Better late than never

ISO finally revises the voting directives for open standards after the OOXML debacle in 2007 / 2008. One of the changes is that the national bodies should no longer vote with “Yes, with comments” if they encounter serious flaws and trust on the ballot resolution meeting to get their issues solved (which evidently did not happen for OOXML), but should vote “No, with comments” instead.

Furthermore, if the “standard” receives more than 25% disapproval, it should now officially “be over” as well – if these rules would have been applied in the past, OOXML would not be an ISO certified standard as it is unfortunately today.

There are also smaller, less substantial changes. For example, the dedication to Jan van den Beld, the former head of Ecma, for his “unwavering dedication to the development and evolution of the JTC 1 procedures”, has been removed. Ironically, both Ecma and Microsoft have indeed made long-term contributions to the evolution of Fast Track in JTC1, but probably not the way they intended.


Now the only paragraph I’m missing in the new rules obviously is a way to revoke a broken standard, but I guess this won’t happen. Lets just hope that OOXML sinks into insignificance in the next couple of years.

Invisible Standards Organization

Rob Weir has put up an interesting, yet very sarcastic blog about the future of OOXML. From the article:

[…] Another example of working on autopilot is the ad-hoc working group in SC34 [ISO subcommittee for document description and processing languages] looking at OOXML maintenance. Although it was heralded with much pomp “SC takes control of OOXML”, the fact is SC34 currently can’t even look at OOXML [the final text was still not released], let alone maintain it. They are entirely impotent. But still they will go through the motions and meet next week in London to advise Alex Brown [the convenor at the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML in Geneva in Februrary], who will then take all this advice and later formulate and write up his OOXML maintenance plan for SC34 to vote on.

All the best to them. They voted on OOXML without seeing it. Now they’ll determine how to maintain it without seeing it. Maybe ISO should stand for Invisible Standards Organization? Maybe one of the participants can let me know where can I submit my invisible defect report?


He says it is likely that Ecma takes over the maintenance of ISO OOXML, as it would be the best for this “Microsoft-only standard”:

Who is better positioned to clarify exactly how Excel financial functions work, the Microsoft engineer who has access to the Excel source code, or an SC34 representative from Khazakstan?

No strings attached.


Remember this number – 7228.

This is the total amount of pages the final ISO version of Office Open XML (OOXML) will have – spread over four parts.

If I put this number in perspective with Microsoft’s recent effor to “save our trees” (Link, IE-only…), I’m not sure if I should be laughing or crying…

Digital Standards Organization

Via the NoOOXML mailing list:

When one thinks of international human rights, one thinks of The Hague
– home of the International Court of Justice and the International
Criminal Court, and the situs of an increasing number of Tribunals
chartered to redress the assaults on human dignity that inexcusably
continue to plague this planet. It is therefore appropriate that The
Hague has been chosen to witness yet another pronouncement in defense
of human rights. That pronouncement has been titled The Hague
Declaration by the new international group, called the Digital
Standards Organization (“Digistan,” for short), that crafted it. In
this blog entry, I’ll talk about what the Declaration is all about,
and what it is intended to achieve.


Go to for more information and sign The Hague Declaration.

ISO failed horribly last time to achieve what Digistan now goes after, lets just hope they get the creditbility and acceptance throughout the community and public they need to move on.

Perverted Logic / Monotone Summit

If you like to have a laugh today, read this. Found via Rob Weir’s blog.

The Monotone Summit goes on and its quite fun to meet and work with all the people I just know from IRC or the mailing list. I mostly worked on automation stuff so far and improved some things in guitone. A longer blog entry with other impressions (and maybe some pictures) will follow within the next days…

The full story what has happened in Norway

Steve Pepper, the former chairman of the Norwegian mirror committee SC34, tells his version of the story which led to the YES vote on OOXML:

[…] at this point, the “rules” were changed. The VP asserted that “Ecma has clearly made steps in the right direction.” The most important thing now was to ensure that OOXML came under ISO’s control so that it could be “further improved”. However, the committee was not allowed to discuss this.

The VP thereupon declared that there was no consensus, so the decision would be taken by Standard Norway.

Halfway through the proceedings, a committee member had asked for (and received) assurance that the Chairman would take part in the final decision, as he had for the DIS vote back in August. It now transpired that the BRM participants had also been invited to stay behind. 23 people were therefore dismissed and we were down to seven. In addition to Standard Norway’s three, there were four “experts”: Microsoft Norway’s chief lobbyist, a guy from StatoilHydro (national oil company; big MS Office user), a K185 old-timer, and me. In one fell swoop the balance of forces had changed from 80/20 to 50/50 and the remaining experts discussed back and forth for 20 minutes or so without reaching any agreement.

The VP thereupon declared that there was still no consensus, so the decision would be taken by Standard Norway.

The experts were dismissed and the VP asked the opinion of the Secretary (who said “Yes”) and the JTC1 rep (who said “No”).

The VP thereupon declared that there was still no consensus, so the decision would be taken by him.

And his decision was to vote Yes.

(read the full story)

After leading the committee for over 13 years, Pepper recently stepped down from his position to protest against the this farce.

OOXML is through

As it was already rumored, OOXML got its official approval by ISO today. (Does ISO stand for “I Sell Out” nowadays?)

Benjamin Henrion, initiator of the OOXML campaign, notes:

Committee stuffing is a standard practice for Microsoft. Microsoft raped ISO with their office file formats, leaving the organization in limbo. The whole campaign against the format have raised an army of people, which are furious about the dirty tactics used by Microsoft to get the broken standard through ISO. This anger won’t go away, and I wish good luck to Microsoft to get it adopted by governments. The reputation of Microsoft went down below zero with this process.


