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Contra Durusau, Part 1

I have a lot of respect for Patrick Durusau. He has taught me much about how ISO standards work in practice, and I have benefited from his thoughts on that subject. I hope I can repay my debt to Patrick even in part, by teaching him something about how Microsoft works, in practice, a subject where I have expertise he lacks.

From the start Patrick has remained publicly silent on the topic of OOXML. No blog posts, no press, nothing. If you asked, he would say that this was his policy. Privately, you would get an earful (all negative), but as befits the unbiased chair of the committee which is responsible for the technical recommendation for the US NB, he kept his personal opinions out of the public arena.

This public orientation changed recently. As best I can figure it, on returning from a conference in Seattle in late January, Patrick was a changed man. Patrick is now an enthusiastic OOXML supporter and is eager to inform the world of his delight in OOXML at every opportunity. He posts his “open letters” on his web site, which are linked to, often within minutes, by the various Microsoft bloggers, and then sent around by Microsoft employees to the press and the various JTC1 NB’s.

Patrick is entitled to his own opinions. Free speech (and free enterprise for that matter) are things which all red-blooded Americans believe in, among other things. So long as Patrick makes it clear that he is speaking for himself, I have no problem with this.

Of course, Microsoft will not be so careful to distinguish Patrick’s personal opinions from his professional affiliations. So a post from Patrick’s personal web site is retold on a Microsoft blog as “The ODF Editor says….”, and then the next day is sent in an email to NB’s with a larger set of “endorsements”:

Chair, V1 – US TAG to JTC 1/SC 34
Convener, JTC 1/SC 34/WG 3 (Topic Maps)
Editor, OpenDocument Format TC (OASIS), Project Editor ISO/IEC 26300
Co-Editor, ISO/IEC 13250-1, 13250-5 (Topic Maps)

By the time it is actually discussed at the NB committee level, I wouldn’t be surprised if it morphs into an assertion that JTC1/SC34, INCITS, the ODF TC and the City Council of Covington, Georgia have all approved OOXML. It is dangerous to wear many hats when dealing with Microsoft. They are not ones for fine distinctions.

But now on to the substance of Patrick’s letters.

In his first note, the “OpenXML Poster Child“, Patrick says:

OpenXML has progressed from being developed in a closed environment to being handed over to approximately 70% of the world’s population for future development so I am missing the “not open” aspect of OpenXML. If anything, the improvements made to OpenXML during that process make it a poster child for the open standards development process.
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I understand that SC 34 will be taking on the maintenance and future development of OpenXML (with the participation of Ecma). That will mean that approximately 70% of the world’s population will have a say (through their respective national bodies) on how OpenXML continues to develop. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself but that sounds pretty open to me. (That presumes approval of OpenXML as an ISO standard, which must be decided by every national body for itself.)

We’ve covered this before. Let’s go down the list again. Where are the minutes from Ecma TC45 teleconferences? Where are the public archives of their mailing list? Where is the list of individuals participating in the TC? Where is the list of voting members? Where are the public comments they have received on OOXML? You call this open?

For ODF, all of this information is easily available to the public, here, here and here.

And don’t give me the canard about how moving to SC34 results in greater representation.

In the US who represents our population? The 7 members of V1 before the DIS 29500 process began? Or the 26 members after Microsoft stuffed V1 (the committee that you chair) with business partners last summer? Or V1 after several of them were kicked out for not paying their dues? Or the V1 after the DIS 29500 procedure completes and the warm bodies fade away? In your opinion, which one do you believe truly represents our US population?

Similarly, SC34 was stuffed with new P-members and swelled from 9 P-members in 2006 to 40 today, most of which voted in favor of OOXML and then failed to participate in any other SC activities. Are you seriously suggesting that SC34 was increasing the world’s influence over Microsoft’s decisions? That sounds quite naive. To me this looks much more like Microsoft is increasing their influence over the world, and JTC1 NB’s in particular.

