Rethinking ODF leadership


I can’t help but observe the “discussion” underway with respect to spreadsheet interoperability that Rob Weir has started. Essentially Rob is complaining that Microsoft didn’t implement the formula namespace of OpenOffice.


For the chair of the committee to post vitriol like this about the implementation of his own format raises a number of very concerning problems.


I’d like everyone reading the post to know that Rob was invited to participate in the DII events leading up to the SP2 release, and offered the opportunity to test the beta software specifically for the purpose of providing feedback on the implementation. Normally the chair of group of the standard being implemented would jump at the chance. Rob didn’t, electing instead to wait for the shipping version and then claim that it is somehow deficient to other ODF implementations that he has deemed suitable for his purposes.


Does it make sense to have a chair for the ODF TC whose apparent mission is to create a caste system for ODF implementers? Do we really think Rob, who debates whether the tough (and publicly vetted) implementation decisions of his constituents are “malice” or “incompetence?” – is this the hallmark of a leader in the standards community striving for innovation using open technologies? Is this the characteristic that OASIS wants to promote in the development of technology standards? In Rob, do we really have a person capable of operating in a vendor-neutral forum? If departments within 18 various governments really do use ODF as their standard, should we be comfortable with an ODF TC chair that is trying very hard to discredit and divide its supporters?


Is it time for Rob to step down as chair? I think so.


I’m not saying Microsoft (or anyone) should be the chair instead, but I am saying that Rob is unfit as a leader given his inability to separate his personal venom from his role as a leader in driving the standard forward. It seems like a better approach to empower people on the ODF TC who have a long-term view of the need to enable interoperability, and to move those with more short-term vendor-oriented agendas to the side.


John Head is on point with this post. eWeek seems to be fine with SP2.


As far as I can see, the only thing that Rob is really demonstrating here is that the “grossly inadequate” formula support of ODF (those are the words of David Wheeler, leader of OpenFormula, read on for details) is causing problems with vendors implementing the standard. He instead resorts to scoring implementations based on a percentage of common ground, rather than conformance to something written on paper. This gives Rob the freedom he needs to define his own criteria for what ODF implementation is, and who is doing it according to his rules.


Rob seems to be positioning himself as the final arbiter on what is “good” ODF vs. “bad” ODF. OASIS? specification? – Unimportant when Rob Weir can arbitrarily define criteria for what he thinks is good. He’s in a position where only he will declare his own ODF preferences as the blessed implementation. It seems that neither the ODF TC nor the spec matter anymore. It seems that ODF is being run by an individual.


Current ODF standards do not support formulas no matter how much Rob wishes it to be so. Implementations of ODF spreadsheets are application-dependent. ODF 1.2 is not an approved standard. OpenFormula is not an approved standard. While it may be that both are on a path to standardization in the future, today they are not. This is a situation that has been known to the ODF TC for more than 4 years, yet no solution based on an approved standard (other than Open XML) has been found. These are all indisputable facts.


In his post, Rob proposes using “legacy OO namespaces” (also declaring OpenOffice as the “current convention”). Rob’s suggestion to use “legacy OO namespaces” is a reference to a vendor’s product and indicates favoritism to a particular implementation. The defender of “precise, repeatable, common” seems to be abandoning that hill, hoping instead to claim for his own the dialog that Microsoft has been conducting for a long time: Interoperability requires the participation of many, and will not be defined by a standard alone. Doug covers that pretty well I think.


The irony isn’t lost at all. This is the same guy who went to such a length to chastise Open XML for its undefined list styles and compatibility settings. For some reason his expectations of Open XML seem to be somewhat higher than they are for the committee he chairs. For some reason, it is ok for Rob to patch glaring holes in ODF as “current convention” and then complain vigorously about alleged dependence on Microsoft Office for implementing Open XML. This is shameful, hypocritical and warrants corrective action.


It wouldn’t be such a huge deal if the tone were constructive or aimed at improving the situation. It seems he is only interested in distancing himself from scenarios where ODF can be used successfully with Microsoft Office (as well as the DII discussions where that implementation was discussed in detail during its development. Funny that he didn’t show up there to share this feedback.)


Rob’s conclusion on the cause of that problem:


“I was taught to never assume malice where incompetence would be the simpler explanation. But the degree of incompetence needed to explain SP2’s poor ODF support boggles the mind and leads me to further uncharitable thoughts. So I must stop here”


Let’s just remember that it was the ODF TC which deemed formulas “out of scope,” and after 4 years, still have no solution for standardizing the definition of “Sum = 2+2.” Rob says “Everyone knows what =A1+A2 means.”  Really Rob?  What does it mean if A1 contains 1, and A2 contains “two”?   Would it surprise you to learn that Excel and OpenOffice produce different answers in that case?  Which one is correct? This question and a thousand more like it is why formula interoperability is hard work, and not at all the trivial matter Rob claims it is.


During the original discussion within the ODF TC, not everyone agreed with the omission of formulas from the spec… David Wheeler seemed to be pretty clear when commented on this on February 7th, 2005:


This previous comment scares me: “There are from our point of view also no interoperability issues, because the namespace prefix mechanism we have specified unambiguously specifies what syntax and semantics are used for a formula”. Here’s how I read that: “Every implementation must reverse engineer all other implementations’ namespaces (they’re not in the spec, so everyone’s free to invent their own private incompatible namespaces). Then, every implementation must implement all the syntax and semantics of all other implementations’ namespaces for formulas, if they wish to achive interoperability. And oh, by the way, your implementation might not implement the namespace for the document you’re trying to load, so you may lose all the formulas.”


I’m sure that’s not what was meant, but that’s how it reads to me. I hope that helps explain why I think that the current formula information in the OpenOffice specification is grossly inadequate.”


So… maybe it’s too easy, but “I was taught to never assume malice where incompetence would be the simpler explanation.” David Wheeler saw this coming over 4 years ago, and yet, OpenFormula is not a standard today, and ODF has no definition for spreadsheet formulas. Rob tries to excuse his way around this in his post, but these comments are made by the committee that he chairs. I’ll leave it to you, then, to decide between “malice” or “incompetence” of the poster who would elect to throw his own committee under the bus to get hits on his blog… or fail to take this very good advice.


By the way, it is worth noting the response to this stern (and very accurate) prediction.


“Hi David,

Thanks for the concerned comments and all the considerable effort you have put into solving this problem.  You’re challenging us all to go where none have dared tread before.  So go ahead and lead the way.  You have the TC’s attention.  We are listening.  As you grind out the grit of your proposal, please keep in mind that we have to fit proposed solutions into the politic of work that has already been done.  A politic that represents years of work that is just now on it’s way to ratification at OASIS, and beyond to ISO.  Keep in mind also that the ISO certification comes at the request of the European Union. Time is of the essence.  Ratification perhaps trumps perfection.  At least for the moment.”


This comment was from Gary Edwards, (he of “cracks in the foundation” / OpenDocument Foundation fame) who eventually left the TC and shuttered the OpenDocument Foundation. I seem to remember some dialog from Rob about Open XML being “rushed” through standardization. Funny how those things come back to haunt you.


I’m very discouraged by Rob’s post. As far as I can tell, rob is playing a shell game where only his definition will be good enough for supporting ODF, and that definition will change to whatever Microsoft isn’t doing.


This is far from constructive. This is not a way to foster interoperability and industry dialog. This is not a leader for people to follow.

Comments (100)

  1. Anonymous says:

    בימים האחרונים שוחררה חבילת השירות השניה של Office 2007. אחת התכונות הבולטות של חבילת השירות הזאת היא

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Chris, I do hope you find that all Microsoft bloggers are accessible, this forum provides individuals at Microsoft with an opportunity to communicate at a much more grounded level.

    Rob declined two events, only one of which was preceded by the ODF interop event. As for the specific reasons why Microsoft did not attend, you’ll have to post that question to Doug, he (or folks in his team) would typically be the ones to attend. (http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Rob, by “the real issue” are you referring to the lack of formula support in ODF? Maybe I’m not understanding. In the end, it isn’t in the spec, and the implementation in SP2 is what it is. Had you tested the beta and particiated in DII, who knows what would have been different. But at least that conversation would have taken place in a forum designed to solicit the very feedback you so freely and negatively provided after the release, when the only one who could benefit from that is you.

    I have been reading your blog (as you know) for about 3 years, and all I have seen from you is anti-Microsoft & Open XML posts, the occasional discussion on ODF, and various other unrelated topics such as stamps or photography. I’ve never seen anything else.

    And let’s just agree to disagree that the web address where your comments are posted is somehow a sufficient distinction between your status as a vendor and as a spokesperson for the ODF TC.

    I’ll grant you that personal opinion is a personal opinion (after all, my blog is the same.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    @"Smion"

    I will criticize Rob’s unprofessional manner for pointing it out, thank you. As for the part about asking for input, we did (www.documentinteropinitiave.org) Rob was invited more than once, but elected not to attend. You are welcome to attend as well.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @Jan, "Instead of bitching around, let’s all move to productive mode and work on the technical problems by solving them to create true interoperability based on open standards."

    We’re in total agreement here. Let’s make sure that for Open XML implementers and ODF implementers, we all have the same expectations for how that works. And please attend the DII to share your feedback with us in the future.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @Ian

    "What I fail to understand is how this interoperability forum ended up with no spreadsheet formulae from Microsoft Office being readable by any other application?"

    Perhaps because you were not there? — (really, I’m not trying to wind you up here.) Please do attend DII to share your feedback and discuss the implementation. You will find people ready and willing to engage on the topics. This is what the forum is intended to surface.

    http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org

  7. Anonymous says:

    @Matthew Flaschen

    If it isn’t Rob’s duty to baby-sit, then perhaps it is also not his duty (as a person responsible for conducting a vendor-neutral forum for ODF) to evaluate it either.

    You are correct that I do not sit in the ODF TC or any other stanadrds body. As you are likely aware, there are thousands of people who are affected by document format standards who do not sit in the ODF TC or any other standards body. Am I to take your comment to mean that nobody but ODF TC members should take an interest in the development of the standard? Woudl you close the process off so that nobody but ODF TC members are entitled to opinions?

    As a consumer of the ODF TC process, I think I’m entitled to my opinion, and I think I’m not out of line in asking for professional and neutral conduct from its leader.

    If you are interested in learning about Patrick Durusa’s definition of a "supporter" is, read here: http://www.durusau.net/publications/promotion.pdf.

    Let me know if you think Rob Weir fits the definition of an ODF Supporter: "PS: Every keystroke for a negative message about some other standard, corporation or process is a

    keystroke taken away from promotion of OpenDocument. If enough such keystrokes fall, so will

    OpenDocument. It’s your choice."

