The Open XML Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) Was An Unqualified Success


The DIS 29500 ballot resolution meeting (BRM) finished up in Geneva today and was an unqualified success by any measure. A few things need to be kept top of mind as national bodies solidify their position within the next 30 days:

A BRM is about technical work on the remaining open issues most important to participating national standards bodies

  • Many issues raised by national bodies can be addressed in advance of the BRM through the proposed dispositions of the submitting organization and, in some cases, discussions between the national bodies and the submitter.  This happened with Open XML, where national bodies identified many issues that were addressed to their satisfaction before the BRM started.
  • The BRM is an opportunity to discuss the remaining issues of importance to national bodies. 
  • The convener, Alex Brown, with the help of ISO/IEC and SC34 officers, ran a very successful BRM.
  • During the meeting, each delegation was given the opportunity to identify those issues most important to them thus defining the scope of work for the BRM. The BRM focused on building consensus on significant remaining technical issues and, in many cases, resulted in modifications to the proposed dispositions to refine and improve them.
  • By the end of the BRM, national bodies were able to consider for their approval each proposed disposition.  The vast majority of those proposed dispositions were adopted, resulting in a better specification that will better meet the interests of national bodies and the broader community.

Extensive steps were taken within the last year to improve Open XML through work with national standards bodies (and their participants) within the inclusive framework of ISO/IEC processes.

  • The Project Editor and Ecma TC-45 reached out to NSBs for ongoing input to the disposition process. Their valuable input was influential in the generation of the dispositions and that is why such overwhelmingly positive consensus was achieved during the BRM.
  • Conference calls, meetings, progress reports, early postings of dispositions, the full report on Jan 14…all of this was done as the groundwork for the BRM. And this was on top of the preceding 7 months of extensive technical engagement by the working groups and committees within the NSBs. Because of this, there were no “surprise” issue to be dealt with. And without question, the specification was improved based on the diligent feedback of NSBs from around the world.

A BRM is successful if it produces technical improvements to the specification to address comments raised during the ballot phase.

  • There were no “surprises” or “new comments” during this process. Every issue addressed was the result of the past 2+ years of work on the specification, and in particular the past 5 months of intensive work leading into the BRM.
  • During the course of the meeting, much effort was put forward in order to come to consensus on those issues that were the most heavily discussed over the duration of the past year.  The types of issues discussed during the BRM are represented here
  • The changes adopted (and denied) were based on consensus among all National Bodies. This is exactly how BRMs are meant to function. I’ll say it again – by any rational measure of ISO/IEC JTC 1 ballot resolution meetings, this one was a complete success.

ISO/IEC standards are not only technically sound, but they should also be relevant to the marketplace.

  • DIS 29500, as improved through the rigorous review of the past year and the decisions made by delegations during the BRM, is a specification that meets both bars of technical quality and marketplace relevance.
  • Independent implementations of the specification are already available on most major operating systems platforms and in hundreds of applications. The statement that Open XML is about a single vendor is specious and empirically false.
  • Open XML has brought more attention to, and interest in, international standardization than any specification in the history of the ICT industry. The reason for this is simple – greater openness in all document formats (not just Open XML) is a good thing for everyone. There is general recognition that there will be broad adoption of this format around the world. Open XML delivers on that promise and is part of the rich ecosystem of open document formats that are driving this issue forward.
  • At the end of the day, customers should be able to choose the format(s) that best meet their needs and should not be told which technology to use.  Open XML, as improved through the hard work of national bodies over the past year, is an attractive alternative for them.

There was an unprecedented number of delegations from national standards bodies that came to Geneva and participated in the BRM. I have the utmost respect for the contributions from all of the national bodies (P-members and O-members alike). The result of this week’s discussions, by any reasonable measure, has greatly improved the specification and produced a great result. The BRM was a complete success – congratulations to all who were involved with it.

Comments (64)

  1. carlos says:

    please, could you explain in non PR words what happened exactly in this BRM

    for example, would you tell us

    . which comments were voted?

    . what was the result of each comment vote

    . and which country NB voted what ?

    thanks

  2. jasonmatusow says:

    Carlos – at this point, this isn’t public information. ISO has rules concerning the confidentiality of their proceedings, so that will be up to them as to how they do that. Obviously the project editor will be working furiously to update the specification as per the BRM conclusions, but that is a separate matter. I’m not sure how each delegation will deal with the flow of information. I’m sure more specific information will be coming out shortly.

    THx

    Jason

  3. The Ballot Resolution Meeting for DIS 29500 (Open XML) has concluded on a very positive note. I hear

  4. Carlos says:

    "Carlos – at this point, this isn’t public information. ISO has rules concerning the confidentiality of their proceedings, so that will be up to them as to how they do that."

    so, basically ISO is discussing an "Office Open" format in a "Door Close" way

    we are in 2008, we have the internet, we have mail, wikis, blogs, mailing lists, google documents, twitter, etc, etc, etc and we are discussing the digital formats for the next digital age during five days with any bit of information disclosed

    why on hell this kind of process is so closed?  are you discussing a new military weapon or something like that? i

     –Carlos

  5. The Ballot Resolution Meeting for DIS 29500 (Open XML) has concluded on a very positive note. I hear

  6. jasonmatusow says:

    Carlos – how about a little balance here? ISO is a treaty-based organization. It is an international standards body that has years, and years, and years of proceedures. It is an inclusive process….for national standards bodies. It is open….to national standards bodies. Microsoft does not get a vote in ISO. IBM does not get a vote in ISO. It is one country, one vote.

    The ballot resolution meeting is part of a highly formalized process which has been designed to enable national standards bodies to participate in the process in a predictable, respectful fashion.

    The fact that wiki technology was invented, or blogs, or any other form of instant communication is not germane to the process. If, over time, the leadership of JTC 1 wants to consider changes to the process, then it may well become more "open" in the way you seem to be defining it.

    Thanks,

    Jason

  7. carlos says:

    "The fact that wiki technology was invented, or blogs, or any other form of instant communication is not germane to the process. If, over time, the leadership of JTC 1 wants to consider changes to the process, then it may well become more "open" in the way you seem to be defining it."

    please, *you* compose ISO ( i’m a poor final user  [ and sometimes victim ] of standards ) , so please explain to "the leadership of JTC1" the following words:

    "transparency"

    "openness"

    "quality"

    "consensus"

    "technical merits of fast-tracked standards"

    ( i’m assuming that you and your employer *know* its true meaning )

    To begin with, you can point the "JTC1 leadership" an example of  balance between standardization work and transparent process:

    http://www.xmlopen.org/ooxml-wiki/index.php/Main_Page

    The closed dark ages ( monastery work ) are gone.

    Welcome to the open age. What are your fears[1]?

     Carlos

    [1]  http://www.ibiblio.org/bosak/v1mail/200705/2007May18-073652.eml

  8. Luc Bollen says:

    "that is why such overwhelmingly positive consensus was achieved during the BRM." "tI’ll say it again – by any rational measure of ISO/IEC JTC 1 ballot resolution meetings, this one was a complete success."

    Jason, I cannot believe that you wrote such words after having read news from at least 5 other bloggers (some having spend the 5 days within the BRM room) who have exactly opposed conclusions. See for example Tim Bray’s: http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/02/29/BRM-narrative

    "The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit."  "This was horrible, egregious, process abuse and ISO should hang their heads in shame for allowing it to happen."

    So, 6 countries out of 32 (according to Andy Updegrove) are an "overwhelmingly positive consensus" ?  Did you calculated this using the OOXML defective formulas ?

    Shame on you and on Microsoft.

  9. jasonmatusow says:

    Ok, I seem to have found the grumpy crew for comments on this one.

