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A Review of the Wikipedia Article on ODF

As I had done last week with the Wikipedia article on Office Open XML (OOXML), I have taken a read through the article on OpenDocument Format (ODF). My aim was to do some fact checking and make some suggestions on some additional references that might be included. In some case I’ve made additional usage or phrasing suggestions, but I have not endeavored to do a full edit of the article.

In accordance with Wikipedia’s Conflict of Interest guidelines, I will put a link to this blog entry on the ODF article’s Talk page. These points are for the consideration of the volunteers editing the article, to consider and do what they want with them. I’ll probably repeat this review on a quarterly basis.

Since the article is changing at a rather rapid rate, you should note that I looked at the revision of 27 January at 16:19 which you can retrieve here.

  1. Opening paragraph. “…is a document file format used for exchanging electronic documents”. I’d say instead, “…for describing electronic documents”. Documents are exchanged via protocols like SMTP, WebDAV or HTTP, etc. ODF is only describing the documents.
  2. Strictly speaking, ODF was developed by a technical committee (TC) working within the OASIS consortium. The point is OASIS as a whole approved ODF, but it was developed within a TC.
  3. Last sentence of first paragraph is awkward. I’d keep the details and dates in the Standardization section and just state the current status here: “OpenDocument is an OASIS Standard as well as an International Standard published as ISO/IEC 26300:2006″
  4. The next sentence is weak. I’d rephrase as something like “ODF meets the common definitions of an [Open Standard], meaning the specification is freely available and may be implemented freely”. Since Wikipedia already has nice article on open standards, why not just link to that?
  5. The claim that ODF was “intended” to avoid vendor lock-in should be substantiated. That indeed may be one of its effects. But the charter of the TC did not mention that as an explicit goal. I think this is just loose language. Whenever you see a passive sentence, ask yourself, “Who or what did this”? Who intended ODF to be such and such? If you can provide a reference for that question, then you have something.
  6. Next sentence is awkward. How about, “OpenDocument is the first widely adopted International Standard for editable office documents.” ?
  7. Under Specifications, in addition to the listed compression advantage of using the approach with the ZIP archive, it also has the benefit of separating the content, styles , metadata and application settings into four separate XML files. This is a good example of the architectural principle of [Separation of Concerns].
  8. I suggest we add here: “An important goal during the development of ODF was to reuse existing relevant standards where possible. Such standards used in ODF include [MathML], [Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language|SMIL], [SVG], and [XForms].” If needed a link to the ODF TC’s charter would server as an authoritative reference for the goal to reuse existing standards.
  9. The Standardization section seems to be split off into a linked article which is a bit outdated. Is this necessary? This might make more sense to have this information brought back into the main article. Just my opinion.
  10. First sentence is not quite correct. ODF was developed by a technical committee (TC) working within the OASIS consortium.
  11. “OASIS Standard” should be capitalized as a proper noun.
  12. This section gets a bit weighted down with jargon. Does the average reader, even a technical reader, understand was a “DIS” is, or a “default ballot”? We should either explain the significance of these terms, or summarize. I don’t think this needs to contain a day-by-day retelling of how a specification made its way through ISO.
  13. OpenDocument Format 1.1 was approved as an Committee Specification in October. The ballot for approval as an OASIS Standard is occurring right now. (Would the average reader understand this distinction? Specifications are approved first by the ODF TC as Committee Specifications, then major versions are put forward for a vote by the entire OASIS membership as an OASIS Standard, and even more significant editions are then put forward for approval by ISO as an International Standard.)
  14. On the ODF 1.2 work, the parenthentical remark on spreadsheet formulas seem out of place and redundent since there is a separate Criticism header that covers this. The obvious presumption is that anything added to ODF 1.2 is added because it is not already there. Do we believe that any reader would think otherwise?
  15. Overall the 1.2 statement looks like it needs a rewrite. I’d suggest a simple statement like, “OpenDocument Format is currently being drafted by the ODF TC. It is planned to contain additional accessibility features, metadata enhancements, spreadsheet formula definition (based on [OpenFormula] and any errata submitted by the public.” (Discussion of various schedule predictions seems outdated since December has already come and gone. )
  16. Section on Application support — “Since there are a number of independent implementations of the ODF standard..”. This might be better in an “Interoperability” sub-section. If you make such a sub-section, the Fellowships test suite, mentioned earlier in the article, could be moved there as well.
  17. “Although Microsoft Office does not support OpenDocument…” should be, “Although Microsoft Office does not support OpenDocument natively…”
  18. Again, never trust engineers to come up with a good prediction of schedules. December has come and gone and no Add-in is complete.
  19. There should also be mention of Corel’s stated plans to add ODF support to WordPerfect Office. The press release you can reference is here.
  20. There is mention here of a “MS Open XML translator”. This was Microsoft’s name for their intiative. But the web page linked to here consistently refers to itself as the “ODF Add-in for Microsoft Word”. This is confusing. Maybe start with a mention of the Microsoft announcement from July 2006 (this press release) then say that one such project supported by Microsoft is the ODF Add-in for Word, etc.
  21. The ODMA mention is unrelated to ODF. It probably should be removed entirely.
  22. Under the Accessibility sub-section, might want to mention that a group at the University of Illinois has written an OpenDocument Format Accessibility Evaluator to scan uploaded ODF documents for how well they follow best practices for accessibility. A link to the tool is project is here.
  23. Under Promotion section, we should link to the ODF Adoption TC’s web page here and mention that they also manage the web site http://OpenDocument.xml.org
  24. The promotion activities of OpenOffice.org should be included in the bullet list that follows, right? Not clear why it is not.
  25. “…as well as other companies who may or may not be working inside…” is weird. Was someone attempting to say something here. The fact that the ODF Alliance is stated has having “more than 280 members” should make it obvious that not all are members of the OASIS ODF TC. Is anything added by having this statement?
  26. ODF Alliance has 362 organizational members according to their latest newsletter here .
  27. In Adoption section, there is repetition of information that was already covered in the Application support section, such as the Microsoft-funded translator work.
  28. The Adoption section is incomplete, missing adoptions in Brazil, Argentina, Extremadura Spain, and India. The ODF Alliance newsletters have the details on these and others. This whitepaper is a good summary.
  29. In Criticism section, the statements, “Some mathematicians do not think that the choice of the MathML W3C standard for use in OpenDocument is a good choice” and “monstrosity written purely by web designers” lack an authoritative citation. All that is given is a link to an unnamed commenter on a GrokLaw article, whose credentials as a mathematician or a spokesman for mathematicians are not obvious. Consider that one of the authors of the MathML 2.0 standard, and co-chair of the W3C’s Math Working Group, is Patrick Ion, editor of the American Mathematical Society’s Mathematical Reviews. So the credibility of MathML should not so easily be set aside by a single anonymous, unsubstantiated comment. I’d also note that the Wikipedia artcle for MathML does not note such criticism.
  30. “The OpenDocument ISO specification does not contain a defined formula language” is more precise as “The OpenDocument ISO specification does not define a standard spreadsheet formula language.”
  31. “This means that ISO conforming files do not have to be compatible.” This is a weak argument. Even if the spreadsheet language were defined, ISO conforming documents are not required to be compatible. For example, two implementations may implement different subsets of features. And even without a formula standard, implementations can still be compatible. For example, 1-2-3 , Quattro Pro and OpenOffice have been able to read Excel formulas for years, even though Microsoft had not specified this. Maybe what is meant here is “This means that spreadsheet implementations currently rely on application-level interoperability testing rather than referencing a normative specification of formula syntax and semantics.”
  32. The criticism of the ability to embed Java applets is new to me. No reference is given for this criticism. The section number establishes the existence of the feature, but does not establish grounds for criticizing it. Is this original research? If so, it does not belong on Wikipedia.