  8. Anonymous says:

    @Andrew Dar

    "What seems painfully obvious to me however is that a large number of competing implementations appear to have achieved interoperability *despite the absence* of such definition. One of these implementations is even an existing plugin for MS Office. So it is demonstrably achievable."

    — yes, based on the implementation of a single product (OpenOffice). If it is not appropriate for Open XML implementers to be forced to achieve interoperability with Microsoft Office (As was claimed by Rob in the past on many occasions), it is not appropriate to expect ODF implementers be required to implement OpenOffice features either.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Dave James for the support:

    "let’s face it – to the outside world you’re all just representatives of the same monolith),"

    Let’s face it. Rob Weir is an engineer from IBM with a long track record of bashing Microsoft. And while Rob is certainly entitled to his opinion, I find it hard to separate those opinions from his role of being the ODF TC co-chair.

    Please explain how it is different for him than it is for me? I might be mistaking your point of view.

  10. Anonymous says:

    @Jan, I’d say this is the reality we live in. There are implementations of ODF 1.2 (which is not a standard), IS26300, ODF 1.1. Standards evolve. Developers work to keep in touch with those evolutions.

  11. Anonymous says:

    @Mad Hatter… if you read the posts, you’ll see the problem. Because ODF does not define a syntax for spreadsheet formulas, implementers are left to choose how to represent them when writing the format. I suggest you also read http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh for a little more detail.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @Dirk

    "You argue that this means I would favor one vendor (OpenOffice), whilst I would say that I’m looking there because in the ODF world, that is the most widely used program, and therefore I want to be sure I can at least make my software interoperate with that one. I think that makes perfect sense.

    "

    OpenOffice is not the most widely used program for Spreadsheets, and the "common convention" for ODF implementers is not based on the program that is most widely used.

    Are you recommending that ODF implementers switch to using the Open XML implementation for formulas? — (you said it, not me.) I don’t think I would be THAT bold or foolish.

    Why does ODF require implementers to mimic the behavior of a single application?

  13. Anonymous says:

    @"Jim" — I’m addressing Rob for telling a half-truth, and bing unnecessarily critical of Microsoft for following the standard.

    And we would never try to take over or "kill" ODF, in that sense, you are quite right. All we want is a good implementation. We go to a length to invite people to tell us what that looks like. (http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org)

    It is unfortunate that Rob declined participation in that forum, waiting instead to benefit himself by writing a blog post, rather than offering feedback which might have helped the situation BEFORE the product shipped.

  14. Anonymous says:

    @Dave Pawson

    Thank you Dave, you’re not the only one noticing!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Jomar, I’m not the one swearing at people I don’t know over the internet… (shrug).

    See above. My issue isn’t with how the commttee is run. My issue is the use of the chair of the committee as a bully pulpit to limit ODF implementation credit to a short list of favorites.

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Allin

    I’m all for people speaking the truth. And believe me, we welcome the feedback on ODF. We WANT a good implementation.    We would not have shown up to the TC if we didn’t.

    (and this helps me get back to the point of my post.) If ODF is intended to be a vendor-neutral format, then its chief champion and chair should act in a vendor-neutral fashion, rather than assigning labels to people like "Gnats," "Trolls" and "Incompetent." Regardless of how you might feel about the SP2 implementation of ODF, you can only view this as well below any professional behavior standard.

    As for the "truth" — make sure you read this as well. : http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh/:

    From Doug’s Post:

    "So what do Symphony and Excel do about this challenge?  The answer is that Symphony preserves the (unrecognized)  formula markup, and Excel preserves the cached values.  (A quick aside for those who don’t know: spreadsheets typically store both the formula and the value resulting from the most recent recalculation.)"

    "So what does Rob’s test matrix show for these two scenarios?  Oddly, it labels Open Office to IBM Lotus Symphony interoperability for this scenario as “OK” and it labels Open Office to Microsoft Office SP2 interoperability as “Fail” (with a red background for added emphasis).  Now, I know Rob works for IBM and probably wants to portray Symphony in the best possible light, but is that a reasonable assessment of the interoperability we’ve just seen above?"

  17. Anonymous says:

    @Jose_X, for all the points that you raise, none of them really account for the fact that ODF has no definition for formulas. Dragging out the ‘reuses exisiting standards’ talking points, for example, has no meaning when you are comparing it to something ODF doesn’t support.

    Furhtermore, I’ll take your insistence that ODF comes with an open source reference implementation as a confirmation that ODF cannot be implemented from the specification alone, and I’ll note again the degree to which this was used as a reason to not standardize Open XML.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Rob, thanks for the comment. There was actually more than one DII event where you would have been able to attend and provide comment. And as I saw it (I was in the room for part of one of them), there was definitely more than one vendor in the room that day.

    In terms of the EULA on the SP2 Beta, I don’t have visibility into how that transpired. If that is the case, it seems a relatively minor hurdle to overcome… especially if you were motivated to provide feedback to make the implementation better.

    Regarding the escalation process, you might misunderstand my comment. I’m not in a position to offer feedback on how anyone is treated in the committee.

    My concern is that I see you as the co-chair of the TC AND the chief critic of its implementations. Sort of like the Olympic rules committee conducting a blog on which competitors they thought performed better in a particular event, and discussing thier interpretation of some vague aspects of the rules along the way… it’s not clear to me when you act as an engineer at IBM, the ODF TC co-chair, or just Rob.

    I think if you’re going to be this critical of Sun or Microsoft or anyone else, perhaps you might not be the right person to also lead the discussion that is intended to be vendor neutral and helping to create a standard.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the pointer James, but I’d rather just read it on the ISO site. Besides, the Groklaw camp are doing a good job at finding their way here (thanks for the traffic PJ).

    You can view a list of Open XML applications here: http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/applications.aspx. Note that this (long) list has not been updated for some time.

    If you want to learn more about the nature of Open XML Development, visit here: http://www.openxmldeveloper.org. You’ll find a large and healthy community ready to assist you with any questions you may have.

  20. Anonymous says:

    @Jan

    "Anyway, ultimately it is up to OASIS to announce their POV on the compliance of SP2’s ODF implementation. The practical tests I have seen are however not really promising."

    I think this is exactly what we’re talking about in my post. The co-Chair of the ODF TC did exactly that.

  21. Anonymous says:

    @Bob Ross.

    I have never met Peter Quinn, sorry. And I think that when it comes to ISO, Microsoft has not ever spoken negatively about ISO in the same fashion that folks like noooxml.org, boycottnovell.org, etc. We are definitely not the ones trashing ISO.

  22. Anonymous says:

    @Jan, I agree. It would be good to have neutral leadership as well.

  23. Anonymous says:

    @Andre, @Fiery… YES, I completely agree. Thank you! This is exactly what I am saying. (with apologies for the American reference) Would you see Barak Obama going home at night to post his personal opinions on the way US Auto companies are managed? While
    he may certainly do so in an official capacity, I doubt that he’d be reflecting his offline thoughts in a blog.

    While significanly different in scale and importance, Rob’s position is the same. It is my (personal) opinion that he should act similarly as the designated co-chair of the committee.

    And let’s be clear about the history. It was MICROSOFT who first published detailed notes about the implementation of formulas & ODF in SP2, welll in advance of the SP2 release. Those notes are here if you have not seen them:

    http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org/.

    All Rob did was act as a publicity engine… and you are exactly right. This has nothing to do with ODF TC work.

    And frankly, had the "malice or incompetence" comment (or similarly negative and uwarranted criticism) not been written, my post would have never existed. Had he played it down the line (especially given that we’re in an area where the ODF Spec has no answer),
    the conversation would be much more constructive.

    I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in asking Rob to choose between being the leader of the Anti-Microsoft sentiment and the chair of the ODF TC. It seems counter productive for him to continue to be both.

    Read this:

    http://ccsblog.burtongroup.com/collaboration_and_content/2009/05/odf-spreadsheet-bickering-what-it-means.html#more

    — and before you deem him a "shill" make sure you read everything he’s written on Office in the past. (http://ccsblog.burtongroup.com/collaboration_and_content/2009/04/if-youre-thinking-of-replacing-microsoft-office-you-arent-alone.html)

  24. Anonymous says:

    Interesting persective Dave. Regarding my "credibility" — allow me to point you at the NZOSS blog that was posted after the event:

    "Of course the technical debate was rigorous and sometimes very detailed, but it was also valuable as the Mircosoft expert from Redmond, Gray Knowlton, asserted. That was also the direct feedback I received from all members of the SNZ committee present. Indeed, they seemed pleased that the meeting hadn’t descended into name calling and zealotry that people like yourself and Rod Drury had been predicting." – http://nzoss.org.nz/node/181.

    I’d say everyone there was satisfied about how the conversation went. While I was disappointed we got a disapprove vote, I was glad to participate in the forum.

    The other situation you refer to has nothing to do with me, so I’m not sure why you bring it up.

    It’s great that you are seeking this level of depth on how these formats are implemented. I’m sure you’re reading Doug’s post as well, which has some interesting counter-points to Rob, I’m sure you’ll agree that having all the facts is important.

    Thanks for the comment.

  25. Anonymous says:

    @S P Arif Sahari Wibowo

    Interesting point about the use of Symphony 1.3. It it is beta software, and was not available to Doug. Rob has said in the past that he only likes to test shipping products, so that part was a little strange, to be sure.

  26. Anonymous says:

    @Jose_X

    “It surprises me that the Openoffice developers can figure out many details of Microsoft’s closed formats [this requires a lot of hard work and desire for interoperability], “

    And it surprises me even more that Rob’s & Doug’s tests are likely to have an “OK” mark in every table cell if binary formats were used instead of ODF.

    And please remember back to the Open XML standardization process, where Microsoft and Open XML were so sharply criticized with this accusation: “one [supposedly] cannot implement Open XML using the specification alone.”

    So many people on my post (and Rob himself) are claiming that this is fine for ODF, but a reason to vote no on Open XML. It’s too bad that this conversation seems to have a different set of rules based on the standard that is up for discussion.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Apologies to the folks who have been waiting for comments to pass through the moderation queue for a while. It’s Mother’s day weekend as you know, and I’m taking a bit of time for my family. I’ll get to the responses to these when I have a minute.

    Thank you for the comments and the discussion. Keep them coming.

  28. Anonymous says:

    @ChrisR – “Given the number of times MS has burned people they should be treated differently than other companies.”

    I see. So then we’re really not talking about interoperability and standards, are we? Folks who work with standards (particularly those who consume them as a software requirement / request) are disappointed to learn about those who call on ODF as an anti-Microsoft rally cry, instead of a document format Standard freely implementable by anyone.

