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Norwegian Standards Body Members Resign Over OOXML 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the take-this-job-and-shove-it dept.
tsa writes "Ars Technica reports that 13 of the 23 members from the technical committee of the Norwegian standards body, the organization that manages technical standards for the country, have resigned because of the way the OOXML standardization was handled. We've previously discussed Norway's protest and ISO's rejection of other appeals. From the article: 'The standardization process for Microsoft's office format has been plagued with controversy. Critics have challenged the validity of its ISO approval and allege that procedural irregularities and outright misconduct marred the voting process in national standards bodies around the world. Norway has faced particularly close scrutiny because the country reversed its vote against approval despite strong opposition to the format by a majority of the members who participated in the technical committee.'"
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Norwegian Standards Body Members Resign Over OOXML

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  • by zappepcs (820751) on Friday October 03, 2008 @11:08PM (#25253733) Journal

    I thought it was the 'Take this chair and throw it' department? What gives?

  • Conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hemogoblin (982564) on Friday October 03, 2008 @11:12PM (#25253763)

    My first thought was "It's good that these people are taking a stand against injustice.", but my second thought was "These principled people just resigned. Norway's board is entirely corrupt now." Bummer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      Yeah, so much for the idea of Scandinavians not being corrupt. If the Norwegians are corrupt, who can we trust? That's why transparency in government is so important.
      • Re:Conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

        by enos (627034) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @12:25AM (#25254125)

        Have you seen Norwegian TV news? It goes from one scandal to the next. There's always someone stealing big chunks of money in one way or another.
        Of course the magnitude is smaller because they have far less people, but they're far from corruption free.

        Transparency helps, but there's not much you can do if you can't kick the crooks out easily. Plus, who are you going to replace them with? Honest people don't like government work very much.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I disagree.
          There are much scandals because of transparency.
          Opposed to other countries where everything happens under the hood.

        • Re:Conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rts008 (812749) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:23AM (#25254883) Journal

          "Plus, who are you going to replace them with? Honest people don't like government work very much."

          That is one of the more profound statements I have encountered here (on slashdot) about politics for quite s while!

          I hope some moderators are here and share some '+insightful' love with you.

          That is the situation with the upcoming Presidential elections here in the USA.

          It seems to be a choice between a turd sandwich, or a shit casserole.
          Does it really matter at this point? You already know it will taste like crap!

          I guess all you can do is vote as you think is best, and hope it will work out.

          Another option would be a revolution, and overthrow of the existing government.
          This has not worked out well in the past, as the incoming 'party/gov't.' has not planned much farther ahead than getting 'there'.

          I, for one, do not have the answers to the questions that have/can/will come about...just more questions.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            People that want political office are usually the same people that you would least want to have it. Honest, smart people never want the job. You have to inflict it on them!
            I think one way to help clean things up is to make the office holder PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for their choices and actions while in office. There will suddenly be an absence of fat-asses in cushy chairs, and a lot of people deciding that private sector work is where it's at. Of course, they'll fail there too ...

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              We already hold them personally accountable when they do wrong. Look at all the congress members who are in trouble right now.

              What your wanting to do is punish people for political opinions and being wrong or mistaken about the outcome. That isn't really possible if we are going to claim to be a free nation with freedoms such as free speech.

          • "Plus, who are you going to replace them with? Honest people don't like government work very much."

            That is one of the more profound statements I have encountered here (on slashdot) about politics for quite s while!

            Well I quite enjoy government work, but maybe my situation's different since I'm working in the New Zealand government which doesn't sound as if it's very stereotypical as governments go around the world. I also know that the other people in my IT department know their stuff and are really good a

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            That is the situation with the upcoming Presidential elections here in the USA.

            It seems to be a choice between a turd sandwich, or a shit casserole.
            Does it really matter at this point? You already know it will taste like crap!

            I guess all you can do is vote as you think is best, and hope it will work out.

