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Drive-by voting

Since the Swedish stance in favour of OOXML, I’ve had no particularly exciting moments in the related committee of the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS). Because the decision was withdrawn in the media chaos that followed, Sweden will not be able to vote on Microsoft’s ECMA’s proposal, or go to the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in February. It’ll be interesting to see how the story ends…

Meanwhile, I thought I’d remind you of how committed Microsoft’s partners are to actual standardisation work, as opposed to, hmm, something else. See my table below, listing organisations ordered by degree of participation. (You can also find out the date of joining for some members. Note that many of them have decided not to be part of the committee in 2008.)

Oh, and IAMCP has sued SIS in order to make sure that “IAMCP and its members can continue to work with standards in a reliable manner”.

What a sandbox.

Organisation 5 Jun 15 Jun 14 Aug 16 Aug1 VOTE 27 Aug 26 Sep 26 Nov2 17 Dec
Riksarkivet (chair) x x x NO x x x
IBM x x x x N/A3 x x
Microsoft x x x x YES x
Illuminet AB x x NO x x x
Verva x x NO x x
IAMCP Sweden Chapter4 x x YES x
Sun Microsystems AB x NO x x
EPiServer AB x x x YES
HumanData Inventus AB x x YES
iBizkit AB YES x x
Diamo AB x YES
WM-data x YES
Kungliga Biblioteket5 NO x
Exor AB YES x
Formpipe Software Linköping AB YES x
FS System AB YES x
International Development Europe YES x
SourceTech AB YES x
Rikspolisstyrelsen N/A6 x
Camako Data AB YES
Connecta AB YES
Cornerstone YES
Emric AB YES
Fishbone Systems AB YES
Google Sweden NO
HP YES
IT-Vision AB YES
KnowIT Stockholm YES
Modul 1 YES
Nordic Station AB YES
Sogeti YES
Solid Park AB YES
TietoEnator Digital Innovations YES
Cybernetics N/A3
ReadSoft AB N/A3
Strand Interconnect N/A3

Footnotes:

1 This meeting was only for editorial purposes.
2 This meeting was organized specifically to discuss coordination between various working groups in SiS.
3 Left before the OOXML vote.
4 The person in question is listed to be representing “VeBe IT-Management AB” during the first three meetings (including one absence).
5 Is a member of other committees as well.
6 Became a member after the OOXML vote.

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ISO is expected to announce the vote results today. Meanwhile, here is a map showing inofficial estimations (may be incomplete relative to the figures here). According to the voting rules there needs to be a qualified majority (2/3) of all participating members that vote. Of those, currently there seems to be 12+ NO votes, and 6+ abstenstions, leaving at the most 41-12-6=23 YES votes. 23+12=35, and 23 / 35 is 65.7%.

If these figures are correct, it seems that OOXML is not approved at this time. However, the possibility of involving a so called Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) has been mentioned. Holding a BRM could mean some NO votes become YES votes, when underlying concerns are addressed. This could mean the process continues for several months – more on this later if so.

Update 4 Sept 14:25: more detailed reports confirm OOXML has not received support on any criteria. 73.91% of the votes of the participating members and 51.61 53.13% of all votes approve of OOXML. 3/4 and 2/3 majorities, respectively, are necessary. At the time of writing, ISO is yet to announce the official results, or any indications on whether a BRM will be held or not. At this point, my feeling is that (while gaining approval later is theoretically possible) holding one would be less than constructive use of their time.

(Sweden is not listed in the table of votes, since they decided to withdraw their decision completely. “Abstention” here means the respective member body has submitted their decision to abstain.)

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I just received confirmation from SiS that Sweden will not vote on OOXML. This is because scheduling a new meeting on such short notice (less than three weeks) would have required unanimous approval, and this was not reached in the working group. Therefore, a new vote is not possible.

Update 17:05: SiS has issued a press release (Swedish).

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SiS just published a press release saying that the decision on Monday is annulled, and Sweden will likely abstain from voting on OOXML, due to procedural issues. More info as soon as I’ve catched up.

Update 21:15: partial translation: (may contain mistranslated terms)

Office Open XML – SiS invalidates the vote

The Swedish working group of SiS, Swedish Standards Institute, Document description languages, SIS/TK 321/AG 17, decided on 27 August 2007 at a vote to vote for making Office Open XML an ISO standard. Today the board of SiS decided to invalidate the vote.The motive of the decision of the board is that SiS has information suggesting that one of the members in the working group has participated in the vote with more than one vote. […]

Update 21:25: the head of SiS says in IDG that this had nothing to do with the massive criticism, only a procedural matter. I say no more… 😉

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On 15 June, at one of the first meetings of the SiS OOXML working group, presentations were held about ODF and OOXML, respectively. (The OOXML one was one of those “black is white” shows – after seeing it you’d be tempted to believe that all the problems were a good thing.)