  29. Anonymous says:

    @Rick

    Thank you Rick, I couldn’t agree with you or Patrick Dursau more.

    http://www.durusau.net/publications/promotion.pdf

  30. Anonymous says:

    @Rick, thank you for your comment. I appreciate the balance given the stream of Groklaw traffic to the post (currently about 80% of its hits).

    For me this is all about conduct. The technical debate is one worth having. The DII is a great forum for sharing that feedback directly with those who are responsible for writing the code in Office.

  31. Anonymous says:

    James, try this:
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e7a23d42-0835-440f-9400-badfe9672b21&DisplayLang=en

    this,
    http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org/ECMA-376/reference.aspx

    and this.
    http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org/OASISODF1.1/reference.aspx

    and this.

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd300649.aspx

    All available today.

    Just one last reply… I think when you say "debug" that really underscores the misunderstanding here. "bug" is the wrong way to characterize the issue. Because formula support is missing from the spec, it’s really about design. That’s what DII is intended
    to discuss… design. (seems like you are familiar enough with software development to see the distinction?)

  32. Anonymous says:

    @HWIN

    I can state for the record a few things:

    1. This blog is my opinion, not the opinion of Microsoft.

    2. Thus, I can state for the record that there is not coup or conspiracy to "Fracture ODF" or to take over the TC.

    3. Am I to assume your point of view is that the intent of ODF is to damage Microsoft’s business? — I’m not sure the majority of the ODF community would agree with you. I do not agree with you. As I understand it, the purpose of ODF is to improve interoperability through the use of an open standard.

    A super-majority of countries voted to approve Open XML. I think there is an axiom out there somewhere about what to do when it seems like everybody else is the problem :).

  33. Anonymous says:

    Med anledning av Computer Swedens artikel “ Uselt stöd för öppet filformat i nya Office ” tänkte vi tipsa

  34. Anonymous says:

    @Martin, that’s one way of looking at it. Or you could look at it in the way that we do. Microsoft is actively soliciting the participation of the community that is most vocal about their desire to see ODF implemented in Microsoft Office. — wise for any software product to do… face to face discussion on feature requirements is a very good way to solicit feedback.

  35. Ian Easson says:

    I thought your quote from Wheeler was so interesting, I checked out the complete post.  To me, what is even more fascinating is that it is in response to a post that says:

    “Comment from: ca@chbs.dk

    >

    > …OpenDocument doesn’t specify the formulars (sic) used in spreadsheets so every spreadsheet vendor

    > can implement formulars in their own way without being an open standard.

    > This way a vendor can create lock-in to their spreadsheets.”

    To me, that raises a question about Mr. Weir: Do his actions amount in practise (whether intentional or not) to an attempt to create lock-in to OpenOffice as opposed to other software that supports ODF? I leave this as a question to all who wish to comment.

  36. Rob Weir says:

    A few facts:

    1) Yes, I was invited to attend Microsoft’s DII event in Redmond.  This event was schedule to occur immediately before an interoperability event organized by the OASIS ODF Adoption TC in Beijing.  I was busy helping organizing that much larger and more inclusive event, which saw the participation of IBM, Sun, Google, Novel, RedFlag and other implementers of ODF.  Microsoft was invited to that and did not attend.  Given the choice between a single-vendor event and a community-lead event, I’ll jump at the opportunity to participate in a real, multi-implementation community event.

    2) Yes, I was offered a copy of the beta version of Office 2007 SP2.  But when I inquired what the license on it was, I was told by Microsoft, "We’ll need to get back to you on that".  They never did.

    If Microsoft feels that they are being treated unfairly on the TC, or disagrees with any of my actions or inactions as Chair, then there is a dispute escalation process that you can avail yourself of, up through the OASIS Board of Directors, of which Microsoft is a member.  But for now I’m going to continue to call it as I see it.  

    If you read carefully, my original post was quite critical of Sun’s move to ODF 1.2 draft as a default, and my previous post was critical of the CleverAge plugin’s namespace treatment.  Microsoft got the brunt of the criticism, because, compared to the other implementations, SP2 did the dumbest things.  Rather than complain, you should send me a check for the QA work I’m doing on your product.

  37. Jomar Silva says:

    Please check Rob Weir’s work (past and present) at the OASIS ODF TC before you start to put his leadership in question.

    As a TC member, it is hard to me to read that bullshit you’ve wrote: Grow up ! (and if you are concerned with ODF, ask me why did you guys didn’t implemented cryptography if it is fully documented on the specification…).

  38. Luc Bollen says:

    @Ian: “Do his actions amount in practise (whether intentional or not) to an attempt to create lock-in to OpenOffice as opposed to other software that supports ODF? I leave this as a question to all who wish to comment.”

    Sorry to be rude, but this is clearly a very stupid insinuation:

    1. There is no lock-in in OpenOffice possible, as the other software that supports ODF 1.1 (including the CleverAge add-in) uses the same formula syntax… (except Office 2007 SP2, of course)

    2. ODF 1.2, already supported by OpenOffice 3, uses the new OpenFormula syntax. Do you suggest that Rob wants to lock-in OpenOffice users in OpenOffice 2 ?

  39. Rob Weir says:

    Gray, are you saying that the problems I reported with SP2 are accidental, and that if I had persevered in getting a copy of the beta, and reported these bugs earlier, that they would have been fixed?  If so, this appears to contradict what Doug is saying.  He is saying the SP2 is working as designed.  Which is it?

    My web site makes it clear who I am speaking for on the blog.  Your difficulty in understanding my "Who is Rob Weir" page does not seem to be shared by many.

    As for who is dividing the ODF community, I’d suggest the scrutiny should go to the vendor who creates a divergent, non-interoperable, non-conforming implementation, not to the person who points this out.  You seem to be shying from the real issue and trying to kill the messenger.

    In the end my arguments are persuasive based on the breadth of the analysis, the clear articulation of the facts, and the use of plentiful clear examples.  I have an long history of straightforward analysis in this area.  I don’t need to invoke my position with the ODF TC or IBM to establish my authority on questions in this field.  The authority of my posts rests on my reputation, and you can’t take that away.

  40. Doug Mahugh says:

    Rob, I’m not sure what made you think that anyone feels they’re being treated unfairly on the TC.  But just to be clear, I’ll share publicly here with you something I’ve said many times to my colleagues at Microsoft: you’ve been gracious and supportive of our participation in the ODF TC.  That said, I do agree with Gray’s comments about your actions outside the context of the TC.

  41. Dave Lane says:

    I’m a commercial support provider of business IT (which includes office software), and I have opportunities to influence the both procurement policies of my business’ customer and our country’s government. I have both the interests of my customers and my fellow taxpayers at heart when I consider the practices of major software vendors like Microsoft.

    To my mind, it’s absolutely vital that someone with Rob’s inside understanding and ability articulate the situation – particularly with widely used (and generally unquestioned) packages like MS Office – with factual support and therefore credibility.

    Gray, you’ll know that the last time you came down here to NZ to try to sway the NZ Standards organisation in advance of the MS OOXML vote, your credibility (and, by extension, that of Microsoft) suffered a major blow. I won’t go into the details, except to say that Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago somehow got into the act and made a personal attack on someone who was acting as a very knowledgeable advisor to Standards NZ, but whose position was contrary to what Microsoft believed was the best outcome… for Microsoft. See this if you need a reminder: http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/0B47485921D44083CC2574110068B1B6

    Bringing documents like Rob’s analysis of the current state of ODF support in MS Office 2007 to the attention of our government policy makers is simply reinforcing that very unfavourable impression you left.

    I suggest that Microsoft stop trying to break practical interoperability in the interest of monopoly preservation, and actually do the right thing: compete on merit, provide *practical interoperability* and stop trying to slant the playing field.

    Sincerely,

    Dave Lane

  42. Chris Auld says:

    Dave,

    I think it’s best to let bygones be bygones to be honest. But, as you brought it up.

    As a member of the Standards New Zealand advisory group to which you refer I too was pretty annoyed at what transpired. That said, I think that it was also inappropriate for members of the committee to be ‘advising’ other national standards bodies without at least the courtesy of letting both Standards NZ and their peers on the advisory group know. I found Matthew to be a really hard working and technically smart member of the advisory group and indeed I’ve also been a fairly vocal supporter of some of the recent work he has done in opposing s92a of the Copyright Act.

    In terms of the substantive issue, I can’t help but think that Microsoft are being held to a different standard than that which was claimed of them during the IS29500 standardization process. Had they claimed during that process that other vendors looking to implement Open XML in their products needed to provide *practical interoperability* then it would have caused an uproar.  I fully expect Microsoft to implement OpenFormula once it’s been approved. But, solutions that require reverse engineering of proprietary implementations to achieve ‘practical interoperability’ are not the answer. Indeed it was the pain of having to try and do that with the legacy Microsoft Office binary formats that lead to Microsoft Office implementing ECMA 376 in the first place.

    As to your comments about ‘influencing’ Government procurement policy here in New Zealand; I’d like to assure other readers of this thread that such behaviour would be the exception and not the rule in our country- we do remain a progressive and responsible liberal democracy. As a fairly large IT services provider myself we do not seek to influence procurement policy in any way whatsoever, preferring instead to have our services compete on their own merits.

  43. Dave Lane says:

    Yes, thanks for that pointer, Gray. I’m familiar with the post on the NZOSS site (which my company happens to host and maintain).

    I’ll just say that

    a) before questioning Rob’s credibility and getting on a high-horse about inappropriate behaviour, I encourage you to evaluate your own (and that of your fellow Microsofties – because, let’s face it – to the outside world you’re all just representatives of the same monolith), and

    b) I’d much sooner trust Rob’s analysis than that of anyone representing Microsoft.

    Microsoft simply has no track record of trustworthiness.

    Sincerely,

    Dave

  44. Dave Lane says:

    @Chris Auld

    I’m afraid I consider your suggestion of “letting bygones be bygones” quite disingenuous. Given Microsoft’s history of “bygone” infractions, I’m sure they’d love to have bygones be forgotten, but reputations don’t work that way.

    As I’m sure you know, Chris, in NZ reputation is very important. Reputations are, by definition, built on bygones – bad reputations in particular. Microsoft have created their reputation, no one else. They can only improve it through their positive actions. Sadly for them, the use of spin (read: PR companies) doesn’t enhance reputation except in the eyes of the most naive of observers. Trust must be earned, and it often takes a long time. Microsoft have a long hard road ahead of them to earn my trust, and I know I’m not alone.

