Posted tagged ‘OOXML’

How many defects could I have discovered if I hadn’t spent so much time blogging?

March 19, 2008

I am ashamed.  I had hoped that the hordes of IBM employees tasked with dissecting the OOXML spec would have spewed out a veritable panoply of issues.  In good faith, I thought they had done so.  However, with a heavy heart, I must confess that they did a pathetic job.

Not only were many of the comments duplicated when they provided them to NBs, they were weak.  The first time I actually look at the spec and my heart sinks.  If only I had been doing this for the last 9 months (blast that Microjelliffe-Soft) 5 months, instead of blogging.

I would have been able to single-handedly sink OOXML without trace, churning out untold thousands of top-quality comments of the level of the 25 I mentioned in a previous post.  The ECMA editor would have run away in tears, faced with my mammoth comment avalanche.  Others could have taken over the blogging mantle, with soundbites like “6000 pages, 60000 issues”, “more issues than Britney” and had real technical wares to hawk, rather than wheeling out the old autospace crock ad nauseam.

In retrospect, it seems like this was a case of applying high-value resource to a low-value activity.  I will have to think about my personal ROI much more carefully in the future, as the opportunity cost here seems to have been very high indeed.

On a lighter note, I think I can do better with Mr Knowlton, as regards out of context quoting:

I’ve seen a few comments this week quoting my comments in PC World, and claiming that I have somehow recommended a “no” vote on Open XML.
“If individual governments mandate the use of ODF instead of Open XML, Microsoft would adapt. The company would then implement the missing functionality that ODF doesn’t support.”
So, consider this my (first) response:
Regarding my comments here: (,141424-pg,1/article.html), It is unfortunate to see folks who elect to omit parts of the statements that do not support their case. The full comment is quoted here, to avoid any misunderstanding in the future.
“Also, if individual governments mandate the use of ODF instead of Open XML, Microsoft would adapt, Knowlton said. The company would then implement the missing functionality that ODF doesn’t support. However, those extensions would be custom-designed and outside of the standard, which is counter to the idea of an open document standard, Knowlton said. “Disastrous? No. But definitely not preferable,” he said”
I’ve added some additional context here:
I do not believe it is feasible just to add features of one format to another. These formats are not subsets and supersets of each other, there are fundamental differences in text, table, graphic and style models, spreadsheets have a very different representation, and on and on and on. “Unification” points toward an argument about how product code bases will have to be re-written, and there are no winners in that discussion.
Suggesting that one can just copy / paste between these formats because they appear to be “90% similar” is an insincere / inadequate / uninformed attempt at understanding the issues that are involved.
To ensure my position is unambiguous: Anything that Microsoft does with respect to ODF has no effect on our position on Open XML. The two formats are designed for different purposes, and would not benefit by being “unified” or “merged.” Should you encounter lobbying within your national body or government agency on my behalf, feel free to reach out to me directly for comment on the issue. I’ll be glad to share the whole picture with you, not just the half that suits my needs.
If you are preparing comments for your national body which represent the situation as anything other than my endorsement of a “Yes” vote of Open XML, you are misrepresenting fact.


враг народа – “Enemy of the people”

March 12, 2008

As I pointed out in a recent post, it seems like the turncoat Durusau has deserted our ranks.

With his interest in Russian peasants, he should be well aware of the methods of the Cheka/GPU:

In a depature from my usual (new-found) fascination with ISO regulations, I would like to look at some that might pertain to Mr Durusau:

Article 58 (RSFSR Penal Code)

I would suggest that the following clauses might apply:

58-1а. Treason: death sentence or 10 years of prison, both cases with property confiscation.

58-3. Contacts with foreigners “with counter-revolutionary purposes”.  

58-4. Any kind of help to “international bourgeoisie” which, not recognizing the equality of communist political system, strives to overthrow it.

58-10. Anti-Soviet and counter-revolutionary propaganda and agitation.

I have been poring over the OASIS regulations and have unfortunately found no powers to execute Mr Durusau, as would likely be his sentence, according to Article 58.  Perhaps I can just execute his cow instead. 

ISO needs to get with the program

March 10, 2008

I am quickly tiring of this rinky-dink European popinjay.  Although they served their purpose for ODF, it appears that they have not read the manual on how to deal with IBM.  The only good thing to come out of Europe is the office of ‘one lie reeks’, which has served us very well.  It’s a good thing that she has never heard of a mainframe.