Change Log
1/28/07 — corrected link to ODF’s Talk page

Creative Commons License
This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

{ 5 comments… add one }

  • hAl 2007/01/28, 05:22

    I have added in the fisrt few points of your suggestions. Might add more later if I have time.

  • orcmid 2007/01/28, 14:08

    Nice work.

    #21. Yes, the ODMA reference makes no sense at all. It seems completely disconnected from everything else there and ODMA is completely indifferent to document format (although repositories that the little middleware connects might take advantage of open-format properties).

    #29. Not quite. There are other uses of formulas in ODF and they use the same approach (fortunately) and currently suffer from being underspecified in the same way.

    I like how you look at these with your technical-editor’s hat on.

  • orcmid 2007/01/28, 14:27

    Oops, the second item in my comment applies to #30, not #29.

  • Jonathan 2007/01/28, 17:44

    I have to say that this, and the related one that came before it, are by far the most balanced posts I have read on the topic.

    I wish more people would concentrate on the real flaws of both specs instead of just the flag waving.

  • Karl Best 2007/01/29, 09:27

    re: #2 and #10, even more strictly speaking, the spec was *further* developed by OASIS after starting elseqwhere. The spec was first developed by a company called StarOffice which was then bought by Sun. Sun then contributed the spec to OASIS for further development by the OASIS Open Office XML TC (see the original Call For Participation) at http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/tc-announce/200211/msg00001.html)

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