            Another option would be a revolution, and overthrow of the existing government.
            This has not worked out well in the past, as the incoming 'party/gov't.' has not planned much farther ahead than getting 'there

        • Re:Conflicted (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @09:07AM (#25255707) Homepage Journal

          You miss the point.

          Norwegians still have a concept in their culture of a "scandal" that isn't just juicy, salacious news.

          • by enos (627034)

            agreed, which is nice.

            However the GGP had the impression that Scandinavia has very little corruption. No matter how dry the scandal is, it's still a sign of some sort of corruption.

      • by Björn (4836)
        Transparency international [transparency.org] recently launched the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2008. CPI is supposed to be a measurement of the amount of corruption in the public sector. In the 2008 results [transparency.org] Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden are at the top and Norway comes in at 14th place while the US at 18th.
    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Friday October 03, 2008 @11:54PM (#25253967)
      Exactly, that's why I always say if you're going to resign on principle, at least make sure to take out those who remain, otherwise what have you achieved? A few poisoned herrings would have done the trick.
      • A few poisoned herrings would have done the trick.

        Agreed, but you seem to have overlooked the old scandinavian "put a few sour herrings in the ventialtion" ploy.

    • Re:Conflicted (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lysergic.acid (845423) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @12:03AM (#25253995) Homepage

      didn't IBM also resign from ISO over OOXML? i think this form of passive protest is important as it draws attention to the corruption at hand. if nothing else, it's garnered media attention and highlighted how serious an issue this is.

      i think all principled members of ISO need to show solidarity and resign together. a mass exodus from the organization would force the industry to stop ignoring the issue. it says to governments and companies who care about standardization that ISO is no longer a legitimate vendor-neutral standardization body.

      the next step would be for IBM, the Norwegian technical committee members, and other parties serious about standardization, to form a new organization for promoting international standards--and to make reforms to safeguard against an incident like this from happening within the new standards body.

      • by the_arrow (171557)

        and to make reforms to safeguard against an incident like this from happening within the new standards body

        I thought there already existed safeguards within the ISO/IEC framework, but that they basically were sidestepped. Whats to stop a new organization from doing it again?

      • Yes it undermines the corrupt: "IBM have resigned from the ISO because it is crooked, perhaps we should not bother about there standards."

        It could also pave the way to setting up an alternative standards body for file formats.

      • by PinkyDead (862370)

        the correct next step is for the ISO to cop on, and realize that, like other supernational bodies (eg ICANN), it can only be effective (and hence exist) if it is seen as incorruptible and representing the best interest of those involved in an industry and their clients.

        While a new organization will clearly be more effective than the ISO in its current state, it is really should be a last resort option.

        That said, maybe the ISO model just isn't the right one for the software industry.

      • didn't IBM also resign from ISO over OOXML? i think this form of passive protest is important as it draws attention to the corruption at hand. if nothing else, it's garnered media attention...

        Where? MSNBC? MS Newseek? MS WashingtonPost?

        • you make a good point, but that has more to to with the consolidation of mainstream media, which is really a separate issue (though its implications and effects are broad and far-reaching).

          in the meantime, the web has done a lot to diversify the media sources that the average person is exposed to. from here, it's up to the individual to make a conscious effort to get their news from independent news sources and check multiple news sources to account for inherent biases and verify accuracy of reported info.

      • No, they've threatened to do so [nytimes.com], but as of yet haven't resigned.

        I doubt they ever will. ISO is about a lot more than just the OOXML. Consider the number of standards a company like IBM needs to deal with on a daily basis. Giving up their rights to influence what goes into said standards because of one failed process wouldn't make any sense from a business point of view.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lysergic.acid (845423)

          i understand what you're saying, but if their membership still does not allow them to overturn such an obvious case of commercially motivated corruption/corporate strong-arming tactics, then they really don't have much of a say anyway--at least not in any meaningful sense.

          basically, this incident shows that ISO is up for sale. if you can afford to purchase the votes, then you can have whatever you want become an ISO standard. this not only makes ISO standards meaningless, but it also demonstrates that ISO d

      • didn't IBM also resign from ISO over OOXML?

