Early morning, late night

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It’s a little bit before 9 PM and I’m sitting in an airport (surprise, surprise) waiting for my flight which has been delayed for an hour and one-half. This happens more than I like to think about. Humid summer weather on the East Coast means thunderstorms somewhere, which means flight delays.

I’ve been up since 4:15 AM because I wanted to do this trip all in one day. I often have trouble sleeping the night before these early mornings because, I think, I’m nervous that I won’t wake up in time. I also work much later than I should the night before since I am basically a night person. When I did wake up this morning I had no idea why my alarm was going off and it took a couple of minutes before I remembered.

Next time I should leave a little note with an explanation. When I travel abroad, the note should say something like “Good morning, Bob. You are in London and you need to meet with so-and-so in 45 minutes.” I suspect others do this as already.

I had several meetings today about standards and open source adoption, with a lot of focus on ODF. In no particular order, here are some of the questions I was asked or asked of others. Please add comments with your own answers. I’ll use these questions, my views, and your input as the basis for future entries.

  1. Is Microsoft really serious about having 95 pages of clipart in their XML document spec? Doesn’t this mean that they’re really just saying “The draft XML spec in ECMA is just a dump of what we do in Office. Good luck in reimplementing it.”
  2. What can we do to establish ODF as the primary document standard to which we can convert all other documents as necessary?
  3. Will there be conversions from very old word processing formats like WordStar and Electric Pencil into ODF? Will there be open source implementations? If so, who will do them?
  4. What is the future role of DRM in government documents, both in day-to-day operations and for archiving?
  5. Will ODF implementations be tested and certified to guarantee interoperability?
  6. Will we see open source ODF SDKs to speed up the development of ODF tools and to help ensure interoperability?
  7. How do you see ODF and PDF both being used in your organization and what will be their relative roles?
  8. What are the roles of the ODF Alliance and OASIS ODF Adoption Committee?
  9. Will the ODF converter that Microsoft is sponsoring be a serious and high quality effort or will it offer a poor user experience and translation to encourage people to use their format instead?
  10. What will be the effect of Google joining the ODF Alliance? (Here’s some info: since the news broke of their joining, the ODF Alliance membership went up by 20 to about 260.)

What do you think? If you are responding to a particular question, please include the number.


  1. Can’t say anything about No. 1, besides repeating what Sam Hiser and others have alleged, that MS Open XML is mostly an XMLized core dump of Microsoft’ Office’s pre-existing file formats, together with the observation that this is probably the closest Microsoft has ever come to actually documenting MS Office 200x’s file formats.

    In relation to No. 2, establishing ODF as the primary documentation standard, I would suggest talking to No. 10 – Google – and asking them to provide a translation for any and every file referenced through Google.com in PDF, DOC, PPT, PPS, XLS, or other such format, as ODF. In other words, putting it on the same ubiquity rating as HTML. If people see it everywhere, they might start asking about it, and demanding it.

    And also start talking to other search engine firms as well, about the same thing.

    As far as No. 3. goes, might I suggest that it is an important part of No. 2., the ubiquity ratings thing. And also Microsoft Works’ bizzare file formats need urgently to be convertable to ODF – I’ve had one bad experience working as a volunteer in a community organization’s Computer Trechnology and Learning Centre, when the person I was trying to help had her CV saved in the MS Works Word file format, which isn’t supported by MS Office, no sirree, not at all. Make _all_ MS Works file formats supported and convertable to ODF and you score a fair few points off Microsoft, because it makes those second-class MS Works users back into first-class desktop citizens. In addition, could IBM make sure that all the Lotus – DOS and Windows – file formats are supported and convertable?

    And No. 9 – well, Microsoft is providing the documentation support for that, so I think it is a genuine effort to plug an annoying gap in their formerly watertight hold on the marketplace. And while I don’t have much respect for most of Microsoft’s leadership, both Matusow and Jones do appear to be genuine, so I tend to take their word for what they say. I think it is a great opportuntiy to put pressure on Microsoft, myself. After all, this is an open source project, right in their current citadel, the desktop, and since it is open source, there is an open avenue right into its heart. It wouldn’t make sense to let it languish.

  2. Bob, I tried some answers to the Ten on PlexNex. [WARNING: Adult Language]

  3. A few answers, as someone involved in the OpenDocument Fellowship:

    2) I think this is related to item (6). In particular, providing free XSLTs would be a good step. We should also support projects like Xena (from the National Archives of Australia):


    5) The OpenDocument Fellowship is trying to maintain an applications list with interoperability information.

    We’ve tested OpenOffice and KOffice for interoperability (and found a few issues). We’re limited by the fact that none of us has a copy of IBM Workplace to test :(

    But still, a lot of people have found this service useful.

    8) The ODF landscape is broad :) Don’t forget the Fellowship. The Alliance, the Adoption TC, and the Fellowship are different organizations that can be complementary; the Alliance is a consortium, the Fellowship is grass-roots.


  4. 1) There’s no point in pretending that MS XML or whatever they call it these days is intended for use by anyone except MS Office customers.

    2) Marketing the ODF format to big institutions like universities as the standard long term storage and submission format for work. Suggest converting all old documents to ODF as well will make for a much more useful repository of files with no version madness.

    (and a bit of 3):
    If a way can be found to convert old MS Publisher documents to ODF I think that would be a very popular thing. Just thinking of relatives who have invested a lot of time (rightly or wrongly) creating posters and newsletters in old Publisher versions but can’t easily share them or move them to new software.

    5) An ‘ODF compliant’ moniker would be useful sometime down the road. I don’t think it would be sensible for anyone to release a broken implementation – because there’s so many competing products.

    7) We use ODF to store all of our invoices, spreadsheets, letters etc right now. It feels safer clicking ‘save’ when you’re storing say an odt file, that that format will never become unreadable. PDF sits nicely as as a presentation medium. When you email an invoice in PDF you’re not going to get it sent back because no-one can open it!

    9) I think that Microsoft’s ‘plugin’ will be second best to the Opendocument Foundation (and yet to be created) implementations. If a Government is switching their storage format to ODF they will choose the best technology to achieve that goal. An awkward, half-baked, not in the file menu effort isn’t going to be good enough. As far as I’m concerned this pluing is lip service on the part of MS.

    10) Google joining the alliance can only be good news. Wesley’s piece about a converter being made available in google search for all types of files. That would be ideal.


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