How many mavericks does it take to change a lyspære?

By Rick Jelliffe
October 7, 2008 | Comments: 16

Thirteen members of the Norwegian standards body's technical committee walked out recently. I am simply not aware enough of the details to make any specific comments: I expect I would have some mix of agreement (e.g. that committee people need attendance quotas before being allowed to vote) and disagreement (that people who don't want some technology standardized are more important than people who don't want it) with their points.

But I thought it would be interesting to see who these people were. I only knew a couple, so I have augmented it with LinkedIn information: my conclusion is that LinkedIn has entries for almost all these people: certainly for Norwegians it seems to have achieved a really great reach.

Arne Sigurd Rognan Nielsen
According to the LinkedInentry, he is a Competitive Sales Specialist (Lotus Evangelist) at IBM Software Group, Norway. His specialities include Competitive Sales Support (Reducing Microsoft Licencing Cost). He modestly has not included any technical credentials that make him suitable for a technical committee.
Trond Heier
Trod Heier is CTO of LinPro, whose website says We will become one of Europe's largest open source companies.. They are a direct competitor to Microsoft.
Henning Kulander
According to the LinkedIn entry, Henning is a Systemkonsulent at LinPro, a competitor to Microsoft.
Thomas Malt
Until 1 month ago, according to his LinkedIn entry, Thomas was formerly Head of Development Services at Linpro AS. He is now Project Manager at Norwegian Meteorological Institute, which presumably may not have interest in OOXML or ODF.
Håkon Wium Lie
Lie is a world-class expert on stylesheets, the original developer of CSS, a long-term participant of the W3C, and an ornament to any standards committee. He is also Chief Technical Officer of Opera, a direct competitor to MicroSoft.
Bjørn Venn
LinkedIn entry says Instigater of the National competence center of free and open source software in Norway (htpp://www.friprog.no) and a special consultant for Buskerud county.
Martin Bekkelund (NUUG)
Martin's LinkedIn account he describes himself as Free Software and Open Source Evangelist, process modelling, system design, usability, information architecture, customer relations, sales and agile project management. He is an utviklingsleder at the Norwegian National Innovation Center for Open Source (Friprog), a government-sponsored project, and a board member of the Council for Search Engine Marketing in Norway. Martin has an earlier blog entry in English on the so-called scandal. (NUUG is the Norwegian Unix Users Group)
Steve Pepper
Steve's LinkedIn entry says he is an Independent Topic Maps Consultant. Steve is very well known and respected in markup circles, being involved in early SGML work, and in particular editing and leading the WG3 group at SC34 on Topic Maps. He retired from these in late 2006 (IIRC). He is someone whose technical opinions really should carry some weight, and he certainly is not a fly-by just arriving to get ODF promoted and OOXML rejected, then leaving in as destructive a fashion as possible. (Steve's sporadic blog is Topic Maps and All That)
Axel Bojer
According to the LinkedIn entry, Axel is a translation coordinator at the University of Oslo Åpne kontorprogram på norsk. He is also Coordinator for the Norwegian bokmål translations of KDE and OpenOffice.org.
Petter Reinholdtsen (NUUG)
Petter Reinholdtsen is a long term Debian contributor, the maintainer of the default Debian boot system, one of the authors of the debian-installer and the Debian Edu system architect. He has been the lead developer of Skolinux, Linux distribution for schools supported by LinPro. He works at the University of Oslo developing system administration tools. (He is a former employee of Opera, Linpro and Telenor. NUUG is the Norwegian Unix Users Group)
Geir Isene
Geir runs FreeCode AS a FOSS consultancy with particular ITIL interests.
Knut Olav Bøhmer
According to his LinkedIn entry, Knut is a Lisp consultant at Telenor and a Free Software Consultant at FreeCode AS. (He is a former employee of LinPro.)
Anthony Lærdahl (NUUG)
According to his LinkedIn entry, Anthony is an IT Adviser at National Archives of Norway. (NUUG is the Norwegian Unix Users Group)

So if we take these 13, and subtract people who either work for competitors of Microsoft or affiliated with the NUUG/FOSS industry/community, we get...1 person (the esteemed Steve Pepper) by my count.