        Is there a list of high-profile ISO members who have resigned over the OOXML scandal? I would like to naively ask why X, Y, and Z left at the next ISO inspection, and hear what the techs say.

      • by savuporo (658486)
        Yes, mass exodus ! Here is an artist depiction [penny-arcade.com] of the future of ISO
    • It will help... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jd (1658)

      ...if (and only if) those principled individuals set up a rival standards organization, have as part of their charter that they refute corruption and automatically negate standards tainted by corruption, re-certify where legal all known-to-be-"safe" standards under their own name, and then lobby research shops and companies hurt by the ISO scandal to work with them. Fork the certification market, but because of rebranding existing standards, no other standards body would ever need to be involved.

      Another alt

      • Re:It will help... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny (722443) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @03:38AM (#25254741) Journal

        On the contrary. Good people remaining in the service of a bad organisation only adds to that organisation's strength. Walking away takes from the strength of that organisation. These people tried to redeem the organisation - they protested, they appealed and they went public. The organisation did not reverse its actions. To remain is to continue to lend support to its actions, to walk away is to diminish its authority. Whilst it could in theory help if they set up an alternate standards agency, these are merely people from a national group. Unless they started organising with other protestors from around the World, they can't set up anything to rival ISO. But they don't actually need to. Standards emerge and get organised without the aid of ISO. In fact, ISO often merely turns up and codifies such standards. Weaken ISO and where there is a need, other parties will start to fill in the gap in authority. I don't think you can ask more of these people than they have already given up. I assume there's a paycheck they have renounced somewhere in this, as well a privileged position.

        I have full respect for their actions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          What you say may not be generally true, but it certainly is in the case of standards bodies. These groups generally don't make anything, they simply adopt or reject standards proposed by others. They add value by attaching their reputation to a standard. They can therefore only exist if their reputation is seen as valuable. A group like ECMA, which is little more than a rubber-stamping body, has a lot less credibility than something like the IETF.
    • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @01:03AM (#25254267) Journal

      When principled people withdraw from an endeavor, they take with them the credibility they leant to it. The credibility of principled participants is all a standards body has to offer.

      They are by their action hastening a day when a new, credible standards body can displace the corrupt corpse of ISO.

      Good on 'em.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        That is only true when people associate the credibility of the organization with the people in it.

        I think the day has passed when the individual members were needed to support the credibility of ISO. It holds it's own in a special right because of all that has been done successfully in the past. Staying and protesting would probably have more of an effect then leaving. Perhaps introducing junk standards that mimic the corruption like a standards compliant framework for making ISO OOXML protest signs that sa

  • by jhol13 (1087781) on Friday October 03, 2008 @11:17PM (#25253789)

    Microsoft seems to want to to take over ODF too.
    http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080825162905645 [groklaw.net]

    Apparently they are not happy there is a working specification in the wild. It being a standard must hurt even more.

  • It's a good time to start a new standards body with a new goal.

    • Hopefully the newly resigned folks will... perhaps with backing from IBM? In a sense, it could be done quickly; (1). establish new procedures that provide 100% transparency, (2). rubber-stamp all current ISO standards *except* OOXML.

      The toughest part would probably be being recognised as a standards organisation. But something really needs to happen as ISO do not appear to be sorting their shit out.
  • by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @12:17AM (#25254085) Homepage Journal

    FTFA:

    Actually, you can only read part of the resolutions passed by this stacked committee. As usual, there are deep secrets that the public can't access. That's just one part of what's wrong with those people and why ODF must never fall into their secretive clutches. If it does, I have little doubt that ODF will end up brain dead, on life support, turning blue for lack of oxygen, and then suddenly, sadly, we'll find it dead as a doornail.

    This was the same state Unix was in around the early 1990s. We're not dead yet! In fact, we've taken over the large computer market since then.

