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The Inside Story on Norway's Yes to OOXML 254

Posted by timothy
from the distracted-by-short-skirt-during-brief-summer dept.
Steve Pepper writes "The former Chairman of the Norwegian ISO committee, who resigned two weeks ago in protest against his country's vote of Yes to OOXML, tells the inside story of how the decision was reached: how a single bureaucrat from Standards Norway sidelined the overwhelming majority of Norwegian technical experts and changed Norway's vote from No to Yes. The story is so surreal it's hard to believe." It's as depressing as it is brief.
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The Inside Story on Norway's Yes to OOXML

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:03PM (#23137642)
    He's also managed to change their domain suffix to .yes, and their country name to Yesrway.
  • by Elektroschock (659467) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:07PM (#23137668)
    The real question for me is what can be done now?

    - demonstrations? This is what happened in Norway. Sure it would be good to have them elsewhere.

    - Virgils? this is what happened in India and almost on the same level.

    - moving on a building teams to stifle OOXML adoption by national governments as their standard

    - ???
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:23PM (#23137756)

      The real question for me is what can be done now?

      - demonstrations? This is what happened in Norway. Sure it would be good to have them elsewhere.

      - Virgils? this is what happened in India and almost on the same level.

      - moving on a building teams to stifle OOXML adoption by national governments as their standard

      - ???
      - Profit
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The question is, is this something that the average Norwegian will actually care about? Obviously it's something that worries /.ers and given Microsoft's previous record on all things imaginable it ought to worry everybody else, but in the grand scheme of things is the average person going to even know how they will be affected by the adoption of OOXML as a standard?
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:11PM (#23137966) Homepage Journal
      Microsoft have done it for us. The money they paid to push through their "standard" is wasted because the body the standardized it is no longer respected. Their purpose for seeking approval from a standards body has been defeated by the way in which they obtained it.

      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:24PM (#23138050) Homepage
        But the ISO is also the one who approved ODF. So if ISO is no longer trustworthy, who is left to say what is a good standard. If the whole standards body has lost credibility, where can we go to find out which standards to really use? If a government is looking to mandate open standards in it's document formats, which standards body should they go to to ensure the standards chosen are actually standards?
        • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:28PM (#23138082) Homepage Journal
          Presumably a government would want to mandate open standards for a reason.. other than just to be hip.. so they should do what the US military does: demand that there be at least 2 suppliers for software that can read those formats. That should just about immediately eliminate OOXML, as I hear the biggest complaint was that there is parts of it that are just not implementable by anyone but Microsoft.

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            Hasn't OO.o started impletementing OOXML? I seem to remember that happening. Sure, it's nice to be philosphical and say that OOXML isn't a good standard, but when you're trying to get people to use your product, making it not read documents from MS Office isn't a good direction to be going in. Sure they may not be able to implement the whole thing, but does the US military require that the standard be implemented in full? How do they test for this?
            • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:36PM (#23138120) Homepage Journal
              If you can't read the whole thing then it is pointless implementing the standard. You'll get "almost works" which is the same as "broken".

              And, really, the US military does this multiple supplier requirement for hardware only.. they dabbled with it on the software side with the POSIX requirements, but that's about it.

              • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:39PM (#23138144) Homepage
                Tell that to all the browser makers who implement HTML and CSS. None of them have it 100% correct. Some of them get 100% on Acid 3 (I think anyway), but still that doesn't mean they follow 100% of the standard. I guess there's a difference between "Impossible to implement due to bad definition", and "implementable, but nobody has done it yet". However, I'm sure even Microsoft strays from their own standard in some way or another, so I can't see why they would hold another vendor at fault. Sure they can't possible know what "AutospaceLikeWord95" is actually supposed to do, but they can look at what MS Word does, and make a best guess.
                • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:47PM (#23138188) Homepage Journal
                  Having not actually implemented the standard myself, I can't really comment on how terrible it is. But I can imagine that if actual information loss was involved, instead of just formatting or whatever, then a government that was looking for a standard to store their documents in would bork at OOXML. They could discover this from doing a test program and seeing if the interoperability of the products that support the standard is actually any good, or they could discover this the hard way after storing documents in one product's implementation of the standard for years and then trying to switch products.

