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Looking for Good Ideas for ODF-Next

A typical team project, whether software, standards, bridge construction or what have you, has a slow start dominated by a planning and scheduling, a middle period of execution, and an finish with final frantic rush of activity to complete the project. Then everyone takes a few days off and we start again.

One thing I learned early in my career was how wasteful this kind of project cycle is. The problem is that not everyone is involved in every part of the project. Some only work on planning, some only on execution, and some mainly come in at the end. This leads to suboptimal allocation of resources. People are standing around waiting.

One solution, not necessarily the only one, is to work on multiple versions of a project at once. For example, when working on a software application, you can take 25% of your team and have them start the planning phase of version N+1 while the remaining 75% of the team completes the final QA stage of version N.

We have a similar issue with standards development. Both the OASIS and the JTC1 PAS process involve a lot of standing around waiting: at least two months of public review in OASIS, and 6 months of review in JTC1. And even now, as we complete the editing work on ODF 1.2, the wider ODF community is standing around waiting. It is too late to make feature proposals for ODF 1.2, but too early for a full public review of the ODF 1.2 draft.

What is to be done?

The ODF TC has decided to begin activities on the next version of ODF, called for now “ODF-Next”, even before we have ODF 1.2 approved. Although we obviously won’t be spending a large amount of time on that effort quite yet, since we really are all busy with ODF 1.2, we have come up with a way to engage the broader community and have you help us gather requirements for ODF-Next now, which we can then consider during the downtime when ODF 1.2 is under review in OASIS and JTC1. The Call for Proposals for ODF-Next went out on Friday.

So put on your thinking cap. ODF 1.1 and ODF 1.2 were incremental releases. Maybe ODF-Next will be bolder, maybe something that shifts the paradigm, pushes the envelope, breaks out of the box. Is the dominant WYSIWYG word processing paradigm the final word in user productivity? Or are we overdue for a change, for a different set of priorities? As Thomas Paine wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

Now is the time to start collecting the ideas, big or small, and submit them to the ODF TC according to the instructions in the Call for Proposals linked to above.

We’ll be collecting ideas at least until March 31st. The Requirements Subcommittee will then sort through the ideas, categorize and prioritize them, and generally try to make sense of it all, and then write up an ODF-Next Requirements document with their recommendations.

This is a good chance to get your ideas in early and have a real impact on where we go with ODF in the next major release. But please, do not give me ideas via blog comments. We can only accept ideas sent through the above linked OASIS comment submission procedure, which is necessary to ensure that ODF remains an open standard that anyone can implement. IANAL, but I believe an added benefit is that any idea you submit, even if speculative, even if not added to ODF-Next, will be permanently archived in the ODF comment list, and thus will establish prior art which could scuttle attempts to secure patents in this area. So by contributing your ideas publicly in this way, you help to establish an intellectual commons that will benefit free and open source applications in this area.

Please pass along the word. We’re hoping to get 100’s of ideas for ODF-Next. Bring it on!

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