Dissing OOXML

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Unless you've been living under a digital rock, you will know that there will be a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in Geneva at the end of February 2008 to decide whether Microsoft's ODF rival, OOXML, should become an ISO standard.

Rather remarkably for a 6000-page specification, OOXML is on a fast track, but it has come into collision with over 3000 comments on that specification, many of them negative. The question is, how on earth can the national bodies (NB) who do the prodding, poking and voting, work their way through those comments to pick out the really key ones, and make sure that they get sorted before approval is contemplated?

Well, one answer is the DIS29000 site (DIS29500 stands for “Draft International Standard 29500”, which is what OOXML is today.) As the site explains:

There are now 3522 proposed dispositions to the comments, but are they any good? It is a huge task for the national bodies to sort and evaluate these and prepare their thoughts on the significant issues in time for the BRM. We can help by tagging the dispositions to highlight which are suitable for the paper voting procedure, and which need to be discussed in more detail.

It then goes on to explain how you – yes, you – can help:

Click the button below to be whisked away to a random location. Use the tabs to read the comment, any suggestion that the national body had, and importantly the proposed disposition. Have a think about it, then look at the buttons below in the “Tag and Go” section. Press the most appropriate and your tag will be recorded and you will go to another random location. If you have something more to say about a particular disposition or want a new tagging option then you can use the comments pane to discuss it.

The site is the brainchild of two Alans at the Open Learning Centre: Alan Bell, and Alan Lord. The latter explained it to me like this:

Basically it's a tool which will help the NBs (especially those who are not as well prepared and versed as the BSi is) to concentrate on the things that ** really matter **

Most of the NBs do not - apparently - have the ability to manage this sort of volume of material themselves and have never had to do so before... Thousands of comments and dispositions. From one to a few guys will have to have read, and understood everyone of them to be able to usefully take part in the BRM discussions. This is a tool to "help" them focus on where it is important.

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