PLEASE NOTE: I made a mistake. After careful reanalysis, I now believe the original analysis I made regarding Tim Bray’s blog entries that I added later and labeled an “Update” contains innaccuracies that require that I remove the content from this entry, annotate a new file with proper information stating this was an error that I can no longer stand comfortably behind as the author and have made this publicly available to ensure proper derefrencing can be made.
No one asked me, or even suggested to me that I remove these comments. I did this on my own accord based on my own decision that this was something I could no longer stand behind, but yet must take full responsibilty for the innaccurate content in a public manner to ensure that this information can be properly propogated.
I also owe Tim an apology. This was not his mistake, and instead mine.
Tim, my apologies. I took things too far out of context, without applying enough care to ensure that my final evaluation was, in fact, something I could continue to stand behind with any level of integrity. I couldn’t. It was not a deliberate mistake, but a mistake none-the-less.
Again, my apologies.
The rest of this entry (which was the original post before the additions mentioned were made) I both can, and do stand behind, as I believe that it contains accurate, well researched information. Obviously there are some references that a few folks may not be all that happy about, including Tim. But the content I have now dereferenced was not something that belonged here anymore… I hope you can understand my reasoning for both removing it, annotating it, and making this publically available to ensure that the innaccuracies can be properly referenced and propogated as necessary.
The offense of the Big Lie on the personal level is its assumption that, “I can lie to you and you won’t catch me.” Taken to the marketplace, and included in letters to government agencies, the effect is pernicious. As a result, exposing the Big Lies is both important and necessary - and hence the reason for blog entries such as this.
This is becoming silly. We no longer live in a world where software is compared on a feature-by-feature basis, and instead debates from one blog to the next by folks who are dissecting legal documents attempting to find “fraudulent” statements to extend the idea that, in fact, the real pioneers, the real hero’s, and real men and women fighting for the rights of the common man and common women who, if Microsoft had their way, would be left shoe-less, shirtless, penny-less, and servants to the Almighty Micro-God, bowing down to their every demand just because “thats what we’re supposed to do…. The GREAT ONE has spoken, and told it to be so.”
Second off…. lets gets some facts out the way first, and then move forward from there. No more dissecting of legal terms, and instead the straight forward facts.
Let’s start with this statement from the same linked document above:
Here’s another example of the same, this time taken from Microsoft’s FAQ on it’s submission of its XML Open to Ecma:
Q. Why is Microsoft offering a new standard, rather than simply supporting the file format for the Open Office product (sometimes called ODF)?
A. Sun submitted the OpenOffice formats to a small committee in the OASIS organization. The record shows that there were almost no material changes to the OpenOffice specification from the time it was submitted to the time it was approved by the working group at OASIS. Sun timed the release of the OpenDocument standard in conjunction with the OpenOffice 2.0 release. The OASIS committee did not focus on the requirements, constraints, and experiences of Microsoft customers.
I debunked that one in detail back on December 13 of last year. Every characterization, and most of the facts, are untrue.
Ooooohhh… As luck would have it I debunked the attempted debunk two weeks prior… (Update: It seems my effort to spellcheck a bit more carefully has gotten the best of me. “dont_reinvent_t.html” was renamed “don’t_reinvent_t.html”. This is now fixed, pointing to the correct (and available) URI) Here’s a word-for-word copy of the same document that speaks directly to:
Q. Why is Microsoft offering a new standard, rather than simply supporting the file format for the Open Office product (sometimes called ODF)?
November 29, 2005
Don’t Reinvent The Basics? Since When Did Sun Have Anything To Do With “Inventing” The Office Software Basics?
Turning to the office-document space: right now the world has exactly one finished, delivered, standardized, totally-unencumbered, multiply-implemented XML-based office document format. You are the guys who want to introduce another, incompatible one. And I think that’s OK; but restrict your invention to the specialized Microsoft stuff that ODF can’t do, and don’t re-invent the basics. Why is this controversial?
So I admire Tim Bray probably more than I admire most anybody else on this planet, so I am leaving room for the fact that I could simply be misinterpreting this part of the above statement:
You are the guys who want to introduce another, incompatible one. And I think that’s OK; but restrict your invention to the specialized Microsoft stuff that ODF can’t do, and don’t re-invent the basics.
You are the guys who want to introduce another, incompatible one.
