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Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface - Updated
Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 04:50 PM EDT

Alex Brown recently tweeted to Microsoft's Doug Mahugh the following about OOXML:
OOXML=tought [sic] fights; revealed JTC 1 procedures were rubbish.
The OOXML approval was marred by procedures that were rubbish, eh? How about the result, then? Wasn't that exactly what the four appeals against adoption of OOXML stated as one basis, that the process was essentially rubbish? Were they right? One year later, it seems there are indeed some problems. Brown tells us on his blog that at the BRM "a number of existing Ecma-376 documents were unintentionally made invalid against the IS29500 transitional schema".


The UK, he writes, now is suggesting a retroactive fix to undo the changes made at the BRM. Say, what? Rubbish though they be, is there any JTC1 procedure that makes *that* an appropriate way forward? If so, why bother to even meet? Just let Microsoft or its little elves slip in anything they want and call it good.

That's not all. According to Jomar Silva of Brazil, who attended the BRM and just received the secret report on progress on OOXML, several items that were supposed to be fixed are still not incorporated into the published text of the standard one year later, despite the fact that he says some voted a conditional Yes, contingent on those changes being made.

If you are considering whether or not to adopt IS29500, what should that tell you? That maybe you should wait until they get the kinks out?

I'd like to quote a bit from Silva's April 8 report:

Received in recent days several documents from JTC1/SC34 reporting the progress at the working group that is trying to fix the OpenXML, and it’s impressive and surreal what one may find in those documents.

The document N1101/N1168 contains for example, several items in which they recognize that there are decisions made in the BRM (BRM resolutions) which were not incorporated into the final published text of the standard. In other words, even taking almost a year after the a[p]proval of the standard to publish the text (yes, approved without reading), there wasn’t time/attention or anything else necessary to assure that the changes were published in the text (most of those changes, “conditioned” the approval). What makes me much more angry about this is that during the BRM I asked about who would be responsible for verifying that all these changes would be part of the final text and the answer was ITTF (kind of joint ISO/IEC secretariat). When I asked if the ITTF would really make this work, I received as a reply the intimidating: “You are doubting the ITTF, kid ?”…

On the document N1171, one of the working groups of SC34 announces that they’ve found problems in the OpenXML fonts specification and will submit an error report about it to the group responsible for repairing the standard (looks funny, but until today there are folks finding defects … ).

The document N1183 justifies the subdivision of the already existing parts of the standard to saying that to correct some errors pointed out, new “minor” features need to be added to the specification (and that is really cool, because now that the ISO has already approved the standard, they can write whatever they want, isn’t it?).

I saved the best for the end: document N1187. This one says that OpenXML “as is” contains unintentional errors that may prevent existing documents to be fully represented in this new format. It is amazing because the legacy support was alleged as the main reason for OpenXML development and approval at ISO, and also the reason why several countries supported the development and approval of the standard. In this document, they also explain the criteria that will be used to specify the changes that will be developed, so that they can do it all really quickly (in other words, they go trough the breaches of the JTC1 directives to get these changes incorporated into standard already approved without making much noise about it).

Brown's tweet was that same day. Had he also seen the report Silva writes about? In any case, he provides some more details on his blog about "fixing" changes made at the BRM:
The UK proposed an interesting new defect during the Prague meetings, which centred on one of the decisions made at the BRM.
Nature of the Defect:

As a result of changes made at the BRM, a number of existing Ecma-376 documents were unintentionally made invalid against the IS29500 transitional schema. It was strongly expressed as an opinion at the BRM by many countries that the transitional schema should accurately reflect the existing Ecma-376 documents.

However, at the BRM, the ST_OnOff type was changed from supporting 0, 1, On, Off, True, False to supporting only 0, 1, True, False (i.e. the xs:boolean type). Although this fits with the detail of the amendments made at the BRM, it is against the spirit of the desired changes for many countries, and we believe that due to time limitations at the BRM, this change was made without sufficient examination of the consequences, was made in error by the BRM (in which error the UK played a part), and should be fixed.

