Doc Format Legislation – elevating a great comment


Here is a comment submitted to an earlier blog posting about doc formats. For those of my readers who don’t know, my mother was a member of the NY State Assembly for a decade and her Chief of Staff (if that is the right title) recently posted into my blog a thoughtful comment. Michael has a great combination of real knowlege about state-level law-making, and technology depth (Masters in Information Technology I believe). Anyway – rather than talk for him, here is his comment. I am writing a longer piece which I hope to post shortly about all the legislative activity, and I can assure you I am going to have to consider Mike’s points as I write.


 Originally Posted 3/4/07 as a comment:



Jason:


I have some questions that I think would be useful for a lot of people to think about and answer, including you. These issues have been troubling me for some time.  As you know, the California Assembly introduced AB1668 (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_1651-1700/ab_1668_bill_20070223_introduced.html) and the New York Legislature is being actively lobbied to do the same (by IBM).   I personally do not think this issue is an ODF vs Microsoft XML thing, I think it is far more insidious than a simple contest on who is better or which standard should prevail.


This topic is a question of public policy and whether or not this in the best interest of the people. The other big question is whether or not a legislature should interrupt the fair procurement practices of a State and force standards on multi-million dollar enterprise level systems.  To be honest many of the Assemblyman barely no how to use a computer much less make a decisions on ODF and XML.


Here is the section of the bill that really bothers me:


Beginning on or after January 1, 2008, all


documents, including, but not limited to, text, spreadsheets, and


presentations, produced by any state agency shall be created,


exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based,


XML-based file format, as specified by the department.


Many if not a vast majority of the documents created by governments are made by automated means.  New York has an enormous computer infrastructure producing 10’s of millions of documents weekly as defined by the bill AB1668.  The way this bill is written would cause an enormous fiscal burden to the state forcing them to rewrite many of the legacy systems to bring it into compliance with the proposed specification   Many states including New York have Archival rules in place to handle the long term access to these records, in NY it is called “SARA” (http://iarchives.nysed.gov/Publications/pubOrderServlet?category=ServicesGovRecs) . These regulations maintain that the state archives come up with rules and Best Practices on archival and the retrieval of documents, in addition, when records should be destroyed or disposed of. This is an important point because some of the bloggers on this site contend we should be able to view records from the government for an indefinite period of time which is not the case by matter of statute.


Here are my questions for this fantastic and talented forum to consider:


What is the cost benefit analysis of this move to ODF when automated processes produce a bulk of the documents that the state produces?


Why are we forcing procurement requirements at the legislative level instead of using proper system engineering practices at the requirements building stage?


Does not the states procurement process already address these issues by forcing contractors to adhere to the states archival rules which allow vendors the flexibility to come up with the best technology for the state to use?


Why do these bill force specs on the systems that were never developed or designed with these standards in mind causing the potential of the reengineering of legacy systems.  (No grandfather clause)?


What do we as a society get in return for this massive investment?


Ultimately who gains from these bills?  I will answer one “IBM global services”


One more point.


A lot of people that use the ODF argument essentially say it’s some type of elixir where magically the state agencies will collaborate. ODF and XML will not help that or even come close to making that a reality until an enterprise wide data dictionary or Meta Data mapping repository is done. This issue is so complex I feel I do not have the time or patience to articulate myself on this subject. In addition there are so many rules and regulation on interagency data mining (for privacy sake) that this could be a topic all onto itself.


In fairness and openness I know Jason. I am not a fan or an enemy either Microsoft or IBM I think they both are awesome companies trying to grow and expand their market share. With respect this forum and feel that Jason is showing his integrity by taking it on the chin for Microsoft. The ODF standards community has a place in the enterprise level however with respect to this topic I see it more as a smoke and mirrors issue. I feel that the current rules and procurement practices in place protect the public far better than the various lobbyists tend to lead people (legislators) to believe.


This is an issue where if these bills become law one company clearly wins.  This issue and subsequent bills is big money where consulting and integration of large enterprise system becomes the focus not ODF.  


