How Many Contradictions Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Posted by Andy_Updegrove on Feb 1, 2007 3:32 PM EDT Standards Blog; By Andy Updegrove
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As those who are following Microsoft's OOXML formats through the standardization process will know, those formats are now in the "contradiction" phase in JTC 1 at ISO/IEC. Or, so it would seem, they are in the "so, what is a contradiction, anyway?" phase in JTC1.

The question of what a "contradiction" may be under the ISO/IEC rules is of more than passing interest. On the most basic level, the question is legitimate, since ISO/IEC apparently do not supply a precise definition, even though one out of the six months in the ISO/IEC Fast Track process is allocated to the submission of contradictions by the 60-odd Principal and Observer members of these global standards organizations.

The result is that the US committee charged with deciding whether there are any contradictions has decided to apply a very strict definition - and therefore find no contradictions (a compromise was rejected to list all issues, but note that consensus was not reached on the definition of a contradiction).

People that have strong feelings and take the time to express them would always prefer to be heard. Suppressing that input, seems like a poor choice on the part of our national representatives. And perhaps it is even bad strategy for Microsoft, as those that wished to be heard will be incented to press their opinions all the more forcefully during the voting phase.

Better that a standards adoption process should concern itself with the quality of a proposal, I think, than with how many contradictions can dance on the head of a pin.

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