SC 34 Meetings, Jeju Island, Korea - Day 3 
2008-10-01, 15:50

Preparing for the Plenary

This Korean bog is so computerized it has an appreciable boot sequence;
brings a whole new meaning to the term “core dump”

WG 1 met in the morning and its business was mainly consensus-building and drafting on topics already covered, in advance of tomorrow’s plenary. The plan is to create a new working group dedicated to document interoperability, and many NBs participated in a drafting panel to get the terms of reference for this group just right. There were also liaison statements to be written: to OASIS (concerning ODF maintenance), and to JTC 1 (concerning ODF maintenance) – again there was wide interest in making sure these communiqués exactly expressed the consensus International view.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, our tireless and most excellent experts were scrutinizing the new ISO/IEC 29500 (OOXML) text to ensure all the UK’s BRM changes have been properly implemented. Three problems have been found so far and submitted to SC 34 as defect reports. I am sure there will be many more.

Bye bye IBM?

Following the threat made last week by Bob Sutor (VP, Vice President Open Source and Standards, IBM) that IBM would, as its first stated “principle”,

Begin or end participation in standards bodies based on the quality and openness of their processes, membership rules, and intellectual property policies.”

a question being asked along the committee corridors by perplexed NB members is whether IBM has withdrawn its staff from participation SC 34. I have no idea, but IBM people are certainly conspicuous here by their total absence.

Some chairs were empty at SC 34

In reaction to Bob Sutors’s post, the headlines (some from sources who really should know better) suggested that IBM would “leave ISO”. They can of course do no such thing. IBM is not a member of ISO (or IEC, or JTC 1, or any of its subcommittees) – mere vendors are not accorded the privilege of being members of an International organisation; only National Bodies (effectively, countries) are — hence the “nation” in “international”.

The next steps in IBM’s plan is to hold a secret meeting (invitation only; secret member list; opaque funding) to discuss – would you believe – openness, perhaps before waltzing off to create a brave new standards world in Second Life: maybe there, IBM can be a nation!

For myself I know first-hand that IBM does have some great people who have a lot to bring to International Standardization in all kinds of ways. Indeed IBM has made a historic contribution to SC 34 and its predecessor groups – no less a person than Charles Goldfarb, the “father of SGML”, was himself an IBM man. We need people of that calibre. But even if IBM is blasé about (what might sentimentally be termed) a betrayal of its heritage, they might take a hard-headed look at the benefits of being a full, good-faith player in International Standardization: I wonder how long, especially in these troubled economic times, IBM stockholders are going to tolerate the kind of valueless, out-of-control escapade the company is currently indulging in.

Charles Goldfarb, markup languages titan and sometime IBM man

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