The long list of shenanigans recorded, from Sweden to Portugal, from Poland to Switzerland is further evidence that the second interpretation is the accurate one. Is offering Microsoft partners rewards for joining a committee a way of increasing openness? Is joining JTC1 three days before the Sept. 2nd vote, then voting Yes without comments the way in which the world is able to gain a seat at the table?

Moving on.

Patrick’s next post is “Co-Evolution“. This, plus Microsoft’s recent interoperability announcements (yes, yet more announcements) give the impression that they believe it is better to talk about interoperability than to do something about it. Interoperability is something we only talk about now, but accomplish sometime in the nebulous future, like weight loss or reducing the national debt. Create studies, write reports, open labs, make test cases, write more reports. But when given the opportunity to do something now which would actually improve interoperability, like adding missing features to OOXML to accommodate the richer text model in ODF, then just say “No”. You can always do a study on this later, and write another report, and make a test case.

But if announcements alone could improve interoperability, then Microsoft would have solved this problem long ago and many times over.

The perspective that is missing in Patrick’s analysis is that of the vast part of the world’s population that does not benefit, and in fact is distinctly disadvantaged by having multiple incompatible document standards. We’ve been here before, in the 1980′s and 1990′s. It was not fun. We should not be seeking ways to repeat that failure.

Much of the world is also disadvantaged by the monopolist’s rent paid on Microsoft products and the associated lack of choice in today’s software monoculture. I’d rather help the world free itself of this oppression than appease the oppressor in hopes that he’ll wield a more lenient whip.

Last September, the NB’s of Great Britain, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, New Zealand, and the United States all requested that specific features be added to OOXML in order to improve interoperability with ISO ODF, in total 40 features such as the ability to have background images in tables or to have font weights beyond “normal” and “bold”. These were the exact features that Microsoft’s translator project on SourceForge identified as needed to improve interoperability with ODF. Ecma rejected all of these requests. They did not reject them because the features were unreasonable. They were rejected purely because they were ODF features.

So given the chance to do more than just write reports and have panel discussions, Ecma refused to move interoperability forward even one inch. If this is them on their best behavior (they desperately need NB approval votes), then why would we expect greater consideration from them if OOXML were approved?

In his next letter,”Confusion“, Patrick responds to Andy Updegrove, but not having followed that debate, I’m the one who is now confused. Patrick seems to be arguing that it doesn’t matter whether OOXML is “good” or not (in fact he seems to argue that there is no “good” or “bad” when it comes to XML) but that it will be better if OOXML was someplace where we could talk at it more.

I don’t know whether I’d choose to use moral terms when describing engineering artifacts either, but I would note that if the basic protocols and formats of the web were as poorly designed as OOXML, the web would never have thrived to become the glory it is today.

In “On the Importance of Being Heard” Patrick generously gives us his opinion of the DIS 29500 BRM he did not attend. The argument formally comes down to this:

  1. Based on published and unpublished reports from the BRM, it appears that “everyone at the table was heard” and “Microsoft was listening to everyone” in a “public and international” forum.
  2. If we now reject OOXML, we “all lose a seat at the table where the next version of the Office standard is being written”.
  3. If we approve OOXML, even though “rough” then this “gives all of us a seat at the table for the next Office standard”.
  4. Therefore, Patrick recommends approval of DIS 29500.

This argument has several critical flaws.

First, it is inaccurate to call the BRM proceedings “public”. Neither the public nor the press was allowed to attend. Security guards were posted at the door to enforce this mandate. JTC1 is a private, Swiss-headquartered NGO, answerable to no one, with no statutory responsibility to the public. Patrick talks about “ordinary users, governments, smaller interests” having a seat at the table. This is a fantasy. I did not see any such representation at the table in Geneva. One in five BRM attendees were Microsoft employees. Over 25% of the 114 people in attendance were either Microsoft or Ecma TC45 members. I fear that Patrick underestimates the extent to which NB’s have been stacked over the past two years and that he preserves some illusion of SC34 NB’s comprised of “ordinary users, governments, smaller interests”. Maybe that was true a few years ago, but the neighborhood has changed.

