political standards processes can be curiously slow. ODF 1.0, going through a fast-track procedure (rubberstamp, if you will), spent about a year in ISO, from submission to publication – and that with a strong consensus backing it, as well as (as far as I can tell) a truly open and thorough process preceding it in OASIS; public mailing lists and all. This is about as good as it gets in that context, but don’t let me spend too much time on that glorification.
Enter the submission of OOXML (ECMA-376) shortly after the publication of ODF (see the timeline provided by Rob Weir at IBM), and it’s closer to a two year period, beginning with formal protests (contradictions) that were set aside, followed by a vote to disapprove, followed by a contested fiasco of a BRM.
Out of more than 1,000 known errors of varying complexity presented there, only about 200 were resolved in any way (this took a week, even after legally questionable procedures were applied). Following this, there was a sort-of-vote1 for approval, followed by appeals, and recently a week-long silence from ISO on whether the appeals will be considered or not.
The bumps should not be surprising considering the relative (lack of) justification for, and quality of, the proposed standard, the closed process in Ecma and the hijacking of ISO to approve that outcome. So, one keeps wondering how a fast-track process is deemed to be appropriate for a 6,000 page proposal, developed behind closed doors and in practice being pushed by a single entity.
Looking at it from another direction, does it make any sense to call it “fast-track” after all this time? One of the most interesting aspects here is that the breaks, where there are any, seem to be rather poor – so far they have only managed to slow things down, but not to stop them. I would suggest a maintenance check, or somebody is going to get hurt.
In this moment, it seems quite likely that ISO has already rejected the appeals. The odd thing is that it seems they should have been available to the ISO TMB on Aug 4, and we have yet to see any official response. Is ISO lagging behind, working on PR measures? Maybe they are still using typewriters over there?
ISO, in case you are reading this: don’t sit up all night pondering how to best articulate all nuances of “these appeals have no ground, and we are not aware of any procedural problems…”; try something more concise, such as: “black is white, so we can’t see anything”. To the point, don’t you think?
Well, they would surely need some breathing room in any case; regardless of the decision, it is sure to raise many uncomfortable questions for ISO.
So, what will happen to OOXML? Will ISO publish it as a standard? If not, when will it end?
More importantly, what will happen to ISO? Without serious reform and actual transparency, can it be taken seriously by the community in this light?
Update 15 August: ISO took only 11 days to publish their decision to reject the appeals and proceed towards publication of OOXML. Congratulations for the speedy response! Let’s see where this goes…
1 Earlier votes would count unless new ones were submitted. This certainly had effects on how the game was played.