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ODF Editor Says ODF Loses If OOXML Does 268

Posted by kdawson
from the strange-bedfellow dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The editor of the Open Document Format standard has written a letter (PDF) that strongly supports recognizing Microsoft's OOXML file format as a standard, arguing that if it fails, ODF will suffer. 'As the editor of OpenDocument, I want to promote OpenDocument, extol its features, urge the widest use of it as possible, none of which is accomplished by the anti-OpenXML position in ISO,' Patrick Durusau wrote. 'The bottom line is that OpenDocument, among others, will lose if OpenXML loses... Passage of OpenXML in ISO is going to benefit OpenDocument as much as anyone else.'"
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ODF Editor Says ODF Loses If OOXML Does

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  • 3 questions... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aleph42 (1082389) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @02:58AM (#22866762)
    Okay, I Am Not An Iso-standard Expert (IANAIE ?), but that must be the most counter-intuitive argumentation I've heard this month.

    He invoques the need to have a formal definition of some features (formula definitions and legacy stuff) as benifiting ODF if OOXML pass, so this raises the questions:

    1) Aren't these already included to some extend in what was submitted for iso acceptation?

    2) Wasn't this specification part of what EU's justice were asking Microsoft anyways?

    3) Is it that hard to reverse-ingeneer that kind of spec?

    Asking in good faith, as I really hav no clue.
    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:06AM (#22866798)
      I'm not going to answer your questions. If you question Microsoft, you question America. If Microsoft loses then the terrorists have already won. Is that what you want?
    • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RR (64484) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:12AM (#22866826)

      He invoques the need to have a formal definition of some features (formula definitions and legacy stuff) as benifiting ODF if OOXML pass, so this raises the questions:

      1) Aren't these already included to some extend in what was submitted for iso acceptation?

      No. His point seems to be that some features are not in ODF yet, so we might as well accept Microsoft's, and that way we have to support fewer different implementations of features. He's approaching this thing with a naivete that is stunning in an adult who has watched Microsoft's behavior with standards.

      From the letter:

      What happens if OpenDocument and OpenXML reach different definitions of those functions?

      More importantly, what if ISO and Microsoft reach different definitions for the same OpenXML functions? After watching Java and Kerberos and CSS... We already have indications that Microsoft would ignore ISO on OOXML, too.
      • by tacocat (527354)

        I have no doubt that OOXML has a lot more features than ODF does. However, I suspect that there are a lot of features that are Microsoft specific based on the rhetoric I've heard about OOXML tainting from that interest.

        That said, would it make more sense to back out all the contested elements of the OOXML and approve a version of the specification that is complete within itself although many might consider it inadequate for the advanced feature sets of currently released software, Microsoft and ODF alike?

      • Re:3 questions... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:18AM (#22867414)

        ? After watching Java and Kerberos and CSS

        Oh please, not the Kerberos thing again. Microsoft used the vendor specific fields for, shock horror, vendor specific data; it fully complied with RFC1964 and RFC1510 and interoped with MIT Kerberos versions 1.0.5, 1.0.6 and 1.1.1. The java debacle was not that they changed the underlying java spec (and it was in no way an ISO spec), but that they added their own namespaces which didn't stand out enough. CSS, well, that's just bloody poor implementation. Mozilla have been happy to ignore parts of CSS and go their own way too, text wrapping immediately springs to mind where the MS extensions were on the road to being rolled up into the spec, but Mozilla decided to implement their own, so now, come CSS 3 we have two different methods of doing the same thing.

        At least someone is admitting that ODF is lacking in a number of key areas and isn't the magic bullet everyone wants it to be.

        • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MrNaz (730548) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:40AM (#22867518) Homepage
          I completely agree with you, the Kerberos, Java and CSS arguments grate against my intellectual honesty sensors too.

          That being said, I don't think people want ODF to be a magic bullet, and everyone knows that ODF is feature thin compared to OOXML. However, I think after decades of shifting vendor to vendor as corporate interests take turns in the gang-raping that has been the software industry for as long as I can remember, people have realised that open standards are better than extra features, provided that the basics are covered. That, to me sums up the ODF vs OOXML debate; format stability vs edge case features.
        • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Zeinfeld (263942) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:36AM (#22868058) Homepage
          It isn't Kerberos or Java again, they were disputes over use of an extension mechanism. Nobody can expect to control innovation through control of a standard.

          The best comparison would be S/MIME vs PGP. If you look at deployed base there is absolutely no question that S/MIME wins. We have over a billion email clients with embedded S/MIME support. But both are IETF standards and I was present when Burt Kaliski pitched handing S/MIME to Jeff Schiller, the Security area. Jeff was at the time probably the biggest PGP supporter, he was one of the main people who made the MIT distribution of PGP happen.

          The popular perception is that the S/MIME and PGP camps are both at each other's throats. This is not the case at all. Neither product is exactly a deployment success in that virtually no email is secured with either. Jon Callas, CTO of PGP and I both worked on DKIM together. PGP Inc. makes an excellent S/MIME product. The perception that there is a division only hurts both standards. In my book [blogspot.com] I advocate that email clients implement at least PGP encryption so we can move forward to an interoperable message level confidentiality solution. There is not a big technical or even a market reason to do this, but there is a major political reason as PGP dominates in mindshare. We are going to make very sure that we do not have a similar schism when we move to the next generation technologies.

          ODF vs OOXML is a very similar problem. The deployed base of applications is simply too great to make convergence on a single standard practical for this generation. It is only going to become practical when the market moves to the next generation.