                  But if, in the end, there's no real need for their documents to be stored in open formats then the only people who really care that the are stored in these formats are shills.

        • Whom to trust? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lonewolf666 (259450)

          So if ISO is no longer trustworthy, who is left to say what is a good standard. If the whole standards body has lost credibility, where can we go to find out which standards to really use?

          Looks like we have to do a bit of research ourselves. As in
          -is the standard reasonably complete and concise? By most accounts, OOXML fails there but ODF looks better. That could be a reason to pick ODF if YOU have to support it ;-)
          -is it actually supported? For both formats, there appears to be some support. See
          htt [opendocume...owship.com]

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Sfing_ter (99478)
      • by rbanffy (584143) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @11:02PM (#23138842) Homepage Journal
        They win either way. If international standard organizations are discredited, Microsoft is more or less free to dictate their own "standards" and claim they are legitimate ones.

        I would even risk to say they win _more_ by discrediting ISO than by winning approval on one and only one standard.
    • Another direction (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:17PM (#23137990)
      Join OOXML forces and show just how devoted you are: In order to preserve the reputation of this beautiful standard, make sure that no company can use the name if they're not 100% compliant with the complete spec. Chances are that no product can claim full OOXML support, not even MS Office. If "OOXML" doesn't appear on any product's feature list, the standard won't matter.
    • by Drishmung (458368)
      Rejoice! Accept that OOXML is a farce, a failure and a debacle. OOXML is not what is implemented in Office 2007. So, Office 2007 is not ISO compliant. I'm pretty confident it's never going to be compliant. I.e., MS is not going to patch their existing software to bring it into compliance with OOXML. OOXML is obviously a hulking, unimplementable monstrosity, so no one is seriously going to write new software to use it. Especially when ODF exists. If someone writes a contract that insists on ISO complianc
    • On the Corruption Perception Index http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index [wikipedia.org], Norway ranked a healthy 9 in 2007 (US was 20th). Let's see if Norway slides.
    • - Virgils? this is what happened in India and almost on the same level.

      Yes... excellent. Smithers! Summon the undead Greek poets!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        - Virgils? this is what happened in India and almost on the same level.

        Yes... excellent. Smithers! Summon the undead Greek poets!

        Roman.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by DoofusOfDeath (636671)
          Damnit! Now my undead highschool Latin teacher is going to kick my ass...
        • by suckmysav (763172)
          Thunderbirds
    • Arma virumque cano, Trojae qui primus ab oris Italiam fato profugus Lavinaque venit litora..."
      Hmmm, no mention of India there.
      (sorry, couldn't resist a bit of Sunday night snarkiness.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The real question for me is what can be done now?

      Not much, because the anti-OOXML side lost too much credibility when they decided to go with FUD instead of purely technical arguments. For example, they slammed OOXML because it only gave the names of the hash algorithms that were allowed for password hashing, rather than actually specifying those algorithms. Yet ODF doesn't even give the names. All it says is that you should use password hashing. No mention of the allowed algorithms. No mention of how to note in the document what algorithm was used.

  • Odd... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Ancients (626689) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:09PM (#23137684) Homepage

    After the vote, did the bureaucrat jump up and starting dancing like a monkey?

    After the vote did the bureaucrat start throwing chairs around?

    Did the bureaucrat appear slightly chubby and a whole lot balding?

    If the answer to any of the above is yes, I might be able to shed some insight on this...

  • "Hereâ(TM)s my version of the story.

    It is not impartial."

    Thank you for your honesty.
    • by twitter (104583) *

      He's been doing the same thing for 13 years before this outrage convinced him to retire. The man's reputation and belief in fair process are as clear as the abuse he relates. The story can non be told any other way.

  • Its brevity actually cheered me up a bit.
  • ISO corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:16PM (#23137726)
    The whole OOXML vote debacle has really showcased corruption of the ISO. Those in the ISO who want to restore the integrity of their organization need to address the massive rule-breaking this vote and Microsoft's role in it present.

    Word of advice to ISO: head in the sand is not going to help!!
    • Re:ISO corruption (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:24PM (#23137758) Journal
      I second this motion. Can we bring to a vote the matter of incompetence in the ISO voting procedures? Not just because this is about OOXML, but because it is so obviously filled with discontent and deceit.