    Dave

  45. Fiery Spirirted says:

    I don’t get this…how could Rob Weir’s position as chair of the ODF TC make him responsible for quality checking of Microsofts ODF implementation? Wouldn’t it be Microsoft’s resposibility to perform tests with loading ODF files from other vendors? It is bizare to blame Weir because he did not participate in your internal beta testing and quality verification.

    The problem that Microsoft has slowed down development of OpenFormula by not providing basic information about what different Office versions does is not a reason to ignore interoperability. What the other Office suits really do with spreadsheets is known information and in the absence of specification of formulas any vendor that care a tiny bit about interoperability should at least make an effort to provide interoperability.

  46. André says:

    As far as I can see Rob criticised an implementation which is useless for consumers. This has nothing to do with ODF TC work.

  47. Hwin Boi Phun says:

    Hi Gray,

    Can you state for the record that your attack on Rob Weir is based on the desire to see a proper standards process, rather than part of an organized coup to take over chairmanship of ODF, thus better to destroy this fundamental threat to Microsoft’s hegemony?

    Following the hysterically evil antics of your company in the ISO vote, do you think you have any credibility left at all?

    Just curious.

    Hwin

  48. jim says:

    “Attack the messenger not the message”

    You Idiots are not saying anything about $Microsoft not complying with the ODF world standard.

    Your just attacking Rob Weir for telling the Truth, and that is not what $Microsoft wants.

    The ODF is bigger than $Microsoft and they will not be able to kill it.

  49. Gareth Horton says:

    @Chris Auld

    You point out the situation precisely:

    "In terms of the substantive issue, I can’t help but think that Microsoft are being held to a different standard than that which was claimed of them during the IS29500 standardization process. Had they claimed during that process that other vendors looking to implement Open XML in their products needed to provide *practical interoperability* then it would have caused an uproar.  I fully expect Microsoft to implement OpenFormula once it’s been approved. But, solutions that require reverse engineering of proprietary implementations to achieve ‘practical interoperability’ are not the answer. Indeed it was the pain of having to try and do that with the legacy Microsoft Office binary formats that lead to Microsoft Office implementing ECMA 376 in the first place."

    I have been arguing the same point over on Doug Mahugh’s blog, albeit in a more emotive way, which is the only way the anti-OOXML crowd seem to be capable of operating.

    @Dave Lane

    As I mentioned over on Doug’s blog:

    "Perhaps if the people that feel they are qualified to be judge and jury about how Microsoft should implement standards in software could produce a guidance document with advice on when and where they should not be rigid, then that would probably help."

    "Perhaps a formal request and a pass for using "conventions" instead of standards from the ODF / OOO good and the great might have enabled them to do so without fear being accused of any wrongdoing."

    It really is starting to sound that the definition of interoperability is a fluid concept, changed to suit any anti-Microsoft arguments du jour.

    Bearing grudges about reputations is all well and good, but there are plenty of other companies out there with a unpleasant track record, I hope you apply the same principles to them too.

    Gareth

  50. James Susanka says:

    “I’ll just say that

    a) before questioning Rob’s credibility and getting on a high-horse about inappropriate behaviour, I encourage you to evaluate your own (and that of your fellow Microsofties – because, let’s face it – to the outside world you’re all just representatives of the same monolith), and

    b) I’d much sooner trust Rob’s analysis than that of anyone representing Microsoft.

    Microsoft simply has no track record of trustworthiness.”

    Well said.  

    Microsoft has no ethics.  

    Their software is just bad and why should I bother buying when I can install ubuntu linux and do everything I need to do and be ODF compliant.

    Just an fyi my forces windows on me because of microsoft’s so call “ethics”.   we had option to chose vista or xp and I stuck with xp.

    I won’t touch vista with my enemies ten foot pole.

  51. Jame s Susanka says:

    “3. Am I to assume your point of view is that the intent of ODF is to damage Microsoft’s business? — I’m not sure the majority of the ODF community would agree with you. I do not agree with you. As I understand it, the purpose of ODF is to improve interoperability through the use of an open standard.”

    I invite you to read groklaw.net and see what happened with the voting of ooxml.  There were documented high amount of irregularities that went that did not go on when ODF passed with much greater approval.

    Let’s see how many products out there use ooxml?  I believe there are far more greater products that use odf than ooxml.

  52. James Susanka says:

    "@"Jim" — I’m addressing Rob for telling a half-truth, and bing unnecessarily critical of Microsoft for following the standard.

    And we would never try to take over or "kill" ODF, in that sense, you are quite right. All we want is a good implementation. We go to a length to invite people to tell us what that looks like. (http://www.documentinteropinitiative.org)

    It is unfortunate that Rob declined participation in that forum, waiting instead to benefit himself by writing a blog post, rather than offering feedback which might have helped the situation BEFORE the product shipped."

    That’s it – that is all the applications?   Why should Rob or anybody help a company of microsoft’s size debug their software?  

    I help the open source community because they need and they appreciate my help and I can see the fruits of labor in the products I use everyday.  If we don’t use your products why should we help make them better?  It is your company that gets people fired or resign their jobs.  Now you are trying to get Rob to resign when all he does is state facts.  Peter Quinn is another example.

    "Thanks for the pointer James, but I’d rather just read it on the ISO site. Besides, the Groklaw camp are doing a good job at finding their way here (thanks for the traffic PJ)."

    well I didn’t get here through groklaw but I read sites from both sides of the argument and keep a neutral balance.    You really need to read from both sides of the argument.

    Every time microsoft comes up short when I look at subjects from a objective point of view.  

    Microsoft does what haagan daas tried to do to ben and jerrys.  they punish distributors for trying to sell another software product with their hardware.

    This is illegal and to this day microsoft still does this illegal business practice and is why the european union and doj are watching and will continue watching.  Your odf in sp2 was nothing but a ploy to get the european union off your backs.  But I am confident they can’t be bought and will be objective about microsoft and if they are I am confident they will see through your actions.  

  53. James Susanka says:

    Here is something that would solve the whole problem:

    “The only way to deal with this is to file an anti-trust action to force royalty free full access to MS Office hooks, APIs, protocols, and formats, in order to allow third parties to write compatible import/export filters (similar to the EU deal on SMB protocol), and to force Microsoft to release these a year ahead of release of any new Office version, in order to allow these to be released on time. It is also necessary to allow users remove the Microsoft plugins and for OEMs to remove and ship MS Office with third party plug-ins instead, and for users to be able to set ODF as the default save filter format.”

    When you even meet half of these I might start listening but debug your problems are way off into the future unless you start changing your behavior.

  54. Bob Ross says:

    We, the public, read between the lines when the results of the behind the scenes political maneuvering about the ODF debacle came to light in Massachusetts. We read the smear campaign against Peter Quinn in the Boston Globe which did not include any chance for him to respond before it was published, with the resulting furor causing him to quit his job.

    We, the public, watched the personal smear campaigns occur when Microsoft ran roughshod over the EMCA/ISO standards body during the OOXML “campaign”, totally trashing the reputation of that world wide institution.

    We, the public, have seen time, after time, after time, after time, inside and outside of court documents, where Microsoft has performed the “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” maneuver on defacto standards pertaining to interoperability.

    And now we see you, Mr. Knowlton, calling for the head of Rob Weir.

    I’m afraid that the reputation of your corporation precedes you Mr. Knowlton, and it carries little credibility when you seek to disparage someone.

    My suggestion would be that if you truly desired that the users of Microsoft Office obtain an enjoyable ODF “experience” (and how I hate that word), that you abstain from blogging and expend that energy toward verifying that Office will inter-operates with the other implementations of ODF in the world.

  55. Chris R. says:

    Let’s face it. Gray Knowlton is a Group Product Manager from Microsoft which has a long track record of subverting standards. And while Gray is certainly entitled to his opinion, I find it hard to separate those opinions from his role of being the Group Product Manager for the Microsoft Office system.

    Given the number of times MS has burned people they should be treated differently than other companies. If someone constantly hit me over the head with a bat after saying they would not. I’m not going to trust them, no matter how much they swear up and down they aren’t gonna do it again.

    No, I don’t trust Microsoft, nor do I trust any of their employees. My number one reason for not wanting to upgrade to Vista or Windows 7 is trust, I don’t trust Microsoft. The reason I discourage all the people I work with from using OOXML is trust, I do not trust MS in any way shape or form.

    “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me”

  56. Allin Cottrell says:

    Somebody has to speak the truth. Given the facts that Rob Weir reported as the outcome of his analysis of the interoperability of several spreadsheet programs — Are you disputing that these are the facts? — it is difficult if not impossible to conclude anything other than that Microsoft is playing the game of “comply (well, actually, not quite) but sabotage”.  

    You want to see Weir replaced by somebody “independent”.  Sorry, but we know only too well what “independent” means in Microsoft-speak, from internal documents leaked over the years: a paid agent who can be passed off as independent.  There’s a _lot_ of ground to be made up in credibility before your proposal can be seen as anything over than a good old power-play.

  57. Ian says:

    “Just one last reply… I think when you say “debug” that really underscores the misunderstanding here. “bug” is the wrong way to characterize the issue. Because formula support is missing from the spec, it’s really about design. That’s what DII is intended to discuss… design. (seems like you are familiar enough with software development to see the distinction?)”

    @Gray: What I fail to understand is how this interoperability forum ended up with no spreadsheet formulae from Microsoft Office being readable by any other application? If the specification has an ambiguity or missing feature in it, isn’t the best approach to analyse how existing implementations deal with it, and use that rather than creating something that is incompatible with every existing implementation?

    As the Microsoft-sponsored CleverAge plugin for Microsoft Office 2007 can swap ODF spreadsheets with other programs, how is it possible to justify Office 2007 SP2 not being able to deal with these same documents? That is a regression – a bug.

    If changing the handling of spreadsheet formulae in this manner was a design decision, and it wasn’t caught by the DII process, then I consider that a major flaw in the process. If Microsoft has not internally tested their ODF implementation against documents from other ODF implementations, then that is a flaw in Microsoft’s test processes, in my opinion.

    And yes, I am familiar with software development, and I make sure to test my software against real world implementations as well as specifications as I know the two are all too often different. Any failures would be classed as either a bug or bad design – and something would have to be done to make it work.

  58. Simon Fendall says:

    Take it on the chin, Gary.

    It’s plain that Microsoft messed up, all it would have taken is an email to an ODF representative saying; “Hey, this part of the spec isn’t documented, how would you do it?”

    Criticize Rob all you like for his manner in pointing it out, but somebody was going to sooner or later. Don’t try to pretend Microsoft didn’t just release a XXXX poor product.