I’m quickly running a historical regression test through my brain to see just where it was that things began to break as far as introducing new formats into the already crowded office document types namespace. While MS Office wasn’t the first Word Processor, which, if I have my facts correct, the first GUI-based word processor was Bravo, which was followed by Gypsy. Both of these were created, in part, by Charles Simonyi who would later take a position with Microsoft and would eventually drive the development of Microsoft Word and Excel and who until recently(a few years back) continued as Microsoft’s Chief Architect. Of course the market for commercial desktop applications didn’t become possible until there was a solid base of desktop computers to sell licenses to use such software. With this in mind, it was the early 80’s that Wordstar, WordPerfect, and MS Word would hit the market, I believe Word being the last of the three in 1983.
I will concede that who beat who to market at this stage in desktop computings history would make a great question for Trivial Pursuit, But it would make a horrible basis for any sort of argument against Microsoft’s “Pioneer” status in the office document processing software business.
On the other hand, while StarOffice historically has its roots in the mid to late 80’s, it wasn’t until 1999 that Sun purchased the rights to StarOffice, so to claim that they had ANYTHING to do with the development of any sort of major office-type software developments anytime before 1999 simply means you haven’t done your historical homework.
Now, even if Tim is not so much referring to Sun and instead to Oasis and their efforts to develop the XML Open Document format, this only makes the gap even smaller as the Oasis effort didn’t, from what I remember, start until the 2002 time frame, and the first draft wasn’t made available until the first part of 2004.
So I guess my question with this is:
Just who’s re-inventing the basics, and why?
Sounds a lot more like politics and a lot less like a legitimate argument in favor of the obvious late comer to the game looking for any possible way to seem like the good guy (referring to Sun, not Tim… Tim is a good guy :) when in fact they are the ones responsible for confusing matters more so than anyone else. Thats not to suggest that the OASIS Open Document Format is confusing. In fact, just the opposite! But the mere fact that theres no legacy document formats to support is exactly the reason for the “agile” appearance and has nothing to do with Microsoft being slow. They just have 100’s of millions of customer to worry about supporting and OpenOffice/StarOffice… well, definitely not 100’s of millions, and even further no real concern for breaking compatibility between document versions… well, this does break compatibility, but when theres only a handful of people to worry about (of which are all anxious supporters of the new format anyway) theres certainly not a whole lot to lose, now is there.
Now, can we all move on to something more interesting and exciting… Like compound document formats? ;)
Folks…. I like OpenOffice.org and the ODF format. Some of the people (like Tim Bray given his comment was the basis of this particular rant) who have been a part of its development and promotion are people I hold in the highest regard. In fact, I hold very few people in higher regard than Bruce D’Arcus when it comes to truly understanding all there is to know in regards to the importance of both Oo.o/ODF as well as Microsoft Office/OpenXML. Is Bruce critical of Microsoft. Sometimes. But the thing about Bruce that I have come to respect more than anything is his pragmatic approach to the overall Office software landscape.
Is Office going to disappear anytime soon?
No! Bruce understands this and as such continues to make efforts to push forward with gaining direct MS Office support for various projects that extend from CiteProc (His OSS citation software project) and with the extended integration of various tools and utilities.
Does this mean he puts on a MS cheerleading outfit and chants MS fight songs during his lunch break?
That, I don’t know… ;)
But I can probably guess, and I think we can safely assume that each of us know what the answer is.
I’ve learned a lot from watching Bruce’s approach to all of this. He gets people involved, is the best OSS project manager I’ve ever worked with (even though we never did do all that much work together, from day one I knew Bruce knew exactly how to handle herding cats… He was, and is, a natural…) and he understands that the best way to “win” the battle is to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
That said, I don’t believe that Bruce sees MS as the enemy, but I also won’t put words into his mouth, and instead simply suggest that maybe instead of pouring resources into fighting the battle on the battlefields of the blogosphere, the classic media/press, the U.S. legal systems, etc… why not instead focus on making the absolute best of what can be made in the here and now, and then fight the next stage of this battle in the marketplace?
If this doesn’t happen, and instead we continue to try and squeeze every drop of advantage that we possibly can from the above mentioned mediums, we will be setting the precedence for a future where instead of fighting for market share with features, we will instead be fighting with favors to politicians, lobbyists, and/or any other source of so called advantage we think we can possibly gain through the legal channels, spending all of our development resources on these same mentioned channels, instead of putting that money into the development of the products themselves.
Whether anyone on the ODF side is willing to admit it or not, this isn’t about document formats.
