Man, what does a guy have to do to find a technical debate in Malaysia? I've spent 72 hours trying to do exactly that, and am now at the airport headed for home, having never found anyone who actually wanted to discuss any technical details of DIS29500 in general, or Malaysia's submitted comments in particular.
I already blogged about the PIKOM meeting earlier in the week, and then this morning I tried to fit in a stop at the TC4 technical committee meeting where Yoon Kit would be presenting the results of the BRM. My friend Yuk Wai from IASA was attending the meeting, and since I'm an IASA member he asked me to come along and provide some perspective on the details of what happened at the BRM. I've also heard from Ditesh and YK in the last couple of days that they'd like a chance to debate the technical details from the BRM while I'm here, so it seemed like a great chance to do all of the above.
But ... they threw me out before the meeting started. So I'm at the airport a little earlier than expected, and will record what happened while it's very fresh in my mind.
There were about 15 people or so present at 9:00AM, when the meeting was scheduled to start. YK and Ditesh were missing, and for some reason the chair decided to wait for them to arrive. I guess we're just uptight in the US, because I can't imagine waiting 30 minutes for a couple of missing members to show up when you already have most members present, but that's what we did.
When YK and Ditesh showed up, we exchanged pleasantries and I thought the meeting would finally start. But they took the chair out in the hall, and another 20-30 minutes passed before the meeting started. I don't know what was going on in the hall, but the next time the door opened after they returned to the meeting, Hassan Saidin of IBM was out in the hall a few feet from the door. Draw your own conclusions there.
Anyway, when the chair returned he had an interesting bit of business to take care of. He wanted to go around the room and identify the "primary" and "alternate" attendee for each organization present, and ask any others present to leave the room. I've heard several times in the past about my colleagues who have attended TC4 meetings, and about the guest experts who sometimes attend from the member organizations, but suddenly today (after a conference out in the hall) the chair felt there was a need to enforce a rule that only allowed previously designated "primary/alternate" members to attend.
This was confusing to the members, and many questions were asked by them. Interestingly, the questions were often answered by Tan King Ing of MAMPU instead of the chair himself. (Gee, Ian, maybe you're not paranoid after all. :-)) One member asked whether this rule had been enforced in the past, and the MAMPU lady answered for the chair and said "that's not a fair question."
The gist of the long torturous conversation was that there is some rule which had never come up before in TC4, which required that anyone not a designated "primary/alternate" must leave the room when the chair asks them to do so. Kamarul Zaman of RosettaNet pointed out that he had attended previous meetings as an observer when he worked for Intel. No luck -- he had to leave the room "while we conduct business not appropriate for an observer." The representative from PIKOM said that he felt it wasn't fair to call somebody an "observer" if they had to leave at certain times; the lady from MAMPU tried to explain that this was a very reasonable thing to do.
Yuk Wai asked why I couldn't stay, since IASA had sent notification to SIRIM that both he and I would be attending. The chair and secretary eventually decided (in a rambling conversation where they seemed to be making up the rules as they went) that the problem was that the notification didn't say "alternate" before my name. Yuk Wai asked if a fax from IASA that included the word "alternate" would resolve the problem. They said it would, and I left the room while Yuk Wai made a call to try to get a fax sent over with the magical word added.
Stepping out into the hall, I ran into Hassan from IBM, who apparently had decided to bring his laptop to SIRIM's building 3 to get some work done on the 3rd floor right outside the TC4 meeting room this morning. Perhaps this is some sort of hoteling concept IBM uses in Malaysia, I'm not sure.
Anyway, the upshot was that I was left standing out in the hall with a couple of other guys who were forced to leave the room, hanging out with the local IBM rep while top-secret work was going on in the meeting room. "Open" indeed!
I decided to head for the airport, rather than wait to see what procedural tricks they'd dream up next. I went back into the room to get my stuff, and the MAMPU lady was talking, but stopped while I grabbed my laptop and said goodbye. I raced off to the airport, and here I am.
As I said, draw your own conclusions. Mine is that cooler heads have not prevailed in Malaysia. As I type these words, YK is giving a presentation on "what really happened in the BRM" to TC4, with nobody else there to corroborate (or contradict) his version. I won't divulge the top-secret handout he had prepared for everyone in the meeting unless he says it's OK, but it's full of interesting interpretations of obscure issues raised by one or two countries, and characterizations of things that "many countries" or "many NBs" said at the BRM. It seems that the word "many," like the word "open," has a special meaning in TC4's deliberations, since these are things that were raised by maybe 10% of the countries present.