Solution Proposed by the Submitter

Change the ST_OnOff type to support 0, 1, On, Off, True and False in the Transitional schemas only.

The result of the BRM decision being addressed here was apparent in a blog entry I wrote last year, which attracted rather a lot of attention.

Simply put, the UK is now suggesting the BRM made a mistake here, and things should be rectified so that existing MS Office documents “snap back” into being in conformance with 29500 transitional.

This proposal caused some angst. Who were we (some asked) to overturn decisions made at the BRM? My own view is less cautious: this was an obvious blunder, the BRM got it wrong (as it did many things, I think). So let’s fix it.

So, a committee gets to change what the BRM as a full group decided? Says who? If Brown thinks the BRM got many things wrong, why was the result confirmed as it was, even when appeals were filed? And how many "wrong" things will Brown and his colleagues now try to "fix"?

I think the problem at the BRM wasn't that no one read the OOXML format first, but no one in charge listened or cared if it worked or not prior to being approved, even when national bodies tried to tell them there were problems. Remember the old Lily Tomlin routine? "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company"? And now, the UK would like to fix what the BRM voted on, so that MS Office documents will conform to "29500 transitional". Love the name. Wait. Didn't Brown tell us that transitional was closer to Ecma 376? Why, yes. Yes, he did, a year or so ago, in the referenced article:

The TRANSITIONAL conformance model is quite a bit closer to the original Ecma 376. Countries at the BRM (rather more than Ecma, as it happened) were very keen to keep compatibilty with Ecma 376 and to preserve XML structures at which legacy Office features could be targetted. The expectation is therefore that an MS Office 2007 document should be pretty close to valid according to the TRANSITIONAL schema.
Keen but sloppy, I guess, and close but no cigar, because now we learn that they didn't fully keep compatibility with Ecma 376, let alone the so-called "strict" (explained here). Didn't the UK read before voting to approve OOXML? You think the BRM was too hasty, maybe? That it shoved through a half-baked format? Shouldn't a standard be, at a minimum, something you can, you know, actually use?

If you are a government or an agency considering OOXML and whether you should adopt it, might it be wise to wait until it's actually finished and fully operational, quite aside from the abysmal lack-of-real-interoperability-with-ODF issue? Shouldn't a standard at least work?

So, who gets to vote on this retroactive fix? Should they maybe get back to basics and just start over, take their time, and get it right? Brown bemoans the lack of progress on the interoperability front, but isn't that putting the cart before the horse? Interoperability with what? Here's the scary part, his solution to the slow progress in interoperability:

In my view, the only hope of achieving any meaningful harmonisation work is to get Another Big Vendor interested in backing it, and I know some behind-the-scenes work will be taking place to beat the undergrowth and see if just such a vendor can be found.

ODF's Approval

The entire Brown tweet about ODF and OOXML on April 8 goes like this, for the record:

@dmahugh ODA=white elephant;ODF=nobody read it before yessing, but maybe one day;OOXML=tought fights;revealed JTC 1 procedures were rubbish

5:59 AM Apr 8th from BeTwittered

Alex Brown

Since Brown followed up with a complaint that Groklaw didn't reproduce his complete statement, I thought I would so now and respond. Let's compare.

For starters, it was the European Commission's Interchange of Data between Administrations Management Committee that urged OASIS in 2004 to submit ODF to ISO. Is Brown's flippant tweet not disrespecting that EU Commission committee, suggesting that its members failed to read ODF and mindlessly recommended its submission? I think we may assume that they read it carefully and liked what they saw. They were not alone, as I will demonstrate.

The National Archives of Australia not only read it, they helped to draft it and adopted it for the Archives. Microsoft joined the ODF Technical Committee. Is he saying Microsoft did not read it? Well, let's leave that in the Maybe column. If no one read it, why would membership in the ODF Alliance grow to 138 members in a month, which it did shortly before the ISO vote?

