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Open Letter to ISO Calls For Standardization of Process 108

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the corruption-arms-race dept.
In a recent open letter to the ISO FreeCode CEO Geir Isene calls for standardization in the processes used by the ISO to help prevent future OOXML blunders. "It seems ISO is not prepared for a politicized process where a big and influential commercial enterprise will use any means possible to push its own standard through to certification. Committees are flooded by the vendor in support of the standard. Votes are bought and results are hijacked. Several national bodies have flawed and skewed procedures open for corruption."
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Open Letter to ISO Calls For Standardization of Process

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    LOL

    I thought standardization was the point of ISO.
  • IEEE as well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday September 07, 2007 @10:52AM (#20507769)
    Can't remember the details, but within the past few years a committee working on an IEEE standard caused so many complaints that IEEE disbanded the committee and started the process all over. It was also a case of suspected corporate tampering.
    • Re:IEEE as well (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xiaran (836924) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:06AM (#20507977)
      I have some second hand direct experience with ISO standardization as, when I was growing up my father was a member of several ISO committees. One was for example the X.500 standard. Hes told me many stories that would lead me to assure people that if they think hard core politics and vendor vested interests don't go on in ISO they are sadly, sadly mistaken. This kind of microsoft OOXML thing is really nothing that new. Its just been rather public. In true ISO style, what will now happen I think is they will now argue about it for the next 25 years. A final spec will come out and be ignored by everyone.
    • by jkrise (535370)
      an IEEE standard caused so many complaints that IEEE disbanded the committee and started the process all over.

      Were you thinking of this?
      http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=9E6 A38B9-89B6-4C28-BD7D-B117D22E7C6D [cbronline.com]

      China accuses IEEE of wireless standards conspiracy

      In its appeal, China has asked the ISO to investigate 'whether the ethical and procedural rules and principals have indeed been violated and whether the ballots have been unfairly influenced by those ethical and procedural violations,' according to the report in the Xinhua media agency.

  • by advocate_one (662832) on Friday September 07, 2007 @10:55AM (#20507811)
    for them to follow when creating a standard... the existing procedure is a massive hodge-podge of sub-committees and other groups which do not appear to be following a standard procedure for making their decisions...
  • by Spazmania (174582) on Friday September 07, 2007 @10:55AM (#20507813) Homepage
    When I hear someone seriously propose standardizing the standardization process my first thought is that the level of bureaucracy has reached a point where its time to run for the hills. Thanks to prior standardization efforts I should still be reachable by cell...
    • by alexgieg (948359)
      Here in Brazil our previous government decided to diminish the amount of bureaucracy by creating a full-blown "Deburocratization Department". Talk about shooting your foot.
  • by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Friday September 07, 2007 @10:56AM (#20507831)
    how will they run the process for standardizing their standardization process without a standard process for processing standardization? Argh, my head....
    • How did they initially set up proceedures? I would guess they would use the same proceedures, but with much more outside scrutiny this time, which should help a bit.
    • Are you sure you want to jump right into processing standardization with out a preliminary informal sit-down? Run a memo among your peers and see if you can leverage any useful synergies first. Then create an executive summary for review.
    • They're a formal organization. I'm sure that procedures for altering the organization's charter and associated rules and procedures were laid down first, well before the first standard was considered for publication.
  • by Otter (3800) on Friday September 07, 2007 @10:57AM (#20507841) Journal
    It seems ISO is not prepared for a politicized process where a big and influential commercial enterprise will use any means possible to push its own standard through to certification.

