Much ado about nothing
Jason Matusow and I were sat next to each other at a meeting at the end of last week. I was laughing at some of the comments he was receiving on his blog in response to a post he made about the "Open XML - US V1 Committee Vote and IBM Motivations" - especially after he'd gone to the trouble of issuing guidance on how to insult him.
Then someone called Harley McGrew sends a link to a croklaw post about a meeting in Portugal that I attended, and requests that I take a break from my "rabid pro-closed-format polemic" to comment on it. Thanks Harley I haven't posted anything for about a month so rabid polemic is stretching things a little but nice use of English - much nicer in tone than the comments on Matusow's blog
The poster is apparently Rui Seabra. (Rui says that he emailed me before he posted - if he did it got lost in the ether I guess). Sadly Rui seems to have got into a bit of a muddle with his note-taking, which is understandable given how busy he was in the meeting.
So, knowing that Pamela and friends would never allow a story to get in the way of the the truth, let me set the record straight. You never know, Rui might even update his notes.
I didn't say that Microsoft was thrown out of any OASIS ODF meeting. I said that:-
i) Sun's Simon Phipps had told me at a recent UK NCC meeting that some Microsoft people did attend one of the ODF meetings. (Simon also told me that the Microsoft people came across as arrogant and didn't win any friends at that meeting.)
ii) Gary Edwards had recently claimed that the OpenDocument Foundation had been ejected from OASIS for promoting a viewpoint that Sun didn't agree with.
Here's a shot of where Gary wrote that. As he seems to have substantially updated his post now though here's the original text as shown above
Is Sun Friend or Foe?
Published May 22, 2007, this comment was written in the aftermath of List Enhancement Proposal donnybrook at the ODF OASIS TC.
It was at the height of our List Enhancement battle with Sun that OASIS stepped in their threat to boot the OpenDocument Foundation. OASIS carried out that threat in May. The lesson we learned is clear and unequivocal. Opposition to Sun, in either the marketplace (da Vinci) or in the OASIS ODF TC, can be quite hazzardous to your health.
Not that this comes as any surprise. Nearly five years ago in 2002, when i first joined OASIS to work on OpenDocument, it was clear that OASIS was a big vendor consortia. While OASIS does have an affordable "Lawn Jockey" program, Sun is clearly calling all the shots on the OASIS ODF TC. This is why ODF is bound so tightly to the OpenOffice feature set.
Still, we thought the "Lawn Jockey" loophole could be used to balance out the interests and control of the OASIS big vendors. We were wrong. And it took near five years for the obvious to finally sink. Well, "sink in" thanks to the OASIS hammer and boot.
In his revised text Gary writes
While no one wants to admit this, the truth is that Sun dominates and controls the OASIS ODF Technical Committee. And if you oppose them the consequences are serious, as the OpenDocument Foundation recently found out. Worse, there is a four and a half year record of Sun opposing or undermining efforts to enhance compatibility and interop.
And then there is the insane insistence by Sun that ODF be limited to only those features supported and implemented by OpenOffice.
Why is this relevant? Well the group that built the original ODF 1.0 standard had only two people participate in more than 75% of the meetings. One of those guys was the actual chair, who was from Sun (Michael Brauer). The other guy was Gary Edwards, and he has some pretty negative things to say lately about some of the ODF doublespeak coming from Sun and IBM, for example he closes another (long) post saying
The current membership of the OASIS ODF TC is clearly and unequivocably on record as opposed to the interoperability the marketplace is screaming for. The issues of "compatibility, interoperability, and convergence", as described above have been called by current TC members: "out of bounds", "out of scope", "not our problem", "let the converters and transformers deal with it", and "talk to Microsoft".
If Micrsoft were to join the OASIS ODF TC today, seeking to adapt ODF to meet the legacy document-MSOffice features-line of business integration needs of their monopoly base, the TC would have to deal with the exact same issues as they have summarily rejected with current compatibility-interoeprability-convergence disussions!
There is no possible way anyone can claim that today's OASIS ODF TC would welcome Microsoft and make accomodating changes to the specification! No way! And the proof of this hostility can be seen in the actual disussions and rejections of Micrsoft specific interoperability proposals.
Andy is out of touch and clearly drinking the kool-aid.
(The Andy referred to is the Linux Foundation's Andy Updegrove.) I think this shows that people aren't being entirely honest when they say that the OASIS ODF TC had arms open to Microsoft.
There is a lot of truth in what Gary's complaining about, for example I was surprised to learn that
the much vaunted ODF support in Notes 8 isn't the default format . It does rather beg the question why not. [Update: Nathan kindly pointed out this is an error in IBM's document, and Ed Brill has posted a corrected table that shows the ODF support is both default and ISO/IEC 26300:2006 format]
IBM's position seems to be that their customers will be happy to use legacy binary formats rather than OpenXML for now and that they may add OpenXML at a later date but that it shouldn't be an ISO standard. Meanwhile other parts of IBM clearly understand the power and benefits of OpenXML but they seem to be being censored for the moment.
It appears that Sun are now supporting OpenXML as an ISO standard. Jon Bosak, one of Sun's Distinguished Engineers who works on Standards in Sun's Office of Global Government Strategy recently wrote
"We wish to make it completely clear that we support DIS 29500 becoming an ISO Standard and are in complete agreement with its stated purposes of enabling interoperability among different implementations and providing interoperable access to the legacy of Microsoft Office documents."
Anyway, back to Portugal. I did say that as ISO-26300 is under-specified, implementations effectively have no option but to implement proprietary extensions. I said the same thing at the aforementioned UK NCC meeting (also attended by Rob Weir and Jonathan Sage from IBM) and nobody batted an eyelid. In fact I recall Simon explained that this under-specification is a design feature of ODF, because it is now seen as an "interchange format", and that additional namespaces would be "layered on". (The problem with this approach is that the layers you choose might differ from the layers I choose, so we'll end up having to define layer profiles to enable interoperability ... hmm, remind you of anything?)
My recollection was that Rui himself was amusingly irreverent and was chastised at one point by one of the other members for lack of respect for others on the committee. As he correctly reports I tried to understand what was behind his objections in the coffee break as I don't see why the free software community should object to OpenXML being an ISO standard, in fact I would have expected them to welcome it. But there we come to the crux of things - who speaks for "the community" in these matters? It seems to me that Novell, and Linspire, and TurboLinux, are at least a part of it so why isn't their participation being called for?
What I called hypocritical was to do so in the name of "freedom", while you're at the same time trying to argue that I don't have the "freedom" to make my own choice.
There's a lot of hypocrisy out there.