"In just a few weeks, there's been terrific momentum in support for the OpenDocument Format from across the globe," said Ken Wasch, the president of the Software & Information Industry Association and a member of the Alliance. "This diverse support grows everyday and ranges from the city of Bloomington, Indiana, and the National Archives of Australia to the Indian Institute of Technology and the Bristol City Council [United Kingdom]. All of our supporters know that ODF represents a better way for all governments to preserve, access and better control their documents," he said in a statement.

Speaking of reading and discussing, here's the OASIS message archives, where you can read all about just how detailed the discussion was at OASIS, and it was done in public, with anyone able to follow that discussion through the years. That's a refreshing policy, and it also makes it possible to deFUD the FUD, when folks make unsubstantiated claims. My point is this: how would Brown know who did or didn't follow those very detailed discussions? Obviously, he wouldn't. That's why I call it FUD.

As for ISO approval, here's the vote, reported on Andy Updegrove's Standards Blog May 03, 2006:

The vote passed with broad participation and no negative votes (there were a few abstentions), and ODF is now ISO/IEC 26300.
As you can see, it was unanimous, with "broad participation". If you've been following ODF as long as I have, you remember the detailed discussions and testing of ODF in Massachusetts, which made it an important topic as far back as early 2005. A lot of folks read it, as I think he must know. It was discussed at length and in detail. Papers were written on it. Public hearings were held. Here's Groklaw's ODF/OOXML permanent history of what happened. Dig in and see for yourself. Let me know about any broken links, please. Massachusetts keeps moving their documents around. I would too, if I had acted like Massachusetts, I would think. It's unseemly to say we told you so, but can't the new problems that just came to light about OOXML teach us something? Here's what I get out of it: if a large group of knowledgeable geeks tell you something technical won't work, and politicians and marketers tell you it will, you'd be wise to listen to the geeks.

If you'd like to know the latest, here's an article for you, an IEEE Internet Computing article on OpenDocument. More details on ODF here. As of February, 17 national and 8 provincial governments around the world have officially endorsed ODF for document exchange, with the UK doing so that month, according to this ODF Alliance press release [PDF]. RIM announced support for ODF in Blackberries too. And finally, here's Wikipedia's list of applications that support ODF, which leads me to the inevitable conclusion that even if Brown had been correct, it's clear a lot of folks have read ODF now and they love it and use it. Who is using the OOXML standard as "approved" at the BRM? No. Really. Have all the contingent approvals, based on promises to make certain changes, been accomplished? So is *anyone* able to use the BRM-approved "standard"? If not, on what basis would it be accurate to highlight ODF as any kind of issue? It's used, literally, all over the world. Can OOXML supporters like Mr. Brown say the same for that format?

Were the Appeals Against OOXML's Adoption Valid, Then, After All?

South Africa, in its appeal, said they were working too fast at the BRM:

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.

Brazil was specific, saying it was blocked from presenting a proposal about legacy binary mapping:
At the BRM, the Brazilian delegation was not allowed to present an important proposal regarding the legacy binary mapping. This proposal was a complementary part of USA delegation proposal regarding the new organization of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500. It also shall complement the scope change proposal approved at the BRM. Brazil has tried to present this proposal, during the debates, on the first day of the meeting and, attending to a request made by the convenor, Brazil has taken offline discussions with USA and other delegations and prepared its proposal to be presented on Friday, during USA proposal presentation.

On Friday, when USA ended their part of presentation and asked for Brazil to present its part of it, the convenor denied this opportunity to Brazilian delegation.

Several delegations has protested against that arbitrary decision, but those appeal was in vain and until the end of the BRM, the Brazilian delegation was not able to present its proposal. The main reason alleged by the convenor was "lack of time".

The proposal here mentioned, is the one available on the file "Br_Multipart_Proposal.ppt" available to all BRM members the ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34 website at least since the fourth day of the meeting.

Brazil also noticed that most of the decisions taken during the BRM were based on the "lack of time" argument, and we think that this is completely incompatible with the kind of decisions that should have be taken on that meeting.