    Whatever the merit of his suggestions, the idea that ISO is new to high-pressure corporate gamesmanship and requires a condescending lecture from a titan of industry like "the CEO of Freecode" has to qualify as the laugh of the day.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by hxnwix (652290)

      Whatever the merit of his suggestions, the idea that ISO is new to high-pressure corporate gamesmanship and requires a condescending lecture from a titan of industry like "the CEO of Freecode" has to qualify as the laugh of the day.
      Alright, I guess we should sit back and wait until Microsoft decides to clean up the ISO. Brilliant, sir. You are very, very well informed and surely not just some nay saying slashdot cynic.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Rogerborg (306625)
        "we"? What's your position in ISO?
      • Alright, I guess we should sit back and wait until Microsoft decides to clean up the ISO. Brilliant, sir. You are very, very well informed and surely not just some nay saying Slashdot cynic.

        Man, that went right over your head. The parent isn't saying we should sit around, and isn't even criticizing Freecode's "CEO". It's saying that ISO is perfectly at home with political pressure, not exactly a virgin in the field, and Freecode's "CEO" doesn't carry a lot of weight anyway, not exactly being a "heavy hitte

        • And the ISO is probably flush with cash in a lot of new places from all the new members. That, in and of itself, should be enough for anyone.
        • by hxnwix (652290)
          If the ISO is perfectly at home with political pressure, why did it take the outrage of the entire community to make them relent after they succumbed to political pressure? I like how cynics think we should all sit back and do nothing - except for the members of the ISO, who now include an overwhelming number of Microsoft shills.

          Please, don't piss up a rope while we're trying to wipe your ass.
          • If the ISO is perfectly at home with political pressure, why did it take the outrage of the entire community to make them relent after they succumbed to political pressure?

            Because they are in Microsoft's pocket, and thought they could railroad one of their corporate buddies through? Maybe that's a paranoid view, maybe it's a realistic view. What do you think?

            • by hxnwix (652290)
              I think it's because they are not used to combating well organized, well funded, international dirty trick campaigns, as evidenced by their vulnerability to such campaigns.

              But I'm not actually a sitting member of the ISO, so what the fuck do I know?
          • by drsmithy (35869)

            ISO is perfectly at home with political pressure, why did it take the outrage of the entire community to make them relent after they succumbed to political pressure?

            They did ? When ? In what way ?

    • by truesaer (135079)
      Well said....I'm sure ISO hadn't even heard of this minor snafu, fortunately there are people like this guy to make them see the fucking light.
    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:17AM (#20508121)

      Whatever the merit of his suggestions, the idea that ISO is new to high-pressure corporate gamesmanship and requires a condescending lecture from a titan of industry like "the CEO of Freecode" has to qualify as the laugh of the day.
      OTOH, it seems obvious that they need a scolding from somebody.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jkrise (535370)
      Whatever the merit of his suggestions, the idea that ISO is new to high-pressure corporate gamesmanship and requires a condescending lecture from a titan of industry like "the CEO of Freecode" has to qualify as the laugh of the day.

      After Web 2.0; discussions on forums like Slashdot, Digg etc. have shown that they can be a powerful influence on individuals, companies and public entities. The recent admission by the Vista technical team of a design flaw that throttles network performance when playing audio
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      Whatever the merit of his suggestions, the idea that ISO is new to high-pressure corporate gamesmanship and requires a condescending lecture from a titan of industry like "the CEO of Freecode" has to qualify as the laugh of the day.

      Hmmm... I always wanted to give a piece of my mind to NASA, every time they screw up, I thought "even *I* can handle fireworks twice each year, what's so god damn complex".

      You know what, I'm gonna send them an open letter.

      - CEO of my mom's basement.
    • by /ASCII (86998)
      Only a fool tries to change the world; a wise man knows that the world can not be changed, and changes himself instead. Therefore, all progress is made by fools.

      If everyone was as worried about 'speaking out of turn' as you would like them to be, nothing would ever get any better. The world is full of people who see that that something is wrong with the world, but instead of doing something about it, they sit in their basements wishing someone else would do something. But if anyone ever does try to fix thin
  • by AtariDatacenter (31657) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:00AM (#20507893)
    Keep the process non-standardized. Make it organic and not a mechanical process. It is much easier to prevent an organic process from being gamed in that manner. If it was standardized, then there wouldn't be as good of an opportunity to reject obvious manipulations.
    • Wasn't Microsoft's current dominance of the market an organic process at the beginning? Do you really want that again? I would think that your suggestion would create another monoculture.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      "Organic"? Can't we just leverage our synergies instead?

