Breaking out of the rut

The Open XML standardization debate has been going on long enough that there are some recurring themes which we've all seen many times now: the list of Groklaw comments and various responses to them from Ecma, Microsoft, and others; the long list of comments from IBM, which was submitted to many technical committees in the last couple of months; the complaint that the spec is too big, and that it leaves too much out, or that it has too much Microsoft technology mentioned in it, or not enough, and so on.

We've all discussed these issues countless times, and in the end everyone seems to have the same views that had a year ago, which in almost every case happen to align tightly with the objectives of our employers. Take a look at the company name on a person's paycheck, for example, and their position on the Lotus 1-2-3 date bug is usually pretty easy to predict.

It's interesting to see how some people, both inside and outside the ongoing standards process, are reacting to the circular repetiveness of the debate. Two blog posts today caught my eye:

Kyle McNabb of Forrester Research has an interesting post entitled "Can Anyone be Objective about OOXML? You Can!" After mentioning the obvious motivations of IBM, Microsoft, Sun and regarding Open XML and the ISO process, he adds "If these parties can't be objective, they should at least provide full disclosure. Wouldn't it be nice to know what everyone stands to gain, or lose, pending the outcome of this initiative? Don't assume what's best for IBM, Microsoft, Sun, or other vendor is best for you. "  Kyle goes on to implore his readers to "Get involved, bring the voice of the customer into these initiatives!"

Rick Jelliffe attended the Standards Australia industry forum on DIS 29500 today, and he has posted some information about the meeting on his blog. This meeting had a simple objective, stated in the invitation: "We are looking for creative, positive contributions that emphasise our commitment to representing truly Australian view to the international community." As Rick explains, "They don’t want to succumb to a Denial of Service attack where by concentrating on sorting out edge cases and typos they miss out the big picture of national interest."

It's good to see standards bodies taking charge of the process and explicitly holding the vendor-specific positions at bay. Let's hope this is a sign of more independent results-oriented thinking to come, as we move through the ISO/IEC vote, the ballot resolution process, and beyond.