    ISO has lost its street cred so expect an Open Source replacement. Open Standards benefit everyone, so I expect someone to fill in the gap.

    • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @01:26AM (#25254367) Journal

      This was the same state Unix was in around the early 1990s. We're not dead yet! In fact, we've taken over the large computer market since then.

      Ahem. Linux Is Not UniX. Linux owns the big iron these days, holding over 85% [top500.org] of the Top500 [top500.org]. It's pretty dominant on the small end too, with home routers and file servers being the extreme of that bracket. The middle is getting squeezed out as thin-is-in netbooks and nettops push into the mainstream.

      ISO has lost its street cred so expect an Open Source replacement. Open Standards benefit everyone, so I expect someone to fill in the gap.

      Unix was never open source until Open Solaris (the provenance of which is still subject to vigorous debate).

      But of course you knew that. I was a Unix admin in 1984. At the time it was the stuff. Unfortunately because it was born before the age of software as property it wasn't designed to be protected from the greatest threat progress has ever faced: intellectual property lawyers. Linux was.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by greenbird (859670) *

        Unix was never open source until Open Solaris

        BSD isn't Unix?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by symbolset (646467)

          No, BSD is not Unix [opengroup.org]. To say that BSD is Unix is perhaps like saying that grass is rice. That's not quite correct. Some grasses are rice. Some grasses are differently purposed and differently used. They may share some genetic material but a putting green is not a bowl of cereal.

          However, all rices are grasses. All of the currently used Unixes owe the vast majority of their genetic material to the University of California at San Diego and Berkeley. It would be fair to say that modern Unixes are all Be

          • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:51AM (#25255107) Journal

            This is true now, but not in a historical context. After the AT&T lawsuit, AT&T UNIX was found to contain BSD code, and BSD was found to contain only a few headers from AT&T, which were subsequently replaced. The subsequent 4BSD releases were both UNIX and open source. The assignment of the UNIX trademark to the Open Group happened much later, and it wasn't until 1993 that the UNIX93 specification was released, which redefined what UNIX meant. Oh, and The Open Group didn't buy the name, it was given to them by the Open Software Foundation, who were given it by AT&T.

            Before 1993, UNIX meant 'a descendent of AT&T UNIX, source compatible with with programs written for this operating system.' After 1993, it meant 'an operating system conforming to the UNIX93 specification and certified as conforming by The Open Software Foundation.'[1] Note that neither of these is a subset of the other. A Linux distribution[2] could be certified as SUS conforming and then it would be UNIX (according to the post-1993) definition, but it would not be according to the pre-1998 definition. All BSD systems are UNIX according to the pre-1993 definition, but only OS X 10.5 on Intel[3] is UNIX according to the newer definition.

            [1] After 1998, it meant 'an operating system conforming to the Single UNIX Specification and certified as conforming by The Open Group.' It was redefined in 1995, 1998, and 2003, and so some systems in each of these years went from being UNIX to being not-UNIX, due to increasing demands by the standards.
            [2] The Single UNIX Specification covers a load of userspace utilities, including the C compiler and shell, and defined the functions the C standard library must implement, so Linux alone can never be SUS certified. A minimal GNU/Linux system conforming to SUS would have around an order of magnitude more GNU code than Linux code. A BSD/LLVM/Linux system could also, potentially, be certified, or one containing userland stuff taken from OpenSolaris or even something like Minix.
            [3] Certification is per version and per platform. As such, Solaris is usually not UNIX - only the major releases are certified and some are only certified on SPARC, not on x86. Note that the other versions are still able to pass the tests, it's just that no one wanted to spend money getting them certified.

          • Nor is any particular flavor of BSD.

            Mac OS X is a certified BSD based Unix.

            Martin

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jez9999 (618189)

          No, GNU's not Unix.

        • Only Mac OS X is a certified Unix with BSD roots. The other BSDs aren't certified. But then - as symbolset has pointed out: OpenSolaris isn't certified either.

          Martin

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by SL Baur (19540)

        But of course you knew that.

