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Peter Quinn's First Interview
Monday, January 23 2006 @ 03:05 PM EST

I'm sure you'd like to hear from Peter Quinn, formerly CIO of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, wouldn't you? Would you like to ask him why he quit, and who inspired The Boston Globe to investigate Quinn (which in turn instigated a Commonwealth investigation clearing Quinn completely), and what will happen to ODF? I felt the same way, and so I asked him. Here are his answers, the most important being:
1. he hears Microsoft was the Boston Globe's source

2. ODF has a good chance to prevail.

Here's the complete and exclusive interview, the first he's given to the press since he resigned. If you wish to refresh your memory on any points, here's Groklaw's permanent ODF/MS XML page.


PJ: What was the last straw that made you quit?

Quinn: The word that the IT Bond Bill would not be reported out as part of the total bond package (so Highway and Building Construction funds would be available but not IT funding). And the word was it was all about me.

Now the folks that have say here do not know me from a hole in the wall and the funds were for projects that were totally unrelated to ITD. I clearly had set the priorities for the Bond but this funding is for projects like a new Taxpayers System, new Registry of Motor Vehicles system, etc., all projects desperately needed by the citizens of the Commonwealth. Eric Kriss and I always had a goal of making IT "a"political and now it was rapidily becoming a political football of the highest magnitude.

I took this job in the hopes of making meaningful and institutionalized IT reform. All the previous efforts were about to be for naught as political payback. IT would and will grind to a halt if IT longterm funding is not released and if the Legislation that guts the Office of the CIO is passed. This was not a prospect that I wanted to facilitate by my presence.

If I am gone, I am sure much of the gamesmanship will subside. There are many very good people doing very good work that would be marginalized (my opinion) by my continued tenure. And to be brutally frank, the instigators of much of this legislation are represented by the true bottom feeders in the Legislature, in my view. To have to bow and genuflect to their likes is not something I could ever do. I do hope rationale voices will prevail (and I believe that will be the case).

PJ: Do you know who inspired the Globe to do the investigation? Was it Pacheco?

Quinn: Almost to a person, to anybody involved or who knows about the ODF issue, they attributed the story to Microsoft, right, wrong or otherwise. Senator Pacheco may be a bully but I do not believe he is disingenuous and would stoop to such a tactic. Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin's office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their playbook and words, in my opinion.

PJ: Do you plan to sue? (I know you likely don't, but I have to ask.)

Quinn: No, I do not plan to sue. In the end, I doubt I would prevail and the resources of the Globe far exceed anything I could bring to bear in that pursuit. The Globe and the Herald continue to publish stories of marginal intellectual content, seeking only the sensational headlines and then move on. Resources are rarely brought to disseminate substantive issues (as witnessed by the Globe editorial on Microsoft in today's paper) and the tone of almost everything that is written is negative. I doubt that the Ombudsman would undertake any investigation. I truly believe Steve Kurkjian got boxed in by spending a great deal of time and resources on a story that clearly didn't live up to what his original source led him to believe it would. Having spent that much time, Steve had to write something. And in the end, he wrote a fair story, delineating that there was no wrongdoing and he left no dangling participles. Too often these stories always leave doubt in the reader's mind and I think Steve insured that there was none in his 2nd story.

PJ: Do you know what's next for you? Are you getting offers?

Quinn: It is a blank piece of paper just now. I have a number of people that want to engage me in conversations. So I am engaged in those conversations and I am doing a number of speaking engagements over the next 45 days, the majority of which will continue to address all aspects of "open" and chronicle much of what has transpired here over the last six months.

PJ: You mentioned your family in your statement. Can you explain the impact all the press had on them?

Quinn: While my kids are seniors in college (and I am long divorced), it was readily apparent that they (my children), my siblings and my friends were on pins and needles wondering what would happen next. I am fortunate to have a great family and friends that stand by me regardless but I also know that the kind of accusatory information first floated in the Globe brings numerous questions and jaundiced reactions from everyone's acquaintences. My Mother always taught us to never be afraid of bullies and the disingenuous (certainly represented by MS, Secretary Galvin and Alan Cote, and some of the folks in the Legislature) but as anyone who has been on the receiving end of that kind of behavior knows, it takes its toll. So I get a clean bill of health, but what next? I have little doubt that my adversaries would stop at nothing and spread whatever maliciousness they could. It was apparent from the questions that were coming from the Globe after the initial entry that things that had never occurred were being fed to the Globe to add more gasoline to the fire. In fairness to everyone close to me, it was time to say enough is enough.

PJ: Your statement also said that your presence was threatening to block progress. Can you be specific about who was doing what?

Quinn: Certain members of the Legislature and the Secretary of State's office were the prime instigators. I referenced the IT Bond bill before as one example and the Legislation that would gut the Office of the CIO is another. If that Legislation were to pass, no one in State government nor from the cities and towns could do anything without going to the "Committee". This includes things as simple as purchasing cell phones to complex decisions such as standards. And to think that the Supervisor of Public Records, Alan Cote, would chair this group would be laughable if it wasn't such a serious issue. The man knows nothing about IT, never mind anything about electronic records.

PJ: What, in your opinion, will happen to ODF? We see the public statements, but since Romney is not running for reelection, what happens then? Does Microsoft have another shot at killing it?

Quinn: I believe that the ODF decision will stand. I believe MS will continue to do anything and everything it can to stop it. And I know my seat wasn't even empty and they (MS) took another shot at the title, to no avail. This horse is out of the barn and I see no way for it to go back in. Remember, all we are asking for was and is for Microsoft to commit to open and the standards process; so everyone looks really bad if the plug gets pulled at this juncture.

PJ: What is the latest on the attempt to alter who chooses software for the Commonwealth?

Quinn: The Legislation is still in play as far as I know. I do believe that any one with any common sense is lobbying against it. And I do not think it will be passed in its present form. I sincerely hope that saner heads prevail and policy making and standards remain within the Office of the CIO. Anything less will yield disaster as you can easily see from other states that do not have policy and operations in the same office.

PJ: I guess one last question I have personally would be: is the Ecma process open enough to qualify for the MA standard, and if so, and MA adds the MS XML, will that mean that Microsoft's monopoly position will elbow ODF to the side? and isn't MA concerned about security problems in a Microsoft monoculture? I guess that is three more. Oops.

Quinn: (Oops is ok!)

I think the world will watch the ECMA process and smarter people than I will insure it is "open enough" or cry out if it is not. It is a fast track process and it behooves all to be engaged and influence where they can. Based on conversations I have had with people that are familiar with the process, there is doubt that ECMA will be willing to force one standard. The end of the process is pretty far out so ODF has a real chance to be institutionalized.

Also, I think people are beginning to understand how desktops are being used in the Commonwealth which means that the vast majority of folks are content consumers. They require readers, a robust browser, email and maybe calendaring. Given that reality, it seems to be a blatant waste of the taxpayers' money to continue to buy MS Office when in fact most people use a very small piece of its functionality. And, as a user of Open Office myself for both professional and personal use, it certainly does fulfill all my requirements. And I use more of a suite's functionality than most folks in the Commonwealth.

So given ODF is the accepted standard and the changing face of desktop utilization, I think it has a real chance to prevail. And I would hope that ECMA would force one standard (not likely as noted above). That is not the Commonwealth's fight but the world benefits with only one standard. And yes, the MS monoculture is and will continue to be a security risk.

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