Well, we’re not supposed to write about the substance of the BRM, but that still leaves lots of room for flavor. I’m posting this (gasp!) from inside the in-progress BRM.

Suits · “Business attire” is the order of the day. You’ve never seen so many Microsofties dressed up. The only one who really carries it off is Brian Jones, who looks damn stylish. I didn’t bring any jackets or ties.

Levels · We’re on level three. On level one is the OFE counter-conference. They have a table set up where we walk to the elevator, like Baptists outside a brothel bringing sinners to Jesus, or in this case Vint Cerf.

OFE counter-conference table

Me, I ain’t going to either the OFE or ECMA (read Microsoft) events; eventually I’m gonna have to turn one way or the other and pull the trigger, and it’s gotta be clear that the only finger on it is mine. [Update: Well, I went to the ECMA reception because I had to lobby for some votes and that’s where they were. So if it ends up going the wrong way you can suspect me of being influenced by ECMA’s booze.]

HoD · Rhymes with “bod”, means “Head of Delegation”. In theory, only they speak. Arriving on the first day, I ran into my old friend and XML co-conspirator Murata Makoto, and as I was greeting him delightedly he laughed “Ha-ha, I’m the head of the Japanese Delegation; I can talk and you have to shut up”.

Actually, HoDs can ask their delegates to speak for them and frequently do.

Influence · It isn’t distributed evenly. Any of the following give you an unfair advantage: Being in the front row, being near the center, and having an efficient, experienced, loud-voiced HoD.

Pixless · We were also warned sternly, with dark rumblings about Swiss law no less, not to take pictures inside the room. So, this is from outside.

Geneva alley

Some Countries · It’s unfair that your attitude to a whole nation can be changed by the people representing it at an ISO event. But it happens.

Geek Stuff · An individual power outlet on the top of the desk at each place, and fast reliable WiFi. The Geneva Conference Center is OK by me.

Yawn · It can get awfully slow sometimes. Alex Brown, the convenor, has been doing this for years, and I alternately admire his patience and wish someone would put steroids in his corn-flakes so he’d start applying a cattle-prod to leisurely, badly-prepared speakers.

Maple Leaf Forever · One reason I couldn’t say “no” is that I’ve never been asked to represent Canada before, and probably never will be again. Each delegation has a placard, wielded by the HoD, held up to request recognition, or to vote. Our HoD got tired one time and I got to hold it up to cast Canada’s vote.

First-Name Basis · There are no people, only countries. At first, it’s weird hearing things like “Finland has a question for South Africa”, but you get used to it fast.

Tools · The Mac “Preview” program is beyond wonderful. I typically have many tens of megabytes of OOXML spec-ware and comment-ware open in a dozen different Preview windows and the frighteningly-instant search never slows down perceptibly. Mmmm.

Stage Fright · It was going to be Canada’s turn to raise an issue shortly after lunch, and we’d agreed on which, and that I was going to raise it, but we hadn’t (quite) hashed out our consensus position. So we came back after lunch, and Belgium and Brazil both passed unexpectedly. Our HoD handed me the placard and there I was with no safety net, improvising what I thought I could say in real-time, looking at the rest of the delegation out of the corners of my eyes. I’ve spoken to two thousand people and been way less nervous.

Geneva shop-window

Find your own analogy.

USB · Memory disks, I mean. Progress would have ground completely to a halt if we couldn’t pass around USB sticks full of PDFs.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Feb 28 2008, at 06:56)

Tim Bray, he went to Varembé Street

A gentle Canadian, mighty odd,

He'd a beautiful voice, 'twas none so sweet,

And he rose from his chair to help his HoD.

You see, he'd a standardizer's way,

With a love of ISO poor Tim was born,

And to help him out with his work each day,

He'd a stick full of PDFs every morn.


Whack to the head, make a deal with your neighbour,

Round the floor your compromise take,

Bend an ear to the lies they'll tell you,

Making ripples in XML's wake!

(More "Finnegan's Wake" verses later, if and when we learn more about the BRM)


From: Lenny (Feb 28 2008, at 07:35)

It's a shame you can't take pictures. Because of the whole "Finland has a question for South Africa" thing, and the placards, I'm imagining something along the lines of the Galactic Senate, with flying bots shuttling USB sticks around.


From: Colin Prince (Feb 28 2008, at 09:57)

Um, what's a BRM?


From: len (Feb 28 2008, at 13:15)

This is hopeful. As much as the dryness of the meetings and the closedness may rankle, it is a good sign that ISO worked a way to stop the mud fight in their proceedings.

And that will reduce some of the fight on the street. I personally don't care about either of these standards, but I care about the process and the organization. If we can't be civil in public, then the cost of transparency doesn't equal any right to it.

Have fun... at least, after hours. Takes lots of pictures.


From: Tony Fisk (Feb 28 2008, at 18:39)

'Who Watches the Watchers'

Mirrors do seem to be the theme this week.

(That Finnegan thing has a distinctly calypso flavour to me. And why shouldn't galactic 'bots have rhythm, eh mon?)


From: silverpie (Feb 28 2008, at 21:50)

BRM = Ballot Resolution Meeting—it's an ISO procedure to deal with objections to a proposed standard (in this case, MS-OOXML).


From: John Cowan (Feb 29 2008, at 19:42)

Well, "Finnegan's Wake" is an 1850s Irish-American music-hall ballad, and there is some Irish cultural influence in Trinidad and Tobago (which is where the original fusion that created calypso began), so I suppose there is some connection.

For those who haven't heard it, http://ibiblio.org/jimmy/folkden/php/music/finnegan.mp3 is a decent version (people tend to be attached to whatever version they first heard).


From: Alan Bell (Mar 01 2008, at 14:25)

well I can't say I would be the first to compare the BRM to a brothel, but to carry on the metaphor I do hope that nobody was for sale and the punters went home unsatisfied.


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