      It is much easier to prevent an organic process from being gamed in that manner.

      And when Microsoft can purchase votes at will, who is it, precisely, that you think would prevent it from being gamed? Some meta-level of benign dictators who can ignore the votes of the membership when they feel like it? Is that OK, as long as it's "organic"?

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "Organic"? Can't we just leverage our synergies instead?

        Only if we think out of the box and create a new paradigm.
    • by Verte (1053342)
      You are technically correct. The best kind of correct.
    • Cancer's organic, isn't it? So's smallpox, ebola and bubonic plague.
  • They need to develop standards for standardizing their decision process for developing standards.

    It shouldn't be a big deal... it's a fairly standard problem.
  • ...they should standardize the way they standardize the standardization process. Just in case.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:14AM (#20508079) Journal
    If true International consensus is to be achieved, then the criteria for adopting a submission as standard must be altered. The present criteria state:

    1. Over 67% of P-grade members to vote Yes.
    2. Less than 25% overall members could vote No.

    The scope for abuse wiht the above criteria exists because 'countries' like Khazakstan, Cote' de Ivorie and Cyprus have equal voting rights; and can become P-members as well. So, the ISO could consider modifying the voting requirements on the lines of the Senate / House pattern:

    1. The over 67% P-grade members criterion to be amended as "Positive votes corresponding to over 67% of the total population represented". Populous natins like India, China, the UK, Brazil have all voted No. The present ISO rules allow this popular opinion to be sidelined.

    2. Secondly, lots of new 'countries' have opted for voting and P-status. None of these have participated or voted in any other sphere of the ISO actvities. This points strongly to financial inducements and corruption, and cannot be dismissed as coincidence. The rules must be altered before the BRM in February.

    3. Thirdly, Microsoft has admitted to wrong-doing in the voting process in Sweden. This alone ought to be sufficient for the ISO to null and void the entire submission, and debar said firm for a minimum period. There is no credibility if rules are blindly applied, when benefitting parties themselves are guilty of subversion. This is similar to the submission of licenses to the OSI - the standards bodies must take into account past conduct and sincerity; not just rule on technicalities.

    4. Fourthly, the "Yes, with comments" option must be removed. This is meaningless, and mischevous. What incentive does a vested interest have in listening to these comments, and redressing the grievances?

    5. The ISO must take a clear stance wrt patents. Any patent-encumbered submission must be rejected until:
    a. The submission is amended so as to be patent-free
    b. The patents in question have expired all over the world.

    More later.
    • Borat? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:32AM (#20508331) Homepage Journal

      The scope for abuse wiht the above criteria exists because 'countries' like Khazakstan, Cote' de Ivorie and Cyprus have equal voting rights
      Why is this the case, when Côte d'Ivoire and Cyprus are run by little girls [google.com]?

      The over 67% P-grade members criterion to be amended as "Positive votes corresponding to over 67% of the total population represented". Populous natins like India, China, the UK, Brazil have all voted No.
      Wouldn't that just give China a plain old veto power? Perhaps we need both a House and a Senate.

      The ISO must take a clear stance wrt patents. Any patent-encumbered submission must be rejected until:
      a. The submission is amended so as to be patent-free
      b. The patents in question have expired all over the world.
      ISO already does take the beginning of a clear stance: all essential patents must be licensed on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms [64.233.167.104]. But I agree that "reasonable" and "non-discriminatory" have not been applied consistently with the goals of free software or open source.
    • "Fourthly, the "Yes, with comments" option must be removed. This is meaningless, and mischevous. What incentive does a vested interest have in listening to these comments, and redressing the grievances?" Can't agree with this. I'm not an expert in ISO processes, but in *most* cooperative decision making processes (which is what ISO Committees are supposed to be) it is entirely appropriate for someone to say, "Yes, this could be made a standard as-is, but it could also be improved by doing x, y, and z." I
      • by choongiri (840652)

        I would expect Microsoft's engineers to look at the comments and fix whatever management will allow them to do.

