a 'mooh' point

clearly an IBM drone

OOXML is now IS 29500

Long awaited, the votes on the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 have been counted and verified. The unofficial result began circulating between the national bodies yesterday but the result was not made public until today, Wednesday April 2nd 2008.

The results are pretty clear: OOXML has now been approved as an ISO/IEC international standard.

Result of voting

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%)


I think this pretty much summarizes it.

It's been a good one - thanks to all I have worked with throughout this process the last year or so - it's been great getting to know you. Also thanks to everyone contributing their valuable input to this process.

Crucial days in Denmark - behind the curtains

Wow - this week has been truly 1800-UNBELIEVABLE (to use the phrasing of Andrew Dice Clay). Almost a week ago we sat down in the Danish National Comittee to try to reach consensus about a guidance to Dansk Standard to help them decide the Danish vote of DIS 29500. As reported by Dansk Standard in their press-release, we failed to do so.

Dansk Standard: After the Ballot Resolution Group meeting the committee was unable to reach consensus as to whether it was decided to incorporate all Danish comments into the final standard. Another point of disagreement was the state of maturity of ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML as an ISO/IEC standard.

The meeting took the better part of 8 hours and was, at least to me, extremely tough and exhausting. I am sure we all know the feeling and energy-level after pulling an all-nighter at work, and as the sun rises in the morning, the team decides to go home, catch a few hours of sleep and meet again for lunch. The feeling you have when you step out of the building in the cold morning air - this was exactly how I felt when the meeting was done. Add to this the sensation that "I'm not sure we're gonna make it after all". It was not good. This was Wednesday evening. On Thursday evening the mood was remarkably better since during the day, we had come to the conclusion that is was not that bad after all and that we had done everything we could - given the circumstances at the meeting.

The only thing regarding consensus we could agree on was this (my translation):

The committee requests that Dansk Standard, as best as they possibly can, honors the technical work that the committee has done. The committee asks that Dansk Standard takes note of the fact that the committee did not reach a consensus regarding if Denmark should change its vote on March 29th 2008.

Friday - damn! I had actually expected the anti-OOXML-mob to perform a DOS-attack on the process during the last 14 days before the ISO/IEC deadline. Surprisingly, this did not happen. Well, in Denmark it happened on Friday morning. Dansk Standard had promised to notify the committee by email before making their decision public - but they had said nothing about when. So Friday was quite an anxitious day. It began with an interview with Morten Messerschmidt (Dansk Folkeparti), where he basically told Dansk Standard to maintain the original "Dissaprove"-vote if no consensus could be reached. The debate on the two primary IT-websites in Denmark increased during the morning hours and information from the meeting began to leak to the media. Countless emails were exchanged between delegates from the BRM to figure out what was happening on a global scale. At 12.10 the email arrived in my mailbox.

The rest, you could say, is history.

Almost immediately the conspiracy-theories started to flow and the influx of leaked (and sometimes false information) information increased. Even before the announcement it was obvious to me, that the anti-OOXML-lobby, in case they lost, would attack the process and I was sadly correct. Within minutes after the announcement, they started attacking Dansk Standard. Friday afternoon the vice director of Dansk Standard, Jesper Jerlang, was interviewed and he denied any allegations that the process was not carried out in a proper manner. He commented on a couple of things in the interview. First he commented on the basis of changing the Danish vote:

Background-inf: Denmark had 168 comments that we went to Geneva to fight for. All these comments were approved (with one, small, outstanding issue) and will become part of the IS 29500, if it is accepted.

Jesper Jerlang: So even though there is no consensus as to whether the 168 suggestions have been fully implemented, we believe that we are so well on the way that the demands for an approval have been met

He also commented on the process, saying that (my translation):

Jesper Jerlang: So even though there is no consensus that all 168 comments have been fully implemented, we believe that we have come so far, that the conditions for an approval has been met

One of the flanks of criticisme has been whether undue influence by major companies had taken place, and he had the following to say about this (my translation)

Jesper Jerlang: There has been a lot of political focus on the process, but the process was carried out completely by the rules, so there has been no deviations. Vi have naturally taken care of that the discussion was focused on the content and not the process, but it is clear, that there is commercial politics in this matter, and it is also the reason that the committee, at the final hour, does not reach consensus - but we knew this from the beginning: That at this point, there would be to sides that would each one fight for their views. This is why we have made a great effort to manage the process by the rules, so that we have been complety comfortable saying, that on the basis of the process we have been through, we have been able to decide how we best take care of the Danish interests, as they are written in the list of comments from the committee

So what do we do now? Well, first we await the final tally from ISO/IEC and then, regardless of the out-come, we all get back to work. In Dansk Standard we continue with the next subjects at hand, most prominently ODF v1.2, should OASIS decide to do this in ISO.

