The Results of the Vote

After many allegations of corruption, vote rigging, ballot stuffing and rule changing the votes have been cast and all that remains is the counting. The official results are arriving in dribs and drabs, prompting more suspicions of irregularities. It seemed neck and neck at first, but then as more results are announced it seems that the the efforts of the community to preserve the last shreds of democratic process may not have been enough. The stakes are high and the world media is watching closely, or as closely as they can since they are barred from entry. Freedom is at stake here, and the future of an entity with $28 billion turnover.

Hang on, world media? But that can’t be OOXML? And why $28 billion? Wikipedia puts Microsoft’s turnover at $51.12 billion.

No, the $28 billion is the GDP of Zimbabwe, who, just for the record, abstained on the OOXML vote. I hope Microsoft are happy they seem to be doing even better than Mugabe. They seem likely to be the proud owners of the worst international standard money can buy. Not sure how Zimbabwe is going to turn out, but I suspect it won’t be peaceful.

When campaigning against a planning decision about a local supermarket people march about with hand painted banners. When campaigning against a new road people build tree houses and don’t wash. When campaigning against animal testing it is traditional to handcuff yourself to the laboratory gates and be dragged away screaming. When campaigning against a redundant and commercially motivated market distorting international standard we wrote words. We held a conference. We wore suits. We handed out information to people who asked for it. Some people waved a few flags. We got branded as disorganised and unprofessional.

I hope that Microsoft won’t lobby governments to use OOXML.

I hope Governments won’t send OOXML documents to their citizens, effectively mandating the purchase of Microsoft software.

I hope the OLPC XO laptop and other Linux based pervasive low cost, low footprint computing devices won’t find themselves locked out of markets where they just don’t have the computing muscle and storage to support OOXML.

I hope that Microsoft won’t exploit the fact that their software is a definitive implementation of the standard (not a reference implementation, because it is closed and you can’t refer to it).

I hope that the Open Source community won’t divert too much effort into supporting this standard.

I hope that Microsoft actually write ODF filters to allow their software to load and save ODF documents demonstrating their belief in “choice in standards”.

I hope the Fast Track process never happens again.

I hope ISO survives, the world needs good standards and an impartial curator of them.

OOXML: Join in the Bug hunt

Let’s join in the bug hunt [Updated: See below]

Rob Weir has produced another little gem of an analysis: to do a reasonably scientific search for errors and bugs in the OOXML specification. The idea is to see just how many errors were really caught in the original 5 month review process for the 6045 page specification, and how effective the BRM, held in Geneva a couple of weeks ago, was at fixing them.

His initial findings do not make very comforting reading…

… I’m not done with this study yet. I’m finding so many defects that recording them is slowing me down considerably. But since this is topical, I will list what I have found so far, based on the first 25 random pages, or 1/8th completion of my target 200. I’ve found 64 technical flaws. None of the 64 flaws were addressed by the BRM. Among the defects are some rather serious ones such as:

  • storage of plain text passwords in database connection strings
  • Undefined mappings between CSS and DrawingML
  • Errors in XML Schema definitions
  • Dependencies of proprietary Microsoft Internet Explorer features
  • Spreadsheet functions that break with non-Latin characters
  • Dependencies on Microsoft OLE method calls
  • Numerous undefined terms and features

… this doesn’t look good, does it? Not only am I finding numerous errors, these errors appear to be new ones, ones not detected by the NB 5-month review, and as such were not addressed in Geneva. Since I have not come across any error that actually was fixed at the BRM, the current estimate of the defect removal effectiveness of the Fast Track process is < 1/64 or 1.5%. That is the upper bounds. Of course, this value will need to be adjusted as my study continues. However, it is starting to look like the Fast Track review was very shallow and detected only a small percentage of the errors in the DIS.

If you fancy helping Rob and the rest of the free world, he lists the page numbers (chosen at random) from part 4 of DIS29500 that should be examined in detail for errors and such like. Here’s just a few of the page numbers (out of 200) to check:

… 1102, 1611, 3016, 2646, 3083, 5105, 747, 1142, 2596, 845, 626, 4047, 1415, 5143, 3997

The fact that in examining just the first few pages he finds numerous NEW errors indicates yet again, that this specification should never have been Fast Tracked in the first place and is just simply not in a fit state to be declared an ISO standard.

It really does make me wonder how certain National Bodies can be even remotely sincere when they decide to approve such a badly written specification.

[Update: In the few scant hours since Rob’s article was originally published, go and check the comments section! Even if you aren’t a software engineer, the errors and inconsistencies being reported are simply mind boggling. How on earth can this specification be approved as an international standard when it is just so bad?]

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

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 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.

OOXML is hotting up again! This time in the Philippines.

Now the time is getting closer for the BRM, the noise level is starting to grow too! Lots of positioning, posturing, PR and lobbying is going to go on between now and next February.

This story caught my eye today:

PHILIPPINES–Microsoft and industry body Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) have teamed up to drive the adoption of Office Open XML in the Philippines.

