March, 2008

  • Eric White's Blog

    A Tale of Two Debates

    • 18 Comments

    So I've been in this job for nearly three months.  Seems much longer than that.  I've been feeling the need to blog about the nature of the debates around Open XML and the ISO process.

    There are two separate and distinct debates running.

     

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    One of them is a reasoned, fairly dispassionate discussion about the technical issues, IPR issues, process issues and the like.  Contributors to this debate are people such as Patrick Durusau, Jan van den Beld, Rick Jelliffe, and Alex Brown.

     

    The other is a weird debate by people at the fringes.  And these people are pursuing a policy of "Defeat Open XML at *ALL* costs, regardless of the consequences for the future regarding their relationship to ISO or the National Bodies of the 'O' countries.  Rob Weir, Bob Sutor and Andy Updegrove seem to make the majority of the noise in this debate, although there are others.

     

    It's simply my hope and belief that the obstructionist elements will not prevail, and that this standard will pass, and allow the world to get on with the fun and challenging tasks of building good tools and good office suites based on the standard.  I just can't wait until I get to help some large companies implement some powerful tools using Open XML that revolutionize the way that they create, edit, search, and store documents.

     

    Anyway, just to illustrate, here are some links that I think epitomize the nature of the two debates.

     

    IBM disenfranchises 'O' member countries when convenient.   How do all these 'O' member countries feel about how they were welcomed by Rob and IBM UNTIL it becomes convenient for IBM to try to marginalize the 'O' members?  And I have another question:  How do the people at ISO feel having Rob and IBM attack their very integrity, when the BRM was run according to the ISO rules? I simply have to think that upper management at IBM isn't aware exactly of what Rob is doing, otherwise cooler heads would have prevailed.

     

    There are certain 'O' member countries that have important standards people who are also employees of IBM; nothing wrong with that, but it sure puts these people in an awkward situation.  Their own employer is marginalizing the influence of their own country, whose interests they are supposed to represent as a standards body participant.

     

    From the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

     

    http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0932.htm#q6-8

     

    6.8  If votes are taken during the BRM, who votes?

    Those present.

     

    And what about basically calling Patrick Durusau a corrupt person, with no evidence presented whatsoever?  I honestly don't know how the accuser lives with himself.

     

    Gray Knowlton makes an interesting point about the intimidation of National Bodies by Bob Sutor.

     

    But fortunately the other debate continues.  Of course, not everyone in the debate agrees with Ecma, or with Microsoft.  But the discourse is basically a civil one.

     

    I appreciate Patrick Durusau's letter on the openness of Open XML.

     

    Jan van den Beld, former Secretary General of ECMA International, and his challenge to ISO/BRM critics to create a better process.

     

    And on Mr. van den Beld's blog, he presents his view of the BRM proceedings.

     

    Rick Jelliffe has contributed to the conversation.  I know that some people attempt to paint him with the Microsoft colors, but if you actually *read* what Rick has written and contributed to the process, you can see the technical quality of his comments.  And you will see the evidence that he questions decisions made on the standard.  You can see that his goal is to improve the quality of the resulting standard.  And he certainly feels free to apply pressure to Microsoft.

     

    There are many, many more examples of participants in the two debates, and their messages.  I am just struck by the disparity of the differences in quality between the two.

     

    There has been a vast amount of important work accomplished during this process.  I believe that the world will see the value of an open, comprehensive, *complete* standard for word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  I sincerely encourage national standards bodies to see that the best conclusion is to place the maintenance of this standard in the hands of ISO.  Let's not waste this work.

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