Friday, June 13, 2008

Settled - the argument over which technology is best

Another week, another ten billion blog posts from people telling each other (is anyone really listening?) which technology is best. I have been watching this pattern for a long time but today I got really riled up over one that made some distorted claims about Flash.

Regardless, today's experience gave me an epiphany. Which technology is best? Simple - the one that people can use. Wasn't that like an IBM ad from two decades ago?

What made me realize this?

1. I sent over a PPT file to some guys from Microsoft. I work for Adobe but I honestly love Powerpoint. Powerpoint is a great tool and easy to use - people use it. Sure I could have sent over PDF but I didn't. I have seen Apple employees give talks using PPT instead of Keynote too.

2. I re-read part of Microsoft's XML Paper Specification and realized it is published in PDF. Right tool for the right job.

3. The guy complaining about Flash works for a company that used Flash on the front page of their company's website. I think Microsoft also still has some of the best Flash experiences on their site too.

4. I was asked internally to answer a set of customer questions about Flex vs. AJAX. I responded stating that I don't see why there even has to be a competition. Adobe loves AJAX, so do I.

Technologies that people use rock! People use technology that is the easiest choice to do the job. People use technologies they are familiar with. My mom still won't use a cell phone but has adopted the internet. People use whatever interoperates with the status quo. Without this, none of the other arguing would even be read since we would be outside doing something else instead of sitting in front of computers all day.

Hmmm - never mind.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ISO puts OOXML on hold?

(Disclaimer: I am not pushing any opinion, just trying to wade through the facts).

There is a confusing issue happening with OOXML, the Microsoft-proposed ISO (apparently) standard for XML Office Documents. In the past, many people feel it has been rushed into the standards process and represents a sham in the standards development industry. I disagree slightly with this view as most SDOs have very transparent and accountable processes in place. ISO's processes are documented. Microsoft has the same ability to use the rules and processes as others do. I have not seen any concrete evidence that they have violated the standards process, only vague accusations. If you have any concrete examples, please leave them here as comments with links.

For those who have not been following along, OOXML is a format for Microsoft Office (like Microsoft word or *.doc format except in XML and zipped). It has been proposed as a standard at ISO and "fast tracked" to become an ISO standard. ISO itself has rules in place which state that only one official standard shall exist for each category or domain/purpose. Apparently the purpose and scope of OOXML is sufficiently different from the Open Document Format (an OASIS standard and open format supported by IBM, Sun and many others such as ISO has approved the standard as noted here:

Nevertheless, on Slashdot this story appeared yesterday:

"schliz alerts us that ISO, in response to the four appeals (Venezuela, India, Brazil, South Africa) filed in recent weeks, has put the OOXML standardization process on hold. Here is ISO's press release, which says that ISO/IEC DIS 29500 will not be published for at least "several months" while the appeals process goes forward."

This was followed by a somewhat cryptic update:

"Update: 06/11 10:13 GMT by KD : Reader Alsee points out that the fourth officially recognized appealing country is Venezuela, not Denmark as originally stated. The protests of Denmark and Norway are being disregarded, as they do not come from the administrative heads of their national organizations."

Now I am confused too. The official ISO release clearly states:

"Four national standards body members of ISO and IEC – Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela – have submitted appeals against the recent approval of ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML formats, as an ISO/IEC International Standard."

A letter in Danish ( seems to be made incorrectly (officially I think you have to use English, Russian, or French to communicate in the United Nations or ISO) yet carried with it the weight of the nation. The official Danish Standards organization (and hence ISO voice) did not make the complaint - it was made and sent to that organization. Having dealt with Danish SDOs before, I know they take this stuff seriously so I have sincere feelings that the heart of the Danish SDO might be on side on this case (Disclaimer: my opinion, not fact). Note that officially, ISO does not recognize the author of the letter, OSL - an open source group. As translated and reported on Groklaw,

"(The letter in question) states that ISO rules were broken, there was no consensus in Denmark, and that the Fast Track process "has been formally annulled for 2 months now - since the 29th of March, where the specification should have been sent to the national standardization organizations. The basis for a fast track procedure is no longer present, and I therefore expect ISO to pick up the case again." Read on for the full letter, and for clarity, it's a letter of protest, not an appeal from the standards body. However, it's a letter from a member of the technical committee who participated in the BRM and who raises serious concerns."

