Redmond ODF workshop feels pretty good

You'll see some blog traffic on this, so I thought I'd throw my own log onto the fire.

I attended the ODF workshop yesterday, mainly to sit in the back and watch how things unfolded, but also to learn a little bit myself. I must say that after the conclusion of the event, I was quite happy about how the thing went. It was time well spent for me; learning about the perspectives of ODF experts was a good experience. I was left with a few impressions that I thought I'd share…

It seems the bridge building between Microsoft and many individuals in the ODF community is having a positive impact. I think back to Patrick Durusau's comments on Open XML earlier in the year, and look at that as one of the important catalysts for a more cooperative tone between Microsoft and many ODF supporters. While folks (like me) were busy slugging it out in various forums, there were folks within Microsoft and within the ODF community seeking to have an informed and rational conversation on file formats. Folks like Rick Jeliffe who have (and continue to) ride out the storm, hopeful that good sense will prevail are a great source of inspiration for me. When you meet folks like this, it is easy to want to work with them.

This collaborative spirit was definitely in play during the event. As I listened to the feedback from folks in attendance I couldn't help but think.. "is it more remarkable that our these folks (who are competitors in many cases) are giving us implementation feedback.. or that we are so eager to have it?"

The most surprising aspect of the discussion to me was the constant stream of commentary that roughly said "I can't believe Microsoft is being this open… this is great…" It is welcome feedback of course, and as a new parent, allow me to share the pearl of wisdom that says the best way to encourage desirable behavior is through praise J.. In some ways the feedback was not surprising, many of the folks in the room would have been considered opponents at one point or another. The amount of information shared, the candor in the discussion and the overall level of outreach on Doug & team's behalf probably felt 'different' to some of the folks in the room.

On the other hand, I was appreciating the irony of having stepped out of the room for 2 hours during the day to brief a customer on Office, discussing various interoperability issues. It was a presentation I've given 100 times or more; much of the content was the same as what we were discussing in the ODF workshop. The variable here is the audience, of course. Having expanded the file format implementation discussion to many of these folks in the ODF community will be very helpful for us. And from a customer perspective, presenting a little less disharmony on interoperability issues doesn't hurt either. Standing together as an industry and community of software and service providers (even through disagreement) reduces the trepidation I've witnessed from customers not eager to step into the interoperability conversation.

From a personal perspective, I was glad to meet Jesper Lund Stocholm in person, it was great to meet Dennis Hamilton, and also great to meet Patrick Durusau. I'd say that I didn't have nearly enough time to talk to any of them (or anyone else), I was listening more than engaging in the discussion.

But I left the day feeling very good about our participation in the ODF community.