Please comment, I look forward to your critique or agreement.


Michael P. Ridley

Comments (9)

  1. Michael P. Ridley says:

    Jason,

    Thank you for the introduction.  First, I want to apologize on the post, it was a little rough.  I was reading my daily news stories at around 12-1 last night EST and felt compelled to post on the legislative aspects of this topic.  Second, you were right on both counts with my former job title under your mom and my academic background.  Currently I am the Director of Technology Development for NYSTAR (New York State Science, Technology and Academic Research Foundation) http://www.nystar.state.ny.us.

    I also was appointed to Governor Spitzer’s technology transition team last November and have been watching this issue for about 2 years.  This issue has been growing in momentum since the Massachusetts initiative and I knew it was only a matter of time before it would get to this level.  I feel now it is time to start to build a policy discussion since it is only a matter of time before the New York State Assembly and Governor Spitzer have to deal with this issue.

    I also want to clarify that I posted on Jason’s site not an endorsement of Jason or Microsoft but because I feel it is the only true forum on this topic.  Yes, Jason works for Microsoft, but the other members of this forum regularly beat him up on this topic. Because of this, I feel this is the only forum on the internet where both sides are equally matched. I feel that this interactive forum will give me the best possible information I am looking for.

    I am not invested either way about what ultimately happens with this issue, but what I do care about is that ALL of the facts are revealed so decision makers can make the best decisions for their constituents.

    Policy makers routinely have to weigh the “public benefit” of things like this since they have a limited amount of resources to dispense year to year.  With healthcare, education and homeland security all being big budget priorities for the foreseeable future, a bill with a potential fiscal impact in the hundreds of millions of dollars needs to have more justification than what is currently being argued about.  For example, I know one company is lobbying the hold harmless aspect of this and not really getting into the potential consulting windfall that could come their way, thus not telling legislators the whole story.

    When I worked for Jason’s mother, this was the minefield we constantly had to navigate.  It was up to us to determine the full truth and reality of the potential public policies that she was enacting and what, if any, unforeseen impacts these policies would have long-term.  To gather this information sometimes was impossible, but thanks to the forum Jason has assembled, I feel this will be a much easier task as far as this issue is concerned.  

    I will also be reaching out to California Assemblyman Leno to request that he and his staff monitor this forum, adding a real-time dimension to this topic.

    I look forward to this discussion and hope this that this forum will begin the processes of illuminating this topic and all the potential implications it may or may not have.

    Thank you,

    Michael P. Ridley

  2. Anthony Christopher says:

    "Beginning on or after January 1, 2008, all

    documents, including, but not limited to, text, spreadsheets, and

    presentations, produced by any state agency shall be created,

    exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based,

    XML-based file format, as specified by the department.

    Many if not a vast majority of the documents created by governments are made by automated means.  New York has an enormous computer infrastructure producing 10’s of millions of documents weekly as defined by the bill AB1668.  The way this bill is written would cause an enormous fiscal burden to the state forcing them to rewrite many of the legacy systems to bring it into compliance with the proposed specification   Many states including New York have Archival rules in place to handle the long term access to these records, in NY it is called “SARA" (http://iarchives.nysed.gov/Publications/pubOrderServlet?category=ServicesGovRecs) . These regulations maintain that the state archives come up with rules and Best Practices on archival and the retrieval of documents, in addition, when records should be destroyed or disposed of. This is an important point because some of the bloggers on this site contend we should be able to view records from the government for an indefinite period of time which is not the case by matter of statute.

    Here are my questions for this fantastic and talented forum to consider:

    What is the cost benefit analysis of this move to ODF when automated processes produce a bulk of the documents that the state produces?"

    Your introduction to your questions states that the bill will "cause an enormous fiscal burden to the state", so you obviously have access to at least the cost side of such an analysis. Who performed this much of the analysis and why didn’t they continue with the benefits side of the analysis? Or, are you just ignoring the benefits because it suits your opinion?

