Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

ISO is being challenged

I’ve meant to blog on several topics but just didn’t have the time to do so. I’m putting an end to more than a month of silence to highlight some interesting news from India.

Like many people I’ve been appalled by the way ISO officials are trying to dismiss the appeals filed against the way OOXML was processed. Once more I’ve discovered a new aspect of the ISO process which has left me puzzled.

Essentially, the ISO and IEC courts of appeal are made of a jury composed of a subset of the very same parties that judged OOXML in the first place. Now, I’m not a law expert by any means but it doesn’t take much expertise to figure out that such a set up is bogus. The whole point of an appeal process is to get a second opinion. How can this be achieved by asking the same people?

Of course, ISO’s officials attitude to recommend a straight dismissal isn’t helping the matter either. Although they are definitely being consistent I’m afraid in this case they are just being consistently wrong. They remind me of these abusive governments that spend their time trying to shush the opposition rather than understand it. They should know better though.

History is full of governments that were thrown out by oppressed people. If ISO and IEC officials think they are somewhat shielded from this kind of trouble they need to think again.

For proof I suggest you read “ISO/IEC and OOXML: The judge, the jury and the hangman” in which Venkatesh Hariharan calls for the creation of an alternate standards organization for the benefit of the emerging economies.


July 21, 2008 - Posted by | standards | , ,


  1. […] it goes further. Watch this timely pointer. Of course, ISO’s officials attitude to recommend a straight dismissal isn’t helping the […]

    Pingback by Boycott Novell » What Might Happen to ISO After Self Humiliation, Microsoft Abuse | July 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. Here’s the dilemma.

    1) If there are no official standards organizations that people trust, the defacto standards, i.e. Microsoft, wins.

    2) We could completely discredit ISO and try to build a new ISO, but that will take *decades* before it gets the same credibility as Microsoft. Meanwhile Microsoft wins.

    3) If the official standards organization still has credibility, and they pass one bad standard but other standards are still good, them Microsoft wins the battle but it’s still possible to win the war by a two pronged attack of discrediting OOXML and it’s process, appeals (not just to ISO but world governments that wish to adopt OOXML), and calls for reform of ISO. For starters, make ISO eat its own dog food and follow the ISO standard. The OOXML process was about as ISO compliant as a soccer hooligan riot. If ISO doesn’t want to play ball, then it may be possible to get world governments to create an “independent auditor general” standards validation group that does nothing but investigate standards for irregularities and provides seals of approval on good standards and condemnations on corrupt standards.

    Personally, I think (3) is the way to go.

    Comment by Robert Devi | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. Hi Robert,

    I don’t disagree with you. The challenge is to get ISO/IEC to step up to the plate and fix their broken process so that another elephant can’t ram through it like Microsoft did with OOXML.

    With ISO/IEC trying to kill the appeals without even hearing them it creates a precedent which gives no reason to think that ill intentioned companies won’t try the same scheme again.

    Comment by Arnaud Le Hors | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. If fast-track standards is denied by governements, Monopoly has no more financial incentive to fuck with the ISO staff.

    Even better, why isn’t internal ISO staff shocked by what has happened the last two years posted PR to let it known to others? I think the better way for ISO to fix itself is that if it’s done by its own people.

    Comment by Stephane Rodriguez | July 27, 2008 | Reply

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