Is the current .doc binary format open? No. But its ubiquitous, with available reader, reader/writer combinations for free on EVERY major OS/Architecture. If I create a Word document in Word, I can quite easily move that file to a completely different machine running a completely different OS, open it, edit it, save it, and return back to the original machine it was created on, or any other machine with a copy of Word, OpenOffice, Wordperfect, and so forth and be able to access the contents of that document, edit it, and so forth.
Does that make it an open format? Of course not… its a closed, proprietary binary format. But when was the last time this was an issue of significance? 1996? 95?
Moving to OpenXML — Is it really “open”? Arguably yes, arguably no. Does the fact that we can already take a proprietary, binary document format and edit it on any machine at any time, and never pay a single dime to Microsoft suggest that the areas of dispute between what is open and what is not are a waste of resources that could be spent on making a better Oo.org Office Suite?
I can’t answer for you… But I can answer for me based on my own opinions….
You’re not only wasting your own time and money, but you’re wasting ours to, as its the tax payers who are having to take the burden of the Massachusetts situation, and anything that stems from this. ARe the people of Massachusetts going to get something back in return that is equal to or greater than that in which they spent on this process?
If fewer features and slower software is something that is considered a good thing, then maybe its time to give up this hacking gig and take up something where I feel I can make a difference.
Maybe I could sell tie-died shirts on EBay, and spread the “Peace” that way…
What “Peace” that would be?
Who knows… but it certainly seems to have a brighter future than one that’s filled with legal battles over document formats that gain no tangible benefits other than the apparent freedom from something we already have, but are unwilling to accept because of the “FEAR” that MS might turn on us and sue us all for infringing upon its copyrights.
Folks, every business in the US and abroad has copyrights, and many of them have patents. Something I learned from a comment from Mike Champion from a while back is that much of the reasoning behind obtaining patents has nothing to do with taking control of an idea, and everything to do with protecting themselves from being sued by the “competition” who has made it common practice to file patent after patent and make every attempt at using those patents to then settle with big companies like MS, IBM, etc… because they know that its cheaper for MS, IBM, etc… to settle, than it is to fight it. They’re called patent trolls and we all know they exist, so lets not try and pretend that they don’t.
Is this the only reason MS and IBM, etc… file patents? No. But if we live our lives in fear based on the notion thats its possible that MS could turn around and sue us all for using their copyrighted document format, when we know beyond any reasonable doubt that the likelihood of this both happening, and a court in the United States and/or abroad actually letting such a process take place in their courts, is ZERO, then we might as well just forget about the notion of technological progress all together. Somewhere, someone has a patent that is designed to do what it is that we want to do.
As such, why even get out of bed in the morning? There’s a very good chance that there is something we will do that will infringe upon someones copyright, or patent, and as such, it just ain’t worth the risk, right?
Obviously we all know the answer… But this is where we seem to be building the foundation of our future.
Folks, this is about features. This is about enabling people to be MORE productive, not less. If you honestly believe that its the Oasis Document Format that is the true provider of freedom from all things “Vendor Lock-Down Evil” then I guess we’re at odds, as a specification is just that, a specification. The power in and of itself doesn’t exist in a specification, although it does hold the potential…
However, the potential will make itself known, and therefore the real power and freedom exists in the software that uses this specification and/or ANY other specification that is designed to make better, more enabling, and productive software.
Is ODF more capable of producing better, more reliable software than is OpenXML? I don’t think so… but I would certainly like to find out for sure by actually building the software to find out, instead of tie-dieing and selling t-shirts to “Save The Planet!”
Folks, we’re not going to “Save The Planet” by spending our resources pleading our cases in court rooms… We’re going to save it by putting our resources into enabling the people (thats us!) to be more productive, more capable, more connected, more dis-connected for that matter, more reliable, better organized, and a million more things that will eventually lead to what “Open” and “Free” is all about…
The freedom to open our minds, and free up our lives for things that allow us to truly be free in the first place.
Supposed freedom from document formats isn’t the kind of freedom I believe in. I believe in freedom that allows me to be what I want to be, and be with who I want to be with, and share with these same, as well as any other person on this planet the things that help bring a smile to my face.
Document formats are not the source of the freedom we seek, although the ability to freely exchange information is definitely one of those sources. As such, I believe that the Oasis Open Document Format is an important specification to build software against, just as I believe OpenXML to be an important document format to build software against.
As such, can we PLEASE put the focus back on building this software, instead of building mountains of legal paperwork leading to yet another Government mandate that does the same thing all Government mandates are designed to do, which is…
Put into place limitations.
Limitations take away from our freedoms, they don’t add to them. So why in the name of freedom are we attempting to put in place more limitations?