India correctly identified the problem in its appeal, one that has come back to haunt OOXML:
During the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) on 25-29Feb 2008, a large number of modifications were decided to be made in the document. The whole document was restructured and scopes of different parts were modified.

As per 13.12 of JTC 1 directives it is stated that "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." However, the final text incorporating the modifications, as envisaged in the BRM is not available even as on date, thus violating JTC 1 directive.

And Venezuela spoke similarly, even providing a chart of unresolved issues:
1- In our opinion, the procedures used during the discussions of DIS 29500, including the Ballot Resolution Meeting held from 25 to 29 February 2008 are incompatibles with basic principles to the standardization, such as consensus, technically oriented discussions and redundancy of standards, among others.

2- It is also our opinion that the proposed standard produced trough this procedures may be detrimental to the reputation of IEC or ISO as an standardization body, because of the clear absence of guidelines for the presentation of ISO standards.

3- We believe that the use of the fast track procedures was inadequate to the length and technical complexity of the DIS 29500 proposal, which added to the lack of technical, objective discussion, and the fact that procedures used during the Ballot Resolution Meeting held from 25 to 29 February 2008 leaved unattended too many standing technical issues in the proposal, resulted in a standard proposal that lacks the quality that usually describes the body of work of ISO....

Venezuela challenges 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 by far did not 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 for not requiring any such [l]imitation as to duration.

If they were right, why were the appeals denied? I know the JTC1 folks don't care, but if you are thinking about adoption of ODF and/or OOXML, and you care about truly open standards, shouldn't you?

Update: Mr. Brown made a number of comments on this article, some so violative of our comments policy that they were removed. Many remain, and they struck me as being deliberately offensive, so as to get a rise out of Groklaw's readers. And sure enough, I see Mr. Brown tweeted the following on April 15 at 7:11 AM:

groklaw "a nasty little hate site"?
However, the plot flounders when Doug Mahue tweets in return:
today has been written off to groklaw bating
He links to one of his comments, without showing any context, but I've made a collection of his comments for you here and here.

So there you are. Now that they have admitted they were baiting us, you can study how they act and then in the future, you'll recognize the pattern. Please keep in mind when folks like this appear that they are deliberately trying to bait us, so you and I will say things they can then pretend they think is hateful. Blech. Like high school hijinks, but with a snitch element. While we were sincere, they were cynics. I despise such conduct of course, and I guess I thought men in their positions would act in a more mature way, but whatever.


Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface - Updated | 459 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here please
Authored by: PolR on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 05:15 PM EDT
So PJ can find them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here
Authored by: PolR on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 05:18 PM EDT
Please make the links clickies if you know how. Short instructions are in the
red text below the comment box.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Newspicks discussions here
Authored by: PolR on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 05:21 PM EDT
Please mention the news pick in the thread title so we know which on is being
discussed. Thanks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"I'm Shocked! Shocked!"
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 05:27 PM EDT
Hey, everybody!

What's really funny is that, anytime there is a complaint, the first defense is
misrepresentation. "PJ misrepresented what I said." "The
appeals are misrepresenting the process."

The sad part is that it works. To tell the truth, I had completely forgotten
about UhOhXML being a standard. I mean, I knew it was still out there, but I
have run across exactly one document that needed UhOhXML to open. Everything
else has been .doc for one job, .odf for another, and one instance of an

I view this as a victory of sorts. The ISO was bought off, and didn't care what
it had to do or what hit to its reputation it took to gift wrap M$' precious
format. And yet, as far as I can tell, adoption is horrendously slow. I mean,
I was seeing odf's the day the standard was approved. It was months before I
saw an OOXML, and there has been only one anyway.

It's very John Stuart Mill -- justice from the establishment can be
circumvented, but justice from those around you can often be harsher. We know
the whole thing was a sham, and no amount of paint is going to cover it up.

