March 2 2008
Over dinner, I said to my wife, I really feel like there is a lot of intrigue in my life right now. Reading about the ISO ballot resolution meeting for Microsoft ecma's OOXML proposal, though, takes intrigue to a whole different level:
The process was complete, utter, unadulterated bull____. I'm not an ISO expert, but whatever their "Fast Track" process was designed for, it sure wasn't this. You just can't revise six thousand pages of deeply complex specification-ware in the time that was provided for the process. That's true whether you're talking about the months between the vote and when the Responses were available, the weeks between the Responses' arrival and the BRM, or the hours in the BRM room.It is impossible, from a distance (maybe I should have stopped in Geneva last week?), to figure out what really happened there. The Microsoft spin patrol has done overtime, with Brian Jones describing a meeting that might as well have ended with everyone holding hands and singing hymns together, Jason Matusow claiming an "unqualified success", and Stephen McGibbon busy commenting on every blog in the world as to why observers are wrong. The opposed-to-OOXML crowd seems to have a lot more depth to their comments, though there are some misleading ones out there, too. I just spent 30 minutes lost in these various blogs -- Consortium Info, Rob Weir, Bray's follow-up, Computerworld, OpenMalaysia, and many, many more.
As the time grew short there was some real heartbreak as we ran out of time to take up proposals; some of them, in my opinion, things that would really have helped the quality of the draft.
This was horrible, egregious, process abuse and ISO should hang their heads in shame for allowing it to happen. Their reputation, in my eyes, is in tatters. My opinion of ECMA was already very negative; this hasn't improved it, and if ISO doesn't figure out away to detach this toxic leech, this kind of abuse is going to happen again and again.
All I can say is -- some days it feels like solving major medical challenges of the modern era would be easier than this.
Link: Tim Bray: BRM narrative >