        Of course. But what that comment referred to was the lawsuit that effectively ended Unix' chances at the time, but spurred all the BSD spinoffs and later Linux. Maybe I had the year wrong, that was during the time I took a sabbatical from Unix hacking to pursue professional bowling.

        I was a Unix admin in 1984. At the time it was the stuff.

        Ah. Right on and yes, Unix was very much the cutting edge then.

        Now that I think about it, I'm at the tipping point. I started with Unix in late 1981, Linux in late 1995 and I have very nearly spent more time with Linux than U

        • by symbolset (646467) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @03:33AM (#25254735) Journal

          I took a hiatus too. I didn't miss the show - I was just sidelined playing with stuff I knew was good. It didn't take me more than three months of Windows development to figure out that it was a trap. The last month of that I spent looking for specifications for a sound card so I could do audio capture before I discovered that the company that wrote the drivers for SoundBlaster was actually a wholly owned Microsoft subsidiary that wasn't giving up the specs at any price or terms I could live with.

          I started with Unix in late 1981, Linux in late 1995 and I have very nearly spent more time with Linux than Unix. Unix in the form of its descendents Linux and Mac OS X is still very much alive.

          OS X bought [opengroup.org] Unix certification because it was an important selling point. They had to do significant engineering to qualify for the mark, but they have it not in recognition of their engineering, but because they licensed the right to call OS X a Unix from The Open Group.

          Unix is not what it was in the 1960s and 1970s - the love child of great minds. It's now just a service mark. A brand. Intellectual property law ruined it, and Ransom Love killed it with his hubris. It's time to let it go.

      • by darkonc (47285)
        Gnu/Linux isn't UNIX(tm) only in the trademark sense. You have to pay some POSIX organization to be able to use the UNIX trademark (I think that one or two LINUX distributions have actually done this). Other than that, however, It's been a very open point of the Linux and GNU community to make the OS comply to the POSIX UNIX standard to the point where if you read the manual pages for any classic UNIX command/library call, you'll find descriptions of any way in which that element is out of sync with the of
  • by steveha (103154) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @01:50AM (#25254447) Homepage

    http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/news/2008/10/02/norway-standards-members-walk [theinquirer.net]

    I was shocked by how excellent the "rough Google translation" was. Unless they had a human clean up the translation a bit, that is amazingly good English prose for a machine translator to emit. (I can't speak for how accurate it is, but it seems plausible enough.)

    English is a mess, with lots of irregular usages. How about Norwegian -- is it particularly easy or particularly hard to translate?

    steveha

  • 1) Destroy standards body.
    2) This makes your closed proprietary format the de facto standard.
    3) Which locks out the competition and locks in users.
    4) Profit!

  • Article is BS? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Deslock (86955) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @11:50AM (#25256471)

    While MS pulled some dirty tricks to get OOXML approved and many of us are rightfully questioning ISO's credibility, this article appears to be (at best) sensationalizing things according to one of the arstechnica comments:

    Lars Marius Garshol
    This article is basically bullshit.

    What's happened here is that lots of people joined the committee to oppose the standard, and while in the committee that's all they've done. Now that OOXML has been approved, they no longer have any reason to be in the committee, so they are leaving. That's hardly the committee imploding.

    So let me say this again: not one of these people have done anything in this committee other than oppose OOXML being taken up as a standard. These people are not key people in the committee. They did try to get other people in the committee to join them, but nobody else wanted to leave in protest over this.

    What they are, however, is media-savvy. They've worked on all kinds of IT-related advocacy (anti-DRM, pro-open source, etc etc), so they send out a press release stating that this is a big protest, and the committee is imploding etc etc. This article is basically that press release translated to English and prettied up to look like an article.

    I guess at this point people will be wondering how I know this. I've been a member of this committee since 2001, and I know many of the people on that list personally. I voted against OOXML, because I thought it wasn't ready to become a standard. The trouble is: however much you may hate Microsoft, this article remains a piece of useless propaganda.

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