Anyhow, Microsoft was present and a consensus was reached that ODF and OOXML are in conflict! (I didn’t participate in the particular meeting, but I learned this later.)

I was also told that Stephen McGibbon from Microsoft had mentioned that the EMF / WMF issue is going to be corrected. An e-mail I received from him confirms that he “told the SIS meeting that this is an error in the specification that will be corrected at the BRM, and that Open XML has no requirement on EMF or WMF”.

So he acknowledges that this technical problem (though I wouldn’t be surprised to see a denial of this categorization) needs fixing. Therefore, we must vote NO, right?

Well, SiS had apparently (un-)done some homework in time for the vote, because they then – despite criticism – no longer seemed to support the earlier assessment that technical problems must be dealt with in order to vote YES (which is how I read the JTC1 directives, section 9.8)…

Now, with 170+ comments, one would think Microsoft would have some counter-arguments, no? Well, I talked about many of the comments on 14 August, with Microsoft present. The working group was given an answer to one or two, the rest Microsoft would answer “via e-mail”. Interestingly, on 16 August the same representative pointed to a stack of paper, claiming he’d been working for (only) two days with it, answering all the comments. He didn’t want to share them at that time, but said he would “consider” it later.

That was the last I heard about it, until 27 August. Apparently the response had been available since 24 August on LiveLink, a SiS / ISO system for communicating documents, but the working group was not notified (this 3-day gap is not the interesting part, though). One could wonder why he didn’t send the information 8 days earlier, when clearly he could do so.

On 27 August, he claimed that “final edits” had been necessary before sharing it, and (since I even asked why they didn’t send a draft) I can only conclude that – according to Microsoft – a preliminary response was somehow impossible or of low value to the working group. If this is indeed their opinion, I agree wholeheartedly. They had nothing to say about most comments except “it’s wrong”, just like in Norway where they hijacked the decision with no actual comments. (Update 3rd September: Norway finally voted no with comments.)

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The SiS working group received vast amounts of comments on OOXML, from several parties that had paid the required fee of 600 SEK / 65 EUR (yep…). All of them but one also submitted a recommendation for a resolution to OOXML; 27 companies suggested a YES vote, but did not write even one sentence to justify it. 2 companies that said YES made very brief statements – just as meaningless.

9 companies said NO and (in most cases) presented conditions for approval in appropriate detail (most were at least an A4). In mid-August, we finally concluded a list of 173 suggestions, not counting some general argumentation or the fact that some comments were collapsed into one.

Now, somehow the idea was presented on Monday that this “clear majority” in favour of OOXML as-is should help us in our decision, and that it’s important to look at who submitted these comments; I get the feeling that they didn’t buy my foolish thought of considering the comments as such (which, as it happens, were basically non-existent on the YES-side). It was also hinted that this approach would be justified (statistically or otherwise), in comparison with e.g. the Eurovision where anyone can call in… (Lordi, anyone?)

Anyway, then there were the thoughts of “diversity” as a reason for many standards, and that “we’re not ready for a single language (Esperanto)”, wherefore “we aren’t ready for a single standard”…

I especially liked one of the companies’ presentation:

  • ECMA is good (so there)
  • The interests of the customers is important (I hinted that maybe, possibly, it’s Sweden’s interest that’s relevant (at the very least), please forgive me)
  • There’s no time to deal with technical deficiencies (so we just ignore them? Convenient!)
  • There will always be problems, no standard is perfect (this is a good thing, right?)
  • The fast-track procedure has to be safe (therefore it is, Q.E.D.?)
  • It’s about taking control from Microsoft (no matter such details as Office 2007 doing something else entirely, or the patent problems, or the un-implementability of OOXML for anyone)
  • We say yes to ODF too (therefore there is no problem with adding another standard)

I think that about concludes it; most YES voters didn’t bother to justify their stance or to at least suggest that even one of the 170+ proposals need to be sent to ISO.

The only interesting speech at the meeting was given by Georg Greve of Google, who held a very thorough presentation of various problems. Their position is also available as a PDF document.

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Summary from an NyT article: (roughly)

Microsoft admits that it’s behind the SiS voting coup that resulted in proposing the OOXML document format as a standard.- Mistakes have been done at our end, says Klas Hammar, Microsoft.

Klas goes on to say that this action was done by a “individual employee” and that the action “was not authorized” by Microsoft.

I think this speaks for itself…

Update 17:25: the following people from Microsoft were present at the SiS meeting on Monday:

  • Jonas Persson, technical director
  • Klas Hammar, business area director
  • Peter Centellini

I’m sure they were all “individual employees” and had no clue what happened at the meeting…

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