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South Africa Appeals ISO Decision On OOXML 79

mauritzhansen sends us a blog post by Steve Pepper, former chairman of the Norwegian standards committee responsible for evaluating OOXML, reporting that the South African national standards body, SABS, has appealed against the result of the OOXML DIS 29500 ballot in ISO. From the blog: "In a letter sent to the General Secretary of the IEC (co-sponsor with ISO of JTC1), the SABS expresses its 'deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 process to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards.' Having resigned as Chairman of the Norwegian committee responsible for considering OOXML for exactly this reason, I congratulate South Africa on its willingness to stand up for the principles on which standardization work should be based."
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South Africa Appeals ISO Decision On OOXML

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  • They can't do that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:05AM (#23517788)
    Aside from the fact that they're protesting other NBs' votes (or so the Secretariat will rule) there's the little matter of there not being any IS-29500 text to object to. No standard, no objections.

    Think of it as creative interpretation of the Directives.

    • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:23AM (#23518044) Journal
      Maybe not according to the rules. But, rules can be ignored. Organizations can be ignored. This type of thing will continue, and it will kill ISO because there will be no perception of either trust or authority.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by uucp2 ( 731567 )
        Unfortunately, this is probably exactly what Microsoft wants.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gunnk ( 463227 )
          No central standards body? Oh dear! I guess we'll have to decentralize the process and make it transparent... an open standards process!

          Nah, I think Microsoft actually likes ISO because they've found ways to distort it. However, the gp post is spot on: ISO will either clean up its act or lose credibility -- and for an organization whose existence relies on credibility that means extinction.
  • Wasn't the deadline for appeals two months after the original decision? Which I believe was end of March. I'm thrilled to see that someone finally stood up before the deadline. I have hope once again (despite the fact we all know MS will come up with a way to quash it).
    • Wasn't the deadline for appeals two months after the original decision?

      Eh, he was sleeping.
    • Everyone stated we are looking in to this but it is about damn time someone actually appealed it.
    • The decision was announced on 2.4.2008. There have been some appeals on national levels already, this is the first one appealing to ISO itself.
  • by sillyxone ( 955341 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:26AM (#23518098)
    "Despite having an open source strategy the South African government doesn't really understand how to benefit from OSS. This is according to Microsoft director of corporate standards, Jason Matusow." http://www.tectonic.co.za/?p=2432 [tectonic.co.za]
  • Some extra info (Score:5, Informative)

    by sucker_muts ( 776572 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [nvp_rekcus]> on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:29AM (#23518136) Homepage Journal
    Some extra info and thoughts in this article: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20080523052458101 [consortiuminfo.org]
  • Ubuntu (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveInAustin ( 549058 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:40AM (#23518284) Homepage
    Have to think that this might be some good work that Shuttleworth's folks are doing. A lot of the original votes are determined by a lot of lobbying (just like in Congress).
  • 3 cheers (Score:5, Informative)

    by ianare ( 1132971 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @10:50AM (#23518400)
    Thank you South Africa!
    Hip Hip Hurray!!

    BTW, the pdf letter linked in TFA is a great read, perfect summary of all the problems that were so apparent to anyone actually looking into the whole mess.
  • It seems outrageous to me that OOXML was approved as a standard despite not having more then one implementation to prove that it's possible for it to be a common format.

    However it's freakin' hilarious/sad/odd that there actually isn't even ONE implementation of OOXML and it was approved. Doesn't the ISO have any standards for standards? Or is it just a matter of gaming the process? Maybe the ISO itself should be reconsidered...
    • I think the infamous osi networking protocol from the 80's was done the same way.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSI_model [wikipedia.org]
    • It seems outrageous to me that OOXML was approved as a standard despite not having more then one implementation to prove that it's possible for it to be a common format.

      Why? What is wrong with that? Perhaps you're thinking of fast track standards (what OOXML was in). They're designed to codify something that is widespread, has multiple implementation/manufacturers.

