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Poland Fails to Approve OOXML; Chairman Decides Members Can Vote by Email 10 More Days - huh? - Updated
Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 09:10 PM EDT

This is different. There is a report by Borys Musielak of PolishLinux.org that Poland met to vote on OOXML on Thursday. Of 45 members of the committee eligible to vote, 24 showed up to vote, and it split almost down the middle, with 12 for, 10 against and 2 abstaining. This is extraordinary, since Poland voted yes in September, despite the technical committee being opposed. I call that progress.

But here is the worrying part: when it became clear that there was no consensus, and it was not going to be a Yes vote, the chairman "decided to allow the missing members to vote by e-mail during the next 10 days".

What to make of a process that keeps reinventing itself as it goes along?

Will it be possible to meet the deadline to inform the proper individuals by March 29 now? That is a firm deadline, I think, and while I wrote to Alex Brown, Maho Takahashi, Martine Gaillen and Keith Brannon, the last three at ISO.org, back on March 19th, asking for clarification about the rules, I have yet to hear back from any of them. Given the seriousness of the matter, here are more details about the meeting, as well as the text of my email, as part of Groklaw's public record of the OOXML saga.

First, from Borys:

Last Thursday PKN (Polish Normalization Committee) had a meeting on which it was supposed to come up with the decision concerning Polish recommendation for ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (OOXML) proposed standard. The common stance has not been acheived.

In November last year, PKN voted “yes, with comments” for Microsoft’s OOXML. On March 20, 2008, Technical Committee (KT 182) of PKN was supposed to either accept the recommendation (which was to vote YES for the proposed standard) or not accept it, and thus recommend PKN to vote NO or abstain from voting. Of 45 members, 24 appeared on the meeting. And the votes looked like this:

  • 12 votes supporting the recommendation,
  • 10 votes rejecting it,
  • 2 abstaining to vote.
  • No consensus has been achieved concerning the recommendation. Thus, the chairman of KT 182, Elżbieta Andrukiewicz, decided to allow the missing members to vote by e-mail during the next 10 days (till the end of March). After receiving all the votes, the final decision will be made (although it’s not exactly clear who is going to make the decision and on what basis).

    One is clear though — there is a huge opposition to OOXML as a standard in KT 182, which is contrary to last year’s decision of the same committee (compare: Poland vote$ for Microsoft OOXML [it’s official]).

    And here's my email, for the record:

    Subject: Q on vote change
    From: Pamela Jones
    Date: March 19, 2008
    To: Alex Brown, Maho Takahashi, Martine Gaillen, Keith Brannon [emails redacted]

    Hello, I'm puzzling over the new rules on vote changes on OOXML. Can you tell me if NBs need to write by regular mail also, or are the emails to each of you with a cc to the sender sufficient?

    I note that the SC 34/JCT1 page says that ITTF must be notified "in writing" by March 29. Do the emails constitute that notification, or is there more to it? (I see the subject line requirement and the need to state the name of the sender.)

    Also, can you please direct me to information on what happens if the new rules are not followed precisely? And how will the sender of an email know that it has been received properly?

    Thank you.

    Pamela Jones
    Editor, Groklaw
    http://www.groklaw.net

    Of course, now I would also like to ask what happens if the chairperson says voting can continue by email (after the vote fails to carry the day for Microsoft)? And what if as a result the vote arrives after the March 29 deadline? And who, according to the rules, is to count the votes and is there a verification process? Will it be public? How many people have to show up to vote for it to count? If the vote had been to support OOXML, would there have been more time and a new way to let non-attenders vote? I am guessing not. There's apparently a bit more to the story, and Borys adds this:

    One of the members of KT 182 is FWIOO — a Polish f[o]undation promoting free and open source software (not to be mistaken with FSF) which also supports OpenParliament initiative. Its representative was present on the meeting.

    Yes, we do know a few more details concerning the process and the type of dirty politics that took place just before and during the meeting, but we are not going to re[v]eal it just yet, hoping that the chairman of KT 182 and the PKN itself makes a proper decision in the end (which is to abstain from voting as there has been no consensus about OOXML in KT).

    Stay tuned, the story will have part II, probably the week after Easter.

