I can't help but observe the "discussion" underway with respect to spreadsheet interoperability that Rob Weir has started. Essentially Rob is complaining that Microsoft didn't implement the formula namespace of OpenOffice.
For the chair of the committee to post vitriol like this about the implementation of his own format raises a number of very concerning problems.
I'd like everyone reading the post to know that Rob was invited to participate in the DII events leading up to the SP2 release, and offered the opportunity to test the beta software specifically for the purpose of providing feedback on the implementation. Normally the chair of group of the standard being implemented would jump at the chance. Rob didn't, electing instead to wait for the shipping version and then claim that it is somehow deficient to other ODF implementations that he has deemed suitable for his purposes.
Does it make sense to have a chair for the ODF TC whose apparent mission is to create a caste system for ODF implementers? Do we really think Rob, who debates whether the tough (and publicly vetted) implementation decisions of his constituents are "malice" or "incompetence?" – is this the hallmark of a leader in the standards community striving for innovation using open technologies? Is this the characteristic that OASIS wants to promote in the development of technology standards? In Rob, do we really have a person capable of operating in a vendor-neutral forum? If departments within 18 various governments really do use ODF as their standard, should we be comfortable with an ODF TC chair that is trying very hard to discredit and divide its supporters?
Is it time for Rob to step down as chair? I think so.
I'm not saying Microsoft (or anyone) should be the chair instead, but I am saying that Rob is unfit as a leader given his inability to separate his personal venom from his role as a leader in driving the standard forward. It seems like a better approach to empower people on the ODF TC who have a long-term view of the need to enable interoperability, and to move those with more short-term vendor-oriented agendas to the side.
John Head is on point with this post. eWeek seems to be fine with SP2.
As far as I can see, the only thing that Rob is really demonstrating here is that the "grossly inadequate" formula support of ODF (those are the words of David Wheeler, leader of OpenFormula, read on for details) is causing problems with vendors implementing the standard. He instead resorts to scoring implementations based on a percentage of common ground, rather than conformance to something written on paper. This gives Rob the freedom he needs to define his own criteria for what ODF implementation is, and who is doing it according to his rules.
Rob seems to be positioning himself as the final arbiter on what is "good" ODF vs. "bad" ODF. OASIS? specification? – Unimportant when Rob Weir can arbitrarily define criteria for what he thinks is good. He's in a position where only he will declare his own ODF preferences as the blessed implementation. It seems that neither the ODF TC nor the spec matter anymore. It seems that ODF is being run by an individual.
Current ODF standards do not support formulas no matter how much Rob wishes it to be so. Implementations of ODF spreadsheets are application-dependent. ODF 1.2 is not an approved standard. OpenFormula is not an approved standard. While it may be that both are on a path to standardization in the future, today they are not. This is a situation that has been known to the ODF TC for more than 4 years, yet no solution based on an approved standard (other than Open XML) has been found. These are all indisputable facts.
In his post, Rob proposes using "legacy OO namespaces" (also declaring OpenOffice as the "current convention"). Rob's suggestion to use "legacy OO namespaces" is a reference to a vendor's product and indicates favoritism to a particular implementation. The defender of "precise, repeatable, common" seems to be abandoning that hill, hoping instead to claim for his own the dialog that Microsoft has been conducting for a long time: Interoperability requires the participation of many, and will not be defined by a standard alone. Doug covers that pretty well I think.
The irony isn't lost at all. This is the same guy who went to such a length to chastise Open XML for its undefined list styles and compatibility settings. For some reason his expectations of Open XML seem to be somewhat higher than they are for the committee he chairs. For some reason, it is ok for Rob to patch glaring holes in ODF as "current convention" and then complain vigorously about alleged dependence on Microsoft Office for implementing Open XML. This is shameful, hypocritical and warrants corrective action.
It wouldn't be such a huge deal if the tone were constructive or aimed at improving the situation. It seems he is only interested in distancing himself from scenarios where ODF can be used successfully with Microsoft Office (as well as the DII discussions where that implementation was discussed in detail during its development. Funny that he didn't show up there to share this feedback.)