I would not have believed this morning if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. It made me miss debating Rob Weir in V1, to be honest. YK, if you're really so concerned about openness and procedural consistency (as you've said so many times regarding the BRM), you might want to focus that zeal a little closer to home.
Unfortunately, because of this act of desperation, the only parties looking bad from the meeting was your company.
Please stop burning your bridges:
Doug, why you need to "defend" so much this beast ( DIS 29500 )? if it is OK ( in terms of technical quality and technical merits ) to be fast-tracked as an ISO standard ... then let each NBs around the world to do their work IN PEACE.
Why do you need to go to each NB around the world ( bringing with you Jan van den Beld and other Microsoft staff) to speak in favor of the specification? Do you think that NBs members are not qualified to has his own technical opinion and judge it themselves?
Stop the lobby tour, do you think that this is V1 where you can call 10 Microsoft partners and stuff a committee to get a unconditional yes vote?
I do not know what you are referring to by your phrase "act of desperation".
- Doug turning up at a meeting he was invited to?
- Doug leaving the room when he was told to?
- Doug leaving the meeting after it became clear that he was not going to be allowed to attend?
Do you realize how utterly arrogant your actions were? Coming in, to a meeting to which IASA was specifically not invited, with a hastily laserprinted business card presenting you as a VP of IASA ... you expected tea and cookies?
Were you trying to straighten out the thinking of the little brown brothers in Malaysia, showing them the error of their ways for not acccepting ECMA whatever as the new path to salvation?
Maybe the LBBs have other plans, plans that don't include being a satellite o fRedmond.
It probably should not come as such a surprise to you that you were unwelcome at the meeting. You have no credible link to Malaysia that would give you standing there. You offer only a partisan opinion that reflects the desire of your employer to push this standard. Your employer is a convicted monopolist using underhanded methods to attempt to influence an international standards body. The format you propose is riddled with problems and should not be on the fast track. Plus, no one likes a bully.
Is it really that hard to understand? Your presence in the meeting was undesirable. Rather than wax vitriolic about it, perhaps you (and you employer) should take some time to think about how these attitudes towards you have come about, and how you can make your presence at such meetings in the future more useful/welcome. That might even lead to some technical progress and a standard that addresses the technical needs of the international community almost as well as ODF. (Hint - try googling "ooxml" and reading links 2,3 & 4).
Just because you're not M'sian, doesnt mean that you do not have M'sias interest at heart. I am sure that if you thought that OOXML needed a bit more work to be an international standard, I am sure you would do the proper thing and delay it's introduction to be an IS. Maybe later?
I think the fact that many people think that OOXML is deficient at this point in time and that you work for Microsoft may cloud this topic. It's not clear whether you represent your employer or not.
Moi? No opinion on the standard but I do get the impression that the process is being abused by Microsoft. No much goodwill being promoted there.
As a Microsoft employee, your objectivity is essentially zero and has no place in that forum. We know who pays your salary.
After the way Microsoft has behaved in so many other countries trying to get OOXML approved, I can't say I blame Malaysia for kicking you out. In fact, I would expect it to happen more often. Everybody but Microsoft realizes how desperate and foolish your actions have been. People aren't as dumb as you think they are.
It is unfortunate that Microsoft employees feel the need to bitch about how they are being treated when the reality is that their employer Microsoft has totally twisted and distorted the whole ISO standardization process to its own end.
I mean even NOW Microsoft is attempting to use political or economic means to force JTC1 members to change their votes instead of genuinely addressing the faults in the proposal.
Can you honestly say you are proud to work for Microsoft; and are proud of how your employer is handling the whole debacle over office productivity file formats?
Hey Doug, stop acting like a cry baby !!
YK, I don't feel I've burned any bridges; you forgave me, I forgive you. And I didn't run into anyone else in Malaysia who wasn't downright friendly, except for the Americans IBM brought in for the PIKOM meeting.
