Trouble down under on Australia’s OOXML delegation

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See the ComputerWorld Australia article “Microsoft developer joins Aussie OOXML standards delegation: Both sides of the equation not evenly represented.” If something is to be done to fix this, it must be done quickly.


  1. This will probably not pass your new troll tolerance regime but I’ll ask anyway: How is this different from Rob Weir representing the U.S. NB?

  2. It’s a question of balance. In the US case, the delegation is larger and alternative points of view are represented. This does not seem to be the case in Australia, where the balance appears to be shifted toward OOXML.

    Per your first phrase, are you admitting to being an OOXML troll? (grin) Do you work for Microsoft?

  3. Well, I have asked a few questions here before that didn’t pass your troll tolerance regime so I guess I’m a troll in your eyes. ;) And I do not work for Microsoft.

  4. “How is this different from Rob Weir representing the U.S. NB?”

    Because OOXML is not an IBM-sponsored specification. It’s a Microsoft-sponsored specification.

    If it was an IBM-sponsored spec, there would be just as much reason for concern over Rob’s presence on the US NB.

  5. Who are we to judge Australia’s choice for BRM attendance? Is it not likely that they have thought about this carefully themselves?

  6. Actually, the committee did think this over carefully, and they decided to send a delegation that contained no corporate interests, no Microsoft, no IBM, no Google, etc. But this consensus was set aside by staffers in a last-minute substitution, without consulting the committee. From what I hear, the other members of the committee are quite dismayed by this unilateral switch away from a neutral delegation to one which features a person who admits to being paid by Microsoft to work on activities related to the very standard he is now reviewing for Standards Australia.

    As far as the US delegation, ours is balanced, Microsoft, IBM, a couple of neutral parties, a company opposed to OOXML, a large Microsoft customer who is in favor of OOXML. That’s the way to do it. Either send a totally neutral delegation with no commercial interests. Or send a balanced delegation representing the major views.

  7. Wouter, we’re all free to judge other people’s actions, especially if it’ll affect us. Did you read the linked article though? it’s clear from two snippets, “”We were quite surprised there was a change in the delegation without consultation with the committee and when we were advised by Standards Australia of the change there was consternation,” Koomen said.” and, “The only reason Computerworld has obtained for the backflip is the original two employees are unable to attend the BRM.”
    People have complained that after attendees had been thought through carefully, their choices had been futile.

  8. Well, I’m sure Bob has checked all the other delegations and made sure that “both sides of the equation” is equally represented at the BRM. ;)

  9. Folks, I’m not going to allow personal attacks against people in the comments. If your comment was rejected, that’s probably why.

  10. There are some really odd sentiments swirling around here.

    First, how is Rick Jelliffe representing Standards Australia at the BRM a problem so long as he faithfully represents SA’s position? If the worry is that he won’t, then that worry implies a question both of the judgement of Standards Australia, and of Rick’s integrity as a delegate — and I note with approval Bob’s prohibitions on personal attacks in these comments … states the facts from SA itself.

    Now, I’m curious … how is it imagined that Rick (or indeed any delegate) can follow some nefarious pro-MS strategy at the BRM? by cleverly arguing for a change that will improve DIS 29500 too much perhaps?

    On the other hand, the whole notion of delegates who are “opposed” to OOXML is also weird, partly because the subject of the meeting is not “OOXML”, but the text of DIS 29500, and partly because delegate positions are meant to be subsumed in National positions. I don’t see how a delegate (or even NB) who is “opposed” to OOXML can contribute in good faith to a meeting whose stated purpose is to produce an improved quality text, if their “opposition” means that they are wanting to take steps to prevent the DIS being passed (no matter what)…

    – Alex.

  11. Alex, you say “SA’s position” as if such a thing existed. Remember, Australia’s original ballot comments started with “We have abstained from voting as a result of a lack of clear consensus in Australia on this issue”.

    Note that there are formally over 1,000 Ecma proposed responses to 3,522 NB comments on DIS 29500 on the table. No NB, including Australia, has developed a position on all of these. Further, Ecma’s proposals may be modified or replaced by other NB proposals as the BRM, as you have stated. So any delegation attending the BRM on behalf of an NB will need develop positions on the fly based on the flow of the meeting, often in cases where the NB gave no clear instructions. So it is entirely appropriate that other SA committee members questions the appropriateness of a Microsoft-paid OOXML advocate as the sole technical person on their NB’s delegation.

    Finally, it is an oversimplification to think that all issues at the BRM are purely technical or textually. Certainly any resolution must be expressible as an editing instruction, but the underlying issues deal with trade-offs of backwards compatibility versus adherence to existing standards, what is good for existing dominant suppliers versus what is good for new market players, what is easier for consumers of OOXML versus what is good for producers of OOXML, what is good for long-term preservation versus immediate translatability of yesterday’s Word binary files,etc. Where there are alternatives of equal or similar technical merit, other factors do and will come into play. As a paid advocate of OOXML, it is not clear that a delegation that is 50% Rick, with no other commercial, academic or open source interests present, is suitable representation of the interests of Australia.

  12. Sorry, but the SA brief to the delegation is that the delegation will only take formal positions on issues we have discussed (or where the same principle apply) and to support unanimity (which you would expect in the case of typo fixes etc.)

    This is all in the press release from Standards Australia on the subject. (Not the one Alex quotes above.)

  13. The point I am trying to make is that before going out ‘fixing’ things, which I think is a terrible term to use in this context, why not investigate why this step was taken before you go out and fix things which might not be that broken. In what sense must I read ‘fix’, add more Open XML opponents from IBM ranks? I’d be interested in seeing the why before doing things about it.

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