According to Dave Walsh, Microsoft’s senior standard program manager, the Philippines was one of the countries which voted “no” on the use of OOXML.

“The country voted ‘no’ with clarifications. This means the panel voting on the standard still needs more information about Open XML,” Walsh said at the briefing last week.

Well now. Let’s have a look at this in a bit more detail… In the vote in September, the following countries (in that part of the world) voted with comments as follows:

Japan: 81, New Zealand: 54, Australia: 30, Korea: 25, Malaysia: 23, Philippines: 7, China: 1, Thailand: 1.

You can see the nature of the comments by the Philippines here, and, as a matter of fact, you can see the comments left by all of the voting members. is hosted by us as an Open endeavour to enable anyone to assist with the monumental task of identifying duplicates, comments that can be easily dealt with and comments of real substance that must be addressed.

But what about the two voting members who only made one comment? Here’s China’s

China National Body have been paid special attention to the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 ballot. Great work have been done and during the process we found it is a very complex technology which needs further more time to establish testing environment for thoroughly and deeply evaluation. We think the fast-track procedure is not suitable for this DIS.
We requested an extension to the ballot period for the DIS29500 for another 6 months in the letter to ISO/IEC JTC1 secretariat as well as ITTF. We still keep to our position that more time is necessary and essential to conduct a credible and responsible evaluation.

And here’s what Thailand though of ECMA-376

We disapprove the draft ISO/IEC 29500 for the reason that the time given by the fast-track processing is not enough for consideration of this important draft.

Ahhhh, now I can see why Microsoft are courting the Philippines. In the UK we like to call this “low hanging fruit”… But even here, their final comment is common with many others:

As well as other sub-sections within this level make references to proprietary applications whose behaviors are undefined in the standard. For example, autospaceLike Word95 specifies that implementations should autospace like Word95 but exactly how Word 95 autospaces is a Microsoft Company secret.

Precisely. How can something like “autospaceLikeWord95” be in an ISO specification? Not very “OPEN” is it?

I wonder how Microsoft are helping CompTIA? Free Training perhaps, low cost licenses, gold-partner upgrades????

Ecma-376, DIS 29500, OOXML: Vote fails to get Majority needed

Well, it looks like this is the final tally based on a leaked doc from Finland (allegedly): 17 Yes, 15 No, 9 Abstentions.

Microsoft have failed to get the required 2/3rds majority so it is on to the BRM in February (Unless in the meantime some of the comments are un-reconcilable whereby the whole process could be thrown out!)

On the site they have a list of all votes cast, including the “O” members.

Acknowledgements: NoOOXML, Andy Updegrove, Groklaw, Andreas Fischer

Any further votes that come in I will try and add to this page as soon as possible. Drop me a comment if you know something more or find any inaccuracies.

Update #1: Apparently Ecuador has voted no:

Update #2: Thanks for the link Andy, have removed non-members of the ISO JTC1

Update #3: The *** indicate a “new” P status member. Probably a M$ puppet.

Update #4: Andy Updegrove now believes that this voting round will result in OOXML NOT gaining the 2/3 majority needed to gain automatic approval as an ISO standard. [Be sure to read the comments on Andy’s post too – a couple of very interesting messages from Alex Brown]. The ISO should hopefully announce the official result today (04/09/07) or very soon thereafter.

Update #5: It appears that Cyprus voted yes.

Update #6: It appears as though Microsoft did not get enough of the important “P” votes.

Update #7: Most of the votes have been leaked. Table is now updated.

Country Vote
  Yes No Abstain Unknown
Australia     abstain  
Azerbaijan yes      
Belgium     abstain  
Canada   no    
China   no    
***Côte-d’Ivoire yes      
***Cyprus yes      
Czech Republic   no    
Denmark   no    
***Ecuador   no    
Finland     abstain  
France   no    
Germany yes      
India   no    
Iran, Islamic Republic of   no    
Ireland   no    
Italy     abstain  
***Jamaica yes      
Japan   no    
Kazakhstan yes      
Kenya yes      
Korea, Republic of   no    
***Lebanon yes      
Malaysia     abstain  
***Malta Yes      
Netherlands     abstain  
New Zealand   no    
Norway   no    
***Pakistan yes      
Saudi Arabia yes      
Singapore yes      
Slovenia     abstain  
South Africa   no    
Spain     abstain  
Switzerland yes      
***Trinidad and Tobago     abstain  
***Turkey yes      
United Kingdom   no    
***Uruguay yes      
USA yes      
***Venezuela yes      
41 17 15 9 0

So – it’s on with the show… Microsoft will be desperately trying to cajole, bribe, corrupt and bully all the “no” and abstain voters before the BRM next February.

There, they will have a week, to review probably a thousand comments and try to get a majority vote by conceding on some of the issues. But there will be trouble with some of the comments which will not be implementable without sacrificing the lock-in and proprietary hooks that M$ really needs.

May we live in interesting times…