          The Microsoft Java namespace was entirely justified, Microsoft had bought into Java thinking that they could use it as their next generation programming language across the board. The only way to do that was to allow access to Windows APIs. Sun thought that Java was more than a programming language, it was a replacement platform that they had absolute control over and would sue anyone who tried to implement different ideas. The way I looked at it was 'OK Sun, you have an idea whose time might have come, but why should you get to control the entire future of the computing business on the basis of one idea'.

          Standards are not about establishing a monoculture. The idea is to standardize what we agree on so that we can then innovate in areas that provide useful choices, i.e. benefits, for the customer and not in areas where it only causes problems.

          ODF is not going to be the canonical archive format in perpetuity. It is rooted in the world of paper documents for a start.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by filesiteguy (695431)

            ODF is not going to be the canonical archive format in perpetuity. It is rooted in the world of paper documents for a start.
            Valid point - I manage several document archive systems (Los Angeles County) and we hold documents in microfilm, PDF, PDF-A and TIFF. No one standard seems to fit all purposes. In fact - come to think of it - I have some patent applications from the late 1800's in leather. That's the storage - leather.
        • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @02:15PM (#22871858) Journal

          The java debacle was not that they changed the underlying java spec (and it was in no way an ISO spec), but that they added their own namespaces which didn't stand out enough.
          This is incorrect. Visual J++ extended Java language with new constructs, namely, delegates. These did not compile to standard Java bytecodes, and so couldn't run on e.g. Sun's (or any other compliant) JDK. Then there was J/Direct, which also pointedly made it as easy as possible to write non-portable code. Of course, J++ never passed Sun's Java compliance tests, either, which is why Sun sued (Microsoft had a license from Sun to implement Java, but the condition of doing so was to be a fully compliant implementation, which was to be proved by successfully passing the tests).
        • Re: 3 questions... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dolda2000 (759023)
          I agree that the Kerberos issue is not as bad as many seem to think it is, but that does not mean that it isn't bad. They may not have violated the letter of the standard in implementing AD, but I would certainly argue that they violated the spirit of the standard, and did so for arguable malevolent reasons. What they did wasn't just to put optional, vendor-specific data in the vendor specific fields, but they also require that that vendor-specific data be present in their client implementation. Sure enough
      • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Informative)

        by KDR_11k (778916) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:20AM (#22867426)
        The last time that topic came up many people mentioned that Office 2007's xml files don't match the OOXML standard so this isn't just "what if".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by man_of_mr_e (217855)
          You're forgetting, OpenOffice didn't conform to ODF either (in fact, it still doesn't). Microsoft hasn't released a product post-standard yet, so that's quite a strawman.
      • by asuffield (111848)

        More importantly, what if ISO and Microsoft reach different definitions for the same OpenXML functions?


        The very fact that you are asking this question is a strong indicator that ISO's actions here are completely irrelevant - they serve only as marketing for Microsoft.
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        This issue is far more important than OpenDocument, it is really about maintaining the integrity of the ISO standard process, of creating usable and accessible standards, and not pandering to one corporations greed and willingness to corrupt what is a very important process in interoperability, and product safety, all in sort perverse B$ marketing campaign, M$ has demonstrated it total contempt for every other business that relies on ISO standards to be able to function upon a global basis.
    • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by berzerke (319205) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:24AM (#22866876) Homepage

      From the article:

      "OpenDocument currently lacks formula definitions for spreadsheets," he wrote. "Many core financial functions in spreadsheets are undefined except for actual Excel output. That output varies by version and service pack of MS Office. What happens if OpenDocument and OpenXML reach different definitions of those functions?"

      His big beef is the ODF standard needs to have some formula definitions added??? So add them to the standard! Somehow I think the actual formulas, at least the financial ones, are already defined in some other standard, maybe not an ISO standard, but a standard somewhere. I just can't believe CPA's make up their own formulas. (OK, honest CPA's.) And since these formula's are standard somewhere else already, then OpenXML should have the same formulas.

      "But what if there are different standards for the same financial function?" you ask. Well, then have a flag to pick which one is used as part of the function call. If OpenXML doesn't do this then ODF can make claims that Excel is not suitable for financial calculations. Actually, from the comments above, I'd say that is already the case. "...output varies by version and service pack of MS Office." does not inspire confidence in me for one.

      The author also seems to think having OpenXML as a standard will provide anyone and everyone the complete specs to the standard. From what I've read, this isn't the case so far, and I doubt MS is anxious for that to happen. Get it approved, yes, but describe it in enough detail that anyone else could fully implement it, no.

      As it is, Microsoft will not commit to supporting the standard. According to Brian Jones, a Microsoft manager who has worked on OOXML for six years: "It's hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK'd OOXML] in the coming years, because we don't know what direction they will take the formats. We'll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. ... Since it's not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement." [techworld.com]

      • Re:3 questions... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy (595695) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:25AM (#22867454) Homepage
        Also, from what I remember hearing (sorry no sources), is that the definition of various formulas in OpenXML are actually incorrect. I seem to recall that MS implemented them correctly, but didn't write them up correctly in the standard. Which shows yet another reason why OpenXML shouldn't be accepted, as MS can't even follow their own standard.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:04AM (#22866786) Homepage
    He seems to hinge everything on the assumption that Microsoft is going to follow whatever version on OOXML is adopted, allowing ODF to be able to port those features. I think that's a huge assumption on his part.
  • by zooblethorpe (686757) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:09AM (#22866816)

    ... at least so I can find out what he's smokin' and get me some of that. I mean, whah??? If OOOXML is garbage, and not an open standard given the really big implementation holes, and not apparently implemented *anywhere* (nor, some might argue, implement*able*), why is it in anyone's interest to have it passed? Aside from Microsoft's, of course.

