CyberTech Rambler

April 12, 2009

Leopards finally revealing their spots?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:34 pm

After being prompt by Jomar Silva (someone I do respect and is surprised he took the time to comment on my blog) to re-read Alex Brown post, I did and as you would had expected, I am picking up things that I miss the first time round.

First up. Alex Brown says that “I was personally very pleased to see National Bodies well-represented (the minutes are here)”. Counting the nation represented shows that there is only a few countries that attended. I don’t know how to evaluate this information but it does strike me as the norm for only a few nations to attend.

NOW, the criticism based on attendee list. Well-balanced list Mr Brown? Sorry, I do not think so. Only one company which actually produce office application, i.e. Microsoft. Novell don’t, neither do RedFlag. (They do contribute to OpenOffice.org, but they did not  participate strong enough to qualify as writing it.) The rest are users. Therefore, you are vendor-lite. I do not think this is a good thing, because technical discussion cannot take place since they will require intimate knowledge of how an office application works.

And, as Mr Brown said

“…I’d now ideally like to see some more big vendors coming to the table so their views can be heard. Microsoft (of course) was; but where (for example) are Apple, Oracle and the other vendors who participated in Ecma TC 45 while OOXML was being drafted?”

Good question Mr Brown. Please permit me to add the British Library to the list of notable absentees. If you ask me, and I am sure you will agree, it is not surprising. They all achieved their aim: They want to be able to read older Microsoft binary file in a standard way. The best is to throw a carrot at Microsoft, i.e., help it get OOXML as ISO Standard. The bonus of the process is they can get access to the newer, XML format as well. Now that the aim is already achieved, there is no need to spend money to participate, especially in a credit crunch.

The non-participating Apple is particularly disappointing, as Apple’s iWork is really a refreshing take on how a office application works and I would love to see it use the experience to contribute to OOXML. And while I am attacking apple …. if Apple is serious about OOXML, it should at least provide OOXML output.

Second, at the risk of being accused of nitpicking, this is what Alex Brown said about “strict” and “transitional”

Personally, I think the “strict” format is a new format”

As you will recall, the separation of “strict” and “transitional” is made between the final draft and the BRM. No wonder OOXML has so many defects that need fixing and the committee cannot fix it. If taking a year to define OOXML is bad enough, chunking out a “new” format in less than 6 months is even worse.

Third, and this is a BIG point, why is Microsoft trying to introduce features in “strict” format into “transition” format? As I understand it, “transition” format is suppose to help everyone move from existing Office XML schema, and old binary file to the newer “strict” format. By definition, it is not something under active development. It should be corrected for defect and in no way should new features added to it.

With this revealation, I cannot understand why Mr Brown is prepare to accept consider adding features to “transition” format while at the same time criticises ODF for having two conformance statement, i.e., “Conforming OpenDocument Document” conformance and “Conforming OpenDocument Extended Document” conformance. His criticism centered on the fact that there should only be one conformance statement, i.e., it is conforming or not. I can see the beauty and simplicity of having only one conformance statement. When I read it, the first thing that crossed my mind is OOXML itself has two conformance statements, i.e. “transition” and “strict”. However, I was prepare to give Mr Brown the benefit of doubt, after all, I can accept that “transition” format is not a conformance statement in the long run as it is simply a bridge from older formats to the new one. Unfortuantely, “transition” format is a conformance statment  if one is developing the “transition” format, as Microsoft is proposing to do with the feature addition. Why? the number of documents covered by the “transition” format will increase, not decrease, as expected in a “transition” format. Moreover, it is going to cover documents that are yet to be created. This is a mockery of the term “transition”. The increased lifespan of the “transition” format means it qualify as a second conformance statement and why is Mr Brown OK with this, but not with ODF?

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5 Comments »

  1. @rambler

    > By definition, [the transitional format] is not something under
    > active development. It should be corrected for defect and in no
    > way should new features added to it.

    The transitional format is a embodied by a separate standard, ISO/IEC 29500-4.