Carlos, you’re making stuff up again. I’ve only been to one standards body around the world in recent months, other than the US V1 committee (of which I’m an active member). I attended the Malaysia TC4 meeting (or tried to) because Yoon Kit suggested that I should attend with IASA.
Tso Dho Nimh, your attempt to make this a race issue is disgusting. I won’t respond to comments like that, and I won’t let any others through either. Head on over to YK’s blog if you want to talk like that.
StandardsRule, we did in fact have a relatively useful and productive meeting with PIKOM on Wednesday, the meeting I traveled to Malaysia to attend in the first place.
> YK, I don't feel I've burned any bridges; you forgave me, I forgive you.
Ill accept your apology when you apologize. I'm forgiving like that. The bridges Im talking about are not with me, but with the Malaysian Governments. Your companys actions in Malaysia has alienated itself in many many ways. Please check with Dr Dzahar to see if he is more popular today than a year ago.
> friendly, except for the Americans IBM brought in for the PIKOM meeting.
1) As Dinesh has highlighted to you, IBM didnt have to bring in anyone except for Hasan (IBM employee). Google and Oracle was not paid by IBM to appear either. Check with Jeremy and Shane.
2) It was not a Microsoft vs IBM debate at PIKOM. It was Microsoft vs Industry (IBM, Oracle, Google, Omnilogic and QubeConnect).
> I attended the Malaysia TC4 meeting (or tried to) because Yoon Kit suggested
> that I should attend with IASA.
I _NEVER_ suggested to Oliver that you attend TC4 as an IASA Malaysia VP. Ask Oliver. I specifically told him that there may be a small chance that Microsoft may be heard through IASA by Aaron Tan, who is a valid and active IASA (Malaysia) Member.
So please do NOT continue to insinuate that this hare-brained idea of sending you to TC4 was my plan! Im not THAT stupid nor desperate.
> Tso Dho Nimh, your attempt to make this a race issue is disgusting.
> Head on over to YK’s blog if you want to talk like that.
Can you indicate to me where in my blog where Ive been racist? I have been patriotic, but certainly not racist. Hasan, Ditesh and I all of which come from different 'races', but we are ultimately Malaysian, and have never considered race as a factor. 'Muhibah' as we would say. Look it up. Tak Mahu?
> the meeting I traveled to Malaysia to attend in the first place.
Oh! I got the impression from Oliver that you had other business in the region. Im so honoured that Malaysia is so high in Microsoft's priority to convert.
Too bad it didn't work out... In fact its worse now than before, eh?
I am surprised and appalled to read your blog and its many inaccuracies.
For the record, I could not start the meeting on time at 9:00 because the Secretariat from SIRIM did not come in and not because we were waiting for YK or Detesh. I flew in from Johor Baharu that morning at 7:00 am and was in the room before 8:30 am.
The reason why the Secretary from SIRIM was delayed because members of TC4 have complained that we have allowed a vendor in the meeting and of course demanded equal rights to attend too. SIRIM has to sort the matter to ensure our meeting will be valid.
As your friend Yuk Wai from IASA would have briefed you, Malaysia's TC4 was suspended and reorganized by ISC G last year because of the unfortunate bickering from certain members who were vendor biased and due to many other related incidents. Many of us were very upset and so did not want the matter to happen again. This is also the first time TC matters were raised in the Malaysian Cabinet and is a concern of the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation as well as the Chief Secretary.
Yes, at that time we allowed member organizations to bring other staff because it was a technical meeting and we welcomed technical contributions. We even had at one meeting too many representatives from Microsoft when the normal rep himself was on sick leave. Unfortunately they did not do their homework and lobbied TC4 on business basis which was more suitable for ISC G. When members queried the Microsoft rep on technical matters he could not answer because he was not a technical person and the other reps could not answer either.
So that we do not have similar problems and complications in the future, ISC G revamped our committee into two layers and decided I, as an academic and without any vendor interest, still chair TC4. I still hold to the principle of neutrality, openness and fairness. I challenge you to find me otherwise. I am a senior professor and administrator from a very reputable public university in Malaysia and I hold our reputation seriously and dearly.
Last Friday meeting was for full members only and should be void from any vendor bias. IASA has been absent from previous meetings and that was the first meeting for them since last year so Yuk Wai might not know the TC4 committee governance has changed and we did not invite co-opted members. So it was to my surprise too to see you in the room.
