OOXML - what just happened? 
2007-09-06, 20:19
As everyone knows, the DIS 29500 five-month ballot closed on 2 September, and the results are now out.

To look at the headlines, one would think something momentous happened. “Microsoft’s OOXML Rejected By ISO” they (mostly) say. Yet again, the truth is more mundane: there was a vote, the process continues. Anyone who had bothered to acquaint themselves with the basics of the process (perhaps by reading this blog) was not surprised. In truth, there was no great prize on offer here (other than in cheap PR) which Microsoft/Ecma somehow failed to attain. This ballot merely took the temperature of opinion at a mid-point in the process. Even if DIS 29500 had achieved ISO approval it would not have been published without further deliberations, and the headline writers are quite wrong to imply otherwise. Equally, Microsoft's silly press release represents cheap PR from the other direction.

... and what happens next?

As I have blogged previously, the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) is the crucial forum for DIS 29500's standardisation. The meeting is scheduled to take place between 25-29 February at the International Conference Centre, Geneva.

Already some curious pieces of wrong information are beginning to appear about the process of this meeting, which is governed by the published JTC 1 Directives. Sure, these Directives leave some room for interpretation (which will appear in the coming weeks and months), but the framework of the meeting is already clearly set out ...

The aim of the BRM is resolution, not argument

The purpose of the BRM is to try and resolve, in good faith, the comments made by the countries that have voted in the ballot, and to try and get constructive agreement on a revised text if that is possible.

Who attends the BRM?

The 87 countries that voted in the five-month ballot may send delegations to the BRM. Those that voted “disapprove” have (in the words of the Directives) a “duty” to send a delegation, as do P-members.

P-member and O-member status

Since ballot resolution is an extension of an existing ballot in which countries have voted with a certain status, for the purposes of the BRM P-Member and O-member ISO status is counted as at the close of the five-month ballot on 2 September i.e., any subsequent status changes are discounted for voting purposes.

The BRM considers revising the text

The BRM considers the comments made in the ballot that closed on 2 September, and Ecma's proposed responses to them. In this way it can work towards a revised text and (ultimately) vote on whether to adopt this.

There is no further ballot

Following the BRM, those who voted in the ballot have a very short opportunity (hours, not weeks) in order to reconsider their vote of 2 September, and inform ISO of this change. Votes can change FROM any of yes/no/abstain TO any of yes/no/abstain. In this way the fate of DIS 29500 is decided.

The BRM is the end of the decision making process

If the result of the BRM is that DIS 29500 is accepted, Ecma have one month to prepare the revised text, which is then forwarded for publication as a full ISO standard.

Roll on February!
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