Oooh - and the blame-game will likely continue for a couple of weeks.


Post-decision after-math

Today the Danish NSB (Dansk Standard) changed their vote from ”Disagree” to ”Approve”. I will be honest and note that I did not see that coming. The process and the debate in Denmark have been extremely complicated and tough and especially after the final meeting in the Danish sub-committee, where we failed to reach a consensus on a recommendation to Dansk Standard, I was very pessimistic. Luckily I was proved wrong when I got the email with the new vote of Denmark.

It is difficult to conclude much without breaking the confidentiality rules of the committee work, but let me share a couple thoughts and feelings running my brain right now.

I think that we can conclude nothing but that our strategy proved to be the right one. We have consistently focused on the technicalities of the debates and we have insisted that the discussions taken place should be about the technical merits and basis of OOXML – not the commercial- nor software-political angle that some wanted to impose on us. We have insistently argued that claims about “lack of interoperability” and “impossible to implement by anyone other than Microsoft” should be backed by technical arguments. We have insistently demanded that the technical work in the Danish mirror-committee should be – technical – and not a discussion of who has the bigger one.

So not alone am I glad that Dansk Standard listened to us and changed their vote and I am proud to have been a part of the process. I am also proud that Denmark has confirmed, that “yes”, it is important to us that Denmark has a formal influence on the development and maintenance of the file format of the Microsoft Office productivity suite; a productivity suite that handles most of the electronic documents in the Danish public sector. We have that influence in ISO – it would be gone in ECMA (and OASIS for that matters). This is to me not a small thing.

Let me close by thanking all the companies and organizations that took part in the work in Denmark. It has been a pleasure to work with all of them (well, some more than others), and I would like to especially thank IBM for all their hard work on improving the specification. I sincerely believe that we all owe them a great amount of thanks for the state and quality of OOXML today. I would also like to thank Dansk Standard for their work. Much like Alex Brown they were faced with an impossible task at hand – but they managed to make sure that the opinion of everyone at the table was heard and accounted for. They really stepped up to the task.

(and now I hear the music start to play …)

I’ll see you all in the blog-sphere … and keep your fingers crossed that Denmark was not the only country to change its vote. It’s not over ‘till the fat lady sings …

This just in: Denmark votes Yes!

I will update shortly, but the press release is available at http://www.ds.dk/4225 .

OOXML "T minus 14 dage"

Slutspillet omkring OOXML er i disse dage virkeligt gået ind i sin sidste fase og det er tydeligt, at nerverne begynder at sidde lidt udenpå tøjet. Det er næsten som de sidste 10 minutter af dette års SuperBowl imellem New England Patriots og New York Giants, hvor spændingen også næsten var uudholdelig. Udtrykket "May you live in interesting times" kommer virkeligt til sin ret.

Det er måske derfor passende at lave en opsummering af, hvad der er sket i det sidste års tid:

I december 2006 godkendte ECMA dokumentformatet OOXML som ECMA-standard (376) og indsendte den et par uger senere til ISO via den såkaldte Fast-Track procedure. Der var herefter en 30-dages "contradiction period" hvor de enkelte lande kunne fx redegøre for, om OOXML var i modstrid med andre ISO-standarder og om der var andre ting, der kunne diskvalificere OOXML og dens anvendelse af FT-proceduren. ISOs JTC1-sekretariat afgjorde i april 2007, at det ikke var tilfældet. Omkring dette tidspunkt udlagde Dansk Standard (DS) OOXML til offentlig høring og bad om branchens input til den. Dette resulterede i omkring 500 indvendinger i alt.

