CyberTech Rambler

May 30, 2008

Another appeal against ISO OOXML, this time Brazil

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:36 am

Brazil is the second country, after South Africa, to appeal. As the deadline for filing appeals is getting closer and closer, we might be seeing appeals coming out from the woodworks. Andy Updegrove promise us two more, and the situation will be clearer on Monday.

What I do regret is the second resignation of a member in national bodies over this OOXML affair. The first is of course the resignation of the chair of the mirror committee in Norway. Losing them is a bigger blow to standard setting community. One can say it is an expected fallout from the OOXML saga. I understand why they quit. However, I cannot help but think that if the standard bodies still continue unchanged, we lost valuable voices to counter any companies’ aggressive move in places where it matters most.

Another interesting issue is the Brazillian allegation that a company (Microsoft implied) argued that a vote should not be taken because of the lack of time to discuss the issue and that the delegate has no authority to vote. The irony on “lack of time” will not lost to most readers. It is interesting to note that Microsoft, if indeed is the company in question, did not just raise objections outright.

This is of course, stalling tactics and only to be expected. If successful, an appeal letter would not be filed in time.  Most of the time, people like this are always dealt with the way they should be dealt with: Tell them that they knew in advance that the meeting is convened in order to reach a decision, if they choose to send someone who did not have the authority to decide, it’s their fault. The advice to them is to vote “abstain” or “no” then file a complain to the relevant oversight committee for a fair hearing. The lack of time argument is moot because the person who came in cannot vote. At the very least one can argue that the complainer did not try it utmost to help, since by sending someone without authority to vote, they decided not to make use of all available time for deliberation.

We shall wait and see what happens. As far as I am concerned, there are several points in the appeals so far, such as “block voting” and non-P members voting in BRM, might not be good enough to cause an overturn of the decision. The Convener, Alex Brown, had done his homework on non-P member voting by securing ISO and IEC’s agreement before the BRM. The “block voting” is the best Brown can do given the time constrain on the BRM. Some procedural irregularities, such as not receiving the final text after a month from final approval, might be judged to be not severe enough to justify overturning the decision, especially if the appeal committee decides the amount of revision approved by the BRM can justify the delay.  Moreover, since we are not sure when the National Bodies actually received the final text, we cannot rule out postal delay.

The allegation that discussion about contradiction was not properly handled and the standard is not suitable for fast tracking, and that this saga damage the reputation of ISO are our best hope. It is difficult to counter at least the first two arguments, if not all.

I am not holding my breath that the appeals will be successful. The same political forces that are asserted by all parties in the whole process will be applied to the appeals. What I do hope is the appeals will result in clarifying what is acceptable for fast track. This, I hope, is one of the more significant benefit that comes out of this debacle.


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