They claim to be transparent and acting so that NB’s can easily review their progress in addressing their comments.
Well, let’s take a closer look.
First, Microsoft has managed to get JTC1 to clamp down on information. What was a transparent process is now mired in multiple levels of security leading to delay, denial of information to some NB participants and total opaqueness to the public.
Let’s review how things worked with ODF.
- OASIS ODF TC mailing list archives are public for anyone to read
- OASIS ODF TC public comment list archives are public for anyone to read
- OASIS ODC meeting minutes, for every one of our weekly teleconferences going back to 2002, are all public for anyone to read.
- The results of ODF’s ballot in ISO are public, including all of the NB comments
- The comments on ODF from SC34 members are also public
- The ISO Disposition of Comments report for ODF is also public for anyone to read
Short of allowing the public to read my mind, there is not much more we can do in OASIS to make the process more transparent. (And if you read this blog regularly you already have a good idea of what I’m thinking.)
But what about the OOXML process? Every single one of the above items is unavailable to the public, and in many cases cases is not available even to the JTC1 NB’s who are deciding OOXML’s fate.
In fact, OOXML is moving in reverse. Documents that were once public, such as the Sept 2nd. ballot results and NB comments, have been taken down and replaced with password-protected versions (Look for the DIS 29500 documents here. They all used to be available for all to download.) How do you get access to the password? The password is made available to NB points of contact “on request”. But so far few NB’s have requested the password. You can see here which ones have requested the password and which have not. As of today, only 18 of 51 NB’s have requested the password. Only 35% of SC34 NB’s have access to the same information they had back in September. Indeed, we’re moving backwards.
In the particular cases of these “662 responses”, Ecma is hosting them on their web site, on a different password protected page. (Yes, the comments and the resolutions to the comments are on two different web sites with two different passwords.) I’m hearing as well that few NB’s actually have the password, and some who do are not passing it on to their own committee members. I’ve heard from a few NB members who explicitly requested access to these documents but were denied. Others are simply unaware that these comment resolutions are available. What was once an open process is now closing up.
(12/04/2007 Update: Brian Jones claims that these 662 resolutions are protected by JTC1 rules. But JTC1 rules apply to documents submitted into the JTC1 process, hosted by JTC1 , assigned JTC1 “N” numbers, and archived by JTC1, as required by JTC1 process. But these 662 resolutions are not called for by the JTC1 process, are not hosted by JTC1, are not assigned JTC1 “N” numbers and are not archived by JTC1. They are Ecma documents, hosted by Ecma, assigned ID’s by Ecma, and controlled by Ecma passwords. These documents were never submitted to JTC1. Ecma is in total control over whether or not the public has access to them.
Brian highlights some rules that apply to the Disposition of Comments report, but that is not what we have before us. We won’t have the Disposition of Comments report until after the Ballot Resolution Meeting. At that point, it will be an official JTC1 document, assigned an “N” number, hosted by JTC1 and accessible via their password .
Note also that Microsoft continues to dodge how closed the Ecma TC45 process has been and remains. Why not open up the TC45 mailing list archives, Brian? Are the ISO meanies stopping you? I know that Ecma is not forcing you. Their policy is to let each TC decide for themselves. I’m sure if Microsoft took a leadership position in favor of openness that you could convince the other members of TC45 to increase their transparency. What do you say?)
(12/06/2007 Update: The former Ecma Secretary General weighs in on the topic in a blog post, confirming that the responses are not controlled by ISO access rules, though the original NB comments are:
Consequently, Ecma is not constrained in posting its interim responses on a publicly available page as long as they are not tied to specific NB comments. In other words, Ecma would have to do some work to separate the proposed responses from the specific NB comments, but then Ecma may make its work publicly visible. If there is so much interest outside the NB circuit, then Ecma will surely do something here.
Indeed, seen from Ecma there is nothing that forbids Ecma to distribute its proposals. But it should also be clear, in the light of the longstanding relationship, that it is not a MUST for Ecma to do this. Good habits and rules have a value, like in any great game, such as football. And also there the rules and habits don’t change overnight because somebody has another, maybe even brilliant idea
But suppose you get through your local NB politics and actually lay your hands on the password to the Ecma web site, what do you get then? You then have the privilege of navigating 50 or so different pages, scrolling through them and click on 662 links to download 662 separate PDF files, all from a painfully slow server. Ughh… It hardly seems worth it. It is almost like someone wants to discourage NB’s from actually reading this stuff.
Aiming to lessen the pain a little, I downloaded all 662 comments, and made a singe PDF file that contains all of the comment responses. I also included the original NB comments, and cross-linked everything, so I can navigate from comment to response, and slice and dice it by similar comments, or by NB. It is full text indexed, so I can search for things like “VML” and see all comments or responses relevant to that topic. Since it is liberated from the Ecma website, I can even use it off-line.
