While Rob Weir (IBM) points to a yet another procedural change Brian Jones (Microsoft) blames him for starting a standard war. Yet the main issue is not emotional but we can make it emotional. Because it was the way the Open XML standardization process is carried out that got us deeper and deeper involved.
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
When I met Benjamin a few weeks ago he told me that he would go to the Belgium Standard body meeting, here in Brussels. Benjamin is a member of the Belgium Committee that has to inspect Open XML. Benjamin as the representative of the independent voice of the public interest that does not want double standards, now more than 71 000 individuals. A vocal, and at times angry movement of concerned citizens from across the world with the legitimate agenda to see Open XML improved or rejected. Some of them became NB members and made their own experiences. Numerous people collected and exchanged comments and filed them. Good people from all over the world are quite active on our mailing lists. Benjamin gave them a voice which includes the freedom to make indecent petition comments. Benjamin, whom Pieter Hintjens recently described as an incorruptible personality. Benjamin who told Pieter with his No Open XML campaign the lesson that positive campaigning does not work. Benjamin, a Belgium citizen who lives in Brussels and who speaks French.
But something is rotten in the state of Belgium. Belgium is in a deep political crisis. They have no central government. While Vlaams and Wallone Belgiums struggle about cultural identity and public finances (not to mention the German community stuck in between) two large American companies would represent the Belgium National Standard body in Geneva for the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM). This is what I learned today. The reason was - as Benjamin told me - that "both sides of the struggle" should get represented. An American company named Microsoft and another American company named IBM. The standard body is probably the only point in Belgium where no one cares about Vlaams-Wallone balance.
I find that outcome very sad. A foreign standard war on Belgium soil but Benjamin who lives there, who represents the most stakeholders worldwide, has his nation represented by foreign corporations that dig deep trenches. Some of Benjamins campaign supporters might work for Microsoft partners, some for IBM, but the most of these persons are ordinary citizens. They are neither puppets of the one side or the other. And they get no seat in the BRM.
And this is where Brian Jones is fundamentally wrong. He wants to invoke the impression that IBM orchestrates the movement against his spec. We deeply believe in it as in his own potemkin industry support for Open XML and the conversion paradise. Only uninitiated readers will find the Novell campaigning truthful.
Our tanks came in peace but you resisted…
So let us keep the record straight. Who started the war on standards? ….and how did we get involved. In January, it must have been 25 Jan or so, we wrote a letter to ISO members, very late in the process but meeting the deadline, and told them that ECMA or NB should not fast-track Open XML because the process is inappropriate for a specification with these great flaws. I guess it was after Eupaco-1, we talked with William "Basil" Cousins, a computer veteran from OpenForumEurope who was deeply concerned about Open XML standardization. And our standard specialist Alberto had deep inside knowledge. Benjamin and I were not very passionate about Open XML at all, admitted. But what was very clear to us: Open XML could not survive an independent expert review and was a worse deal than the existing ISO standard 26300:2006 regarding patent conditions.
If it is a standard war, as Brian proclaimes, Rob Weir (IBM) is an excellent asset without high fidelity. A trustworthy expert personality who always surprises you. And here comes the problem: People can be very sympathetic towards Microsoft and their products or just to the persons who evangelize their formats. But they cannot deny the obvious: that OOXML is a spec that should not have been submitted under fast-track. If someone like Brian takes part in the dirty campaign to rush it through anyway he needs to keep in mind that it is not a good way to make friends or gather sympathy. Probably it is a well-paid business as is corps washing and hangman business. Sorry, no one has the right to get an ISO stamp for a broken specification.
It is a great experience for many who took part in the process to learn how far the company would go. This has nothing to do with legitimate business interests. It is a symptom of the power underlying standards. Open standards are dangerous for a company that offers us its "shared standards" as a placebo.