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ISO Document: South Africa's Appeal, as text
Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:11 AM EDT

Here's South Africa's appeal against OOXML as text, our final section of our text versions of the entire memo [PDF] sent by the heads of ISO/IEC to the Technical Management Board suggesting that the four appeals against OOXML, attached as exhibits, be denied. The TMB decides what to do next. I know. Such suspense.

We earlier covered the appeals by Brazil, and by Venezuela and India.

South Africa's conclusion gives us a fine overview of its point of view:

In conclusion, South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM. Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyze far too much information in far too little time, involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite the Directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration.

South Africa also believes that the process from beginning to end "has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC" which in turn has also harmed the reputations of all member bodies. That is the saddest part, to me. ISO always had a fine reputation, and it has so many excellent people involved in standards work who have toiled for years tirelessly and competently. But it's a new day.

South Africa raises three reasons for its appeal, under the umbrella of failure to follow the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, Edition 5 [PDF], which you can find on Groklaw's ODF/OOXML permanent page under the ISO header. Here's the first:

1) Contradictions with other standards were raised in the 30-day review period outlined in Clause 13.4, and rather than try to resolve them, ISO just decided to move forward and let the BRM. The NBs were not informed about the contradictions. Instead, they were informed that any issues of contradictions at the BRM would be ruled out of order.

The ISO/IEC memo, in contrast, in the Attachments, says this is what happened:

1. Incorrect application of ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directive 13.4 to address claimed "contradictions" identified during the 30-day review period before the DIS ballot, including not informing NBs of the claimed contradictions.
1e. Not correct. The Directives give the JTC 1 Secretariat and ITTF latitude to use judgement as to whether a meeting should be organized to address alleged contradictions. Considering that other issues could potentially be identified during the DIS ballot, the JTC 1 secretariat and ITTF concluded that it was preferable to initiate the ballot and to allow all issues to be addressed by the BRM. The NBs were fully informed of all the claimed contradictions and Ecma's responses to them.

The difficulty with that response is that South Africa says the contradictions were never discussed, and in fact that they were told they'd be ruled out of order. Venezuela raised the same issue. Now that is a matter of fact that can be determined one way or another. I don't see how the TMB can simply gloss over it. If contradictions are supposed to be resolved in some way, at some point, whether in a meeting or not in a meeting, and neither ever happens, then how do you deny an appeal? If one approved standard contradicts another approved standard, the public may just burst out in guffaws of laughter at such "standards", or among the more cynical among us, with at least a curled lip here and there. If anything goes, after all, the word "standard" doesn't seem to mean anything at all.

Here are the other two reasons for the South African appeal:

2) Decisions at the BRM are supposed to be by consensus, after discussions. Instead, there was a block vote to 'approve' the majority of the items, which couldn't be discussed, and hence no consensus was possible. This forced the NBs to give the "authors" of the proposed standard a blank check "which is inappropriate for any standard" -- let alone one as controversial as OOXML. Further, the Directives say decisions should be by majority vote by P members only, "expressing either approval or disapproval". Instead, everyone voted, as per clause 9.5 Combined Voting Procedure. What exactly *was* the proper procedure, South Africa asks? Everyone was and is confused. South Africa believes this was a procedural error.

3) The NBs are supposed to get a final report and a final text within a month after the BRM, they point out, under the ruled. They have not. The fact that they couldn't meet the deadline is proof, they write, that OOXML as modified by the BRM "is not ready for fast track processing".

The memo answers like this:

5. Final report of the BRM not issued.
5e. Not correct. The final report of the BRM was issued on 2008-03-06.

6. "Final" text of ISO/IEC 29500 or ISO/IEC DIS 29500, or "revised FDIS text", not released

6e. Correct but irrelevant. The decision being appealed is the JTC 1 decision to approve the draft. The text mentioned in the Directives and by the appellants is not germane to that decision, which must be taken on the basis of the original DIS text and the actions taken by the BRM on the comments. The provisions of any revised text is not for purposes of further decision by NBs.

The final report issued, but not to the NBs, which is the issue South Africa raises. And the text is supposed to be distributed, and everyone admits it was not. Following the rules is never irrelevant. Well. In the ISO universe, apparently it is.

