To: ISO JTC1 SC34 secretariat, Mr. G. Ken Holman (ac.ccs|43cs1ctj#ac.ccs|43cs1ctj)
Cc: Chair JTC1 SC34, Dr. James David Mason (vog.eod.21y|djnosam#vog.eod.21y|djnosam)
Cc: Secretary JTC1, Mrs. Lisa Rajchel (gro.sina|lehcjarl#gro.sina|lehcjarl)
Cc: Chair JTC1, Mr. Scott Jameson (moc.ph|nosemaj.ttocs#moc.ph|nosemaj.ttocs)
Dear ISO JTC1 officials,
I am writing to you to point out a fundamental problem with the procedure for
ISO standards ballots from ISO member countries, a problem which has been
made apparent with the recent unusual development in the ballot for ISO/IEC
DIS 29500, Office Open XML. The regular ISO comment resolution procedures
state, if I am not misinformed, that:
"The only comments that the Project Editor is allowed to consider are those
submitted via the ballot."
This is most unfortunate, since there are two distinct and very different reasons
for a member country to arrive at the response "abstain".
In one case, it is "abstain for lack of interest and/or expertise", in which
case it is of course perfectly OK to ignore that member country.
The other case, however, is "abstain for lack of consensus regarding numerous
comments". Because this is exactly what has happened recently in a number
of member countries when voting on DIS 29500, I strongly urge you to look at
the procedure behind each "abstain" votes and take into consideration the fact
that "abstain" in fact often means "this issue is so full of controversy that
we cannot agree on a unanimous vote". To restrict the set of comments being
processed further to include only those submitted via a "no with comments"
vote would be to throw away a very large portion of all the criticism which has
emerged regarding DIS 29500, disregarding hard and honest work by expert
reviewers who pointed out what they perceived as problems with the standard.
Such problems were often agreed upon by a substantial part of the respective
technical committees, but consensus or a required qualified majority was not
These ballot procedures are clearly unsatisfactory for issues where there is
controversy and a strong commercial interest in having a standard approved.
Considering that the vote is often blocked by the originator of the standard
(Microsoft), either in isolation as in the Netherlands or in collaboration with
a number of very close partners, it is clear that the system is open to
exploit by a small minority of committee members who wish for an "abstain"
vote to block comments if a "yes" vote cannot be reached.
This state of affairs is most unfortunate, and the credibility of ISO as a high
quality standards body is at stake if such unilateral attempts at sabotage of
the ballot process are allowed to pass formally unnoticed by ISO in the
upcoming ballot resolution process.
As an example, the Netherlands TC recently voted almost unanimously for
a "no with comments". Only Microsoft, not even its partners, voted against,
so a consensus was not reached. Therefore, the vote was "abstain" and
hundreds of comments were unduly discarded. One account of the process
behind Netherland's "abstain" vote is here:
The purpose of that web site is to strongly oppose DIS 29500, but I have
no reason to doubt the credibility of their report of the events, as it
originates from one of the members of the TC.
Please take the unusual nature of this ballot into consideration when
considering the upcoming action from ISO. As I said, the very credibility
of ISO as a high quality standards body is at stake.
Stefan Gustavson, Linkoping University, Sweden (es.uil.nti|ugets#es.uil.nti|ugets)
Volunteer technical reviewer of ISO/IES DIS29500 for SIS