Of course, affiliation does not mean bought or rote votes: I am the last person to think that, except perhaps for people without technical competence. ODF's Patrick Durusau, for example, is paid by Sun but his value is largely that he is independent and knowledgeable. And even parrots have value, if they fairly advocate their stakeholder's view. (Of course, most people like to consider themselves mavericks, even when violently agreeing with each other and the conventional wisdom of their peers.)

But all that being said, I tend to think that a walkout by [people who see themselves as commercial and non-commercial] competitors may generate more scepticism, fairly or unfairly, than, say, a walk-out by prospective users.


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16 Comments

Rick hi

I don't think Steve can count as resigning as he's already resigned (at least) once before over this.

As for the others, it would be interesting to know their average time serving on the committee, and the total number of words they have contributed to any SC 34 work.

It seems they are merely flotsam and jetsam of the OOXML storm.

12 of the 13 members who walked out (all except Steve Pepper) joined Standard Norge K/185 when the OOXML-process started.

Lars Marius Garshol is a long time member of SN K/185 and has commented the situation at Arstechnica:

"What's happened here is that lots of people joined the committee to oppose the standard, and while in the committee that's all they've done. Now that OOXML has been approved, they no longer have any reason to be in the committee, so they are leaving. That's hardly the committee imploding.

So let me say this again: not one of these people have done anything in this committee other than oppose OOXML being taken up as a standard. These people are not key people in the committee. They did try to get other people in the committee to join them, but nobody else wanted to leave in protest over this."

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20081003-norwegian-standards-body-implodes-over-ooxml-controversy.html?comments=1

Good work Rick.

I am taken aback that this was not already exposed by those beacons of unbiased journalistic excellence - Andy Updegrove and Groklaw.

Alas no, they will no doubt just accuse you of being paid by Microsoft for this research.

"Attitudes are more important than facts." - George MacDonald


Gareth

I have a feeling that the story is not complete without a list of people who didn't walk out.

How many of them are connected to Microsoft and how many independent.

All: Good points.

Michał: Certainly. I only had access to the names of the people who left. Committee membership is often non-public, to avoid rancour and intimidation etc.

However, it is a bottom line requirement of standards committees that they should not be used to exclude technology for competitive reasons. Which leads to the result that when agreement is impossible, it is better to have two standards than none or than one cartelized one. National Bodies have a duty to enforce this, and certainly this is difficult when sincere concerns about the quality of a technology collide with attempts to lock-out a competitor's technology.

Off-topic...

Internationalization is great! Three cheers for Unicode.

I just noticed that this page has characters like ł,æ,å,Å,ø and it works fine. (The first character is not in iso8859-1.) Not bad for an Australian locale system sending to a US-based site. Perhaps I only get to see problems, but finding things done right and working fills me with joy. Polish and Norwegian: it is a little European Union of a webpage!

Steve Pepper has joined Digistan.
An organisation linked to several european based anti OOXML organisations like FFII, Esoma and the OFE that claims to be a standards related organisation but it seems more like another anti-OOXML sponsored lobby vehicle to influence governments and the EU especially which is similar to those already mentioned organisations that Digistan is related to.

The memberlist looks like a WhoIsWho of anti-ooxml activists/campaigners showing a definite link between several of those people.

For instance Rob Weir and Steve Pepper in committee with several members of the no-ooxml campaign.

hAl: You can add NOOOXML.COM to that list too. Last year I looked into the leading lights of these: talk about "round up the usual suspects"!

IIRC, one of the things that amused me was a report on a website quoting another website announcing that report that tried to show a correlation between corruption index and DIS29500 votes. It amused me that it seemed to be the same person who wrote the report then announced it, then quoted the announcement, all with different hats on! This kind of ingenuous fakery is very fragile to exposure.