  59. Jose_X says:

    It surprises me that the Openoffice developers can figure out many details of Microsoft’s closed formats [this requires a lot of hard work and desire for interoperability], yet Microsoft can’t be bothered to attempt interoperability in such an important area with the most popular open source competing product (ie, whose source code they have)? They have the software for testing purposes and a liberal license to go with it. They have the source code. What were they waiting for? And this is even more shocking when you consider that Openoffice was not the lone product where Microsoft failed in this important area. Openoffice compatibility would have simply been the easiest to acquire.

    It’s difficult to believe Microsoft had an interest in interoperability when you consider this decision they made. Maybe they were trying to make a statement: that interoperability with important open source products (whose blueprints they have) is not something they value whenever the spec does not mandate it.

    Further, iirc, Rob Weir pointed out that Microsoft had access to implementations that already worked more sensibly (ie, with greater degree of interoperability). Why did they decide not to leverage that interop work? So people drop interop aids onto Microsoft’s laps, it almost seems, and Microsoft doesn’t take it up because the spec does not mandate it?

    Incompetence or bad will? .. or is Microsoft running out of money and trimmed down their interop division significantly?

    >> “..You’re challenging us all to go where none have dared tread before.  So go ahead and lead the way.  You have the TC’s attention.  We are listening.  As you grind out the grit of your proposal, please keep in mind that we have to fit proposed solutions into the politic of work that has already been done.  A politic that represents years of work that is just now on it’s way to ratification at OASIS, and beyond to ISO.  Keep in mind also that the ISO certification comes at the request of the European Union. Time is of the essence.  Ratification perhaps trumps perfection.  At least for the moment.”

    >> …I seem to remember some dialog from Rob about Open XML being “rushed” through standardization. Funny how those things come back to haunt you.

    In what way did the author of this posting think this was evidence favorable to Microsoft?

    When we compare what transpired, I suppose Rob Weir has a higher standard for the less-than-perfect than does Microsoft.

    While Microsoft was not worried about putting all sorts of half-baked information into a rushed OOXML standards process, Rob Weir apparently did want to maintain a high level of quality for ODF (which, iirc, was shown to the public for a much longer period of time than was ooxml before becoming standards).

    It would not surprise me one bit to learn that someone from Microsoft in Rob’s shoes wouldn’t have hesitated to throw in a half-baked formula spec.

    BTW, this happened years ago. Since them there has been a lot of formula work that has taken place.

    The results speak for themselves, as Rob pointed out. Microsoft’s offering did a horrible job at interoperability. I’m still not sure I know what was Microsoft’s excuse. I can say this much, if Microsoft would be as generous with the Openoffice community as the Openoffice community has been with Microsoft (in revealing the entire blueprints of their product), then I am sure it is very likely that the Openoffice community will even do some of the interop work on Microsoft’s behalf and for no charge. [I have to wonder if Microsoft is not having resource issues.]

  60. Rick Jelliffe says:

    The formula namespace mechanism is part of ODF: it is there for all to see in IS26300 s6.7.6.  One would have to expect that when the ODF TC decided on it, they would have done so in the full knowledge that an implementer could decide to skip the prefix or to barf.

    And that someone using software from implementers who decided to barf, would have formulas that their application rejects: that is just a ramification of the feature existing, a temporary inconvenience until developers catch up. It is a decision the implementers made for us; and indeed, they probably realized when they were doing it that it would block interoperability from people using the namespace prefix in the way the standard requires.

    The use of the namespace prefix is a ‘should’ in IS26300, s 6.7.6

    The ball is in the other implementers’ court(s), either to skip all namespaces prefixes or to add a line to cope with Microsoft’s prefix. If they don’t want to cope with any prefix, they need to advertise that they are unconforming in this area.

    And if they never want to support any prefixes, they should get ODF 1.1 changed at ODF TC to remove it (or a defect report raised for inclusion in the ODF 1.2 work): it would be paradoxical if this problem were actually caused by ODF having *too much* specification of formula 😉

    If I can defend Rob’s position a little, he does state that this is an interoperability issue, rather than a standards compatibility issue: the argument of being incompatible in the name of standards is a tenuous one, especially if you have an extreme short-term view. And this issue has been around for years, so I don’t think Microsoft can claim any ignorance that it wouldn’t play well with other applications, which does not go well with the Guiding Principles (such as “Preserve User Intent”).  And I am also not very convinced by the idea that therefore MS would have to reverse engineer all the formula languages of the other implementations: it has its own well-documented formula language and deciding to wait for Open Formula for interchange is a perfectly respectable position.

    At its heart, I think the deeper problem is that starting the formula with a namespace prefix is a bad markup choice by the standard to require: you don’t fiddle with well-known notations like that.  There should be a separate attribute for it, scoped to the table. Messing up well-known notations is a ratty thing to do, and I think it is positively bad because it creates this kind of consequence for implementers and users. And in XML is it completely unncessary because attributes are cheap and easy.

    The “just one more thing” syndrome that ruins standard technlogies, when there is always one more wrinkle or one more thing to go wrong unexpectedly.

  61. Jan Wildeboer says:

    Well, just for the sake of completeness. Your pointer to http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/applications.aspx doesn’t really help.

    As far as I can see that list doesn’t make any difference between ECMA376 and IS29500.

    And don’t tell me there are no significant differences between the two. I also note that defect handling in IS29500 is becoming quite a problem and that some BRM “decisions” are actually damaging IS29500 so there is a need for corection that seemingly is handled outside of the normal processes.

    So could you please point me to a list of applications that implement IS29500 and NOT ECMA376? If an application implements both that is fine ofcourse.

    And please also show me where I can find a test suite to check IS29500 documents for compliance.

    Anyway, ultimately it is up to OASIS to announce their POV on the compliance of SP2’s ODF implementation. The practical tests I have seen are however not really promising.

    Instead of bitching around, let’s all move to productive mode and work on the technical problems by solving them to create true interoperability based on open standards.

    Jan Wildeboer (a Red Hat guy)

  62. Andrew Dar says:

    I just wondered whether it was worth pointing out – the question here doesn’t really seem to be about a defining standard in this case. Yes, a bar for which to aim for implementing formulas would have left no room for intuitive leaps or personal interpretations – and such a standard appears to be in the making.

    What seems painfully obvious to me however is that a large number of competing implementations appear to have achieved interoperability *despite the absence* of such definition. One of these implementations is even an existing plugin for MS Office. So it is demonstrably achievable.

    Given that the implementation of Office SP2 must therefore have been capable of achieving the same, it appears that Microsoft have taken the deliberate step of specifically opting not to interoperate.

    So what I would like to know is, on what grounds is this action defensible? Are Microsoft claiming that other companies possess skills of clarivoyancy or communications that they themselves are sadly not privy to? Or perhaps that other companies are more competent at making the software that has been Microsoft’s bread and butter for nearly two decade now?

    Because to a mildly technical reader such as myself, I’m afraid it appears that Microsoft has absolutely no interest in interoperability. The gesture towards compliance (which itself is being called into question now, I believe) was a result of ongoing legal action against – and public scrutiny of – Microsoft.

    If there is a reasonable explanation then I am amenable to persuasion. Unfortunately, the benefit of the doubt is something I’m not prepared to extend to a company like Microsoft.

  63. Loic Grenie says:

    “Rob says “Everyone knows what =A1+A2 means.”  Really Rob?  What does it mean if A1 contains 1, and A2 contains “two”?   Would it surprise you to learn that Excel and OpenOffice produce different answers in that case?”

    I’ve tried and honestly both give me an error (admittedly not the same one). MS Office is Office Excel 2003 (11.5612.5606) and OpenOffice is OpenOffice.org 3.0.1 OOO300m15 (Build:9379). MS Office is an Italian version (I’ve tried “two” and “due”=italian for “two”), OO.org has French locale (I’ve tried “two”, “due”, “deux”). In all cases I’ve tried all the forms I could think of: two, “two”, =two and =”two”.

  64. dirk says:

    Gary,

    As a professional programmer, I have to say I’m disappointed to see how you respond publicly to what Rob posted. I know that Rob was using words like malice and incompetence, but I don’t think you can ignore his call to move forward in the very next paragraph (that you didn’t mention here). He also didn’t say that you Gary are guilty of malice, or that you are incompetent. He seemed to imply that the way Microsoft implemented ODF support in Microsoft Office 2007 SP2, was either the result of malice or incompetence. So since the attack wasn’t on you personally, I fail to see why you attack him personally. If you are worried that because he is chair for the ODF TC, it might look like he is speaking in official function (I didn’t get that impression), then you can always attack the ODF TC which deemed formulas “out of scope”. You can then rightfully claim that they should have known that this would cause problems down the road. Instead you choose a personal attack in reply to an attack on Microsoft’s implementation of ODF in Microsoft Office 2007 SP2. Therefore it looks like you are speaking in Microsoft’s name, and the way you launched a personal attack just makes Microsoft look bad. I think you gave an emotional response, and you should in the future think twice before you post something that reflects bad on your employer.

    That being said: Rob did some tests. He did those in his own time. Microsoft’s implementation in Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 didn’t work well with the files produced by other programs that use ODF. Files produced by Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 didn’t work well in the other programs. That’s what he saw. That’s what he mentioned.

    You say he speaks for one vendor?

    He seems to have demonstrated rather clearly that there are problems with interoperability with the current version of the standard. You agree with that. What you don’t agree on is how to address the problem.

    If I wanted to work with .xls files, would I look at how everybody implemented them, or at how Microsoft Excel did it?

    So when I want to work with odf files, where do I look? I’d first look at the specs, and if it’s not in there, i’d look at how it was implemented in OpenOffice.

    You argue that this means I would favor one vendor (OpenOffice), whilst I would say that I’m looking there because in the ODF world, that is the most widely used program, and therefore I want to be sure I can at least make my software interoperate with that one. I think that makes perfect sense.

    You are correct in saying that the standard is lacking in this department, but you are in my opinion incorrect in saying that therefore the best solution is to invent your own way to implement this. The best solution is the one that works with the type of ODF file most customers will have, and since most of these files will be produced by OpenOffice for now, that is what one needs to be able to read and write. Since Microsoft is a de facto standard when it comes to Office use, a correctly working implementation of ODF the OpenOffice way, would make Microsoft Office the program that produced the most ODF files (that can be correctly used in other software that reads and writes ODF). This would make Microsoft Office the place to look at if you want to implement a compatible program. This to me would seem to be the correct way to do it, and it would prove to everybody that Microsoft’s words about interoperability aren’t empty.

