Good Standards Work – Bad Public Transparency

I absolutely knew we were going to see a posting like IBM’s Rob Weir’s latest. There was simply no question about it. My personal opinion is that greater transparency in the dispositions of comments for the Open XML BRM would be a good thing (see, I can agree with IBM occasionally). Brian Jones from Microsoft said the same thing in his blog today. That’s nice…doesn’t mean a thing because it is not up to Microsoft how that process will be handled. Nor is it up to IBM, nor is it up to Ecma, nor is it up to anyone else other than ISO/IEC JTC 1. Rob seems to think that Microsoft manipulated this outcome – ok…prove it. Please.

The thing that is ironical about this is that Ecma TC 45 is working diligently with The Project Editor and in a disciplined, thorough manner are working through the comments. They are doing good standards work and are seeking to improve the specification based on the comments submitted from national bodies (remember, mostly with comments from IBM – Rob Weir himself no less).

In truth, the process only dictates when the final dispositions document is to be completed. There is no mandate for early sharing of the dispositions. The fact that they are being made available ahead of time is to make sure that the National Bodies have as much time as possible to work through the dispositions. IBM did a great job during the balloting phase launching a veritable denial-of-service attack by flooding the process with the same comments over-and-over. The result is that every comment must be considered, and responded to, from every National Body (by the way, for standards laymen this is not typical. This goes above and beyond what is required, but TC45 and the Project Editor know how much attention is being paid to this spec.). The result is the need to have extra time to consider all of the dispositions.

IBM has membership in National Bodies around the world – they are an extremely mature company when it comes to their standards work, and know darn well who, and what rules, are governing the BRM process. Furthermore, as members of those committees they get to see the comments. In fact, Rob was kind enough to mention that he would be willing to share those comments with other National Bodies. Which, by the way, would seem to be a bit out of line – but that is probably neither here nor there.

As for the ODF process comparison – seems like an Apples to Oranges discussion to me. Ecma and OASIS have different processes – yep, I totally agree. That is a true statement. Also – caution, snarky comment – with all of that transparency Rob, why is it exactly that there was no BRM for ODF, and the comments went entirely un-responded to..oh yea, and that ODF has now progressed so far beyond the ISO ODF 1.0 spec as to be legitimately called a new specification, but has yet to be submitted back to ISO….ok, that is just tit-for-tat and probably useless.

Microsoft respects the process as defined by JTC 1. Full stop. We will continue to work in as constructive a manner as possible with Ecma, the Project Editor, SC 34, and JTC 1.

Comments (7)

  1. Jason –

    As seems completely par of rthe course on both sides of this debate, you start off quite reasonable with good points and then can’t seem to resist the temptation to muck around in the mud a bit.  You are absolutely correct that Rob Weir is playing fast and loose with the facts on this.  It is well known that the process is closed not due to machinations on Microsoft’s part but due to procedural rules.  Even so, all the comments themselves are available at for anybody to read.

    But after starting out both reasonable and reasonably annoyed with Rob Weir, you start dispensing the same sort of snarky comments back.  You say of Rob’s offer to share the single file PDF "Which, by the way, would seem to be a bit out of line – but that is probably neither here nor there.", which is just the essence of snarky comment.  There is nothing in any procedural rule to discourage one NB from sharing resources with others, and Rob is not sharing anything whihc is not already available, but simply sharing the fruits of his labor, which is collaboration, which is something Microsoft doesn’t always seem to get.

    After that, you point out that there was no BRM for ODF, which is every bit as ridiculous as IBM pointing fingers at Microsoft for not making this process open.  There was no BRM because it wasn’t necessary because there was concensuson the standard, and IBM had no say it it anyway.

    And repeatedly, month after month, asserting that IBM is the source of a "veritable denial-of-service attack" is complete idiocy.  If anything, Groklaw was the source of the multiple comments, but to blame them would hurt your assertion that IBM is behind all of the opposition.  Groklaw is not controlled by IBM, funded by IBM or even populated by IBMers.  Yet it is where all the comments were collected and distributed.  At best, Rob Weir pointed people in that direction, but then so did I, and I am also not affiliated with IBM, although I am an IBM partner, much as I am a Microsoft partner.

    Stick with the verifiable, reasonable comments, and refuse to join in the finger pointing, blame game, and you will get much more respect and many more believers.  You had a good point, and managed to step on it through overeagerness.   And you can’t even blame IBM for that.

    – Ben

  2. Daca v-ati bucurat de un pic de liniste in ceea ce priveste Open XML, ei bine, IBM declara prin Rob ca

  3. jasonmatusow says:

    Ben – point taken on the directed personal points. That said, I think you have a few facts wrong. The IBM-generated comments were submitted around the world. Our people involved with the NBs have verfied that. Just looking at the comments you can verify that. It was a deliberate strategy (one of many) to block Open XML. It was within the rules – ok – but it was an IBM play.

  4. carlos says:

    >Just looking at the comments you can verify that. It was a

    >deliberate strategy (one of many) to block Open XML. It was within

    >the rules – ok – but it was an IBM play.

    you (MS) are used to have your specifications rapidly rubber-stamped ( ECMA, what a good invention!! ), so , when you get critics, observations, inconsistencies about your "standard" , your reaction is:


    Come on, grow up.

    I believe this is a total new playfield for Microsoft:

    Openness …

    It will be hard for you at the beginning to get it, but with time ( and +3150  comments ), perhaps you will.


  5. Anon says:

    What about .NET and C#. Are the new specification still submited to ISO? Why has Microsoft stopped producing a cross-platform implementation of CLR and C#. Now it runs only on Windows. Roter I mean. And what about ISO aproval of C# 3.0?

  6. Andre says:

    What is yout take on this? After all he is your rent-a-standards-guy. Jan says:

    "Consequently, Ecma is not constrained in posting its interim responses on a publicly available page as long as they are not tied to specific NB comments. In other words, Ecma would have to do some work to separate the proposed responses from the specific NB comments, but then Ecma may make its work publicly visible. If there is so much interest outside the NB circuit, then Ecma will surely do something here."

    "Indeed, seen from Ecma there is nothing that forbids Ecma to distribute its proposals. But it should also be clear, in the light of the longstanding relationship, that it is not a MUST for Ecma to do this.."

    The other question of course is why Microsoft does make its comments resolutions available to the public?

    What will Microsoft do to promote more openness in ISO? You have lobbyists everywhere, so what about ISO reforms towards open standards?