Can you imagine how South Africa must have felt reading that response? It makes my blood boil, and I wasn't a delegate. Imagine the money spent, the time, the effort, the willingness to try, the long plane journey, only to be told the directives are optional or are to be interpreted after the fact in ways I doubt South Africa would ever have expected.

As for the issue of consensus, the memo says that vote at the BRM proves it was the basis for the approval. South Africa begs to differ, saying that there was a lot of confusion as what was being voted on, and most items were never even discussed. Absent some miraculous Deus Ex Machina tongues of fire event zapping of the delegates at the BRM, how is consensus to be arrived at with zero discussion?


Your ref :
Our ref : 14/2/ICT/TC71/8/29500 iec
Enquiries : GR Visser
Telephone : [phone]
Date : 2008-05-22

General Secretary, International Electrotechnical Commission
Attention: Mr R Amit

Dear Sir

Appeal from the South African national body regarding the outcome of
the fast-track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML

The national body of South Africa (SABS), as a P member of JTC 1, hereby submits an appeal against the outcome of the fast track processing of DIS 29500 Office open XML. This is based on the procedures followed before and during the ballot resolution meeting (BRM) held from 25 to 29 February 2008 to discuss the comments submitted on the fast-tracked DIS 29500 and the proposed responses from Ecma.

In addition, South Africa wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and the international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards. The ability of large multi-national organizations to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting over-riding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern.

This appeal is made in accordance with Clause 11.1.2: "A P member of JTC 1 or an SC may appeal against any action, or inaction, on the part of JTC 1 or an SC when the P member considers that in such action or inaction:

- questions of principle are involved;
- the contents of a draft may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO; or
- the point giving rise to objection was not known to JTC 1 or SC during earlier discussions."

We believe that there is an important question of principle involved and that the reputation of ISO/IEC is indeed at stake. There has been speculation about the need to revise the directives around fast track processing. While such revision might indeed be necessary, we cannot accept the outcome of a process in which the existing directives have not, in our opinion, been applied.

Reasons for appeal

We are of the opinion that in the following instances the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, Edition 5 have not been followed.


1. Clause 13.4, second paragraph states "During the 30-day review period, a NB may identify to the JTC 1 Secretariat any perceived contradiction with other standards or approved projects of JTC 1, ISO or IEC.

If such a contradiction is alleged, the matter shall be addressed by the ITTF and JTC 1 Secretariat in accordance with Section 13.2 before ballot voting can commence. If no contradiction is alleged, the 5 month fast-track ballot voting commences immediately following the 30-day period. If a contradiction is alleged, the JTC 1 Secretariat and ITTF shall make a best effort to resolve the matter in no more than a three month period, consulting with the proposer of the fast-track document, the NB(s) raising the claim of contradiction and others, as they deem necessary. A meeting of these parties, open to all NBs, may be convened by the JTC 1 Secretariat, if required."

Whereas various NBs raised contradictions in the period, there is no evidence that "A meeting of these parties, open to all NBs" was held and that the results were made available to the other participating NBs. We understand that after Ecma was afforded a chance to address the NB comments submitted regarding contradictions, the JTC 1 Chairman, Secretariat and ITTF staff decided that convening a meeting to discuss contradictions would not be productive and that the best way to proceed would be to issue the draft for ballot without delay. The other NBs were not informed about the alleged contradictions but only informed, in the HOD meeting immediately prior to the BRM, that any issues of contradictions raised during the BRM would be ruled out of order by the BRM Chairman. Given this instruction, and given the fact that despite such instruction, a number of NBs continued to raise contradictions both in their written comments and during the BRM, it is clear that the JTC 1 Chairman, Secretariat and ITTF should have seen that a meeting of parties, as envisaged in the Directives, was indeed a necessity.

2. Clause 13.8 states that "At the ballot resolution group meeting, decisions should be reached preferably by concensus. If a vote is unavoidable the vote of the NBs will be taken according to normal JTC 1 procedures."

Since only 67 of the 1027 responses by Ecma were discussed, the processes used to 'approve' the remaining responses by voting were questionable and did nothing to promote concensus, but simply 'approved' Ecma's attempt to improve the quality of the standard. This was especially disconcerting to the large number of experts from various countries who had spent many hours in ad hoc meetings during the period of the BRM to develop consensus on some of the Ecma responses that contained errors or other issues of contention. The decision to ignore such important proposals for improving the standard and to resort to blanket voting on all issues not resolved during the discussions (more than three quarters of the responses were never tabled during the BRM) was procedurally flawed. Effectively, this required the national bodies to write a blank cheque approving the proposals of the authors of the proposed standard, which is inappropriate for any standard, never mind one that has generated considerable controversy.

