Regarding OOXML and the need for change

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When I was in Geneva in February, I found myself saying something like the following to those who asked me how I thought the OOXML/DIS 29500 vote was going to turn out.

“If the ballot fails, we will have seen that a historic change has occurred.
If it passes, we will see that historic change is needed.”

Evidently, we’re in the latter case. In spite of having significant problems and intellectual property gaps, enough countries have changed their votes from the September ballot to allow the specification to move forward into the publication preparation phase with JTC1 (ISO/IEC).

So is that it? Of course not. The process of international standards making has been laid bare for all to examine. People now have some sense that

  • Not all standards are created by a community of independent stakeholders, as some people may have previously assumed
  • The lack of transparency, the ability to see who voted and why, leads to less understanding and accountability
  • If intellectual property policies are not clear and comprehensive, significant questions exist over who can implement what in what way
  • There are no brakes on putting the wrong standards though some existing processes
  • Politics, and not just standards politics, has fully entered the process
  • Equilibrium, the need for having a balance of independent people considering a standard and not a majority of business partners, is out of control
  • In some countries with democratic governments, there is virtually no connection between “representation of the people” and votes on international standards
  • There is very little consistency from country to country in how voting decisions are made, which is their right, but some better common guidance might be appropriate

I believe that thousands of motivated yet pragmatic people will now move on to fix the systemic issues I’ve identified, with fresh evidence of why it is necessary. There are now, as there have always been, much bigger issues than OOXML itself. For that reason, we are still in the early phases of the worldwide movement to true open standards.

Openness means that the best technology for all wins. Openness means that the process is clean and visible and incorruptible. Openness means that personal accountability means something and is known and respected by all. Openness must be earned.

I think that’s worth fighting for. There has been tremendous progress and it’s happened far faster and wider than most people ever imagined possible. While fully cognizant of these current results, I’m energized to take the bigger fight for openness to the next level with the thousands of individuals who are now convinced that the standards system needs fixing, and soon. I hope you’ll take part.

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