But maybe something good can come of Digistan? The international standards system is fairly robust, but I don't see that criticism and a richer set of alternatives would make the world a worse place.

The trouble is that as soon as people start demanding participation then issues of legitimacy come up, and sooner or later, at the national level, this becomes a brick wall: we have the terrible fact of nation states who exist because of history and mutual accommodation, not because of democratic legitimacy. This is a real problem for proponents of openness: the more that openness is a requirement, the less that casual openness and any barriers to universal participation, because critical.

What I foresee happening is more of the idea that "openness is good" but "the specific technology doesn't matter": the idea that there is no rational reason for choosing to drive on the left or the right side of the road, so all that matters is that some decision is made and we all follow it. In the case of document standards, the equivalent would be to say "ODF is good because it was developed by an open process" but "The fact that it actually mirrors a particular product and doesn't mirror the features of another product is not of interest". This is of course just cartelization in standards drag.

Locksmith Los Angeles call 323-590-4883 Calabasas, Hollywood, santa monica,

I believe the technical committee existed of "stayers", Steve Pepper, the "anti-OOXML click" plus the "pro-OOXML click".

There exists a list of members of the TC which were openly against the approval of OOXML - check out http://www.idg.no/multimedia/archive/00027/ooxml_27005a.pdf - it's in Norwegian, but the list of people signing is interessting.

I believe that if you take that list, subtract the above list of people (who joined the technical commitee mostly to oppose OOXML), you get the list of "stayers" in the technical commitee. This is the people that was in the committee before OOXML got to the agenda, and it's the list of people who still sits in the committee and works actively for it.

The "pro-OOXML-click" was people working for Microsoft, also joining only due to the OOXML case. It's one representative from Statoil which (for reasons I don't entirely understand) is cooperating closely with Microsoft on the OOXML issue, one lobbyist paid by Microsoft (he also has a blog - it was filled up with pro-OOXML info plus some personal bloggings during the "campaign", but he stopped blogging completely after his contract expired) plus people directly working for Microsoft.

What am I trying to say? I believe all the "stayers" in the technical committee plus Steve Pepper was strongly against OOXML becoming an ISO standard. Personally I think it's a pity the "pro-OOXML"-click decided to leave the committee.

I must disclaim that I'm sort of "affiliated" with this click of people who is strongly opposed of OOXML becoming a standard, though I'm not sure how clearly that is in my linkedin-profile.

Personally, I think and hope the "office document standard" war will be forgotten in obscurity. Shipping office documents forth and back in email attachments is so previous century. Already today, all the important government forms in Norway can be filled in online using just a browser. For collaborative content generation, wikis are superior (just look to wikipedia!). For those thinking that wikis are too difficult, there is always google docs and google sites ...

Why not also do a background check on the members pro OOXML, and also those who sent in the OOXML supporting letters based on a Micrsoft standard template? It would be interesting to also see their technical background and long time engagement in the standardization work.

So why do research on only one side of the coin? What about the other side?

Tobias: Thanks for the clarification. Your point is one also made by Lars Marius Garshol in a comment on a Register article (and note the typical, unnecessarily vitriolic responses!)

'What's happened here is that lots of people joined the committee to oppose the standard, and while in the committee that's all they've done. Now that OOXML has been approved, they no longer have any reason to be in the committee, so they are leaving. That's hardly the committee imploding. So let me say this again: not one of these people have done anything in this committee other than oppose OOXML being taken up as a standard. These people are not key people in the committee. They did try to get other people in the committee to join them, but nobody else wanted to leave in protest over this. What they are, however, is media-savvy. They've worked on all kinds of IT-related advocacy (anti-DRM, pro-open source, etc etc), so they send out a press release stating that this is a big protest, and the committee is imploding etc etc. This article is basically that press release translated to English and prettied up to look like an article. I guess at this point people will be wondering how I know this. I've been a member of this committee since 2001, and I know many of the people on that list personally. I voted against OOXML, because I thought it wasn't ready to become a standard. The trouble is: however much you may hate Microsoft, this article remains a piece of useless propaganda.' http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/179/1012179/norway-standards-members-walk and see also http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/154.html


Arne: Why, were they marching in the street, claiming to be a grassroots movement of ordinary citizens?

