CyberTech Rambler

April 10, 2008

Bigger picture at stake

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:21 pm

On a recent Alex Brown’s blogpost, he says that

Meanwhile some on-looking SC 34 people felt insulted. One neutral XML expert, who I know for a fact took a very close technical look at DIS 29500 asked “what are they saying? that we are incompetent? that we do not have the right to decide for ourselves?”. Well … were they

I can understand why SC 34 people felt insulted. However, the protest is in Norway against Norwegian Vote and have nothing to do with SC 34. If there is anything we can draw from this comment, it is that the expert in question thinks that protesters are insulting the technical expertise experts.

Let’s investigate who insulted technical experts most!

Standards Norway’s Statement (English translation) essentially says that business need triumph technical merits: (From English translation point 10, bullet point 1)

On the committee there is a clear majority that is opposed to making OOXML into an ISO/IEC standard. However, in its overall assessment, Standards Norway must also consider the result of the formal enquiry, where there is a majority of “yes” votes. There was greater number of end-users of document standard formats among those in favor, than those who were opposed to the standard. [Emphasis on original Standard Norway statement]

That, to me is a bigger insult on SC34 expertise than any protesters like me can muster. Peers of the technical expert Alex Brown mentioned voted No but their decision was completely disregarded because their boss (Standards Norway) believe that they can override them based on weak opinions on non-experts: Mr NoBody like me who send it letters and do not have to work with the format.

As I said before, National Bodies must balance technical and business needs. The problem here and elsewhere is that we see an overwhelming No vote in technical committee got overturned and converted to a Yes vote. The only way that can happens is that Standards Norway feel an overwhelming business need, strong enough to override the technical committee. However, by doing so, it had consigned the technical committee into irrelevance with the flimsiest of excuse.

If we get clarification on how Standards Norway balance the technical and business concerns, then something good would had come out of this. Right now my feeling is that the technical committee is not given the respect it deserves. From a technical viewpoint and being a technical person, while I understand the need for someone neutral to balance business and technical needs, I will not be happy if business need always override technical decisions.

Isn’t consensus the corner stone of standardization? ISO works on consensus and I expects Standards Norway to work on consensus too. The bigger picture is that Standards Norway itself acknowledged in its statement that there is no consensus.

If you believe there is a strong business need, then the best compromise in this case is essentially what the Malaysian had done: Abstain. Why? your technical committee said it is bad, pulling you to No vote, but the
business people pull you to the Yes vote. The need for consensus really tell you that you should vote No. However, if you think your technical committee, or in other cases, the business view, was too radical, take the middle road.



  1. Were you there? Your post suggests you were one of the protesters.

    Comment by Anon — April 10, 2008 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  2. Sorry to give you that impression. I was not there.

    To me, it is an Norwegian internal affair. I am not Norwegian so I did not attend.

    The last thing I want is the accusation that foreign entity is “manipulating the demonstration”. This is one of the few accusations that people love to use to justify ignoring comments they don’t like. I am not going to give ammo to them to do so.

    Comment by ctrambler — April 10, 2008 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  3. What if your “business” people consist entirely of a single vendor and its partners?

    Comment by Stuart — April 12, 2008 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

  4. Stuart,

    The bottom line is We cannot dismiss the business side simply because there is a “single vendor and its partners”. The vendor and its partners are also stake holders.

    However, if the business side is simple “a vendor and its partners”, it does highlight that there is something wrong somewhere. That is part of the reason why OOXML should not had passed. In this case, it means the standard is does not live up to its aim. The fact that it is simply “a vendor and its partners” makes the decision to approve OOXML purely on business ground, over the head of technical people, even worse, not better.

    Comment by ctrambler — April 13, 2008 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

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