There is an interesting disinformation campaign being waged against ODF. You won’t see this FUD splattered across the front pages of blogs or press releases. It is the kind of stuff that is spread by email and whispers, and you or I rarely will see it in the light of day. But occasionally some of it does cross my desk, and I’d like to share with you some recent examples.
First up is this instance, from a small Baltic republic, where a rather large US-based software company was recently arguing to the national standards committee for the adoption of OOXML instead of ODF. Here are some of the points made by this large company in a letter:
There is no software that currently implements ODF as approved by the ISO
(They then link to Alex Brown’s comment from Wikipedia). I think this demonstrates the triangle-trade relationship among Microsoft, Alex Brown (and other bloggers) and Wikipedia, by which Microsoft FUD is laundered via intermediaries to Wikipedia for later reference as newly minted “facts”. No wonder one of Microsoft’s first actions during their OOXML push was to seize control of the Wikipedia articles on ODF and OOXML via paid consultants. In any case, Alex’s claims were rebutted long ago.
ODF has a number (more than a hundred) of technical flaws which haven’t been addressed for 3 years despite change requests addressed to OASIS by countries such as Japan and United Kingdom. There are discussions between OASIS and ISO/IEC JTC 1 SC 34 regarding true ownership of ISO ODF, which is a reason why the flaws in ISO ODF aren’t being addressed. In a recent SC 34 meeting in Prague a new ISO ODF maintenance committee has been formed because ISO / IEC 26300: 2006 is not being presently maintained.
This is not true. First, the ODF TC has received zero defect reports from any ISO/IEC national body other than Japan. Second, we responded to the Japanese defect report last November. Amazingly, Alex Brown is implicated in this FUD one as well. It was false then and it is false now. At the exact time Alex was quoted in the press as saying the the ODF TC was not acting on defect reports (October 8th, 2008), we had in fact already sent our response to the defect report out to public review (August 7th, 2008) and then completed that reivew (August 22nd), after quite a bit of active technical discussion with the submitter of the original defect report (Murata Mokoto). How Alex translated that into “Their defect reports are being shelved” and “Oasis has not been acting on reports of defects” is beyond me. It must be particularly embarrassing that Murata-san wrote to the OASIS list, within days of Alex’s FUD, “I am happy with the way that the errata has been prepared.” How could Alex be ignorant of these facts? Why was he lying to the press? How is this conformant with his leadership role in JTC1/SC34 and his participation in BSI? Also observe the triangle-trade route of FUD in this case from Alex to Doug Mahugh to Wikipedia, this time for negative edits in the OASIS article.
IBM currently recommends not using OASIS ODF 1.1 and to instead use OASIS ODF 1.2 which is currently not complete and will not be complete and ISO certified before 2010/2011. OASIS on the other hand have started work on ODF 2.0 which will not be backwards compatible.
This is an odd one, demonstrably false. IBM Lotus Symphony supports ODF 1.1. We have no ODF 1.2 support at present. I wonder where they came up with this one? It is totally bizarre. Although we have started to gather requirements for “ODF-Next”, the contents of that version, and to what degree it will be backwards compatible, has not even been discussed by the TC, let alone determined. So this is pure FUD, trying to make ODF sound risky to adopt, and then lying about IBM’s support for it, and our position on ODF 1.2.
The list goes on, including claims that no one supports ODF 1.0 or ODF 1.1, etc., but you get the gist of it. The particulars are interesting, of course, but more so the reckless disregard for the truth, and the triangle-trade relationship between notable bloggers, Wikipedia, and Microsoft’s whisper campaign.
Another current example is part of Microsoft’s attempt to duck and cover from criticism over their interoperability-busting ODF support in Office 2007 SP2. I’ve heard variations on the following from three different people in three different countries, including from government officials. So it is getting around. It goes something like this:
We (Microsoft) wanted to be more interoperable with ODF. In fact we submitted 15 proposals to the ODF TC to improve interoperability, but IBM and Sun voted them down.
Nice story, but not true. Certainly Microsoft submitted 15 proposals. But they were never voted on by the TC, because Microsoft chose not to advance them for a vote. They opted not to have these proposals considered for ODF 1.2. It was their choice alone and their decision alone not to put these items up for a vote. I would have been fine with whatever decision Microsoft wanted to make in this situation. I’m not criticizing their decision. I’m just saying we need to be clear that the outcome was entirely due to their decision, and not to blame IBM or Sun for Microsoft’s choice in this matter.
I think I can trace this FUD back to a May 13th blog post from Doug Mahugh where he wrote:
We then continued submitting proposed solutions to specific interoperability issues, and by the time proposals for ODF 1.2 were cut off in December, we had submitted 15 proposals for consideration. The TC voted on what to include in version 1.2, and none of the proposals we had submitted made it into ODF 1.2.
This certainly is an interesting statement. There is nothing I can point to that is false here. Everything here is 100% accurate. However, it seems to be reckless in how it neglects the most relevant facts, namely that the proposals did not make it into ODF 1.2 at Microsoft’s sole election. It is as if Lee Harvey Oswald had written a note: “Went to Dallas and saw a parade today. Tried to see a movie, but had to leave early. Heard later on the radio that the President was shot”. This would have been 100% accurate as well, but not the “whole truth”. In any case, the rundown of the facts in this question are on the TC’s mailing list.
So what is one to do? You obviously can’t trust Wikipedia whatsoever in this area. This is unfortunate, since I am a big fan of Wikipedia. I want it to succeed. But since the day when Microsoft decided they needed to pay people to “improve” the ODF and OOXML articles, these articles have been a cesspool of FUD, spin and outright lies, seemingly manufactured for Microsoft’s re-use in their whisper campaign. My advice would be to seek out official information on the standards, from the relevant organizations, like OASIS, the chairs of the relevant committees, etc. Ask the questions in public places and seek a public, on-the-record response. More people are willing to lie than face the consequences of being caught lying. That is the ultimate weakness of lies. They cannot stand the light of public exposure. Sunlight is the best antiseptic.