How do organizations (and people like me) dismisses critics, especially those we do not like? We call them “all talk no action”. The truth is, for the OOXML saga, the three major standard organizations involved, ISO, IEC, ECMA, can justify dismissing 99.999% of us as “all talk no action”. Why? We are never going to muster enough activism beyond sound bites. Individually I am sure a lot of us are doing our part. Unfortunately, those organizations do not get to hear about it, and these efforts are so small that it will be dismissed as noises by insignificant advocacy bunch of people. We know that they are ignoring all the shouting we are doing but can we collectively muster enough action that these three organizations will take note? I seriously doubt it. Anything we mount will likely to come in the form of grassroot operations. Grassroot operations have this characteristics: Once we get noticed, we cannot be ignored, but there is an extremely high threshold to climb before we get noticed.
Most people, like me, will pin our hope on a few organizations with huge influence. Let’s call them the celebrities of open standard campaigns. Just like advertisers pays celebrities to peddle their goods to us, our celebrities have the clout to get standard organization’s attention. If you want one good example, I will refer you to the Massachusett’s State IT department. It is a big department with a lot of people, but not gigantic compared to other departments, but it punches well above its weight. How powerful you might ask? It kick started this campaign.
Therefore, I don’t view the recent CONSEGI annnouncement (Updegrove’s coverage. For more links on the topic see PJ’s coverage) on its face value. Here is what’s on the surface: We have at least more than a handful of government agencies/department says in public the standardization process is bad and hinted that they will not follow the tradition/convention by voting for this ISO OOXML standard as their respective national standard, and will not bring OOXML into their organization. The attack they threaten has two prongs. The first is aimed at the heart of the very existence of ISO/IEC. The second at the pocket of supporters of OOXML. Those organizations are influential because their action, particularly the threat to the non-ractification of ISO OOXML as national standard, goes straight for the jagular at the charter/purpose of ISO/IEC/ECMA, the very thing they draw their clout on.
What we really need is those organization materialized the threat. It will be difficult. ISO/IEC has built up a momentum of getting its standards accepted as national standards and they are going against this momentum. It will take a lot to convince others in the relevent national committee that the issue of contention is serious enough that it warrant sending a message to ISO/IEC by throwing eggs on their face.
On the first prong: Right now, ISO/IEC is taking the aloft position of “we know what we are doing, and critics are just plain wrong”. We need ISO/IEC to feel the need to fight back. That bring them down to earth. If we succeed in stopping ISO OOXML ractified as national standard, that will be the icing on the cake. Even if we don’t, they would had sent a strong, unambigious message to ISO/IEC, that we will not tolerate the organization not holding itself up to the high standard we expect them to, i.e. striking the right balance between technical and business need in standardization.
The second prong attack the purpose of getting OOXML ractified in the first place and show that we will not tolerate any attempt to game/subvert the standardization process. OOXML main proponent had demonstrated that it has the money and influence and the willingness to use it to get OOXML approved as ISO standard, thereby changing it from a position of disadvantage to an advantage. They succeeded. Now they have to turn this into real hard cash. This is the very purpose of the sandardization, not just OOXML. Successful hit at that take away the reason for ractifying a bad standard. We do not need a total victory, just sufficient for the accountants to think that it is not worth it. This need to cash in means If you think they fought hard, you haven’t seen what is about to come.
As with any battle, I will be expecting casualties. In the Massachusett’s fight mentioned above, the director, Peter Quinn, is the most prominent casualty, so is the department budget.