One of the most startling aspects of the last year, to me, really shows the disruptive potential of standards: bitter enemies are hard at work making systems that also benefit their enemies in pursuit of a higher goal. A world turned upside down!
- MS opening up their formats and taking them to Ecma and ISO
- ODF and Sun making converters for Word
- Microsoft paying for an open source converter between OOXML and ODF
- IBM paying someone to review the draft specfication
- Open source activists reviewing the draft
- An ISO ODF editor making a big contribution to reviewing the draft
- Microsoft blogs publicizing Gnumeric, Apple software and any applications that get any kind of OOXML support
All this competition and bile channeled productively! No wonder people are freaked out. :-)
But the paradoxes don’t just mean that enemy act like friends, it seems. Friends also can get accused of being enemies. There is a very interesting post ODF vs OOX : Asking the wrong questions (hat tip to Doug) on the blog Spreadsheet Proctologist which I like very much because it brings out that ease-of-implementation is just as much (and perhaps mostly?) a question of what your starting base is (i.e. your native data structures and functions) as it is a question of what information and forms the external format provides.
But the readers’ comments include statements like Your self-annihilating devotion to Microsoft is too evident., and Just by touching MS OOXML, you are playing their pawn in the only purpose for this exercise. To kill ODF adaption and therefore the threat of Open Office and others as a replacement for Microsoft Office products. Is to laugh! Now GNU developers are pawns and devotees of Microsoft! That GNU software, ooooooh, just another Bill Gates plot!
As a side note, but related to the theme of finding strategies so to make the acts of people’s enemies as productive as the acts of their friends, I think that Stephane Rodriguez’ comments (to that blog and, just as circumspectly, elsewhere) on the calculation chain should be paid more attention to. (Sometime I will look up whether it made it to any national body comments for the BRM, I hope so.) Calc chain needs to be reviewed with the question asked “Is the base case a little too complicated still?” It is a mild and productive question: I suspect programmers would be happy if some more leeway were provided. Now whether the issue is an Office one or a DIS29500 one, I don’t know; but the issue should not be dismissed just because it was deposited by an ostensibly rabid whirlwind! Quite the reverse.