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface
Authored by: PolR on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 05:38 PM EDT
Rubbish is not the word I would use. This process has been completely and
egregiously subverted and the people in charge didn't care to do what it takes
to keep the subversion out. Or more exactly, they publicly stated there was no
problem and everything was fine by them.

For me, this is equivalent to agreeing with the subversion even if they (the
ISO/IEC people in charge) don't acknowledge there is subversion. The problems
are is too conspicuous to allow for for plausible deniability.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Cybertech Rambler Blog: Leopards finally revealing their spots?
Authored by: dio gratia on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 06:17 PM EDT
The recent CyberTech Rambler blog has a bit more on this fiasco. Don't miss Alex Brown's rebuttal comment.

It doesn't seem imaginable that the efforts to change OOXML to something that works by totally undoing the BRM will stop it from 'pining for the fjords'. Then again, there are egos and reputations involved - I'm sure we'll see someone declare victory at some point. The question is, will anyone every use it?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OOXML - The stinkiest red herring
Authored by: SpaceLifeForm on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 06:43 PM EDT
This was all a distraction created by the darkside
to attempt to keep Microsoft afloat.

Now that the stench is getting so bad,
people are running away.

I keep converting people over to OpenOffice,
and they are pleasantly surprised.

It's funny that Microsoft decided to put the kibosh
on their own pub after a year of development.
I guess the employees are doubting anything
Microsoft management says these days.


You are being MICROattacked, from various angles, in a SOFT manner.

[ Reply to This | # ]

IS29500 *IS* a Standard . . .
Authored by: tyche on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 07:05 PM EDT
Now, before you flame me, please hear me out.

Yes, 29500 is a standard. But to truly appreciate what that says and means, one
needs to complete the statement. And, in order to do that certain realizations
must be acknowledged. I will complete the statement at the end of this

First, to what does 29500 pertain? Unlike the BlueSky Ranger, I've seen no
evidence of a version of Office Open XML that conforms to 29500, nor have I seen
any document-processing program that uses a version of OhOhXML that conforms to
29500. I HAVE seen documents that say they are OhOhXML, but in every case it is
to a version that does not, and cannot, conform to the 29500 standard.
Therefore, I must contend that 29500 pertains to nothing.

Second, Standard. "Standards are necessary for interworking,
portability, and reusability. They may be defacto standards for various
communities, or officially recognised
national or international standards." So says a dictionary definition. I
have no problem with this definition, nor earlier ones from 1913 which, for the
most part, simply say that a standard is something recognized by an authority.
ISO/IEC has certainly done that with IS29500.

THEREFORE: What do we have. We end up with a document format definition which
is a standard of nothing. It is a standard for how not to interwork, how not to
be portable, and how not to be reusable. It is a yard-stick against which other
document formats can be measured, in order to determine their lack of
interworkability, lack of portability, and lack of reusability. Since it does,
in fact, meet the criteria of a standard and has been accepted by an authority,
we have no recourse but to accept it ourselves. But we should accept it as the
standard that it actually is, not as others would have us believe it is.

IS29500 *IS* a Standard . . . of nothing.


"The Truth shall Make Ye Fret"
"TRUTH", Terry Pratchett

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface
Authored by: electron on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 07:48 PM EDT
> f you are a government or an agency considering OOXML and
> whether you should adopt it, might it be wise to wait
> until it's actually finished and fully operational, quite
> aside from the abysmal lack-of-real-interoperability-
> with-ODF issue? Shouldn't a standard at least work?

I agree that a standard should indeed work.

What we have here is the equivalent of a standard for electricity plugs and
sockets where the plugs can't fit into the sockets.

Given that this is a "standard" that was shoved through the process by
Microsoft using tactics tailored to get it through as quickly as possible with a
few changes as possible, and given that Microsoft has a demonstrable history of
not getting things usefully usable until at least the third iteration, it is no
surprise that the OOXML "standard" does not work.