Herefter var der en 5-måneders afstemningsperiode, hvori debatten om OOXML fandt sted. Der kom en masse indvendinger imod standarden - både tekniske og politiske argumenter og disse lagde i store træk grundlaget for beslutningerne i de lande, der ønskede at stemme om OOXML i september 2007. I den periode deltog jeg via min arbejdsgiver CIBER i arbejdet i DS med at behandle alle indvendingerne. Det har været et hårdt - men også utroligt interessant arbejde at deltage i. Afstemingsperioden sluttede med, at hvert land valgte den stemme, som passede dem bedst. Danmark valgte "Dissaprove, with comments" og understregede, at skulle de danske kommentarer blive adresseret på passende vis, ville Danmark ændre sin stemme til et "Approve". Jeg støtter fuldt, at Danmark stemte "Dissaprove, with comments" i september 2007. Danmark ledsagede sin stemme med 168 kommentarer til standarden.

Det samlede resultat af afstemningen var, at OOXML ikke blev godkendt i ISO.

Hvis en afstemning om en standard falder i ISO, er ISO sådan indrettet, at der planlægges et "Ballot Resolution Meeting" (BRM), hvor man vil tale om, hvorvidt man kan rette nogle ting i standarden for at få nogle lande til at skifte deres stemme til et "Approve" eller "Abstain". Efter afstemingen begyndte ISO/IEC så at gennemgå de samlede kommentarer - der var 3522 i alt. Disse blev "kogt ned" til 1027 dispositioner, der udgjorde forslagsstillers (ECMAs) svar på det konkrete spørgsmål. I løbet af efteråret 2007 er disse dispositioner blevet sendt til de enkelte nationale råd og de er her blevet behandlet. I Dansk Standard har vi løbende fra oktober 2007 til februar 2008 behandlet disse svar og har været i dialog med ECMA omkring de svar, som vi ikke mente var gode nok.

I sidste uge af februar 2008 blev BRM-mødet afholdt i Geneve og Dansk Standard deltog i mødet for at varetage de danske interesser bedst muligt. Det var en meget hård uge, og de fleste af os var ret udmattede fredag eftermiddag, hvor mødet sluttede. Mødets formål var at tage stilling til konkrete ændringer til den oprindelige tekst og det var altså ikke et møde, hvor der direkte eller indirekte blev taget stilling til standarden i sig selv. Dette blev understreget af, at de enkelte landes delegationer arbejdede konstruktivt sammen omkring de enkelte emner - uanset om de var imod- eller for OOXML. Udfaldet af mødet blev, at godt og vel 98% af samtlige 1027 dispositioner blev godkendt - herunder alle de danske. Der var i ugen efter BRM heftig kritik og debat om udfaldet, men heldigvis er det nu faldet til ro, og der er efterhånden konsensus om, at alle regler blev overholdt. Der er i skrivende stund ikke indgivet nogen klager over selve processen.

Men hvad så nu?

I Dansk Standard er næste møde berammet til 26. marts, og her skal vi tale om, hvorvidt vi skal ændre vores stemme fra "Dissaprove" til noget andet. Det bliver et spændende møde, og jeg ser frem til nogle gode diskussioner til mødet. Målet er, som Dansk Standard skriver, at opnå en eller anden form for konsensus om, hvad Dansk Standard anbefales at gøre.

Indtil da sker der ikke så meget på formelt plan i Dansk Standard, så vi kan jo følge med i, hvad Morten Messerschmidt og Helge Sander finder ud af med konkurrencestyrelsens undersøgelse af konsekvensen af beslutningsforslaget B103 fra marts 2006.


Stort nederlag til anti-OOXML fløjen i Danmark

Ifølge en pressemeddelelse fra Dansk Standard har Dansk Standard på Danmarks vegne stemt "No, with comments" til ISO-aftemningen om DIS 29500 (OOXML).

I pressemeddelelsen står der bla.:

Danmark vil i den videre proces arbejde for en godkendelse af ISO/IEC DIS 29500 OOXML, forudsat at de punkter, som udvalget har indstillet, bliver adresseret. Med stemmen ”Nej med kommentarer” sikrer Dansk Standard det bedste udgangspunkt for varetagelse af de danske ønsker til ændringer af standarden.

Når man stemmer "Nej" ved en ISO-afstemning har man samtidig mulighed for at afkrydse en mulighed, hvor man siger, at - givet ens tekniske indvendinger adresseres - vil Nej-stemmen kunne ændres til et "Ja". Den mulighed har Dansk Standard tydeligvist anvendt og reelt er Dansk Standards stemme altså "Betinget Ja". Det lover godt for det fremtidige arbejde med at få OOXML endeligt godkendt.