    Lets perform a little high level cost analysis of our own, shall we?

    You say the bill requires "text, spreadsheets, and presentations, produced by any state agency shall be created,exchanged, and preserved in an open extensible markup language-based, XML-based file format, as specified by the department."

    Presentations(ex. Powerpoint): These documents are very rarely produced by unattended automation, so, to "rewrite many of the legacy systems to bring it into compliance with the proposed specification" simply involves the procurement, installation, training and use of compliant software. Some expense to be sure. But it differs very little from costs which most government agencies already incur on a regular basis. "Obtain the latest version of Powerpoint, install it, train the user’s, and use it." Indeed, if the the specification required conformance to the ODF, I could perform these steps, on my own behalf, at a better cost for ODF compliant software than most government agencies currently incur per instance during an upgrade. If the government agencies are writing their own presentation software, then they are most probably wasting the tax payer’s money!

    Spreadsheets(ex. Excel): Most of the same arguments apply to spreadsheets that apply above to presentations, with the exception being that unattended automation is perhaps a little less rare with spreadsheets. Those instances where unattended automated use of spreadsheets does occur, might very well benefit by converting to the use of a database rather than a spreadsheet.

    Text: At last we come to a term that is not necessarily associated with "off the shelf software". My understanding is that where suitable, most government agencies already use "off the the shelf" word processing software for the vast majority of their text processing needs. Again, in this case the same arguments apply as are used above. So we are left mostly with non-word processing of text for this "enormous fiscal burden to the state". And it could quite possibly be a very significant cost, but this depends largely on how this bill defines a text document for this legislation. That is not to say that the benefits might not also outweigh the costs in these cases, but a lower level cost/benefit analysis might be useful. The trouble with such a low level cost/benefit analysis is "How does one attach a value to the ability, two decades from now, to access todays public data?". The value of some of the other benefits may or may not be be more easily calculated.

    "Why are we forcing procurement requirements at the legislative level instead of using proper system engineering practices at the requirements building stage?"

    Because, it has been noticed in a number of states that someone responsible for the "proper system engineering practices at the requirements building stage", has failed to succesfully address a number of significant public concerns, one of which is the longevity of public data.

    "Does not the states procurement process already address these issues by forcing contractors to adhere to the states archival rules which allow vendors the flexibility to come up with the best technology for the state to use?"

    – forcing…to adhere to…which allow vendors the flexibility  –  It seems that may be part of the problem, rather than the solution!

    "Why do these bill force specs on the systems that were never developed or designed with these standards in mind causing the potential of the reengineering of legacy systems.  (No grandfather clause)?"

    I can’t say for certain, but I do know that actually writing a decent grandfather clause that does not gut the effectiveness of a piece of legislation can be very difficult.

    "What do we as a society get in return for this massive investment?"

    ???  Massive? Tell me, how big? How do you know?

    1. Access to old public data in the future.

    2. A possible perturbation of the habit of government agencies requiring the public to purchase a certain vendor’s software; EX. "Please, supply a copy in .doc format."

    3. The possibility of reduced cost in government expenditures for software via true competition of software vendors. Note: Microsoft could choose to comply with the specifications and compete on a level playing field.

    "Ultimately who gains from these bills?"

    Everybody.

  3. jasonmatusow says:

    Anthony –

    I will let government people speak for themselves on costs. The various bill out there in consideration are different enought that each state will have to consider the potential cost/benefit analysis seprately.

    I will address 2 of your points though.  ODF does NOT guarantee archival any more or less than Open XML. XML itself as the baseline technology gives people the ability to crack open the file and get to the data independent of any application that produced it. The various commercial implementations of ODF are already showing that there will be variations in implementation of ODF. ODF has already moved beyond the ISO spec, and will continue to grow and mature. Thus, archivists will have to contend with complexity in many ways (never mind as people start to include encryption on XML-based docs and a wide range of other complicating factors). The Open XML is available via Ecma. Microsoft (and others who implement over time) will document their work above and beyond just as you would hope to see from IBM or Sun doing implementations of ODF.