    Confused,

  • by jsse (254124) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:11AM (#22866824) Homepage Journal
    when the letter has to be distributed in PDF.
    • by ovideon (634144) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:44AM (#22867134) Homepage
      Not necessarily. If anything, PDF is a great choice for distributing final copies of documents - it has exactly the right number of features, ts specs are published, and there are plenty of good tools (both open-source and commercial) for creating and reading it.

      Acrobat, on the other hand, is a bloated pile of garbage.
    • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:21AM (#22867262) Homepage
      ...er, no, it means the author understands document file formats. The letter isn't meant for you or I to edit, and has a fixed layout, so PDF (being an open standard itself) is sensible.
      • PDFs aren't designed to be non-editable (it's trivial to edit them). They're designed to be portable. The grandparents author (sort of) stands - if OOXML was a successful standard, they wouldn't need to output it as PDF to make sure everyone could read it. Of course, this whole issue is about whether OOXML should be a standard - it's only after that's been passed, and people have implemented that you will be able to tell categorically whether it was a failure or not.
        • I'm not saying PDF's can't be edited, just that they're generally understood to be the final document, rather than a work in progress. This is how Acroread, XPDF and Evince treat them. I think this is a useful distinction. If ODF or OOXML are successful and become truly portable, I still think it will be useful to have a different document format for a work-in-progress and the finished product. Maybe you disagree...
          • No, I'd agree, but I'd say that it'd be better to have a security mechanism in place to guarantee that a document can't be edited, rather than just not publishing any editing tools - which is why PDF is not commonly edited. The file format is well known, and there is no built-in mechanism to protect the content - if you rely on a PDF to be tamper-proof, you'll probably get stung in the end.
            • Yes, I was just wondering about security. As I currently use PDF, I guess it gives me two useful properties. First, I know that my editor/viewer of choice won't tweak anything (update dates fields, change page size, etc). Second, it gives a 'clean' copy without any edit history or suchlike. But I can imagine situations where it is useful to release a document that cannot easily be edited. Which leads to the question...how? Is it possible to produce a secure, uneditable, format that is also open? I could alr
              • I'm not really an expert, but it might be possible to have some sort of public key thing happening - you have the public key (embedded in the document, for public documents), you can read it. But you can't write to the file unless you have the private key.

                Of course, this won't stop people cut-and-pasting, or even just re-typing the document. At that stage you're getting into DRM which is, as many have pointed out here, futile. Someone could copy your document - but they couldn't re-encrypt it with your pr
            • You mean like DRM?
  • Ka Ching (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Justabit (651314) <`ua.ten.dnopgib' `ta' `uoY2hsaC'> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:12AM (#22866828)
    Me thinks the bottom line he mentioned was under his own bank balance. Ive heard Microsoft has soft pillows in its bed.
  • by pembo13 (770295) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:16AM (#22866838) Homepage
    The majority of publications are in defense on OOXML. As the editor, I would expect the majority of his publications to be about weakness in OpenDocument and how it can be improved. I am curious as to his opinion on how to competing document standards can coexist -- what's the point of OpenDocument if only 5% of people user it. And the other 95% use OOXML, in that case, OpenDocument is a total waste of time.
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      And the other 95% use OOXML, in that case, OpenDocument is a total waste of time.

      I believe those numbers are optimistic. Most home users I know are using OpenOffice and saving ODF at home. It might be because I help them install it. At work, we now have been allowed to use it. And enough commitment to ODF that it will survive and if MS pushes MOOXML down peoples throats, might go with ODF. Why get caught into lock in and associated vender quirks if you do not need to?

      But this editor is a whacko and

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:36AM (#22866922)
      That post by Rob is particularly good, I recommend it.

      In addition,

      Patrick Durusau is one of several editors on ODF (in ODF 1.0 he was one of six editors) and in ODF 1.1 and the 1.2 drafts he's one of three and one of two respectively. So he's not the editor, he's an editor.

      Patrick doesn't present technical arguments, he only presents political ones, and generally he seems to be of the opinion that it's better that Microsoft be involved in ISO than not (and this opinion overrides any issues of quality, or whether anyone else can implement OOXML). This is the idea that this way we get to have more of an impact on Microsoft.

      In my opinion OOXML is an insincere involvement in the ISO process (as shown by minimum change during the fast-track, and poor documentation of OOXML) and I think it's naive to expect more in the future. So to me the political angle on this fails.

      The technical angle on it fails completely [robweir.com].
      • by killmenow (184444)

        This is the idea that this way we get to have more of an impact on Microsoft.
        "He who fights against monsters should see to it that he does not become a monster in the process. And when you stare persistently into an abyss, the abyss also stares into you." - Nietzsche
  • by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:20AM (#22866850) Journal
    on his blog for more details.

    http://www.robweir.com/blog/2008/03/contra-durusau-part-1.html [robweir.com]

    This guy Durusau seems to have changed his mind to a pro-MS shill in recent times.
  • Well, I disagree. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:20AM (#22866856)
    I do not support any "standard" that is bad enough that its own promoters have to buy votes to get it in.
  • by bersl2 (689221) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:23AM (#22866866) Journal
    From Fear! That should work! [openmalaysiablog.com] on the blog Open Malaysia, in reference to his first letter:

    I thanked Mr Cheong, for bringing up this important letter from Mr Patrick Durusau. His case just highlights the strange situation we are in today. If you know the background history of Mr Durusau, you will understand why he may have to write a letter like this.

