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The Anti-ODF Whisper Campaign 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the are-you-saying-odf-won't-make-my-docs-smell-bad dept.
eldavojohn writes "Groklaw is examining the possibility of an anti-ODF whisper campaign and the effects it has had on the ODF and OOXML Wikipedia articles. In the ODF article, Alex Brown bends the truth to make it seem like no one is supporting ODF, and that it is a flawed and incomplete standard. From the conclusion, 'So what is one to do? You obviously can't trust Wikipedia whatsoever in this area. This is unfortunate, since I am a big fan of Wikipedia. But since the day when Microsoft decided they needed to pay people to "improve" the ODF and OOXML articles, they have been a cesspool of FUD, spin and outright lies, seemingly manufactured for Microsoft's re-use in their whisper campaign. My advice would be to seek out official information on the standards, from the relevant organizations, like OASIS, the chairs of the relevant committees, etc. Ask the questions in public places and seek a public response. That is the ultimate weakness of FUD and lies. They cannot stand the light of public exposure. Sunlight is the best antiseptic.'"
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The Anti-ODF Whisper Campaign

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:06AM (#28279965)

    It might be useful to acknowledge what software DOES actually support ODF--including pretty much all of the more popular office and word processing suites [from Wikipedia]:

    • Adobe Buzzword
    • AbiWord (Users of Windows installations must first download and install Import/Export Plugins)
    • Google Docs
    • IBM Lotus Symphony
    • KOffice
    • Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2003, Office 2007 (with plugin)
    • Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2)
    • NeoOffice
    • OpenOffice
    • Sun Microsystems StarOffice
    • SoftMaker Office
    • Corel WordPerfect Office X4
    • Zoho Office Suite
    • TextEdit (for the Mac)

    That doesn't sound like "no one" to me.

    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:11AM (#28280023) Homepage Journal

      Kind of sad how few Word processors there are these days.
      Even on your list at least four of them are based on the same code and two of them are Office.

      • by johnsonav (1098915) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:23AM (#28280177) Journal

        Kind of sad how few Word processors there are these days.
        Even on your list at least four of them are based on the same code and two of them are Office.

        I don't know that it's necessarily a bad thing. Word processors have a pretty big network effect, especially in business. So long as the same document format is rendered differently on different word processors (no matter how small that difference), there will be an incentive to standardize on a handful.

        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:35AM (#28280319) Homepage Journal

          When have we seen any real innovation? It is like we got to Word and everything stopped. Than and most WP programs have become these huge monster applications that do more than 99% of their users need.

          • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:42AM (#28280401)
            I agree, at this point the only thing to really innovate is making them smaller and more efficient. Dumping unnecessary functions into some sort of addon/extension system and slimming them down. As you note there isn't really a whole lot that the average word processor can't do and which people need.

            Personally, while I have an old copy of MS Office XP, I haven't used it in years, except to export the files to an interoperable file format, and that wasn't much work, since I had so few of them.
            • So....we need a word processor version of Firefox! It really doesn't sound like a bad idea, especially if there was a standard plugin API that would work between different WPs. Then the competition could move on to innovation in the features provided by plugins. Vendors could sell packs of plugins the way that office suites are sold now.
            • [snip] some sort of addon/extension system [snip]

              You mean like this? [openoffice.org]

          • When have we seen any real innovation? It is like we got to Word and everything stopped.

            We haven't seen real innovation in a while. But, there's a good reason for that: First, there isn't a whole lot that a modern word processor can't do already. And second, major changes would, most likely, bring additional incompatibility, lowering the value added by the network effect.

            In short, people just don't value many new features highly enough to give up the huge value that interoperability brings. It's pretty much the same reason it took so long to improve upon analog color TV. Sometimes "good enough

            • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:36PM (#28281247)

              Actually there is a lot, a whole lot.

              Anyone who wants good quality page layouts has to wrestle these programs to the ground and force them to do it. Try integrating drawings in your text with Word or OO, it is awful. Word 2003 plants a giant drawing canvas in the middle of the page. Laying out text with graphs and getting anything sensible looking is worse. Ask a typeface geek about typefaces. Ask Edward Tufte if default page layouts are anything approaching decent.

