Ben Langhinrichs

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March, 2007
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.

Wed 7 Mar 2007, 09:11 AM
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I was invited to join the OASIS Technical Committee for OpenDocument Format a couple of days ago, and I wrestled a bit before deciding to join.  While I am very favorably inclined towards OpenDocument Format (ODF) over Office Open XML (OOXML), I don't like aligning myself too strongly on one side or the other, as it is quite likely that our OpenSesame products will support both.  There is also an uncomfortable level of antagonism between the camps, which seems unnecessary.  Religious wars may be entertaining, but they are seldom productive.

On the other hand, I am worried that the promise of ODF as an open standard will not be adequately realized if the development of the standard is too strongly influenced either by the free open source crowd or by the anti-Microsoft crowd.  I am not a free open source software zealot, as you may have noticed by the fact that Genii Software's offerings are neither free not open source.  I am not part of the anti-Microsoft crowd, as you might have noticed by the fact that many of our largest customers are "Microsoft shops" who use CoexLinks or CoexEdit to coexist with Domino servers in their own or other partner's and customer's companies.

So, I have joined the ODF T.C. in part to see if I can help improve interoperability with OOXML, and better round trip fidelity between ODF and other formats, including OOXML, Word binary formats, and last but certainly not least, Notes rich text formats.  I see a lot of potential in ODF, but I see a need to work to improve parts of it and to steer it a bit.  I hope I can help in that effort.

As for OOXML, I am also interested in joining Ecma so that I could help on that effort, possibly even help to rationalize OOXML with ODF in some way, although that may be impossible.  Unfortunately, Ecma is pretty expensive to join, and it is hard to justify if they do not really have a free hand in the development of OOXML.  I think Microsoft has made a huge strategic error in not embracing ODF earlier, and I am afraid they are likely to compound that error by continuing the fight for OOXML in its current state, no matter what happens with ISO.  I'd like to help them avoid that mistake, but Microsoft is a pretty big company to try to influence.

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