What a wonderful thing it is to be able to witness an event with your own eyes. I earlier put up a link to Dan Bricklin's audio of most of Friday's meeting on ODF and open standards. But the Berkman Center, which hosted the event at Harvard, now has video of the entire discussion which you can find on this page (.rm). Or here's a direct link to the download.
Here's what is fascinating to witness. Morgan W. Reed, Vice President for Public Affairs of the Association for Competitive Technology, showed up with Microsoft's talking points. Coincidentally, I'm sure. The looks on the faces of the panelists as they listen to him go on and on about the evils of ODF to small computer firms was a sketch. You don't see him, only hear his voice from off-camera, so you watch instead all the panelists politely gazing his way with a look it's hard to put into words.
Now, this was an invitation-only event, so somebody knew who they were inviting. And indeed, when Mr. Reed starts off with a description of his group, stressing all the little people he represents, the moderator asks if the association is small players only, and he fesses up that Microsoft is a member too.
Here's how ACT describes the organization:
"The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) is a national education and advocacy group for the technology industry. Focusing on the interests of small and mid-size entrepreneurial technology companies, ACT advocates for a 'Healthy Tech Environment' that promotes innovation, competition and investment. ACT has been active on issues such as intellectual property, international trade, e-commerce, privacy, tax policy and antitrust.
"ACT represents nearly 3000 software developers, systems integrators, IT consulting and training firms, and e-businesses from across the country. While ACT members include some household names like eBay, Orbitz and Microsoft, our members are primarily small and mid-size companies."
The organization certainly was active on issues like antitrust. Can you guess on which side? Of course, we here at Groklaw remember ACT from an article back in March of 2004, when there was an editorial by an ACT guy scolding the "anti-Microsoft cabal" for not realizing how wonderfully the antitrust settlement was working out:
"Sometimes people simply refuse to see the light. . . .
As it waits for an appellate ruling, this anti-Microsoft cabal is arguing that the company is shirking its responsibilities and the settlement is proving completely ineffectual. If only they would take off their blinders, they would see that this case has drastically changed the industry and that competition is healthy.
"From the beginning, it was clear to virtually everyone that the settlement was in the best interests of the industry, the economy and consumers. The agreement removed the cloud of government regulation that had been hanging over the entire industry and sent the message that it was time to focus on innovation and competition, instead of regulation.
Ah! Microsoft light. Here's an article from June of 2003 by the attorney for ACT, writing about the SCO case and all the "problems" the case highlighted about Linux development that would hold back Linux in the enterprise unless addressed, like indemnification:
While I am optimistic that these adjustments can be made, it may expand the growing rift between those who see open source as a moral, if not religious movement, and those who see commercial opportunity in this alternative development model. For example, the Free Software Foundation believes that no piece of software should ever be "owned." It is clear that IBM, Red Hat and others that are interested in developing sustainable open-software-based businesses must find ways to coexist with proprietary software.
However, it is unclear to me how the corporate community can continue to work with those who reject the entire principle of software ownership and simultaneously protect their investment in their own products.
It's comical to read now, because the dire predictions that businesses would decide not to use Linux because of SCO proved to be mostly just a SCO, or Microsoft, fantasy. Yes, Microsoft. Some have accused ACT of being a front for Microsoft, but Mr. Reed was very clear that he represents most particularly the little people, software developers working in their garages who haven't seen their wives in weeks, I believe is the way he puts it. Microsoft may be a member, but his real interest is the small developers. Uh huh. Here are some pearls of wisdom [PDF] from the President of ACT, called "Prevent Antitrust Suits from Undermining Intellectual Property Rights and Stifling Innovation":
The DOJ/FTC's Antitrust Guidelines for the Licensing of Intellectual Property (1995) have recognized the complementary purposes of the intellectual property and antitrust laws. Despite this, competitors and some regulators have recently sought to use antitrust suits to force IPR holders to give up control over their protected works, as in the recent Microsoft case where several state Attorneys General proposed that Microsoft be forced to publicly provide the source code to Internet Explorer free of charge. Similarly, European regulators have shown increasing willingness to subject protected works to a compulsory license regime because of alleged competition concerns.
See what I mean? Maybe they aren't a front for Microsoft. Maybe they just happen to agree on absolutely everything, and just happen to talk like each other too.
Anyway, Mr. Reed tries to dominate the meeting with his deep and abiding concerns about ODF. What do you want to bet he or his other brother Darl shows up Monday to share his worries about ODF with the committee, on behalf of all those little people, of course. They are inspirational, I'm sure.
These tapes are beyond fascinating. It's one thing to read this stuff, but to see it in action is far more affecting. The moderator had to do his little moderator dance eventually, although very subtly, to let anyone else have a chance to speak from the audience. If ACT is a front, I'd say Microsoft got its money's worth.