    You see, Mr Durusau is the Editor of ODF, but more importantly he is also the Chair of the US Technical Committee V1, which is equivalent to Malaysia's TC4 here. What is interesting, is that because of this OOXML issue, his committee has been stacked. Now it's OK for them in the US to stack their committees because that's how their system works, so they grew from a committee of 7 members before OOXML to 26 members after it started. Fortunately, in Malaysia, ISC-G prevented this from happening at TC4.

    [...]

    So in essence, V1 has been taken over by Microsofties, and Mr Durusau is in a tight situation. If he were to be negative towards OOXML, his stacked V1 will retaliate and bar the progress of his normal work: work on ODF 1.2.

    The best and most logical option for Mr Durusau is of course to "agree" with his captors 'demands, and hopefuly they would be merciful later on. So its a strange political play which he has to act out.

    This is conjecture, obviously, but I find it plausible, FWIW, especially since there is now a follow-up.
    • by jeremiahbell (522050) <jeremiahbell.yahoo@com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:32AM (#22867092) Homepage

      Wanna know how much Microsoft has reformed this sort of thing?

      [Microsoft Internal Document] I have mentioned before the "stacked panel". Panel discussions naturally favor alliances of relatively weak partners - our usual opposition. For example, an "unbiased" panel on OLE vs. OpenDoc would contain representatives of the backers of OLE (Microsoft) and the backers of OpenDoc (Apple, IBM, Novell, WordPerfect, OMG, etc.). Thus we find ourselves outnumbered in almost every "naturally occurring" panel debate.

      A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select the panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can't expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only "independent ISVs" on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed - just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the "real world." Sounds marvelously independent doesn't it? In fact, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the "independent" panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you've got a major win on your hands.

      You can get it all here http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20071023002351958 [groklaw.net]
      • One thing about MS. They have an absolutely crappy product, and some of the worst tech support going (the fact that they have to pull this crap attest to their products strength; none), BUT, their legal is awesome, as is their marketing. If you look at the above, they are thinking in terms of not only controlling, but also marketing it. Notice the last line of "get the press". Awesome. I hate to say it, but I view this as one of OSS's weakness. We need to do a better job of advertising OSS. I thought that I
  • by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:30AM (#22866898)
    But if OOXML passes, customers, small to medium businesses and even world's governments are going to suffer. It's impossible for a team of 10 developers to implement a 1000+ page specification in their product. And because of ambiguities in the same, citizens will not be able to understand laws or government budgets of their own land.

    The only thing is, 500 pages of ODF spec may not be much better for small businesses. What we need is a specification with multiple levels of fallback for simplier generators and consumers. For example, one part of a document zip file can be plain text contained in the document, with reasonable efforts to convert document structure to a human and machine readable plain text representation. For producers, it will be valid to generate a document bundle with only the text file and nothing else.
    • by Jonner (189691)
      Wouldn't it make more sense to exploit the extensibility of XML and have multiple levels or modules of the spec like XHTML? Rather than having multiple representations of the same information in one package, allow implementations to ignore the parts of the document outside their scope.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by fireboy1919 (257783)
        Wouldn't it make more sense to exploit the extensibility of XML and have multiple levels or modules of the spec like XHTML?

        Wouldn't it make more sense to just add new properties to CSS3 and just use XHTML?

        I've never entirely understood the need for either format.

        If we can specify every aspect of page layout with CSS3, then we can do everything with HTML that we can do with word processor docs. If we add page transition style definitions, we've got presentation docs covered. Add MathML and we have spreads
      • by iamacat (583406) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @01:34PM (#22871320)
        XML requires a parser and locks out people using UNIX tools like sed, awk and grep. Neither can people write an ANSI C program with some scanf and printf statements. Also, with multiple levels of formatting and layout, it is no longer obvious just how to get all the plain text out in correct semantic order. XML has problems for sophisticated tools as well. Given a 1000x1000 spreadsheet, just try to write a query tools that quickly returns a single cell. But in any case, documents released by a government to its citizens should be processable with pretty much any tool to enable even hobbyists to help keep their government honest.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jonner (189691)
          If plain text is all you need, then use plain text. I do all the time. However, clearly many people do need a more sophisticated format for things such as word processor documents and spreadsheets. Using different approaches to represent the same information in the same format, such as plain text and XML, only complicates most tools that have to deal with that format, which will lead to more bugs and slower progress.

          While sed, awk, and grep are sufficient for very basic transformations and I use them freque
    • by Ececheira (86172)
      How plausable is it to think that anyone can fully implement the spec? Given that any file format is essentially a saved state of every feature the authoring program has and Office has over a million man-years of time put into it, why is it reasonable to expect a few people to fully implement it?

      A partial implementation is different - just implement the features you need or use an SDK.
  • by eclectro (227083)
    Has the Amazing Kreskin confirmed this??
  • Despair (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:46AM (#22866958)
    Technical issues aside. We all lose if we bow to corruption too.

    I despair at the behaviour and apparent quality of technical expertise of some of my peers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:49AM (#22866970)
    I'm gonna repost this comment from another ooxml "sudden flipflop" story - I posted it too late to get any attention then but I still wanted it visible. AC for obvious reasons! Also please bear in mind that all numbers are just for example's sake, but the general point is all too accurate. Also bear in mind I have no "inside" information on Durusau at all, I am just trying to tell you some backstory on how these deals can go down, including one I have specific knowledge of.

    -------

    I want to tell you Slashdot people something about how this kind of thing works. I don't really know the name for it, but I call it "soft bribery". You might also call it "economic alignment" or whatever. Here's what happens.

    A large, rich stakeholder wants a particular outcome - in this case, MS wants OOXML to be ratified. They have some adversaries - respected leaders of the OSS movement or ODF foundation, in this case. Note that there are always certain people with disproportionate voices - these people are really hurting them. How can they turn them around?

