OOXML: In Trouble Down Under

ITWire are carrying a news story from a couple of individuals involved with Standards New Zealand (SNZ). [Updated]

It would seem that some of SNZ’s advisers aren’t happy to say the least:

Don Christie, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society and a member of the Standards NZ (SNZ) OOXML Advisory Committee, says: “It is the view of the NZOSS that Microsoft and ECMA have failed to provide quality responses to SNZ comments. Even where they have supposedly ‘agreed’ with the comment the actual resolution has either introduced more/different problems or simply made the original item ‘unspecified’.”

Please ensure that your local NB is aware of their position after the SNZ carried out an excellent technical review and analysis during the initial fast-track review period. As we know already there are many NBs (National Bodies) which, surprisingly, upgraded their status just before September’s vote and, rather amazingly for a 6000+ page specification found no fault whatsoever and voted YES with no comments.

A comment from Franco Merletti on Andy Updegrove’s blog summed up this very well:

Maybe they can ask some people at the ISO National Bodies of Cyprus island, Jamaica island, Malta island, Cote d Ivoire and Lebanon, what caused their “sudden” motivation to ask (and get) ISO JTC1 P-member status a few days previous to DIS 29500 September/2007 ballot closing…

… just to vote unconditionally yes to +6000 pages of a notably flawed specification ( which until now achieved an outstanding mark of +3000 observations and +2000 quick-fixes/deletions/deprecations with only a few months of a rushed review and which final proposed text remains undefined ) generated in less than 1 year in a closed, not traceable nor accountable process at an ECMA Technical committee formed and lead by Microsoft.

I wonder how much technical review meetings took place at this national bodies to review DIS 29500 ( any minutes of this meetings? ) and what caused their unprecedented interest in Document Description and Processing Languages standards related to structured markup languages (specifically the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and the Extensible Markup Language (XML)) in the areas of information description, processing and association ( ISO JTC1 SC34 area of interest ).

I don’t want to be disrespectful with this countries, but i don’t consider standards and standardisations as a “game to win” ( it seems that some corporations have this point of view ).

I see here an amazing lack of respect, because many responsible JTC1 P-members ( with background and expertise in this field ) did a lot of *hard* work to review DIS 29500 to decide if it has the technical merits to be an ISO fast-tracked standard ( i.e: UK BSI [1], USA Incits/V1 [2], Japan, Canada [3], China, India, France [4], etc. ) and this other national bodies just seems to be pawns in the game, leaving the technical work aside.

Wake up ISO, wake up end users ! demand quality in standardisation ! Money shouldn’t buy standards.

franco merletti
[1] http://www.xmlopen.org/ooxml-wiki/index.php/DIS_29500_Comments
[2] http://www.ibiblio.org/bosak/v1mail/
[3] https://forums.scc.ca/forums/scc/dispatch.cgi/public/docProfile/100009/d20070504104953/No/t100009.htm
[4] http://iso-vote.com/afnor.html

The NBs that care so much, and have worked so hard to try and create a usable specification from this mess should be applauded. But their work should also be explained and reviewed by those NBs that found little or no fault with the initial proposal.

If they are struggling with the enormity of the task, we have established dis29500.org to help them. Take a look and help to verify ECMA’s responses.

ECMA, the organisation responsible for actually pushing this standard through ISO, have yet to release the new specification, based on the analysis and examination of the original 3522 comments submitted. The new proposal will be significantly longer than the original and is supposed to be voted on before the end of March. There is NO WAY that a comprehensive review of such a large specification can be done in this time frame. ECMA should withdraw their application fully and re-submit when they think they have a decent proposal. And they should not try to fast-track it either.

Christie says that responses have often been of poor quality. “If we were to extrapolate (the) poor quality of responses we have seen to the 54 Standard NZ comments to those of all the other NBs then we can only conclude that the result is probably a worse mess than the document we reviewed last August. Of course, that is conjecture because ECMA have yet to release the revised document, despite having made assurances that they would have done by now.”

How can any non-partisan NB vote unreservedly yes when there are standards bodies with exemplary reputations having found so many errors and inconsistencies in the same specification?

ISO Standards are for the benefit of us all. They should and must not be used for the benefit of one company so as to retain it’s Monopoly. Vote NO.

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  • Don Christie says:

    Hi Alan.

    I see your entry is being linked to quite widely. I should point out that I do not speak for Standards NZ. I do not know what their views are. The NZOSS is one voice on the advisory committee which contains a wide variety of perspectives from different stakeholders.

  • Alan Lord says:

    Hi Don,

    thanks for the clarification. I’ll update my wording (just) a bit.


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