    Finally, governments can receive ODF docs, PDF docs, Open XML docs, old binary docs, etc. – translators are of paramount importance for everyone. This is true for producers and users of software alike. You can already see this in the increased translator production activities from many vendors.

    Thanks

    Jason

  4. Anthony Christopher says:

    XMl as the panacea again. I disagree. If Open XML adhered to the following two(of ten) goals of XML, which it does not, it might actually be a decent step toward a solution to a portion of the archival problem:

    "It shall be easy to write programs which process XML documents."

    "XML documents should be human-legible and reasonably clear."

    It is not easy to write a good word processor or spreadsheet program.  Not even the programs that implement the ODF are easy to write, thus the need for the ODF standard to help accomplish the goal of making successful archival solutions possible by assuring that there is help in the form of detailed specifications to compensate for the complexity of the task.

    It would be exagerating the bounds of my knowledge, to claim that solving the archival problem is one of the primary goals of ODF, let alone to claim that it is intended to guarantee such a solution. I, quite frankly, don’t know that that is true. I do know that  some of the requests for changes to the ODF specification during its development came with claims that the changes would make the standard better suited to help implementers achieve an archival solution.  The purpose of most standards really isn’t to guarantee anything, but rather to make certain tasks easier by narrowing the choices that a builder/maker/designer/maintainer has to choose from; reducing a bewildering array of possiblities to a few commonly agreed upon and easily available options. While requiring conformance to a standard does not in a legal or business sense guarantee the appropriateness of solutions to specific problems,  it can force procurement personnel to choose solutions that are more likely to to solve the specific problems and, perhaps more importantly, avoid solutions which are known not to fix specific problems.

  5. Michael P. Ridley says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.  I will try to respond to each one of your counterpoints

    Your introduction to your questions states that the bill will "cause an enormous fiscal burden to the state", so you obviously have access to at least the cost side of such an analysis. Who performed this much of the analysis and why didn’t they continue with the benefits side of the analysis? Or, are you just ignoring the benefits because it suits your opinion?

    Response – I do not have access to the true cost of implementation however in fairness to me none of the legislation introduced makes any mention of the fiscal impact of a system wide implementation therefore, leading other legislators and the general public a cost impact of zero.  I am aware of NYS infrastructure which is estimated at around $5-6 Billion with a sizable potion of that cost being application cost and replacement. Since the portion of this bill uses presentation, spreadsheets and text documents I am assuming all documents including emails would fall into this category. I think it is easy to assume the fiscal impact would be sizable given the size of New York’s and California’s IT infrastructure.

    Also, I do not know what your background is but when you speak of benefits it breaks down very rapidly into the weights on various metrics called utility.  Using a predetermined value(utility) on a set of metrics then calculating out all the scenarios in comparisons to other things.  A cost benefit analysis in public policy is much more than an ROI or any of the other things a technical person would use. It attempts to compare apples to oranges, roads to schools, drug rehab to prisons ect.  

    So who is to say archival has a high value of utility and is it worth the same than spending the same money on training teachers or improving roads?

    I agree with your comments on presentation software.  However does this presentation software mean webinars to?  Intersting…

    Spreadsheets(Excel): Most of the same arguments apply to spreadsheets that apply above to presentations, with the exception being that unattended automation is perhaps a little less rare with spreadsheets. Those instances where unattended automated use of spreadsheets does occur, might very well benefit by converting to the use of a database rather than a spreadsheet.

    Response – Spreadsheets are utilized regularly in the State for instance, when you FOIL (freedom of information Law) an Agency about a particular dataset the state agency usually will offer it to you in a variety of formats including excel, you would only read this data-set in a spreadsheet type application using a translator. So would this FOIL request in a variety of formats fall into the opendoc rules? According to the bill it would.  I think it should be the underlining database from where that data came from?  It seems to me the database is far more important to be archived for future generations than the reports and quarries it produces, don’t you?  This bill does not address that. This point also holds true to data merged text documents.

