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ODF 1.2 Committee Draft 01

It is not the end of the end, nor the end of the beginning, but more like the beginning of the end for the development of ODF 1.2. The Committee Draft 01 of ODF 1.2, Part 1 was approved by the OASIS ODF TC yesterday in a 9-2-2 vote. You can download it here.

A Committee Draft (CD) is the first step toward finalizing ODF 1.2. The TC will likely approve further CD iterations before voting to approve one as a Public Review Draft. The Public Review Draft, as the name suggests, will be what we send out for a public review of at least 60 days. We can then make changes based on review comments and hold additional public reviews if we make non-trivial changes to the Public Review Draft. The ODF TC can then vote to approve the draft as a Committee Specification. We then hold a further vote to send the Committee Specification out for an OASIS-wide ballot (not just the ODF TC, but all OASIS members) on whether to approve ODF 1.2 an OASIS Standard. Once that is done, we can then start the PAS approval cycle in JTC1.

Although there are a lot of votes and process steps remaining, the major technical work is just about done. What remains is a period of review, perfecting the text, gaining implementation experience and feedback, etc. Some may call this a “death march”, but I see this pace as consonant with the importance of our activity and our deliverables. Work in OASIS might not be as fast as Ecma, where you can evidently create a 6,000 page standard in less than a year. Our process calls for a bit more than the IETF’s “rough consensus and running code.” But neither are we the slowest process in the standards development landscape. We’re some place in the middle. And when we’re talking about revising an open document format, already adopted and used by governments around the world, I am not ashamed to say that we’re working deliberately and carefully.

We also need to socialize and grow consensus around ODF 1.2, both from implementers, but also adopters and consumers of ODF. There is still work to be done here. For example, the TC vote on the Committee Draft 01 was not unanimous. We did not have the support of Microsoft or Novell. There are still disagreements over how we define conformance in the standard. We obviously need to continue discussing this topic. Since the final TC vote to request an OASIS Standard ballot requires 2/3 approval of TC members with no more than 25% disapproving, we’ll need a high level of consensus in the TC to move forward, including, hopefully, the support of Microsoft and Novell.

Implementation experience is important in OASIS. I know some have criticized OpenOffice for having support of draft ODF 1.2. But this support is a good thing, in my opinion. We need implementers to validate the design decisions we’ve made in the standard, to ensure that our choices are reasonable, that we haven’t missed anything. We’re working in an engineering discipline. We’re not making abstract standards for the mind alone. Engineers build, test and refine. It is what we do. In fact, OASIS requires that before a Committee Specification can be nominated for an OASIS Standard ballot, the TC must certify that there are three conforming implementations of the Committee Specification. So not only are early implementations a good idea, they are required as part of the process.

If you are asking, “How can I help?”, then here are a few ideas:

  1. If you are an implementor of ODF 1.0 or ODF 1.1, then now is a good time to start looking at what is required to add ODF 1.2 support. Download the CD of ODF 1.2, but also look at this page for a summary of changes. We’ll formalize that list of changes and put it into a appendix of the draft, but this wiki page should give you a good feel for what areas have been touched.
  2. Although we have not yet approved a Public Review Draft specifically for public review, we welcome comments at any time. You can send comments on ODF 1.2 CD 01 according to the instructions on this page. Download the draft, pick a chapter of interest and send us any errors you find.
  3. We should start thinking ahead to how we can encourage a thorough review of the eventual Public Review Draft. I want to avoid the OOXML-fiasco where Ecma approved and sent to JTC1 a half-baked, deeply-flawed text. What can we do to give ODF 1.2 a really hard scrub in the OASIS review period, so what comes out meets the high standards we should expect from an international standard? I think we’ve done a good job in drafting ODF 1.2 and I want to encourage scrutiny, not shy from it. But let’s have this scrutiny earlier rather than later.

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Bart Hanssens 2009/02/18, 04:49

    Congratulations, nice to see the progress on ODF 1.2 !

    Now, about criticizing OOo for using 1.2 :-)

    I’m certainly not against the possibility of using a draft version of ODF 1.2 in OOo (or any other implementation, for that matter) per se.

    That’s actually a huge benefit: it clearly shows the commitment of the OOo developers towards ODF 1.2, and it is a very good test case / proof of concept.

    However, saving by default to the not-yet-approved ODF 1.2-draft might not be the best option when promoting the implementation of open standards and offering end users the freedom of (product) choice.

    Luckily, it’s very easy to change this setting to ODF 1.1 in OOo, so I’m OK with it.

  • Alex 2009/02/18, 09:55

    @Rob

    Congratulations to the TC on reaching this waypoint!

    One thing that flies off the cover page of the .ODT is that you, Rob, are not listed as committee chair (at least this is how it appears using OO.o 3.0.0). Is this a document production error or has there been a changing of officers at the TC?

    @Bart

    I am a lot less comfortable than you that OO.o 3 has elected to save to what it calls “ODF 1.2″, and that when a user finds the deeply-buried option to alter this, this is labelled as the “recommended” format!

    - Alex.

  • Rob 2009/02/18, 10:10

    @Alex,

    That’s one of the tasks that we still need to complete, verifying the names, titles and affiliations of TC members and contributors to the standard. This includes the Appendix C “Acknowledgments” as well as the title page. This is one of the action items assigned to me, so you can be sure that my information will be correct in the final version.

  • Anonymous 2009/02/19, 04:03

    re- the 10-2-2 vote. Who were the abstain/No votes from. Is this an indicator of things to come ie. payback time ?

    Gopal

  • Rob 2009/02/19, 09:55

    @Gopal,

    You can read the details of the vote in the minutes.

    I won’t speculate on motives in this case. We’re certainly not going to have our GM’s issue a grand “Open Letter” to the industry saying “Boo-hoo, lookie here, Microsoft voted against ODF, sob, waah, waah”. The Committee Draft was approved and by wide margins. Now we move on.

    [Note that the minutes are listing the vote as a 9-2-2 result. This is based on rechecking the attendance records of members to see who had voting rights at the time of the vote. This knocked off one of the Yes votes.]

  • Anonymous 2009/05/12, 09:06

    How long is this going to take? Is it going to be finalized before MSOffice 14?

  • Rob 2009/05/12, 11:18

    My current guess is we have ODF 1.2 as an OASIS Standard done in Q3 2009. I haven’t seen any official date given for Office 14, so I don’t know how that fits in. Microsoft typically does a SP3 for their N Office releases, right around the same time they come out with Office release N+1. So it would be good to see ODF 1.2 support both in Office 14 as well as in Office 2007 SP3.

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