From the beginning of the story up to last week’s crucial vote, it seemed that Andy Updegrove’s blog was the best place to follow this story. I think that as of now, the man to read would be Alex Brown; in particular, check out his authoritative OOXML ballot comments and OOXML - what just happened?. He’s also maintaining chunks of the moving-target OOXML Wikipedia entry. For an interesting sidelight, though, see David Berlind’s ZDNet reader: Don’t let OOXML vs. ODF shenanigans tarnish other standards setters; useful perspective, I’d say. And then for the real absolute unvarnished truth, check out Steve’s ISO document standards.


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From: Len Bullard (Sep 11 2007, at 06:17)

Berlind's piece is good. Sessions goes a bit over the top with

"Only that I have yet to see politics stand up even briefly in the face of technical reality."

Possibly because he was working on hardware is that the case. In software, it is murkier given there are often multiple solutions and the physical proofs aren't often offered. That is why software standards migrate from the 'running code and rough consensus' position to the 'abstract implementation and provable theorems' position and then back again. The software field is awash in overloaded terminology (define: event). Some once believed a DTD was a sufficient basis for standard, and then there is the dreaded "S" word.

On the one hand we want a standard to be based on 'existing technology' and on the other we want it 'free of the taint of commercial interests' and so on. There is plenty of room for politics. A process is as healthy as the leadership is able to direct the acts of the contributors toward the publicly agreed on goals.

Now we have the "first to file" patent issues. The side effect of this and the predator patents is that discussions on open lists are not risk free. The outcome is that it is not enough to look at the process of the standards body. The participation agreement usually made a precondition for consortia membership is now just as if not more important to preserve the commons made credible by the standard.


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