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Geeks get personal in standards stoush

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Well, here's one way of spicing up the earnest if rather tedious OOXML vs OpenDocument standards debate - start bagging your opponents via email.
Microsoft and advocates of an open source standard for digital documents have been at loggerheads for months other Microsoft's bid to get its OOXML standard which is used in Microsoft Office 2008, ratified as an ISO standard.
Now the fight has got personal. The New Zealand Open Source Society, which is opposed to Microsoft's OOXML being ratified as an official standard in its proposed form, has published an email from Standards New Zealand (which votes on behalf of New Zealand on OOXML's ratification) to a Microsoft employee, berating the Microsoft person for allegedly badmouthing Standards NZ advisory group member Matthew Holloway, who has a white paper outlining the reasons for his opposition to OOXML on his website.
The email from the unnamed Microsoft employee appears to have been sent to the Trinidad & Tobago Computing Society, which is advising internationally on the standard and has a good wiki on the whole subject here.
So what was said in the original email? It wasn't published, but according to Standards New Zealand chief operating officer, Grant Thomas, the email suggested Holloway is "'far from objective' that his goal 'has always been to de-rail OOXML rather than making it a better specification' and that this "has clouded a lot of his thinking'."
"We have found Matthew to be an extremely valuable member of our advisory group and believe that he has acted with integrity as an advisory group member," Thomas retorted.


The Open Source Society ran the Standards NZ email on its website (removing the Microsoft employee's name) under the heading: "Old dog, same old tricks". If you detect a bit of animosity towards Microsoft there, you're right on the money.
"It is worth noting that our own national body, Standards New Zealand (SNZ), took the claims so seriously that they responded to parties who received this email," the society pointed out.
So what's this all about? Well, OOXML is a touchy subject in the tech world because a lot of people don't think Microsoft's format for documents should be ratified and therefore become the dominant format for which digital files are created and stored.
But let's face it, Microsoft has the most popular office productivity suite in the world in Microsoft Office, so it sort of makes sense for it to have OOXML as a recognised industry standard. The debate isn't that simple, it's devolved into a technical debate about OOXML and whether or not Microsoft is trying to get things rubber-stamped that will come back to bite all of us later.
A meeting held in Geneva in February to try and hammer out agreement over the proposed document standard left more questions hanging than it answered. Standards bodies around the world are now considering their positions before taking a final vote on the subject, after OOXML was knocked back in a world vote last year.
Amazingly, someone has written an ebook about all of this, if you're interested. It's all pretty pointy-headed, but the stakes are large for both Microsoft and industry heavyweights such as Google who back the OpenDocument (ODF) format.
The decision on whether the ISO gives OOXML the green light could go down to the wire and there's plenty of furiously lobbying going on. For its part internetNZ has given it the
thumbs down.
Supporting internet pioneer and Google executive Vint Cerf's rejection of the proposed standard. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft still has enough influence to get this one over the line.
Meanwhile, it seems New Zealand has been made a key member of a new international body, the Strategic Alliance Cyber Crime Working Group - or an 'international cyber cop unit' as Slashdot put it.
The group, which includes the US, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, the old ECHELON brothers in arms, will share intelligence on dodgy online goings-on. Speaking of which, there's been little word about how last week's Cyber Storm II exercises went.
The global war games that simulated attacks on critical infrastructure here in New Zealand seems to have gone pretty well, though the release put out on Monday by the Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection was giving little away:
"The New Zealand component of the exercise was successful in testing information sharing and response coordination across both public and private sectors and national and international cooperation," said the CCIP in a statement.
A report on the overall results will be published at some stage ahead of Cyber Storm III scheduled for 2010.

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