Templates were used by both the affiliated sides: what does the use of templates prove?

I wouldn't have bothered to reply to this disguised ad hominem posting had it not been for Alex's remark about flotsam and jetsam. But now I might as well make use of the "esteem" Rick has kindly bestowed upon me.

I can vouch for the fact that by far the majority of those who resigned with me are people who have been truly committed to open standards for many years.

And guess what? People with that kind of commitment don't take jobs with Microsoft. Does that really surprise you, Rick?

Thus it is hardly surprising that those who resigned in disgust at the behaviour of the Norwegian standards bureaucracy tend to work for companies that compete with Microsoft. What else would you expect?

What does the fact that most of them joined SC34 because of the OOXML issue say about their commitment to open standards? Nothing. Do you want my opinion? They all joined in order to defend ODF, and for that they deserve the respect of everyone who genuinely believes in the principles of open standards. To characterize them as "flotsam and jetsam" is arrogance of the worst sort. Has your spell as BRM Chairman gone to your head, Alex?

Steve: "People with that kind of commitment don't take jobs with Microsoft."

But maybe more people like that should take jobs with Microsoft...

On the resigners, that 'they all' participated in a process about OOXML in order to 'defend ODF' is interesting. Are you saying that they came in with an agenda to stop DIS29500, for philosophical/ideological grounds against Microsoft and pro-open source (which happen to also fit in with their commercial situations) and then lo and behold they found that DIS29500 has so many technical flaws that it should be rejected? Solid work!

I fully respect Lars Garshol, and I do think it looks a bit silly that the "anti-OOXML-click" joined just when OOXML came to the table, and left with noise and spetacle after the case was resolved, but nevertheless I think you're going a bit too far. What concerns me the most, is that you're implying the "anti-OOXML-click" joined the TC for financial motives.

I'm personally totally convinced that not a single one in the "anti-OOXML-click" joined the TC because of financial motives. Rather on the contrary, many of those people spent a fair deal of their own time, resources and even money during their stay in the committee - and I also believe many of them would have continued in the committee if they had felt that their work in the committee was not in vain.

The employers or ex-employers of most people on the list are earning money on open source software, or are competing with Microsoft on other fields, but it doesn't mean they have stakes in OpenOffice.

At the other hand, I'm pretty sure most of the "pro-OOXML-click" either has left the committee, or will not be doing any more work for it (unless it directly benefits their employer or financial sponsors).

From my perspective, it seems very clear that the approval of OOXML is de-facto paid for by Microsoft. The national commitees got stuffed all over the world due to the OOXML case. The newcomers have no interesst outside OOXML and other upcoming Microsoft "standards". Taking it up one level, the JTC-1 has also become seriously stuffed, and the new members aren't doing any work at all, if one is to believe http://www.consortiuminfo.org/standardsblog/article.php?story=20071016092352827 - so for me it seems very upside-down to blame the few people standing up against Microsoft to do it due to commercial interessts.

The thing that sticks out in Norway was that the committee _also_ got stuffed from people voting against the ISO-standard.

When a committee gets obviously stuffed like that, one could have disregarded all the new members of the committee. The fallout from that would have been a very clear "no"-vote from Norway - but it didn't happen. A single beurocrat made Norways final decision. I somehow doubt he's openly paid by Microsoft - but I do believe Microsoft has put quite a lot of pressure on him, one way or another.

The whole process was quite dirty, most of the work laid down by the TC in Norway was disregarded, so I really think most of the people within the anti-OOXML-click is honest when they claim their dismay is about the process more than about the decision in itself.

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