    1) Carlos. Take a moment to consider that any specification going through the BRM process is subject to the same rules. The delegations from countries would be subject to the same rules. It has nothing to do with Open XML. We are members and participants  in OASIS. We have more than 6,000 open source projects hosted on codeplex. Our product teams arguably produce more materials for developers to be successful than any other company. Yet, no matter how much we believe in, or build, technologies that enable greater transparency and openness – all particpants are subject to the same rules in ISO. Personally, I think it was very unhelpful, given the public discourse, during the months leading up to the BRM to have the comments password secured. But, my feelings in the matter are irrelevant. If you want a specification to move through the JTC 1 process, then it is a good idea to be respectful of the process.

    Luc – I absolutely knew what I was saying, and yes, read what was being said. Andy’s tortured logic to get the vote count he is reporting is really quite something. Tim, whom I’ve met and think is a very bright and capable guy, is also not likey to be a fan of anything coming out of the BRM. The fact that the pro-ODF crowd is now attacking ISO and the process is not surprising given the fact that the meeting was successful in accomplishing its technical goals. The folks I have been speaking with who were both in the meetings (as delegates) and who were on site said that there were many ups and downs, and drama throughout the week. But, in the end, real technical work was accomplished and the specification was improved. The comments from national bodies were all respected and throughout the 5 month process and the week in Geneva have resulted in some very sold standard work. The words I hear people using are "consensus" and "respectful" and "productive." I expect that those most opposed to the adoption of DIS 29500 will say the exact opposite of me.

    Thanks guys – keep smiling. This is a document format we’re talking about here. I wrote a blog posting on perspective the other day following a health crisis with my father. I haven’t lost that perspective – it might do everyone some good to get a dose of the same. :-)

    Jason

  10. carlos says:

    "Carlos. Take a moment to consider that any specification going through the BRM process is subject to the same rules"

    Jason, you seem to don’t understand what i’m saying. I’m saying that you, members of ISO, start changing this closed nature of the standardization process, for the benefit of final users.  

    If, for example, nine O-members who never participated in document and descripcion languages activities suddenly ask ISO/JTC1 to be upgraded to P-member status, prior to an important ballot voting, I, as a final user who will be affected by ISO deliverables, want to *know* that, so i can judge how "fear" was the process that put an ISO stamp on  *that* standard.

    What do you want, that i should send a letter to JTC1 leadership to ask this? you , the corporations, are who have the power to change this things, if you really want to make it. Or may be is like the European Commission said recently:

    "Talk is cheap"

  11. jasonmatusow says:

    Carlos – it is a fair point that those organizations who are participants in the national bodies have the responsibility to improve the system. Point taken, and one that I can assure you we are looking at. I think everyone agrees that international standards are likely to be come more important rather than less over the coming years. Although our competitors are decrying the process today, those same organizations were of the opinion that because their technology was first to ISO standardization it should become mandated by legislation for government procurement. My point is not to dredge up other arguments. It is simply that as eGov continues to be a more and more important factor, there will be increased pressure to have what used to be fine as consortia-based standards move to carry international standards labels. I am quite sure that our oposition on the Open XML spec will be pushing for changes in the JTC 1 rules. In the end, even that process is slow and deliberate in nature to make sure that no rash decisions are made.

    I hear you on the responsibility Microsoft carries – it is in fact a focal point of my job for the forseeable future.

    Thanks,

    Jason

  12. recherche says:

    I understand that the BRM only had a mandate to consider

    responses to the previous ballot, so the lack of new comments

    during the meeting was simply a result of the process in

    action.  If my understanding is correct, then I believe that

    pointing to a lack of "surprises" or "new comments" as an

    indication that the meeting was a success isn’t a strong

    argument.  

    I found your enthusiastic and emotional terminology that

    you used in the posting a little off-putting, including some

    cases where you were writing an opinion but the entry

    sounded like you were speaking on behalf of all:

    "unqualified success", "valuable input", "overwhelmingly

    positive consensus", "without question", "changes … based on consensus … is exactly how BRMs are meant to function", "by any rational measure… this one was a

    complete success", "rigorous review", "rich ecosystem",

    "diligent feedback".  

    A couple more impressions:

    1. You seem to point to the significant effort that has been

    expended on improving this specification as a strong

    indicator that the result is very worthy.  I am not

    comfortable that this impression is justified — I believe that

    this speaks more about the specification’s past than it

    does speak about its current state.  

    2. My belief is that a standard should be seen as a

    contract brokered between parties, whereas I get the

    sense that you view this standard more as a gift for the

    wider community to consider accepting.  

    I’m having

    some trouble in explaining my low-level disquiet at the

    very positive tone of your posting which is at odds with

    some of the other post-meeting comments I’ve seen; the

    nearest I can get to describing it is to point to the cliche

    that "a good negotiated agreement is often one where

    nobody comes out happy".  I apologise that I can’t

    describe my position any more clearly.  

  13. Hi Jason,

    is that really your writing style? Sorry but this entry (like many others) reads like a press release, and I think that is part of the reason why you get such harsh reactions in the comments. People know press releases are pure spin. Let’s take this entry as example: According to it, the BRM was the best thing since sliced bread. Very productive, all issues were addressed, couldn’t have gone better (obviously, since you didn’t mention a single, tiny negative thing about it).

    Tim Bray, who you caracterize as "very bright and capable", paints a different picture. Yes, people were genuinely trying to improve the spec. Good technical discussions. But the process was completely inadequate for a spec of this size with this many problems, and there were *no deliberations whatsoever* on the vast majority of issues. See http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/02/29/BRM-narrative

    Now I understand that it can be hard to write an even-handed blog entry, especially if your employer is the one responsible for fast-tracking OOXML. But this is no excuse for publishing PR propaganda on a blog supposedly written by a "normal" person. It’s degrading to your audience. Just look at ex-Softie Robert Scoble on how to do it right. There is a reason he is respected in certain circles where other Microsofties (wink, wink) aren’t.

    Cheers,

    Stephan

  14. Rob Brown says:

    Jason,

    Dismissing Andy Updegrove’s report with a single-line insult doesn’t really wash. Is it, or is it not, true that there was a ballot to accept, reject, or abstain from voting on, the majority of ECMA dispositions because there just wasn’t time to discuss them?

    Andy and Tim provided substance to their descriptions of the proceedings. You’re giving sweeping statements about it being "an unqualified success" while saying the other guys are just anti-OOXML. I know who I’m inclined to believe at this point.

    Certainly I wouldn’t be calling a meeting a "complete success" when several of its participants say the exact opposite.

  15. Rob Brown says:

    An update: I’ve just read the OpenMalaysia blog, and while they are certainly pro-ODF, I believe them when they say they worked honestly and diligently to improve OOXML to the best of their abilities.

    Read their "Geneva, Day Five" post – http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/03/geneva-day-five.html – it’s a description of a process so broken and corrupt that it can’t possibly be taken seriously. The statement "We eventually found out that if any changes affected current implementations it would certainly be rejected" left me aghast ("current implementations", in this context, certainly meaning MS Office 2007, and no other).

    Jason, if you want to refute this, please provide something substantive rather than the hallelujah hand-waving that the rest of your replies to this thread have been.

  16. Andre says:

    In plain English: The result of the BRM was a 70% defeat for your side and now you will try to lobby the national bodies to approve it anyway.

  17. anonymous says:

    Hey Carlos – Why didn’t you, IBM, the FSF, Google and Updegrove not have any issues with the ISO process when ODF went through ISO?  Just curious?

  18. Simon Phipps says:

    Hey Jason – Tim Bray has gone out of his way to recuse himself from outside influences and to act fairly. He has previously distanced himself from extremism and has been willing to be critical of ODF. He spent the last week at your BRM without blogging and without discussing the BRM with his colleagues. Your dismissal of his opinion is hugely unfair, especially given his long experience of the standards process (longer, I suspect, than yours).

    You say "by any measure". I gather the vast majority of the open issues were voted "en masse" without being considered due to lack of time. Is that part of the success you’re claiming?