    Secondly, your remarks “solutions that require reverse engineering of proprietary implementations to achieve ‘practical interoperability’ are not the answer”, sounds very empty to me as a programmer. The fact is that if you want to see how OpenOffice implemented a certain feature, the source code is available for free, so there is no need to “reverse engineer” how they did it.

    Anyways, that is my opinion as a professional programmer.

    My only advice for the day: If people post something that makes you hyperventilate, remember to breathe before you post.

  65. Martin says:

    "I’d like everyone reading the post to know that Rob was invited to participate in the DII events"

    Hey people ( Microsof ), why don’t you try to work yourselves and stop asking help to people to do *basic* engineering tasks ??  this is not rocket science, just put square brackets in formulas ( you know, the "[" and "]" … do you need the ascii/unicode codes? let me know ;-).

    The same happened with the OOXML rush to standardization, at the end, lot of people around the world had to do your homework and ended generating lot of fixes/erratas/corrigenda/addenda ?

    Leave the "workshops" for more advanced things , ok?

    Just my humble take on this issue. Greatings from Argentina

    Martin Elizondo ( SA )

  66. Doug Mahugh says:

    @Rick, I’ll be explaining our approach to formulas in a blog post shortly, and how it interrelates to our guiding principles.

    @Jan Wildeboer, the DII site currently documents the ECMA-376 implementation in Office 2007; before Office 2010 is available, the same site will document the IS29500 implementation in Office 2010.  You’re correct, the ECMA-376 spec on the DII site doesn’t mention IS29500, because ECMA-376 was published two years before IS29500.

    Why do you say "ultimately it is up to OASIS to announce their POV on the compliance of SP2’s ODF implementation?"  In actual fact, OASIS can not — by their own rules — do such a thing, for SP2 or any other implementation.  Historically, you’ll notice that has never happened.

  67. Victor S says:

    Hmnn, let me see if I understand this:

    * MS does a bad ODF implementation that will not allow

    interoperability.

    * Rob Weir points it out.

    * Therefore, Weir must leave the committee.

    Is it a necessity to have people in the committee that

    silently accept MS’ attempts at doing what – accept it –

    we alredy know they have at least tried to do with things

    like … in example, Java?  I disagree.

  68. shmget says:

    @Jose_X:

    "It surprises me that the Openoffice developers can figure out many details of Microsoft’s closed formats [this requires a lot of hard work and desire for interoperability], yet Microsoft can’t be bothered to attempt interoperability in such an important area…"

    Microsoft HAS been capable of figuring out such things… They managed to deal with Lotus 123 compatibility.

    No, this ‘feature’ is no accident. It’s classic Microsoft… I wonder why anybody would be surprised about it.

    Microsoft should move its headquarter to tenaha, TX. Looks like they share at lot of values about how to conduct ‘business’.

  69. Jose_X says:

    I said: >> It surprises me that the Openoffice developers can figure out many details of Microsoft’s closed format

    Gray Knowlton said: >> And it surprises me even more that Rob’s & Doug’s tests are likely to have an "OK" mark in every table cell if binary formats were used instead of ODF.

    I think you dodged the question, or we are not understanding each other.

    Let me address what you said. Assuming your suspicions would turn out to be true, principally this would say that Microsoft’s binary formats, for the relatively simple test file that was created, has been deciphered quite well by others so as to be read accurately and be written in a similar enough way.

    For the most part, this just means that the OpenOffice contributors have deciphered the closed Excel format and have shared the implementation details with everyone else.

    The OpenOffice contributors have also "deciphered" the ODF format (the spreadsheet subpart) and shared it with others, but perhaps this has not been done as successfully (at least if you are correct and for the particular test file Rob Weir created), or, more likely, some of these other products simply have not yet found the time or commitment to get this done for ODF.

    This explanation (which I believe is fairly accurate) that I just provided for your observation supports my initial remark: that the OpenOffice people work hard for interop while Microsoft does not. In particular, when Microsoft defined the format, others worked very hard to achieve interop despite all the hurdles. However, when the rest of the world had their turn and defined a format, and, unlike Microsoft, made it public and provided an open source reference implementation, Microsoft still failed to achieve interop even for a fairly simple test file.

    I’m not sure why you avoided a direct reply to me. Nevertheless, I believe you were insinuating some things with your reply, but things that I think are inaccurate. For example, I think you wanted to suggest, without outright saying so, that binary formats like a Microsoft Excel format can achieve a greater degree of interoperability than can be achieved from an open format like ODF which even has a de facto known open source reference implementation. Your "proof" would be that the binary formats would be implemented interoperably by everyone. Meanwhile, most, but not everyone (with the obvious exception of Microsoft), would be able to do same for ODF.

    I have a problem with this insinuation about the relative interoperability properties of ODF vs Excel closed formats, but, before getting into more detail as to why I think the suggestion doesn’t hold much water, let me point out that your comparison speaks badly for Microsoft: When we talk about Excel binary formats, everyone can figure it out, right; however, when we talk about ODF, everyone can pretty much figure it out except for Microsoft.

    Most people would probably agree with Rob and others that this result speaks badly for Microsoft. Who knows if the reason has to do with competence, intentions, or something else.

    Alright, so why is ODF a better format than Excel closed format, when it comes to interoperability?

    To start, let me point out something you appeared to have overlooked. ODF is very new. There is a lot more interop that has been achieved in these short years than was possible in the early years of the binary formats (eg, the Excel formats).

    Perhaps you might argue that the Internet and software is more advanced today and blah blah. This is true, but one thing to realize is that compatibility with the Excel closed formats has improved recently as well. In short, we have apples and oranges to some extent, so let’s look at some other attributes.

    First, ODF is defined openly. Excel’s closed formats are not. Without getting into details, I’ll just say that being given a blueprint makes your task easier than if you have to figure everything out through reverse engineering. [This is more so if the closed formats can change over time without you realizing it because the formats are defined by a single monopoly application that changes every single time it is updated or patched (which can happen at any point in time on Windows, without it being clear that such is happening).]

    A second reason why I believe ODF is superior is that ODF comes with a known de facto reference open source implementation while the Excel closed formats do not. Again, having such reference material accessible just adds to the amount of information that is publicly available. More information means your job is easier. Source code is actually about the most you can ask for if you want to guarantee interoperability. As a bonus, there are many open forums, mailing lists, documentation, bug reports, and other resources to further aid the developers seeking to improve interop.

    A third item to look at is that ODF leverages existing standards. This means all interested parties have a headstart in building interoperable implementations. The knowledge, experience, and implementations for large subsets of ODF are already out there.

    A fourth point is that because a lot more existing documents are encrypted in Excel closed formats than are encoded in ODF open formats, there is a much greater need to find interop with these closed formats. Thus Excel’s formats were working from a position of advantage over ODF in terms of having everyone’s attention and dedication.

    Finally, I might as well contrast ODF with OOXML a little.

    As with the Excel closed formats above, OOXML does not have an open source reference implementation nor nearly as many of the other public extras (even the official ISO OOXML is not finalized from what I heard). Also OOXML does not leverage nearly as many existing open standards as does ODF. [This is one reason why OOXML has more flaws. Its component parts have simply been much less peer reviewed when compared with ODF. Interoperability may not even be possible in many more cases (eg, inconsistencies and ambiguities) vs ODF.]

  70. Jose_X says:

    >> "one [supposedly] cannot implement Open XML using the specification alone."

    >> So many people on my post (and Rob himself) are claiming that this is fine for ODF, but a reason to vote no on Open XML.

    Let me give you my take.

    I agree that both ODF and OOXML have flaws. Being generous to the OOXML side and assuming these two each have the same measurement for "flaws", it’s still true that ODF essentially has an open source reference implementation while OOXML has nothing near that.

    For ODF, this means everyone can look at the "reference implementation" for the marginal pieces of the ODF spec. That is not an ideal situation, but it’s tough (or impossible) to define a large standard in a reasonable amount of time that is virtually perfect and has no gray areas. This is why I think interoperability to a high degree for a featureful and growing open standard only make sense in the context of open source (eg, reference implementations). Regardless of what others think on this last issue, it’s difficult to argue that having an open implementation isn’t a great aid to achieving interop.

  71. Jose_X says:

    Gary, you have mentioned numerous times that Microsoft had some sort of forum where people could give their input. However, it should be Microsoft the one participating on ODF or OpenOffice forums, and, for all I know, they already do, perhaps extensively.. and still failed.

    The issue here, as I see it, isn’t to beg Microsoft to be nice. We are all competing, after all. The issue is if Microsoft doesn’t attempt to be nice, then why should customers use Microsoft products that fail at interop when other strong products succeed? If Microsoft’s products don’t have an open source compatible "second source" (as somewhat of a customer hedge against lock-in), but some other company’s products do, then why should that customer opt for a costly lock-in into Microsoft’s flavor of ODF that cannot be used from independent third party implementations (in particular, from open source implementations)?

    If customers did not care about hedging, they would not care about ODF and standards in the first place. If they wanted to surrender control and the future of their documents to a sole vendor (having a monopoly over their documents), then why bother with ODF and standards in the first place?

    Hence, for the sake of this discussion, I have to assume customers care about interop and hence will take note of Microsoft’s failures. If this bothers Microsoft, it makes sense to me that Microsoft will be active in the future visiting ODF forums in order to get the answers it needs to achieve interop. Others have found a way and customers will likely reward them. It’s not in the interest of competitors to help out Microsoft. They may still help, for example, the OpenOffice developers provide the entire blueprints/source code to their product, but, certainly, the one to benefit by getting it right is Microsoft. It’s folly to expect anyone but Microsoft to go the extra mile to help a Microsoft product.

  72. Scary says:

    Micro-Soft, for which your are obviously speaking, more and more behaves like Scientology or other cults.

    The desire of individuals to make money to have a good live is one thing. What Micro-Soft is doing is beyond anything related to THAT, now that you as Micro-Soft’s tool again are trying to destroy an individual’s reputation and life just to remove another vocal opponent.

    I hope you have at least enough respect not to touch human live for your desire to continue to rule your software empire.

    Reading Ballmer’s quotes in this context, I am not really sure about this anymore.

    "Our people, our shareholders, me, Bill Gates, we expect to change the world in every way, to succeed wildly at everything we touch, to have the broadest impact of any company in the world. "

    Steve Ballmer, CEO Micro-Soft

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_39/b3952008.htm

    This is getting scary. Glad to be a European.

  73. Allin Cottrell says:

    "As for the "truth" — make sure you read this as well. :
    http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh/:"

    @Gray: fair point, Mahugh’s observations are mostly reasonable.  But he doesn’t mention the fact that Weir was strongly critical of non-Microsoft products that had introduced a non-interoperable default for formulas.

