OOXML – disapproved

The news has just spread out. Noooxml.org has an entry with a quite accurate recount of the voting process about Office Open XML (Ecma 376, ISO/IEC DIS 29500), at this address: http://www.noooxml.org/forum/t-18553/iso-records-a-no-vote-on-ooxml

This is not yet the official position of ISO, but I can hardly imagine how the standard body could detach itself from this voting, especially after the frequent accusations of questionable “ballot stuffing”, i.e., asking “friendly” people to apply for membership in one national body and vote one way or the other just for one standard.

This latter practice is not unprecedented, sources say, but it is surely not in the spirit of the standardization process, which runs on consensus rather than on brute force and ballot-counting. The Wall Street Journal has run a nice story on its 30 August printed issue (front page article) which reports of cross-accusations in this respect on both side of the “battlefield”.

Confidentiality issues prevent me from giving a more precise and fact-based confirmation of the story, but I suspect that in the shortest — given the number of people having access to the official documents — more details will be leaked out anyhow.

Yes, you have read quite well: “confidentiality”. Officially I am not supposed to release information, as the Italian Body (UNINFO) requests all the members to refrain from releasing information as to the voting process, and somebody has even questioned the legality of various blog posts on the July voting process in Italy. While I fully understand the reasons which suggested to preserve a certain confidentiality in the first place (but the rule is not written in the by-laws, anyway), I take this opportunity to seriously question this practice. We are supposed to know anything about our legislators, including their private behaviour, and when it comes to the standardization process I feel it appropriate that at least these facts and figures are made public:

  • who is member of what body or committee;
  • who voted how in a particular ballot process;
  • wheter somebody has any stake or interest in the outcome of the vote.

Officially recognized standards are more and more incorporated in laws and regulation, made compulsory to millions citizens. They can have even stronger impact on everyday's life than state's law, thus I wonder how a standard approval process could be even suspected to be tampered with by those directly interested. I suppose this discussion must take place, better sooner than later, for the sake of the very credibility of the standardization world. Standardization is simply too important to afford a loss in its credibility, and ISO remains the most credible entity worldwide.

Update: ISO/IEC press release


Update: Something on the press coverage of the news

I have published an entry on the diverse press coverage of the news here, with some interesting quotes.

Tipo di Entry: 

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