Many Eyes on Geneva – Open XML Ballot Resolution Meeting


Well the bubble and churn of press and blogs is just getting going. It is worth mentioning that the process is supposed to be confidential per the rules of JTC 1 (ISO posted a press release today that is worth reading). I know that many delegations are under specific guidance to not blog or discuss outside of the meetings.

The BRM process was designed to promote the improvement of specifications, not to tear them down. I think this is a very important point to keep in mind throughout the week.

DIS 29500 (Open XML) has received unprecedented participation from National Standards Bodies (87 countries) with one of the (if not the) largest BRMs ever (37 countries). There have been specifications with more comments submitted, but none with the deep rigor that 29500 has received.

No matter what happens this week, and in the month following to the close of the ballot amendment, Open XML will be a better specification for all of the work put into it. Ecma 376 has already seen very strong implementation in the marketplace (even from IBM I might add…and across multiple platforms such as Windows, Linux, Palm, iPhone, etc..) based upon the quality of the work already done. With the additional focus on improvement from the JTC 1 process this specification will be even more successful in the marketplace.

In terms of the work being done this week – the delegations will be concerned with the comments that their NSB submitted. They will be considering the proposed dispositions to those comments and on balance what those dispositions mean for the specification. There is no requirement that every single disposition be immediately satisfactory to the NSB. All specifications mature over time and some issues will be outright addressed to the satisfaction of the NSB, some will be referred for further consideration during maintenance of the specification, some may merit debate during the BRM, and some may simply not satisfy the NSB which may lead to the perpetuation of a no or abstain vote. In all cases, the NSB is expected to consider the DIS (draft international standard) in total rather than based upon any single comment/disposition.

Delegations will deliberate most effectively if they believe they are doing so in privacy. The ultimate outcome of their deliberations and their recommendations back to their NSBs will be evident enough following their vote. I noticed that some are encouraging delegates to blog during the BRM. It is unfortunate that a call for “transparency” is being used to create process challenges and disruption in the JTC 1 proceedings. (Of course, setting up a conference in the same hotel as the BRM to draw delegates away from their work is pushing the limits of what is considered normal JTC 1 professional behavior as well, but I won’t delve deeper into that one.)

It is going to be an interesting week for certain.

Comments (8)

  1. "Delegations will deliberate most effectively if they believe they are doing so in privacy."

    This flawed statement, for which you provide absolutely no proof or examples, is the foundation for your attack on people who want transparency. Care to elaborate how on earth a group of people works more effectively together in smoke-filled rooms shut off from the outside than in the open? Especially since we are talking about standards and not about matters of national security?

    I for one welcome all transparency and hope that people will blog and report from the BRM. The people who fear openness deserve to get hurt by it.

  2. Oh, and for the benefit of those who did not bother to read the linked press release, it has the following to say about the confidentiality of the BRM:

    "Such technical meetings are not public events but do follow the orderly and inclusive process of ISO/IEC."

    Nothing about confidentiality in there, it’s just about who is allowed to attend. "inclusive" doesn’t really sound confidential. Now read the first paragraph of this blog entry again. That is how Microsoft employees twist words. Be careful.

  3. jasonmatusow says:

    No Mr. Janesch – you and I are not in agreement on my point of "transparency." The individuals in a delegation to the BRM are representatives for their countries. Their internal discussion as a delegation (wihtin their own small groups) could be artifically hampered if each feels that their colleagues will be blogging the conversations they have during deliberations of strategy and approach as a delegation. There is a reason that the "orderly" part of the process involves the Head of Delegation speaking during the meeting rather than the whole delegation. Would that be censorship of other delegates?

    It has NOTHING to do with smoke-filled rooms or any other misinterpretation of what I wrote. I am part of executive councils and other similar organizations all over the world and most of them have a "no press, no blog" rule in place. Hmmm. Must be getting stiffled in those, huh?

    No – I have been a huge advocate within Microsoft of the need for greater transparency in the entire process of our submission and ongoing work with Ecma and subsequently JTC 1. That said, in an politically and emotionally charged environment such as the BRM, blow-by-blow transparency may in fact stifle the very creative technical discussion that people would hope the delegates would engage in.

  4. jasonmatusow says:

    No Mr. Janesch – you and I are not in agreement on my point of “transparency.” The individuals in a delegation to the BRM are representatives for their countries. Their internal discussion as a delegation (wihtin their own small groups) could be artifically hampered if each feels that their colleagues will be blogging the conversations they have during deliberations of strategy and approach as a delegation. There is a reason that the “orderly” part of the process involves the Head of Delegation speaking during the meeting rather than the whole delegation. Would that be censorship of other delegates?

    It has NOTHING to do with smoke-filled rooms or any other misinterpretation of what I wrote. I am part of executive councils and other similar organizations all over the world and most of them have a “no press, no blog” rule in place. Hmmm. Must be getting stiffled in those, huh?

    No – I have been a huge advocate within Microsoft of the need for greater transparency in the entire process of our submission and ongoing work with Ecma and subsequently JTC 1. That said, in an politically and emotionally charged environment such as the BRM, blow-by-blow transparency may in fact stifle the very creative technical discussion that people would hope the delegates would engage in.

    As for evidence – I know that the US Delegation is under instructions not to blog. I know this to be true for other delegations as well. So, maybe you are suggesting that delegates should purposely go against the rules of their delegations? To me, that seems less than constructive.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Jason

  5. hAl says:

    It is very common for processes that should lead to concensus and compromise within a group to be private.

    Debating trough the media rarely leads to consensus.

  6. I do agree that confidentiality used to be the norm. I do believe that collusion (what you describe as "creative technical discussion") was and is a consequence of that, and that indeed it is helpful in finding a solution. I do not believe at all that an understanding reached by these means is anything near the optimum for the public at large. I eagerly await an example or anectode from your long experience in technical committees that shows how secrecy helped find a satisfactory solution (that would not have been possible if outsiders knew of the deliberations). Alternatively, please provide an area of OOXML where public knowledge of the technical discussion about it would be hurtful to the process.

    Until then, I stand by my words.