Re: OOXML [was Re: GNOME Foundation Board Meeting Minutes :: 7/6/07]

On Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 11:53:15PM +0100, Olav Vitters wrote:
> | 
> | ACTION: Behdad to contact Jody about the ECMA membership application and
> | find a good candidate from Abiword to attend. Behdad to work on getting
> | a press release for our membership.
> >From above, I don't see how the community was informed that we would
> support someone to discuss OOXML. I noted that we joined ECMA (I viewed
> it as freedesktop 'make standards' work).. but I am now really sorry I
> missed the rest of the thread.
> My initial reaction to the article ranged from "I never heard that we
> have a representative there -- it is not true" to "wtf wasn't this
> mentioned somewhere".

That is quite unfortunate.  I'm sorry for the miscommunication.  It
was not my intent to obfuscate the issue.  Being part of the process
immerses one in a cornucopia of acronyms.  After a while they become
part of the scenery.

ECMA = European Computer Manufacturers Association
    An umbrella organisation for creating standards.

TC45 = Technical Committee number 45 of ECMA
    Responsible for the specification of Microsoft's XML based file
    format which they've name 'Office Open XML' or OOX/OOXML.
    That name irritates the piss out of me, and I prefer the more
    accurate 'Microsoft Office Open XML' or MOOX.
    On the other hand it makes for lots of tongue twisting fun as MS
    reps end up saying Open Office XML frequently.  After 1.5 years
    of work on the _documentation_ (not the content) of the new MS
    format the committee sent a draft to the ECMA general assembly.

ECMA-376 = the id given to the draft of TC45's work that was
    approved by the ECMA general assembly and sent onwards to ISO
    for consideration on 'Fast Track' acceptance which would have
    potentially made it an official standard with less review than
    most standards.

ISO = International Standards Organisation
    The mother of all standards umbrellas.  Made up of various
    'National Bodies' (NBs) and of few organisations.

ISO/IEC DIS 29500 : The name given to ECMA-376

OASIS = Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information
    Yet another umbrella organisation.
    This one is responsible to mentoring ODF (I assume you know that
    one :-)


    In Mar of 2005 Novell allowed me to join this TC to help
    evaluate MOOX, and if possible to request enough information to
    allow it to be implemented if desired.  Novell was already a
    corporate member of ECMA which also hosts the C# and javascript
    (aka ecmascript) specs.   At the same time I was also a member
    of the ODF committee, and the ODF Formula subcommittee.
    I ended up acting as an informal liaison between the
    organisations but neither was especially interested in
    harmonisation, or sharing.

    The initial TC45 meetings were somewhat tentative.  MS was
    worried that we had join to sabotage or delay the
    standardisation effort.  We were worried that MS would not
    answer our questions and produce a useless spec.  As a test I
    wrote an initial importer for Gnumeric on the flight to the
    first meeting I attended (about 8 hours incl time in the hotel),
    and demoed it (content, formulas, formatting).  Wrote
    ultra-basic exporter on the flight home (not formatting).
    Following this the mistrust on both sides embed somewhat and MS
    was willing to improve the documentation in almost all of the
    areas we asked about.  I added more bells to the Gnumeric
    importer as a hobby, and used that to send more information
    requests back to the TC for submission to MS.  In the end on the
    order of 200 or so issues were filed.

	+ Lots of additional detail.  Some of which applied to the
	  legacy binary formats too (eg how to measure column widths).

	- Very little structural change to facilitate interop.  Eg
	  using booleans vs enums, or string ids vs integer

    When the TC sent the spec on to the ECMA general assembly back
    in Sept 2006, work froze for several months leaving a few
    unanswered issues.  In that time Novell began MOOX filters for
    OO.o and began to generate new questions.  I continued my work
    in Gnumeric itermitently and produced a few more issues.  We had
    been assured when things froze the there would be time to
    re-open the issue list later.  After some heated debate the new
    issues were accepted just before I stopped work with Novell.
    At my request GNOME joined ECMA last June as a non-profit
    member.  There are no monetary costs for non-profit members, but
    they do not have a formal vote in committee.  I was able to
    follow up on some of the  remaining issues before the ISO fast
    track vote ended internal discussion, and the work flow focused
    entirely on resolving national issues.  I have not taken part in
    that process.

    Current Gnumeric development of both MOOX and ODF filters is
    producing yet more issues for clarification.

    Then a fire-hose of indignation appeared and my work on Gnumeric
    ceased for a few days, just before the 1.8.0 release.

Which brings us up to date.  Hopefully that clarifies the timing and
specifics thus far.

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