For example, this guidance I included in a previous post:

[Consensus is defined as general agreement, characterised by the absence of sustained opposition to substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile any conflicting arguments. Consensus need not imply unanimity. (ISO/IEC Guide 2:1996)]

We told ISO in no uncertain terms what the consensus was in advance of the BRM.  It astonished me that they saw the need to go through with this charade at all.  I thought that it was just a ruse to get a week on expenses in Geneva, so did not get too suspicious.  I was looking forward to the opportunity to gloat in person whilst seeing the whites of my enemies’ eyes.

Imagine my horror when I discovered that a rather larger selection of NBs and other BRM attendees than I had hoped had designs on actually going through with it in earnest.

To add insult to injury, after expecting a hero’s welcome from the US V1 committee on my return home, they rudely suggested that we recommend we maintain the Approve position.  I cannot begin to fathom why they didn’t consider the arguments from US BRM delegation members IBM, Sun and Oracle to be a completely balanced view of non-Microsoft interests from neutral parties. 

For the first time, I am starting to worry about the threat my boss made to me:

“Rob, if this gets through ISO, then you’ll be working on Symphony with all your financial incentives based on product revenue, kapeesh?  Being paid by the word on your blog stops the day of ISO approval too.  I have enough big mouths to feed.”

It’s time to disband ISO and recommend to governments they only mandate standards from a body where consensus can be arranged and that is more conveniently located much nearer Sun and Oracle in Burlington and indeed, IBM in Westford, where I am domiciled. 

The Art of Mugging

March 3, 2008

As one might have reasonably imagined, it would be impossible for a single view of the truth to appear following the BRM.  Both pugilists are holding their arms aloft at the moment.

I had hoped that the victory would have been more clear cut at this stage, but no matter, I am quietly confident that the fix is in.  It’s now just a waiting game. 

I wish my “my attorney” (harking back to a strange night in Geneva) had waited until he came down from his intoxicated state before posting a mangled argument, ripe for dissection by the Microjelliffe-Soft. (Note to readers – his intoxicants consist mainly of ego-rush, after enjoying his status at the OFE, hanging out with Vint “OSI Amnesia” Cerf etc and giving interviews.)

 One of the highlights for me this week was the Spec Fission Auction, presented by my mechanical turk, another US delegate, graciously provided by Oracle for my use.

As those of you in the know, know – IBM has a multi-pronged approach here.  The IBM/Sun ODF axis is well known, but perhaps not the IBM/Oracle one.  Supplier selection by government mandate is only a matter of time (and money).

One NB kicked off with the idea of splitting the specification into 2 parts,then another raised it to 4, then with the assistance of some of my US colleagues, raised it to 9 and finally 10.  Unfortunately, the end result was somewhat lower, but it was fun while it lasted.

I did mention recently about the number of pro open source/pro ODF proponents at the BRM.  Indeed many of them were in the US delegation.  Certainly enough for a quorum.  Even if Microsoft, BP and the DOD dissented, they were still outnumbered by others with a more appropriate stance.

So it appears that some good work has been done, with the US, Yoon Kit’s Malaysia, winner of the BRM popularity contest, India, and (true to form) South Africa

Now to the title of this post – although we were able to deftly pick Microsoft’s pocket this time, they are now learning more about the standards process.  We have enjoyed a long period of them being ‘babes in the wood’, whilst we journeymen made hay whilst the sun shone.

I have a slightly uneasy feeling now regarding the smooth progress of ODF.  Although I feel it would be churlish for the enemy to churn out 2000 non duplicated comments when we try to move forward to 1.2/1.3, I fear it could be a case of Matthew 26:52.

In addition, it may be unwise for us to denigrate ISO too much, as this will dilute the commercial value that we have so long worked to achieve.  If we push too far, then Microsoft can simply claim that being an ISO standard is not really necessary, as it has little value ‘ according to IBM, Oracle, Sun and a host of other experts’. It is a very risky strategy that could lead to more Denmarks.  So please, ODF advocates, hold thy tongues, as in this case, discretion is certainly the better part of valor.  

A Savage Journey …

February 26, 2008

‘Erupting from my vivid nightmares into the retro 80s faded luxury of a five-star hotel in Geneva, the pictures of the first victim reappeared on the wall.  The head of the Brazilian delegation-it’s only a matter of time now.

My mind thrashes to disentangle the thrown spaghetti threads of blurred reasoning; who’s next, is it just the heads of delegation they are after, any NB member, P-members only?

The fog lifts and it’s worse.  Who is behind this, them or us?  We outnumber them, but maybe their plan is more devious.  Must find Bonky Bob, he’ll know what to do.’

Enough levity for now.  The BRM has held few surprises, other than the rather galling situation where I was forced to publicly toe the INCITS line by the temporary head of delegation, a Microsoft employee, against my better judgement.

