Russian Cows and Adolescent Boys

Patrick Durusau has picked up on a thread that I regard as somewhat important (and underplayed) in the Open XML and ODF discussion. Supporting ODF does (should) not require opposing Open XML. There is a growing middle ground of consensus building around supporting multiple standards, despite any end games and trickery employed by a small (and shrinking) minority.

Patrick's letter got my memory jogging about some of the old psychology courses I've been through. It's fairly well documented in psychology circles that young (adolescent) boys tend to define themselves in opposition to other things, (more or less) for fear of being ostracized, bullied and harassed by their immediate peer groups. You can insert a lot of references here (Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, etc.)… The behavior is easy to recognize, but hard to appreciate.

Let's take a look at one of the primary offenders. It appears that the ODF Alliance believes that defeating Open XML is critical to achieving its mission… "to promote and advance the use of ODF."

I've posted before about the quality and accuracy of ODF Alliance material, others have as well. Given that this is such a core focus of the ODF Alliance, you'd think they'd try a little harder. But what is more interesting is the lack of material touting the benefits & merits of ODF. Even the "ODF Annual Report" is largely about Microsoft and Open XML. At best, 2 of the 9 "New and Noteworthy" links offered by the organization dedicated to promoting ODF are about ODF. 7 of 9 are hit pieces against Open XML. Much like Rob Weir, it would seem the ODF Alliance has little / nothing to discuss with ODF, and is totally preoccupied with Open XML. Should we interpret this to mean that they've given up on ODF…?

So what happens when someone doesn't meet the ODF Alliance definition of being the right kind of boy? Andy Updegrove steps in:

"Unfortunately, the negative statements that the Foundation's leaders made over the past six months, their general secretiveness and the abrupt way that they closed up shop with little or no explanation is likely to be what people will remember, rather than anything positive that they might have done during earlier days," he said.

Rob Weir steps in:

"However, in recent months the OpenDocument Foundation has found itself more and more isolated, outside of the mainstream debate. How far they have fallen can be seen in the fact that Microsoft has gone from ridiculing their conspiracy theories to using them to support their arguments. At the same time the Foundation's membership has dwindled to the point where only a small number remain."

Interesting to note that for all the Anti-Open XML rhetoric that came from Rob, and all the lobbying in Canada, Korea, and so many other countries, he couldn't convince the membership of his own country's committee.

Ultimately, (ironically similar to what Updegrove believes), the ODF Alliance will not be remembered for anything it has done to advance ODF. Regardless of the outcome of the ISO vote, the ODF Alliance will always be seen as the negative, defeatist camp with a loose grip on the facts. Rob Weir is the chair of the ODF Technical Committee in OASIS, who has now taken it upon himself to attack ISO and JTC1. This doesn't seem like a great way to warm people to future versions of ODF, but we'll see how that works for him.

Seems that the cost of being a boy in the ODF world is very high. I continue to observe the disconnect between Durusau and Weir, waiting to see where it goes…

Comments (6)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I can keep this post nice and short. Patrick Durusau has responded to some pretty harsh accusations from

  2. Anonymous says:

    Winding down the year causes a variety of reactions from people. Some (like me) have a mild panic when

  3. GrayKnowlton says:

    Hi Jesper,

    My apologies for the typo, I have corrected it. (One of my parents is from "Stockholm" so I was on auto-pilot there.)

    I do hope that ODF 1.2 will have improvements, although I’ve tried to avoid tearing the format down on my blog. There are things it does not support which are important for interoperability, and I do hope the ODF TC takes those things serously. ECMA have demonstrated a pretty clear commitment to meeting the very high bar set by the standards community, I do hope ODF TC is prepared for the same level of scrutiny, for their sake.]

    But for now, it would seem that the ODF TC is totally preoccupied with Open XML.

  4. GrayKnowlton says:

    Thanks Dennis, I should have made that more clear in my post. My remarks about what happens to people who fall ‘off message’ from the ODF Alliance and others are about what happened to Gary Edwards with the OpenDocument Foundation. I do hope that ODF advocates can deliver on solution profiles and templates that will help illustrate how / why ODF will be succesful.

  5. Jesper Lund Stocholm says:


    It is really sad to see all the energy thrown into the fight – not for ODF – but against OOXML. It also seems to me that they are loosing focus.

    Also – the word on the streets in Geneva was, that work in the ODF TC has more or less come to a full stop in the past 6 months – and there is real fear that they will have nothing to show for ODF 1.2 in maintenance in ISO this Summer than basic typo-fixing. There is even fear that they will not be able to finish their work on OpenFormula in time. I think that would be disastrous to ODF if this was to happen. At least I was looking forward to a much better spec with v1.2 .

    PS: there is no "k" in my surname (your blog-roll)


  6. orcmid says:

    I think you may be confusing the ODF Alliance with the OpenDocument Foundation in a few places, although I find your theme to be interesting regardless.  

    I too would like to see more pro-active *technical* ODF activity rather than the man-the-lifeboats, all-hands-on-deck general quarters behavior that we see instead.

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