Was everyone at the table heard? Formally, it is true that every delegation had the opportunity to raise a single issue during the week. Some (those earlier in the alphabet) had the opportunity to raise two issues. But I think it is disingenuous to cast that as “everyone at the table was heard”. For many delegations it was true that for every issue they were able to raise, they had 10 or 20 more that they wanted to raise, based on their analysis of Ecma’s proposed dispositions, but were unable to because of insufficient time.

Was Microsoft listening? Yes. Everyone in the room was listening. Formally only the BRM itself could authorize changes to the standard at this point, regardless of Microsoft’s or Ecma’s opinion. So it is moot as to whether Microsoft was attentive. Whether they listened or not has zero impact on the ability of the BRM to make changes.

Patrick also appears to be impressed that this discussion all takes place “at a table where a standard for a future product was being debated by non-Microsoft groups?” What future product? The future product is Office 14 (Office 2009). Microsoft has not informed JTC1 nor Ecma on what the changes to OOXML will be for Office 14, due out later this year in beta form.

And then we come to main point of Patrick’s argument. Vote “Yes” so we all have a seat at the table. Before we buy into that logic, I suggest we examine other Microsoft/Ecma standards and see how their approval has or has not lead to increased participation.

Microsoft has two primary ways to negate broader participation in a standard’s maintenance. The first is standards abandonment. Take for example Ecma-234 “Application Programming Interface for Windows”. A contemporary observer might have been just as enthusiastic as Patrick is now. Wow! Isn’t this great? They are finally opening up and listening to the world! We finally have a seat at the table! I have a feeling that things are going to be better from now on!

Unfortunately, this standard was approved in December 1995 and covers the Windows 3.1 API only. Since Windows 95 shipped in August 1995, this Ecma standard was obsolete on the day it was approved. No revision of the standard was ever issued. Microsoft abandoned it.

Now certainly, there was nothing in principle that prevented the non-Microsoft Ecma members from continuing to maintain Ecma-234, creating errata documents, polishing up the language of the clauses, etc. But they had no effective way of actually evolving the standard when Microsoft withdrew from the process. That is the danger when you approve a single-vendor standard on the false assumption that this leads to openness.

The other way to negate broader participation in standards development is to create technical revisions at a rapid pace, and to create them within Microsoft with little outside participation. Note that this is how OOXML was created in the first place. And this is how Microsoft/Ecma maintains standards like the C# Programming Language. Ask your friends in JTC1/SC22 whether “70% of the world’s population” has a “seat at the table” in evolving that standard. Let me know what you hear. I believe you’ll hear that there has been negligible WG activity around C# maintenance, and that new revisions are promulgated by Microsoft, rubber stamped by Ecma, and sent on to SC22, canceling the previous standard and replacing it with the new one.

This trick can be very effective whenever the underlying Microsoft product has an update every 2-3 years. If your product revisions are more frequent than the required JTC1 maintenance checkpoints, then you can effectively ignore JTC1. That’s how Microsoft/Ecma has played the game in the past.

Note that Office 2007 has been out since late 2006. Office 14 (Office 2009) is due out in beta form this year, with expected release next year. Any bets on whether the file format will require a technical revision to accommodate Office 2009? There is absolutely nothing that prevents Microsoft from submitting a revised file format specification for Ecma, getting a rubber stamp approval and then Fast Tracking it back into JTC1. Since that is how they have treated other Microsoft/Ecma standards, the burden is on those who argue the contrary to support their optimism.

So consider the facts:

  1. Microsoft has not supported the JTC1 maintenance process with their other Ecma Fast Tracks. There is no broader “seat at the table”, no power sharing, no ownership by “70% of the world’s population”. It is 100% Microsoft.
  2. Microsoft’s current charter in Ecma TC45 explicitly calls for Ecma to own maintenance of OOXML if approved, not SC34.
  3. Ecma in fact has submitted a proposal [PDF] to SC34 asking for control of OOXML to be handed back to them.
  4. With their “rejuvenation” of SC34 (from 9 to 40 P-members in 2 years) Microsoft clearly has the votes it would need to force any maintenance regime they desire.
  5. No one at Microsoft has made an official statement in writing confirming Patrick’s vision of future maintenance. In fact their only official statement, the Ecma proposal to SC34 cited above, contradicts what Patrick is suggesting. So why are only 3rd parties speaking so glowingly about the future control of OOXML? Plausible deniability, anyone?