Also, given that we know we cannot trust Microsoft to do the right thing for the
public at large what is rather concerting, however, is Alex Brown's ongoing
complicity in continuing to support Microsoft's devious and untrustworthy
shunting of this lame duck "standard" through a process that
fundamentally requires trust and openness.

I would suggest that Alex Brown's word can be trusted to the same extent that
Microsoft can be trusted.

Apologies, PJ, if this is too strong an opinion, but it is my considered view of
all the circumstances, the processes, and the people that oh so clearly wanted
this abortion of a "standard" pushed through come what may.


"A life? Sounds great! Do you know where I could download one?"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown, another sad victim of PM
Authored by: kawabago on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 08:13 PM EDT
It's a sad truth that nearly everyone who enters a close relationship with
Microsoft eventually develops PM. PM, or Poop Mouth, is a relational condition
that worsens as dependence on Microsoft grows. Eventually the victim is unable
to say anything sensible at all. Alex Brown is in the intermediate stages where
he has lucid moments quickly shattered by explosive PM episodes. So when making
comments about Alex Brown remember, he is a person with a disability. He is
unable to tell the truth.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface
Authored by: wvhillbilly on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 10:38 PM EDT
ODF: A finely crafted airplane, easy to fly, dependable, safe, can take off and
land at any airport. Highly recommended.

OOXML: A horrible monstrosity cobbled together with parts from the Microsoft
junkyard, can't even move along the ground, let alone get off the ground. A
totally useless piece of junk.

Trusted computing:
It's not about, "Can you trust your computer?"
It's all about, "Can your computer trust you?"

[ Reply to This | # ]

If they were talking about parking spaces
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, April 12 2009 @ 11:25 PM EDT
It is mind-boggling how unfair, unfinished, and unfounded this standard is. If
this had been a process to approve universal parking spaces, this international
body would have approved spaces in a locked garage on the second story of a
microsoft lot - and they'd be too small!

Rather than watch a tested system and respected body self destruct with instant
members and secret votes. People should have hashed it out in public for the
sake of the people they represent.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Alex Brown: OOXML Revealed "JTC1 Procedures Were Rubbish" -- Sure Enough, Problems Surface
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 12:46 AM EDT

I don't get Alex Brown - he seems to have been fully assimilated by the Borg.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Still nothing from Neelie Kroes
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 02:21 AM EDT

A year later, and nothing on OOXML. Maybe she's short-staffed, but I'm still
puzzled. Maybe she needs provable damages in the market place, and Microsoft has
pretty much abandoned the standard, so the market damage can't be proved.

But if someone fires a gun at someone but doesn't hit anything, does that mean
it's not a crime? Or, if someone offers and bribe and the bribe is refused?

No harm, no foul?

[ Reply to This | # ]

It all came out about as well as can be expected
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 03:11 AM EDT
The whole MS-OOXML fiasco turned out about as well as could be expected for it.
It "passed", but in a manner that discredited it. It now has such an
aura of "fail" around it that all the committee work in the world
can't rescue it.

As for Alex Brown, it sounds as if he is looking for someone else to blame. He
used his position as chair to run rough shod over the committee and push through
something was wasn't ready. Now he is blaming "the system" for the
result. Oh, no, it couldn't possibly be his fault now, could it?

Microsoft wanted an ISO rubber stamp, and they got a rubber stamp. Their problem
is that people recognise it for what it is. A standard is is more important as a
way of creating consensus than as a way of creating a piece of paper. There was
no attempt at consensus here, so all that was created is the paper.

[ Reply to This | # ]

SC34 can't get even OOXML working, and Alex Brown/SC34 wanted to be put in charge of ODF
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 04:03 AM EDT
Is there no limit to impropriety and double standards at ISO?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Throwing the Chair?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 04:19 AM EDT
I have problems understanding what Alex Brown says and what he wants to achieve:
OOXML=tought fights; revealed JTC 1 procedures were rubbish.
Does Alex Brown as a Chair person want to blame now the JTC 1 procedures? And who were the fighters? Were they inside JTC1? I assume so because Alex Brown does not mention that the fights were with the non-JTC1 world. I get the impression that on purpose he does not want to clearly name someone, because then those who are named could give clear rebuttals ... and more details of JTC1 could come to light which might not be pleasant to JTC1 and its chair?

