UK Open Standards *Sigh*

by Alex Brown 15. April 2011 11:44

It can be tough, putting effort into standardization activities – particularly if you're not paid to do it by your employer. The tedious meetings, the jet lag, the bureaucratic friction and the engineering compromises can all eat away at the soul. But most people participating (particularly, perhaps, those not paid to do it by their employer) are kept going by the thought that, in the end, their contribution might make a difference. That in some small way the world will become a better place because of their efforts.

So it will come something of a kick in the teeth to see something like this Survey on Open Standards in the Public Sector from the UK government's Cabinet Office. It is hard to know where to start with this: whether it’s the ignorance of what a “standard” (never mind an “open standard”) is; or the thought that having a check-box survey is an intelligent way to form an assessment of technologies leading into a standards policy.

Faced with such clueless fuckwittery it’s tempting simply to ask: what’s the point?


4/22/2011 11:04:36 AM #


Alex, I'm a bit unsure what those vague "open standards" are, but if they are anything similar to those that have been developed in the past 10 years or so for internet coding (by the W3C organization), it could be a blessing to all technologies and the way we work. This could potentially mean LESS annoying empty pointless meeting time and less idiotic bureaucracy. Last time I visited the UK, I've seen a lot of that. Cheers from Israel.

Chanan Israel |

4/22/2011 11:30:02 PM #

André Rebentisch

The survey shows that they aim for a British SAGA. SAGA is the smart thing to clone unless you are French. Their approach became a "standard".

André Rebentisch Germany |

4/23/2011 9:08:09 AM #

Richard Ardern

Your contribution has certainly "made a difference"; the problem is that a number of us still retain a considerable level of frustration about your efforts to railroad the introduction of ISO29500 (the OOXML debacle).  Have you thought that maybe someone in the Cabinet Office has spotted that frustration and decided that it might be a good idea to listen to a wider group?

Richard Ardern United Kingdom |

4/23/2011 4:12:31 PM #



If the technologies being surveyed were things like W3C Recommendations that would be great. Unfortunately among them are things which aren't standards at all - like "Word (.doc)", "PowerPoint (.pps and .ppt)", "Lotus Notes Web Access (.nsf)", etc.


SAGA? In this country that's a club providing services to "old people" (actually, as I write I realise it's to over 50's -- and perhaps I don't think of that as "old" any more!)


"Railroaded"? My main contribution to the OOXML affair was merely to chair a meeting which made changes to the text. The decision to approve that text (of OOXML) was made subsequently by a super-majority of National Bodies, not individuals. Part of the problem with the Cabinet Office survey is - incidentally - that it is dignifying proprietary Microsoft technologies (among others) with the status of "standard". Hence my frustration!

Alex United Kingdom |

4/24/2011 2:15:58 PM #

Richard Ardern

".....dignifying proprietary Microsoft technologies (among others) with the status of "standard"."

I find it difficult to believe that you are not familiar with the concept of a de facto standard.  Surely you are aware, however much you might deprecate them, that MS .doc and .xls are de facto standards for document exchange?

My reading of the Cabinet Office survey is that one aspect is to ask if certain "standards" should be made mandatory/recommended/deprecated.  What is it that frustrates you that individuals in the industry are being canvassed for their views? Or are you expecting that lobbyists for the owners of proprietary standards will skew the survey results by "ballot stuffing"?

Richard Ardern

Richard Ardern United Kingdom |

4/25/2011 6:03:08 AM #



Yes, but "de facto standards" (i.e. non-standards) are what everybody is wanting to get away from. And wrongy calling them "open standards" doesn't help.

If "individuals in the industry [were] being canvassed for their views" then that might provide some kind of useful input, but simply putting out a survey on the web provides little or no guarantee of who might participate. So yes, there is a risk of campaigning interests providing disproportionate input in one direction or another.

Alex United Kingdom |

4/23/2011 7:39:53 PM #


Wow, if Microsoft Word and PowerPoint were among the "standards" I can only guess what the rest are. Yikes. I guess I was being a bit too optimistic there.

Chanan Israel |

4/25/2011 1:20:42 AM #


Pingback from

Microsoft’s OOXML Fox Speaks of “Clueless Fuckwittery.” | Techrights |

4/25/2011 11:46:07 AM #

seller liar

Dear Alex

Your Job is done .We don t need more people defending Microsoft now. Go to hell and use the all money you received from Microsoft. Pay a drink to devil.

But please go away and don t look back.

seller liar Georgia |

4/28/2011 6:01:06 AM #


Government standards vehicle driven by "clueless fuckwittery"

A senior member of a leading British tech standards body has launched an excoriating attack on Cabinet Office efforts to implement the central plank of its ICT Strategy.

The outburst has opened a crack into the secretive world of formal tech standards, suggesting it may be convulsed in a fit of pique not seen since Microsoft got its derided OOXML document format passed by standards bodies around the world in 2008.

Public Sector IT |

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Note that everyone directly involved in the development of ISO standards is a volunteer or funded by outside sponsors. The editors, technical experts, etc., get none of this money. Of course, we must also consider the considerable expense of maintaining offices and executive staff in Geneva. Individual National Bodies are also permitted to sell ISO standards and this money is used to fund their own national standards activities, e.g., pay for offices and executive staff in their capital. But none of this money seems to flow down to the people who makes the standards.

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