Until the following occur I’d advise a bit more skepticism, considering that we’re dealing with a company with a clear record of abusing, subverting, abandoning, embracing and extending etc., standards:

  1. Ecma changes their TC45 charter to explicitly call for all maintenance activities (corrigenda as well as technical revisions) to be performed in an SC34 WG.
  2. Ecma explicitly withdraws their submission on DIS 29500 maintenance from the agenda of the Oslo SC34 Plenary and instead submits a proposal asking for future OOXML work to be done in a new WG in SC34, with a non-Microsoft chair.
  3. Microsoft publicly states that they will hand operational control of OOXML to SC34, not only for maintenance of OOXML 1.0, but also for technical revisions, and that they will support this being done under JTC1 IPR rules, and using the JTC1 process, and that they will implement whatever revisions SC34 develops within 1 year of approval.

Until you have that, you have nothing. Get that, and then you can start talking about having a “seat at the table”.

In his most recent post, “Russian Peasant” Patrick suggests that the only reason one would vote against OOXML is spite, and that any problems could be fixed in maintenance.

Let’s try another analogy. You are shopping for a new TV and you go to your local consumer electronics store and look at the array of television sets lined up. Most come with a warranty. Any defects detected within the maintenance period will be fixed at the manufacturer’s expense. This is generally a good thing, having a maintenance period to fix problems that were not evident at purchase time.

So you find the model TV you want, the salesperson rolls out the box and just before you hand over your credit card, you notice a big gash on the side of the box, where a forklift had pierced it. You say, “I can’t accept this TV, it has been smashed!”. The salesperson says, “Don’t worry. No TV is perfect. We can fix this in maintenance. You’re fully covered.”

Do you hand over your credit card? Of course not. Maintenance periods, with TV’s as with standards, are for defects detected after the fact. It is not a replacement for proper inspection, review and approval processes. You expect a TV to work properly at the start.

No standard is perfect. We all know that. But at the time of approval, NB’s should be confident that their technical review was sufficient to find all of the important issues, and that these issues have all been fixed in the standard. OOXML should not be approved unless it is suitable now. The maintainers of OOXML will be busy enough fixing other problems that will be found later. We should not willingly approve a defective standard and set up a future maintenance group for failure by front-loading their agenda with defects that we already know about.

Consider: If we do that, then on what grounds can we reject another Fast Track proposal ever again? This slippery argument — we can fix that in maintenance — can be used for every single proposal that ever comes along. Why even have JTC1 at this point? Easier for everyone involved just hand the “International Standard” stamp over to Ecma and allow them to rubber stamp their own International Standards. This will save the time and expense of engaging hundreds of representatives from 87 JTC1 NB’s for a year for a sham review.

My advice is this. Let’s turn this train wreck around. Vote No on DIS 29500 and send a clear message that 6,000 page immature standards are not appropriate for JTC1 Fast Track. It showed poor judgment and great disrespect toward JTC1 NB’s for Microsoft to send this mess via Fast Track in the first place.

Microsoft has every right to feel that they are late to the game, and risk being left behind for their lack of an open document standard. But they should not expect that they can simply throw money around and remedy their long neglect overnight. And certainly they should not expect JTC1 NB’s to do the work for them. Microsoft should work on their specification at the consortium level and get it right first. Once when they have something mature, then they should send it along, preferable in smaller parts submitted sequentially. If they are unwilling or incapable of fixing the specification in Ecma then they could propose it as a new work item in SC34, where they may find some assistance. But if they persist on the standard remaining a single vendor standard, unilaterally controlled to benefit that single vendor, then I wouldn’t expect a warm reception in SC34 either.