  19. marc says:

    Jason Matusow said

    "The DIS 29500 ballot resolution meeting (BRM) finished up in Geneva today and was an unqualified success by any measure."

    Jason, do you believe that the following numbers ( abstention + no vote + refusal to vote totals ) represent an "unqualified success by any measure" ?

    Please explain, thank you

    ( to the casual reader:  if you don’t believe this numbers, demand ISO to disclose this numbers and check yourself )

    Country         abst+no+refusal   Percentage

    ———–     —————   ———–

    China                     1027    100.00%

    Ireland                   1027    100.00%

    Ecuador                   1027    100.00%

    Netherland                1027    100.00%

    Mexico                    1027    100.00%

    Malaysia                  1022     99.51%

    Korea (s)                 1021     99.42%

    New Zealand               1018     99.12%

    Australia                 1008     98.15%

    India                     1005     97.86%

    Italy                      995     96.88%

    Belgium                    986     96.01%

    Israel                     983     95.72%

    Kenya                      970     94.45%

    US                         966     94.06%

    France                     965     93.96%

    Greece                     963     93.77%

    Portugal                   935     91.04%

    Japan                      934     90.94%

    Denmark                    912     88.80%

    Canada                     886     86.27%

    South Africa               875     85.20%

    Denmark                    871     84.81%

    Brazil                     573     55.79%

    Switzerland                349     33.98%

    UK                         187     18.21%

    Czech                        7     0.68%

    Finland                      6     0.58%

    Poland (O member)            4     0.39%

    Chile (O member)             1     0.10%

    Ivory Coast (MS HOD)(*)      0     0.00%

    NO (MS HOD)                  0     0.00%

    (*) http://www.noooxml.org/forum/t-43510/ivory-coast-represented-by-microsoft-senegal-at-the-brm

  20. "This is a document format we’re talking about here…"

    It is a LITTLE bit more than that don’t you think?

    If was just that, why have M$ been bribing NGO’s in India to write to their Government to support OOXML?

    Why have M$ totally screwed the ISO process in SC34 by flooding it with P members who had little or no interest in document processing before or afterwards?

    Why has M$ spent SO MUCH money trying to steamroller a badly written, badly edited, inconsistent, proprietary specification through ISO/IEC as a FAST TRACK standard? It clearly should never have been put through as a fast track. over 1100 comments to be discussed and reviewed in 5 days. Honestly.

    Microshaft have really tripped up here. I hope this is start of a long decline into oblivion as your company truly deserves.

  21. Luc Bollen says:

    Jason, could you please confirm the figures of Andy Updegrove, in summary :

    – 20 dispositions discussed in details

    – 200-ish editorial dispositions accepted without discussions

    – 900-ish dispositions decided without any discussion in 1 single bulk vote on Friday, by 6 votes for (4 P- and 2 O-countries), 4 votes againt (4 P-countries), 4 refusal to vote and 18 abstentions) (i.e. 6 positive votes out of 32).  

    If you agree with these figures, what is your math to conclude that there was an "overwhelmingly positive consensus" ?  My understanding is that this represent rather an "overwhelmingly negative consensus".

    If you don’t agree with Andy’s figures, what are your own figures ?

  22. Sam Hiser says:

    Jason-

    Were you at the same BRM where they discussed that file format? The one in Geneva …

    … Switzerland?

  23. jasonmatusow says:

    Guys – it is Saturday morning and I have a bunch of family things to do with my kids. I will get back to do comments later in the day.

    For a few of you who are taking Andy’s numbers as gosple. I would point out the following comment that was left by the BRM convener. As for all the other numbers posted here – I simply can’t say until I see the numbers from ISO. That would be the whole respecting of the confidentiality rules thing…

    On Andy’s blog (http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080229055319727)

    Showdown in Geneva: OOXML Fails to Achieve Majority Approval at BRM

    Authored by: Alex Brown on Saturday, March 01 2008 @ 03:59 AM PST

    Andy,

    I’m won’t be composing a blog entry on the BRM for a bit, but I wil point out that your article contains surprising inaccuracies about what the subject of the vote was, how it worked, and what the governing rules were. A health warning is in order.

  24. Luc Bollen says:

    Jason, about Andy’s numbers :

    – it is not a matter of gospel, but they are currently the only ones available.  I would be delighted to read your figures, so we would have two "gospels" to think about.

    – please note that Alex Brown comments on the subject and rules for the vote, but doesn’t comment about the resulting numbers.

    – "I simply can’t say until I see the numbers from ISO": does that mean that you have see no figures yet ?  If this is the case, how can you announce that the BRM was a complete success ?

  25. Stephen says:

    Jason I wouldn’t spend too much time responding to this nonsense – spend some time with your kids, at least their childishness is due to their age!

    When a group defines itself by what it stands against rather than by what it stands for, a victim cultute frequently follows. When the focus of their opposition makes progress there’s always the spontaneous outpouring of mock-outrage, and allegations of wrongdoing. Some of the commentators on this thread seem to believe the whole world is corrupt – an attitude that says more about them than the world they live in.

    So, sadly, it was entirely predictable that a small but very loud group would attack the BRM. This was obvious from the moment the "anti-BRM" event was announced. However the extent of the attack, and the chosen focus on undermining both Ecma and ISO during sessions when neither were in the room to defend themselves, was both cheap and unprecedented.

    Now it seems there’s an equally orchestrated cry of "Penalty! Ref!" followed by a loud chorus of complaint about the referee being blind, and the game being fixed.

    The facts remain however

    1. that there’s significant acknowledgment that Ecma did a great job with the repsonses to National Bodies’ comments even from within the ODF "camp".

    2. The whole point of the BRM was always to accept or reject the proposed dispositions that would then modify the DIS text so that National Bodies that had given conditional approval can decide whether their feedback has been addressed.

    3. The BRM itself decided a process to do this.

    4. Given the BRM’s objectives, and Alex’s responsibilities to run a meeting that tried to improve the specification and drive consensus, both were successful.

    5. The clique that equates being pro-ODF with being anti-OpenXML are seeking to bring the process, Ecma and ISO into disrepute – on that score both Tim Bray and Andy Updegrove have reason to feel ashamed.

  26. Dan Kegel says:

    Hi Jason,

    from what I read, there was hardly time at the

    meeting to deal with any of the proposed

    resolutions.  It sounds very much like ‘fast track’

    is inappropriate for a standard of such size

    with so many issues raised by the national bodies.

    I can’t see how in the world one can conclude that

    consensus was reached.  Nor can I see how objective

    observers can trust anybody who says it was.

    – Dan

  27. p says:

    "When a group defines itself by what it stands against rather than by what it stands for .."

    Actually, it’s Microsoft that stands agains broad ODF adoption (an ISO starndard). Like MS tryed to kill other open standards before. You know that exactly.

    So when you call the move of MS to kill yet another starndard to establish it’s own ".. An Unqualified Success", the question remains who’s success it is? Certainly not for the public.

    (Or in other words: Shame on you! Shame on Microsoft!)

  28. Stephen says:

    To Tim Bray’s credit, he’s added a post that calls out the blatant spin and disregard for the truth:-

    "I thought I was sufficiently jaded and cynical that not much in this business could surprise me. Even given that, I’m flabbergasted at the degree of spin, no, make that bald-faced lying, in coverage of the just-finished BRM. The contempt for truth is sickening, and some people ought to be ashamed of themselves. Check it out if you’ve got a strong stomach."

    http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2008/03/01/Spin

    I think Tim’s post poured fuel on the fire, but I am pleased to see him call out the nonsense. I wonder if Andy will do the same?

  29. hAl says:

    If I read marc reaction correct than 19 countries present accepted more than 90% of ALL comments.

    That would suggest a big difference of interpretation with Andy UpdeGroves numbers.

    Probably caused by countries that voted approvals on most dispositions individually not being recognised by Andy (who as anti-ooxml blogger of course not not want to recognize approvals).

