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[ossig] Hasan's MNCC Evening Talk on the OpenDocument Format




Hasan Saidin gave an MNCC evening talk on ODF last Thursday (29th June
2006). I will not cover the talk in great depth as I only took down
notes for material that interested me. Hasan illustrated Bob Sutor's
continuum definition of open standards, covering common aspects of
standards:

      * A community driven standards development methodology. This
        results in no vendor driven agenda and very importantly, no veto
        by any single member.
      * Maintenance of the standard is democratic as no vendor driven
        agenda dominates the maintenance procedures.
      * The acquisition of the standard is at no cost andwhere possible,
        available online. Hasan mentioned RAND as a common licensing
        strategy for standards.
      * Implementation is to be royalty free.
      * That the standard can be mined for its good ideas for the
        development of other standards.

He also stated his recommendation for open standards, "mandate
interoperability by preferring open standards where they exist". He
mentioned that governments have document "pain points". Imagine:

      * governments forcing its citizens to buy word processors from
        specific vendors so that they can interact with the government
        electronically. The e-filing system in Malaysia is possibly the
        most egrigous example of this.
      * that historical documents no longer readable
      * that in times of emergencies, govt agencies cannot communicate
        efficiently because of use of different word processors and
        non-standard formats.

Hasan then illustrated the OpenDocument Format succinctly as follows:

      * Developed by OASIS, certified by ISO as ISO/IEC 26300
      * ODF is XML based
      * Meets common test for openness
      * Default format for OpenOffice, KOffice, IBM Workplace
      * Open standard adopted by many vendors
      * Option that gives the most choice for interoperability and
        future-proofing information 
      * Non vendor driven
      * Not a forced commitment to proprietary or FOSS development
        methodologies
      * Not a limitation of choice of applications to create and process
        information
      * and most importantly, not adopted by Microsoft ("not adopted" is
        a very diplomatic term, IMHO)

Hasan further illustrated government initiatives worldwide (the U.S.
state of Massachusetts, Belgium etc) in standardizing their document
formats on ODF to avoid the problems mentioned above. Overall, it was a
good overview of ODF and the background political processes involved
(given the substantial economic stake of various institutions involved).

IMHO, the question and answer session illustrated a lack of awareness of
ODF, even among the FOSS community. Questions, comments revolved:

      * the need for browser plugins for ODF. Such plugins already
        exist, in various stages of development.
      * the ability to use it in day to day in large scale enterprise
        use. As in any migration strategy, training plays a key role.
      * pushing for awareness in academic environments. There is
        resistance from many academics in Malaysia due to re-training
        costs, efforts and not wanting to sour existing relationships
        with corporate sponsors.

Feedback and comments are appreciated.

Ditesh


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