              I know the fallback response is that most people don't care, or don't need proper page layout features, but that is just a chicken and egg argument. People have made due so long they no longer recognize the absurdities. Galileo published books in the 1600s that integrated text and pictures better than most modern word processing programs can.

              They don't need to become full blown Pagenmaker-esque graphics hybrids, but there is whole lot of room to improve.

              • Try integrating drawings in your text with Word or OO, it is awful. Word 2003 plants a giant drawing canvas in the middle of the page. Laying out text with graphs and getting anything sensible looking is worse. Ask a typeface geek about typefaces. Ask Edward Tufte if default page layouts are anything approaching decent.

                I'm not exactly saying that there isn't room for improvement in word processing. There is. But, for the vast majority of people, the benefit they receive from the network effect of having a widely-compatible word processor outweighs the benefits they would get from the improvements you mention.

                If we could start over from scratch, and disregard all the network effect value in the current system, we could design, implement, and deploy a vastly improved word processor. But, as we can't just disregard all that

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by crmarvin42 (652893)
                I have to agree. The oozing sores, and flop sweat that is MS office for mac becomes painfully obvious once you start trying to add charts and tables to any document (word, excel and powerpoint included).

                Want to have columns that are a 0.4 inches wide? Forget about trying to just enter 0.4 into the column width cell, that doesn't actually work. You need to spend at least 10 min holding down the option key while grabbing the column with your mouse and moving it one pixel at a time.

                Want to have a chart
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by cheftw (996831)

                Everyone should just use TeX.

                With LyX.

                Seriously.

                If it's good enough for Knuth, it's good enough for me.

              • by tixxit (1107127)
                If I actually care about how something looks or need to include any sort of graphics, tables, charts, etc, I don't even bother with word processors and just use LaTeX.
          • by jgrahn (181062)

            When have we seen any real innovation? It is like we got to Word and everything stopped.

            You make it sound as if MS Word was an improvement. It probably was in some ways, but lots of people who used FrameMaker in the past can tell you how much worse Word is, at least for long, technical documents.

            • by tsa (15680)

              WP 5.1 was much much better than word, even though is was not graphical. You could place tables and pictures exactly where you wanted them, and it knew that a caption is supposed to stay with the table or picture. Every word processor out there is rubbish compared to WP 5.1.

          • by HiThere (15173)

            The thing is, almost any of the current word processors is perfectly adequate for documents that you create in it. And most of them are good enough to handle over, say, 97% of the documents created.

            Toss in network effects, and the difficulties in converting a document created in one word processor into another word processor. (Margins handled slightly differently, different handling of tables of contents and indexes, alignment of images, etc.)

            Given all that we don't WANT to have many word processors. We

        • So long as the same document format is rendered differently on different word processors (no matter how small that difference), there will be an incentive to standardize on a handful.

          So long as people expect the same rendering on different machines, in different companies, there'll always be issues. The web had it right from the beginning: it's not the rendering that counts, its the structure. It doesn't matter if the heading is 20pt for your boss, or 50pt, for your other, visually impaired boss. It does

          • The web had it right from the beginning: it's not the rendering that counts, its the structure.

            And that works great for the web.

            But, so long as a good percentage of word processing documents end up on paper, we'll have a need for consistent rendering.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Were there more word processors in the past?

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Oh yes.
          Just off the top of my head.
          Fleetstreet Writer.
          pfs:Write.
          QnA.
          WordStar.
          Write.
          WordPro.
          ProWrite.
          BankStreet Writer.
          PCWrite.
          XYWrite.
          Sprint.
          I could go on. There was also a time when we had many more spreadsheets as well.

      • by BCW2 (168187)
        Unless you tried Word Star in the late 80's you have never seen a word processor that wasn't a clone of WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. The first useable word processor. Everything since is a derivative work, bloated with so much useless crap it's hard to believe.