    However I find marc  figures above also very strange as the czech repulic for instance show only 7 approvals whilst before the BRM already they had about 95% of their own 80 comments granted.

    Why would they not even vote on positive dispositions on their own comments ?

  30. Stephen says:

    p you write "Actually, it’s Microsoft that stands agains broad ODF adoption (an ISO standard)"

    What gives you that impression? Microsoft stands against one sided procurement preferences – of course we do, but doesn’t oppose ODF per se. In fact Microsoft supported ODF’s adoption as a national standard by the US.

  31. jasonmatusow says:

    Okay folks – where to begin? Many points made, much to be discussed. FYI – I will be bubbling up some thoughts to a top-level post as this comment thread is already very long.

    1) Simon Phipps –  I’ll start here because I like Simon and because it touches on a few other comments. I said nothing derogatory about Tim Bray. What I did is point out that as a Sun employee he carries a bias as to what his desired outcome of the BRM was. Does he have more standards experience than me? You bet. As do many, many people. But I can assure you, my colleagues in Microsoft whom I work with closely on things that influence my blog are extremely experienced standards professionals. My role is somewhat similar to yours in being an ombudsman who works in the gray areas between product groups, business groups, legal teams, our field, and in constant contact with our customers and partners. But this is not on point for this discussion.

    Recherche (clever name) – You are right about the mandate to consider existing comments. I made that clear in my posting on purose due to mistatements I have seen about what takes place in the BRM. As for my choice of words – they are my opinion. Not sure why I wouldn’t use those words, especially when I believe them to be true. I think the second part of your comment is well stated. You are correct that the specification was improved through the process. I know the arguments about what a FastTrack should, or should not be. At the end of the day, the Ecma specification is of high enough quality to be seeing hundreds of independent implementation projects of varying degrees. So the past is strong – the future is stronger. Does that help? Finally, I would not categorize my feeling about this spec in the context of a "gift" as you put it. Like thousands of other standards specs, Open XML is a contributed specification. In those scenarios a producer of a technology has taken their hard work and moved it into a standards body. That action is beneficial to the community as a whole, but also places responsibility on those participating in the process as well as the orginal contributor. PDF being a pretty good example of this. Governments and customers asked us to standardize our document format for Office. We have, and it is a good thing on balance for the entire ecosystem around MS Office and for any other software producers looking to utilize the specification.

    Thx – Jason

  32. Fiery Spirited says:

    hAl…how can you view the news that China didn’t vote to approve any of the propositions to mean that it approved more than 90%?

    Japan, that is number 19 on the list did approve 9.06% and abst+no+refusal on 90.94% of them.

  33. jasonmatusow says:

    Me again…I’m breaking my response to comments into smaller sections:

    Stephen Jaensch – You are correct that this particular post was with more formalized use of language. The media often quotes me from this blog as if they have interviewed me in person. Guess what, they do the same to Andy, Bob, Rex, Brian, and many others as well. You can’t tell me that Andy Updegrove fairly sprinted to put out such a blog posting the moment the BRM ended, using the inflamatory language he did, because that is "just how he talks." He was looking to spin the situation and drive coverage with his work. Please – let’s take a little bit more realistic view of things. No matter what, I stand by the text above and the points I made. And, if you are curious – I drafted the post.

    Rob Brown – you are right, I need to be more specific with my concerns regarding Andy’s posting. I will write a top-level post to address that as I think it is worth doing.

    Andre – You are getting that number from Andy’s post. The convener to the BRM commented on his post and suggested that he be more careful with his facts. According to the generally accepted practices of ballot resolution meetings for JTC 1, this was a very successful meeting. NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME OF THE VOTE IS. I will address the point Andy makes in a top-level post.

    Marc – a few things. I’m quite sure it will be best for everyone to wait to see numbers from…oh, I don’t know….how about ISO rather than you. I’m not sure what their schedule is, but I’m sure they will make an announcement about the BRM. If you did take these numbers from them, I would assume you are violating their policies in posting. That is on your head, but for now it is best for all of us to review and debate the actual results.

    The Open Sourcerer (also, clever name) – no, no…I’m pretty sure this is about document formats. The FAR, FAR, FAR more important thing is the functionality and value from the applications used to produce the data stored in the document formats. I have said repeatedly over the past 2 years that the app is significantly more important that the format. I also believe that if you limit the world to a single document format you are creating an innovation dead-zone that is unhealthy for everyone (producers and consumers alike). There is absolutely no basis for your claims about SC34 – and more over, as an adovcate of openness and participation (which is at least what the OSI says they are about) why would you disparage the inclusion of ANY participants to this process? The choice of a country to elevate themselves to P-member status is their choice. I welcome all of them to the process. More participatin is better in my opinion sir.

    thx

    Jason

  34. hAl says:

    I see now I misread the numbers in marcs post as I was fooled by the high numbers

    However that is also misleading to as we al already aware that about 98-99% of the items were approved.

    So making a list of approved+abstained would have even higher numbers.

  35. jasonmatusow says:

    More from Jason:

    Luc Bollen – Andy’s numbers will be addressed when the official results are released by ISO. I am going to respect the process even if he is choosing not to. As I said in other comments, I will make a top-level post to talk to Andy’s assertions. Deep down here in the comments to this post is simply the wrong place to do that. As for your questions about my ability to make assertions – they are based upon the conversations I have had with people who were both in the room and working with the project editor, and TC 45. My willingness to comment or not on the ISO numbers specifically comes back to the same point about the process and respecting the confidentiality issues.

    Dan Kegel – check out what I wrote in the posting that you are commenting on. I explicitly speak about the fact that the BRM week has been one part of 5 months of work on the disposition of comments. The BRM was never going to be an item-by-item discussion. The national bodies had MONTHS to review the materials and were well aware of what issues were most important to them going into the week in Geneva. Please – reread the post. I think it will help you understand what I’m saying a bit more clearly.

    "p" – We have never stood against ODF. We have voted in favor of it on a few different occasions. If you believe in consumer choice as the best option, then you would vote in favor of your competitors specification. That is what Microsoft has done. Wow – I don’t get your logic. The contribution of Open XML to the standards process benefits consumers, software providers, etc. There is nothing about our work on Open XML that in ANY WAY damages ODF. In fact, we have put significant resources into building translators. That does not mean that we won’t compete with our products. That does not mean that we won’t continue to seek the international standardization of Open XML. No shame in any of that.

    thx – Jason

  36. jasonmatusow says:

    Fiery and hAL – I still think that you should be very careful with marc’s numbers above. Are those the right numbers? Marc – would you be willing to tell us where you go those?

    I’ll wait for the official ISO results, thanks.

    Jason

  37. hAl says:

    I looked at those number again with less beer in me

    They are definitly not the correct numbers unless Denmark has just been split up in two countries.

  38. CJ says:

    Hello, Jason. I’m just an observer in all this, without any technical background. I don’t consider myself anti-OOXML; if the standard is truly open and not unduly influenced by any single entity, I see in principle no reason to object. That being said, I have a couple of questions.

    I understand that you’re invoking ISO confidentiality to put off talking about, e.g., Andy’s numbers. But surely general comments, without mentioning specifics of who voted for what, wouldn’t touch upon confidentialities. Do you think Andy’s numbers bear any resemblance to reality? It would seem that any answer less than an unqualified "No!" is tantemount to an admission that there is significant opposition to approving OOXML in its current state.

    To "p" you said: "There is nothing about our work on Open XML that in ANY WAY damages ODF. … That does not mean that we won’t compete with our products."

    Since the ISO already has an open document standard, what is MS’ rationale for expending huge resources in pushing for a second? If MS has technical objections to ODF, certainly it would be easier to fix a broken standard than try to develop a new one from scratch. Since it’s difficult to believe that Microsoft has suddenly got open standards religion after decades of holding its .DOC standard so close to it’s chest, what is MS’ business rationale for seeking a separate-but-equal standard?

