable Man Speaks Out


In just a couple of hours, I’ll be on a call with my fellow members of INCITS V1, the technical committee that has been evaluating ISO/IEC DIS 29500 in the United States. The chair of that committee is Patrick Durusau, a man with a wealth of experience in document standards (the editor of the ODF spec, among other things) who leads V1 by quiet example.


Patrick has a new post on his web site that explains his position on DIS 29500: he is recommending its approval as an ISO/IEC standard. His post is succinct and to the point, so I’ll quote it in its entirety here:


On The Importance Of Being Heard

As a non-attendee to the BRM on DIS 29500, I have been trying to sort out fact from fiction in the highly imaginative accounts of the meeting. I have been able to isolate only one common point of agreement in all the published and unpublished reports that I have seen.

That point of agreement is that everyone at the table was heard. That may not seem like a lot to an Oracle or IBM, but name the last time Microsoft was listening to everyone in a public and international forum? At a table where a standard for a future product was being debated by non-Microsoft groups? So, now that Microsoft is listening (something we should encourage), in an international and public forum, what are our options?

Reject DIS 29500? The cost of rejection is that ordinary users, governments, smaller interests, all lose a seat at the table where the next version of the Office standard is being written.

Approve an admittedly rough DIS 29500? That gives all of us a seat at the table for the next Office standard. Granting that I wince at parts of DIS 29500, it is hard for me to argue with that rationale. Because approval of DIS 29500 insures an effective international and public forum whose members will be heard by Microsoft I recommend approval of DIS 29500 as an ISO standard.*

5 March 2008
Patrick Durusau

*This is a change in my prior position on DIS 29500. Different behavior has led to a different DIS 29500 and hence a different position on my part.

I first met Patrick in January of 2007 on the first V1 calls I attended. At that time, he was reading the newly submitted DIS 29500 spec, and he told me of how he had estimated the time it would take to read all 6000 pages, and he had allocated a certain number of hours per day so that he could get through it in the next few months.


At the end of Patrick’s reading project, he had a list of specific comments about the spec. At that time many people worldwide were simply regurgitating comments in their national bodies that had come from other sources, often without even understanding them, but Patrick had quite the opposite approach. Every comment he submitted was his and his alone, based on hands-on review of the spec itself.


When V1 voted last July on a position for the US to take on DIS 29500, Patrick recommeded disapproval. As he explained at the time, he felt there were problems that needed to be addressed. Now, based on the progress made over the last six months, including the acceptance of the vast majority of Ecma’s proposed dispositions at the BRM last week, Patrick has decided to recommend approval of DIS 29500 for the reasons he explains in the quote above.


Comments (8)

  1. Chris Clark says:

    Doug,

    I feel it’s necessary to make the same comment here as I made to Stephen McGibbon.

    ‘Everyone at the table was heard.’ says Patrick Durusau…

    Well, Malaysia would seem to disagree.  “Malaysia decided to vote ‘Disapprove’ to these undiscussed issues,” Fadilah elaborated, “The limitation of the BRM process clearly showed that such a task of approving this draft standard does not fit in the Fast Track process employed by Ecma International.

    And 84% of the P-Vote delegations would seem to vigorously disagree either the standard, and/or the whole process one way or another.

    No-one can quite understand how ‘O’ Votes were counted, because the rules are most clear on this.  O Countries have no vote.

    And the audio file of the BRM proceedings might yet escape into the public domain (there’s quite a hunt on for it) and that will be most interesting.

    This standard won’t go through.  There’s no buy in.

  2. Doug Mahugh says:

    Well, Chris, that’s not the first time two people have disagreed, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  As for Malaysia getting their chance to be heard, they had a card they could raise in the air any time all week long, just like everyone else did.  Given the large number of experts in the room, you had to have your facts right before speaking up in general, but that was the only limitation on participation that I ever saw in action.

    I don’t know what your 84% number is about, but if you’re saying that those who abstained on issues they hadn’t studied closely (the only reasonable position to take, in my opinion) did so to voice some sort of displeasure, you’re really stretching and I disagree with you.  Perhaps they abstained because they didn’t have a position on those issues?  Sometimes a cigar is a cigar, you know.

    As for how O-member votes were counted, it’s very simple: they counted.  I don’t know what rules you’re referring to, but the rules for the BRM were explained on Sunday evening to the heads of delegation, and they were followed all week.  O-members voted every time, dozens of times, and nobody said a word about it until a vote late Friday didn’t go as everyone at the InterContinental wanted it to go.

    I hope the audio leaks.  I think it would be great for the general public to hear the professionalism and respect (or lack thereof) in the comments from various parties.  That’s a subtlety that would really help put some of the post-mortems in context.

  3. Dough,

    the most interesting comment on Patrick Durusaus approval of DIS 29500 is actually yours – where you referer to Patrick having read the entire spec … on his own.

    This is just the latest in a long line of arguments from the anti-OOXML-wolfpack that now seems utterly (to use the phrasing of Tim Bray) ridiculous.

    (no-one will ever be able to read the spec let alone evaluate it properly)

    About the audio-file … I do not agree. I seem to remember that I spoke an awfull lot more than you … and my Danish accent when speaking English is really bad – especially when I get nervous … (or drunk). So ISO/IEC, puleeeze keep the audio neatly kept away to save me for the embarrassement.

    :o)

  4. hAl says:

    <blockquote>And 84% of the P-Vote delegations would seem to vigorously disagree either the standard, and/or the whole process one way or another.</blockquote>

    That is strange because on 4 of them voted against the standard and none of them protested agianst the chosen form voting solution according what the BRM chairman has said:

    <blockquote>As regards the form voting solution we chose, it’s worth noting perhaps that NO country disapproved adopting it…

    – Alex.

    Alex Brown </blockquote>

  5. The rules he’s referring to are the relevant directives governing the ISO fast track process. If the people conducting the BRM invents new rules on the spot that doesn’t make them valid.

  6. Doug Mahugh says:

    Jesper, I wouldn’t worry about the audio tape — without video, I don’t think you’ll come across as drunk. 🙂

  7. marc says:

    "Now, based on the progress made over the last six months, including the acceptance of the vast majority of Ecma’s proposed dispositions at the BRM last week, Patrick has decided to recommend approval of DIS 29500 for the reasons he explains in the quote above."

    could you cite exactly where in Durusau text says:

    "including the acceptance of the vast majority of Ecma’s proposed dispositions at the BRM last week"

    Paraphrasing EU commission: enough with the cheap talk ! fix the monster ( DIS 29500 )

     marc

  8. Doug Mahugh says:

    Marc, I happen to know from discussions with Patrick this week that he sees the acceptance of those dispositions (including several dispositions that address comments Patrick personally raised last year) as a significant component of the progess made over the last six months.  I think most reasonable people agree on that point: the spec is of higher quality as a result of approving those dispositions, most of which were straightforward and non-controversial editorial corrections or clarifications.  Do you have an example of a disposition approved at the BRM that you’d say doesn’t represent progress?

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