    And this (from Mahugh) is a bit rich: "The nearly 400 pages of formula syntax documentation in ISO/IEC  29500 (Part 1, section 18.17) enables reliable formula interoperability in the Open XML community, and soon the ODF community will have a similar level
    of formula interoperability."

    The "reliable interoperability" of the currently non-existent "community" which implements ISO/IEC  29500 is entirely hypothetical, while the not-bad de facto interoperability of the greater part of the currently existing ODF community (minus Excel 2007
    SP2) is a demonstrable fact.  

  74. Dave Lane says:

    Hi Gray,

    As I’m sure you know, the purpose of standards is to provide an independent description of a complex vocabulary and grammar <em>with the goal of practical interoperability</em>. All languages suffer from problems of ambiguity, and people can speak the same language and still not understand one another… If, on the other hand,  they truly <em>want</em> to understand one another, people can overcome all sorts of language barriers.

    The problem here is that Microsoft doesn’t really want to understand anyone else. So you, Gray, argue about insignificant minutiae of the specification so that you don’t have admit that, in fact, you’d really rather skill keep your monopoly profits, thank you very much. I need only point to the fact that OpenOffice.org provides at least as good support for legacy MS Office documents as MS Office does – there was <em>NO common standard</em> to aid OpenOffice.org developers. They achieved practical interoperability through will alone.

    It seems to me that <em>a sincere will</em> to interoperate would smooth over all of the troubles with the standard you’ve been going on about. In fact, the standard should only act as a convenient way for you to cost effectively achieve interoperability. Implementing a standard without interoperability is pointless for the market.

    Standards compliance <em>without interoprability</em> only has a value to Microsoft, and that’s only because many national bodies legislating open standards compliance seem shortsighted enough to tick the "ok for procurement" box based on MS’s <em>statement</em> of "standards compliance" rather than confirmed real-world interoperability.

    Now it’s time for MS to show goodwill and meet the market half way (like the many OpenOffice, KOffice, Google Docs, etc. users out there) for a change – even if <em>it doesn’t help MS maximise its profit this quarter</em>… because it’s better to lose some profit in the short term to avoid being despised by the market and being dropped like a bad habit as soon as a viable alternative presents itself.

    Goodwill is money in the bank for the longer term, and Gray, from my perspective your corporate employer has got pretty much none of it.

    Sincerely,

    Dave

  75. Chris R. says:

    @Gary – Thanks for taking the time to read all these comments it’s quite nice that I, a basic no-name, am able to have a conversation with the Group Product Manager for the Microsoft Office System. I guess the internet is a great equalizer 🙂 Anyways, on to more comments.

    "So then we’re really not talking about interoperability and standards, are we?" Actually we are, why should I trust MS to implement standards to be truly interoperable when then have such a history of implementing standard in a way that benefit ONLY Microsoft? Sure they aren’t breaking the standard (yet) but sure are breaking the intent of a standard.

    Also I noticed several times you invited people to attend DII and pointed to their website, which it appears to be owned by Microsoft. You also enjoy pointing out that how Rob Weir did not attend.

    Rob Weir: "Yes, I was invited to attend Microsoft’s DII event in Redmond.  This event was schedule to occur immediately before an interoperability event organized by the OASIS ODF Adoption TC in Beijing.  I was busy helping organizing that much larger and more inclusive event, which saw the participation of IBM, Sun, Google, Novel, RedFlag and other implementers of ODF.  Microsoft was invited to that and did not attend.  Given the choice between a single-vendor event and a community-lead event, I’ll jump at the opportunity to participate in a real, multi-implementation community event."

    Is what Rob Weir stated true? Did Microsoft not attend, if not, why not? From my perspective this does not look like Microsoft is sincere in their desire for interoperability, which of course makes me not trust them.

  76. Matthew Flaschen says:

    "I’d like everyone reading the post to know that Rob was invited to participate in the DII events leading up to the SP2 release, and offered the opportunity to test the beta software specifically for the purpose of providing feedback on the implementation."

    It’s your responsibility to /comply with the standard/, and support interoperability, to the best of your ability.  It’s not his responsibility to personally baby-sit as you do so.

    "If departments within 18 various governments really do use ODF as their standard, should we be comfortable with an ODF TC chair that is trying very hard to discredit and divide its supporters?"

    To count yourself among the supporters of ODF 1.1 is laughable.  You didn’t even vote /on/ (let alone /for/) the ODF 1.1 standard!

    "Is it time for Rob to step down as chair? I think so."

    Even if Rob Weir were completely wrong about Office’s interoperability failures (which you know he is not), you have no right to ask him to step down when you remain so aloof from the actual standards process.

  77. Simon Fendall says:

    I’m terribly sorry I got your name wrong, Gray. I feel rather foolish now that I see the pun in the title of your blog.

    I visited the website you linked, it is clear that this issue was discussed in advance; I look forward to your blog explaining/justifying the approach to formulas.

    You don’t have to show or respond to this post if you would like, I understand you must be inundated with posts.

    Again, terribly sorry I got your name wrong,

    Simon.

  78. Gold says:

    @Gray Knowlton

    "(and this helps me get back to the point of my post.) If ODF is intended to be a vendor-neutral format, then its chief champion and chair should act in a vendor-neutral fashion, rather than assigning labels to people like "Gnats," "Trolls" and "Incompetent." Regardless of how you might feel about the SP2 implementation of ODF, you can only view this as well below any professional behavior standard."

    I may be missing something here but there _were_ 7 different implementations used in the test.  Your fixation on only a few is fascinating though.  It’s not Robs fault that the outcome was the way it was.

    Also, I’m not finding anywhere where Rob actually calls anyone names or assigns the labels you’ve mentioned.  He uses "incompetence" as a descriptor to explain his thought processes but does stop short of actually calling anyone anything.

    A few people here have mentioned the difference between the messenger and the message. Reading your post, it does come across as an ad hominem attack against Rob.  This does nothing towards reinforcing your reputation as someone knowledgeable in any technical field.

  79. sillyxone says:

    "I have never met Peter Quinn, sorry. And I think that when it comes to ISO, Microsoft has not ever spoken negatively about ISO in the same fashion that folks like noooxml.org, boycottnovell.org, etc. We are definitely not the ones trashing ISO."

    yup, agreed. You are definitely not the ones trashing ISO. You were the one who made others trashed ISO.

  80. Yo Ma Ma says:

    The form of these conflicts is really ages old, from way before there were even computers,

    It used to be called "eminent domain" back in the day – and which side one was on nearly completely guided the tenor of one’s response in the struggle du jour.

    Without pushing the analogy too far, it is probably safe to say that ODF developed as a result of real needs which were not being met, and which existed largely because the *structure* of Microsoft’s dominance effectively precluded such needs fror being satisfied by them.

    It is also safe to conclude that Gray’s responses are unsurprisingly oblivious to this context, since from his point of view there is no discernible reason for any struggle.  Since Microsoft is dominant, its ineluctability is a foregone conclusion to such adherents – hence any serious conflict ends up representing a direct attack on the joint efforts of the world he inhabits, regardless of any other possible interpretations.

    Sadly, many "open" advocates get pulled into this false representation as well, and much "bashing" and "we can never trust you" moments abound as a result.

    Please people try to be clear about this – it is not a war, it is fundamentally different paradigms in confrontation.  Microsoft cannot help operating from the "hindbrain", it’s just the kind of beast it is.

    All you nice li’l mammals can take your warm blood & communal sharing into a future where you eventually leave all this behind – we all learned something about trails of tears, so we don’t need to repeat that any more …

  81. Italo Vignoli says:

    Dear Mr Knowlton, unfortunately, I have to point out a false statement in one of your comments: i.e., that Microsoft is actively soliciting community involvement in the process of ODF interoperability. I am the leader of the OOo community in Italy, and I happen to know your colleague Sam Ramij.

    When I discovered the DII labs I wrote Sam and I suggested to invite the OOo community to these labs. I still remember that Sam forwarded my message to a number of your colleagues (unfortunately, I only remember the name of Mr Paoli among them) pointing out that – according to his experience – my ideas deserved some attention.

    I never got any answer, I never got any contact from anyone at Microsoft (Sam told me that he couldn’t help on this subject).

    So, your statement about Microsoft pushing for the involvement of the community is blatantly false. Microsoft doesn’t want the community around because it wants the discussion to be a Microsoft/IBM battle. And what has happened after the launch of Office 2007 SP2 is a proof of this situation. Unfortunately, IBM has never been as smart as Microsoft in terms of Marketing, and has brought a technical discussion into a marketing arena.

    Although I am the leader of the OOo community in Italy, I am not a developer nor a technical guy. I am a marketer by education and experience, and during the process it was perfectly clear to me that Microsoft sees the ODF/OOXML debate not as a technical issues but as just another marketing campaign.

    But lies are lies also in the marketing field, and your statement about the involvement of the community is a lie (at least to my eyes).

  82. Jan Wildeboer says:

    @Doug, @Gray

    In my opinion it doesn’t make much sense if implementors and vendors are left alone in interpreting a standard. It would be far better if there is a neutral instance that helps in ironing out interoperability issues.

    And exactly this is already done for example with CSS and (X)HTML. So why not have a similar validator for ODF? Maintained by OASIS, just as the W3C is doing?

    Make it open source, so that anyone can run his own instance.

    Jan

  83. S P Arif Sahari Wibowo says:

    Gray, I think it is admirable for a chair of a committee actually spent time to dirty his hand, did hands-on sanity check to see if everything works well. Off course his check probably not so thorough than a dedicated team so all the "Ok"s should be taken lightly, but all the "Fail"s are definitely a concern.

    I generally agreed with Rob that interoperability should not be limited on the scope of a standard alone. It is normal that a standard have several things it does not cover, and people then make the most reasonable implementation. It is also very reasonable for newcomers to the standard to learn from others how things were done and try follow it the best they could.

    For the poor interoperability you may use excuse that Microsoft does not pay enough people to "learn from others" and CleverAge agreement does not allow reuse in Microsoft, but whining "the standard does not cover it" is a really bad excuse.

    You compare Rob’s result on Symphony with Doug Mahugh’s result and use that to claim that Rob was bias. Unfortunately you failed to point out that they were testing different software: Doug Mahugh tested Symphony 1.2 while Rob tested Symphony 1.3 beta. Nothing bad can be inferred when the newer version works better.