    As to "damaging ODF", I think your reply is a bit disingenuous. Given MS’ near-monopoly in the office space, if OOXML is approved and MS Office continues to withhold support for ODF, ODF’s ability to compete *is* significantly damaged. Redmond is well aware of this.

    Finally, what is your objective assessment of OOXML’s chances for approval this year?

    CJ

  39. Tim B says:

    Mr. Jason, I was at the BRM and you are completely misleading everyone. You are a marketing guy with ZERO technical credibility to post this blog.

  40. Alex Brown says:

    marc’s numbers are meaningless (or at least, if they reflect anything significant about the vote I can’t fathom what it is!)

    – Alex.

  41. Andy says:

    "At the end of the day, customers should be able to choose the format(s) that best meet their needs and should not be told which technology to use.  Open XML, as improved through the hard work of national bodies over the past year, is an attractive alternative for them."

    Why doesn’t Microsoft offer its customers to chose which format meets their needs best? The only purpose of the OOXML ISO process is to get the public sector to adopt OOXML as to secure the income stream from Ms Office licensing. But as a tax payer I want my government to negotiate harder with Microsoft. I want it to be strong and put your company under pressure to reduce license fees of its overpriced products and support a file format that puts competitors on equal footing.

    Who guarantees the user that Microsoft will ever implement the ISO format? It is very likely that it will just use the ISO stamp for marketing. You know very well that the format of Word2007 is not the same as the ECMA standard 376.

    As we already have the ECMA 376 format that will hopefully get fixed with the ISO BRM input etc. I see no need to approve OOXML as an immature ISO standard because ISO standards require a higher quality than you were able to offer to us. It is time to step back for your company.  

  42. Alan Bell says:

    forgetting all the numbers, how come your perspective of "unqualified success" is diametrically opposed to the view of everyone not employed by Microsoft?

  43. p says:

    "We have never stood against ODF. "

    Do you really beliefe that people are so stupid not to see why MS tries so desperately to have its "own" document standard?

    "If you believe in consumer choice as the best option"

    *LOL* MS believes in consumers choice as long as everybody buy’s their software. So where’s the format choice with MS Office?

    Standards are useless if everbody is cooking his own. You know that exactly. If you believe in competition: let’s see what happends when MS Office uses ODF as it’s primary format and kills OOXML. Then, you’ll have consumer choice. But MS would not like such a future, would it? The MS Office cash cow gone all of a sudden ..

    "I also believe that if you limit the world to a single document format you are creating an innovation dead-zone that is unhealthy for everyone"

    That’s absurd. Why on earth do you believe having more than one standard for a data exchange format bring any competition to the table? A standard is fixed. Being fixed is it’s primary value. There is not only no need for competition, it’s harmful.

    I wouldn’t call the internet an "innovation dead-zone" just because there are single HTTP/HTML/etc. standards. Quite the opposite: Innovation was possible because there was a fixed data exchange format / protocol that was not going to change year after year. So everybody could build innovation on that basis and be sure that his investment was protected.

    What is really annyoing is the hypocrisis of Microsoft; All the talks about standards, openness and competition when they really only try to bind customers to their own software and services by cooking  their own format soup. Sad.

  44. funnybroad says:

    I’m just curious… Why isn’t Microsoft pouring million$ they must be spending on getting their "100% compatible" and "Open" OOXML ratified, when they really should be spending it on getting their own Office 2007 software to be "100% Compatible" with previous Office versions, not to mention the billions and billions of files still in the 97-2003 formats?

    My company hasn’t even been discouraged by the productivity hits our users might experience because of the new ribbon. We even bought into the inflated SharePoint 2007 & Office SharePoint Services  promises.     Unfortunately, that was before we discovered SO MANY compatibility tool BUGS and content compatibility PROBLEMS between Office versions that we can’t even begin to THINK about migrating to Office 2007!  

    See details on Office 2007 compatibility issues here:  http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfmtw2th_82cwpr7phn

    So what if, by some miracle, OOXML gets ratified as an ISO standard.  Then what?  What does that do for your customers who CAN’T MIGRATE TO OFFICE 2007 BECAUSE IT IS TOO FULL OF COMPATIBILITY PROBLEMS????  

    Won’t that leave Microsoft with a shiny new ISO standard that very few people can even use, because your own software designed to use it is TOO INCOMPATIBLE TO MIGRATE TO???

    It seems to me, that if Microsoft would simply focus on getting their Office 2007 product working the way it should (and the way they’ve advertised that it should), and make it a lot less painful to migrate to it, that OOXML would simply become the de-facto standard… just like the old 97-2003 formats.

  45. Jason,

    I wasn’t going to leave a comment here, but since someone else left one here under the name "Andy" I wanted to clarify that it wasn’t one left by me.  Since I’m here, though, here are a few out of the many comments that I might leave:

    1.  Like you, I’ve received lots of information since I wrote the post you refer to (in fact, I wrote it between 4:30 and 5:30 in the afternoon on Friday while the information was coming in, not in advance).  Unlike your post, I’ve continued to update it to conform it to further facts as they come in.  Anyone who hasn’t read it in a day or two should look at it again, as there is a lot of new information.  I’ve also posted excerpts and links from 8 delegates who were in the room.  There are also some interesting exchanges between Alex Brown and I, where we trade views on whether it was better to have done the 900 block vote or not.

    2.  My figures come from the SC 34 Web site and were given to me by a delegate.  We will have to wait and see whether ISO/IEC JTC1 releases the exact numbers and countries or not (I had, but did not release the countries).  I totally reject that an organization that purports to set "de jure global standards" for preferential adoption by governments has any business keeping the facts about how their "open" standards are determined secret from those that are affected by them.  Fortunately, many delegates agree, and are therefore sharing their stories.  

    3.  I have not tried to verify the by-country numbers that someone has posted at your blog and mine seeking to show the disposition voting by country.  I also find it difficult to figure out exactly how they are presented, and therefore hard to draw any conclusions from, even if the original numbers used as a source are accurate.

    4.  I’ve modified my view of the proceedings somewhat.  Abstentions shouldn’t be viewed as rejections, but neither should they be viewed as approvals.  Each NB that abstained voted on as many of the individual dispositions as it wished, from a few to many.  It abstained as to the rest, and therefore no conclusions can be drawn relating to those dispositions as to which it did not check off a specific vote .  I’ve received email from several delegations indicating that they couldn’t even try to vote on most of the 900 dispositions, since the ballot was distributed one afternoon and due the next morning.  Recall that the dispositions document was some 2,300 pages long, and 900 is c. 80% of the dispositions.  That’s a long and impossible night’s work, especially for those delegations that hadn’t completed the process in the weeks (not "MONTHS") since the complete dispositions were made available.  Note also that some delegations had only two people.

    5.  Neither ISO nor IEC are treaty organizations, although the ITU is.

    6.  My reaction to your blog post was also that it sounded like the talking points that would be delivered all over the world.  I expect that they will be.  

    7.  Your conclusions cannot in any way be squared with any of the accounts that I have read (8 now), representing pro-ooxml folks, anti-ooxml folks and neutrals.  Voting on the 900 dispositions was a last available compromise adopted as a way to attempt some sort of statement on all of the dispositions.  The result is far, far, far less than would be accomplished in a normal BRM.  To pretend otherwise is to be either incredibly naive, or deliberately deceptive.  

    8.  The BRM displayed once again how woefully inappropriate a Fast Track process is for a specification of this length.  The attempts to still keep within that process simply became even more desparate and less able to deliver the necessary  quality of result expected from the standards process.

    9.  I find it incredible how often you, Doug Mahugh and others rave about "how much better OOXML is now!" as if this was some great thing.  ODF sailed through with _no_ significant comments, and did not need a BRM at all.  To have submitted a 6,000 page specification under Fast Track at all was regrettable.  To submit somethig in this poor shape was unconscionable.  To subject the BRM delegates to this miserable process and then take advantage of their efforts by calling it a huge success is pathetic.