I cannot find an official response from ISO to this letter anywhere. So what about Norway? Norway's protest seems to be more official at least according to Scuttlemonkey's post on slashdot:

"I am writing to you in my capacity as Chairman (of 13 years standing) of the Norwegian mirror committee to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34. I wish to inform you of serious irregularities in connection with the Norwegian vote on ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (Office Open XML) and to lodge a formal protest. You will have been notified that Norway voted to approve OOXML in this ballot. This decision does not reflect the view of the vast majority of the Norwegian committee, 80% of which was against changing Norway's vote from No with comments to Yes."

The alleged letter is documented at If an acting chairman's letter, written in English, is not official I have no idea why.

So where lies the truth and what will happen? I researched ISO's process of dealing with protests. It is at Ironically, this page does not seem to conform to web standards and I need some plugin to view the content. In short, Roger Frost, ISO's Manager of Communication, has stated publicly in the release the following:

"In accordance with the ISO/IEC rules governing the work of their joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology, the appeals are currently being considered by the ISO Secretary-General and the IEC General Secretary who, within a period of 30 days (to the end of June), and following whatever consultations they judge appropriate, are required to submit the appeals, with their comments, to the ISO Technical Management Board and the IEC Standardization Management Board."

I guess we all have to wait and see. Prediction? This stall will have no effect on the overall status of ISO approval of OOXML. Microsoft has claimed it will add support for the Open Document Format (ODF) and that should quell some of the opposition. There has been a lot of resources and energy wasted on this debate. Regardless of the outcome, here are my predictions:

1. The fact ISO approves or does not approve OOXML will have little effect on it being put into future versions of Microsoft Office.

2. No one who is anti-Microsoft will not suddenly be pro-Microsoft just because of approval from ISO.

3. Real standards are, in part, ipso facto adoption and use. ISO's stamp does provide some additional credibility but due to the press about this, I doubt will have any serious impact on people's opinions who have been paying attention. Those who have not paid attention may get suckered by the "yes - it is a standard" spiel however the reality is that Microsoft Office is a standard today, with or without ISO stamps.

4. The real issue is that several governments have made statements governing software purchase which limits purchases to standards. If MS office supports ODF, will it be legal to be purchased by most governments? Probably yes. Will they use the ODF format or OOXML for document persistence? You take a guess.

Comments? I'd love to hear other arguments.

The Sex Pistols need your Money! What about Music 2.0?

Fresh from the horse's mouth - the Sex Pistols (or whoever owns their IPR) have launched the first ever Pistols website. I wonder how the people who have the "other" official Sex Pistols site feel? The site has tons of stuff for sale and some cool content, but it reminds me of Johnny's honest quote about why they re-united for a tour in 1996 - "We want your money."

What about Music 2.0 - isn't it going to save the artists?

The recording industry is still floundering in its inability to grasp the reality of the Internet. I made a blog post about this on yesterday and wonder what the new model will be. I guess more bands are going to be touring and releasing more of their merchandise from their closets (good for us). The Sex Pistols official site lists a special DVD coming out June 30 titled "There'll Always Be An England". I'm gonna order mine - if Johnny needs my money I'll lend him a quid any day but the DVD is well worth it (Disclaimer: I have not seen it yet). Johnny - next time you're in Vancouver pints are on me!!

So what do you do if you are someone famous (or formerly famous) like John Lydon, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, et al. to earn money today? Your royalty cheques are getting smaller, labels are dropping your content, you've got songs starting to appear on "Best of " CDs. What I'd like to see is some of these guys start to realize that they can monetize the respect the fans have for them by means other than merchandise or unique performances. I'd like to see some of them start to offer their services on sites like I'd love to be able to offer Glen Matlock $1,000 to play bass on a track on my new CD and since this can be done virtually, he can probably pull it off in minimal time and upload his track to I'd like to see more open source music donated by some of these artists but also stub recordings with abilities for users to donate money back if they use it. Why doesn't Johnny sample his voice and allow people to mix it into their music for a suggested price? I'd pay!

Anyways, I want to order my official copy of the DVD before they're gone and I have to rip one via BitTorrent because some nitwit miscalculated how many copies they can sell. ;-)