OOXML: Flogging a Dead Horse

I am continually amazed by the amount of time, energy and expense that the ISO are going to to support the standard that nobody really wants or believes (in except for one corporation and it’s paid lackeys of course). Yes, it’s IS29500 (OOXML to you and me).

In the last few weeks we have had coverage with some lovely photos of the events taking place in Korea from that bastion of fair play and honesty Alex Brown. How the poor live eh? All sponsored by our friends and yours: Microshaft. Well actually, if you buy their software, you have probably been paying for the luxury hotels, drinks and food.

We have also heard how the Norwegian NB (National Body), that actually voted against OOXML becoming a standard but were ignored, has resigned en-masse:

We end our work with Standard Norway because:

  • The administration of Standard Norway trust 37 identical letters from Microsoft partners more than their own technical committee.
  • The process within Standard Norway has been unpredictable and the administration has changed the rules along the way.
  • Standard Norway and ISO have committed a series of violations of their own rules and other irregularities in the OOXML process.

“Standard Norway has overruled hundreds of thousands of users in the public and private sectors”, says Martin Bekkelund.

The mass-copied Microsoft-letter did not contain a single professional argument. Standard Norway first said that these kinds of statements would not be given any weight. However, at the end of the process they changed their mind and emphasized the Microsoft letters. Thereby, Standard Norway misled the committee members.

And we have also seen IBM – a conservative corporation by any measure – making a public statement about the standards process needing reform. Bob Sutor expands on the announcement:

I’ve asked before in this blog if we don’t need some sort of full disclosure from standards participants. In the wiki IBM facilitated last summer, there was a good discussion of the notions of open government and how these might apply to standards making. Over time various votes on standards will be won or lost. I think an open, transparent organization should help users and other stakeholders understand who voted how and why. This is especially true for organizations that represent countries. We must have and understand accountability.

Not very clouded words for “ISO: Sort out your house or become an irrelevance”.

And we also had, back in September, the signed declaration by 6 countries – Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela – deploring the refusal of ISO and IEC to further review the appeals submitted by the National Bodies of four nations.

And in support of ODF we have – almost daily it seems – countries, public bodies & departments and corporations requiring/mandating [PDF] the use of the open and royalty-free ODF to store their documents. Here some of the countries that have (or are) adopted ODF: Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, France, Japan, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland and Uruguay. Many others are close on their heels.

Which countries have formally adopted OOXML? Which countries have said they are thinking about adopting OOXML? I have yet to see any. Perhaps Côte d’Ivoire might eh?

But OOXML is not quite dead yet. There is a danger. And one we must all be vigilant toward: There is a possibility of Microshaft and it’s Lackeys trying to gain control of the maintenance of the ODF standard. Currently this is handled by the very open and transparent OASIS organisation. This process might end up being transferred to ISO under the guise of a group known as SC34. This committee is loaded full of Microsoft puppets – several of whom are British and have shown a total disregard for due process to this date.

Perhaps the title shouldn’t be “flogging a dead horse” but more of a “dead cat bounce“.

OOXML (And Microsoft): In Memoriam

I haven’t written much about the OOXML scandal for a while now for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve had more important things to do.
  2. I honestly believe that it is going to be a totally insignificant and inconsequential standard that will probably be dead (isn’t it already?) before it’s first birthday.

However, having just read the flame-war over on Alex Brown’s blog I couldn’t resist and simply had to make a comment. Which I did 😉 If it isn’t approved for some reason, that comment (verbatim) is here:

Words, Words, Words…

Will all of you get a life; please?

We all know that OOXML will be approved, but who gives a toss anyway?

It will be of little or no importance to anyone. It’s a dead duck before the shell is even broken.

Nobody believes it was an “honest” process. No body believes that Microshaft didn’t screw the process. No body believes that Doug ‘Mawho’ is Vice President of IASA Malaysia. Nobody believes that Azerbaijan, Côte-d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malta, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and others weren’t bought and paid for. And EVERY one believes Martin Bryant when he said so publicly:

“The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”.”

Who are you trying to kid Alex? What do you gain? A few nice juicy contracts and some speaking engagements at M$’s ‘special rates’?

Move along. Nothing to see here.

So swiftly moving on, I really don’t think OOXML is worth wasting much time over any more. Even M$ it seems doesn’t really want IS29500. The rest of us really care little about it, especially now there are so many other avenues for preservation of our data and the world is finally starting to “grok” what Open really means.

So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

OOXML: 2006-2008

Tesco, Mill Road, Cambridge

Alex Brown recently blogged about a Tesco planning application in his local area. He describes the local campaign as organised and professional when compared with the noooxml campaign. I somehow don’t think that marching around the CICG wearing hi-vis jackets and waving hand painted banners made out of old sheets would have conveyed a professional image. Be thankful for small mercies Alex.
The continuing lack of coverage in the mainstream media astonishes me. This is one of the most interesting global stories I have ever followed. There are pockets of intrigue everywhere, off the top of my head I can think of interesting things that have happened in Norway, Germany, Malaysia, France, Poland, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Croatia, Kenya, Denmark, Venezula, now perhaps something weird in the UK and lets not forget Sweden where the gloves came off.
To stretch Alex’s metaphor a bit, lets imagine that the East Area Committee consisted of 23 people, 21 voted against Tesco and 2 voted for the extension (one works for Tesco, the other works for a small hand carwash business that washes cars in Tesco carparks). Then lets imagine that 20 of the No voters were then chucked out of the room and a revote held. Now lets imagine that the council is not democratically accountable and it wasn’t even your local council, but one in another country.
Now lets imagine that if the planning goes through then the Tesco will pressure the government to mandate that all groceries sold anywhere must have Tesco lables on them. (They promise that anyone can stick Tesco lables on groceries and sell them and they won’t sue, so that isn’t at all anti-competitive is it?).
Good job this is all make-believe isn’t it.

Alex Brown – Convenor of the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML

Microsoft continues to do its level best to drag the ISO process for the OOXML ‘standard’ through the dirt. Their latest astonishing move was to drag 20 partners into the Swedish voting process at the last minute. These Microsoft partners didn’t contribute or take part in the debate about approval of the spec, they just turned up and paid to vote for Microsoft. I am amazed they found this many people who didn’t have the ethical standards to know that what they were doing was wrong.

With a variety of votes from the national bodies it seems there will be no consensus so the next step is a Ballot Resolution Meeting. This will happen in Geneva and will be chaired by Alex Brown of the UK, who happens to have a blog. He is on the blogroll now, and I predict we will be hearing a lot more about him and from him in the next few months. So far he seems to dislike the NoOOXML campaigning but I think he would also dislike the way Microsoft are gaming the system. The process is important and I am sure he will see it is followed in spirit and letter, his writing is balanced and neutral (so I don’t like everything) and I think he will do a great job for ISO in this important role.