I Danmark har debatten op til afstemningen været hektisk - ja til tider nærmest hysterisk. Bloggere, journalister og debattører har nærmest faldet over deres egne ben - og hinandens - for at obstruere processen i Dansk Standard ved ikke alene at læse OOXML-spec som fanden læser biblen men også at læse ISO-direktiverne som selv samme. Antallet af debattører i Danmark, der støtter OOXML som ISO-format, har været meget begrænset - ja, udover undertegnede kan antallet vel reelt tælles på én hånd. Jeg vil nødigt give mig selv æren for resultatet af Danmarks stemme, men det er et kæmpe nederlag for anti-OOXML-fløjen, at de med deres store antal debattører, store antal støtter (de siger jo selv, at ODF har en stor installationsbase, stor brugerskare etc) og hysteriske retorik ikke har kunnet få det klare "Nej" igennem, som de agiterer for.

Måske skyldes det, at der et er naturligt mæthedspunkt for, hvor meget man orker at høre på folk, der er ensidige i deres retorik og ikke formår at se to sider af samme sag? 

Høringssvar til Dansk standard

Jeg har lavet mit første udkast til mit arbejdes høringssvar til Dansk Standard for accept af OOXML til videre behandling i ISO-systemet. Jeg blev bedt om dette af min chef, da han mente, at jeg nok var den person i virksomheden, der var mest kvalificeret til det og i øvrigt også brændte mest for det.

... det kan han jo have en pointe i


Det var dog noget sværere at skrive end jeg havde regnet med. Jeg valgte bevidst den strategi at lave en positiv kommentar i stedet for en negativ kommentar i forhold til ODF ... det ville jo have været det nemmeste. Der er faktuelt masser af steder, hvor OOXML er ODF teknisk overlegent, så der ville sådan set have været masse af krudt at fyre af. Jeg er også sikker på, at en lang række af de andre kommentarer til Dansk Standard fra oODF-fortalerne vil lave negative sammenligninger af ODF og OOXML. Jeg synes bare ikke, at det er den rigtige måde at argumentere på og jeg er generelt ikke så meget for "name-calling". Den eneste reference jeg reelt har lavet til andre standarder er i et afsnit, hvor jeg snakker om, at vi ikke ser et principielt problem i at have flere standarder for dokumenter - specielt ikke når de som tilfældet er med OOXML og ODF ikke dækker samme områder.

Men det var som sagt sværere end jeg havde regnet med. Dette skyldes flere ting - hvoraf én var den vinkel jeg havde valgt. En anden ting var dog det simple faktum, at kommentarerne sikkert bliver offentliggjort efter indsendelsesperioden er ovre, og jeg er sikker på, at svarene fra vi fortalere forbåde OOXML og ODF vil blive fluekneppet som aldrig før. Det har dermed betydet, at jeg har været super opmærksom på, hvilke ord og vendinger jeg bruger og hvilke ting jeg har fjernet. Når jeg debatterer her og på version2.dk er tonen jo relativt løssluppen ... ja jeg er faktisk blevet citeret i version2.dks fysiske udgave med bandeord. Men virkeligheden er jo en noget anden, når jeg skriver et officielt svar på vegne af min arbejdsgiver. Flere løse formuleringer kom dog også med i de første afsnit, men de er blevet fjernet igen.

... der er jo ingen grund til at give oODF-fortalerne mere krudt til deres pistoler.

Rick Jelliffe har formuleret følgende i en artikel om standarder for vurdering af standarder:

"The tactic adopted by some activists is to read the draft text, think of the worst possible interpretation and ramification, then insist it is the case"

Det er præcist sådan jeg nogle gange føler behandlingen af OOXML. Se blot på diskussionen på version2.dk, hvor jeg til sidst måtte sige stop.

Han skriver lidt videre:

"The trouble with this approach is that it won’t work; impartial reviewers will note that there is some kind of concern but that the actual issue raised does is not a problem. The result will be frustration and a lack of a “meeting of the minds”. Indeed the legitimate issues that underly some of the anti-OpenXML comments risk being unaddressed."

Var der nogen, der sagde "du skyder dig i foden"?