    Update: I found an interesting PDF on the ISO.org website, called My ISO Job. It lays out for participants what is expected of them. Here's a snip beginning on page 16:

    The ISO committee chair and secretary

    Each committee -- technical committee or subcommittee -- has a secretariat. This function and this role is assigned to an ISO member body. In undertaking this responsibility, the ISO member takes on an international role on ISO's behalf and is there to serve the memberes of the committee (i.e. "P", "O" and liaison members).

    Chairs of technical committees (TC) are nominated by the secretariat and appointed by the Technical Management Board. Chairs of subcommittees are nominated by the secretariat and appointed by the technical committee.

    The chair must therefore remain neutral, and work toward achieving a result which will be acceptable to the international community....

    Following the Directives

    A major role for both the chair and secretary is to ensure that the Directives are followed at all times. At particular meetings, the chair and the secretary may also be assisted by the relevant technical programme manager (TPM) from the ISO Central Secretariat. Part 1 of the Directives is particularly important as it indicates the required standards development procedures to be followed. Part 2 of the Directives contains guidance on how to produce understandable and unambigous standards, which can be adopted and used worldwide. It also covers the way in which terms are used and the accepted use of units, tolerances, symbols and probability statements. The primary responsibility for following Part 2 lies with working group convenors and project leaders...

    There is a page on e-balloting, but you are not allowed to read it unless you have a membership and a password, so I can't know if it is relevant. Some of you may have access, so I'm pointing it out. And here's the page where you can find the Directives Part 1 and Part 2 referenced.


      


    Poland Fails to Approve OOXML; Chairman Decides Members Can Vote by Email 10 More Days - huh? - Updated | 273 comments | Create New Account
    Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
    Off-topic here, please
    Authored by: overshoot on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 09:14 PM EDT
    Some really nice instructions for prettyprinting with clicky links in red, too.
    Previewing saves embarrassment.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Corrections (if any) here
    Authored by: overshoot on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 09:16 PM EDT
    Please indicate the nature of the correction in your Subject.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Newspicks comments here, please
    Authored by: overshoot on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 09:18 PM EDT
    Please indicate which newspick in your "Title:"

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I have yet to hear back from any of them
    Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 10:02 PM EDT
    Remember the Cone of Silence? They told everyone it wasn't a public process.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Poland Fails to Approve OOXML; Chairman Decides Members Can Vote by Email 10 More Days - huh?
    Authored by: John Hasler on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 10:09 PM EDT
    > Of course, now I would also like to ask what happens if
    > the chairperson says voting can continue by email (after
    > the vote fails to carry the day for Microsoft)?

    Seems like that would be an internal decision for the sovereign state of Poland
    (though the Commission might be interested in the efforts of a certain company
    to influence said decision).

    > And what if as a result the vote arrives after the March
    > 29 deadline?

    Isn't obvious that the pre-BRM vote then stands?

    > And who, according to the rules, is to count the votes and
    > is there a verification process? Will it be public?

    Do you mean the vote in the Polish NB?


    ---
    IOANAL. Licensed under the GNU General Public License

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Thanks PJ
    Authored by: Jeff on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 10:09 PM EDT
    PJ,

    Just a word of thanks for covering this. While it might have happened anyway, it

    is good that there is someone out there reporting on Microsoft's manipulation of

    the standardization process. Oh, and the ISO should be ashamed of themselves
    for letting this happen.

    When this is all over, regardless of the out come, it will be interesting to see
    if
    MS ended up breaking any laws in their attempt to push the OOXML
    "standard".

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Fighting fire with fire
    Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 10:18 PM EDT
    Yes, we do know a few more details concerning the process and the type of dirty politics that took place just before and during the meeting, but we are not going to re[v]eal it just yet, hoping that the chairman of KT 182 and the PKN itself makes a proper decision in the end (which is to abstain from voting as there has been no consensus about OOXML in KT).
    Sounds like the Polish open source guys are fighting fire with fire. Good for them.
    Chapter 2 could be really interesting, Poland being a member of the EU and all...

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Correct me if I'm wrong..
    Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, March 22 2008 @ 10:21 PM EDT
    12 votes for OOXML, 10 against, 2 abstain. If you went
    with ONLY that vote than Poland accepts OOXML. An
    abstention is neither a vote for or against so the vote
    was 12 to 10.