    They can't outright bribe them. That's illegal and probably wouldn't work anyway - people would feel insulted. So what they need to do is ensure that the "thought leader"'s economic interest is aligned with their own.

    We see this happen all the time - a previous strong advocate against something, in this case pro ODF and against OOXML, will suddenly get more concilatory. See Durusau's change of tone for an example. Now I don't know him, but I'm pretty sure here's what happened.

    He would be in constant contact with the OOXML team in MS just as a matter of course. One day, though, they'll tell him to expect a call from a VP or higher - big guns. He's excited to be able to reach higher up in the company. Finally, they're taking him seriously. He might be talking to a billionaire!

    He'll get the call. "Wow, we're really impressed with your work on this. My team is always telling me what a smart, together guy you are", says the VP or Partner or whatever. "I just wanted to tell you that we really appreciate the work you're doing and we can learn a lot from you. Say, when this is all over, if OOXML finally gets accepted - we'd love to get you in for some interoperability training and consulting, our staff could really use your insight. We pay pretty well, $500 an hour, and we estimate the contract would last for a year fulltime, but we're flexible with your current work - we just need you on call. What do you think?"

    There you go. That's it. A year's worth at $500/hr is close enough to a million bucks, the guy's got a mortgage, game over. Of course MS wants it kept quiet or the deal's off - that's their "standard business practise", and the contract has an NDA clause.

    Game over. I'm sure this is what happened to Durusau. I'm pretty sure it's what happened to Miguel. Unless you're independently wealthy, not many people can say no to a few hundred thousand in "consulting". Needless to say, he'll never step foot in any Microsoft building. Hell, maybe it's a lot less than a million - it was for someone I know.

    I am going to be very vague here - sorry if you think I lose credibility, but I don't want to burn my friend. He was the CEO/CTO (same guy) at a small systems integrator in the educational sector "somewhere in Asia". A largish school deal was in the works, his company advised decision makers in favour of linux. A respected company, had a lot of sway with the local suits, it was looking like going their way. One day he gets a call to the cell phone - wow, one of the big guns!

    "We really like the work you're doing. Say, it looks like this deal isn't going to go our way - but if it does, we'll need a partner to help us interoperate with the existing infrastructure - you installed a lot of it, so you're first in line and we'd like to book you in advance just to make sure we can get you. What are your rates? Well, we'd like to make sure we have you for at least six months and we actually pay a set rate in this area of $$$
    • by Builder (103701)
      Ouch - I'd like to think I'd be able to stick to my guns, but I KNOW I'd fall at that kind of talk.

      It's even worse for people who have done the Right Thing(tm) in the past and watched others walk away with all the money to say no to something like this. If you've seen what you could have had if only you bent slightly, you'd also be tempted by something like this.

      Fortunately for everyone, I'm unlikely to ever be in this position again, so I'll keep doing the Right Thing :D
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BECoole (558920)
      Question: How do I set myself up for such a deal?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Thomasje (709120)

      They dropped their opposition, recommended the MS deal, and got paid a quarter of a million (equivalent) to do sweet fuck-all for 6 months. My friend feels like a sell-out, but his daughter's now in a better school.

      Wow, way to defend corruption. As if selfish, short-term monetary benefit is the only thing in the world that matters. OK, in all fairness, according to the current American political dogma, that is exactly true, but then again, that is exactly why so many people elsewhere hate the stereotypical "ugly American".
      To get back to the point, I wonder if this guy will ever have the nerve to tell his daughter how he managed to send her to the extra-fancy school? To defend not only this elitism (how about workin

  • Tenacious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rastilin (752802) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:52AM (#22866974)
    His argument is too tenacious, I can't remember any historical situation which would bear out this line of thinking. Come to think of it, weren't there some MS guys calling themselves "The Open Document Foundation"? This is too strange to be legitimate.

    It's important to keep in mind the reasons we oppose the OpenXML format..

    * It'll let Microsoft extend the blight of their ".doc" format for years to come.
    * As with doc, hard to reverse engineer, if it becomes a standard and gets widely used, especially in government, we'll be stuck implementing it in OSS apps while they change it to be different (Bourne out with .doc history and allegations from Windows file Sharing programmers)
    * Binary blobs that could be anything, stuck into the code at Microsoft's request, obtainable only from Microsoft.

    Lately there have been even better reasons.

    * Allegations of corruption and mishandled votes.

    In order to ensure the public good, we have to stand against that sort of thing. Being stuck reverse engineering a broken format is LESS of a problem than being in a situation where your votes get messed with. It wasn't a public vote I'll grant but it still matters. After the mess with the standard voting, they have to become an example to others.

    While in the pro-camp, we have what?

    * Better spreadsheet handling with Excel
    * Legacy features of Microsoft formats

    Handy sure, but it's not as if we can't transfer from .doc to .odf already and while "better" handling of excel files is good and all, it doesn't mention why this isn't a problem with OpenOffice. I'd bet it's the same as one of the reasons people hate the old format, because Excel does something strange.

    Basically, the benefits aren't as important as stopping vote rigging or the problems of being blighted with Microsoft lock-in and binary blobs.
  • by pdwalker (113292) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @03:55AM (#22866982)
    Oh Miguel, you are such a kidder
  • by jkrise (535370) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:00AM (#22866996) Journal
    Assuming this standard gets passed (God forbid!); and 6 months later we find it's business as usual with Microsoft hindering access to so-called standards, and not implementing the standards in their own products.... preventing interoperability etc. etc.