      Something like C++ never has any conformant (or nearly) implementations at the time of standardisation. So, it takes a long time to thrash out as
    • ISO has lost all meaning since its just a place to buy an approval stamp without really conforming to anything. I think the ISO will disappear and be replaced with another entity because a standards organisation nobody takes serious has lost all value both to the ones getting the standards and for those using them.
    • by Bananenrepublik ( 49759 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @03:48PM (#23522388)
      There was no implementation of standard C++ when C++ was standardized. There was no implementation of standard C when C was standardized. There was no implementation of Fortran 90 / 95 / 2003 when Fortran 90 / 95 / 2003 were standardized. This is fairly common for standards: after all one of the reasons for having standards is to have diverging impementations converge again. Not standardizing one of the existing implementations puts no vendor at an advantage and is therefore bound to happen if different vendors sit at the table negotiating.

      NB I'm not saying that OOXML is a good standard.
      • Yes, but I don't believe C/C++/etc were fasttracked standards. In those cases, defining the standard was necessary to work out the kinks before implementations were produced. That *should* be the way things normally are done.

        However, OOXML *was* fasttracked, and as I understand the purpose of fasttracking, it *IS* for standards that are already in wide use. If you go with the proposition that the Ecma standard which eventually became ISO OOXML was the standard that was submitted, then there was exactly
      • by Anonymous Coward
        My understanding is: the fast-track process is designed for existing de-facto standards. Since OOXML is not implemented anywhere, it is hard for me to understand how OOXML would qualify for the fast-track process.
      • by mysidia ( 191772 )

        These were fully standardized, through the complete exacting process, which allowed the opportunity to ensure consistency of the standard.

        Also, while there was no implementation of "standard C", there were implementations of "C", pre-standard C implementations.

        Demonstrated the feasibility of having a "C standard".

        There is no reference implementation of MSOOXML to demonstrate the consistency/feasibility of a standardized OOXML implementation.

  • Cyberpunk (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_kress ( 99356 ) on Friday May 23, 2008 @11:31AM (#23518984)
    A cyberpunk common theme is multinational industrial concerns having equal or more power than the governments. In fact, the governments seem to have been broken of most power and now are nothing more than location-based unions.

    The first time I saw this was actually Max Headroom (I suppose that show could be called the grandfather of cyberpunk).

    It always seemed like fantasy to me (a pretty horrifying one), but nothing that could come true.

    What's going on these days though feels like the first battles. Industries placing people in top government positions, controlling votes, manipulating laws and standards, Chevron killing villagers who are protesting, all the private police forces protecting industrial concerns in Iraq (and being better equipped than the solders to do so)...

    I'm surprised they were as accurate as they were, and I trust their predictions for our future in a corporate-run world if we let it go on--not that I know what to do about it...

    We've always been able to overthrow governments that became too problematic. How do you overthrow a multinational conglomerate that is in control of multiple governments? How do you even know who to fight?
    • A cyberpunk common theme is multinational industrial concerns having equal or more power than the governments.
      SO common a theme I'd call it a trope.

      That said, you're right--these are the first battles, and I fear we the people are losing.


    • The first time I saw this was actually Max Headroom (I suppose that show could be called the grandfather of cyberpunk).

      I think Blade Runner, Neuromancer and Brazil might have been a bit more influential.

      I loved the 20 Minutes Into the Future/Max Headroom series, but they always stood on the shoulders of some fairly large giants.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dcollins ( 135727 )
      In general I agree with your observations.

      Only quibble is how far back "cyberpunk" goes, any grandfather is certainly older than Max Headroom. Check out Larry McCaffery's anthology "Storming the Reality Studio" and its Cyberpunk 101: A Schematic Guide. It starts with 1818's Frankenstein and goes up from there. Viewable at Google Book Search:

      http://books.google.com/books?id=qcd-pFFEtHIC&dq=storming+the+reality+studio&pg=PP1&ots=M6Iri6TXg6&sig=PV88FEsDxjZROKv_Xl9yQJv5vdw&hl=en&prev=htt [google.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the meanwhile, you can sign The Hague declaration [digistan.org] in support for free and open digital standards

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