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Subject: Re: [opendocument-users] Adding tables to ODP files

On Sun, Nov 1, 2009 at 11:53 AM, Jan Wildeboer <jwildebo@redhat.com> wrote:
> There must be better places to discuss TC stuff, marbux. Seeing you
> hijacking almost every single thread with technical questions for your
> political rants is NOT helping the original posters that simply want an
> answer to their specific question.
> Please be so nice and create your own threads instead of hijacking normal
> traffic.
> Thanks for listening. Nettiquette still matters. No matter how '95 it seems.
> You are behaving trollish sometimes.

You responded to precisely zero of my substantive points and none of
my evidence. You challenge my manners but point to no specific words I
said that you purportedly regard as a breach of Netiquette.

My conclusion: Your post an unmistakable argumentum ad hominem
abusive, an informal fallacy of the red herring variety.
<http://www.fallacyfiles.org/adhomine.html>.  Your argument attacks my
purported bad manners rather than the merits of my substantive points.

Moreover, you have not supported your argument with any evidence,
failing to identify a single specific example of something I said that
you allegedly regard as ill-mannered. This, of course functions to
leave me with nothing concrete to respond to.

As Rob Weir once said:

"You could dispute the facts I present. You could argue against my
logic if you wish. But you have done neither. You merely resort to ad
hominen attacks. I'll take that as an expression of your frustration
at not finding a hole in my argument."


As to your factual allegations

1. Frequency of Posts to Threads on This List

"[E]very single thread," Jan? According to my Gmail account, I have
not posted to this list since last June and there have been many
intervening threads. You have wildly exaggerated the frequency of my
participation on this list. Please do some fact-checking before you
make your accusations.

2. My Alleged Hijacking of This Thread

On this particular thread, Bart and Dennis provided the information
the original poster requested and he has not been seen since. I
therefore presume that the original poster was satisfied with the
information he received.

My first post in this thread quoted and responded to a specific
statement that Dennis made regarding the possible removal from ODF 1.2
of the existing Appendix identifying core attributes and elements. I
provided historical context, citations, and links to my authorities.

Rob Weir responded and I replied to his post, again providing
historical context, citations, and links to my authorities. Rob
responded and I replied again, again providing evidence for my

That was my last post in this thread until this post.

It would appear that if I hijacked this thread abandoned by the
original poster, so did Rob Weir. Why do you have no corresponding
criticism of his behavior?

3. My Alleged 'Rants'

I'll confine the discussion to what I wrote about in this thread so we
don't have to review everything I've ever written anywhere; okay?

First, as the co-author of three treatises, a former typographer for
two decades who had to answer to very tough proofreaders, a retired
lawyer who excelled in writing winning legal briefs, and a near
life-long student of the English language, I am very conscious of the
tone and quality of my written words. I have closely re-examined what
I wrote in this thread and I have double-checked my understanding of
the "rant." <http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=rant>

I have found nothing I wrote in this thread that falls my
understanding of that word. I wrote in a calm tone, discussing matters
so weighty that they are the subject of international law, provided
quotations, citations, hyperlinks, and a reasoned explanation of my
position. I also gave the same treatment to evidence in the form of
prior statements by the person I was speaking to and by other
employees of his company. I also asked a few questions politely and

You may be uncomfortable with discussion of relevant legal authorities
or the particular points I raised, but your discomfort does not
somehow compel the conclusion that what I wrote were "rants."

Because my own careful evaluation of what I wrote convinces me
otherwise and you have provided no evidence that would cast a sense of
"rant" on what I wrote, I am left to ponder whether you used that word
only for its emotive effect without concern to its actual fit with
what I had said. That would be consistent with your allegation of my
alleged "trollish" behavior, which likewise was unsupported by any
cited evidence.

4. Alleged 'Political' Nature of What I Wrote

You also tacked the adjective "political" onto your slinging of the
"rants" accusation.

If you view the absence in ODF of "conformity requirements that are
essential to achieve the interoperability" as a political issue, I
would appreciate you informing me on which side of that "political"
issue you and your employer are encamped.

That quoted language happens to be a threshold mandatory *technical*
requirement for all JTC 1 standards absent the express consent of the
Secretaries-General of ISO and IEC. See JTC 1 Directives section 1.2
and Annex I, <http://isotc.iso.org/livelink/livelink/fetch/2000/2489/186491/186605/Chapter1.html>,

Although differently worded, it also happens to be a legal requirement
imposed upon all private standards bodies within the territories of
nations (and the E.U.) that have acceded to the Agreement on Technical
Barriers to Trade. See ibid.,
Articles 3.1, 4.1 (applicability), and Appendix 3(E) ("The
standardizing body shall ensure that standards are not prepared,
adopted or applied with a view to, or with the effect of, creating
unnecessary obstacles to international trade").

