OOXML Comments Closed to the Public?

There appears to be a “closing of ranks” by Microsoft/ECMA in relation to the administration, reading and checking of the comments for the forthcoming Ballot Resolution Meeting. [Not at http://www.dis29500.org though.]

Rob Weir has, in his typically articulate style, explained the situation thus:

Microsoft risks a repetitive stress injury from the recent frenzy of patting themselves on the back for responding to some of the ballot comments submitted in the failed OOXML ISO ballot of Sept 2nd.

They claim to be transparent and acting so that NB’s can easily review their progress in addressing their comments.

Well, let’s take a closer look.

First, Microsoft has managed to get JTC1 to clamp down on information. What was a transparent process is now mired in multiple levels of security leading to delay, denial of information to some NB participants and total opaqueness to the public.

Let’s review how things worked with ODF.

  1. OASIS ODF TC mailing list archives are public for anyone to read
  2. OASIS ODF TC public comment list archives are public for anyone to read
  3. OASIS ODC meeting minutes, for every one of our weekly teleconferences going back to 2002, are all public for anyone to read.
  4. The results of ODF’s ballot in ISO are public, including all of the NB comments
  5. The comments on ODF from SC34 members are also public
  6. The ISO Disposition of Comments report for ODF is also public for anyone to read

Short of allowing the public to read my mind, there is not much more we can do in OASIS to make the process more transparent. (And if you read this blog regularly you already have a good idea of what I’m thinking.)

But what about the OOXML process? Every single one of the above items is unavailable to the public, and in many cases cases is not available even to the JTC1 NB’s who are deciding OOXML’s fate.

Rob’s post has been forwarded to me twice now today. And just to re-iterate and to be absolutely clear, anyone can read all ~3500 comments on http://www.dis29500.org.

We (The Open Learning Centre) are running this site for anyone who feels interested in this subject. All the NB’s comments are available and sorted by country and are tagged with a unique ID. Individuals have been hard at work clarifying, and commenting on, these comments in an effort to sort “the wood from the trees”. In fact, at the time of me writing this, there are 742 classified comments on our site. Approximately 80 more than ECMA have managed to deal with 😉

You can easily help by identifying the duplicate entries, and those which are not relevant to the BRM. You can also help by identifying the comments which should be classed as “Issues of Substance”. These are the hard ones. The things that we really want ECMA to rectify before it should become a standard. Areas such as Openness, Interoperability, Platform Independence, Accessibility, Freedom from Patent Restrictions etc etc etc.

Why not help your NB by looking for those comments and letting them know the comments they should be discussing at the BRM?

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One Comment

  • Dave says:

    Why oh why can’t Microsoft tell me why we should even be having this discussion. OOXML is clearly broken beyond repair – but that’s not even the point. We don’t need another ISO standard for productivity software data storage. ODF is already THE standard.

    Why can’t Microsoft just work with ODF and accept the challenge of developing products that (ge this) compete on their merits? Clearly, OOXML is a last ditch effort to save a failing cash cow. The other major attempt to shore up the MS Office monopoly is SharePoint. Stay away from both – they’re poison.

    As a side note: the whole “backward compatibility” farce in OOXML is a total red herring – a standard should describe how data should be – not how it was in bunch of obsolete, totally separate non-standards. Microsoft isn’t fooling anyone – perhaps all this noise is designed to distract people away from some other nefarious Microsoft activities? Or maybe it’s just to keep us busy so we don’t have time to enumerate the misleading half-truths surrounding the “resounding successes” of Vista and Zune…

    Heh heh.


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