The JTC1 Directives [pdf] are quite clear on this point. After a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM), if the text is approved, the edited, final version of the text is to be distributed to NB’s within 1 month. This requirement is in the Fast Track part of JTC1 Directives, specifically in 13.12:
13.12 The time period for post ballot activities by the respective responsible parties shall be as follows:
- In not more than one month after the ballot resolution group meeting the SC Secretariat shall distribute the final report of the meeting and final DIS text in case of acceptance.
The OOXML BRM ended on February 29th. One month after February 29th, if my course work in scientific computing does not fail me, is… let’s see, carry the 3, multiply, convert to sidereal time, account for proper nutation of the solar mean, subtract the perihelion distance at first point of Aries, OK. Got it. Simple. One month later is approximately March 29th +/- 3 days.
So the SC34 Secretariat should have distributed the “final DIS text” by March 29th, or at the very least, when the final ballot results on OOXML were known a few days later.
But that didn’t happen. Nothing. Silence. What is the hang up? I note that when NB’s said that the Fast Track schedule did not give sufficient time to review OOXML, the response from ISO/IEC was “There is nothing we can do. The Directives only permit 5 months”. And when NB’s protested at the arbitrary 5 day length of the OOXML BRM, the response was similarly dismissive. But when Microsoft needs more time to edit OOXML, well that appears to be something entirely different. “Directives, Schmerectives. You don’t worry yourself about no stinkin’ Directives. Take whatever time you need, Sir.”
It makes you wonder who ISO/IEC bureaucracy is working for? The rights and prerogatives of NB’s? Or of large corporations? Almost every decision they made in the OOXML processing was to the the detriment of NB prerogatives.
This delay has practical implications as well. Consider the following:
- We are currently approaching a two month period where NB’s can lodge an appeal against OOXML. Ordinarily, one of the grounds for appeal would be if the Project Editor did not faithfully carry out the editing instructions approved at the BRM. For example, if he failed to make approved changes, made changes that were not authorized, or introduced new errors when applying the approved changes. But with no final DIS text, the NB’s are unable to make any appeals on those grounds. By delaying the release of the final DIS text, JTC1 is preventing NB’s from exercising their rights.
- Law suits, such as the recent one in the UK, are alleging process irregularities, including (if I read it correctly) that BSI approved OOXML without seeing the final text. I imagine that having the final DIS text in hand and being able to point to particular flaws in that text that should have justified disapproval would bolster their case. But if JTC1 withholds the text, then they cannot make that point as effectively.
- There are obvious anti-competitive effects at play here. Microsoft has the final DIS version of the ISO/IEC 29500:2008 standard, and by JTC1 delaying release to NB’s, Microsoft is able to have 2+ extra months, free of competition, to produce a fix pack to bring their products in line with the final standard, while other competitors like Sun or Corel are left behind. So much for transparency. So much for open standards. How can this can considered open if some competitors are given a significant time and access advantage?
Note that I’m not talking about the publication of the IS here. I’m talking about the requirements of 13.12 and the release of the final DIS text. Obviously ITTF will have a lot of work to do prepping OOXML for publication. For ODF it took 6 months. For OOXML I would expect it to take at least that long. But that does not prevent adhearance to the Directives, in particular the requirement to distribute the final DIS text.
JTC1/SC34, noticing the delay in the release of this text, adopted the following Resolution at their Plenary in early April:
Resolution 8: Distribution of Final text of DIS 29500
SC 34 requests the ITTF and the SC34 secretariat to distribute the already received final text of DIS 29500 to the SC 34 members in accordance with JTC 1 directives section 13.12 as soon as possible, but not later than May 1st 2008. Access to this document is important for the success of various ISO/IEC 29500 maintenance activities.
This indicates that the final DIS text had already been received by SC34 (but not distributed) as of that date (April 9th).
Well, here we are, May 4th, over two months since the final DIS text was due, and past the date requested by the SC34 Plenary (who by they way have no authority to extend the deadline required by JTC1 Directives, but that is another story). We have nothing.
So, I’ll make my own personal appeal. JTC1 has the text. The Directives are clear. The delay is unnecessary and harmful in the ways I outlined above. Release the final DIS text now. Not next month. Not next week. Release it now.