CyberTech Rambler

July 16, 2007

OOXML fails to Gain Approval in US? … NOT YET (Updated 2x)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:05 pm

Rob Weir’s title for his blog post is usually overdramatic. That’s what I like about it. Unfortunately, this time he lets his high standard slipped and can be accused of spreading FUD with this title “OOXML fails to Gain Approval in US

Why? It implies ANSI rejected it. Did it? Technically not yet. It’s true that the committee looking into this, V1 of INCITS decided not to approve it. In the article Weir had admitted that ANSI will have to review the decision, meaning ANSI can rejects its recommendation and still approve OOXML.

He does show us a common tactic used to influence a decision: Pack the room with your supporters. Nothing new and predicted. I deploy such tactics before and were part of this strategy. What is surprising is the anti-OOXML camp did not counter this by deploying the same tactics. Results could had been extremely bad for them, as the other camp is only one vote shy of getting the highest recommendation (“Approval, with comments”) possible. May be this reflects the confidence of anti-OOXML camp.

Two other things to note. One, V1’s voting procedures stands up well since it withstands the guerrilla tactics of flooding the ballot box with votes to influence its outcome. Two, it shows the limitation of guerrilla tactics. They just fall away when they fail their prime objective (“Approval, with comments”). Being one vote shy, one would think that they can get at least one of the lower recommendation passed. The problem here is two fold: The influx causes regular members to defend their position stronger than expected, i.e., those prepared to support one of the lower recommendations is persuaded not to do so either because they are startled by the influx or feel that it is their duty to make sure that vote flooding fails. The second problem is that being naive to the process, the guerrilla crowd can sometimes fails to appreciate that the lower recommendations will help them and did not vote for it. I don’t think the second problem is operative here because Microsoft (a OOXML supporter and the implied instigator by Weir) is a regular member and the guerrillas are likely to play “follow the leaders”.

[Update 20070717:

Rob Weir commented about the voting pattern. It appears that I got it slightly wrong. Regular committee members played the game the way it is supposed to work: If you disagree with something, find a common ground. Here the common ground is the abstention vote. Microsoft and co decided to swing against the common ground. However, the guerrillas are indeed playing “follow the leaders”. Microsoft and co did manage to get the results it wanted. It may not be the best results possible, i.e., “Approval, with comments”, but it is clear they do not want “Abstention, with comments”.

Knowing that IBM voted NO in ECMA, the fact that IBM choose to vote for “Abstention, with comments” shows that IBM did hold out an olive branch to Microsoft and Microsoft chose not to take it.]

[Updated 20070718:

Andy Updegrove has his take on why “Abstention, with comments” is not acceptable. The problem is not “abstention”, but “comments”. He speculate that Microsoft and co are not happy with the comments and therefore did not want the comments to be “referred up”. Make sense.]

[Update 20070719:

Jason Matusow presented Microsoft’s viewpoint. We have a bit of a hint on why the comments are not acceptable to Microsoft. He claims that Rob Weir is responsible for 83% per cent of it. Obviously MS thinks that the committee’s collated comments are too biased, so they rather have the original comments, (171 were letters of support for Open XML, 31 were letters of general opposition to Open XML; with the remainder being 2 additional substantive questions, 17 more from Rob Weir, and 3 general cautions from the community.) sent upstairs instead.

Do not be swayed by numbers. Rob Weir could simply be the one who is very thorough when writing the comments. The 171 letters could consist of a lot of “box standard” letter, similar to the petitions you see on streets where you simply “add your signature” to it. The only way to judge this is if V1 publishes all the letters of support and their intended collated comments.]



  1. Sorry for the link bait title. I couldn’t think of anything witty in this case. But here’s some more detail on the actual votes that you might find interesting, especially with regards to the speculation in your some of your last paragraph.

    Without exception, everyone who voted for “Approval, with comments” voted against “Disapproval, with comments”. Similarly, everyone who voted for “Disapproval, with comments” voted against “Approval, with comments”. Where it got interesting was in the “Abstention, with comments” ballot. This was opposed by everyone who had voted for “Approval, with comments”, and supported by everyone who voted for “Disapproval, with comments”. That surprised me a little, since I would have expected that Microsoft and friends would have an ordered list of preferences along the lines of Yes, Abstain, No. But I guess their true preferences were Yes, Deadlock, Abstain, No. Abstentions was clearly unacceptable to them.

    We also need to consider that “Disapproval, with comments” is the typical response to a standards draft with identified technical flaws. The idea is that these flaws get fixed and then the vote changes to one of approval. JTC1 Directives call this a “Conditional Yes” and it is expressed by a “No, with comments” vote. “Yes, with comments” is intended for cases where the comments are merely editorial.

    Comment by Rob Weir — July 16, 2007 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

  2. Dear Rob Weir,

    “Sorry for the link bait title”

    I LIKE your inflammatory title. And you had always done a very good job: The other party might be angry, but they did not accuse you of spreading FUD coz they CANNOT and what you said is not FUD.

    Even with this title I have problem with, there is no way of accusing the content as FUD eventhough I might say the title is misleading.

    A while ago Bob Sutor was blogging about how the Fast-Track process for OOXML is not a foregone conclusion as OOXML people will like its opponents to think it is and called it FUD, and unfortunately your title seems to be having the same effect. I know Bob is Bob and Rob is Rob, but unfortunately as both of you are linked by your employers, people can choose to ignore the difference.

    Thanks for the explanation on the voting trend. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft spin this. I got his little suspicion that they are going to use this to say that pro-ODF people just will not let the two standard coexists, and this might be the reason for abstentions not acceptable to them. To do so is easy, just pretend that “Abstention, with comments” is not a choice. Its more difficult to ignore if if the vote was for “Abstention, with comments”

    Comment by ctrambler — July 16, 2007 @ 7:36 pm | Reply

  3. […] Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:32 pm A small town crook like me trying to speculate on why Microsoft and Co decided to vote the way it did is always futile. I knew it before I started. But it was an interesting exercise […]

    Pingback by Good strategic move…. « CyberTech Rambler — July 20, 2007 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

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