CyberTech Rambler

July 9, 2008

ISO procedures appear to be not worth the paper it is written on

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:19 pm

According to Groklaw, ISO managerial board had decided to recommend denying the appeals of the four national bodies on OOXML. That decision did not surprise anyone.

Unfortunately, that document reveal an even more fundamental flaw with ISO procedures, something that really scare the hell out of me. Nobody in the ISO decision making chain for OOXML, or ODF or any other committee appears to know what the rules are.

The overall impression is that people make up the rules as they go. And everyone is pushing the responsibility for making key decision to others, with both side of the debate spinning the information to their advantages. For example, a lot of people is under the impression that ISO will make a decision that the material was suitable for fast track. Now, ISO is pushing it back to National Bodies. That is what we Chinese call “Tai Chi” (The circular motion dominent in that martial art form looks like one pushing things away from oneself)

Especially prominent is the last paragraph on page 6:

10. Process followed was incompatible with the principles of consensus, technically-oriented
discussions and “redundancy of standards”, was dominated by large multinational
organization(s), and has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC

10 e. Insofar as observation of Statutes, Rules of Procedure, Directives and other rules is
concerned, this is not correct. Otherwise it is a matter for NBs’ judgement, which they
expressed through their positive or negative vote on the draft.

I have only one reply to that: If ISO management do not think that they are empowered to uphold Statutes, Rules of Procedures and Directives of ISO and to maintain the reputation of ISO and IEC, What are they good for? Paper pushing?

One other point, Matusow claim that ISO had determined that there is no contradiction when it allows it to go to the 5 months process leading to the BRM. As the document put the most of the decisions into National bodies hand, one can safely concluded that he was wrong, eventhough there was no explicit mentioning in the document.

I must say some of the decisions are common sense decision, such as Para 7 page 6 that says only in ISO guidelines need not be followed in the original fast-tracked standard, but subsequent revision must. [The way the question is phrased presumed the original fast-tracked standard is already well written, which we know is not the case with OOXML. But the ambiquity in OOXML is another question]. A few lot are certainly not. Take Para 6 page 5: “Final” text of ISO/IEC 29500 or ISO/IEC DIS 29500, or “revised FDIS text”, not released. Decision: Correct but irrelevent. Irrelevent? I am prepare to accept that it is not serious enough to reverse the decision to approve OOXML, but it is definitely NOT irrelevent. Procedure is procedure.

ISO is in a mess, and they don’t want to extricate themselves from it.

Finally, should the 4 National Bodies take the appeal forward? You bet. Things are moved in such a way that the original appeal does not matter anymore. Now the purpose of appeal is to clarify the procedures and process. To do this, one need to go through the whole process for the final words.

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