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Focus on "get the job done", not "how it’s done".

Date submitted:
Wed, 15/01/2014 - 5:02pm
Submitted by:
MarkFerrar
Category:

Governments achieve lowest operational costs and most flexibility when they embrace a small number of popular and widely supported open standard formats. Governments should not expect files in any single standard to be readable or editable by every potential recipient. Remaining flexible and choosing applications which best support their range of open standard formats offers the prospect of engaging with citizens by allowing for a degree of latitude in how that collaboration takes place. By focusing on "how to get the job done", rather than "how the job is done", governments are able to improve the quality and value of the services they provide for citizens.

Phase:
Response

Comments

This appears to be a balanced and reasonable action.

I...

This appears to be a balanced and reasonable action.

I would like to see a completely open standard used, preventing vendor lock in.

Or vendor has the opportunity to work with others by "fully" opening their file formats, or using open formats.

Choice is one of the greatest freedoms we have and we should collaborate in increasing choice.

Personaly I use GNU/linux and open formats. This is my choice. This provides other vendors with good competition and encourages them to compete nicely.

I do not, by choice, use use products from Vendors who have relied on anti-competetive methods to push their products.

Lack of competition reduces choice and freedom.

I think your own posting shows why OOXML is not required to be...

I think your own posting shows why OOXML is not required to be used in any standards selection process that is taking place at the current time. Just about all the EU states that you have listed made their decision before Microsoft started to deliver ODF support within its own products. Now that Microsoft does there is no need to select 2 standards if a single universal standard that all products can be selected.

http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/3197.html

At its meeting of 25 May 2004, the TAC (Telematics between Administrations Committee), composed of e-government policy-makers from the 25 EU Member States, endorsed a set of recommendations for promoting the use of open document formats in the public sector.

However, adopting XML-based standards is not enough. While properly developed XML should in theory be platform-neutral, experience has indeed shown that vendors who wish to maintain and protect their platform’s market often encode elements that are capable of being processed only by their own application suites. This trend could result in the creation of “proprietary” XML document formats, which would not necessarily be compatible and would make document exchange even more complex. To ensure real interoperability, standards adopted should not only be XML-based but also ‘open’, meaning that their specifications and components (textual content, markup information, multi-media components, document metadata, and data related to the configuration of the originating application) are published and made freely available.

The adoption of ODF as a standard format is in the best interests...

The adoption of ODF as a standard format is in the best interests of the UK citizens.

The ODF format is currently supported by proprietary software widely in use in all levels of government as well as open source alternatives. Including Microsoft's OOXML is unnecessary, limiting both government between-department data sharing and transmission of data to the public. It also promotes vendor lock-in, a source of increasing cost in large national IT projects.

Adopting ODF ensures that information is retained in a fashion that is future proof and accessible with no hidden retrieval costs at a later date.

While not apparent from this response, the writer, Mark Ferrar, is...

While not apparent from this response, the writer, Mark Ferrar, is a senior officer of Microsoft.  It is greatly in Microsoft's interest to be the "godfather" of a standard in order to claim the position of its lead controller, and from that position change that standard from time to time (as fait accomplis) in ways that make its competitors appear slow to catch up, and at the same time stimulate the sale of software upgrades. The response should be read against this background

This response obfuscates file formats with the software that creates the files.  It refers for example to organisations "aligning ... on one suite of products from a single vendor leading to .... interoperability".  That consideration has nothing whatever to do with an ODF versus OOXML (or both) file format debate.  Any competent software vendor would be capable of supporting either format (or both); indeed, Microsoft does.  The choice a user needs is of software vendors, not of file formats - about which 99.9% of users care and know nothing as long as their software works with it.  For those who do need to know about the format, Microsoft's 6000 page specification for OOXML is a serious obstacle to doing so - an absurdity as a specification.
 
The response refers to problems caused by the existence of multiple formats.  For example : "The larger the recipient base, the more likely it is you will find someone who does not have any application that could process a document you send them". Incredibly, the response claims that the answer to these problems is to have multiple standards. Microsoft themselves introduced the OOXML standard just three years after the ODF was accepted as the document standard, only adding to the problem. The scenario and suggested solution in the response - the idea of public information being released in multiple file formats  - is not just wasteful (if were to happen), it is fantasy.

ODF should be adopted as the sole standard, preferable to OOXML by being free from the special influence of any one particular commercial entity.

It would be ridiculous for the UK Government to use 2 document...

It would be ridiculous for the UK Government to use 2 document standards, this would become 3 standards.

It would be missing a key benefit of having one standard, which is enabling the public to communicate between each other reliably using ODF without the current worry whether they need to purchase or upgrade Microsoft's software as well. I don't need a particular standard of letterbox on my house to receive post, if there were 2 letterbox standards I would have to send 2 letters to others in the UK in the hope they would get one, obviously this would not work. i.e. this is not just about communication with the government.

Governments and Councils should communicate with the public via channels that do not necessitate the use of document standards controlled by a single vendor, effectively a proprietary standard. In real life it is so hard to use OOXML in other Office suite, it appears to have been engineered that way, this is actually the main reason OOXML with Microsoft Office are still the defacto standards, it is simply about vendor lock-in. Opinion is based on 30 years of IT systems administration experience.

OOXML comes in 2 flavours, transitional and strict, there are hundreds (or is it 3000) specificational differences. Transitional is defacto now, but strict is likely to be soon, should the UK support both transitional and strict OOXML? It would be better to just use ODF.

The ODF specification is maintained by many parties, no vendor lock-in proprietary binary file formats, no secret binary hooks into the client operating system, licensing that restricts usage, patenting issues and other legal timebombs, otherwise business' like Microsoft would surely have come clean by now. ODF is a clean tidy specification, built upon other clean tidy smaller standards, it is consistent between applications, and any software vendor can support it if they want; this is not true for OOXML.

​ODF is used by many people and business', and widely supported by vendors which includes Microsoft. Microsoft can improve their support of ODF if they feel they need to, this will be dictated by market forces.

"Indeed there is plenty of evidence from around the world to show...

"Indeed there is plenty of evidence from around the world to show that where single standards are chosen and mandated, operational costs increase and the decision or the mandate is ignored as users take a pragmatic approach in order to "get the job done".

Excellent idea. Lets use an open agreed international standard, and not one foisted on us by a company known to bully people into using it's 'propietary' standard that is not fully published.

ODF is the only sensible way forward for all. Microsoft only fight their corner becasue they are fighting for revenue and shareholder profits, not because what they offer is the best available or in the best interests of the UK citizens.

They merely want to lock people in and then force them to pay for their overpriced propietary products.