Ecma TC45 and the project editor are making great progress in the resolution of comments we received from the national bodies a few months ago. The result will be an even better spec than we had last year, and this really helps highlight the benefits of the standardization process. Of course there are a few folks out there who don't care about actually seeing the spec improve, they just want to see it go away (it's bad for their business plans). So we now have Rob Weir from IBM hard at work trying to find a way of turning the positive into a negative.

Well it looks like he's taken his latest shot at the process, so let's see if it sticks. I've had a few folks ask me lately about the comment resolution process in ISO, and specifically why the comments are currently password protected (meaning only the national bodies involved in the process can view them). I was pointed to this blog post by Rob Weir (IBM) on the recent batch of proposed resolutions to NB comments posted on Ecma's website, and while I rarely have the energy to read an entire Rob Weir post, I gave it a shot. He opens by claiming the following: "First, Microsoft has managed to get JTC1 to clamp down on information".

Theater at its finest… <g/> Of course Rob knows that Microsoft has no say in this process at all. It's up to JTC1 to set the rules, and JTC1's ways of functioning are fully documented (and no waiver has been granted to Ecma or Microsoft). IBM should be objecting to ISO/IEC, not to Ecma or Microsoft. Why isn't it doing this?

It's an unfounded allegation that shows the typical Fox News style of sensationalism Rob is practicing (sorry if there are any Fox News fans out there). As I said in the past, I would love to have the comments and responses public. There is a lot of great work right now coming out of Ecma TC45 as we help the project editor pull together the proposed responses for each issue, and I think those of you following along will be very impressed with the analysis that has gone in to each comment. Coincidentally, I'm in Kyoto right now at Ecma TC45 meetings and folks on the TC are definitely excited about the work being done (and look forward to the feedback we'll get from the national bodies).

For the layman, finding your way around ISO/IEC resources is not always easy, but if you try hard enough, you can find most answers you're looking for. If you want to build up your own opinion on this particular matter, you should definitely go through the simple guide I'll included at the end of the post. Another great source of information you should check out before jumping to any conclusions is this comment posted by Jan van den Beld, former Secretary General of Ecma International in Geneva, who explains how things work within JTC1 (Ecma doesn't make the rule here). Also, check out the "Ballot Resolution Meeting FAQ", which gives the full picture of that part of the process.

If folks want to compare the OASIS Technical Process to the JTC 1 Directives, go for it. Just don't try to put Ecma at fault. The reports on ODF 1.0 were made public by the SC34 Secretariat – so if there are issues over making DIS29500 reports public, ask the SC34 Secretariat. Or is IBM claiming that Ecma (or Microsoft) has now got the SC34 Secretariat captive? <g/>

The rules of JTC1 may be questioned, but that should be a debate, not an accusation.

The next claim Rob Weir (IBM) asserts is that a "few NB's have requested the password" [NB= National Bodies]. He provides with this link to the National Body Membership list.

From what I understand, the password was distributed to all NBs having voted; they didn't need to request it. Nevertheless, National Bodies who are part of the process have access to the proposed resolutions and can start working on analyzing them, thus giving them more time before the actual discussion meeting in February. There are no roadblocks in the way to prevent them from getting access.

This step of publicly documenting the responses ahead of the January 14th deadline is something that the editor and Ecma TC45 proposed early on to ISO and asked ISO if it was ok. We were told it was a good thing to do, but since the national body comments are considered to be internal documents, they wanted us to put a password on the site so they could control who got access. Remember, that if the editor wanted to he could have just kept everything to himself until the 14th of January. It's a bit annoying to see Rob trying to stir up more controversy in something that is actually a pretty big positive thing (but those are just my personal feelings).

National Bodies will make their decisions in March based on the final Disposition of Comments report approved at the BRM – that is the way the process works, and IBM knows this. Again, if IBM wants to change the way it works, they should be in dialogue with JTC 1 about it!

Ecma TC45 has been hard at work helping to come up with good resolutions based on all the feedback. It's a lot of work and it's really progressing well. There were some really good suggestions, and I think we'll see that this round of review will result in an even better spec than we had at the end of last year.

But for now we still have a ton of work to do!

Background: A simple guide through ISO/IEC JTC1 "Procedural document"
(I've highlighted the key areas):

  1. Look into the ISO/IEC JTC1 "Procedural document" (http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0856rev.pdf),
    Here are the rules for documents that must be kept private:
  2. This part lists the documents and how they should be accessed

    […..]
  3. Then here is the key to read the table:

-Brian