    Because, it has been noticed in a number of states that someone responsible for the "proper system engineering practices at the requirements building stage", has failed to succesfully address a number of significant public concerns, one of which is the longevity of public data.

    Response – I disagree entirely on this piece. The legislation is introduced by way of vendors going to legislators and making this an issue.  In NY and California and Massachusetts it was not state archivists telling the legislature about this problem.  These vendors are going to targeted legislators typically chairs of specific committees and using their influence and zero cost “opensource mantra” to convince the legislators this is a great thing to do.  They play to the politics of the member like  “this legislation will makes them look cutting edge and proactive” or say things like “imagine putting together all the health related data so you can make better decisions” and then close out every conversation with the statement  “Opendoc suites are free”.  Not to mention the out of the room statement “by the way put me down for 2 foursomes at your next golf tournament.”  To be fair all vendors close out their lobbying efforts this way. They don’t lobby on the merits of the proposals, they use half truths.  This legislation does not deal with the longevity of public data since databases are not a part of the bill.

    forcing…to adhere to…which allow vendors the flexibility  –  It seems that may be part of the problem, rather than the solution!

    Response – Again I disagree, regulations can change and be modified regularly which is why regulations and rules are better to deal with technical issues like this.  A change in statute (law) takes approval from the legislative and the executive branch, which is definitely the wrong way to go on technical requirements.  Laws are high level, regs and rules are low level.

    I can’t say for certain, but I do know that actually writing a decent grandfather clause that does not gut the effectiveness of a piece of legislation can be very difficult.

    Response – have you ever written a grandfather clause, here is one.  “The provisions of this act shall apply immediately to all systems procured by the state on or after the effective date of this act.”

     ???  Massive? Tell me, how big? How do you know?

    1. Access to old public data in the future.

    2. A possible perturbation of the habit of government agencies requiring the public to purchase a certain vendor’s software; EX. "Please, supply a copy in .doc format."

    3. The possibility of reduced cost in government expenditures for software via true competition of software vendors. Note: Microsoft could choose to comply with the specifications and compete on a level playing field.

    "Ultimately who gains from these bills?"

    Everybody.

    Response

    My definition of massive is $10’s of millions which I think is a reasonable estimate since I do know the size and scope of New York States enterprise.  In addition the lobbying effort would not be in full swing for a $1-2 million business. Using the lobbying effort as a guide I would guess $20-40 million statewide maybe even more.  It costs money to lobby and one thing I do know is there is a direct relationship between lobbying and cash benefit to the lobbyer(is that  the right way to say that?)

    You won’t have access to old public data since there are no provisions to convert the last 100+ years.  Also data by law is only required to be achieved for a set number of years then it is destroyed are you suggesting the government should keep all data for all time?

    As far as I know most request to the government are in paper or email or web based forms, please give me an example where a government requires submission only in .doc format. If that is true, then I agree with you that this should not be the case.  In addition, every FOIL request I have made the Agency has given it to me in paper, .pdf, .csv, .txt whatever I wanted I have never had a Government Agency only give me no choice and force one particular format.

    Nothing is preventing Government Agencies from loading up Openoffice now. I approve the IT costs at my Agency and by matter of preference I just purchase the Office license. Part of my reasoning is we have an Exchange Server and I feel there is no other product as good as Exchange/Outlook for the functionality we need.  I personally have Openoffice on my computer and tell staff it’s a great alternative, especially for home use, most still prefer to use MS Office, including myself.  Some agencies in New York use Lotus, I do not see an issue here, other than Microsoft has become the standard in office suites holding a sizable portion of the market, that certain people want to legislate their way into.  

  6. W^L+ says:

    (1) AB-1668 is not a "pro-IBM" bill.  With their Lotus Smartsuite software on life-support, IBM has little to gain from opening up the desktop.

    (2) Who stands to gain from AB-1668?