    Can the ISO then meet again and de-recognise the DIS29500 standard?

    If yes, what is the procedure for this process?
  • by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp@g m a i l . com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:04AM (#22867004) Homepage
    "Superman [wikipedia.org], a prominent member of the Super Friends [wikipedia.org] group has written a letter that strongly supports The Legion of Doom [wikipedia.org], arguing that if it fails, the forces of good will suffer. 'As head of the Super Friends, I want to promote truth, justice and the American way, none of which is accomplished by the anti-evil position' Superman wrote. 'The bottom line is that the Super Friends, among others, will lose if The Legion of Doom loses... Evil prevailing is going to benefit the Super Friends as much as anyone else.'"
  • I don't see it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:04AM (#22867006) Journal

    First, literally, I don't see TFA. I see TFBE -- The Fine Blog Entry -- which quotes the letter, but doesn't link to it.

    But I'll work with what I have:

    OpenDocument currently lacks formula definitions for spreadsheets.... Many core financial functions in spreadsheets are undefined except for actual Excel output. That output varies by version and service pack of MS Office. What happens if OpenDocument and OpenXML reach different definitions of those functions?

    Then OpenDocument is the correct, standard definition, and OpenXML will be even further from standardization.

    The fact that Excel output varies by version and service pack, and is sometimes downright wrong, is all the more reason to ignore it. Approximate it, maybe, to make porting easier. Write a compatibility layer, even. But don't push through an entire second document spec, which is so deeply flawed in so many ways, just to make us match one particular iteration of Excel output.

    Oh, and Excel output varies by version and service pack. WTF makes this tool think Microsoft will even try to adhere to a standard, even if it's their own?

    In addition, ODF doesn't yet support "legacy features of Microsoft formats," he added. "That will be easier with a formal definition of those features."

    It certainly would, wouldn't it?

    Except for the fact that the OOXML spec doesn't include them. In all its six thousand fucking pages, not one mention of how, exactly, to implement LineSpacingLikeWord95. And what's he proposing -- delay OOXML until this can be included in the spec, and thus make it, what, twelve thousand pages? Or push it through in the faith (hah!) that Microsoft will add it to the next version of OOXML?

    Consider, also, that there is a right way to do this: Styles. Extend the style system to support this quirky behavior. Support quirky behavior in an abstract way. Then, put the actual definition of LineSpacingLikeWord95 in the document itself, as a style. Translating back is easy, too -- just look for styles flagged that way, or just styles that happen to match the original format's quirk.

    It would take some work, sure. But it would be pushing the work back to Microsoft and Office, not to ISO and any potential other implementations. And it would mean we don't have to carry this legacy crap with the format forever -- eventually, there will be no more Word95 documents, and no implementation will have to care that LineSpacingLikeWord95 corresponds to an actual way of saving a Word95 .doc -- just that it should look a particular way.

  • no "co-evolution" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nguy (1207026) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:05AM (#22867008)

    If we had a co-evolutionary environment, one where the proponents of OpenXML and OpenDocument,
    their respective organizations, national bodies and others interested groups could meet to discuss the
    future of those proposals, the future revisions of both would likely be quite different.


    It's an office format, not nuclear fusion reactor design. ODF is already the better format, and there's nothing that ODF can learn from OOXML. Whatever expertise might flow from other standards into ODF already does because ODF (unlike OOXML) builds on existing standards.

    But there's another reason why ODF won't benefit: OOXML "standardization" is just a trophy to Microsoft, a check-list item for buyers who want a standardized, open document format. Microsoft is going to keep adding proprietary extensions as they see fit, without bothering going through standardization or documenting them.

    (The guy also grossly misuses the term "co-evolution", but let's not dwell on that.)
  • by jhdevos (56359) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @04:05AM (#22867010) Homepage
    It might even be true that OOXML as an ISO standard would be beneficial to ODF. However, there are the following problems:
    * There are some serious technical issues with the current proposal that have to be resolved
    * There are some very serious problems with the way the process has evolved
    * There is no guarantee that Microsoft will follow their own standards -- since, if there are big changes to the standard, it would require them to change their current file format.
    The first two problems indicate that, perhaps, the fast-track-to-ISO was not a good idea for this standard, and that some more time and work is required before the standard is approved, no matter how beneficial an eventual approval would be for anyone.
  • I can see what he says - we will probably lose some advantages when OOXML fails; or rather, there are some things we won't get as easy access to. So the question is, I think: if we will be no worse off than now, will we have lost anything, really? I don't think we will have less opportunities than we already have, and the future seems to be going our way, as far as I can see. Microsoft are slowly, but sure, it seems, getting their come-uppance, and open source is going to benefit.

    I have a hard time feeling
  • In some ways competition is good. I would not quite support OOXML, but maybe not actively despise it, if it was on a level playing field.

    That is - if the votes were free and fair and based purely on technical merit I would have no problem with OOXML at all. In the spirit of free competition let the best format win to the benefit of all.

    But the vote ARE NOT fair. Clearly and demonstrably so, see the past history on this subject. There is the stench of political and commercial interference in decisions
  • ...with the semi-arguments put forward by my learned colleagues in the /. crowd, I still am at a loss to grasp the concept of the success or failure of one, proprietery file format directly affecting the success or failure(!?) of one which has not only been accepted as an ISO standard, but also one which is openly and fully documented and licenced for all to use for its intended purpose with little or no restriction?

    Someone care to explain that to me in words of one syllable?
  • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:32AM (#22867290)
    I don't know this fellow, but I do note one thing from Rob Weir's blog referenced upthread - that the sudden change of heart came about after a Mr. Durusau attended a conference in Seattle.

