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1 reason not to worry about file formats

1: No-one cares

OK, that's not true - there are whole departments, organisations and esteemed bodies that care, take a lot of time and effort to generate, publicise and ... well, other standards stuff.
But in the real world no-one cares as everyone just wants to work with the information - it's the message not the medium.

I know you could argue that the general unwashed don't care because it's all being taken care of by departments, organisations and esteemed bodies. I don't buy that. People would use whatever works for them without "standards" being imposed. The internet is glued together by "standards" that have evolved because people want to do something not because someone in a room came up with a standard. Problem first, then solution - not the other way around.

So what's the problem these two standards are trying to solve?
As I see it they are:
  1. Interoperability
  2. Future proofing
Interoper... the first one (sorry, bugger of a word to type in).
This is smoke in the eyes. We have total interp... already. Most people will happily send a Microsoft Word document to someone else without a thought as to how it might be read. Mostly I suspect that it's done under the mistaken assumption that, "Of couse Gerorge will have Microsoft Word installed, who doesn't?" ... no matter, they just send.

If someone sends me an Office document (say, ooh, um, Word) then I, without Microsoft Word installed, can read, save and edit - Gmail and/or Google Docs lets me. That's interoperability.

Future proofing - the ability to make sure you can actually read the information inside the document many years down the track.
Seems to me that it's a problem being solved by the masses already - printing it out!
I know, I know - Mike being an advocate of paper!?!? Not really, because I have nailed my information future availability firmly to the internet (Google if you must know) and have to lie in the bed I've made for myself [/cliche]

But most people rely on paper - if they want it (or have to have it) they print it, stick it into a box and give it to some records section or outsourced company that will store it in fire proof warehouse for it to go mouldy and never be read.

Ah, but you think we can do better with electronic stuff d'ya - read on ...

Oh, as for the claim that "Microsoft Office" formats are the de-facto standard, I dispute that. HTML and/or email 'formats' are the most common formats for information in the world. Organisations that aren't moving to this new (!) format are leaving their information tied up in file formats and it won't matter which one you use, you are still wrapping your prized IP in a file. Stop doing it now!

If you believe I am being too flippant about this then here's a challenge - records all the types of information "wrapper/formats" (Word, email, Excel, video, PDF, application (MYOB etc), web page ...) that you use in an 8-hour day and how many of each. Then tell me I'm making it up.

Information must be available, findable and usable - putting it into a "file format" puts barriers up to each one of these three tenants of good Information Management.

And herein lies my answer to "future proofing" - stick it in the 'cloud'** and make it accessible to all and sundry. The cloud doesn't have to be the open-to-the-world version like, say this blog. I put all (and I mean ALL) my electronic stuff into the cloud - nothing is stored locally. However you can't read it all, my parents can't see every picture and I don't share every piece of content with my wife (it would bore her senseless) - however, it's all in the cloud.

Where did this come from - an online spat (with apology and subsequent make up) around Standards NZ discussing the 2 competing standards* for "office documents" ODF v OOXML

[Updated about 15 minutes later]
*ahem*, a certain Mr Vint Cerf has this to say on internet information being available in 1,000 years time (via Read/Write Web):
In another media report, from the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Vint Cerf warns that all the information currently stored on the web could be lost to future generations. He is quoted as saying:

"I don't know whether 1,000 years from now information that might have been valuable and could have been preserved if it was written on vellum, won't be preserved because it's written in bits."

* "That's what I love about standards, there are so many to choose from" - ref
** cloud - hip way of talking about the interweb***
*** interwb, silly name for the internet/world wide web