Tim Bray wrote a post Life is Complicated that is directly addressed to me. Tim was, as usual, thoughtful and exemplary, and emailed his main points for comment before going public. (He had said I was ignoring the elephant in the room, and I had replied that there was more than one elephant, which he put in his post I was glad to see.) I’ll address some of his points in another post, but I wanted to clear up something first:
I am not a “standing member” of ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 34 - Document Description and Processing Languages as far as I am aware, and I certainly am not eligible to vote (in plenary session) there. Votes are organized on national body lines at SC34, for most issues. I am however an invited expert to SC34’s WG1, primarily in order to act as editor of ISO Schematron and help with the ISO DSDL effort. (Now I used to act as Australian delegate, from Standards Australia, but that was a decade ago.)
SC34 doesn’t approve ISO standards. National bodies do, each with their own procedures. In fact, in the Fast Track and PAS procedures we have very little formal input until it is dumped in our laps at the end. Now, in the particular case of OOXML Microsoft consulted with WG1 and various members first in order to make the changes necessary to bring it up to the technical standard necessary. For example, I emphasized that any Windows-specific or API-specific features should be in a different namespace and not intermingled. I know another member (who does have strong influence on his nation’s vote) checked up about IP issues. And we asked them to provide ISO DSDL schemas (even though non-normative)
However, because the proposed standard eventually lands in WG1’s lap, it is entirely appropriate that I take an interest in it, and test the claims being made about it. As I wrote to Tim, I have long-standing bias towards plurality, I don’t think that standards should be about stifling rich computer environments but enabling them: some overlap between standards is good. (Because I take the view that contradiction in ISO terms is a strong test where one standard tries to alter another, rather than just where two standards overlap or where one PAS or FastTrack standard doesn’t use another, my interest in OOXML as a WG member devolves to verifying the alleged and real technical problems.)
The trouble with saying I am a standing member, is that silly or mean people might think that this gives me some voting power. Since I already have been mentioned in one press article that used the word “bribery” I am a little sensitive to this, but I know that Tim of all people (for the reasons he gives concerning his experience a decade ago) would not be wanting to perpetuate any smears.