      (A) State agencies. They will have a broader set of applications that they can use for creating and processing documents.  And, yes, I believe that a truly-open, XML-based format that is not controlled by a single vendor, but is instead controlled by a neutral standards group and utilized by a plethora of vendors *will* bring benefits to the state agencies in the long run.

      (B) State contractors. They will not want to use two incompatible formats, so they are very likely to only use the truly open format.  They also will gain all of the benefits listed above.

      (C) Individuals and businesses which use state forms and reports.  Instead of being required to purchase a single vendor’s products, they will have the option of using nearly any vendor’s products to handle those forms and reports.  This includes job applicants, by the way, whom are often not able to spring for the currently-required office suite.

      (D) Anyone that pays taxes in the state.  See Adam Smith quote below.

      (E) Microsoft.  It has been years since Microsoft added much improvement in utility to end users.  This has been because there was no viable competition, and therefore no incentive to truly improve the software.

      (F) Competing software companies.  Adam Smith says, "Monopoly, besides, is a great enemy to good management, which[referring to good management] can never be universally established but in consequence of that free and universal competition which forces everybody to have recourse to it for the sake of self-defense."

    (3) Since the old file formats are going away anyway and the state (*my state*) will face billions of dollars of costs either way, I prefer that California chooses formats that enable anyone to access state documents without having to spring for the price of any particular vendor’s software.  I would feel the same if it were IBM, Sun, Corel, Novell, or Red Hat that had monopoly share of the market.  The interests of consumers (in this case, including the state of California) are only served by having numerous choices for the products they buy.  ODF enables this, while not-so-Open-XML does not.

    The main Adam Smith quote: "…. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is alwasy in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention…."

    In this case, there is already a monopoly provider which is crusading for an alternate "standard" controlled by them in the place of an open standard useful for all in the industry. With your employer having so much to lose from these kinds of laws, we ought to be all the more suspicious of anything they force you to say.

    I think that you and your team are mostly honest, well-meaning individuals. If you were spun out from control from the current corporate leadership, I have no doubt that you would have full ODF capability as a full peer format within a month or two, as well as going ahead and doing the work to harmonize the formats enough that any competitor in the market would use any format.  From a consumer and support point of view, that would be ideal.  I am sure that such an event would be a tragedy in your HQ.

    I wrote an open letter to the California Assembly here: http://lnxwalt.wordpress.com/2007/04/06/to-the-members-of-the-california-state-assembly/

  7. W^L+ says:

    (1) AB-1668 is not a "pro-IBM" bill.  With their Lotus Smartsuite software on life-support, IBM has little to gain from opening up the desktop.

    (2) Who stands to gain from AB-1668?

      (A) State agencies. They will have a broader set of applications that they can use for creating and processing documents.  And, yes, I believe that a truly-open, XML-based format that is not controlled by a single vendor, but is instead controlled by a neutral standards group and utilized by a plethora of vendors *will* bring benefits to the state agencies in the long run.

      (B) State contractors. They will not want to use two incompatible formats, so they are very likely to only use the truly open format.  They also will gain all of the benefits listed above.

      (C) Individuals and businesses which use state forms and reports.  Instead of being required to purchase a single vendor’s products, they will have the option of using nearly any vendor’s products to handle those forms and reports.  This includes job applicants, by the way, whom are often not able to spring for the currently-required office suite.

      (D) Anyone that pays taxes in the state.  See Adam Smith quote below.

      (E) Microsoft.  It has been years since Microsoft added much improvement in utility to end users.  This has been because there was no viable competition, and therefore no incentive to truly improve the software.

      (F) Competing software companies.  Adam Smith says, "Monopoly, besides, is a great enemy to good management, which[referring to good management] can never be universally established but in consequence of that free and universal competition which forces everybody to have recourse to it for the sake of self-defense."

    (3) Since the old file formats are going away anyway and the state (*my state*) will face billions of dollars of costs either way, I prefer that California chooses formats that enable anyone to access state documents without having to spring for the price of any particular vendor’s software.  I would feel the same if it were IBM, Sun, Corel, Novell, or Red Hat that had monopoly share of the market.  The interests of consumers (in this case, including the state of California) are only served by having numerous choices for the products they buy.  ODF enables this, while not-so-Open-XML does not.