Take a look and form your own impression. Thanks to the video, you can. I expect we see a preview of some of the points that will be made on Monday. And if you are going, note that I'm told that anyone is allowed to tape. That doesn't mean I'll be able to get permission to show it on Groklaw, but I will try, and at least we'll be able to take accurate notes, if nothing more. Bricklin says, as always, that if anyone wishes to make an Ogg file of his recording, he's happy to put it up also on his site. I was curious what Dan uses to do his recordings, so I asked him.
Here's his answer:
I recorded this by getting permission to connect my MP3 recorder directly to the sound system. They had a mixer board with lots of outputs and I have an adapter (Shure A96F) that can go from that into the "line-in" input of my recorder. For this one I used a Roland R-1 recorder, recording directly to 64Kbps for direct posting to the web. I used my ListGarden (GPL) program to create the RSS feed and a companion HTML page. For the Mass ITD meeting I also connected to the sound system, but used an iRiver iFP-890 256MB flash MP3 player/recorder, recorded at 192Kbps and downsampled to 64Kbps with Adobe Audition, exported to MP3, and used Audacity to make the Ogg version.
Connecting to a good sound source is quite important for making it easy to listen to these meeting recordings. Just having a mike in the air, especially with low-res recording like you often get on an iPod (not the iRiver, though -- it is not low res), makes for a recording that works for reminding you of what was said but not the type of thing someone jogging or commuting will find easy to listen to. For future meetings, I bought a Shure wireless mike setup. They make a variety of good ones. (I got a cheaper one.) The pros seem to use the expensive ones and like the Beta 87A heads (they are more directional than the still-directional 58-based heads they tell me). I used a limiter on the Roland so that you don't get clipping when someone talks too loudly. For the Allaire meeting I posted on my blog, I used the Roland with a free-standing mike clipped to a stand about 5 or 6 feet away from the people talking. The mike was a cardioid lavalier (Audio-Technica AT831B) connected through the adapter (which converts XLR plugs to 1/8" plugs and matches impedance or something) to the Roland.
A "complete" meeting recording system would include a recorder of some sort, cables for connecting to whatever you find (XLR, 1/4", and 1/8" to your recorder input), a wired mike (directional when needed to complement the builtin omnidirectional one your recorder probably has), and an optional wireless handheld to run around with or pass around like I did for the OSS SIG and Mass ITD meetings.
My choices of equipment are relatively random and do not necessarily imply that I've researched the field.
For those who prefer a transcript, here's is one portion of Mr. Reed's comments, his opening remarks:
Morgan Reed: I'm Morgan Reed Association for Competitive Technology. We represent about 3,000 *small* guys and overarchingly I'd say that there are a lot really good points in the . . .
Moderator: Are you an only small, what's the...
Reed: We have the, we have a full, full range. We have big guys but our primary, our primary voice is small.
Moderator: And you're talking about software?
Reed: Small integrators, vendors, um, it's the guys who are looking to make the new product as well as the guys who make sure that the law firms work.
Moderator: Open, proprietary, whatever?
Reed: The whole works. Yes, we go all over, from two guys in a garage to Oracle, E-Bay, Microsoft, Verisign and Orbits (although now they're Ascendant). The full range, but our primary core membership and the people who make my phone ring at night are the small guys in their garage who haven't seen their wives in six weeks.
When this initially was announced, the biggest concern that they had was it seemed 1) to be an elimination of choice, that from their perspective (and these are my friends on the Open Source side too) was all of a sudden you went in from a position of being able to argue the technological merits of what you were doing. If you were an integrator, if you built a product for, say, 30,000 government employees that glued different pieces together. You were now restricted from doing a value added. Say I take this format and this format. There was a question of loss of choice, was the first merit.
The second part was a confusion as to what it meant in terms of why is PDF, um, how does this work because there was the feeling there was a continuum of intellectual property rights. What does this mean for me? What if I innovate on it? What if I create this new idea? And then the last big complaint was a feeling that (and you said process) but I just want to identify where the three things are, choice, innovation, and a feeling that it was untested.
There were concerns . . .
Moderator: The format in particular . . . ?
Reed: . . . of format in. . . Yes, the format, it was completely untested, that none of the small integrators had been rolling out had yet even rolled out this solution in terms of marrying various document formats together. There was a feeling that there, they had no proof of concept. There were some enormous training costs that there were going to be, that they had to deal with. And again, you pointed out earlier, you know, this question of guys complaining that their business model might be out. But, that's easy to say and just wing off. But it's actually, when it's people's jobs, and it's people's livelihoods, I think it's flip to say that. But it actually has some practical, there are some practical considerations that you have to consider.
The transcript is from 23:15-25:55.