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OOXML ... no, no, come back, it's not that scary

As may come through the postings I have a few underlying beliefs that support my approach to Enterprise 2.0" (particularly from a "New Zealand style") which I will go into in more depth later.

However, one of those beliefs I can reveal is "openess".
Openess covers a whole gamut of areas - openess ...
  • in data use
  • in who you can work with
  • in mindset to new ideas
  • in what you can do with software
  • in conversation
  • in underlying agenda
And it's the last one, openess in underlying agenda, that I find very hard to swallow when it comes to Microsoft's attempt to have it's own OOXML technology ratified as an international standard.

OOXML - what is it? How's this from Wikipedia:
Office Open XML (commonly referred to as OOXML or, erroneously, as OpenXML) is an XML-based file format specification for electronic documents such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents.

And so it's Microsoft's way of storing your documents - but they want it to be everyone's!

And hey, I don't care that one file format is technically better than another and there are far better people than I to argue to positions - as I have made public before. Having said that it's a wee bit strange to learn that ISO have already given us a standard for office documents, ODF, that is widely used but Microsoft refuse to support it in their products - if that's not a reason to question Microsoft's hidden agenda then what is?

And so, what I do care about it the seemingly underhand and "big corporate" way that Microsoft has gone about the process of ratification AND the underlying reason that they want OOXML to be ratified. Of course I don't know what the reasons are because it's a hidden Microsoft Corporation agenda.

And excellent article discussing these and other points is Why the OOXML Vote Still Matters: A Proposal to Recognize the Need for “Civil ICT Standards by Andy Updegrove. Key phrase for me:
Much as a constitution establishes and balances the basic rights of an individual in civil society, standards codify the points where proprietary technologies touch each other, and where the passage of information is negotiated.

In this way, standards can protect – or not – the rights of the individual to fully participate in the highly technical environment into which the world is now evolving. Among other rights, standards can guarantee:

  • That any citizen can use any product or service, proprietary or open, that she desires when interacting with her government.
  • That any citizen can use any product or service when interacting with any other citizen, and to exercise every civil right.
  • That any entrepreneur can have equal access to marketplace opportunities at the technical level, independent of the market power of existing incumbents.
  • That any person, advantaged or disadvantaged, and anywhere in the world, can have equal access to the Internet and the Web in the most available and inexpensive method possible.
  • That any owner of data can have the freedom to create, store, and move that data anywhere, any time, throughout her lifetime, without risk of capture, abandonment or loss due to dependence upon a single vendor.

Let us call these “Civil ICT Rights,” and pause a moment to ask: what will life be like in the future if Civil ICT Rights are not recognized and protected, as paper and other fixed media disappear, as information becomes available exclusively on line, and as history itself becomes hostage to technology?

I would submit that a vote to adopt OOXML would be a step away from, rather than a way to advance towards, a future in which Civil ICT Rights are guaranteed.

(thanks to Don for the article link)

I'm proud to say that the NZ Open Source Society, ably headed by Don Christie, have fought the ratification all the way arguing the points to the relevant standards organisations (they advise, not vote). Their position was taken on board by the NZ Standards organisation and we (Kiwis) voted "No".

There is a re-vote happening very soon (25th March) ... it's on a knife edge.

There are participants from all over the world (incl NZ) descending upon Geneva to review the HUGE documentation and Microsoft response to place a vote once again.

It does remind me of the Star Wars Galactic Senate in more ways than one!

What can you do - this:
[Updated] Added link supplied by Don


  1. Mike, thanks for the props. I must say this post by open standards expert Andy Updegrove is very enlightened. Talks international standards about being at a crossroads and coins the terms "Civil ICT Standards" to protect our "Civil ICT Rights".

  2. Pleasure.

    Thanks for the link - updated the posting with it.


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