    In conclustion:  It would have likely taken Microsoft fewer engineer-years of effort to implement ODF in Office 2007 than it took engineering years for all these delegates to prepare for and attend the BRM,and certainly been far more beneficial.  And your customers would have been better off and happier if they did.

    Speaking of which:  I’ll close with a story from Geneva last week.    You mentioned above, i think, that Microsoft did not attend the simultaneous OpenForum Europe event.  In fact, there were one or more Microsoft representatives in attendance all the time.  In one panel presentation, Nick Tsilas from your legal department, and someone I’ve known for years, tried once more to say how Microsoft’s customers haven’t yet asked for Microsoft to implement ODF.  

    Unfortunately, he picked the wrong panel to make that claim, because one of the panelists on stage just then  was Dr. Rolf Theodor Schuster, the CIO of the German Federal Foreign Office.  Rolf lit into Nick in no uncertain terms, saying that his office had demanded that Microsoft implement ODF and not OOXML.  After "listening to its customer," Microsoft responded by going over his head to his superiors and getting these bureaucrats to tell them not to worry about it.  Nick tried to make the same claim again, and Rolf really ripped him a new one.

    Jason, people generally think you’re a good guy.  But this blog entry is so far out in left field that I don’t think that I’ll be hearing that as often as I used to.  Go give a read to the first hand accounts I’ve compiled at my blog, and then let us know whether your blog entry requires modification, will you?

    A final thought:  I heard many, many first hand horror stories from National Body delegates while I was in Geneva.  Here’s a sample: inone NB, the vote was  8 to 1 against OOXML last summer.  The 1 vote to approve?  The Microsoft employee.  The result?  An entire country had to abstain in the vote, because one conflicted (new) committee member took advantage of the unanimous voting rules of that country.

    Of course, I also heard from many delegates that each European country has received a formal request letter from the European Commission calling for the disclosure of all bad acts that Microsoft had performed in the process so far as part of the EC’s new antitrust investigations.  This blog entry will, I expect, make them be even more attentive to what they hear in response.

    In over twenty years of repsresenting standards bodies, I have never seen anything like this before, and I certainly hope that I never  do again.

     –  Andy

  46. recidivist says:

    (Was previously "recherche" (thanks for the compliment), but this name change seems appropriate.)  

    Interesting that you mention PDF.  I note that Microsoft is in the process of getting XPS (XML Paper Specification) through the ECMA treatment in order to propose it as an ISO standard.  If XPS is to PDF as OOXML is to ODF (and I acknowledge that both the direct comparison between XPS and PDF may be misleading to some extent, and also that mapping this pair across to OOXML/ODF may be misleading to some extent), then a look at how "open" XPS is is not entirely comforting:

    * As of 1 July 2007, devices advertising "Certified for Windows Vista" are required to have XPS drivers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML_Paper_Specification

    * The XPS Print Schema License is not compatible with the GPL, so the freedoms granted to users are limited and downstream parties may need to deal with Microsoft directly to access Microsoft Intellectual Property: http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/xps/printschemalicense.mspx

    * XPS handles fonts differently from PDF, mainly as a result of its requiring that fonts be embedded, or else the text must be rasterised.  This seems to make PDF less attractive than XPS in some situations: http://blogs.msdn.com/adrianford/archive/2007/09/20/printing-fonts-and-stuff-of-a-related-nature.aspx

    * As an aside on fonts, I note that all fonts used in Vista are owned by Microsoft, and "individuals, graphic designers and businesses" may purchase licenses to use them from Ascender Corporation: http://www.ascendercorp.com/ctfonts.html .  

    * Also on the font front, I note that the EU ruled that the font Segoe registered by Microsoft as Design Patent US D496,392 S as a forgery of a Linotype GmbH font.  "A registered design is protected for a maximum period of 25 years, in 5-year chunks…".  http://www.sanskritweb.net/forgers/segoe.pdf

    How "open" is a user’s font choices under Vista and Office 2007?  If a user has preferences or requirements in font selections for various documents, how do the applications deal with this desired freedom of expression?  

    I notice that Microsoft is "committed to delivering [XPS] viewers for Windows Vista and downlevel versions of Windows […] and directly or through partners, for a range of other platforms."  I note that Windows Vista comes with XPS Viewer installed by default, and that Windows XP users can download a Pack to enable Internet Explorer to serve as an XPS viewer.  Are there XPS Viewers available for any other operating system?  Is there any commitment, preferably including a delivery schedule, for the provision of XPS viewers for any currently-unsupported OS?  http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/features/details/xps.mspx

    Looking as a non-member of the Microsoft product ecosystem, I believe that choosing XPS over PDF would compromise my flexibility in downstream choices, and so evaluating the costs and benefits of any such choice would be a non-trivial exercise.  

    Given these concerns regarding XPS versus PDF, I believe that there is some similarity between this situation and the Microsoft-ecosystem concerns that some parties have expressed when evaluating the risks and benefits of OOXML versus ODF.  

    This has been a rather long and rambling comment, and I accept that you may not agree with some or all of my premises or conclusions, and I respect your opinions.  

    recidivist/recherche (and already starting to search the dictionary for the next compatible moniker in the namespace-o-sphere…)

  47. jasonmatusow says:

    Mr. Bray – Hello sir. I’m sorry you feel that way. I have been deeply involved with my company’s work on this topic for the past 2 years. After more than 15 years in the software industry, I have opinions on many things and I write about them – I hope with some level of erudition. If you don’t like what I’m saying…ok, please let me know why. (Comments sections on blogs are very good for this sort of discourse.) Those reading the blogs will make up their minds hopefully after the careful consideration of multiple points of view.

    Alan – maybe you missed the fact that is not the case even in the comments on this list? Also, that one of the commenters who has expressed concern with the way those opposed to the DIS are portraying things is the convener of the BRM himself?

    P – WOW, we disagree on so many levels. That is what makes all of this conversation so great. Okay – to be brief. 1) I  have ALWAYS stated my belief that all of the flap over document formats comes down to product competition. Microsoft wants to build and sell Office…yep, for profit. Guess what, IBM and Sun want to build software for money too. And yes, the doc formats are a lever for that activity. No high horse there for any of us. But, I do not agree that the profit motive kills any ability to have rational conversation about choice. When I talk to customers, they say they want choice. I agree that is best. What it really means is that our products have to have the best value and capability if we want people to choose it over their other optinos. 2)  The idea of having competiting standards is another thing you and I disagree about. Just because one technology is standardized, does not negate the value of another technology that achieves similar goals. Should TCP/IP have not happened because ISO approved OSI? Come on…really. Market forces apply, and that is a far better environment for this choice than through mandates that we should always only have 1 option because someone was first to standardize it. 3) A standard is decidedly NOT fixed. They are modified over time to adjust to work with new technologies and innovations. What’s more, as new innovations take shape, they may supercede the functionality in the standard and that is where competition will really come into play. 3) Your memory of HTML is a bit flawed. There was huge change over time around that technology both within the technology itself and in all of the associated capabilities around it. Next, I think the area of protocols presents different factors where commonality will play a stronger role than at the higher-level functions of a document format.

    I think you are getting at some very fundamental questions underpinning standardization in the software industry – but I think your conclusions are wrong.

    Thx

    Jason

  48. Luc,

    "- 900-ish dispositions decided without any discussion in 1 single bulk vote on Friday"

    It was not a bulk-vote in the traditional sense. I have explained in more detail on my blog at http://idippedut.dk/post/2008/03/BRM-aftermath.aspx

    From this:

    […]The BRM chose to do something. We didn’t all agree to what to do and as it has been reported all over the blog-sphere, most parts of a whole day was spent discussing what to do. I think most of the delegates disliked the position we were put in – but regardless of this we were in this situation whether we liked it or not. We had to do something.