The case that non-interoperability of ODF implementations creates
unnecessary obstacles to international trade is easily made out
against IBM, Sun, Red Hat, and other members of the European Committee
for Interoperable Systems by reference to a prior statement posted to
the Web several years ago:

"Interoperability is a cornerstone of the ICT industry. In today's
networked ICT environments, devices do not function purely on their
own, but must interact with other programs and devices. A device that
cannot interoperate with the other products with which consumers
expect it to interoperate is essentially worthless. It is
interoperability that drives competition on the merits and innovation.
The ability of different computer products to interoperate allows
consumers to choose among them. Because consumers can choose among
them, interoperable products must compete with one another, and it is
this competition that has driven innovation in the software industry."


Of course, those same companies participated as parties in the
proceedings leading to the landmark interoperability legal decision in
the case of Commission v. Microsoft, European Community Court of First
Instance (Grand Chamber Judgment of 17 September, 2007), para. 230,
374, 421, <http://curia.europa.eu/jurisp/cgi-bin/gettext.pl?where=&lang=en&num=79929082T19040201&doc=T&ouvert=T&seance=ARRET>
(rejecting Microsoft's argument that "interoperability" has a 1-way
rather than 2-way meaning; information technology specifications must
be disclosed with sufficient specificity to place competitors on an
"equal footing" in regard to interoperability; "the 12th recital to
Directive 91/250 defines interoperability as 'the ability to exchange
information and mutually to use the information which has been

Notice the the very close resemblance of that definition just quoted
with the corresponding definition of "interoperability" in JTC 1

"[T]he ability of two or more IT systems to exchange information at
one or more standardised interfaces and to make mutual use of the
information that has been exchanged."


These are companies that would start with an evidentiary handicap in
attempting to persuade a subsequent tribunal that they do not
understand the critical legal and technical importance of sufficient
specificity in technical specifications to place implementing
competitors on an equal footing. They have asserted the same body of
law in their own interests and prevailed.

Would a tribunal interpreting the Agreement on Technical Barriers to
Trade arrive at a different definition of interoperability? I suspect

Under the TBT Agreement, Article 2.4, "Where technical regulations are
required and relevant international standards exist or their
completion is imminent, Members shall use them, or the relevant parts
of them, as a basis for their technical regulations[.]"

Unmistakably, international standards must fulfill the requirements
for "technical regulations." Those requirements include specification
of [i] *"any* objectively definable 'features', 'qualities',
'attributes', or other 'distinguishing mark'" [ii] of an identifiable
product or group of products [iii] only in mandatory "must" or "must
not" terms. WTDS 135 EC - Asbestos, (World Trade Organization
Appellate Body; 12 March 2001; HTML version), para. 66-70,
(emphasis added),  reaffirmed, WTDS 231 EC - Sardines (World Trade
Organization Appellate Body; 26 September 2002; DOC version), pp.
41-51, <http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds231_e.htm>.

In other words, the degree of specificity required by JTC 1 Directives
in regard to interoperability is implicit in the Appellate Panel's
Asbestos decision.

Would the European Commission adopt a different interpretation of
"interoperability" in the context of an action directed against a
standards organization and its members rather than against a monopoly
vendor? Again, the precedents cause me to suspect not.

For example, the issue of interoperability in regard to a private
standards organization was before the Commission in 87/69/EEC:
Commission Decision of 15 December 1986 relating to a proceeding under
Article 85 of the EEC Treaty (IV/31.458 - X/Open Group), OJ L 035 ,
06/02/1987 P. 0036 - 0043,
Notice that EEC Article 85 has since been renumbered as Article 81 in
the consolidated version and can be viewed at

In that case, the Commission concluded that the specifications to be
adopted by the consortium of US and European companies that had formed
the X/Open Group would constitute "agreements between undertakings"
and therefore subject to the antitrust prohibition in Article 85(1).
X/Open Group para. 28-29. The Commission, however, entered a five-year
suspension of that prohibition pursuant to Article 85(3) subject to
conditions. See Articles1 and 2 following para. 53.

Although discussed in more detail, the Commission's critical relevant
holding was that " the intended creation of a wider availability of
software and greater flexibility offered to users to change between
hardware and software from different sources easily outweigh the
distortions of competition entailed in the rules governing membership
which are indispensable to the attainment of the objectives of the
Group Agreement." Para. 42. "The Commission considers that the
willingness of the Group to make available the results as quickly as
possible is an essential element in its decision to grant an
exemption." Ibid.

