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Subject: RE: [office] Public Comment #217 - Authoritative Version ofSpecification

On Mon, 30 Mar 2009, Dennis E. Hamilton wrote:

> I don't think that the easily-editable form of the specification should be
> considered authoritative.  Also, because of device and implementation
> differences, font substitutions, page reflow, etc., we have no control over
> variations in appearance and the difficulty of associating comments and
> defect reports against a fixed-form.
> I recommend that the PDF be considered authoritative (and if it could be
> digitally signed that would be good too).  This provides more reliable
> page-chapter-verse cross-referencing and discussion in reports, submitted
> defects, etc.

The technical committee is at liberty to select an authoritative format,
so the following comment (not official advice or direction from OASIS) is but
mere informal FYI -- personal comment for consideration.

I always recommend that the editable format be considered authoritative.
Here are two of the most important reasons:

1. The OASIS rule about designating an authoritative format (from among the three
    required formats (editable source, PDF, (X)HTML) arose from a concern
    that there might be a "difference" between formats, owing to document
    conversion/translation operations.  That is: conversions are sometimes
    (often) imperfect.  The notion was: if there *is* a difference, we would want
    a single point of appeal.  From this POV, it makes sense to designate the
    authoring format as authoritative, as it evidently represents the
    authoring/editorial intent.  What are the chances that the authoring
    format is "incorrect" from the standpoint of authorial intent, and that
    some derived format (the result of conversion) "correct"?  Near zero.
    If there is a difference, it's because the conversion created the difference,
    and one not representing authorial intent.

    The differences we *have* observed resulting from PDF generation and other
    conversion processes are usually small (or very small) insignificant
    changes that the human eye does not catch, because proof-readers see
    what they know must be written, not what is actually written.  That's
    why catching typos and similar mistakes is only asymptotic: several
    people acting as proof-readers will all miss the same mistake.  Now:
    why would one want a PDF (which has the typo/mistake NOT representing
    the author's intent to be authoritative?  It's a process that
    guarantees adoption of inadvertent errors -- in known classes of cases.
    Better to designate the source (the original) and not the derived
    format "authoritative".

2. OASIS allows the creation of derivative works for a range of uses,
    "without restriction of any kind."

    Official text: This document and translations of it may be copied and
    furnished to others, and derivative works that comment
    on or otherwise explain it or assist in its implementation
    may be prepared, copied, published, and distributed, in
    whole or in part, without restriction of any kind.

    Now, suppose someone does want to create an annotated (commentary)
    version, or other help system that uses the specification text
    in an online context.  We would want the creator of that derivative work
    to *start with* the authoritative format, not with some non-authoritative
    format.  If PDF is selected as authoritative, the creator of the
    derivative work would need to convert the PDF -- by some means, and all are
    known to pose serious conversion risks, and often generate artifact differences.
    (Ever try to convert PDF into editable format for such a purose?)

That's enough.  I'm quite sure Dennis has his own counter-arguments.  In
this context, the above text does not count, except as argument for the
TC's consideration.  Your game, your choice.

- Robin (speaking simply as a human being, without institutional affiliation).


> - Dennis
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael.Brauer@Sun.COM [mailto:Michael.Brauer@Sun.COM]
> Sent: Monday, March 30, 2009 05:20
> To: OpenDocument Mailing List
> Subject: [office] Public Comments 214 to 256
> [ ... ]
> 217: Question which document (HTML, PDF or ODF) of ODF 1.1 is the
> authoritative version.
> The OASIS TC process nowadays requires that one of the versions is
> declared to be the authoritative document. This was not the case for ODF
> 1.1.
> Resolution: For the future, declare ODF version to be authoritative.
> [ ... ]
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