Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Yankees in the Court of King Arthur, with a Microsoft Agenda

ANSI/INCiTS has completed their review of Ecma 376, and is ready to cast their ISO/IEC Contradiction Review Phase Fast Track Ballot in favor of Ecma 376 being rammed through ISO. As Sam Hiser points out in his PlexNex blog, not only are the findings of contradictions, inconsistencies, and proprietary dependencies pouring into the public view, there's not much an American can do about it. ANSI/INCiTS has determined that no contradictions exist."

Hi Sam,

As a fellow American, prepare yourself for humiliation and shame. ANSI/INCiTS has decided that they will not object to MS Ecma 376 on the ISO/IEC Fast Track Ballot. This in spite of the massive compilation of contradictions and inconsistencies compiled by GrokDoc, whose members raced through the weekend just to have the document ready for the ANSI/INCiTS meetings.

Rather than confront the clear evidence of contradictions and inconsistencies, the brave hearts at ANSI/INCiTS choose to narrow the definition of what a contradiction is. And narrow it they did.

They decided that one standard contradicts another standard only if the proposed standard causes the existing standard not to work.

Sounds good doesn't it? Au contraire mon ami. This is the kind of self serving maneuvering only a bureaucrat could love.

Using the analogy of the Chinese WAPI WiFi networking standard that was defeated last year because the protocol caused radio interference with existing 801.11 networks, our standards champions came up with their mechanical interference measure of “contradiction”.

Because both files can physically exist on the same disk without interfering with each other, our champions determined that OOXML did not contradict ODF.

Maybe they thought this would go unnoticed, but as one disheartened friend of open standards pointed out, “this argument can be used for every XML format, every programming language, every operating system, in fact every software standard, since software is ultimately data, and data can be segregated on disks. So they essentially chose a definition so narrow that it nullified the concept of "contradiction" for most of what JTC1 has authority over”.

So narrow a definition of “contradiction” that you can drive a fleet of monopolist trucks through the hole they've carved out of the ISO/IEC standards process.

So here we are. The champions appointed by our National Institute of Standards and Technology to represent our interest in the International Standards process have carved out a dangerous and possibly enduring loophole in the ISO/IEC fast track process. A loophole designed to serve the interest of a single proprietary monopolist seeking to control mankind's digital future.

Sam, where do we hide?

To our friends abroad fighting desperately to preserve the integrity of international open standards, with our digital freedom and the future of open Internet on the line, we ask that they dig in their heels and fight this to the end. Those Yankees you see striding into the Court of King Arthur are not from Connecticut, and the Camelot of ISO had better beware. Stalking standards to the tune of that ugliest of all Americans, the corporation from Redmond, ANSI/INCiTS has sold our souls that the world might be fodder for Vista.

Dig in your heels friends,



orcmid said...

So, if there are no obvious contradictions (as defined by ISO and its participants), there will then be a five-month technical review and mail ballot. That seems like ample time to address technical quarrels about OOX.

I have a different question. I have been on ANSI technical subcommittees along with people from NBS (now NIST), but I am not aware of any formal connection between ANSI and NIST. Looking at the ANSI history, I can find none: http://www.ansi.org/about_ansi/introduction/history.aspx?menuid=1

Where did you get the idea that ANSI folk are "the champions appointed by our National Institute of Standards and Technology to represent our interest in the International Standards process?"

Unknown said...

Hi orchmid,

Thanks for responding. You're comments are much appreciated, but i think we both might have to do more research. From everything i can find, NIST is exactly the federal group responsible for recognizing ANSI as the official USA representative organization to ISO/IEC.

Here's the concise quote from the ANSI FAQ Page: “... the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has officially recognized ANSI’s role as U.S. representative to the ISO, IEC and many regional standards organizations.”

Like every good American citizen, when INCiTS slammed the door on the many independent comments submitted, i called my congresswoman. A helpful aid advised me that i should file a complaint through the ANSI Consumer Interest Forum, and follow that with a letter to NIST. These instructions are exactly consistent with the information ANSI provides on their FAQ page regarding consumer interests in ANSI activities.