        Which at that point would be absolutely nothing, because Microsoft would have their kludge of a format declared a "standard" and at that point the managers have no incentive to allow further improvements.

    • by jbeaupre (752124) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:41AM (#20508497)
      I'm not sure you can develop a completely fair apportionment of votes. There will always be weird scenarios.

      By population: Should Nigeria have more say than France on nuclear standards?

      By economic power: Should the US have more say on kimchi than Korea? (yeah, I'm stretching there, but hopefully you get the point.)

      By ISO membership: well, you're looking at the effect of that.

      And so on.

      It might just be a matter of selecting the least worst.
      • Why not just make members agree to pay a $1 Billion fine if they are caught selling votes. That would bankrupt most of the companies that voted.
    • 1. The over 67% P-grade members criterion to be amended as "Positive votes corresponding to over 67% of the total population represented". Populous natins like India, China, the UK, Brazil have all voted No. The present ISO rules allow this popular opinion to be sidelined.

      I, for one, welcome our new standardized Mandarin overlords.

      • by jkrise (535370)
        I, for one, welcome our new standardized Mandarin overlords.

        Please note that even if China, India and Brazil voted together, they would be well short of 67%.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      While Microsoft seems to have influenced the Swedish vote, I don't think ISO will disbar Microsoft over that. If only for the simple reason that Microsoft is not an ISO member.

      Patents may seem like a bad idea in ISO standards, but I would not disbar them outright. Would you really want ISO to set a standard on (say) aviation safety and pick patent-free solutions over superior patent-encumbered solutions?

      Of course, ISO should make it very clear that any company representative at an ISO meeting automatically
    • by Tolkien (664315)

      The scope for abuse wiht the above criteria exists because 'countries' like Khazakstan, Cote' de Ivorie and Cyprus have equal voting rights; and can become P-members as well. So, the ISO could consider modifying the voting requirements on the lines of the Senate / House pattern:

      Sure, because we all know a Senate can't be corrupt.

      My guess is the whole point of the ISO process for standardizing processes NOT being standardized is this: the lack of standardization negates (as far as I can think of at the

    • 1. The over 67% P-grade members criterion to be amended as "Positive votes corresponding to over 67% of the total population represented". Populous natins like India, China, the UK, Brazil have all voted No. The present ISO rules allow this popular opinion to be sidelined.

      That would give too much power for the government of populous countries (and I'm not saying this because I live in a small country. I live in Brasil, a quite big country). I, as a techie, would suggest some kind of middle ground: for examp

  • by stranger_to_himself (1132241) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:19AM (#20508137) Journal

    I don't think standardisation will help. On the contrary, a rigid well documented standardised procedure for approvals will make it far easier for a large corporation to understand the process and exploit or subvert it, with ISO then stuck in its own standards.

    What's more important is transparency, that each member documents exactly the process by which it reached a particular decision, and that decisions within each member of ISO, not necessarily across members, are roughly consistent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Very good point.

      We don't necessarily need each country to standardize to what another country is doing. That might not fit with their culture. But if the process, whatever it is, was transparent, then we could minimize corruption.

  • "It seems ISO is not prepared for a politicized process where a big and influential commercial enterprise will use any means possible to push its own standard through to certification. Committees are flooded by the vendor in support of the standard. Votes are bought and results are hijacked. Several national bodies have flawed and skewed procedures open for corruption." --FreeCode CEO Geir Isene

    How old is this CEO - 13? He sounds like a whiny little whatever.