Rob's conclusion on the cause of that problem:
"I was taught to never assume malice where incompetence would be the simpler explanation. But the degree of incompetence needed to explain SP2's poor ODF support boggles the mind and leads me to further uncharitable thoughts. So I must stop here"
Let's just remember that it was the ODF TC which deemed formulas "out of scope," and after 4 years, still have no solution for standardizing the definition of "Sum = 2+2." Rob says "Everyone knows what =A1+A2 means." Really Rob? What does it mean if A1 contains 1, and A2 contains "two"? Would it surprise you to learn that Excel and OpenOffice produce different answers in that case? Which one is correct? This question and a thousand more like it is why formula interoperability is hard work, and not at all the trivial matter Rob claims it is.
During the original discussion within the ODF TC, not everyone agreed with the omission of formulas from the spec… David Wheeler seemed to be pretty clear when commented on this on February 7th, 2005:
This previous comment scares me: "There are from our point of view also no interoperability issues, because the namespace prefix mechanism we have specified unambiguously specifies what syntax and semantics are used for a formula". Here's how I read that: "Every implementation must reverse engineer all other implementations' namespaces (they're not in the spec, so everyone's free to invent their own private incompatible namespaces). Then, every implementation must implement all the syntax and semantics of all other implementations' namespaces for formulas, if they wish to achive interoperability. And oh, by the way, your implementation might not implement the namespace for the document you're trying to load, so you may lose all the formulas."
I'm sure that's not what was meant, but that's how it reads to me. I hope that helps explain why I think that the current formula information in the OpenOffice specification is grossly inadequate."
So… maybe it's too easy, but "I was taught to never assume malice where incompetence would be the simpler explanation." David Wheeler saw this coming over 4 years ago, and yet, OpenFormula is not a standard today, and ODF has no definition for spreadsheet formulas. Rob tries to excuse his way around this in his post, but these comments are made by the committee that he chairs. I'll leave it to you, then, to decide between "malice" or "incompetence" of the poster who would elect to throw his own committee under the bus to get hits on his blog… or fail to take this very good advice.
By the way, it is worth noting the response to this stern (and very accurate) prediction.
"Hi David,Thanks for the concerned comments and all the considerable effort you have put into solving this problem. You're challenging us all to go where none have dared tread before. So go ahead and lead the way. You have the TC's attention. We are listening. As you grind out the grit of your proposal, please keep in mind that we have to fit proposed solutions into the politic of work that has already been done. A politic that represents years of work that is just now on it's way to ratification at OASIS, and beyond to ISO. Keep in mind also that the ISO certification comes at the request of the European Union. Time is of the essence. Ratification perhaps trumps perfection. At least for the moment."
This comment was from Gary Edwards, (he of "cracks in the foundation" / OpenDocument Foundation fame) who eventually left the TC and shuttered the OpenDocument Foundation. I seem to remember some dialog from Rob about Open XML being "rushed" through standardization. Funny how those things come back to haunt you.
I'm very discouraged by Rob's post. As far as I can tell, rob is playing a shell game where only his definition will be good enough for supporting ODF, and that definition will change to whatever Microsoft isn't doing.
This is far from constructive. This is not a way to foster interoperability and industry dialog. This is not a leader for people to follow.
I don't get this...how could Rob Weir's position as chair of the ODF TC make him responsible for quality checking of Microsofts ODF implementation? Wouldn't it be Microsoft's resposibility to perform tests with loading ODF files from other vendors? It is bizare to blame Weir because he did not participate in your internal beta testing and quality verification.
The problem that Microsoft has slowed down development of OpenFormula by not providing basic information about what different Office versions does is not a reason to ignore interoperability. What the other Office suits really do with spreadsheets is known information and in the absence of specification of formulas any vendor that care a tiny bit about interoperability should at least make an effort to provide interoperability.
Med anledning av Computer Swedens artikel “ Uselt stöd för öppet filformat i nya Office ” tänkte vi tipsa
As far as I can see Rob criticised an implementation which is useless for consumers. This has nothing to do with ODF TC work.
Can you state for the record that your attack on Rob Weir is based on the desire to see a proper standards process, rather than part of an organized coup to take over chairmanship of ODF, thus better to destroy this fundamental threat to Microsoft's hegemony?