    The main Adam Smith quote: "…. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufacture, is alwasy in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention…."

    In this case, there is already a monopoly provider which is crusading for an alternate "standard" controlled by them in the place of an open standard useful for all in the industry. With your employer having so much to lose from these kinds of laws, we ought to be all the more suspicious of anything they force you to say.

    I think that you and your team are mostly honest, well-meaning individuals. If you were spun out from control from the current corporate leadership, I have no doubt that you would have full ODF capability as a full peer format within a month or two, as well as going ahead and doing the work to harmonize the formats enough that any competitor in the market would use any format.  From a consumer and support point of view, that would be ideal.  I am sure that such an event would be a tragedy in your HQ.

    I wrote an open letter to the California Assembly here: http://lnxwalt.wordpress.com/2007/04/06/to-the-members-of-the-california-state-assembly/

  8. W^L+ says:

    By the way, I wrote individually to most of the state agency CIOs myself, so one can not accurately say that this is about IBM or Sun buying off a few Assemblymen. The campaign for OpenDocument adoption is actually based in the community of software users, rather than vendors.  A short read of the Massachusetts story tells us that vendors have been scrambling to adapt to the mandates that the users (in this case the state of Mass) have put out.

    One particular vendor, the incumbent, did a massive negative campaign there, remember the resignation of a state CIO over that? I do not believe that Jason, Doug, or Brian had any part in that–they have too much integrity–but the dirty tricks started there and are continuing worldwide, including here in the land of sunshine.

  9. Michael P. Ridley says:

    #W^L+

    Well I see you put a lot of thought into this and I have to say you are quite convincing.  What I am trying to say here is not weather or not Opendoc is a good or bad thing, I was getting at was why we are messing with a free and open procurement system legislatively.  Why are we forcing technology standards through statute?  Is their a problem with you or any one else getting the requested information?  If there is a problem address the problem, most likely it is not technology rather its either a statutory issue meaning FOIA laws are not strong enough or the Agency is not capturing data you might think is necessary either one Opendoc or xml will not get you to you end goal of getting the  required information.

    All of the things you mentioned are already incorporated into law. I cannot think of any agency in New York that requires someone to purchase software to read a document.  In fact the FOIA requirements specifically state that the State has to provide the information is a format determined by the requester “as long as it is reasonable”.  So TXT, CSV, ect ect are all available.

    This is a forum about what is appropriate in legislation.  I think it is not a good idea to make statute that states specific technologies other than guiding principals. The reason for this is that it sets a bad president of picking one vendor over another which may not span the test of time.  Your quote said it best. Say in 20 years standards change to some new wiz bang technology, the states who make this law would again have to change the statute to accommodate, this is not an easy task. A state being stuck by law to an old standard that does not use the best technology, I do not think any of us want that to happen.

    One more thing Microsoft is not a Monopoly, every singe piece of technology is available on other systems. Yes they dominate the OS but very viable alternative are available at every level. No agency or CIO is forced to use Microsoft technologies in fact through procurement contracts set up by the state there are usually two or three choices any agency can make.  Microsoft Office products tend to dominate since it is the most widely known and the training is the least expensive.  I also think you are well intentioned but the type of data collaboration you are talking about does not happen with ODF or XML rather it happens with sound Enterprise Architecture principals and properly designed and understood meta data repositories which neither New York or California practice at this time.

    CIO’s at agencies typically do not look at their data collection and map it to an overall state strategy “data type dictionary” so this enterprise wide “statewide” data analysis still will not happen regardless of this proposed implementation. The only way that can happen is a statewide data dictionary and agencies looking at themselves as part of a picture not an island on to themselves.  These types of architecture and guiding principals can be addressed legislatively since it is not technology specific and would get the results you and many other people are looking for.

Skip to main content