Former Microsoft consultant Rick Jelliffe has posted his own particular brand of science fiction/fantasy, this time in his favorite subgenre, a parody of a drug-induced psychosis, where after uneasy slumber Rick awakes in some alternate parallel universe and finds that JTC1/SC34 is open and transparent and OASIS is closed, and decides to write a rambling blog post about it.
If you like unintentional humor, you will enjoy reading Rick’s over-the-top post.
Rick suggests that organizationally JTC1/SC34 is a more participatory environment for developing standards than OASIS.
JTC1’s process, based on National Body voting is both effective … and more genuinely open, because it is impossible to stack either directly or indirecty.
Let’s test that proposition. Let’s compare OASIS and JTC1/SC34.
Who can participate? In OASIS, anyone can participate, from any company, organization, government agency, non-profit corporation in the world. Or you can join as an unaffiliated individual, as many have. You don’t need your government’s permission to join. You just do it. Most join with a nominal membership fee ($300 for individuals) but membership grants are available in some cases, when the fee would be burden for active individual contributors.
What about participation in JTC1/SC34? First, you must be a member of your NB. How do you become a member of your NB? In the US the price is $1,200 and you must be representing a company or organization. Individuals? Sorry, you are not allowed to participate. In other countries the rules vary. In some cases membership is not available at all at any price. You are essentially wait-listed until an opening becomes available. (Sorry, we don’t have enough seats, we heard in Portugal). In some countries, like China, membership is forbidden to native citizens who are employees of foreign subsidiaries in China. In other countries you can’t join at all. It is entirely a government decision. So, good luck joining the NB of Syria, where the constitution has been suspended under emergency rule since 1963. (But somehow they managed to make time to vote on the OOXML ballot. Zimbabwe as well, that paragon of open participation.)
Now, it is entirely possible for a standards organization to appear open, but in practice to be inaccessible. So we must look at the complete cost of participation, not just the initial membership fees.
The OASIS ODF TC does its work entirely on an email list, a wiki, and via weekly phone calls, which are toll-free calls for most participants. I don’t recall there ever being a face-to-face meeting, certainly not so long as I’ve been a member. This use of technology lowers the barrier to participation, so anyone can be effective on the TC if they wish. In particular it makes it easier for those who have day jobs and can only contribute to the mailing list during non-work hours.
What about JTC1/SC34? To participate effectively requires attendance at several international meetings each year (Plenary’s, WG’s, Ad-hocs, BRM’s, etc.), as well as participation at NB meetings. Since many of the participants are representative of large corporations or government agencies, a junket mentality prevails and the meetings are often held in some of the most expensive places in the world: Geneva, Granada, London, Kyoto, Jeju Island, etc.
JTC1 does not allow meeting participation by telephone. Since important votes, are held at these meetings, and no provision is made for remote participation, one cannot effectively participate in JTC1/SC34 without a substantial budget for international travel. Attendance at a single meeting — the DIS 29500 BRM — was $3687.52 for me, and I flew coach and ate cheap. How many standards meetings like that can you as an individual or your small company afford per year?
Further, note the nature of your membership — what can you actually do? Can you vote? In OASIS, it is one person/one vote. In the TC, your vote as an individual with a $300 membership fee is counted exactly the same as my vote representing an OASIS Foundational Sponsor. At the organizational level, it is one company/one vote, and the smallest OASIS member organization has exactly the same vote as the largest.
In JTC1/SC34 however, you typically can’t vote at all. NB’s vote, not individuals, not companies. So your opinion and your wishes are subject to the will of your NB. If your opinion varies from your NB’s, you may not be accredited to attend an international meeting, and even if you are able to attend you may not be allowed to speak your opinions. This extra level of indirection and censorship means that you, as an individual, can do little. And to the extent your NB’s committee is stacked by a single vendor and their partner community, or your NB decides to overrule or ignore its technical committee, or Microsoft calls your head of state to change the NB’s vote, or any of the dozens of other documented shenanigans that recently occurred, your entire membership fee and participation will be an entire waste of time, money and effort.
Membership is OASIS is far more open and inclusive. You join. You discuss. You vote. Period. In JTC1/SC34, you are mired in layers of bureaucracy at the national and international level, in a system crafted by and for the big boys to cut back room deals and manipulate the process to the benefit of large corporations.
(Now that isn’t to say that there are not some individual consultants out there who thrive in the JTC1 environment by mastering its dark, dusty, demon-haunted hallways. Even the largest corporations occasionally have need of this expertise, as Rick and others are quite aware. If JTC1/SC34 were truly open and transparent, such skills would not be needed. You certainly don’t see anyone selling their services to help companies navigate OASIS, do you?)
What about transparency? As Rick demonstrates, OASIS meeting minutes and agenda are all posted and public. So is our mailing list. So are all of our drafts. So is our member and public comments.
But in JTC1/SC34, most of the documents are private, only accessible to SC34 members by password. And then occasionally JTC1 will step in prevent SC34 from releasing their own work , suppressing documents even from their own SC members. There are no public comments to speak of, and member comments on draft standards are secret.
So when you are back from your “trip”, Rick, please let us know again, who wins on openness, participation and transparency?
And for the record, a couple of outright deceptions in Rick’s post:
- Rick says that there are 80 NB’s, and thousands people participating in JTC1, but only 13 people participating on the ODF TC. This is a particularly inept comparison. Why is he comparing all of JTC1 to a single OASIS TC? If you look at OASIS overall, you will see that OASIS has more than 5,000 participants, representing over 600 organizations and individual members in 100 countries. The ODF TC itself has 53 members, including 7 members of JTC1/SC34.
- Rick picks a “random” ODF TC minutes post from a year ago to attempt to suggest domination by a single company. Not so random a choice, methinks. It was a rare joint meeting of the ODF TC and the Metadata subcommittee, which brought in a far greater number of Sun employees than typically participate in a call.