    There are many different views on what this is ‘for’. Some commentators (e.g. Tim Bray and Rob Weir) place importance on knowing what MS Office 2007 actually *does* — for them the transitional format is thus rather important. Other commentators think only the transitional format will survive and that the strict format is a white elephant. Still others think strict is all that counts, and that everybody should ‘just’ support that.

    > I cannot understand why Mr Brown is prepare to accept adding
    > features to “transition” format while at the same time criticises
    > ODF for having two conformance statemen

    I’m not sure it has been decided to add features to 29500-4 (‘transitional’). But in any case you have mis-reported my criticism of the conformance statements in ODF. My criticism was based around the assertion that changing ODF in this way was was ‘mis-directed effort’.

    In fact, the way ODF 1.2 is looking right now, I would much *prefer* it to create its own ‘transitional’ variant, rather than trying to layer in deprecated features into the core standard.

    Comment by Alex Brown — April 12, 2009 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  2. @Alex Brown

    “The transitional format is a embodied by a separate standard, ISO/IEC 29500-4.”

    Are we splitting hair here? Whether it is 1,2,3 or 4 it is all ISO/IEC 29500, i.e. part of the same standard. Approval was granted for “strict” and “trasition” simultenously.

    If we are going to argue that ‘strict’ and ‘transition’ are separate standards, then aren’t we just one step away to argue that “Word Document”, “SpreadSheet”, “Drawing” and “Database” in ODF and OOXML are separate standards in their own rights, especially if I choose to call it part 1 to part 4 for example?

    “… you have mis-reported my criticism of the conformance statements in ODF. My criticism was based around the assertion that changing ODF in this way was was ‘mis-directed effort’.”

    ‘mis-directed effort’ argument was placed way-way down on that article, that does not seems to be the main emphasis on that article.

    In my opinion ‘strict’ == “pure” and ‘transitional’ == “buggered-up”

    “In fact, the way ODF 1.2 is looking right now, I would much *prefer* it to create its own ‘transitional’ variant, rather than trying to layer in deprecated features into the core standard.”

    I must admit I haven’t read much about ODF 1.2 spec. I can see the point in a ‘transitional’ variant but I am not sure it is the correct approach. “Transitional” does not convey the emphasis that future standard will drop the item the way deprecated do. I know I am actually arguing on the semantic meaning of “trasitional” and “deprecated” here and in practice, probably will not make any difference.

    “I’m not sure it has been decided to add features to 29500-4 (’transitional’). ”

    Agree. My mistake and I apologize. The post is updated accordingly. Thank you for pointing it out.
    Best regards.

    Comment by ctrambler — April 12, 2009 @ 11:56 pm | Reply

  3. @rambler

    > Are we splitting hair here? Whether it is 1,2,3 or 4 it is all ISO/IEC 29500,
    > i.e. part of the same standard.

    They are each different standards, maintained at different paces. OPC (Part 2) looks likely to be re-used by other standards (XPS for example), and MCE (Part 3) is generally applicable to XML applications – there has even been some talk of using it with ODF.

    But this is really a separate issue to ODF conformance; that is about focussing on just one aspect of ODF’s XML (existence of foreign elements) and creating a new conformance class around that. I think that is futile, and the implication that it gives us a *meaningful* distinction (“pure” or “buggered up”) is just wrong.

    You really *should* read the ODF 1.2 spec, and preferably make some comments – it all helps.

    – Alex.

    Comment by Alex Brown — April 13, 2009 @ 7:34 am | Reply

  4. [...] In defence of Alex Brown Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:30 pm I have to salute Alex Brown for his willingness to engage in the debate of ODF vs OOXML, eventhough he knows the opponent might twist what he said [Declaration of interest. This appears to include me. See this comment] [...]

    Pingback by In defence of Alex Brown « CyberTech Rambler — April 29, 2009 @ 12:30 pm | Reply

  5. [...] with the next version of MSOffice.. It is interesting because as I blogged before, I am troubled by the fact that Brown said that “Microsoft are keen for new features introduced in the [...]

    Pingback by What OOXML is for? « CyberTech Rambler — April 29, 2009 @ 1:02 pm | Reply


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