Tuesday 11 September 2007

Black sheep

Interesting what happens during one's vacation / work abroad. Miguel de Icaza, founder of GNOME and Mono, writes that "OOXML is a superb standard", even implying that it's better than OpenDocument. With all due respect to his work on GNOME (and Mono, though the conditions for such a project is another discussion), I perceive a sort of dark religious tone over this.

In support of OOXML as a second standard, he goes on to say that "it is always better to have two implementations and then standardize than trying to standardize a single implementation". I'll try to interpret this; it seems to me he's actually suggesting e.g. OpenDocument to be just a description of how Open Office works, and OOXML of Office (but no other products). I must say that this is not the best way to demonstrate an understanding of the standardization process.

On the other hand, I'd agree that Microsoft is in fact trying to design a format based on (only) their own product (they even made some extra effort to include Microsoft Office bugs in OOXML). However, something about Miguel implying that this backwards approach would be valid in the 21st century, doesn't quite feel right.

Basically, I think his first post in the thread can be summarized subjectively as follows:
  • People who think OOXML has fundamental problems are crazy, there is absolutely no merit to their criticism. I won't bother to tell you why, though, because they're crazy. Oh, and it's the best proposal there is, believe me!
  • I know there is OpenDocument, but one more standard can't hurt. Maybe everyone should have their own standard? (Hm, you say this removes the whole point of standards? No way, chill out!)
  • Patents [regarding Moonlight] is not a problem, just get all your software from Novell! (To be fair, though, this part of the response could also be seen as not meaning anything at all.)
Frankly, I'm getting somewhat bored due to the low quality of (most?) pro-OOXML arguments. Please, Miguel, try something better.

1 comment:

Stefan Gustavson said...

> I'm getting somewhat bored due to the low quality of (most?) pro-OOXML arguments.

I agree, we have seen very little of real constructive debate. All contradictions found were rejected by ECMA as not being contradictions at all, and that kind of response has continued. Many objections have been met with "You do not understand this issue, so it is inappropriate for you to raise that objection, and therefore we will not comment on it further. Next, please."

That is a very rude and strange approach, particularly when objections are in fact raised by experts in the relevant fields. If not even they understand what is so great about OOXML, people obviously need to be educated on the subject, or it will be assumed that there is in fact nothing good about it.

In politics, it is a last resort dirty method to insult the intelligence of your opponent and refuse to respond. "It is obvious that you are stupid, so I will not even try to answer your likewise stupid question." Constructive discussion to reach an agreement is at the very heart of standards work, so it's sad to see such tactics being used here.