    I am sure if you have another office beta in the work with better interoperability many will be happy to test it for you. I guess even Rob will welcome it, assuming it come with clear statement of its license. 🙂

  84. Dave Pawson says:

    http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/office-comment/200502/msg00000.html

    You aren’t the first to note this. Alex pointed me to James Clarks comments in 2005.

    Compliance means what Rob wants it to mean. *to* the spec

    seems to mean nothing.

    regards DaveP

  85. Eruaran says:

    Everyone else can do ODF properly, but not Microsoft. Why am I not in the least bit surprised by this ? Perhaps it could be Microsoft’s long history of anticompetitive practices and the harm it has done to the industry and consumers alike. Absolutely pathetic.

    And attempting to smear and bring into question Rob Weir’s integrity because he dares to point out that Microsoft, as always, fails to comply with a standard and remains as mendaciously non-interoperable as ever, is simply disgusting.

  86. Rick Jelliffe says:

    A committee chairman has to be a mediator. That is their most basic function, along with organizer and promoter. A contentious and proudly partisan person is simply not suitable as a mediator, nor can someone who is paid to be a provocateur simply pretend they can be an effective mediator.

    Also, standards committees usually feel it incumbent on themselves to have commercially neutral chairs. This is why academics and government people usually are appointed to these positions. The more that someone is involved commercially in the fray, the less appropriate and congenial it is for them to exercise authority in committees.

  87. The Mad Hatter says:

    Gray,

    I would like to ask why Microsoft was the only organization who’s documents were so badly out of compliance in Rob’s tests? You said it’s because the ISO standard isn’t detailed enough, but if that was so, we would expect Open Office and KOffice documents to not be compatible, and they are.

    As I posted in Rob’s blog, there are very few possible reasons for Microsoft’s failure, when other organizations have managed to implement the standard properly, and none of those possibilities reflect very well on Microsoft.

  88. Marc says:

    mad hatter asked:

    "Gray, I would like to ask why Microsoft was the only organization who’s documents were so badly out of compliance in Rob’s tests? You said it’s because the ISO standard isn’t detailed enough, but if that was so, we would expect Open Office and KOffice documents to not be compatible, and they are."

    gray knowlton answered

    "@Mad Hatter… if you read the posts, you’ll see the problem. Because ODF does not define a syntax for spreadsheet formulas, implementers are left to choose how to represent them when writing the format. I suggest you also read http://blogs.msdn.com/dmahugh for a little more detail. "

    This is not an answer. He is asking why are you the *only* different and no interoperable implementation. Do you thought in ODF users when you took this decision or was a pure strategical/marketing drived one?

  89. Doug Mahugh says:

    Marc, the ODF 1.1 implementation in SP2 is the *only* ODF 1.1 implementation that uses a namespace prefix (as specified in the spec) to define the syntax and semantics of its formula markup through reference to an approved, published standard.

    OpenOffice and KOffice use an undocumented non-standardized extension to achieve interoperability, which will no longer be allowed in ODF 1.2.  We’ve heard loud and clear for a long time that the ODF community does not want Microsoft to extend the standard, and we’ve followed that advice in SP2’s implementation.

  90. Marc says:

    I tried the formula-thing in Gnumeric creating and saving a simple spreadsheet. The result: Gnumeric saves formulas in the interoperable way ( contrary to what the Microsoft product does ):

    "oooc:=[.B3]+[.C3]+[.D3]"

    ~ $ gnumeric –version

    gnumeric version ‘1.8.2’

  91. Luc Bollen says:

    Doug, in ODF 1.2 conformant documents, the used formula *prefix* will have to be "of:", and none of the current OOo or SP2 prefix will remain valid.

    OOo and Koffice DON’T use a non-standardised *extension*: they simply use an allowed prefix, exactly in the same way as SP2 !

    What you explain above as being the Microsoft excuse is simply a lie !

  92. Luc Bollen says:

    Doug, after reading again your comment, I now see what you meant by "undocumented non-standardized extension to achieve interoperability".  Please replace in my comment above the word "lie" by "far fetched explanation". Apologises for an inappropriate word.

    I was confused by the fact that, while standards are normally made to improve interoperability, Microsoft manages to use standards as an excuse to break interoperability !

  93. Luc Bollen says:

    Doug, one thing puzzles me.  You wrote that SP2 "uses a namespace prefix (as specified in the spec) to define the syntax and semantics of its formula markup through reference to an approved, published standard."

    Isn’t it strange that the prefix used by Microsoft to reference this standard is "msoxl"?  I would have rather expected that you use something like "ooxml".  This would have sound more ISO-29500 than the proprietary prefix "msoxl" like in "MicroSoft Office XmL"…

  94. Jesper Lund Stocholm says:

    Luc,

    "Isn’t it strange that the prefix used by Microsoft to reference this standard is "msoxl"?  I would have rather expected that you use something like "ooxml".  This would have sound more ISO-29500 than the proprietary prefix "msoxl" like in "MicroSoft Office XmL"…"

    I never actually thought about that. One thing that might speak against using "ooxml" or "is29500" or similar would be, that the namespace used for spreadsheet formula in SP2 is not defined in OOXML, so it might cause a bit of confusion.

  95. __hAl__ says:

    So rob weir actually refused a beta version of the specification ?

    Could he explain what possible real reason he could have for doing that.

    The license issue seems moot as millions of people use MS beta products every day without any problem and have done so for ages. and that included a ton of IBM people as well as I have seen very often as well. (I actually recieved an Office SP2 beta copy from an IBM guy).

    As ODF TC chairman getting the chance to preview the ODF implementation of the leading Office product suite should be quite normal. And even in a role of IBM office product representative involved in producing new IBM Office prodcuts he and/or his IBM collegues should have been evaluating MS Office SP2 for at least 6 months or so.

    There is just no way in hell that Rob Weir only knew of interoperability issues untill the official release of MS Office SP2.

    Most likely his comments were timed to a moment that the Symphony 1.3 beta was able to show compatibility with OpenOffice.

    It is a total disgrace that Rob Weir apperantly refuses to test a beta product of the leading Office suite he was offered to do so and then critisises this product in a post where he actually compared it with non public IBM ‘s beta products that he never prior to his post offered to scrutiny or commenting by others.

    Can anybody seriously persieve IBM development team fully ignoring devlopment of the leading spreadsheet product in producing their own new product and not testing interoperability themselves using the MS Office SP2 beta ?

    If so I cannot see IBM as a serious Office developer but in reality we could all easily see that IBM (and Rob) were already aware of the interoperability with MS Office SP2 for months if not even already last year.

    The currently available Symphony 1.2 versions actually mutilates OOo 3.x files in a way that is horrible to any users making the information in cetain formulas unavailable and this makes interoperability a total joke.

    Compared to IBM’s current Symphony implementation the Microsoft approach which micht not preserve formula’s but only values represent a much more valued approach as the reciever will at least have a spreadsheet with reliable data preserved for the user, something that IBM’s product is unable to accomplish.

  96. __hAl__ says:

    @Jan wildeboer

    [quote]And exactly this is already done for example with CSS and (X)HTML. So why not have a similar validator for ODF? Maintained by OASIS, just as the W3C is doing?[/quote]

    Actually the MS Offfice SP2 files seem to validate fine against the OASIS ODF schema’s.

    A validator would not be of much use on ODF on such issues as it has several crucial parts not validating. Both formula’s and MathML 2.0 is not in the schema’s.

    Formula’s in ODF are just arbitrary strings in the XML schema’s and MathML even is arbitrary markup in the ODF schema’s.

    The latter being helpfull to OOo as including MathML 2.0 schema’s or use the official schema’s as a normative reference would make all OpenOffice files using math fail.

  97. Jesper Lund Stocholm says:

    hAl,

    “If so I cannot see IBM as a serious Office developer but in reality we could all easily see that IBM (and Rob) were already aware of the interoperability with MS Office SP2 for months if not even already last year.”

    Actually, I am sure they have been aware of how Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 handles formulas in ODF since at least August 2008. I documented the approach by SP2 after the first DII-workshop when I wrote the article “DII ODF workshop – the good stuff”. This was August 18th 2008. At that time we were playing with a pre-alpha-release of Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 and two of my conclusions were these:

    1. Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 uses their own formulas in ODF spreadsheets

    2. Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 strips away formulas from “unknown” namespaces

    http://idippedut.dk/post/2008/08/18/DII-ODF-workshop-the-good-stuff.aspx

    (the last test file in the article, Testfile_20.ods)

  98. Luc Bollen says:

    @Jesper: "One thing that might speak against using "ooxml" or "is29500" or similar would be, that the namespace used for spreadsheet formula in SP2 is not defined in OOXML, so it might cause a bit of confusion."

    There is clearly a serious contradiction here: Microsoft insists that they use the "only standardised formula syntax", but then it appears that the namespace is not defined in the standard, and Microsoft has to use a proprietary namespace to implement the "standard" syntax.

    The impact is that if somebody else (e.g. OpenOffice.org) wants to be interoperable with the ISO OOXML formula syntax, it has to use the Microsoft proprietary namespace !  This is a nonsense.

    Isn’t it an additional proof that OOXML is much more a proprietary Microsoft standard than an open ISO standard ?

    At least, it is a proof that more time was needed to correctly review OOXML before making it an ISO standard. (Another proof of this is that there is no mechanism in OOXML to identify the version, but this is another story)

  99. Jesper Lund Stocholm says:

    Luc,

    "There is clearly a serious contradiction here: Microsoft insists that they use the "only standardised formula syntax", but then it appears that the namespace is not defined in the standard, and Microsoft has to use a proprietary namespace to implement the "standard" syntax."

    Excuse me – but you seem to be completely missing crucial technical points here.

    1.

    Microsoft uses the formula syntax in OOXML – the only standardised formula syntax. The format is perfectly (well, ahem) defined in ISO/IEC 29500. The formulas are part of the specification of SpreadsheetML in Part 1. They are defined in BNF-notation in section 18.7 (Formulas) from page 2268.

    2.

    About the namespace: it’s a pointer to where information about how to interpret it can be found. As Doug wrote somewhere, ODF requires the following for formulas:

    "a namespace prefix specifying the syntax and semantics used within the formula."

    And this is exactly that Microsoft does – they supply a namespace prefix (msoxl) while explaining in their implementer’s notes that this refers to Excel’s formula syntax. Excel’s formula syntax is defined in … tadaa … ISO/IEC 29500.

    (I do think that they should elaborate a bit more in their notes – explaining exactly where the syntax and specification of Excel’s formulas can be found – I’ll log a comment on this in a bit)

    "Isn’t it an additional proof that OOXML is much more a proprietary Microsoft standard than an open ISO standard ?"

    No – it’s additional proof that you don’t always know what you are talking about.