About six months ago, I put the boot into the ODF TC for not being representative enough. The laudable participation by a couple of core vendors was not being matched by participation by other kinds of stakeholders, in such a way that would make it difficult for those vendors not to get their way on any issues that came up.
You don't have to see this as some kind of conspiracy by the vendors (Sun and IBM); it is perhaps more like the old "Carry On" movie gag of the hapless soldier volunteering by having everyone else in line step back when volunteers are called for.
The solution is more participation by stakeholders other than software developers, and more participation by a broader range of vendors, and more participation by non-commercial interests, and more participation by end-users: any of the above! This is quite a critical time over the next few months, because ODF 1.2 is being put to bed and the issues that will shape ODF Next-Gen (if it eventuates) are being canvassed. Often the pre-decided shape of things renders the final technology a fait accompli.
I am sure that OASIS and the ODF TC are keen to show that they are not, in effect, dominated by a couple of major players. I think governments are quite under-represented, for example. If you are an independent expert with a track record in documents and standards, and represent some under-represented stakeholder group, and part of some non-commercial group, you can apply to OASIS for a "fee-waiver" from the usual US$300 yearly fee, too; I am not sure what the criteria are that are used, but there is no harm in asking. (Let me know too, if you don't mind!)
After my blogs back then, there was a definite pick up in participation by a broader range of stakeholders. I don't know that my blog influenced anything (but I know that many in the ODF TC read it) but it was heartening to see.
So now that it is six months later, I thought I would check to see what the current numbers are, this time with some charts. Why is this interesting or important? Because the more that "openness" becomes the criteria used to decide the technologies our governments adopt, the more that it is important that the limits to openness from a particular process (and each organization has them, though differently) are transparent.
So I went back and charted the 12 meetings of ODF TC meetings (about 3 months worth), to see who could vote. I have charted these.
Here is a chart with the absolute numbers. I made some groupings based on affiliation: "China" is for any Chinese vendors, FOSS is for open source/standards groups/PR, Institution is for government or agency groups, and Private is for the two people present as individual members. The chart was voting members at each meeting: the meetings often had a couple of other members (you have to attend a number of consecutive meetings to get and maintain voting rights.)
Here is a chart with the values normalized. This is of interest because of the 50% mark: it shows how close different parties are to being able to get something passed, on issues where Sun/IBM form a voting block.
So what can we say from these figures, when considering block voting?
First, at all meetings, office suite developers had a majority of votes.
Second, at all meetings, commercial voters had a majority of votes.
Third, for 4 of the 12 meetings, voters associated with a single code base (the OpenOffice family, including Lotus Symphony, of Sun/IBM and sometimes Novell) had 50% or more of the vote. Another 4 of the 12 meetings, they only needed a single vote to make 50%. (For the remaining 4 meetings, they needed to get two voters on side.)
It is in everyone's interest that ODF is not dominated by a small group of commercial vendors. Openness must be done, but it must be seen to be done. So what should be done?
Obviously, broader participation is one side of the equation.
But the other angle is that stakeholders need to ration their participation to non-dominating levels: stakeholders who have previous trumpeted the dangers of stacking would naturally be keen not find themselves, however innocently, in that position themselves. I suggest that the vendors (Sun, IBM, Microsoft, etc) should strictly adhere to only providing a maximum of two voting members per meeting each: other experts from the company can still participate, of course, but abstain from voting.
This would shift the balance more in favour of non-corporate, non-developer stakeholders, while maintaining a strong voice for corporates and developers. (More like the rollcalls on the dates 19-01-2009 and 9-02-2009.)
(Many committees have a rule where the chair does not vote except in case of deadlock: that may be a good rule too, since IBM and Sun provide the chairs. I think OASIS would do well to also make some kind of a transparency rule that organizations that derive more than 50% of their income from a particular source, or from a couple of fellow TC members, should acknowledge this: that would help anyone wanting to verify the open nature of the process to understand the dynamics at play better.)
On two dates, 5-01-2009 and 23-02-09, there was a minor discrepancy between the rollcall and the voting/quorum tallies. I have gone with the rollcall numbers.