    In any case, he's late to the party. Vendors ha

    • by foobsr (693224) * on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:49AM (#20508707) Homepage Journal
      How old is this CEO - 13? He sounds like a whiny little whatever.

      More like 31.

      Quote [isene.com]:"On the professional side: After 10 years as the CEO of the recruitment company U-MAN Norge AS, I moved on and started my own consulting company Creo Pario AS. I then started working for the leading Norwegian Linux company Linpro AS. From March 2003 till March 2004 I was the CEO. In the summer of 2004 I started my own company - FreeCode It is fully dedicated to free software. As of February 2006, we are 15 people and expanding quickly.

      On the private side: I was born in Oslo, Norway in 1966. I have been a scientologist since 1984 (see my rather out-dated scientology home page). I am spiritual rather than materialistic. I believe in the good in people and that everyone can reach their potential. I believe that giving is more important than receiving and that being productive toward a constructive goal is what make people happy." (emphasis mine)

      Any further comment — except this one — seems void.

      CC.
      • by sconeu (64226)
        Try 41.

        2007 - 1966 = 41

      • by modecx (130548)
        Well, I think we've finally arrived at the crux of the matter: OOXML is the embodiment of all the evil thetans in the galaxy--and they all have cooties.
  • Buyout? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tribbin (565963) on Friday September 07, 2007 @11:24AM (#20508199) Homepage
    Will Microsoft pay companies to vote against the ISO for standardization of ISO's?
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Friday September 07, 2007 @12:17PM (#20509295)
    1. make a country
    2. Join ISO as a coting member
    3. Say you will vote No with comments
    4. ???
    5. profit
  • Let's hope it's applied to voting in general. It might help to reduce the effects of money on the electorate and of lobbying in congress.
  • Oversite Panel (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arthurpaliden (939626) on Friday September 07, 2007 @12:19PM (#20509327)

    All that is required is a oversite panel. At the first hint of something not exactly right the panel would have the athority to halt the proess and investigate the problem.

    This coupled with the requirment of P contries to be active participents within the ISO would also go along way to preventing this method of abuse.

    In addition say you have to be an active observer for 2 years before applying for P status or something like that and in order to maintain your P status you have to be an ongoing active participent in n% of the processes up for discussion.

  • From a developer point of view I'll parse any XML. If said corruption wins the day I'll being parse Microsoft Open XML with XML parsers otherwise I'll parse OpenDocument XML format with same XML parsers.

    Hell, I'll even parse both formats or convert one into another with same XML parsers.
    • by sick_soul (794596)
      <DATA xmlns:dt="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:datatypes" dt:dt="bin.base64">
      UEsDBBQAAAAIACBxKyxk+mOemWUK A ABWJAAMAAAAMDM0MC03NTAuZG9j7FxdjBtZVq5k8oPJeH/Y
      S SSQsO5Gi7Zb2/HYVf5NVosc98+0End7XO4EtLNC1eXrdk3KVUV VuTs9gJgHdp9XQhoJnmYfWBjg
      AQRCwAtaCfHCQxBvCAnBSqB 9WAkEK5hdYMI596f+7Ot08oylSrXLdb577rnnnHvuuefmb5599 h+/
      9Yc/9U9a4fMV7TXtk+cl7Vrm2c/AdemK+PIZTXsN/r4Of 37y/PlzfPTxa5r2Q7h+BNd/w/U/cP0v
      XJ/A9RwuDd6fwvUDu A6uatozuL4GDTyH630A+k+4Fj+maX8F10FJ034Xrrd/HJ7D9as 3NO1f4fo3
      uLSypj2A65twvfMpTfsPuH7l09AmXL8EfP0QrvP PwvtwP
      • by icepick72 (834363)
        No luck needed -- the answer's provided right there for automated parsing needs: "base64"
        • by sick_soul (794596)
          You didn't get it did you?
          That's only the encoding.
          That's just telling you how to obtain the bytes back.