    That “something” was to do a vote on each of the remaining responses from ECMA. It was not a bulk-vote as reported on various sites – it was a vote on each and every single response. […]

  49. I know the discussion here is over by now, but I wanted to respond anyway (I was away for the weekend). Jason, I agree that Mr. Updegrove’s blog entries are often as full of spin as are yours (sorry). I don’t consider them "better" just because he happens to be pro-ODF.

    On the other hand, I highly value Rob Weir’s blog. I’m a software developer, and what he writes just makes sense. He wins about every technical argument, and when people like Brian Jones try to answer/rebut him they just don’t do as good a job as him. He clearly has the technical facts on his side. But I do realize that is very hard to judge for a non-technical person.

    His latest entry is an eye-opener. It seems to be an accurate report from the BRM, and the best one I have read so far. It echoes what Tim Bray has written. Two first-hand accounts from people with indisputable technical knowledge and experience. And unlike what you and Brian wrote, their reports make sense. How can you work on more than 1,000 comments in one week? Of course you cannot. Every report that says otherwise has to be spin, has to be propaganda. They were able to work on about 200 comments in one week, and that sounds like a reasonable number. The other 800 were never discussed. The process has failed.

  50. "Alan – maybe you missed the fact that is not the case even in the comments on this list? Also, that one of the commenters who has expressed concern with the way those opposed to the DIS are portraying things is the convener of the BRM himself?"

    Jason, please see the comment left by the same "Alex Brown" ( if he really is THE Alex Brown anyway) on Tim Bray’s blog. Tell you what I’ll show it to you here just in case you miss it:

    Regarding Tim’s "Toxic Leech" blog post, Alex Brown writes:

    "From: Alex Brown (Mar 01 2008, at 08:40)

    Tim hi

    I suspect none of the perpetrators will think you mean them; they’ll think you mean the "other side".

    Congratulations on having written the only accurate, neutral and informative blog entry on the BRM in existence so far (though on the bullshitty-ness of the Fast Track process, I can of course offer no comment)

    – Alex."

  51. Wookey says:

    Well, having just read blogs by Tim Bray, Andy Updegrove, Jason Matusow and Brian Jones, along with a lot of interesting comment, I am now much better informed about the BRM process than I was, and am astonished at the chutzpa of the Microsoft people, who claim joy and consensus in what appears to be direct contravention of the reality.

    I’m with Dan Kegel on this one, and also find it incredibly hard to believe that Jason actually believes what he is writing: assuming Jason’s response to P above is not pure bullshit, then he really does have a view of the world that I simply cannot understand.

    And particular thanks to those who have posted actual numbers rather than simply say ‘it’s a secret’. Whilst this is technically ‘only document formats’, the result is going to have a significant long-term effect on the world. I await the final vote with interest – it looks like things could still go either way.

  52. Kevin says:

    Stephen said "Microsoft stands against one sided procurement preferences."

    You mean except when those preferences mean that MSFT gets all of the business? lol Seriously Stephen.

    Your company’s practices which serve to disrupt a fair procurement process are well documented.

  53. Ecma International released its comments on the BRM. The Ballot Resolution Meeting was a very productive

  54. Ecma International released its comments on the BRM. The Ballot Resolution Meeting was a very productive

  55. len bullard says:

    Another Rashomon epic of a standards meeting.  Who knew so many cared so passionately about document formats?

    1.  Transparency doesn’t always work.   See post-French Revolution and Jean Paul-Marat.    When the polarities are this strong, the chances of easy consensus are effectively zero.   Polarities are not resolved; they are managed.   That is what ISO guarantees:  management.   The rest is up to the members.  That’s how we avoid the blade in the bath and the guillotine.

    2.  Having read most of the blogs, the one message that seems consensual is the current BRM meeting term of one week is inadequate for a specification of this complexity.    The convenor/chair/whoever should have the flexibility to schedule a second week with the work items set to follow-on.   ISO can be more adaptible.    

    The web evolved towards the ascendancy of the trolls.  Then it went subterranean.   It may be time to start work on a system to replace it.

    The Elves

  56. John G says:

    "those same organizations were of the opinion that because their technology was first to ISO standardization it should become mandated by legislation for government procurement."

    Perhaps they were motivated to try get it mandated not because it was first, but because it makes sense to mandate a single open standard format for public information content.  Having any more than one standard just causes problems.  Everyone is free to use (and help improve) the single standard (ODF) format.  Including Microsoft.

    I think a rational use of the United State’s economic resources was also a motivation here – there is a community made of members from many companies that helped create and support ODF.  The proposal was to require the government to use one standard open document format, so that public data is not held captive by a single software company and that use of public documents does not have to be done by using a specific company’s software.  It makes no sense having two standards because nobody is excluded from using the first.  And having two dilutes the benefits of having a standard at all.  Microsoft was a member in the ODF standards group – it’s not like this format came out of the blue at you!  Why ODF and not MOOXML?  Several good reasons:  timing (only one is ISO standard right now), technical merit, and current multi-vendor support of ODF (which proves it is a good standard).

    "If you believe in consumer choice as the best option, then you would vote in favor of your competitors specification. That is what Microsoft has done."

    First of all, why does Microsoft look at ODF as the ‘competitors’ format?  Why not just consider it the open format, support it, help it grow and mature, like many other companies are doing,  and do something positive for the world?

    Secondly, you are hurting the customer by proposing a second standard format because implementors of software will have to choose between the two (or spend a lot more money doing the same thing two different ways).  Either option hurts the customer: more incompatibilities (two types of documents in the enterprise/government/home files), and higher prices (more development/testing effort because of the redundant work of supporting two formats.

    If you asked them, you would find that customers would prefer to have one format, and a choice of many applications from many competing companies.  That is the choice that you are denying them by ‘giving’ them the choice of formats.  Why don’t you ask them if they would prefer two formats, and the incompatibilities that will result in,or one format, which is already supported by a number of top-notch word processing and other applications supported by a number of companies?  

    Thirdly, despite what you say, Microsoft is voting with its feet (and software support) against ODF.   The MOOXML format is, according to many technical reviews, much more complicated compared to ODF.  That would probably not even make it a good candidate as the open document standard even if there was not one already.  And by not making ODF the default save format in your apps, you are voting against it.

    And finally, based on your response to P, it does not seem like consumer choice is your primary concern, revenue generation is.   Well, thanks for being honest about it, but not all companies have the same guiding principle as Microsoft (I mean greed here, not honesty). So looking at this with vendor lock-in profit margins as your base motive……I guess it is time to bring up the M word.  Monopolies that do what Microsoft continues to do have been broken up in the past.  You are just in a field that not many people (or judges) understand, and so as an expert you can lie and get away with it.  And software is difficult to get right even when you are trying, so when making things incompatible is a goal you don’t have to do too much to achieve it.  That might benefit your shareholders in the short term, but the past history of monopolies proves it is not the right model for the long-term stock holders, or any of the customers at any time.

    So how about this:  stop the FUD machine and do the right thing – drop MOOXML and join the team, the rest of the world, on ODF.  If you can produce the best software that uses the format then you have nothing to worry about.  You will get paid.  

    But if you don’t, take notice:  the consumer is tired of incompatibilities, and the consumer is getting smarter.  Incompatibilities are like tolls on the roads.  They waste resources, energy and time that would be better spent simply moving forward.  Having two formats just sends us again down the toll road of incompatibilities.  You could get away with using incompatibilities between versions in the past.  Those days are over.  We all now know that it is possible to standardize a format to allow many different applications to share data.  So there is no need to break compatibility simply because you are upgrading to a new version of the same software.  Everybody knows it is easy to do if you are guided by the right principles.

  57. Luc Bollen says:

    @John G: very wise and well thought post.

    I’m sure the Microsoft managers, who are clever guys, know this, but they are too busy maximising short term profit to act accordingly…  (sigh).