The assembled luminaries also enjoyed some dazzling dialogue from various right-minded colleagues, until being cruelly cut off by the likes of Alex Brown and Rick Microjellife-Soft.

The OFE event has not been quite as successful as we had envisaged, so we reverted to the tried and tested technique of using attractive women proffering libations to entice the recalcitrant BRM participants.  I’m sure that the organisers can move up the “DEFCON” levels as and when appropriate.

Fast Track or PAS (or ECMA vs OASIS)

February 22, 2008

I recently explained the difference between the Fast Track and PAS processes in agonizing detail.  It might, however, be illuminating to see how ECMA differs from OASIS.

As I mentioned previously, OASIS is much more amenable to large organizations taking control of specifications by allowing a one “employee”, one member, one vote system. 

ECMA has to charge higher membership fees, since it is unfortunately a one organization, one member, one vote system.  

 The problem with that, of course, is that it is more difficult to arrange a cartel than the sort of dictatorship that can be achieved in OASIS.  This is especially true now that our friend Sun seems to be straying from the path.  Not content with having the chair of the OASIS board, Sun are now bankrolling the ODF 1.2 editor

In any case, as was proven by Sun, ECMA has been proven to be too diligent in trying to wrest control from submitters, so they won’t be getting our business.

In reflecting on the two organizations, it did irk me somewhat that OASIS lacks the ability of ECMA in terms of fast track.  Perhaps the checkered history of OASIS has made ISO wary.

It is certainly galling that our standards lapdog is not one of the “monarchs of JTC1”, outdone by the mighty, world renowned institutions such as the ‘European Workshop on Industrial Computer Systems Reliability, Safety and Security’ or the ‘International Information Centre for Terminology’.  

But all this is moot, as according to our internal ‘Standards Masterclass’, focus groups have indicated that “fast tracking” should be avoided, due to the negative connotations of that term for the submitter.  Shame on you Microsoft, for making this amateurish faux pas.

“Publically available specification” has the wonderful aroma of openness, just the sort of thing to get the Stallmanites and Slashdot sheep on side and give a general warm and fuzzy tone to the proceedings. (This is especially true given the OASIS history outlined above.)

As I pointed out in my previous post, the difference in time of the two methods is negligible, so go for the more low-key and politically correct PAS every time.  If any of you thought the Microsoft developer evangelism playbook was brutal, it is as “Guess how much I love you” is to “American Psycho“, when compared to our Masterclass.

I am now looking forward to the cut and thrust of debate in Geneva, taking on these dullards with my rapier-esque wit.  I was slightly disappointed to see my colleague Bob Sutor denying free speech recently, I must give him my course on rhetoric and debating excellence, so he does not feel quite so inadequate in these situations in future. 

One interesting truism came from Alex Brown, the BRM convenor on Bob’s blog –

“I don’t see how a delegate (or even NB) who is “opposed” to OOXML can contribute in good faith to a meeting whose stated purpose is to produce an improved quality text, if their “opposition” means that they are wanting to take steps to prevent the DIS being passed (no matter what)…”

Ursus, Merda, Silva.

In such a hurry to junket …

February 9, 2008

I hear from my learned friends at OpenForum that many of the NB members are really looking forward to coming to Geneva.  I inquired whether it was for the intellectual discourse, pretending to consider the details on the ox-ML dispositions or the pleasure of casting the pre-agreed NO vote.

As a self-confessed intellectual colossus, I am ashamed to say that the answer was no.

The real draw in Geneva that weekend is the special “BRM a-Go-Go”, NBs only invitational bash.  With the wheels unctuously oiled by some of the richest companies on the planet, the stalwart custodians of international standards will be cruelly focused on more base matters.

However, a tip for those involved in this event; note that IBM have generously agreed to provide all the name badges for both the BRM and the OpenForum event.  Anyone who went to Lotusphere will get my drift.

So be warned, there is more to be accomplished in Geneva than picking up nice little trinkets and maritime debauchery.  I have convinced myself to persuade influence encourage NBs to vote NO based on “technical merit”, but others may use more unconventional methods.

On the positive side, I was pleased to see that IBM have employed some photographers that have worked extensively with the National Society of Astronomers.  It’s not an association I am familiar with, strangely, with astronomy being very close to my heart. 

I happened to interrupt a meeting with the rather motley crowd of these practictioners of photos-graphein and some colleagues.  One of the photographers was saying how much work he had performed for the NSA.  On asking what the acronym stood for, I was somewhat hurriedly informed by a florid faced colleague about this august body of astronomers. 

I will have to look into joining.