The Right Vote: No, With Or Without Comments

Friday, 2007-August-31 at 15:01

Rick Jelliffe has urged Standards Australia to vote "No With Comments".  Not that he acknowledges the value of most of the comments that have been raised, but he does acknowledge that the Ecma Office Not-so-open XML (OOXML) specification has some flaws that should be fixed now.#160; I wish that he’d acknowledged the need to change the standard earlier in the process.

Open Malaysia reports that Microsoft admitted to New Zealand's organization that there are some serious flaws to be fixed in the specification.  I agree with the reasoning:

Microsoft themselves have admitted flaws in their specs. This should automatically default all NB’s votes to a “Disapprove with comments” to ensure that these flaws are fixed.

Andy Updegrove reports that the Linux Foundation has come out in favor of a "no with comments" vote.  Like Sam Hiser, I wish this had come earlier in the process, before most of the national bodies had made up their minds.

Since "choice" in standards is only good for the vendors of products that implement those standards, not for those who purchase and utilize those products, the real goal should be for Not-so-open XML to be partly or fully blended into OpenDocument Format (ODF) and China's UOF.  Undefined legacy behaviors should be defined or placed into namespaced extensions. 

When I write this, it is important to state where I am coming from.  When you support end-users who have to share documents with other end-users, some of whom may not be within your same organization, you will discover that using files created or modified with different brands of software (or even different versions of the same brand) can be problematic.  You will immediately figure out that there are two possible solutions.  Either (1) everyone must use the same brand and version of every application, on the same version of the same operating system or (2) people must use a universal format as their default format.  Watching how little the office suite space has improved since WordPerfect was vanquished a decade ago tells me that the first alternative will never provide a user-centric product.  Others have seen the same thing in the browser space, where there were few improvements to Internet Explorer from the time that Netscape was defeated until Firefox arose from the ashes to challenge the dominance of the blue E.

That being the case, it is best for users to have a universal, extensible format.  Not two competing formats for office documents, nor five, nor ten competing formats.  One format.  That is because users just want to use whatever application suits them best from whichever vendor they choose, and have the product of their work be usable by their friends and business associates. Many formats with each application using its own format is a win for vendors, but a loss for users and buyers. Single interchange format, with each application supporting that format is a (short-term) loss for vendors (especially the #1 vendor), but a win for buyers and users. 

If your vendor claims to have your best interests at heart, ask it to fully-implement ODF as a native set of file formats and a full-peer to the vendor’s own formats.  If the vendor is not willing to do this, all they want is your wallet.  Remember when you were in high school and your girlfriend told you "all you want is …"?  It is amazing that after she broke up with you, you went after someone else and within three weeks, all of your "love" had evaporated.  Break up with the Raiders from Redmond and they'll stop pretending they were trying to make their products better for users and admit that they just wanted your wallet.

Entry filed under: ODF, Open Standards.

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