I would rather expect to blame ISO procedures and not JTC1 procedures -- assuming that JTC1 implements ISO rules. Or are there (important) differences?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reality check.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 05:14 AM EDT
Micro$oft has succeeded in passing its "own" standard as an ISO one.

The standard exist but, in its current state, cannot be used. Simply because no
one is willing to pay the horrible development price required to make the
software that will use it. Not even Micro$oft itself.

Until such software exist and works properly, OOXML simply doesn't exist.

ODF, also an ISO standard, has several software using it with success.
Therefore, it does exist.

It's that simple. Really.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I was right!
Authored by: Ian Al on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 05:17 AM EDT
Yes, yes, I know it's unseemly, but it's not often I'm right and it's even less
often that I remember that I was right.

At the time the OOPSXML was given the rocket-sledge ride through the BRM and was
finally approved as an international standard of excellence I said that I could
not imagine anyone with the skills to do the redrafting would care enough to
waste time on this standard. Told yah!

And, I remember something else. The UK BSI technical committee said 'just look
at all these faults, errors and unacceptable features. This is just not ready.
It's a disaster'. When the time came for the final acceptance vote, someone high
up said 'ignore the geeks, I think it is brilliant and I give the UK vote of
'Yes!''. They even went to the trouble of getting some external committee of
ne'er-do-wells to negate the technical findings. If only I cared enough about
the WHATTHEHEXML standard I would give you some linkies.

Ian Al

Linux: Viri can't hear you in free space.

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Alex Brown's Big Lie
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 05:42 AM EDT

Brown: "ODF=nobody read it before yessing"

There goes any remaining shred of reputation for objectivity he might once have had.

The record shows that ODF was not only read, but the subject of long, informed discussions among many people over an extended period. There are links to parts of that record in PJ's article.

Brown's comment tells us that he's just another Microsoft fanboy.

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OOXML - standardized by Gumbies!
Authored by: Cassandra on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 07:54 AM EDT
It sounds like OOXML has been standardized by Gumbies, inspired by their success with flower arranging... ;-)

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ODF and Docbook: why both?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 03:31 PM EDT

The more I learn about Docbook (I know, I'm late to the party), the more
confused I get about the rationale for ODF.

Is ODF a subset of XML in the way XML is a subset of SGML?

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OOXML=tought fights; revealed JTC 1 procedures were rubbish.
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 05:54 PM EDT
... because proper observation of the procedures would not have allowed the
draft to have been approved.

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The elephant in the room
Authored by: bigbert on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 08:45 PM EDT
Mr. Brown's replies and comments elsewhere on this blog appears to be reasonable
and lucid -- at first glance. But I have never been able to understand one
thing: WHY WAS OOXML CREATED IN THE FIRST PLACE? (Excuse my shouting). ODF was
already an international standard; why not work with the Oasis people and
develop it further? The usual answer is that "ODF doesn't support legacy
formats". Which "legacy formats?" Microsoft? WordPerfect?
MultiMate? It's a NEW standard, fer crying out aloud! You write a converter to
take documents in the old legacy formats and create new documents that conform
the an OPEN standard. "Legacy formats" is/was just a red herring to
confuse people, just as using "OpenOffice" when talking about
"OpenDocumentFormat" is/was a red herring. In other words, it is a
callous attempt to confuse non-technical people into thinking that the new
fandangled standard would mean that they have to buy new software and won't be
able to read their older documents.

The mere fact that Microsoft itself will not (can not?) support OOXML proves
that its motives were suspect. For a company with the resources of Microsoft it
should be trivial to write an ODF filter for MS Office. In fact, they not only
have the FULL spec for the format, but ALSO the source code (via OpenOffice).
But no, they prefer to NEITHER support OOXML NOR ODF. Why?