Following the hysterically evil antics of your company in the ISO vote, do you think you have any credibility left at all?
"Attack the messenger not the message"
You Idiots are not saying anything about $Microsoft not complying with the ODF world standard.
Your just attacking Rob Weir for telling the Truth, and that is not what $Microsoft wants.
The ODF is bigger than $Microsoft and they will not be able to kill it.
You point out the situation precisely:
"In terms of the substantive issue, I can't help but think that Microsoft are being held to a different standard than that which was claimed of them during the IS29500 standardization process. Had they claimed during that process that other vendors looking to implement Open XML in their products needed to provide *practical interoperability* then it would have caused an uproar. I fully expect Microsoft to implement OpenFormula once it's been approved. But, solutions that require reverse engineering of proprietary implementations to achieve 'practical interoperability' are not the answer. Indeed it was the pain of having to try and do that with the legacy Microsoft Office binary formats that lead to Microsoft Office implementing ECMA 376 in the first place."
I have been arguing the same point over on Doug Mahugh's blog, albeit in a more emotive way, which is the only way the anti-OOXML crowd seem to be capable of operating.
As I mentioned over on Doug's blog:
"Perhaps if the people that feel they are qualified to be judge and jury about how Microsoft should implement standards in software could produce a guidance document with advice on when and where they should not be rigid, then that would probably help."
"Perhaps a formal request and a pass for using "conventions" instead of standards from the ODF / OOO good and the great might have enabled them to do so without fear being accused of any wrongdoing."
It really is starting to sound that the definition of interoperability is a fluid concept, changed to suit any anti-Microsoft arguments du jour.
Bearing grudges about reputations is all well and good, but there are plenty of other companies out there with a unpleasant track record, I hope you apply the same principles to them too.
@Andre, @Fiery... YES, I completely agree. Thank you! This is exactly what I am saying. (with apologies for the American reference) Would you see Barak Obama going home at night to post his personal opinions on the way US Auto companies are managed? While he may certainly do so in an official capacity, I doubt that he'd be reflecting his offline thoughts in a blog.
While significanly different in scale and importance, Rob's position is the same. It is my (personal) opinion that he should act similarly as the designated co-chair of the committee.
And let's be clear about the history. It was MICROSOFT who first published detailed notes about the implementation of formulas & ODF in SP2, welll in advance of the SP2 release. Those notes are here if you have not seen them: http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org/.
All Rob did was act as a publicity engine... and you are exactly right. This has nothing to do with ODF TC work.
And frankly, had the "malice or incompetence" comment (or similarly negative and uwarranted criticism) not been written, my post would have never existed. Had he played it down the line (especially given that we're in an area where the ODF Spec has no answer), the conversation would be much more constructive.
I don't think I'm being unreasonable in asking Rob to choose between being the leader of the Anti-Microsoft sentiment and the chair of the ODF TC. It seems counter productive for him to continue to be both.
-- and before you deem him a "shill" make sure you read everything he's written on Office in the past. (http://ccsblog.burtongroup.com/collaboration_and_content/2009/04/if-youre-thinking-of-replacing-microsoft-office-you-arent-alone.html)
I can state for the record a few things:
1. This blog is my opinion, not the opinion of Microsoft.
2. Thus, I can state for the record that there is not coup or conspiracy to "Fracture ODF" or to take over the TC.
3. Am I to assume your point of view is that the intent of ODF is to damage Microsoft's business? -- I'm not sure the majority of the ODF community would agree with you. I do not agree with you. As I understand it, the purpose of ODF is to improve interoperability through the use of an open standard.
A super-majority of countries voted to approve Open XML. I think there is an axiom out there somewhere about what to do when it seems like everybody else is the problem :).
"I'll just say that
a) before questioning Rob's credibility and getting on a high-horse about inappropriate behaviour, I encourage you to evaluate your own (and that of your fellow Microsofties - because, let's face it - to the outside world you're all just representatives of the same monolith), and
b) I'd much sooner trust Rob's analysis than that of anyone representing Microsoft.