There has been some dispute over what "normal" procedures should be in such a case. the general directive for meetings is as follows:

Clause 9.14 "In a meeting, except as otherwise specified in these directives, questions are decided by a majority of the votes cast at the meeting by P members expressing either approval or disapproval." However, since many of the countries represented were not P members of JTC 1, the actual voting during the BRM was conducted according to clause 9.5 Combined Voting Procedure that states "The voting procedure which uses simultaneous voting (one vote per country) by the P-members for JTC 1 and by all ISO member bodies and IEC national committees on a letter ballot is called the combined voting procedure. This procedure shall be used on FDISs,


DISs, FDAMs, DAMs and FDISPs." The decision to use this interpretation was incorrect since the voting during the BRM was not a letter ballot. While we are aware that the Convenor, in consultation with representative from ITTF and the IEC representative decided otherwise, we challenge this interpretation and therefore the result of the voting that was based upon that interpretation.

3. Clause 13.12, last bullet point: "In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance." Up to date of writing, neither the final report of the BRM meeting or the revised FDIS text has been circulated by the SC Secretariat. The only communication to NBs (other than press releases) has been 34N1015, which was the result of the revised voting during the 30-day period subsequent to the BRM. There is no indication of when the final DIS text might be expected but it has not been distributed within the one month period prescribed.

Given the magnitude of the specification and the number of identified edits required it was clear that this directive could not have been met. This is the clearest possible indication that DIS 29500 as submitted by Ecma and as modified by the BRM is not ready for fast track processing. It was not incumbent on the participants of the BRM to modify this clearly stated requirement.


In conclusion, South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted BRM. Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyze far too much information in far too little time, involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite the Directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration.

It is our opinion that the process followed during all stages of this fast track has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC and brought the processes enshrined in the Directives into disrepute, and that this negative publicity has in turn also harmed the reputations of all member bodies of ISO and the IEC.

Yours faithfully

Mr M Kuscus
South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)

cc ISO TMB Secretary (Mr Mike Smith)
IEC SMB Secretary (Mr Jack Sheldon)
ISO/IEC JTC 1 Chairperson (Mr Scott Jameson [email])
ISO/IEC Secretariat (Ms Lisa Rajchel [email])



ISO Document: South Africa's Appeal, as text | 77 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
How is ISO financed? Did they receive any larger "donation" recently at all?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:27 AM EDT
The way that the appeal was treated, and the process as it unfolded... in mind
boggling to the point where one begins to wonder how this ISO is funded, and how
it's leadership gets paid?

Leading us to a question of, if either ISO, or any leadership, received any
large donations recently from a certain party (or a combination of) who had
interests in this ISO decision?

A certain company is a powerful member in many industry groups and donates in
ways that others can not to those groups... and it is funny that each time those
groups offer tech opinions, they lobby for this company every time (even if this
position is opposite of other members of that same group)?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: jaxad0127 on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:28 AM EDT
Please include the nature of the correction in the title.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT, the off topic thread.
Authored by: Erwan on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:28 AM EDT
As usual.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks Discussion Here
Authored by: red floyd on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:30 AM EDT
Please put the newspick that you're discussing in the title.

I am not merely a "consumer" or a "taxpayer". I am a *CITIZEN* of the United
States of America.

[ Reply to This | # ]

If ISO bosses were accountable, it would be so ...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 03:53 AM EDT

I don't see how the TMB can simply gloss over it.

Unfortunately, the people who call the shots at ISO seem to be unaccountable to anybody. They appear to be able to make up whatever rules they please, whenever they choose.

In which case, they can gloss over anything. Come to think of it, they already have. South Africa's points are devastating, and well presented; but equally good critiques were raised, and brushed aside, throughout the process.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Councils - the next stop?
Authored by: PolR on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 09:19 AM EDT
Everybody expects the TMB to reject the appeal as recommended by the Secretaries general. But it is not necessarily the end of the road. Checking the JTC 1 directives on the rights of appeals, decisions of TMB can be appealed to an entity called the Councils.
11.1.1 NBs have the right of appeal
  • To JTC 1 on a decision of an SC;
  • To TMB/SMB on a decision of JTC 1;
  • To the Councils on a decision of the TMB/SMB.
Who are the Councils? Are they individuals of the same ilk as the ones we have seem so far? Or are they people with the ability to radically change the nature of the game?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Haiku here
Authored by: DannyB on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 10:17 AM EDT
The I S O has no more.
Thanks to Microsoft.