    I don't see how it could be said OOXML was defeated with
    those figures.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    maybe more time for no votes?
    Authored by: reiisi on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 02:26 AM EDT
    At this point, there might be a lot of noise about majority. If they could get
    more negative votes in by e-mail, they could use them to keep those claims at
    bay.

    Not a good idea in general, but on the other hand, we can assume that anyone
    who votes by e-mail will be able to confirm their vote.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    That is not a guess
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 04:47 AM EDT

    If the vote had been to support OOXML, would there have been more time and a new way to let non-attenders vote? I am guessing not.

    Let's put that a different way.

    If the vote had been to support OOXML, is there anybody on Earth who thinks the chairman would have allowed more time and a new way for non-attenders to vote?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Poland Fails to Approve OOXML; Chairman Decides Members Can Vote by Email 10 More Days - huh?
    Authored by: stephenry on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 08:26 AM EDT
    Take a look at the latest blog posting from Miguel "OOXML is a superb
    standard" deIcaza.

    http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2008/Mar-22.html

    He is entitled to his opinions, but it has absolutely no place on the
    planet.gnome website.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Normal track would go beyond next Jan. 20
    Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 09:45 AM EDT

    Microsoft is calling the EU's bluff for a "death" penalty -- barring
    Microsoft from bidding for EU software contracts because of its
    monopolistic position.


    I hope Microsoft actually does fire employees who can't deliver
    a yes vote. More witnesses for EU investigators.

    PJ, I know that you don't like politics, but a normal track for OOXML
    pushes the process beyond next Jan. 20. It's the only explanation
    that makes sense to me for a fast track, for Microsoft to risk this
    much public backlash. I would like to see an alternative explanation
    that doesn't include a new U.S. administration.

    And, sending lawyers to a technical meeting in India?



    [ Reply to This | # ]

    What does an abstension mean?
    Authored by: Dark on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 10:14 AM EDT

    The way I understand the process, the PKN voted 'Yes' to OOXML originally, and now after the BRM it has a chance to change its vote. If it abstains this time, or does not manage to submit a vote before the deadline, does that mean its previous 'Yes' vote stands?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    MS Way is the Highway
    Authored by: overshoot on Sunday, March 23 2008 @ 01:17 PM EDT
    All of the commentary on how the fast-track process is inappropriate forget what the objective here is. It's to have another ISO office-document standard that Microsoft Office can check off on purchasing qualifications.

    That's it. End of subject. If the content of the specification contained nothing but begin and end tags, MS would be able to check the box and sell on other grounds, since at that point the official file format wouldn't matter: their de facto format would be the true requirement. If the official format were gibberish (as it appears DIS-29500 is) then all the better because others won't be able to implement it and Microsoft can get a bye.

    Put another way, an IS that actually does a complete and accurate job of depicting Microsoft's hash of a file format would be Bad. In that case others might actually implement it in a verifiable way. To the extent that there is a discrepancy between the IS and Microsoft's actual implementation, MS has room to FUD.

    If the other software implements the IS, it will fail to be compatible with MS' de facto format, which perpetuates the "must buy MS to be sure" effect. If it implements MS but not the IS, Microsoft can point to the lack of standards compliance, but also to the fact that users can't be sure that it's MS-compatible (just as today).

    Either way, a bad standard is better for MS than a good one, even if the "good" standard is exactly what they're shipping. A rushed standard is the only one that meets their needs at all. Thus, the present situation.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Poland Fails to Approve OOXML; Chairman Decides Members Can Vote by Email 10 More Days - huh? -
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, March 25 2008 @ 11:22 PM EDT
    The article states that there are a total of 45 members.
    Ten members have all ready voted reject.
    Just Two more members (out of 21 remaining to vote) for a total of 12 voting
    reject would be more than 25% against. At that point a Yes vote is no longer
    possible. Local rules could be different from over all rules. But, I think that
    a very strong case could be made to the chair for an immediate vote without
    further delay as the final outcome of the voting process would have been
    determined. If it is known or can be determined legally that 2 more have voted
    reject insist on an immediate No or Abstain vote be made and sent.
    This is a way to close out the voting process in time with a proper result.
    Waiting for all 45 members to vote would likely result in time running which
    would be an undesirable result.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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