Singapore files contradiction to the ECMA/MS OOXML proposal

It was an interesting evening today. As I arrived home at 6:30pm, I got a call from the chairman of the ITSC Council, saying that he had been hounded on the phone today by the rep from MS Singapore about the ITSC submitting a contradiction. Chairman told the MS rep that they should have participated in the XML WG earlier considering that the ITSC Council and a group of MS folks met to discuss the OOXML stuff on Jan 17th.

At that meeting, which I attended as well, the MS reps were informed that they should consider participating in standards activities and specifically in the XML WG and they agreed wholeheartedly.

As things panned out, they never did participate and at the last moment, probably getting wind that Singapore is going to file a contradiction, they asked for a session with the ITSC Council Chairman and the chairman/vice-chairman of the WG.

Council chairman made it clear that this is not the way standards processes work but we will make an exception and offered that we hold a conference call.

So at 6:50 pm SGT, we called in. The call had the ITSC secretariat, Council chairman, myself and two(?) persons from MS. The XML WG chair/v-chair could not attend as they had prior commitments and, in any case, they have already submitted their recommendations to the ITSC Council. It is the ITSC Council that can decide to modifiy, not submit or submit as is.

During the call, the MS rep was trying to suggest that he had spoken on the phone with the WG chair and suggesting that the WG chair was unclear as to what a contradiction meant and was apparently thinking that this was a balloting process, etc etc. The ITSC secretariat clarified that there was no misunderstanding and the report as presented to the council by the WG was specific about contradictions.

Then I asked the rep to help me understand what, in his words and from the MS angle, a contradiction would be.

He said that it would be something contradicting any existing ISO standard. I then suggested to him the date/time standard ISO 8610 is contradicted by OOXML. I explained what the problem is and then, quickly, he changed his definition to one of implementation. He tried to talk techie – “if you define date as an integer etc” – but I countered with a full on techie talk saying that the usual C libraries handle dates correctly but not OOXML on the same platform … . He did not pursue it further.

I made it clear to him that all we are filing is, a contradiction, and by his definition, the OOXML contradicts a pre-existing ISO standard.

Also, even if there was no other contradictions, the fact that there is only one is sufficient grounds to file a contradiction if we are to fulfil our ISO obligations.

He then went on to say that Singapore need NOT to be so rash as to put up a contradiction and that all of these can be resolved during the 5 month ballot period. I suggested that there is no reason Singapore should not file a contradiction when there is a clear one and, further, Singapore now has an opportunity to be an active standards community member. What could be so bad about that? We are not filing something that is incorrect. If the contradiction is trivial, then the ISO can resolve it before moving on to the 5 month ballot period. All we are doing is to respond to the ISO request.

He tried various other means to delay – “can we get an independent 3rd party to help define contradiction”[1], “no other country has filed”[2], “can we wait till tomorrow to file”[3] etc.

[1] The fact that Japan has filed and they are not exactly an English speaking country, what then for English speaking Singapore in understanding what “contradiction” means?
[2] List of countries – Canada, UK, Germany etc.
[3] The ITSC secretariat was not entirely clear what time the filing would be considered closed and I suggested that if we use midnight Feb 5 GMT/UTC, then we have until 8 am tomorrow SG time to resolve anything. What if the timing is wrong? What happens if we miss the close and we fail to file? As it turned out later, the closing time was 5 pm US EST, which is 6 am SGT February 6, 10 pm UTC.

He was basically trying to buy time until we miss the deadline. Council chairman was firm about this, repeating many times, that talking with a vendor for a standard at this late stage is an unusual situation and that the ITSC has gone over and above to accommodate a vendor’s request. In any case, since the WG has recommended filing contradictions, it will be so unless the vendor has some really convincing point which Council chairman made clear to the rep that there was none.

Case closed – at 7:55 pm. A whole hour of what was essentially begging!

Someone’s KPI is not going to be met!

What fun!


  1. Excellent news
    Go Singapore! How great it is to stand up and be counted among the 19 nations who refused to allow the train wreck of MOOXML to derail the Obvious Document Format (TM) – ODF. And bonus points to the ITSC for not giving an inch to that last minute vendor attempt at obfuscation.
    Now to find more problems in those 6039 pages in time for counter-rebuttal at the next deadline…

  2. Re: What can we do to stop?
    MS is doing their darnest to make sure that it passes. I have no problem with it per se – they do deserve their time under the sun. If they are willing to look at ALL of the issues cited in this and subsequent posts and address them in a fair manner, then I will be the first to support them.
    Thus far, all I have seen is muscling in and staring down, denying access etc. They are not showing to be fair players so far. I shall continue to keep an open mind but I am not hopeful that they will play fair.

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