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To read comments to this article, go here
Cuba Votes No to OOXML - Says It Did So in September, Too - Updated 2Xs
Monday, March 24 2008 @ 01:17 PM EDT

More OOXML news. The Cuban National Bureau of Standards has reportedly sent an email to the three names NBs are supposed to notify at ISO, Toshiko Kimura, Keith Brannon, and Martine Gaillen, reporting that Cuba votes to disapprove OOXML.

But the startling news is that the email claims that Cuba voted no in September but that its vote was miscounted.

Update: I checked the new rules, and I see that the email is supposed to go to Maho Takahashi, Brannon and Gaillen. I'd say, based on that, the email, if it is authentic, would need to be resent and redone to fully meet the new rules.

Update 2: Here's confirmation that this is, in fact, authentically the Cuban vote:

La Oficina Nacional de Normalización de Cuba (NC) que representa al país ante la Organización Internacional de Normalización ISO (International Organization for Standardization) e IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) informa a todas las partes interesadas en los temas informáticos, así como a todos los usuarios de las páginas Web de dichas organizaciones y otras vinculadas a las tecnologías de la información que el voto de Cuba sobre el referido proyecto de Norma Internacional es de DESAPROBACIÓN (2007-08-31, 2008-03-20), el cual se sustenta en los comentarios y argumentos que siguen, los cuales han sido presentados al Secretariado Central de la ISO siguiendo los trámites oficiales establecidos en los procedimientos que rige la votación sobre los proyectos de Normas Internacionales.

It also confirms that this was Cuba's vote originally.

If you recall, the public announcement by ISO in September said that Cuba had voted to approve, which led to puzzlement. Not so, says the email, which was sent on Friday evening and broadly cc'd, including to all the NBs, perhaps to ensure there was no confusion this time. Cuba was deeply injured by the false report, the email says. Cuba voted no with comments in September. It never approved OOXML.

Cuba lists the reasons for its vote of disapproval: that we don't need another format standard for documents, because ODF exists; OOXML really is only useful for Microsoft Office; Cuba believes there are security concerns with any Microsoft software, in addition to monopoly and patent issues with OOXML; Microsoft refused to support ODF; its legacy documents required you to use their software, enabling vendor lock in; Cuba supports truly open standards.

This saga just gets more and more confusing. If Cuba is an O Member, as I recall it to be (although I don't see it listed by name on the ISO list for SC 34, although the Cuba page includes SC 34 in its JTC1 list), does it get to vote? We were told O Members were allowed to vote at the BRM, but I've been unable to find anything in print that says that was appropriate. But the September vote was valid, certainly, so if this is in relation to a change, then it would seem to be valid too. It alters the totals for the September vote, at a minimum, although it in no way alters the outcome, which was to disapprove. Does anyone know at this point what is happening? How are votes verified? Or emails, for that matter? What is the process? How does anyone know if this email is authentic? Did Cuba touch all the necessary bases in the new rules? I'm trying to find out. If it's true that Cuba's September vote was miscounted, it highlights that there can be problems in such a closed system. And the bottom line to me is that a process that worked perfectly well when folks all trusted each other falls into chaos when there are allegations of dirty tricks or undue pressure. At that point, verification becomes a lot more important.

You probably also want to read Open Malaysia Blog today, "How to Royally Annoy National Bodies". There is a letter from the Chairman of the Malaysian National Standards Committee on E-Commerce, SIRIM TC4, responding most forcefully to what he calls inaccuracies ("Dear Doug, I am surprised and appalled to read your blog and its many inaccuracies.") in Microsoft's Doug Mahugh's account of a recent meeting in Malaysia Mahugh tried to attend.

Just to reiterate the new rules, here's what NBs are supposed to do:

* Vote change shall be communicated by email addressed to Keith Brannon ... as well as Maho Takahashi ..., Martine Gaillen ... and yourself on copy.

* The following shall be indicated in the subject. "Modification to the vote on DIS 29500 - Country (National Body/e.g. JISC)"

* The name of sender shall be mentioned in the email.

And Harish Pillay has posted on his blog the IEEE Code of Ethics, comparing it to the OOXML process:

I am finding that the ooxml debate is not compliant with my ethics. I have seen/read/know of items related to #4 above and seen efforts to undermine #5 above.

Ultimately, it is a battle of corporate interests against technical accuracy. Throwing out ooxml in its current form to the original authors to come back with all the proposed fixes included and to submit to a proper non-expedited process is what we need. I do not want my country to be held accountable to agreeing or disagreeing to something that has issues - even if these "issues" can be resolved post-approval.

Many people are arguing that an abstain vote would be a good one. I think that is a cop out, because the ISO voting scheme would then ignore abstentions. Look at the way the BRM votes went. The vast majority of delegations abstained, and when things were counted, the yea sayers were way less than 20%. How is that then a consensus? I continue to be troubled by all of this.

So you know what he's talking about, here is how the Code of Ethics reads:

We, the members of the IEEE, in recognition of the importance of our technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world, and in accepting a personal obligation to our profession, its members and the communities we serve, do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree:

1. to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;

2. to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist;

3. to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;

4. to reject bribery in all its forms;

5. to improve the understanding of technology, its appropriate application, and potential consequences;

6. to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;

7. to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;

8. to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin;

9. to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action;

10. to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.


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