Microsoft simply has no track record of trustworthiness."
Microsoft has no ethics.
Their software is just bad and why should I bother buying when I can install ubuntu linux and do everything I need to do and be ODF compliant.
Just an fyi my forces windows on me because of microsoft's so call "ethics". we had option to chose vista or xp and I stuck with xp.
I won't touch vista with my enemies ten foot pole.
"3. Am I to assume your point of view is that the intent of ODF is to damage Microsoft's business? -- I'm not sure the majority of the ODF community would agree with you. I do not agree with you. As I understand it, the purpose of ODF is to improve interoperability through the use of an open standard."
I invite you to read groklaw.net and see what happened with the voting of ooxml. There were documented high amount of irregularities that went that did not go on when ODF passed with much greater approval.
Let's see how many products out there use ooxml? I believe there are far more greater products that use odf than ooxml.
Thank you Dave James for the support:
"let's face it - to the outside world you're all just representatives of the same monolith),"
Let's face it. Rob Weir is an engineer from IBM with a long track record of bashing Microsoft. And while Rob is certainly entitled to his opinion, I find it hard to separate those opinions from his role of being the ODF TC co-chair.
Please explain how it is different for him than it is for me? I might be mistaking your point of view.
Thanks for the pointer James, but I'd rather just read it on the ISO site. Besides, the Groklaw camp are doing a good job at finding their way here (thanks for the traffic PJ).
You can view a list of Open XML applications here: http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/applications.aspx. Note that this (long) list has not been updated for some time.
If you want to learn more about the nature of Open XML Development, visit here: http://www.openxmldeveloper.org. You'll find a large and healthy community ready to assist you with any questions you may have.
@"Jim" -- I'm addressing Rob for telling a half-truth, and bing unnecessarily critical of Microsoft for following the standard.
And we would never try to take over or "kill" ODF, in that sense, you are quite right. All we want is a good implementation. We go to a length to invite people to tell us what that looks like. (http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org)
It is unfortunate that Rob declined participation in that forum, waiting instead to benefit himself by writing a blog post, rather than offering feedback which might have helped the situation BEFORE the product shipped.
"@"Jim" -- I'm addressing Rob for telling a half-truth, and bing unnecessarily critical of Microsoft for following the standard.
It is unfortunate that Rob declined participation in that forum, waiting instead to benefit himself by writing a blog post, rather than offering feedback which might have helped the situation BEFORE the product shipped."
That's it - that is all the applications? Why should Rob or anybody help a company of microsoft's size debug their software?
I help the open source community because they need and they appreciate my help and I can see the fruits of labor in the products I use everyday. If we don't use your products why should we help make them better? It is your company that gets people fired or resign their jobs. Now you are trying to get Rob to resign when all he does is state facts. Peter Quinn is another example.
"Thanks for the pointer James, but I'd rather just read it on the ISO site. Besides, the Groklaw camp are doing a good job at finding their way here (thanks for the traffic PJ)."
well I didn't get here through groklaw but I read sites from both sides of the argument and keep a neutral balance. You really need to read from both sides of the argument.
Every time microsoft comes up short when I look at subjects from a objective point of view.
Microsoft does what haagan daas tried to do to ben and jerrys. they punish distributors for trying to sell another software product with their hardware.
This is illegal and to this day microsoft still does this illegal business practice and is why the european union and doj are watching and will continue watching. Your odf in sp2 was nothing but a ploy to get the european union off your backs. But I am confident they can't be bought and will be objective about microsoft and if they are I am confident they will see through your actions.
Here is something that would solve the whole problem:
"The only way to deal with this is to file an anti-trust action to force royalty free full access to MS Office hooks, APIs, protocols, and formats, in order to allow third parties to write compatible import/export filters (similar to the EU deal on SMB protocol), and to force Microsoft to release these a year ahead of release of any new Office version, in order to allow these to be released on time. It is also necessary to allow users remove the Microsoft plugins and for OEMs to remove and ship MS Office with third party plug-ins instead, and for users to be able to set ODF as the default save filter format."
When you even meet half of these I might start listening but debug your problems are way off into the future unless you start changing your behavior.