        Ever notice how all spreadsheets use the same commands found in Lotus 2.3 for DOS? Same thing, derivative work.
    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred AT fredshome DOT org> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:24AM (#28280191) Homepage

      On the other hand, there also is lots of support for MOO XML :
      - Microsoft
      - cows

      And there are *lots* of cows.

    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard that ODF documents created in, say, OpenOffice weren't entirely compatible with AbiWord. Granted, I haven't had the chance to try this out myself.

      Also, from what I hear, OOXML is even worse, since it seems to be deliberately broken.

    • by Fred_A (10934) <fred AT fredshome DOT org> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:36AM (#28280329) Homepage

      Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 (SP2)

      Isn't that one "read only" for some files ? Such as ODS (aka. spreadsheets) and possibly others (But ODS is the only one where I've heard of real problems).

      MS has the source code for their implementation of whatever standard they're following at the moment (MOOXML possibly, or whatever), they have the specs for ODF (which, granted are incomplete for spreadsheets for *very good reasons*, look it up), *and* they have the source code. But being *MS* they somehow manage to generate something that's illegible.

      Hmmm.

      Disclaimer : I don't use MS stuff (or rather haven't for the last 15 yrs, I just use their OS to run games every now and then), I do switch small businesses *away* from Microsoft (successfully too, thanks to *ubuntu most of the time). It doesn't mean I have to know the intricacies of their software. I wish I could care but I don't have the time anymore. I just read the news.

    • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:50AM (#28280507) Journal

      I compared the ODF article to the OOXML article. The most striking difference is the "Criticism" sections of the ODF article is twice as long, and points out really minor stuff that hardly deserves inclusion in such a summary. On the other hand, the OOXML article fails to mention ANY of the major criticism that has gone across Slashdot in recent years, including Microsoft's paying off countries to support them on the standards committee, or how Microsoft purposely refuses to support the ODF standard in any useful way (I still import/export Word/Excel/PowerPoint, in Open Office - far less broken). There is also no mention that ODF is short, sweet, and nearly complete, while OOXML is Webster Dictionary sized, yet highly incomplete. The low complexity of an ODF implementation relative to OOXML is missing.

      In short, we here on slashdot would write very different articles on the two formats. The gist would probably be:

      • ODF - Reasonable format, with room for improvement
      • OOXML - Evil ploy by Microsoft to continue world-wide domination

      Not that I'm against world domination by US corporations :-)

      • by Magic5Ball (188725) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:08PM (#28281751)

        Why is it remarkable to you that a list of criticisms about the objective technical merits of a proposed standard does not include items about the political actions of parties to the standardization process?

        Did ReiserFS gain or lose functionality for the sole reason that the author committed a crime? Did any of Alan Turing's theories gain or lose logical validity due to his sexual orientation becoming revealed? Did the arguments of the civil rights movement become wrong when they engaged in some quid pro quo actions to gain exposure?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jefu (53450)

        Not that I'm against world domination by US corporations :-)

        But remember, unless Microsoft keeps the ability to evade US taxes [slashdot.org], it may not be a US corporation for long...

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:47PM (#28281431) Homepage Journal

      Conspicuously absent: Apple's "Pages" word processor. I'd happily pay Apple for a word processor that plays nicely on my PPC Mac, but I'll be damned if I'm going to lock my data into Yet Another Weird Apple Format. Seriously, what genius at Apple said "we have a 0% share of the word processing market - let's invent our own incompatible format so that no one can exchange data with us!"

      • by kamochan (883582)
        Yeah, that sucks, particularly because Pages is actually rather good, and also quite inexpensive... and I've grown a bit fond of Numbers, too. Add ODF support and the iWork suite could be a hit.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It really shows how desperate a company is when they have to get the FUD written so they can refer to it as tho it were fact. Its just like "get the facts" which was show up as paid for information. How many times have we seen information come from Microsoft that states the truth but they leave out the relevant parts that make it the complete opposite of what they say. Rob Weir gives an example of Microsoft have 15 proposals for ODF 1.2 and Microsoft says none of them made it into ODF 1.2. All was true but

  • by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:23AM (#28280173)

    Sunlight is the best antiseptic.