          The problem is _meaning_. If I define a binary blob in my document,
          and it is not standardized how I should interpret the thing
          [ex: interpret this as an XY object in Word97]
          knowing the bytes gets you nowhere.

          Microsoft relies exactly on this confusion to try to
          pass their format as "open". Don't be fooled.

    • Your observation makes as much sense as saying that there is no point in standarizing document formats because in the end every format is reduced to bits, and those are already standard.
      • by icepick72 (834363)
        ... or my posting does make as much sense as that because I did not comment on whether there's a point in standardizing document formats. That's your assumption.
  • Hah. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink (130905) on Friday September 07, 2007 @12:50PM (#20509985) Journal
    All that crap happens all the time nowadays.

    It's just the usual Microsoft doing "version 1.0" of "Influencing Standards Bodies" really badly. Wait till their 4th or 5th try at it. ;)

    Hardly anyone making new standards is really interested in the good of the industry much less the world.

    In the past the geeks made TCP/IP etc because it was just a bunch of geeks who wanted to get things to _work_ and get stuff done.

    Nowadays, it's "How can we influence the standard so we can get an advantage".

    If someone actually comes up with a decent standard the competitors will just try to come up with something different.

    Lots of crap standards nowadays - look at WiFi - they could have taken a leaf from SSL, and had a standard that allowed _secure_anonymous_ connections, but instead you get the huge mess that's WiFi- where it's easy to be open and insecure, and difficult to be secure.

    Look at the upcoming HTML standards, all "throttles" and no "brakes", nobody _really_ cares about security. They just tell people to "please drive safely, and you should stay in your lane and not crash please raise a security exception instead", but do they really lift a finger to help?

    AMD come up with Hyper Transport? No way is Intel going to support it.

    And then there's RDRAM and the whole bunch of people trying to get their patents into standards.
  • A Possible Solution? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by LifesABeach (234436)
    Bribery, in any form, is counter to a constructive global economy. Allow no closed ISO Standards. That way, if some FUBAR'red ISO standard is allowed to exist; It can be ignored by the rest of us. As a side benefit, it would allow Darwinian Socialism to occur to rich fools.
  • It seems that all these standards bodies were prone to politicking and corruption, but only recently it has become so apparent and stinging. Still... ISO handled the issue better than ANSI or IEC alone. (AFAIR both have accepted OpenXML in the fast track.)
  • Ethics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Skiron (735617)
    What also needs addressing here is the ethical way this was abused by MS. OK, it does now seem MS are exempt to be held accountable for their unethical and immoral behaviour - but after Enron and virtually every Company worldwide had to go and improve and PROVE ethical behavour of all employees, Companies that TRADE with unethical companies should be punished also.

    So, all those that did take the bribes, all those that did the dirty work for MS here should be held accountable.

    Doesn't anybody else find it st
  • Mmmhmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by l0rd.47hl0n (1099499)
    Simple. Commitees shall have absolutely no contact of any kind with any commercial enterprise with a vested interest in the standard being evaluated. Use a sequestered court room jury as a template. No outside information in. Give em the materials they need to evaluate and lock the doors until they're done. Also monitor bank transfers, etc., to insure payouts aren't being made prior to sequester.
    • by JoelKatz (46478)
      The idea that people will make better decisions with less information strikes me as completely bogus. Understanding that, for example, Microsoft has a vested interest in a standard being passed may well help people make better decisions.

      To even suggest things this crazy, you must seriously misunderstand the purpose of the standardization process and how it works.
  • It would significantly help already if ISO/IEC would apply their own policy on patents which says that if there are relevant patents or patent applications, these should be disclosed and then it should be decided whether it is one of the "exceptional situations" where "for technical reasons" the patented ideas should go into a standard anyway. [Details: It is required by the ITU/ISO/IEC patent policy [itu.int] that known patent and patent applications should be disclosed and then the decision should be made whether

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