I cannot possibly see how Mr. Brown can defend this state of affairs. The
elephant in the room is simply this: MS wants to keep its stranglehold on office
software, even if it means perverting an organization like the ISO. But no, if
we say that then we are "linux fanbois" and "rabid

People, to have one American* corporation hold the keys to the storage of the
world's information is simply giving in to Fascism.

(* - or British, German, Chinese etc.)

Surfo, ergo sum.

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The Interpretation of Reams
Authored by: webster on Monday, April 13 2009 @ 09:48 PM EDT
What are they doing here? Marc and Alex, of course. Fascinating. How do they
think they are perceived? How do they perceive themselves? What are they
trying to accomplish?

They must know that many here think they have sold their souls and now do their
best to impersonate Monopoly puppets. Are they insensitive? How can they do
something so hostile to so many and then come around offering to raise the level
of discourse of their victims?

Were they paid to come here and distract PJ? Why both? Why now? Do they
realize it? As one who spent impressionable periods of youth and adulthood,
cross-eyed, at the knee of a psychoanalyst, --alas, one jumbles the ids and
egos. Are the esteemed bloggers engaging in some aggessive transference? Did
they think they would be welcomed and trusted? What a great misapprehension,
almost self-delusional! Anyway, they should not disturb their record in the
exhibits and minutes of their great performances. No, their comments around
here would disturb the parataxic distortion, especially retractions.


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Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer
Authored by: Yossarian on Tuesday, April 14 2009 @ 12:58 AM EDT
>Shouldn't a standard be, at a minimum, something you can, you know, actually

Q: How many Bill Gates' does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. He puts the bulb in and lets the world revolve around him.

Q: How many Microsoft executives does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We can see no need for uninstallation and have therefore made no provision
for light bulbs to be removed.

Q: How many Microsoft tech support people does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We have an exact copy of the light bulb here, and it seems to be working
fine. Can you tell me what kind of system you have? Okay. Now exactly how dark
is it? Okay, there could be 4 or 5 things wrong. Have you tried the light

Q: How many Microsoft technicians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Three. Two to hold the ladder and one to hammer the bulb into a faucet.

Q: How many Microsoft vice presidents does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Eight. One to work the bulb, and seven to make sure that Microsoft gets $2
for every light bulb ever changed anywhere in the world.

Q: How many Microsoft testers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We just determine that the room is dark; we don't actually change the bulb.
Since we have a dead-bulb result on file from a previous test, rest assured that
Development is working on a bug fix.

Q: How many Microsoft shipping department personnel does it take to change a
light bulb?
A: We can change the bulb in 7 to 10 working days. If you call before 2 PM, and
pay an extra $15, we can get the bulb changed overnight. Don't forget to put
your name in the upper right hand corner of the light bulb box.

Q: How many Microsoft managers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We've formed a task force to study the problem of why light bulbs burn out,
and to determine what, exactly, we as supervisors can do to make the bulbs work
smarter, not harder.

Q: How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. Bill Gates will just redefine Darkness as the new industry standard.

Q: How many Windows users does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But they'll swear up and down that it was JUST as easy as it would be
for a Mac user.

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OhOhXML - Shouldn't an XML-based standard at least get its own namespace right?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, April 14 2009 @ 05:17 AM EDT
For details of how they're trying to solve the namespace mess of ISO/IEC 29500, see this official, publicly-available document: SC34N1194. (The problem which these proposals aim to solve is that the schemas of Ecma-376:2006 and ISO/IEC 29500:2008 are different, but they use the same year number "2006" as version identification.)

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No ad hominem
Authored by: mvs_tomm on Tuesday, April 14 2009 @ 12:37 PM EDT
Tsk, PJ, oh so ready with the ad hominem aren't we?
There was no ad hominem in PJ's post. You are evidently unwilling to discuss this logically. You might find this description of the ad homimen fallacy fallacy educational.

Tom Marchant

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