Being Heard: A Reasonable Man Speaks Out

In just a couple of hours, I'll be on a call with my fellow members of INCITS V1, the technical committee that has been evaluating ISO/IEC DIS 29500 in the United States. The chair of that committee is Patrick Durusau, a man with a wealth of experience in document standards (the editor of the ODF spec, among other things) who leads V1 by quiet example.

Patrick has a new post on his web site that explains his position on DIS 29500: he is recommending its approval as an ISO/IEC standard. His post is succinct and to the point, so I'll quote it in its entirety here:

On The Importance Of Being Heard

As a non-attendee to the BRM on DIS 29500, I have been trying to sort out fact from fiction in the highly imaginative accounts of the meeting. I have been able to isolate only one common point of agreement in all the published and unpublished reports that I have seen.

That point of agreement is that everyone at the table was heard. That may not seem like a lot to an Oracle or IBM, but name the last time Microsoft was listening to everyone in a public and international forum? At a table where a standard for a future product was being debated by non-Microsoft groups? So, now that Microsoft is listening (something we should encourage), in an international and public forum, what are our options?

Reject DIS 29500? The cost of rejection is that ordinary users, governments, smaller interests, all lose a seat at the table where the next version of the Office standard is being written.

Approve an admittedly rough DIS 29500? That gives all of us a seat at the table for the next Office standard. Granting that I wince at parts of DIS 29500, it is hard for me to argue with that rationale. Because approval of DIS 29500 insures an effective international and public forum whose members will be heard by Microsoft I recommend approval of DIS 29500 as an ISO standard.*

5 March 2008
Patrick Durusau

*This is a change in my prior position on DIS 29500. Different behavior has led to a different DIS 29500 and hence a different position on my part.

I first met Patrick in January of 2007 on the first V1 calls I attended. At that time, he was reading the newly submitted DIS 29500 spec, and he told me of how he had estimated the time it would take to read all 6000 pages, and he had allocated a certain number of hours per day so that he could get through it in the next few months.

At the end of Patrick's reading project, he had a list of specific comments about the spec. At that time many people worldwide were simply regurgitating comments in their national bodies that had come from other sources, often without even understanding them, but Patrick had quite the opposite approach. Every comment he submitted was his and his alone, based on hands-on review of the spec itself.

When V1 voted last July on a position for the US to take on DIS 29500, Patrick recommeded disapproval. As he explained at the time, he felt there were problems that needed to be addressed. Now, based on the progress made over the last six months, including the acceptance of the vast majority of Ecma's proposed dispositions at the BRM last week, Patrick has decided to recommend approval of DIS 29500 for the reasons he explains in the quote above.