    Now, Seattle and Redmond are fairly close, geographically speaking. I wonder if Mr. Durusau received some sort of persuasion from a company based in Redmond. I think we should be told.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @05:47AM (#22867324)
    I do not see how OOXML becoming a standard is a good thing for ODF. Microsoft is pushing for OOXML because they don't want to support ODF.

    If OOXML became an ISO standard the chances of ODF support in MS Office is zero. I'm sure Microsoft will act all conciliatory once they get their standard but they will never offer more than token support for ODF. If they produce anything at all I expect it will be some broken tools that conveniently convert ODF to OOXML but botch OOXML to ODF conversion.

    How anyone can think that OOXML standardization is a good thing just boggles the mind. It will either kill ODF or marginalize it so much that it doesn't matter any more.

  • It's mystery men all over!
    What's the point of a superhero if there is no evil overlord?

    One should point out that a significant majority of documentation out there is already final and should be non-editable.
    PDF is already the defacto standard for this. So presently, OO can easily produce a PDF of a document which can be read by almost anyone. Any MS doc could be converted to PDF by proprietary software. So PDF is the common document format.

    It's only when a document has to be edited by a number of collaborat
  • When I lived in Malaysia last year (very nice, warm people with a really dodgy government), whenever a major project is stalled or changes direction, or when a prominant politican flips on a seemingly heartfelt poisition overnight (happens more regularly that you think) we all nod our heads and know that he probably got a new Porsche.

    Why can't I shake the feeling that this guy has been bought off? Heck, Microsoft has shown it's willing to pay off Swedish votors for OOXML and a slew of other shady dealings

  • The funny thing is, I'm interested in what happens if MS loses.

    I can see MS Going... "You know, it doesn't really matter if you make us an ISO standard or not, we are entrenched in 90% of your infrastructure. Good luck replacing that infrastructure. It will be over out dead bodies ODF is supported by MS-Office, and you are about to find some very unfriendly code in the next service pack that breaks Linux Dual Boot loaders, Breaks existing ODF Plugins, and adds a DRM Key to all documents opened."
  • by TropicalCoder (898500) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:42AM (#22867748) Homepage Journal

    From the thread on Groklaw [groklaw.net]

    I reproduce here the response from grokker59 [groklaw.net] and below Ron Weir's [groklaw.net] response.

    Authored by: grokker59 on Tuesday, March 25 2008 @ 08:27 AM EDT

    Item 1: If DIS29500 is not approved, *national bodies* will loose a forum to work on DIS29500 - circular reasoning. If DIS29500 is not approved, NBs won't *NEED* a forum to work on DIS29500 !

    Item 2: Microsoft-only vendors may lose contracts because Microsoft failed to get "their" format approved. Circular reasoning. By not standardizing on a proprietary, lock-in document format, those companies that only sell proprietary lock-in document software no longer have a guarantee of continuing sales to locked-in customers. They might need to support an additional product or two to continue getting contract awards.

    Item 3: If OOXML is disapproved, then ODF loses because it has no ISO-based formula definitions to insure compatibility between ODF and the complete lack of formula documentation in OOXML ? How is this a comparison and why do I care whether ODF shares formulas with OpenXML ? Microsoft's Office 2007 does not use OpenXML. Neither are Excel formulas documented in OOXML to the extent that translation can take place. What's important is that ODF interoperate to the greatest extent possible with Office 2007 and future versions - not that it interoperate with a format that Microsoft has already abandoned and/or never implemented.

    Item 4: OOXML/OpenXML does not define legacy features, nor does OOXML/OpenXML provide a mapping for legacy features. Furthermore, all legacy features were moved to 'deprecated' status in the BRM, so there is no requirement to support them in either OOXML or ODF. OpenOffice already supports MS legacy features better than MS products, so I fail to see the gain of supporting DIS29500 to provide something that ODF products (OpenOffice.org) already does better than MS products.

    Item 5: "ODF has no ISO-based definition of the current MS format for mapping purposes." Since MS products do not implement DIS29500, this is is a non-issue. MS has already stated they do not feel bound to support future DIS29500 versions in future products, so ODF MSOffice mappings are never going to be ISO-based. Nor should we expect MS to open their file format protocols in future versions.

    There is *certainly* no reason to expect that MS will "offer a seat at the table" to any public organization during the planning/implementation of their next version of MSOffice since they've already stated that they do not feel bound by DIS29500 or its successors in ISO.

    ...and the response from the one and only Rob Weir in the same thread

    Another view from the ODF TC

    Authored by: rcweir on Tuesday, March 25 2008 @ 06:38 PM EDT

    As Co-Chair of the ODF TC, let me say that Mr. Durusau's views in no way represent the position of OASIS or the ODF TC.

    Of course, he is entitled to his personal views, and so am I.

    Patrick makes 5 assertions in his latest letter, and these are easily rebutted:

    1) National bodies lose an open and international forum for further work on DIS 29500.

    *Is Patrick implying that Ecma is not open and international? That would be a good thing to to know in those places where Microsoft is currently pushing for adoption of OOXML, arguing that it is an open standard.

    One does not approve a standard in ISO in order to be more open. Openness should be there from the beginning. Patrick's argument appears to be "Let's give OOXML the highest level of approval and then it will be a better standard". But ISO standardization is not done

  • In all things microsoft, you should always ask one question: How much?

    In this case, how much did he get paid? (and in what currency, it's not always cash.)

    I mean, seriously, with every other company that would be paranoia, but MS has been caught with both hands in the cookie jar actually buying ISO votes. It is very, very likely that they are buying good press and "expert opinion" as well. With enough money, you can buy friendship. Not the real one, but good enough that few will notice the difference.
  • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:19AM (#22867964) Homepage
    I'm sure I've posted about this previously, but I think it's important, so I'll post again.