    Exactly. Watch the history of the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org]. Now that light has been shed on the issue, I'll bet the article becomes extremely accurate by the end of the day.

    • OK, but (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:39AM (#28280367) Homepage Journal

      What defines accurate?

      I love how ambiguous this all is. It really comes down to is "Bob doesn't think this but Rob does" How does the average person on the street know when accurate has been reached?

      One could say that the accuracy of the article will suffer even more based on the bias of the site this article was submitted to.

       

      • Bob doesn't think this but Rob does

        Hold on I'm confused ... which one is Steve Ballmer again?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If people tell each other that Microsoft sucks, and that Microsoft products are buggy and easily penetrated, would you say there is a 'whisper campaign' against Microsoft?

    If people say that republicans are dishonest assholes, is that a 'whisper campaign' against republicans?

    In short, how do you define 'whisper campaign'? Is it simply "when people we don't like speak negatively about something we like without being purely factual"?

    • by Palestrina (715471) * on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:47AM (#28280463) Homepage
      A whisper campaign is when you tell outright lies in private that you would never dare to say in public, because they are so outrageously false that you would be immediately challenged on it. Saying that Microsoft products are buggy, etc., is not a whisper campaign, because we can and do say this publicly without fear of contradiction.
    • It is a "whisper" campaign because if the same things were said out loud the speaker would be open to ridicule. Open to ridicule - because the comments are completely untrue, and the speaker is being deceitful.

      If you speak out openly against someone or something and take whatever criticism comes - and rebut or retract, then it is not a whisper campaign.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ArhcAngel (247594)

      Whisper Campaign [wikipedia.org]

      Of course this post can be taken as insightful or funny given the subject matter.

    • "If people tell each other that Microsoft sucks, and that Microsoft products are buggy and easily penetrated, would you say there is a 'whisper campaign' against Microsoft?"

      I'd say it's more of a shouting campaign around here.

  • Alex Brown (Score:4, Funny)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:39AM (#28280361)
    So where is Alex Brown's Wikipedia page? One needs to be created so that every Slashbot can update it every second of the day to say that he is a Microsoft marketing agent.
  • You should see the quark stars vs. peon stars crowd. Hooboy, I wouldn't touch that with a 3.048 meter pole.

  • Who to consult (Score:3, Informative)

    by saleenS281 (859657) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @11:48AM (#28280479) Homepage
    I'm not at all saying that the wikipedia article is accurate... but I'd hardly say consulting the people who are behind the standards are the best ones to get an honest view of its stability, completeness, and real-world support. That's like turning to Larry Ellison and asking if Oracle is the best database in the world. Of COURSE he's going to pimp his own goods. I'd prefer to see people pointed to an independent third-party. Whether that be a forum full of users, or large corporations who have standardized on it in the business sector.
  • The latest published standard version of ODF (1.1) is flawed - perhaps the most frequently mentioned flaw is that it does not define a syntax for spreadsheet formulas. An ODF 1.1 compliant spreadsheet application can thus generate ODF 1.1 compliant spreadsheet documents that are incompatible with other ODF 1.1 spreadsheet applications.

    When completed, ODF 1.2 will fix this flaw and others. But ODF 1.2 is not yet finished.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fahrbot-bot (874524)
      Not saying you're wrong, but to be a bit pedantic, ALL standards are flawed and incomplete to some extent. The issue is how much those items matter and to whom.

      It's obviously in Microsoft's best interest to highlight these issues with ODF, even though the same sentiment, "flawed and imcomplete", could also be applied to any of their own file formats...

      • by nxtw (866177)

        Not saying you're wrong, but to be a bit pedantic, ALL standards are flawed and incomplete to some extent. The issue is how much those items matter and to whom.

        I would say the lack of a standard spreadsheet formula syntax is a major flaw... This matters quite a bit to anyone who wants to implement a spreadsheet application with formulas.