There is also the factor that monopolists also participate in
standards development and that imposition of a different required
level of specificity in the standard-setting process therefore could
result in conflicting obligations. Moreover, both EEC Articles 81 and
82 share the same goal of maintaining competitive markets. One may
therefore predict with some confidence that the European Commission
would re-embrace its "equal footing" Microsoft precedent if presented
with a suitable case under EEC Article 81 involving the
standard-setting process.

And so one can reasonably perceive a common thread between
international law, JTC 1 Directives, and E.U. antitrust law in regard
to the degree of specificity required in technical specifications
whether those specifications are for monopoly software or a software
standard developed by an industry consortium of large and small
players. The Court of First Instance summed up that common thread
nicely in its Microsoft decision, disclosure of specifications with
sufficient specificity to place competitors on an "equal footing" in
regard to interoperability.

So far from being a rant, my discussion of the more than seven-year
delay in enabling "users to change between ... software from different
sources" and my questions about the ODF TC's schedule for providing
the necessary specifications was directed specifically to criteria
announced in the case law. To my knowledge, OASIS has sought no
relevant exemption pursuant to E.U. antitrust procedures and is more
than two years past the period granted by the Commission in its
precedent most squarely on point, the X/Open Group matter.

The fact that the ODF TC does not even yet have a work item to specify
"clearly and unambiguously the conformity requirements that are
essential to achieve the interoperability" and proposes to soon
release yet another iteration of the specification without such
provisions is cause for reasonable and serious concern, as is the TC
Co-Chair's renewed announcement on this list of intent to provide only
incremental improvements in interoperability specificity from version
to version of ODF.

I am an ODF user. I was lured to use and publicly endorse those
formats by a long series of knowingly false and misleading public
statements about ODF interoperability issued by IBM and Sun, but find
myself locked into a single implementing code base in blatant
violation of law on multiple continents.

But there stands the ODF TC without even a work item on its agenda,
after more than seven years, to specify "clearly and unambiguously the
conformity requirements that are essential to achieve the

So from my viewpoint it is a technical and legal issue, not a
political issue, a major failure to fulfill the ODF TC's fundamental
responsibility in over seven years --- through multiple iterations of
the specification --- to produce a pro-competitive standard that
complies with the meta-standards provided by JTC 1 Directives, the TBT
Agreement, and antitrust law.

What conceivable basis is there for your characterization of that as a
"political issue?" I am not arguing for the law or JTC 1 Directives to
be changed, which would be political; I am calling for them to be
obeyed, which is not so far as I can see a political issue. It is a
simple matter of willingness to comply. (That is not intended to imply
that bringing ODF into compliance with the law and JTC 1 Directives
would be a simple task, but the issue of *whether* to do so is far
from complex.)

Do you want an example of a political statement from the other side of
this issue? Try this one:

"The major benefit of open standards is interoperability. Open
standards facilitate and ensure interoperability. Interoperability is
essential for future ICT ecosystems in a networked global environment
with an increasing need for machine-to-machine connectivity: my
software needs to talk to your software; my process needs to interact
with your process.


"... ODF has been successfully implemented by a number of vendors and
application developers. Implementations include OpenOffice; Star
Office; Google Docs & Spreadsheets; K-Office; Scribus; Abiword;
ajaxWrite; Zoho Writer; Ichitaro; IBM Lotus/Domino; IBM Workplace;
Mobile Office; Gnumeric; Neo Office; Hancom Office. In other words:
all of these applications use the same standard, ODF; all of them
produce files with the extension .odt for text documents, .ods for
spreadsheets and .odp for presentations; *and these files can be
opened, read and edited by either application implementing the ODF
standard. This is interoperability at its best.

"Consequently, customers freely choose the applications based on look
and feel, functionality, cost, or other criteria, without worrying
about purchasing a specific, single-vendor software in order to work
with their documents. ..."*

Trond Arne Undheim and Jochen Friedrich, "The Momentum of Open
Standards - a Pragmatic Approach to Software Interoperability," 5
European J. ePractice, pp. 7-8 (31 October 2008),
<http://www.epractice.eu/files/ePractice-Journal-Volume-5.pdf>. (Note
that Undheim works for Oracle, Friedrich for IBM's corporate standards
team.) See also similar publication by Friedrich in December 2008,

"The European Journal of ePractice is a digital publication on
eTransformation by ePractice.eu, a portal created by the European
Commission to promote the sharing of good practices in eGovernment,
eHealth and eInclusion." Ibid. So we clearly look at a political
action, lobbying government for commercial advantage, but basing that
appeal on an outright fabrication that could not be farther from the

In the passage highlighted above, IBM and Oracle urge on government
users the ODF Interoperability Myth in lieu of striving on the ODF TC
to make that myth come true. Words are far cheaper than relevant
action and the OpenOffice.org ODF oligopoly of big vendors is thus
sheltered from a level competitive playing field. There is an enormous
tension between the information that IBM freely dispenses to the
public and its actions on the ODF TC. (Very long list of quotations,
citations, and links omitted.)