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Anonymous 2008/03/11, 08:48

    The thing that I find most objectionable to Durusau’s “On The Importance Of Being Heard” is the apparent assumption that ISO and national governments should be clamouring for their voices to be heard by Microsoft, and grateful if those voices are merely heard, never mind acted on.

  • Gary McGath 2008/03/11, 09:20

    Durusuau needs to be reminded that it’s Office Open XML, not “OpenXML.”

  • Sam 2008/03/11, 09:24

    Agree, Rob.

    Re your point of Microsoft’s tradition of Standards-Abandonment, I urge readers to note how many W3C standards play a part in Microsoft’s next-gen catalog.

    That answer alone speaks the necessary volumes as to Microsoft’s commitment to interoperability.

  • Sasha 2008/03/11, 10:40

    Durusau lost my respect with his use of “Russian Peasant” joke. A variant of this joke is being told in Russia. In the Russian variant, the dilemma presented to the peasant was that whatever genie would give him, his neighbor would get twice. The peasant’s choice was: “take my eye.” A rude joke, exploiting an ethnic stereotype has no place in an international forum. [It would be marginally acceptable for a Russian to retell such a joke, plus in the original form, it is actually funny, showing a certain wit of the peasant.]

  • dario 2008/03/11, 11:06

    I really hope Durusau don’t become another Jan Van der Beld ( ex Secretary General of ECMA, supporter of OOXML and who now is lobbying for it in National Bodies on behalf Microsoft ) , showing as “usual” what should be avoided

    i.e:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wITyO71Et6g
    (this was in an event last week in Lisbon)

    Jan Van de Beld said at 4:30:


    “ECMA for instance has made all the standards for DVD and optical disks. There were 5 recording formats. So there you are a little bit uneasy, of course. And again after a few beers I can ask the people in the room. Why do you want to have 5 formats? Do you still call that standardization?
    The answer is always the same:
    You are well paid. Shut up”

    !!

  • Rob Brown 2008/03/11, 15:01

    Rob,

    You are of course very careful to avoid insinuations of foul play (almost); but I can’t think of any motivations for Durusau’s postings apart from naivety or subterfuge. And for someone as apparently experienced and knowledgeable as Durusau, naivety surely isn’t an option.

    Being editor of ODF and chair of the V1 committee is obviously a huge conflict of interest and while I’m sure that’s not a problem in the standards world when everything is consensus-based, it is an issue when the topic is as contentious as OOXML. Surely a man with respect for the standards process would recognise the conflict of interest and just stay silent?

    The Russian peasant post is very, very strange. He calls out “OOXML” – who is that? noooxml.org? If so, then his talk of customers and revenue streams is misguided, because noooxml is an advocacy site. It has no product, customers, or commercial aim. Can he not see that?

    Then the leap from “NOOXML” to the statement that there is no reason other than spite to oppose OOXML. Does he not see the tangible commercial benefits that would accrue to the whole IT ecosystem, not just Microsoft and its chosen partners, from a single, well-supported document format? If he can’t see that, why does he bother with ODF?

    Honestly, the “customers want choice in standards” chestnut is really starting to annoy me.

    Well, I’m a Russian peasant because I don’t believe that Microsoft’s intentions are open with regard to OOXML, that the OOXML spec is rushed and inadequate, and that having one standard is in the best interests of the great majority of people. Rob, you too are obviously such a peasant.

    I don’t know what Durusau has received in exchange for his “personal opinions”, but I hope he values it more than his (now irrevocably shattered) credibility.

  • zaine_ridling 2008/03/11, 15:56

    I’ve been following Durusau’s posts, too, and frankly, his personal opinions are irrelevant to the vast number of issues brought against MS-OOXML, not to mention Rob’s very obvious point: MS-OOXML is not suitable for Fast Track consideration.

    I continue to be surprised how one dishonest (or corrupt) party can bring down an entire organization — ISO — exposing weaknesses we never thought it had. It’s a damn shame that Microsoft not only does not want to follow the rules, but is intent on dropping a nuclear bomb to ISO, eroding what was a highly regarded reputation.