    Even though I didn't RTFA (and it seems to be disappointing from the comments I've seen), I'm going to agree in one respect. A documented version of an MS word processor file format is a good thing. There are lots of reasons for this and I'm not going to belabour the point by listing them all. But it would be good for everyone if such a thing could be documented and standardized.

    But there's a problem and it's called the MS Word formatter. Doc files in and of themselves are not particularly difficult to understand (well, there are some strange bits, but nothing you can't wrap your head around eventually). However, how the Word formatter interprets these files on a case by case basis is extremely complicated and strange. This has nothing to do with "the evil empire" trying to screw people over. It has to do with a complicated, poorly written legacy application having survived 2 decades of rewrites.

    You could easily write a specification to explain the file structure of word documents, but such a thing is useless without explaining exactly how everything is formatted in every situation. And that's a dog's breakfast. So MS is between a rock and a hard place if they want to do the right thing.

    Either they abandon backwards compatibility with their formatter (i.e., old files will *not* be rendered exactly as they were previously) and write a good specification, or they keep their bizarre formatter and write a horrendously crappy spec. They obviously chose the latter, and I have a hard time criticizing them for that decision.

    Does that mean it should be an ISO standard? No. Ideally they should deprecate their old formatter and rewrite it to do something sane (arguably the same could be said for virtually every word processor on the planet). But they are going to have to keep the old formatter to support old documents. And we are stuck without the ability to format those documents exactly, mainly because you just can't describe in any meaningful way how to do it.

    Strangely, this would be good for their business because right now they have very limited penetration in the US legal community because their formatter can not format footnotes properly. Scrapping their old formatter in conjunction with a new file format would allow them to get this market. I have to admit that I don't quite understand their reluctance to do so.

    As an aside, I don't particularly believe ODF is "the answer" to a file format since it also lacks some crucial information about how the formatter should operate in certain situations. However, it has the advantage of being a *lot* smaller and relatively easy to understand, even if it isn't totally complete from my perspective.

  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:50AM (#22868144) Homepage
    As Co-Chair of the ODF TC, let me say that Mr. Durusau's views in no way represent the position of OASIS or the ODF TC.

    Of course, he is entitled to express his personal views. And so am I.

    Let us begin.

    Patrick makes 5 assertions in his letter, and these are easily rebutted:

    1) National bodies lose an open and international forum for further work on DIS 29500.

    *Is Patrick implying that Ecma is not open and international? That would be a good thing to to know in those places where Microsoft is currently pushing for adoption of OOXML, arguing that it is an open standard.

    One does not approve a standard in ISO in order to be more open. Openness should be there from the beginning. Patrick's argument appears to be
    "Let's give OOXML the highest level of approval and then it will be a better standard". But ISO standardization is not done with sacramental
    oils. There is not transmutation. OOXML does not become a good standard because it is approved. A standard is approved because it is good.

    2) Microsoft based third-party vendors may be excluded from contracts because Microsoft has no ISO approved format.

    *Microsoft could always add support for ODF to their product. Then they would be supporting an ISO standard. Similarly, I assume they are now seriously thinking of adding Blu-ray support to the XBox now that HD DVD failed. We should not be propping up Microsoft and giving them a free ticket to ISO because of their bad business decision in ignoring ODF and delaying their own standardization activities. The market rewards those who guess right, and punishes those that guess wrong. Microsoft was on the wrong side of open standards. We should not be looking to avoid the natural outcome of that.

    3) ODF has no ISO-based formula definitions to insure compatibility between OpenDocument and OpenXML.

    *And OOXML has no ISO-based formula definitions either, because OOXML has not been approved by ISO!

    4) ODF has no ISO-based definition of MS legacy features for an ODF extension.

    *And OOXML has no ISO-based definition of MS legacy features either, because OOXML has not been approved by ISO!

    5) ODF has no ISO-based definition of the current MS format for mapping purposes

    *And OOXML has no ISO-based definition of the current MS format either, because OOXML has not been approved by ISO!

    These last three points by Patrick are rather poor. The fact that portions of the Ecma-376 specification are interesting as technical disclosures of proprietary Microsoft Office interfaces does not automatically recommend the entire 6,045 page specification for approval as an ISO standard. If the ODF TC desires any information on these three topics, we already have access to all of this material via the Ecma-376 text and the Ecma's Disposition of Comments report, both of which will exist regardless of whether DIS 29500 is approved. There is absolutely nothing we cannot do now, given the materials we have now.

    Whether things like the spreadsheet definitions in OOXML are "ISO-approved" or not is immaterial. We know the ISO review was shallow. We cannot assume that Excel compatibility information in OOXML is correct. We need to test and verify everything. Slapping an "ISO" label on OOXML doesn't make it more useful or more accurate for ODF.

    In no way whatsoever is ODF hurt, harmed or even annoyed by the imminent demise of Microsoft's ill-conceived and reckless experiment in ISO.
  • Patrick Who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheSimkin (639033) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:56AM (#22870098)
    Ok... i tried to find out who this guy is. Open Document Format editor? I see no reference to him anywhere on the ODf pages. http://www.oasis-open.org/home/index.php [oasis-open.org]. I see nothing on his website that has anything to do with ODF. All I see is MS fanboyism. This sounds a lot like that other "news" story that was going around where a "open Document format" closes up shop and says the ODF format is no good... and it had nothing to do with ODF just more FUD. Can anyone see how/why he is the Open Document Format editor?

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