Count your spoons

"The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

It seems that the folks at IBM have set out to try to convince people they should be scared of Open XML. I won't bother to enumerate all of the blog posts and articles that have appeared on this in the last couple of weeks, but as a person who tries (unsuccessfully) to read most of what people are saying about Open XML, it has been a strange flurry of activity to see. All this writing seems to revolve around the theme "you don't need a choice, we (IBM) can choose for you." They aren't saying ODF is better than Open XML; they're saying that there should not be any alternative to ODF.

Much of the talk is non-technical, and some of it dwells on perceived wrongs from Microsoft in the past. A recurring blind faith in an imagined evil plot runs through most of these digressions, as if the plural of "pissed me off" is "evil plot to screw users."

But, but, but ... IBM has, at times, been a competitor. If we're doing our job responsibly for shareholders, we should expect to piss them off occasionally, whether we have an over-arching evil plot or not. (We don't -- we're not nearly that organized.)

If you're willing to let IBM choose for you, one of the first choices they'd like to make is that compatibility with your existing documents is not a priority. If you've been foolish enough to use the same software most people use, to create documents in the same formats most people use, it's time to pay the price for your misguided ways and set aside a few evenings and weekends to reformat all your documents so you can be compatible with the format IBM, in its benevolent wisdom, has chosen for you. That format may not support the functionality you have in existing documents today, but by golly it's just the right thing to do.

To understand the definition of right thing, it might be interesting in a future post to take a look at a couple of simple questions:

  • What does IBM have to gain if people are locked into one document format?
  • What does IBM have to lose if people have a choice of document formats?