  • Nate 2008/03/11, 22:24

    Simple question: given that Patrick is the OpenDocument editor, why are his blog posts published in PDF format?

  • Anonymous 2008/03/11, 22:31

    Great post Rob, I’m hoping that part 2 will be like Bush vs Bush:
    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=117373&title=bush-v.-bush

    In May 2007 Patrick Durusau said in INCITS V1 about the naming of Office Open XML,

    “The current name of DIS 29500, Office Open XML is seriously misleading in several respects.

    Such a name should not carry an implied reference to a Microsoft product nor should it use the term ‘open’ The use of ‘Open’ is deeply problematic as every ISO standard is as ‘open’ as any other ISO standard. It is a marketing buzz word and does not belong in the title of a proposal that may become an ISO standard.

    Lastly, the proposal is no more or less open than any other ISO proposal and so ‘Open’ is meaningless in this context. Proposed change by MB: It is suggested that a new name be chosen for the proposal”

    VS

    “OpenXML”

  • Dark Phoenix (Nixa) 2008/03/12, 03:54

    “It’s a damn shame that Microsoft not only does not want to follow the rules, but is intent on dropping a nuclear bomb to ISO, eroding what was a highly regarded reputation.”

    This is because, from Microsoft’s viewpoint, the only “LOSS” situation is if OOXML is rejected and ISO throws it out. If OOXML passes, Microsoft wins. If Microsoft manages to destroy ISO’s credibility, Microsoft wins; by destroying de jure standards, de facto standards rule, and Microsoft’s monopoly guarantees that they will have the de facto standard. They don’t care what the result is, as long as they win in the end. It’s such horrible and short-term thinking it makes me sick, but that’s what it comes down to.

  • Anonymous 2008/03/12, 07:02

    “The final US position [on approval of DIS 29500 as an ISO standard] will be determined by the INCITS Executive Board and how many Russian peasants are voting in that forum.” (PPS in http://www.durusau.net/publications/russianpeasant.pdf)

    At best I’d consider that a lack of respect for the knowledgability and neutrality of INCITS members, at worst it almost sounds to me like someone is petitioning to be relieved from his duties…

    I’m not going to mention the conspiracy theorist option, any intelligent person will be able to read between the lines and form his/her own opinion ;)

  • oralndo 2008/03/12, 09:47

    “Blogger Nate said…

    Simple question: given that Patrick is the OpenDocument editor, why are his blog posts published in PDF format?”

    if you are using Adobe Reader ,do a “document properties” and you will see the source of the document

    if you are using another reader ( evince, KPDF, ghostview, etc ) there is a similar functionality: document properties

    enjoy!

  • Rob 2008/03/12, 10:37

    FYI, I’ve rejected several anonymous comments to this post today which attack Patrick personally or question his motivations. I will not permit such comments on my blog. Patrick’s arguments are specious enough. Attack the arguments. We don’t need to resort to mudslinging.

  • Paul 2008/03/12, 10:47

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for months.

    I agree with you and the previous commenters, so there is not much more for me to add to this discussion but to suggest one small correction for your consideration:

    “Last September, the NB’s of … Columbia …”

    My Colombian wife objects whenever someone mis-spells the name of her country.

  • doctorpacket 2008/03/12, 16:47

    In warfare, including Information Warfare, “the focus of the deceiver must be directly on the decision maker” [Ref. "Deception in War" by Jon Latimer.]

  • Anonymous 2008/03/13, 17:59

    I can understand the viewpoint he expressed in his latest post. However, I disagree with it – even if IBM did schedule their conference in Geneva at the same time. The conference in question almost certainly distracted the anti-MS BRM delegates more than it distracted the pro-MS BRM delegates. As much money as Microsoft, IBM, and others have sunk into this struggle, I don’t think there were any other types of BRM delegates (How could you *not* have made up your mind by now if it was your job to review?). I’m uncertain what kind of a tactician would aim for such a thing other than a poor one.