Doesn’t my method sound easier to use than downloading 662 PDF files? If you agree, then I’ll make you an offer. If you are a JTC1 or SC34 NB member, and would like access to this consolidated document, let me know via email. (You can find my email address here.) Note that my compilation is not a formal JTC1 document, and that this is not an offer from the US NB. This a personal offer from me to other individuals who are also JTC1 or SC34 NB members. (Of course, if Ecma wants a copy of this as well to make available for all NB’s to download, then that is even better. They know where to find me.)
So, now that I’ve read through these 662 responses, let me fill you in what we have here. First, I’d like to define some terms, so we’re all on the same page and understand the status of these 662 proposals.
At the BRM, baring any breakdown from lack of consensus, there will be issued an official “Resolution of Comments” document. This is the set of textual changes that JTC1 NB’s authorizes the Project Editor (Microsoft’s contractor in Ecma) to make to the DIS 29500 specification. Only the BRM can authorize these changes.
By January 14th, JTC1 NB’s will receive from the Project Editor a “Proposed Resolution of Comments” document. This will be Ecma’s proposals for how they would like to see the Sept. 2nd ballot comments resolved. The BRM is not limited to considering Ecma’s proposals. Their own NB comments from Sept 2nd may also be in play, since those often came with their own proposed resolutions which differ from the ones that Ecma will propose.
So what do we have now, these recent drop of 662 documents from Ecma? I call these by the verbose name: “Ecma’s Draft Proposed Resolution of Comments”. The are not the final Resolution of Comments, and they are not even the final Proposed Resolution of Comments. They are a draft of proposed resolutions to 662 of the 3,522 comments submitted by JTC1 on Sept 2nd.
So the time line is:
- From now until late January we receive updates from Ecma in the form of Draft Proposed Resolution of Comments. If they continue to be posted in a user-unfriendly form, I will continue to produce updates to my consolidated report.
- By January 14th, Ecma submits their final Proposed Resolution of Comments
- At the adjournment of the BRM we have the approved Resolution of Comments
- The Project Editor then has 30 days to apply the Resolution of Comments to produce the new text of DIS 29500
- It is the above revised text that NB’s will consider whether to approve or not. Note that since the NB only has 30 days to reconsider their Sept. 2nd vote, and the revised text is not due until 30 days after the BRM, it is likely that NB’s will need to use their imagination and decide based on the approved Resolution of Comments document (perhaps 4,000+ pages in length), not having seen the actual revised text of the DIS.
So, what can we sat about the recently released draft proposed resolution of comments document?
This initial set of responses are almost entirely minor, dealing with corrections to examples, spelling errors, punctuation errors, cleanup of broken links, fixing illegible formulas, adding missing units on quantities, etc. There are also many, many duplicates in this area. In particular, the issue regarding spreadsheet functions missing units on some functions (not specifying radians or degrees) was picked up by 12 NB’s. Since there are multiple instances of that defect in the OOXML specification, each one repeated by several NB’s, this single observation results in 48 proposed resolutions. Ecma appears to have concentrated on comments like this, easy to fix and duplicated, in this batch. So although there are 662 resolutions on paper, this maps to perhaps only 80 or so unique issues.
The breakdown of proposed resolutions by NB is in the table below. These numbers are a bit tricky to interpret with the duplicate comments, since one NB’s comments might have been addressed in passing while fixing another NB’s issues. So I doubt Microsoft is spending a lot of time on Columbia, since they voted yes. But there may be a significant duplication between Columbia’s comments and another NB which Microsoft is trying to please. But by looking at unique comments, those submitted by only one NB, we can get a good sense of which NB’s Ecma is trying to please most. And no, I’m not going to tell you which ones they are.
|Member||Comments Submitted||Ecma Responses||% Responded to|
|Korea, Republic of||25||0||0%|
To be fair, not every resolution in this batch was editorial. There was some technical detail added. For example, the following points were clarified:
- The SpreadsheetML AND/OR functions do not short circuit, so all parameters must be evaluated.
- The CHAR() function converts an integer into a character. But no character set was defined in the DIS to govern this conversion. Microsoft clarrified tis saying that the function uses the “Macintosh character set”on the Mac and ANSI on all other platforms.
- Spreadsheet functions that do searches or string compares (EXACT, FIND, FINDB, SEARCH, SEARCHB. etc.) do so with lexical character comparisons, not collation-based operations.
- Part names in an OPC package can be IRI’s, not just URI’s. So this allows Unicode characters, with some restrictions in items names
However, the 662 comments carefully tip-toed around the controversial issue. I guess we’ll read proposals for those in a future update. So NB members, take the opportunity now to get access to this portal. Ask your NB head for access if you haven’t already been given the password. And if you want a copy of my consolidated PDF file, let me know.