The subject is the 19 contradictions JTC1 member countries submitted at the end of their 30-day contradiction ballot. Andy Updegrove broke the story.
Since that post came out there has been some interesting spin placed on these results, spin that I’m seeing popping up in several places. I’ll give you a few examples, and than explain why these ballot results are more significant than some might have you believe.
An anonymous comment on Groklaw:
This is a normal step in the fasttrack proces. (bypassed by ODF however) This might add one or two months to the proces [sic]. The ballot in ISO requires a 2/3 majority. Only 20% have reacted with contradictions or a question for information and Ecma can probalby [sic] satisfy a lot of those 19 by answering questions, expanding on their information and mayby [sic] amending the proposal.
A blog post from Jerry Fishenden, Microsoft’s National Technology Officer for the UK:
I’m not sure where the media are getting their information, but apparently out of the hundred or more ISO members only nineteen of them filed a response to Ecma 376 (Open XML) by the close of the initial 30 day consultation period.
From Brian Jones, whose excellent blog does worthy service to Microsoft’s perspective on OOXML:
The 1 month contradiction phase of the 6 month fast track process is now complete. It sounds like about 18 of the 100+ countries reviewing the standard came back with comments.
And finally, an eWeek article, quoting Tom Robertson, Microsoft GM of interoperability and Standards:
There are 103 countries that participated in the ISO process, and each country has a national standards body with the authority to act at the ISO on behalf of that country.
Obviously, these are their talking points. To see why this misleading, we first need to have a quick refresher on how votes are counted, according to the JTC1 Directives.
First, remember that this is not ISO per-se. It is JTC1, a Joint Committee between ISO and the IEC. Not all 100+ ISO members are members of JTC1. So it is not relevant to talk about how many ISO members there are in total. Only the JTC1 members were eligible to raise contradictions.
Second, the critical number to look at is the count of Primary Countries of JTC1, the so-called P-Countries. There are only 30 P-Countries in JTC1. You can see them listed here. If you compare the list that Andy Updegrove posted you will see that 16 of the 19 countries on his list are also P-Countries of JTC1. So 16 of the 30 P-Countries raised contradictions. The other three are Observers, or O-Countries.
Why is the P-Countries designation important? During the 5-month ballot, approval of OOXML will require that two-thirds of the voting P-Countries approve, as well as that no more than one-quarter of all votes cast are negative. This requirement for two-thirds approval from P-Countries is what makes them so critical.
Do the math. One-third of 30 P-Countries is 10. Add 1 to get 11, the magic number. If 11 P-Countries vote against OOXML during the 5-month ballot, then OOXML will fail. If some countries abstain, then this magic number goes proportionately down. Since some NB’s have a consensus voting procedure for determining their vote in JTC1, the lack of consensus could lead them to abstain from the 5-month ballot, just as it may have lead some NB’s to abstain from the contradiction ballot. So this magic number will likely be less than 11 because of these abstentions.
So, with 16 P-Countries already expressing concerns about OOXML, Microsoft clearly has an uphill battle. If the vote were held today, OOXML would fail in JTC1. To portray the reception of 19 contradictions, 16 of them from P-Countries, as being an average occurrence, or par for the course, or insignificant, is pure spin and and denies the magnitude of the rebuke OOXML has received.