    Given Microsoft’s standards track record, both their own and standards created by others, I don’t think anyone should be giving them the time of day on this. They should first need to actually *implement* *a* standard *correctly*. It’s my impression that, while they have come close, they have not actually ever accomplished this simple task, in the entire course of their corporate existence. I haven’t reviewed all of their work, of course. However, as a former email admin, I know they haven’t come close regarding any of the email standards, and there’s a few that are fairly simple, IMHO.

    The fact that they haven’t even implemented DIS 295000 correctly should be enough in and of itself. The fact that they named their product essentially the same as their name for their competitor’s format, except with two words switched, should be enough in and of itself.

    I hear some people saying, “What about RFC1925?” That RFC is merely informational. If 1925 is correct in its assertions, they cannot avoid following it.

    I still wonder what the various ISO delegates who actually approved or abstained this monstrosity for fast track were thinking. At 6,000 pages, it’s certainly possible that some of them had read the whole thing by the end of the month review period for conflicts, but I can’t imagine any of them actually felt they had enough time to give the whole thing serious review. And since the effect of it being voted down – even if it was a 100% ‘No’ vote – would simply be to remove it from fast track, with no prejudice on resubmit via the standard process, I see no reason to not vote ‘no’ for it gaining fast track approval.

  • Wesley Parish 2008/03/26, 08:04

    Durusau’s claim that ODF lacks formula definitions for spreadsheets is quite obtuse,
    http://www.cio.com/article/203600/ODF_Editor_ODF_Loses_if_OOXML_Does
    seeing as OpenFormula’s already developed and with working lex/yacc grammars,
    http://www.dwheeler.com/openformula/
    http://www.dwheeler.com/openformula/of.y
    http://www.dwheeler.com/openformula/of.l
    http://www.dwheeler.com/openformula/makefile
    it is rather more robust than the Microsoft “de facto standard”.

    Or put it another way, I find I can trust a spreadsheet where the spreadsheet is treated as a programming language and is expressed in a verifiable (and compilable) grammar; I can know that it isn’t “automagical”.

    Pass that on to your local city councils; the city councillors won’t know what to make of it, but I think the engineers will.

  • segedunum 2008/03/26, 15:30

    I’ve been slightly suspicious of Patrick for a while, especially as he regurgitates quite a bit of stuff that people have already questioned regarding OOXML – and true to form, he gives no answers.

    Additionally, Durusau’s open letters now seem to get linked to within hours or minutes by OOXML ‘sympathetic’ people as answers to just about everything. People like Rick Jelliffe link to him quite regularly. “Oh, this ODF guy says everything is fine!”

    It’s as though there is a network of communication that goes around where they all link to each other to try and give themselves credibility, and as answers to questions they simply don’t want to answer.

  • segedunum 2008/03/27, 06:50

    Wesley, the kicker here is that the ‘issue’ of formulas has been brought up by Miguel, Rick, Patrick and just about every MSDN blog in existence to try and kick the ball back to ODF. “Oh my goodness! You could never implement formulas with that!” Well, Open Office, KOffice, Lotus etc. are all doing it, and they all seem to be contributing back to successive version of the specification to make it better. I don’t see any such process with OOXML. As far as I can see, implementing Excel formulas is slightly easier for some people because they’ve already reverse engineered a lot of it anyway so any blanks can be filled. That doesn’t say very much.

    When the same old line starts doing the rounds, and ODF formulas is certainly a main one, I get slightly suspicious of certain people.

  • Anonymous 2008/04/04, 16:53

    Hi!

    I’m a Norwegian IT Journalist that got the opportunity to interview mr. Durusay today.

    I first wrote about it in Norwegian at my dayjob in digi.no and then I did an English version of the interview at my blog.

    Patrick Durusau basically says that he sees a lot of room for improvement for OOXML, but that he believes that the problems with OOXML will be fixed.

    On almost every story I’ve written on OOXML the last week, our readers have pointet to your article here at this blog.

    I therefore thought that you might be interested in checking it out.

    Best regards,
    Anders Brenna
    Journalist/Editor
    digi.no

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