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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.


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