Where did you go, publicity, what have you become, transparency?

Recently the Ecma announced that they would be posting their first set of answers to the comments made by the national standardization committees on OOXML. The Ecma claims this first set covers about 19% of the comments. While I appreciate the reactivity of the Ecma in these matters, I can’t help but notice both the lack of transparency and the laconism of the early responses of the Ecma on OOXML.

As a member of the Afnor committee in charge of OOXML, I am expecting to receive a full copy of the answers from the Ecma, and I understand these are underway. But from what I can see on the Ecma web site, I see simply no public, open and for that matter transparent process of thinking and writing of the answers to the comments made on OOXML made by the national boards. Sorry, I may have missed a chapter here but I find it highly surprizing that there is not a single line of discussion, let alone email threads between two or more experts from the Ecma debating what answer to any given comment should be. If you find such evidence, please forward it to me.

What I see however, is a set of press releases (here and there) announcing the future publication of these answers and the outdated set of answers to the early comments made during the fast track period of OOXML. Those answers and the document are of course obsolete by now.

This lack of publicity reminds me of some fundamental characteristics of any open standard: their development should be public, open, and accessible to all. This is obviously not the case here. Or else what could justify the “veiling” of this work phase by the Ecma? I don’t see why the writing of the expected answers should be closed to public… My humble advice to the Ecma: it looks like you or some of your members are afraid of publicizing your thought process and the reflections on the improvement of OOXML. Because you are of course working towards improving OOXML, aren’t you?

Last but not least, I am under the impression that what I will receive from the Ecma as part of the Afnor committee is not the whole set of answers, but the set of answers to the particular comments sent by the Afnor. And there I have a problem with that. It may seem picky, but when you come to think of it, it’s not. After the 2nd of September the list of comments made by every national standardization body that had voted was widely available on the Internet. Experts and committees, journalists, concerned citizens were thus able to learn from that list and discover things they may not have realized, or at least, form an educated opinion out of it. Now, if the Ecma sends to each committee the answers to its own comments, there will be no more opportunity to get a broad overview of Ecma’s answers. I would like to have such a document because it helps gaining a better understanding of Ecma’s answers and of the issues they’re fixing (or are refusing to fix).

Some evil geniuses and professional critics have objected behind the scenes that this was a cunning move designed to divide and conquer, to put barriers on the standardization committees in order to make it difficult for them to gain a deeper understanding of the situation. My friends from the other side of the Cascade Range will have guessed that I’m being perhaps hypnotized by the HCCOTAMAEAC (High Command Center Of The Anti-Microsoft And Everything American Conspiracy). But regardless of how much turkey I haven’t been eating in this Thanksgiving Holiday, which went completely unnoticed in France, I find it seriously disturbing that the Ecma does not let anybody access and read the “answering process” on OOXML and takes great caution at splitting its answers to each national committees. Secrecy, in that matter, helps no one.

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