Monday, February 06, 2006

Hand me that chisel, and find your own cave wall to carve on!

Uber ODF'r Andy Updegrove has an interesting post today, "The Other Side of the ODF Coin: an interview with Mass. Supervisor of Records Alan Cote". What an embarrassment this interview is to Alan Cote and the State of Massachusetts. No wonder Microsoft is so confident! There was one quote in particular that has me wondering if this Mr. Cote understands what he's saying: "He believes that after the policy goes into effect, he will still need to save every document in several formats on several types of media, and a few years later, do exactly the same thing again. Why would he think that? Does Mr. Cote understand that he needs a digital file format strategy to compliment and reflect his paper distribution and storage process? I wonder. I don't get the sense from this interview that Mr. Cote is aware of how important it is that the State of Massachusetts have a digital strategy. Not does he seem aware of the ETRM emphasis on SOA, and how important that approach will be to leveraging value from disparate legacy systems - even to leveraging that value far into the future. Here's the thing; No digital file formats, no XML. No XML, no SOA. No SOA, no leveraging the vested value of legacy systems. It's not real complicated. As i read this interview, it's clear that Mr. Cote is protecting his bureaucratic turf. No surprise there. What is surprising though is that he doesn't seem to have an alternative plan of his own. He is after all the "Supervisor of Records". Does he plan on simply converting all the Commonwealth's digital documents to paper, solving storage problems by tunneling under the Berkshires with miles and miles of caves? So while the rest of civilization is moving to digital formats that can be output and distributed as needed in any number of multiple media channels, Mr. Cote decides on a pulp media of limited distribution and storage life? So let me get this straight; Mr. Cote fully understands that if the state moves to ODF as the default digital format, he will need to be able to save every document in several formats on several types of media, in a process that will have to be repeated every few years. Sounds inefficient and cumbersome (hand me that chisel). The ODF value proposition is that it is portable, application independent, platform independent; a truly open standard supported by multiple vendors, interest groups, organizations and individuals; completely compliant with Open XML technologies; highly structured and eXtensible; human and machine readable; and most important of all, ODF is Open Internet ready. I would argue even further that ODF is the world's first universal file format, able to cover the needs of desktop productivity environments, SOA implementations, and, as a successor to HTML-XHTML, completely Open Internet ready. OBTW, ODf can do paper every bit as well as PDF. A single format with many uses, reuses, and repurposing characteristics. That's exactly the ODF proposition. ODF can be stored natively as a digital format, and printed out as needed by any application willing to work with the open standard. This includes past, current and future applications. Because ODF complies with standard Open XML technolgies and tools, information stored in ODF repositories can be searched, sorted, retrieved and repurposed at a fine grain level. How would this benefit Mr. Cote? ODf implements the XForms standard for creating and working with forms. The same ODF Form can exist as a pulp printout, or as an Open Internet ready form complete with bindings to data, streaming media, web services, and scripting intelligence for advanced workflow routing. My guess is that most of what Mr. Cote is responsible for storing is comprised of taxpayer filled out forms. As long as the "forms" are in their digital format, they can be infinitely exchanged, reused, repurposed, searched, sorted, aggregated, and reported on. Information can be tracked, traced, and normalized across the many service divisions responsible to the citizens and responsible to the efficient function of government. Once they go to paper though, it's off to the caves. The machine driven digital portability moving ODf at the speed of light succumbs to the limited slog of human carriers. So i'm waiting to see what Mr. Cote's plan for the future is. Does he have something in mind for Commonwealth records as comprehensive and carefully thought out as the ODf centric ETRM? Time to drop that chisel and come clean with the citizens of the Commonwealth. ~ge~