Trip report: WG4 Tokyo

WG4 met last week in a rather humid Tokyo –
I’m just back now after some travel headaches and I wanted to share a few

"Most Productive Meeting Ever"

Well, perhaps not the world record holder, but t

he convener


on the final day that this had been WG4's most productive meeting ever. I've only been to four of them, but I'd certainly agree that it's the busiest one I've been to. Towards the end of the third day we were rushing to try and get through the agenda items, and we only covered around half of the defect reports (DRs) that I'd hoped to discuss. Looks like we'll be heading for a few of WG4's most productive conference calls in the coming weeks.

Meeting Content

I was very interested to see Murata-san's presentation on the issues with internationalisation and Part 2 (OPC). I felt like it framed the conversation well for me - there was some work done at the BRM to internationalise Part 2, and it looks like there's still polishing to be done in that area. I was also very pleased indeed that Suzuki-san, a Japanese font expert, was there to talk through several font DRs that we have. Suzuki-san is a well-known contributor to a bunch of print-related open source projects (with GhostScript probably being the most famous one) and is also an expert explainer, so with his help we managed to resolve a bundle of these DRs.

We spent a lot of time working through the open defect reports at this meeting. I'd been working for the last few weeks on writing up the required changes for many of them, and I pledged at this meeting that, at each WG4 face-to-face meeting, I'd try and be current with the un-written-up defect reports which were opened before the previous meeting. When we meet in China in December, I'll have written up the changes for any we had open in Tokyo that were waiting for Microsoft input, and I'll keep this rolling forward. Obviously I'll also try to keep on top of any that appeared in the interim period, but I'll at least set this baseline so we can get through a few of the oldest DRs.

Amendment 2: Improvements to ISO 8601 Support

At the Plenary, a few changes were approved to Amendment 2, the Amendment which will improve ISO 8601 date support in IS 29500. While working on this, Gareth Horton and I have broadened the scope slightly to cover a new change to Part 4 (that being the removal of ISO 8601 dates) and a few other alterations in Part 1 (most notably the removal of the leap year bug, which was not covered in the original Amendment). We knew we were going to take this scope change to the plenary and we already have draft text for the newly-approved Amendment. We've had an enormous amount of help from WG4 in writing and reviewing this Amendment - Jesper Lund Stocholm,
Rick Jelliffe, Makoto Murata, Norbert Bollow and Jirka Kosek have been a great help during our review period with WG4, and most recently I've got some great feedback from Kohei Yoshida, a key spreadsheet developer on Novell Open Office. Gareth and I have committed to circulate a final draft around WG4 before November 1st. Feels good to be near the end of the tunnel, and on a personal level it'll be great to be a project editor of a finished SC34 project.

Creating More Defect Reports

As we all know, IS 29500 is a lengthy standard. There are indubitably defects in it that nobody's found yet, and we brainstormed for a while at the WG4 meeting about how we could go about finding some more. We talked about comparing the normative XSD schema with the informative RNG one; looking for long recurring strings in the text and reviewing those areas; generating a concordance and looking for rarely-occuring words which might be signs of trouble. I think we had a really interesting discussion about the topic, and I'm going to spend some time looking into actually getting started on some of those "bug-fixing" missions.

Study Groups Abound

Two of the hottest topics in SC34 at the moment are EPUB (the current de-facto standard for electronic book publishing) and ZIP (the file compression format). For both of those, SC34 has decided to do some more thought - for EPUB this comes in the form of an ad-hoc study group, and for ZIP it comes in the form of a study period during which some experts will work out how best to proceed. WG4 has also agreed to embark upon the early stages of a revision to Part 3 (MCE, the part which specifies how implementers can add their own custom features to the format). We agreed that we wouldn't break any existing implementations in taking on the revision, and a study group are off working on a scope description which will be circulated around WG4 soon.

Office "15" Strict IS 29500 Support

As you probably know, we announced some time ago that we would support saving the Strict variant of IS 29500 for Office "15", the version after Office 2010, which will appear some time in the next few years. We're right at the beginning stages of development of that product, so I took the opportunity to talk with WG4 about how they'd expect our strict support to behave. For me, the most interesting part was how we resolve a dichotomy we have: We want to be as pure as we can be in the data we put in strict files (so not too much MCE), but we also don't want to discard anything when a user saves as the default file format. We had some interesting talks around this in WG4 and I may do a future post outlining some of our more detailed thoughts.

Mount Fuji

After the UOML BRM meeting on Saturday, Jirka and I left town to head for Mount Fuji. How nice to get into the peaceful wilderness of the mountains after a hectic week in the centre of the metropolis!

How great indeed. They say that Mount Fuji is the world's most climbed mountain, and now I can see why. There are probably twenty rudimentary mini-hotels on the way up, and a quite astounding amount of building work going on in avalanche protection and such. If you ever find a spot on Mount Fuji where you can't hear a diesel engine, the chances are you can instead smell a chemical toilet.

We had a good time - it was an interesting climb, but not quite what we had in mind. It made us wonder whether it would be fun to try and reach the highest point in each country hosting SC34 meetings, until we realised what our next target would be.