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

On Tue, Oct 30, 2007 at 12:15:44AM -0400, Luis Villa wrote:
> On 10/29/07, Behdad Esfahbod <behdad behdad org> wrote:
> > > So, uh... this apparently didn't happen, and now we're getting flamed
> > > (rightfully) for appearing to give a stamp of approval to a deeply
> > > flawed standard.

Flawed at the legal, organizational or technical level 

Legally I am on thin ice, the council I've contacted opined strictly
on Gnumeric's ability to ship filters.

Organizationally the ODF has a somewhat more open standardization
process.  In that the OO.o implementers are involved directly.
Whereas the ECMA TC could mostly review only the documentation, and
not make substantive changes to the format itself.  On the other
hand, OASIS has been less welcoming of non-profit membership than

Technically the case is far from clear cut.  OOX and ODF each have
significant flaws.  Each of them abound with questionable design
elements that limit 3rd party implementions, cause performance
problems, and documentation that at times seems to cover only the
simple cases, while ignoring the important elements.  The FUD
flowing through the community has played on our rational mistrust of
Microsoft's intentions, to distract from the details.

There are two truths that need to be accepted
1) ODF is an excellent start for OO.o's file format, but it is not
   perfect and will never be 'the one true office format' for all
   office applications without destroying it's utility by diluting
   it with so much random cruft that no implementation would be
   complete, and interoperability would suffer.

2) OOX is a file format that is in use, and we will have to interact
   with it.  The opportunity to improve the spec and have MS answer
   questions and clarify necessary details should not be wasted.
   It's not as good as having the source code to OO.o there to read
   yourself (which is why free software will eventually dominate)
   but it is a step forward.

How we proceed from there is open for debate.  My contention is that
the FLOSS community should do what it does best, write good software.
We should support the use of free software and advocate for Gnumeric
or AbiWord or OO.o on their plentiful merits.  Interested community
members should also join both ODF and OOX committees to help improve
the specifications.  The number of people actually involved in the
standards is pitifully small considering the size of the problem
space, and the centrality of 'office-ish' applications.

> > Right.  I should be blamed for not getting the press release out.  Not
> > that the flame is correct (it's not) or even would have been prevented
> > by a press release.  It's not like anybody cared to contact Jody or the
> > board or foundation before flaming...
> I was called on the phone, twice now. I'm surprised no one tried
> (apparently) to contact Jody or the board.

Jeff and the board brought this to my attention Sunday as I was
bundling the kids off the sleep.  No effort was made by the letter's
author, or anyone else to contact me.

> This flaming was completely and utterly predictable. I'm disappointed
> that the board took the time to approve an action that obviously
> exposed GNOME to PR problems without taking the (very obvious) PR
> steps to reduce that impact.

You are correct, and I take responsibility for opening the
issue, and not writing a press release to protect the foundation
from the obvious attack.   The effort is hampered by my disagreeing
with the opinion you, and much of the community appear to hold.
I think OOX should be blessed as a standard,
    'the MS Office XML File Format'
and that we should do everything we can to improve the specification
of that and any other format we interact with.  If that level of
disagreement is unacceptable in the community then I can leave ECMA
and request that they discontinue the GNOME Foundation's membership.
In my opinion that would be a step backwards.

The morning commute is calling,

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