        • by Rockoon (1252108)
          ..and matters even more so to people who want to export their spreadsheets for use by others
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @12:11PM (#28280859) Homepage

    Weir's tests of MS's ODF implementation made a big point of the fact that if you saved a spreadsheet in OO, and read it with Office, it was not fully functional (you get the cell values, but not the formulas, so it becomes a static snapshot of the data).

    Yet Lotus Symphony has almost exactly the same problem [lotus.com]. Weir got around that by using a beta of a future version of Symphony that fixes the problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Palestrina (715471) *
      I stated exactly what application versions I used in the tests. How is that "rigging" ? Of course I'll use the latest code available to me. That's a no-brainer.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      As others have posted, this is a fundamental problem with the ODF format, so all implementations will have this problem.
  • ...Ask the questions in public places and seek a public response. That is the ultimate weakness of FUD and lies. They cannot stand the light of public exposure. Sunlight is the best antiseptic...

    The problem is the time it takes to recognize the FUD and eliminate it all to often is too late and the damage has been done.

    Bad information spreads quicker then good information because good information is usually boring and doesn't generate hits\traffic on the invisible series of tubes we call the Internet.

    • by PPH (736903)

      People like to feel important. Someone comes up to you and says, "Look, I'm going to give you some inside information on XYZ." You feel like you've been given a valuable stock tip or a lead on the Next Big Thing. But in reality, everyone is getting the same story, just like that e-mail from the Nigerian Minister of Finance.

      Its an old marketing ploy that smart people recognize. Unfortunately, being smart isn't a prerequisite for becoming a PHB. But being susceptible to having one's ego stroked is.

  • will i still be able to open these files in VI?? if not, im willing to try EMACS as a workaround, but only if i can virtualize it like my other operating systems.
  • MS not the only ones (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blitzkrieg3 (995849) on Wednesday June 10, 2009 @01:06PM (#28281729)
    I remember that the Budweiser [wikipedia.org] article read like a marketing brochure one time, but it appears to have been cleaned up. The worst offender I've seen is the Debeers [wikipedia.org]. I went there once after reading an article about successful marketing of diamonds for wedding rings in Japan, and was shocked to find that it didn't even have a history page (it now does). Revisions of the article from it's early days gave me a pretty good idea of it's history. You can see a great deal of controversy via it's talk page [wikipedia.org].
  • As far as I can tell, the problem here is that the article is not bending the truth to match the usual reality-distorted pro-ODF bias expected by slashdot users and other FSF goons.

    Let's start with this statement:

    In the ODF article, Alex Brown bends the truth to make it seem like no one is supporting ODF, and that it is a flawed and incomplete standard.

    It seems to be like he doesn't fail to bend the truth. It's a flawed and incomplete standard, in some ways it is vague, in others it's simply inconsistent.

    Let's take tracked changes for instance, a feature in ODF 1.1 which pretends to be complete. The reality is that the standard is so vague and br

  • "You obviously can't trust Wikipedia whatsoever in this area. [...] But since the day when [somebody] decided they needed to [...] "improve" the [...] articles, they have been a cesspool of FUD, spin and outright lies, seemingly manufactured [...]"

    How is this different from any other Wikipedia article out there?

  • Across the US and EU .Gov/.Mil "Open" is co-opted by corporatist (anti-Capitalist) for lying, scamming, hooking, and injuring "Open" market reputation, customers, products, businesses, foundations.... It is very misleading, and should be at least a crime of anti-trust or fraud for MS-Gates and others to use the capitalized term "Open" to imply any product or model qualities/values. A local military CIO ... (2008) even implied that I was Doctor Frankenstein for recommending the use of "Open" architectures an

    • ".Gov/.Mil...qualities/values...data/content...Yahoo/Google...purchase/use...low/no...project/product...proprietary/share/free-ware...crap/BS...GNU/BSD...and/or...share/freeware...companies/foundations...personal/cultural...commerce/innovation...competition/share...products/businesses"

      Not sure if this post is a joke/jest, but it's definitely obtuse/hard-to-follow.

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