Of course IBM has no monopoly on such misrepresentations. Sun does it too. E.g.:

"Office productivity applications and the documents they create are
key to today's knowledge economy. Information critical to the long
term functioning of any organization is stored in the spreadsheets,
presentations, and text documents its employees create," said Michael
Brauer of Sun Microsystems, chair of the OASIS OpenDocument Technical
Committee. "Today, for the first time in the 25-year history of office
applications, such documents can be stored in an open, *standardized,
and vendor-independent format."*

OASIS News, Members Approve OpenDocument as OASIS Standard (23 May
2005), <http://www.oasis-open.org/news/oasis_news_05_23_05.php>
(emphasis added).

"Standardized?" "Vendor-independent?" Sure, and that is undoubtedly
why IBM urges, "Let's work to make OpenOffice.org be the full
reference implementation for ODF!"
slide 22. And undoubtedly that is why IBM castigates Microsoft for not
implementing spreadsheet formulas in its ODF 1.1 support the way
OpenOffice.org implements them. E.g.,
("First, we might hear that ODF 1.1 does not define spreadsheet
formulas and therefore it is not necessary for one vendor to use the
same formula language that other vendors use. This is certainly is
true if your sole goal is to claim conformance.")

"Standardized" but non-interoperable yet conforming?
"Vendor-independent?" I submit that both terms were materially
misleading when uttered in 2005 and still are.

Here is another example of a political statement from Sun:

"The agreement is part of UNESCO's ongoing effort to improve digital
inclusion globally by partnering with the private sector. Under its
terms, Sun Microsystems and UNESCO will promote the use of open source
technologies, including OpenOffice.org and OpenDocument Format (ODF)
standard, as a low-cost way to improve education with universal access
to information and knowledge."

Anon., UNESCO and Sun Microsystems Announce Joint Education and
Community Development Effort Powered by Open Technologies, Sun
Microsystems news release (22 May 2009),

So according to Sun the U.N. will provide "universal access to
information and knowledge" with OpenOffice.org and OpenDocument
Format" (sic)? Isn't that a political statement? How is one to run
OpenOffice.org on a netbook, a mobile device, or the OLPC XO-1 laptop?
And since OOo is too much of a resource hog to run on such machines,
what ODF implementation will run on them that can interoperate with
OpenOffice.org using ODF? My answers to those questions are "you
can't" and "none unless you like disappearing data." See e.g.,  the
sources cited and linked in my comment on the following blog page
regarding the actual state of ODF implementation interoperability.

 How is that "universal access to information and knowledge?"
Universal access without interoperability? Gee, that seems to boil
down to a single code base for all. But how do we get that pig to run
on mobile devices, netbooks, and the OLPC laptop?

5. Netiquette

Is it good Netiquette to knowingly mislead the world about the state
of the ODF specification and the interoperability of its
implementations in lieu of a serious and determined effort to make the
ODF Interop Myth come true? What shelter does that myth provide your
company if and when the competition regulators come knocking at the
doors of the ODF TC's membership?

"'Red Hat is a strong advocate of the use of royalty-free, open
standards in the technology industry. We look forward to continued
collaboration not only with other major technology companies, but also
with important global government agencies, that as end users of
technology offer a unique perspective on the importance of
interoperability for office applications,' said Tom Rabon, executive
vice president, Corporate Affairs for Red Hat.


Tell me, Jan, does Red Hat support adoption of ODF 1.2 without that
proposed standard specifying "clearly and unambiguously the conformity
requirements that are essential achieve the interoperability?"

Please go back and read the post that started this thread? Do you
think developers would have to ask such questions and get such
disappointing answers in response if ODF were adequately specified?

Thanks for listening, but I hope you might go beyond listening to
provide some non-evasive responses to such questions. The answers
matter a lot to we software users who actually understand what's going
on. Like the competition regulators, we'd much prefer choice to vendor
lock-in. And we'd rather have answers to such questions than lectures
on etiquette.


Best regards,

Paul E. Merrell, J.D. (Marbux)

Universal Interoperability Council

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