  58. NCJE Culver says:

    As Stephan Jaensch said above, this discussion appears to be over. However, I would strongly urge anyone interested in alternative viewpoints to read Andy Updegrove’s blog. He links to, summarizes and quotes from, the blogs of a number of delegates, and they all seem to paint a picture diametrically opposed to Jason’s "unqualified success" — a picture US delegate Rob Weir called "The Art of Begin Mugged", and Australian delegate Rick Jelliffe styled "The Hell of Geneva". Pictures of national delegations refusing to vote in protest, tempers flaring when all discussion of technical issues was summarily cut off, and ire directed straight at Microsoft and ECMA for putting the delegates in this predicament by trying to ramrod through a standard that is nowhere near ready, and by no means qualified for fast-tracking. As Andy Updegrove called it, "process abuse" indeed.

    How to square Jason’s "unqualified success" with the views of so many delegates actually in attendance is left as an exercise for the reader.

    One can only hope the national delegations remember the experience at Geneva when the time comes for a final up/down vote on March 29.

    NCJE Culver

  59. max stirner says:

    I work as a freelance translator and I have been suffering from Microsoft incompatibility for years, its not just interoperability but actually incompatibility between different versions of the monopolist’s own office package! This must be either to force consumers to upgrade, or plain incompetence on the part of MS..

    Since I’ve been using OpenOffice, this has actually improved, as the OpenOffice conversion tool produces better formatting for the various MS Word versions than MS Word itself.. I can’t wait for the day when the ISO-approved ODF becomes dominant, there shall be NO looking back..

    Unqualified success – with qualifications:

    “Delegates were rushed to vote on hundreds of comments in bulk , were told new rules had to be applied, and when many of them tried to propose solutions to technical or legal issues they were simply dismissed….but as it stands today, the BRM has failed -failed to work, failed to impress, failed to create consensus and failed to succeed.” AFNOR (France) TC Member  Charles-H. Shultz

    “This was horrible, egregious, process abuse and ISO should hang their heads in shame for allowing it to happen. Their reputation, in my eyes, is in tatters. My opinion of ECMA was already very negative; this hasn’t improved it, and if ISO doesn’t figure out away to detach this toxic leech, this kind of abuse is going to happen again and again […] the process was complete, utter, unadulterated bullshit” – Canadian delegate Tim Bray

    “The final day was absolute mayhem. We had to submit decisions on over 500 items which we hadn’t have the time to review. All the important issues which have been worked on repeatedly happened to appear on this final day. So it was non-stop important matters….Due to the quirks in the voting mechanisms, a reported 98.4% of Ecma resolutions were approved. This on the surface projects an impression that the BRM is a resounding success. Unfortunately this is not the sentiment of the majority of participants.This is not in criticism of the Convener Mr Alex Brown….It was not the failure of the National Bodies which attended. It was merely a failure of the process. And it may not be the failure of ISO as a process for creating standards, but mainly because a client chose the wrong method in forcefeeding a large draft standard in the conservative process of the ISO.It was a failure of the Fast Track process, and Ecma for choosing it”. .- Malaysian delegate Yoon Kit

    “I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been doing this for 25 years….There are likely to be hundreds of defects.Virtually every comment we processed did not survive unedited…I see no particular rationale for why we were limited in time. I don’t know how you can deal with 6,000 pages with 3,500 comments in a week. It’s like trying to run a two-minute mile.”  US Head of Delegation Frank Farance

    “Most delegations gave a default abstain position, or registered no position. The net is that, although the discussions on Monday and Tuesday demonstrated that the quality of the Ecma responses was such that almost every one required substantial off-line work to make it acceptable, we gradually lowered our standards, so that by week’s end, we approved 800+ comments without any discussion, even in the presence of clear objections”  US Delegate Rob Weir,

    “In fact, even the 80 responses that Greece studied, we did not study at the level of scrutiny that is required when you inspect a standard. There was no time for that. What we did was glance through, and make fast decisions based on what seems right at a quick glance.

    The conclusion is that the BRM did the best under the circumstances. OOXML is six thousand badly written pages, and the idea that it could go through fast track is laughable. What happened at the BRM was therefore expected.”  Greek Delegate Antonis Christofides

  60. To those that argue that ODF should just have been improved with Microsoft’s assistance – what do Microsoft’s customers do in the meantime?

    Should Microsoft rip out a bunch of functionality in their products to then just allow the sparse functionality that ODF contains, until the unlikely event, (10 years down the road, given ODFs pace of progression) that ODF has caught up with maybe representing Office functionality as of 2007.

    What would an Excel user do if they had to downsample all their existing files to ODF, for example.  Who is going to pay for their time to try and solve all the problems, even if they can be solved, for the thousands of existing files they use on a daily basis.

    What I don’t see here is any real world scenarios from the "all files will be ODF" crowd.

    Scenario 1 – Conversion of depreciation analysis spreadsheet using simple financial formulas.

    -Sorry, no formula support (in a ISO format designed for spreadsheets !!!!!!!!), cannot be described by ODF.

    It may just be me, but if I had come up with a spec with that kind of hole, my a55 would have been canned. You might have assumed with the rigorous, multi-year process for ODF that some bright spark might have said "wait a minute, don’t we need formulas for spreadsheets".  Obviously not, since no comments were raised, no BRM, just sailed through as is.  Everyone else involved in the process must have been ‘leading experts’ on office documents to have let that one through.

    Excel is my area, but I wonder what happened in the other pieces of ODF – no page breaks? no right justification? no columns?  no headers or footers? To me they are as glaring as no formulas.

    If Microsoft were ever going to go "open", they had to do it sometime and the specs were going to be complex. Don’t try and tell me that anyone **CAPABLE** of creating a top class competing Office suite is going to find it too hard because of the size of OpenXML spec.  It will take a lot of time and a lot of testing, but that’s life.  So does trying to implement position-perfect PDF text parsing.  

    The making ODF better idea is easy to say, but impossible to do.  It’s just StarOffice/OpenOffice’s file format, just as Open XML is Office’s format.  The difference is, that after the BRM, at least it is less like Office’s format and a bunch of folks outside the vendor got to pitch in with good ideas.

    It’s like gasoline and diesel, they are certainly incompatible, but they both have their place.  If you want to power an 18-wheeler with a petrol engine, be my guest, but I’d rather have the tool for the job.

    I’m sure I would be happy with Google Docs or OpenOffice with a full rigorous ODT implementation for my record collection spreadsheet, but if I’m doing a complex reconciliation, risk analysis using Monte Carlo or using UDFs developed internally by highly paid derivatives pricing experts, then it will be Excel until the competition has grown up and realised there is a bit more to spreadsheets than they currently know about.

    Gareth

    The reason ODF got through, is that the bar was too low, the reason Open XML is having a hard time is that the bar is very high.  That’s a good thing, but claiming ODF is the answer means that you have to go backwards in functionality terms.  Try selling that to an existing user and I doubt they will be interested in upgrading.

    If you think that is OK and all software should be free etc, then fine, but that is a different forum.

  61. Notorious Mapukkha says:

    I dont understand why the adoption of another standard would ‘kill’ another existing standard. Are you guys so stupid that having an option kills your ‘freedom to choose’? If China submits UOF  to the same process.. in which the Market size alone could be bigger than all of your ODF ‘downloads’.. would you stop that too? Cmon Guys.. get a LIFE!  You still have your FREE WILL! If you dont like the other standard then just DONT USE IT! You are nothing but ABMs (Anything but Microsoft) – Take a break and fire up Windows XP and play World of Warcraft. Let off some steam. Even better.. just sing the OOXML ‘Document from Hell’ theme song. Global Warming, Wars and Famine – much more important.

  62. Apprentice says:

    Jason, MS *could* be a good corporate citizen. Instead, we see absolutely obvious corruption of the ISO process. I understand that you are paid to put a face on a faceless entity. So, you sold your soul for how much again?