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Subject: Re: [opendocument-users] simple OO.org document goes awry in MSOffice 2007 w/SP2 - what went wrong?

Thanks for all the comments in response to my question.  I'm going to try addressing several of them individually.  Please keep in mind I am speaking on my own behalf from the perspective of a single user, and not for my employer:

Rob Weir:

"The point is users want interoperability now.  Fixes to code can occur much faster than fixes to a standard.  So if we find a problem, fix it in the code now.  Of course, if the problem stemmed from an ambiguity in the standard, then fix it there as well, but know that ODF releases will be years apart, whereas applications often issue patches every quarter.  Remember, a change to the standard alone fixes no interoperability problems whatsoever.  It only changes paper.  Unless and until the application code changes, the problem continues..."

Very well stated, and agreed.  Standards are always evolving, new iterations of standards take time, and standards usually evolve following practical measures previously taken collaboratively in the real world.  Users want practical interoperability, not posturing standing on principles.

Sander Marechal:

"Could you replace the text with e.g. Lorum Ipsum and the images with some free artwork instead?  We're not interested in your content as such, but in the document structure...."

Sorry, it is just not possible with this document.  Once it can be shared, I'll share it immediately, though.

Rick Jelliffe:

"Or you could have a standards process that attempted to prioritize bug fixes over new features. Oh, but that is the route the ODF TC decided not to take."

This doesn't bother me as an end user at all.  I recognize standards bodies have limited resources.  Given limitless resources optimally everything would be prioritized simultanously.  But the world doesn't work that way.  As an end-user I'd rather see those who have deep pockets contributing more to ODF and increasing the resources available to its maintainers, instead of squandering their resources on formats marketed as competing formats, interoperability between ODF and those other mis-marketed formats, or criticizing ODF.  ODF is the only document format ISO has certified for general office suite usage, and it should be nurtured as such.
I think this is especially true given the wasteful, aggravated criticism ODF 1.0 has received for LACKING certain features, such as OpenFormula, and this lack of features like OpenFormula having been used to justify the creation of a format marketed to compete with ODF.  As an end-user I'd like to see every gap in ODF fixed with a snap of a finger, but magic doesn't happen.  So a fry-the-biggest-fish, and invite-more-contributors-to-contribute-positively-to-our-frying-oil-fund-instead-of-unfairly-griping-about-us approach seems eminently reasonable to me.
Paul Merrill:
"... it just looks like another excuse for pumping out yet another ODF standard that does not "clearly and unambiguously specify the conformity requirements that are essential to achieve the interoperability," as required by JTC 1 Directives...."
As an end user I'd like to see a clear focus on interoperability between applications implementing ODF.  I am never clear when I read your posts, Paul, whether you are referring to ODF-to-ODF interoperability, or interoperability between ODF and some other format.  From reading all the discussions on the Internet it is crystal clear to an end user like me that ODF-to-ODF interoperability is hard enough, so any time spent on interoperation with other formats being marketed to compete with ODF is wasted time that could be better spent on ODF-to-ODF interoperability.  I would find your responses more helpful if they focused less on invective over perceived past slights and more on the specific issue of ODF-to-ODF interoperability, which is what my original question was about.  Maybe the failure to "clearly and unambiguously specify the conformity requirements" that you are suggesting relate to both types of interoperability, or maybe not, but it is unclear from your post.
Further on this topic, implementors have different strategies they could use to ensure interoperability.  One strategy is for an implementor to announce its interoperability direction by fiat, and call that open and transparent.  I personally don't think this go-it-alone strategy is sufficient.  In my end user's perspective, it seems that practical interoperability will require collaboration instead of announcement, and making practical choices such as replicating the easily observable (i.e. open sourced) behavior of the leading ODF implementation, OO.org.
Jan Wildeboer, John Cowan, and Chris Puttick:
"... Interoperability is not a given thing.  It needs work, communication and support.  The standard will never answer all questions.  And if it would, it wouldn't help innovation.  It's a delicate balance. It is not black and white."
Wow, refreshing voices of reason instead of the usual micturation contests, and a perspective with which this individual user completely agrees.  Users want practical ODF interoperability.  And we want implementers to stop flaming each other and stop fighting ODF and start cooperating to achieve practical ODF interoperability.
Dave Pawson article:  "Interoperability, validation and testability"
This end-user's individual reaction:  Yup, the standard does not appear to be perfect.  What standard is?  So get cracking on improving it.  Use the existing governing processes to offer positive improvement suggestions.  Roll up your sleeves and help out.
Lars Nooden:
"The problem we have is that a single vendor has made a bad faith implementation and appears to be attacking everone else, from the other vendors, to the developers, to even the standards committee itself."

I, too, would prefer to see more attention to the positive, on all sides.  I personally applaud any vendor who has even tried for ODF implementation, while urging them to do better.  (Some vendors haven't even gone that far to even try ODF implementation - their office suites don't support ODF at all, or they support it as read-only).
I do agree with you that all attacks (from any side) are wasteful, just as wasteful as devoting resources to other unneeded formats.  "ODF has clearly won" is a perspective taking root everywhere one looks, especially in the governments of the world.  If true, then FWIW in my individual perspective ODF support can't be partial, can't rest on technicalities, but needs to be whole hog, real world, focused, undiverted, practical, collaborative, consensus-driven work to ensure end-users like me can choose any implementation and get strongly round-trippingly interoperable ODF results.
John C.

John C. Cody, Associate Counsel
Office of the NYS Chief Information Officer/NYS Office for Technology
[The statements expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect the policies, practices or opinions of my employer or anyone else.  Nothing herein constitutes legal advice - if you need legal advice, please consult your own attorney.]

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