Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Standards board execs recommend ISO 29500 appeals be rejected

It's looking more likely now that Open XML will overcome perhaps its last hurdle on the road to publication as an international standard, as the leaders of both ISO and IEC have systematically disassembled four member countries' appeals.

The secretaries general of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Engineering Consortium, in a report to the technical and standards management boards of both organizations, recommends that those boards reject the appeals of representatives of Brazil, India, South Africa, and Venezuela against the publication of the Open XML document format suite created by Microsoft, as ISO/IEC 29500.

The document was first made public by Groklaw's Pamela Jones, who has published its PDF file here.

"The processing of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 project has been conducted in conformity with the ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, with decisions determined by the votes expressed by the relevant ISO and IEC national bodies under their own responsibility," the executives wrote, "and consequently, for the reasons mentioned above, the appeals should not be processed further."

Each of the four countries' appeals are faulted for different reasons. India's appeal was apparently for an extension of time for countries to read the final text of the draft standard, as well as time for them to appeal its publication during that time. That appeal was out of line, the chief executives determined, because it did not specify a "remedial action" for a specific problem.

Brazil, meanwhile, did propose a remedial action: cancelling the result of the ISO's ballot resolution meeting (BRM), and reviewing nearly 800 proposed changed that Brazil apparently did not believe were properly addressed, or enough time was given to be addressed. Those edits would then be reconsidered on a non-fast-track schedule.

"At the BRM, the Brazilian delegation was not allowed to present an important proposal regarding the legacy binary mapping," reads Brazil's appeal, which was attached to the report. "This proposal was a complementary part of USA delegation proposal regarding the new organization of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500. It also shall complement the scope change proposal approved at the BRM."

But the executives concluded that Brazil's not having gotten time to get its point across, did not represent a problem with the voting procedure. They wrote, "These actions, reversing decisions reached in accordance with due process by the members of ISO and IEC, would require demonstration of serious procedural problems in the voting," the executives decided.

South Africa and Venezuela proposed setting back the process as well, followed by opening a new round of voting where members are given revised sets of consideration instructions.

"The replies from Brazil, Venezuela and South Africa contain much material which is not relevant to completing their existing appeals with the addition of remedial action(s)," states the report.

South Africa's appeal, which appears in a document attached to the report, contains the following: "South Africa wishes to register its deep concern over the increasing tendency of international organizations to use the JTC 1 processes to circumvent the consensus-building process that is the cornerstone to the success and international acceptance of ISO and IEC standards. The ability of large multi-national organizations to influence many national bodies, with the resultant block-voting overriding legitimate issues raised by other countries, is also of concern."

But as the ISO and IEC executives concluded, "That [appeal] from South Africa in particular is a wide-ranging discussion of standardizing such a specification, makes many valid points and recommendations for the future while also containing errors of fact, and in these respects does not concern the appeal sent in May."

Venezuela's appeal included a statement that a re-do of the process was necessary in order to restore the organizations' prestige.

"The result of DIS 29500 has harmed the reputations of both ISO and the IEC," representative Maria Teresa Saccucci wrote, "as well as all they member bodies [sic], and has generated a terrible precedent in which the interest of large multi-national organization, both in favor or against an specific proposal, may dominate the debate instead of the technical discussions necessary to produce the optimal solution on every specific problem."

None of the four countries' appeals directly involved the efficacy of the proposed standard itself, but rather that the procedure used for fast-tracking such a detailed standard may have been inadequate. Had any of the countries' appeals been sanctioned, it's quite possible that at some point in time, ISO/IEC 29500 may still have been published, perhaps next year or in 2010.

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