      In most other situations we would call for a 'do over' or call it a false start or some other phrase that describe how wrong and generally unfair it was.

      Time for a do-over rule.
      • Re:ISO corruption (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Elektroschock (659467) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:31PM (#23137784)
        The corruption came with ECMA, so ECMA as the ISO parasitarian instrument needs to be removed: no ECMA fast-track without ECMA's special relationship...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        There's an old Steve Jobs quote:
        "John Sculley ruined Apple and he ruined it by bringing a set of values to the top of Apple which were corrupt and corrupted some of the top people who were there, drove out some of the ones who were not corruptible, and brought in more corrupt ones and paid themselves collectively tens of millions of dollars and cared more about their own glory and wealth than they did about what built Apple in the first place - which was making great computers for people to use."

        What do you
  • by wiredlogic (135348) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:30PM (#23137778)
    ...SegFaultLikeWord95DoesIt

    In this case, a meatspace seg fault. The MCP is getting more powerful. We need a heroic Program to save us all.
  • It will be interesting to see where the inevitable money trail leads. My guess is several of the 20% who effectively blocked the consensus. I think the "single bureaucrat" was non-technical and probably just went with "MS is big corp. Trust big corp. Nobody ever got sacked for backing big corp." (although on this last point he may be proved wrong).
    Surreal? Yes. Over? No.
  • by earthsound (412930) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:37PM (#23137816) Homepage
    • by Danse (1026) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:30PM (#23138086)

      on why & how they changed the vote can be found at their website:
      Which was just a very long-winded way of saying that the decision had been made long ago and they just had to come up with some weasely way to push it through regardless of all the comments that weren't addressed satisfactorily, the problems with the proposed standard, and what the experts said about it.
    • I did not know it was common to make crocks of shit so transparent.
  • Just let the decision making rest with the VP, what could go wrong...?

    The Emperor: [to the Senate] In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.
    [Senate fills with enormous applause]
    Padmé: [to Bail Organa] So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause.

  • So what's new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:51PM (#23137898)

    Many (if not most) similar committees and associations are made up not of the right people for the job, but instead those that were corralled into the positions or couldn't find anything better.

    On the other hand, Microsoft's primary goal is to maintain their privileged monopoly wherever and however possible. I actually had an eerie conversation with a Microsoft paralegal, who described her job as "palm-greasing officials in the Asian market". She also described how the executive were no longer concerned with making money, "they're in a position to change the world". I asked her what level of government they planned to get elected, and she replied, "why would they run for office? That would be a demotion!" And that was almost 10 years ago.

    Assuming she was giving a truthful account, and her office was directly below Bill Gates, so I imagine she does know what goes on, the Microsoft executive believe that since power is available to them, they are entitled to use their influence wherever and however possible, and that their ability to do so justifies itself.

    So show me a group of vigilante multi-billionaires and I'll show you dozens of half-witted committees that bend to their will, despite overwhelming reasoning to do otherwise.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Many (if not most) similar committees and associations are made up not of the right people for the job, but instead those that were corralled into the positions or couldn't find anything better.

      On the other hand, Microsoft's primary goal is to maintain their privileged monopoly wherever and however possible. I actually had an eerie conversation with a Microsoft paralegal, who described her job as "palm-greasing officials in the Asian market". She also described how the executive were no longer concerned with making money, "they're in a position to change the world". I asked her what level of government they planned to get elected, and she replied, "why would they run for office? That would be a demotion!" And that was almost 10 years ago.

      Assuming she was giving a truthful account, and her office was directly below Bill Gates, so I imagine she does know what goes on, the Microsoft executive believe that since power is available to them, they are entitled to use their influence wherever and however possible, and that their ability to do so justifies itself.

      So show me a group of vigilante multi-billionaires and I'll show you dozens of half-witted committees that bend to their will, despite overwhelming reasoning to do otherwise.

      Much of me wishes MS the very best of the best in these endeavors. No, seriously.

