Confusion, corrections, observers, and O-members

An article in Computerworld yesterday entitled "ISO officials, others dispute claims that Open XML meeting was flawed" includes reaction from Alex Brown to Andy Updegrove's blog post that appeared immediately after the conclusion of the BRM last Friday evening. I'm glad to see that Andy admits in the comments that he wasn't actually an "observer" to the BRM, and it will be interesting to see whether Computerworld corrects that misleading statement.

While they're at it, they might also correct another misleading statement in the same article:

Durusau also chairs an esoteric but influential technical standards committee that advises the panel that votes for the U.S. within ISO. Last summer, his committee voted not to endorse the Open XML standards proposal.

For those who weren't following the anti-Open XML lobbying efforts last summer, here's what that paragraph is referring to:

  • INCITS V1 met last July 13, and voted by a 60% majority to recommend a "Yes" position for the US on DIS 29500 in the September ballot. A 2/3 supermajority is required for a recommendation out of V1, however, so no recommendation was passed to the INCITS executive board.
  • Rob Weir and Andy Updegrove quickly spun this as a "failure" on their blogs. At the time, I was impressed at Rob's ability to make lemonade: he was part of a minority position in V1, and yet he spun the vote as a victory for his anti-Open XML cause.
  • Computerworld, like many others in the press, gladly picked up Rob and Andy's spin as "news" and ran articles like the one they're still linking to above
  • when the US reached its final position of "Approve with comments" for the September vote, I had a little fun with Rob and Andy's spinmeistering.

Since that little misprepresentation last summer worked so well for them, I'm not surprised to see the anti-Open XML lobbyists trying the same tactics again for the BRM outcome. I am surprised, however, to see Computerworld going along again, linking to that misleading article they wrote based on Rob and Andy's spin and not bothering to mention that they later corrected their story after all of the facts were out. I'm tempted to comment on the state of journalism in the US, but that's much too broad a topic for a narrow little Open XML blog to get into.

Gesmer Updegrove LLP: observer or participant?

I found the "observer" title bestowed on Andy Updegrove in that Computerworld article rather ironic, given all the discussion this week about O-members (i.e., observer members). Andy's law firm, Gesmer Updegrove LLP is in the business of representing clients such as OASIS and the Linux Foundation, so unless this was a pro-bono effort (was it?), it seems reasonable to wonder who were they representing in Geneva, and in writing about the BRM as soon as it concluded. I wonder if Andy would be willing to make an explicit public statement about how he paid the bills during a week at a 5-star hotel in Europe's most expensive city?

A final thought on O-members

One thing I've found surprising in recent days is all the people from IBM and other sources who are suggesting that O-members shouldn't have had a say in the BRM. I sat there all week and watched O-members like Greece and Brazil participate in the discussions and cast key votes at least 42 times, as we worked through resolutions to change the spec. Nobody ever said a word about O-member participation until about 4:45PM on Friday, when I saw Rob Weir writing down a list of countries that he apparently felt shouldn't have had a say in the BRM: "Portugal, Chile, Poland, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Greece."

One thing that really puts the O-member complaints in perspective is the BRM FAQ issued by SC34 last fall. I thought we were all studying that closely the last few months, but apparently nobody from IBM ever read item 6.8:

6.8 If votes are taken during the BRM, who votes?
Those present.

It has proven to be a frequently asked question indeed, and there's the answer, which has been staring us all in the face since last fall.