A bad day for open standards. But the war has just begun. Now that Microsoft has its ISO approval, you can bet that very aggressive lobbying in governments around the world will start, with the aim to introduce “an alternative” (read: successor) to the already widely accepted Open Document Format ODF.

OOXML seems to be through… [updated]

ISO Meeting


“Counting the countries, it is pretty certain that the votes are enough to get OOXML through this vote.” said Pieter Hintjens on the Noooxml-mailing list. A press release for tomorrow has been prepared:

Geneva, 1 April 2008. The International Organization for
Standardization announced at a press conference that its processes are
“broken” and “need radical reform”. ISO president Håkan Murby told
journalists that “the Microsoft OOXML process was a near-disaster and
we want to make sure such a thing never happens again.”


[Update: On the OpenDoc mailing list Michiel Leenaars posted the official results which should probably be published by ISO on April, 2nd:

P-Members voting: 24 in favour out of 32 = 75 % (requirement >= 66.66%)
(P-Members having abstained are not counted in this vote.)

Member bodies voting: 10 negative votes out of 71 = 14 % (requirement <= 25%)



In the meantime, Steve Pepper, the chairman of the Norwegian NB, formally protested against the “Yes”-vote of his country:

You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway’s vote from No with comments to Yes.

Because of this irregularity, a call has been made for an investigation by the Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry with a view to changing the vote.


While a possible turn of this vote into “No” may have helped yesterday (while the Yes-votes where only 22/32, or 68,75%), it may not be enough after all today, since at least two more countries would have to protest to make a change. Not that there would not have been reported enough irregularities in other NBs, like for example in Germany, Romania, Poland and the list goes on.]

Shame on you, DIN! [updated]

Germany is voting “YES” on DIS 29500 at ISO. The relevant committee was given by DIN only the choice between “YES” and “ABSTAIN” on DIS 29500, since changing from “YES with comments” in September 2007 to “NO” in March 2008 was deemed impossible. Everyone could vote “yes”, “abstain” or “no” on the question whether Germany should vote “YES” or “ABSTAIN” on DIS 29500.

8 votes were in favour of “YES”, 6 were in favour of “ABSTAIN”, some pointing out that they would have preferred to vote an outright “NO”. 4 voted “abstain to the DIN vote”, i.e. on the vote between “YES” and “ABSTAIN” to ISO. 2 of the 4 had initially voted for a German “ABSTAIN”, but under pressure changed within 48 hours their vote from a German “ABSTAIN” to “abstain to the DIN vote”; one of the 4 was compelled by instruction to vote “abstain to the DIN vote”, even though he wanted to vote at least “ABSTAIN”. That means: without very strong pressure from Microsoft Germany would have voted “ABSTAIN”, with 9 to 8.


Its more than embarrassing how obviously Microsoft bullies in this whole process in every national standards subsidiary, without being stopped. Do we need more regulation at ISO, like excluding companies from voting which have financial entanglements to the company which places the so-called “standard”?

I think we do. It will be interesting to follow if ISO learns anything from this fiasco (read: disaster) or if we get more rushed-through pseudo standards on the fast lane. On Tuesday Saturday we’ll know – the day when its decided if OOXML gets its ISO approval.

Geneva BRM is over [updated]

98.4% of the OOXML Proposed Dispositions were approved by a three to two majority at the BRM, validating OOXML

The OOXML Proposed Dispositions OOXML were overwhelmingly rejected by the delegations in attendance at the BRM, indicating the inability of OOXML to be adequately addressed within the “Fast Track” process


So, depending under what flag you’re sailing and which sources you’re about to trust, you’ll probably hear two different press releases in the next days: One which is telling you that OOXML was approved on the BRM because it got the majority of approval votes (while this source will probably not tell you that this vote was backed by only six delegations) and another source which will tell you that OOXML failed miserably at the Geneva BRM, because the majority of delegations disapproved, abstained or didn’t even voted on protest (a total of 26 delegations).

Now, apparently it became clear pretty quickly that the delegates couldn’t address all raised 1.100 comments in only five days, so the “solution” to this dilemma seemed to have been proposed on Wednesday: Only 20 20 – 30 (!) substantial dispositions were discussed and voted upon, another 200 ones which basically addressed spelling and grammar errors where fixed as well, and on a whopping amount of 900 comments was not worked at all, but voted today. Now that puts the “approval” under quite a different light, doesn’t it?

The above quoted article now draws a few possible conclusions from the “result”:

  1. As many have contended, the Fast Track process was a totally inappropriate process for Microsoft and Ecma to have adopted for OOXML
  2. OOXML has not been adequately addressed within that process to be entitled to final adoption
  3. It would be inappropriate for the ISO/IEC members to approve the adoption of OOXML in the thirty day voting period ahead

Whatever ISO decides after this corrupted standardization process took place and whatever the next actions of ECMA / Microsoft will be – personally I hope they get their fast-tracked, rushed “standard” throwed back at their head with a nice “do your homework again” message – it starts to manifest that every existing OOXML implementation to date is about to get dead meat within the next weeks.

Oh, and a last one, not really on-topic with respect to the BRM ending, but still worth a read if you’re interested in a comparison between SVG and Microsoft’s DrawingML used in OOXML…

[Update: Rob Weir blogs about his experiences during the BRM as part of the US delegation – very interesting read!]