      Because I really don't feel like we (the US) have a final trump card (nukes don't count) we could use if we absolutely needed to, should it no longer be in China's best interests to keep the USA in their back pocket. Say, when their economy no longer needs ours to keep theirs employed. I don't think our politicians will have the guts to sanction China before it's too late. So at this time, when they no longer need us, I imagi

  • after all the trouble and money spent by microsoft to (corrupt officials) get ms-ooxml passed by the ISO committee if business and enterprises switched to StarOffice/OpenOffice ODF as the standard to share/store data in, i bet that would force the cost of office furniture in Redmond to go way up...
  • alternatives.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:55PM (#23137912)
    I wondered what alternative standards bodies could exist and I tried to find a web peer method that might work.

    The best idea I came up with was a standard body for GPL standards based around something like sourceforge.

    If people are familier with wide band delphi estimation then this next bit might sound familiar.

    Everybody on sourgeforge has a rating determined by amount of code submitted, and any peer review ratings on their code - this then gives them a weighting value for voting. The more technical they are, the more code they submit the higher their rating is. Everybody can then vote on their amendments or proposals for standards and a moderation scheme would run to promote or demote comments based on their ratings. Changes can then be voted in or removed democratically and the best ideas would naturally float up.

    The advantages are:-
    1. very large audience peer review of any standard
    2. best ideas automatically promoted (even if you are a newbie reviewer if you have a good idea then it should gather momemtum of its own and be promoted)
    3. system automatically handles voting, promotion, weighting scale and is therefore impartial arbiter.
    4. transparency accross the board, everybody can see how the system works
    5. if anybody wants to become more influential then they have to donate more source code to be a prolific reviewer. Everybody benefits.
    Ok that is an isolated example, and I chose sourceforge as a well known example.

    For standards instead of source there would need to be some changes obviously.

    But in this day and age, agreeing on a technical international standard seems an excellent candidate for a web based system. In reviewing this kind of thing I have always thought the more the merrier.

    Anyhow, only an idea, a pipe dream really.

    I now await the /. regulars to tell me what a tit I'm being and why it would never work :-(

    (I also wondered on how the voting would of turned out if the current provess was peer reviewed - i.e. filmed and distributed for all to see on the standards websites.)
    • by LingNoi (1066278)
      They constantly show Microsoft adverts and the whole website is a mess. Sourceforge relevance to the open source community is sinking further and further into the deep...
    • Re:alternatives.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by domatic (1128127) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @08:31PM (#23138094)
      That is corruptible as well. The trick here is be sure all coders both writer and reviewer FULLY disclose their affiliations. You couldn't even begin to do this Wikipedia style. No pseudonyms, no handles, everybody has to use their real names and digging into and publicly disclosing corporate actions and affiliations would be cricket.

      Even then, if 5000 MS coders blatantly write and approve each other how would you propose to handle it?

      I suspect the answer here is "Write up what is actually being implemented into an RFC. Any RFC that can't be understood clearly and implemented will be dev nulled." Since many of us are already disregarding the ISO over this, I suppose that is happening already..........
      • "Even then, if 5000 MS coders blatantly write and approve each other how would you propose to handle it?"

        Exactly. The GP advocates a

        (x) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

        approach to fighting corruption....
    • From what I've read here on /., there are already far too many politicians working on Open Source projects (well, mainly the Linux Kernel I refer to here). Doing something like this would probably make it worse. Maybe.

      But I suppose that could be corrected with a bottom weighted moderation system to discourage back rubbing exchanges.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @11:44PM (#23139040)
    In Sri Lanka, the first round of voting was a "Yes", but there were more technical input later to the standards committee which made it a unanimous "No" for the final vote. But again there was so much lobbying which made it an "Abstained".
  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Monday April 21, 2008 @01:08AM (#23139374)
    The best part of this scandal is how easily the conspirators got caught. Anybody can blog the truth and their voice will spread and amplify instantly if what they say holds any weight. This is a great demonstration of a new paradigm of security.

    This was never the case people!!

    This kind of manipulation is as old as the voting system itself. It is possible, it works, and there are some who are extremely good at it. And until yesterday, they could easily get away with it as long as the press didn't side against them. Now, we don't even need the press. We no longer depend on journalists to tell us the story. Whistleblowers no longer wish to remain anonymous, and when an insider demonstrates wrong doing, we listen, we act, and we revolt.

    It is only a matter of time before bloggers reach critical mass in politics and everywhere else.

    I cannot wait for the day our president is a blogger.

Just go with the flow control, roll with the crunches, and, when you get a prompt, type like hell.

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