However, SIRIM gave me as chair, the prerogative to decide to allow observers for the meeting after consulting the members present. That was the reason to ask you and the other new faces to leave the room temporarily.
For your information, after some deliberation the members voted and it was a tie. I gave the tie breaker to allow observers in. Unfortunately you have already left. We had a good meeting with the other observers inside. Everyone including Yuk Wai from IASA was given a chance to speak. We left with a good note.
Back to your issue. If you remember correctly, when you took your bag & computer and wanted to leave in haste to catch your flight, you said, " it was best you leave". Never did I bar you from attending our meeting. It was a matter of patience and I was confident our members would agree to have observers and we were very OPEN in our deliberation. In fact, I smiled at you and sincerely asked whether you will be coming to our next meeting since you had to leave. But you said. "we will see."
If you are truly representing IASA Malaysia and has been appointed as an alternate member, then I expect to see you at our next meeting which is scheduled every month to discuss many matters which were suspended because of the incident last year. If your attendance last Friday was a one timer, then it would put IASA in a negative view in the eyes of TC4 and ISC G members. So please move to Malaysia from the US and have a permanent address here.
For your information, our TC4 meetings have always been very cordial and I have always allow members to speak their mind, of course with a certain decorum. So that is why we took some time to get you and the others to leave us to deliberate the issue of observers because I allow members to question the action.
Ms. Tan from MAMPU and other members have the right to speak and I am confident and capable of answering and chairing the meeting. You can ask Yuk Wai, I normally allow other members to speak too. This is Malaysian diplomacy in action and this is how we conduct our meeting. Too bad you are not used to this openness and style.
I sincerely hope this matter be put to rest and all members uphold their dignity and decorum in future meetings.
Thank You and see you at our next meeting.
Prof. Dr. Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar
Malaysian National Standards Committee on E-Commerce, SIRIM (TC4)
Hello Professor Zaki, thanks for taking the time to comment here. I'm sure people will find it interesting to see your comments, which will help people reach informed conclusions about the standards process in Malaysia. I see that you also provided Yoon Kit a copy of your comment so that he could write a blog post around it (http://www.openmalaysiablog.com/2008/03/how-to-royally.html) before I could respond here.
You mention that the delayed start to Friday's meeting was because members of TC4 complained that a vendor was present. I'd be very interested to know which members complained, if that's information you're willing to share. From my perspective in the room, it seemed that your conversation was with Ditesh and Yoon Kit and an IBM representative: is that the group that had complained? The reason I ask is that Yoon Kit was the person who had suggested Microsoft might be allowed to attend, so I'd be very surprised if he then complained when we did what he suggested.
You shared the story of the time last year when Microsoft sent two representatives to a TC4 meeting who were IP experts and therefore not prepared to answer technical questions, and how ISC-G revamped the process to avoid such situations in the future. I had hoped that my presence would provide such a technical resource for TC4 on Friday, so it seems we're both interested in solving the same problem.
You mention that "Yuk Wai might not know the TC4 committee governance has changed and we did not invite co-opted members." It seems that other members of TC4 were not aware of this change either. For example, Yoon Kit had suggested the day before the meeting that Microsoft could attend with IASA. Indeed, that was the only reason I was present on Friday: because a TC4 member had said that Microsoft could attend through our relationship with IASA. (I see that he has since said on his blog that there was a "1 in a million chance" of us being allowed in the room, but unfortunately he didn't say that when he invited our participation, or I wouldn't have bothered to attend.)
I couldn't agree more with your sentiment that "I sincerely hope this matter be put to rest and all members uphold their dignity and decorum in future meetings." I wish the same for TC4, and if there's anything I have done which isn't consistent with that I hope you'll let me know.
By the way, Yoon Kit continues to publicly disagree with my characterization of the "Review of BRM Issues" report that you passed out to all of the attendees of Friday's meeting before Yoon Kit arrived. It seems to me that these disagreements about the nature of the report could be clarified by simply sharing the report -- may I have your permission to post a copy here?
Thanks again for your comments, and I look forward to your response.
What a massively stacked deck! One can only hope that those consumed with concern for Malaysia's self-interest will eventually realise what a narrow corner all this anti-OOXML scheming is painting the government into.