The price of freedom is eternal litigation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

ISO accountability, a report
Authored by: artp on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 11:06 AM EDT

Like it or not, you have very little choice in whether ISO survives or not. It is out of your [immediate] hands. It is a government issue.

ISO NBs are chartered by national governments. ISO covers a vast range of standards, necessary for international trade and national competitiveness. Here's a reference at NIST that can lead you to lists of the standards they cover, not just computer related, but related to measurement, which is the foundation of trade.

For the US, this relationship is laid out in this document: MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING between the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). ANSI charters the group that actually participates in ISO activities.

It would literally take an Act of Congress to change this relationship.

So don't get your hopes up that we can or, are even able to, depose ISO as an international standards organization. That decision is out of our hands. We don't have the authority, responsibility or power to make this happen. Anything that we come up with will be outside of the international network of standards activities.

It takes a while for a group like W3C to become recognized as a valid purveyor of standards relating to the Web. Universal respect and use of W3C standards lead to it being part of the international standards community. But, like most independent standards bodies, they submit their standards to ISO for ratification as an international standard.

What will probably happen, though, is that the governments involved will finally demand that the ISO start keeping to their charter. For instance, this document defines a voluntary consensys standards body:

"A voluntary consensus standards body is defined by the following attributes:

  • (i) Openness.
  • (ii) Balance of interest.
  • (iii) Due process.
  • (vi) An appeals process.
  • (v) Consensus, which is defined as general agreement, but not necessarily unanimity, and includes a process for attempting to resolve objections by interested parties, as long as all comments have been fairly considered, each objector is advised of the disposition of his or her objection(s) and the reasons why, and the consensus body members are given an opportunity to change their votes after reviewing the comments."
  • Try not to laugh while you are reading this, please! ;-)

    Perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to write to your congresscritter and explain why the ISO process for DIS 29500 was a gross distortion of the definition supplied by the federal government, and is a danger to the balance of international standards setting, which is directly tied to US involvement in international trade and competitiveness, as stated by the NIST.

    I see that Congressman Jim Nussle [R] Iowa is the Director of OMB. Perhaps some of us Iowans could drop him a note concerning this, and reminding him of the recent court case in Iowa that found Microsoft guilty of overcharging. It's the least that we could do to help him make an informed decision, don't you think ?

    If you are an engineer, and your company sits on a standards body, I would suggest taking that circuitous route to ANSI's ear.

    Sorry this is US-based, but it's all I know. There have to be analogous routes in other countries. Standards are based on acceptance by governments and are all based on facilitating international trade. Start with your country's metrology bureau, EVEN THOUGH IT ISN'T COMPUTER-RELATED. Links may be found here, or here or not. In the US, our government metrology body is NIST. They in turn charter a national standards body: ANSI, which in turn uses independent standards bodies, like INCITS.

    Userfriendly on WGA server outage:
    When you're chained to an oar you don't think you should go down when the galley sinks ?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    MS-ISO: teh New standard
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 01:14 PM EDT
    In the Microsoft tradition of appropriating and co-opting standards by grafting
    their name onto well known standards, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you:
    ISO; it's a standard because we told you shut up!

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    OOXML, dates, Feb to June < 30 days?
    Authored by: tz on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 02:24 PM EDT
    What calendar or dates difference function IS ISO using?

    Even OOXML isn't that bad.

    When was the BRM?

    When was the text released?


    The result is less than 30! at least according to the ISO standards body.

    They either have no shame or no working calculator or calendar.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Food for thought
    Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 03:55 PM EDT
    Remember, just because OOXML becomes a standard does not mean we have to use
    it. If it is a standard that only MS can implement. It does not mean it is
    open, even if they say so. As MS burns bridges they will have fewer friends.
    left to depend on.
    I look to see that there will be many countries that will not use OOXML anyways.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    • Food for thought - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15 2008 @ 08:08 PM EDT
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