SC 34 Meetings, Jeju Island, Korea - Day 1 
2008-09-28, 22:34

ODF – Our work here is done?

Day 0 had been concluded with a tasty Korean meal (washed down with possibly a tad too much Korean vodka) and it was very interesting to hear some of the views from NB members on how they thought the office formats future will play out (and no, there were no Microsoft, IBM or Ecma people at the table). One view was that ODF had served its purpose (to get MS formats out into the open) and should now declare victory before fading away gracefully; another was that OOXML would surely become the default format of the suite, and that this would crystallize the real option users had: to use FOSS or commercially-licensed Office packages. I’m not sure I’d go with either of these but still, it was refreshing to get some new perspectives rather than the stale repetitions that have too often characterised the exchanges of the past months. It will be interesting to see what really happens ... personally I think ODF is more likely to emerge as a kind of “default choice” than OOXML (not perhaps, that most users care).

Into the meetings proper

Sunday (Day 1) was a busy day of WG 1 meetings in the excellent facilities provided by our Korean hosts. In the morning we covered a number of DSDL topics, including Part 8 (DSRL) and the part I am editing – now called “Extensible Datatypes” – which has a new draft which will progress to FCD ballot. Rick Jelliffe, who sadly isn’t with us, had sent a voice message talking us through his fascinating proposed enhancements to Schematron – the Part of DSDL for which he is responsible. Very much business as usual for WG 1. However …

OOXML shock?

The afternoon was devoted to OOXML matters. Evidently, the sudden appearance of the final text of ISO/IEC 29500:2008 has come as something of a surprise for many; and the appearance of the first defect report (from Japan) shortly thereafter was a shock. Suddenly it’s all real; the clock is ticking and the Project Editor is obliged to respond to Japan’s report in eight weeks. Murata Makoto (the convenor of WG 1) carefully explained the details of the maintenance regime and took us through an example of one of the Japanese defects, which centred on a BRM-mandated change (from Finland) that had not been properly implemented in the final OOXML text. No doubt other NBs, as a priority, will now scour OOXML to make sure “their” changes have been implemented, and submit defect reports accordingly where they have not. The UK, with its 600 or so accepted changes, has a lot of checking to do …

I look on this though with a certain grim satisfaction, for two reasons. First because by insisting on timely defect handling SC 34 is compensating for a deficiency of the Fast Track process: the lack of National Body review of the final text. Secondly because one of the many problems of the JTC 1 standardisation of ODF in 2006 is the lax maintenance regime, which boils down to OASIS declaring: we’ll fix your reported ODF defects if we want to in our own good time, thank you very much. Partly as a reaction to this SC 34 was determined to hold OOXML’s feet to the fire and make sure the JTC 1 maintenance regime (one of the better processes described by the Directives) was fully applied and that this time, it was got right.

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