Let's put this in context.

Before the GrokDoc group could begin their exhaustive and ongoing compilation of Ecma 376 contradictions and inconsistencies, they first had to figure out the ISO/IEC definition of a “contradiction”. It turns out that there is a long and well documented ISO/IEC history of actual findings of “contradictions”, and this history provides the many many variations and examples of the sought after “definition”.

INCiTS is designated through ANSI to represent my interests and that of all American citizens regarding the ISO/IEC consideration of MS Ecma 376. Microsoft, the sponsoring vendor for Ecma 376, is also a member of INCiTS. Surprise surprise, Microsoft provided their INCiTS colleagues with the narrow “contradiction” definition and “interference” reference.

INCiTS will approve the MS Ecma 376 specification for ISO/IEC fast tracking based entirely on this narrow and laughably self serving interference based definition of a “contradiction”.

This smacks of corruption of the worst kind. Even if this laughably ridiculous interference based stretch of the meaning of an ISO/IEC contradiction is accepted, what about the rest of the outrageous contradictions found in MS Ecma 376?

The fact that there is no interference between an ODf file and an MS Ecma 376 file sitting on the same disk is only one measure of the possible range of contractions INCiTS must consider as part of their required due diligence.

And these clowns claim to represent my interests at ISO/IEC!

You're damn straight i want to find out who authorized and who funds these scurrilous bureaucrats who think they are beyond accountability to anyone but their self serving cronies. As it turns out, ANSI was founded with contributions and the participatory authority of the US Departments of Defense and Commerce. NIST is a division of the Department of Commerce. Follow the money. Follow the authorization. Call your congresswoman.

What follows is a snip from the rather lengthy ANSI FAQ page.

Consumer Affairs
Q: What role do consumers play in ANSI activities?

A: A key component of ANSI’s mission is to coordinate the development of safe systems, processes and products through standards development and conformity assessment programs. Often the consumer is on the receiving end of this and therefore plays a large role in ANSI’s process.

Q: What is the Consumer Interest Forum?

A: ANSI’s Consumer Interest Forum (CIF) reviews consumer needs and plans and carries out programs to satisfy them. Its responsibilities include representing, promoting and protecting consumer interests in national standards activities. Its activities involve consumers in standards development activities by providing U.S. representation to the international community of consumer specialists for issues of consumer policy. In addition, it creates a forum for discussions of consumer issues in standards development.

Government Affairs
Q: Is ANSI a government agency?

A: No. ANSI is not a government agency and therefore it has no regulatory authority to address complaints about consumer products or services—including products or services that purport to comply with an American National Standard.*

However, ANSI does serve as a conduit for information exchange between the public and private sector. ANSI assists in the cross-communication of public-sector views to U.S. organizations and companies and private-sector views to government officials. Staff in ANSI’s Washington D.C. headquarters takes the lead in maintaining key government relationships and monitoring public policy issues in the area of standards and conformity assessment.

*If you have a complaint about a consumer product or service, you are advised to contact the appropriate federal or state regulatory body for assistance. A list of federal agencies is given on the Consumer Resources page.

Q: What role does the government play in ANSI’s activities?

A: Since the time agencies of the federal government joined the five societies as founders, the ANSI federation has enjoyed a cooperative relationship with various segments of the federal government. This is very beneficial for U.S. citizens as voluntary standards help the government fulfill its mandate to ensure public safety and health and provide sound technical solutions to today’s critical issues without creating additional cost and operations burdens.

Representatives of numerous U.S. government agencies actively participate in the activities of ANSI and its accredited bodies.Approval of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (P.L. 104-113) in the mid-1990’s also helped to encourage federal agencies to rely upon and participate in the voluntary standards and conformity assessment systems. In addition, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has officially recognized ANSI’s role as U.S. representative to the ISO, IEC and many regional standards organizations.

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