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Subject: Re: [office] Formula subcommittee - olive branch?

"David A. Wheeler" <dwheeler@dwheeler.com> wrote on 02/01/2006 05:33:42 PM:

> FYI, I've had a private email asking if in the future there might be
> interest in our working on spreadsheet formulas somehow
> with ECMA and/or the folks involved with EOOX.

Interesting thought.  Why do you think they suggested formulas in particular?  With a combined size of almost 3 kilo-pages of specification, there are numerous other points of interest when comparing the two.  

This just isn't a question of spreadsheet formulas.  It is a difference of philosophy.  ODF was designed to reuse existing XML vocabularies wherever possible.  If inventing something from scratch could be avoided by using an established standard, it was used.  This is a great benefit to implementers and developers, since you can use the tools and standards you already know.  On the other hand,  EOOX seems to avoid obvious choices of existing standards.   For example, ODF uses MathML for equations, while EOOX uses a nonstandard called OOML.  Anyone ever here of OOML?  ODF uses SVG for vector graphics.  EOOX uses VML and DrawML, etc.

So, I'd suggest the first step for making EOOX more in harmony with ODF would be for it to reuse some of the same existing standards which ODF uses.  We're talking about uncontroversial W3C standards like SVG and MathML.  But unfortunately the point is moot.  My understanding of the ECMA EOOX submission was under Terms of Reference which required that ECMA standardize an XML format which is 100% backwards compatible with the existing Office 12 XML formats.  So, there doesn't seem to be any way in which ECMA TC45 could change their formula language to be closer to ODF's.
And on the other side, I'm not sure there is anything this TC can do to be closer to ECMA's formula language.  Why?  Because it simply doesn't exist.  The posted draft EOOX does not specify formulas as being anything more than xsd:string.

> I can't speak for anyone else.  I can say that for myself, I would
> be happy to work with ANY party, ESPECIALLY any implementor,
> that is interested in creating an open standard.  On the other hand,
> it seems unwise to sit in a "wait forever" mode for
> something that may never occur. ECMA has not committed
> to doing this work, to my knowledge, and the OpenDocument TC
> members see a need to start NOW.

OASIS does it work openly and publically.  They are free to observe what we do, and participate if they wish to join.  Some ECMA TC45 member companies (including the submittor of EOOX) are already OASIS members, so they can join the TC instantly with a few mouse clicks, if they wish.

> But how about this - as part of the establishment of the
> formula subcommittee, make a point to invite all implementers
> to join the TC subcommittee, and that you'd like all to join.
> You'd mean that anyway, but it'd be a nice gesture; is there
> any objection to making an invitation as a formal announcement?

We should certainly publicize the creation of the subcommittee as we have previously with the Accessibility subcommittee. In that case, an announcement was made on the TC homepage as well as the OASIS homepage.  If there is someone of particular expertise in a special area (formal grammars, financial functions, etc.),then we should be sure to solicit them.  But keep in mind that subcommittee participation requires OASIS membership.

> If there are other ways to extend an olive branch, or make it
> easier to bring those people into a process, that'd be great too.
> If anyone has any ideas on that score, please voice them.

Where do formula people hang out? <g>  Honestly, I'd expect that the existing OpenFormula contributors would be the best pool of recruits, since they have already expressed interest in the topic.

Also, perhaps a representative from Corel could join?  Their Quattro Pro perspective could be useful.

> This way OASIS can continue at top speed, but if others want
> to join the standardization process later on, they can do so.
> I don't know if we can make the standardization stars align,
> but I would be DELIGHTED if it could happen somehow.
> If everyone could agree on ONE spec that'd be great.

We do what we can, right?  Since OASIS operates under a transparent, open and public standards development process, it will produce standards that reflect the needs and interests of those who come to the table, and this includes a diversity of government, commercial, academic, non-profit and open source interests.  There is no single captain at the wheel who can, by his own will, steer it in one direction or another.  But if on the EOOX side there is no give-and-take of open standards development, and the only condition is that their specification remain compatible with Office 12, then I'm not optimist that these ships will ever meet.


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