[SASAG] Proprietary Formats on Public Mailing Lists -- Was: Re: System Admin Job opportunity

Jim Hogan jim.hogan at gmail.com
Sat Sep 1 18:38:28 PDT 2007


On 9/1/07, Benjamin Krueger <benjamin at seattlefenix.net> wrote:
> * Jim Hogan (jim.hogan at gmail.com) [070901 02:09]:
> > Benjamin,
> >
> > On 9/1/07, <benjamin at seattlefenix.net> wrote:
> > > But that was some good rhetoric. I especially liked the part where you built a beautiful
> > > strawman out of the open formats issue and then burned it up with the
> > > implication that  Microsoft controls the world (and I'm ok with it).
> >
> > Well, you seemed to be painting a fairly broad "immature
> > anti-Microsoft zealot" stroke as if there weren't reasons for
> > customers to not like MSFT.
> A man who does not know of or care for the difference between disliking
> his neighbor and burning his neighbor's house down can only be accurately
> described as a true psychopath.

Hey, that's pretty good. It could make a good sig.  Before I fell into
IT 20 years ago, though, some of my previous employments brought me
face to face with *real* psychopaths, so it is not a term that I throw
around lightly.  Modest flamefests notwithstanding, I'm not seeing
that here on this list, and I hate to see the meaning of such terms

I have done IT work both in a consultant role and in direct
employment.  Regardless of the case, I try to think of my
sponsoring/employing organization as my customer.  If I did not keep
my own thoughts and opinions in perspective relative to my customer's
needs, I would be doing my customer a disservice.  In my current
circumstance, I purchase, install, and use Microsoft products on a
weekly (probably more like daily) basis.

But whether it is in hardware, software, or services, I want my
customer to get good value for dollar, to have choices and options,
and to have a good chance that their investments won't be a dead end.
That thing called "vendor lock-in" is, obviously, something to be
avoided.  I want to feel like our important vendors keep their
customers' interests foremost in their minds.

Love or hate emotions completely aside, I absolutely do not feel that
Redmond makes the grade on this last point.  Their behavioral history
is very much skewed toward their own lock-in interests with the
interests of customers a very distant second.  I moved here from
Lotus-land (Boston) in 1988 and was immediately struck by how much
home-town favoritism Microsoft enjoyed.  But, as an "import", I have
never identified with that, so perhaps that is one source for my
harsher assessment.

> > > I might be worried if it weren't for the fact that justice departments
> > > across the world are once again lifting an eyebrow and contemplating
> > > how far they will let Microsoft go before pulling on the anti-monopoly leash.
> >
> > This sounds like what MSFT's PR department would say, but does not
> > seem to align with current reality in the post Penfield Jackson world.
> >  It is even more ironic that consumers in the US of A may be protected
> > from monopoly practices by the (sometimes) more aggressive stance of
> > the European Union. But you may be an optimist.
> Microsoft's PR department would say what? I'm sorry, but you've stopped making sense.

Then I should clarify.  Microsoft's PR and legal departments would
likely tell us how oppressive the courts' antitrust remedies are and
how hard they have had to work in order to comply with the various
court orders intended as monopoly remedies.

In reality, the few sanctions that remained after Thomas Penfield
Jackson's puzzling lapse*, and after the change of administrations in
2001, are, in my estimation, pretty much meaningless.  I am guessing
that the MSFT legal department has a good chuckle whenever they send
the court memos about how hard they are working to comply.

In the meantime, MSFT has not seemed too embarrassed to do things like
pay Jack Abramoff to sponsor pro-OOXML astroturf campaigns or to pay
partners to stack ISO country votes.  All of this doesn't seem to
merit a blip on the radar here in the US of A.  Yeah, it seems like we
may only have the EU (and some ornery non-aligned sentiment in places
like Brazil) to save us from DOC Monopoly V2 here in the US.

> > > Then again, I can't think of the last time a technology standards
> > > board actually did anything relevant to the IT industry at all.
> >
> > Oh, OK.  If you say so.  But you got my email via S-M-T-P, right?  `
> If your best argument for the relevancy of standards boards is to point at a protocol written 25 years ago by one guy at USC, I guess we're done here.

Your dismissive remark gave me the impression that you are not
somebody who exactly cherishes standards.  It happens.  Some folks
don't like standards.  You may in fact cherish standards.  But your
expression of doubt in an (SMTP) email just seemed ironic.

> http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/rfc821.html

I have heard of those things called RFCs.

Now to the point of "the last time a technology standards board
actually did anything relevant to the IT industry" I personally think
that there are plenty of examples if I wanted to scratch my head and
rummage places like W3C and IEEE, but I'll offer a more homey example:

My oldest sibling (on the East Coast) fell off of our familial email
network.  When I inquired, it turns out that her computer had gotten
totally hosed up -- spyware, viruses all that.  She despaired of
getting it sorted out and decided that having a computer just wasn't
worthwhile.  I mean, all she wants to do is surf the Web and check
email, but she had come to the conclusion -- I don't know how -- that
she needed IE and Outlook to do that. Really.

So I got my nephew to burn a Live CD, disconnect his Mom's hard drive,
and set her up with a Gmail account.  Problem solved.  Oh, but to the
original point: I sent her a  geneology-ish and immigration
spreadsheet that I had been working on and she was able to open and
view it without any problem.  All that without spending more than the
cost fo a blank CD.

You can probably guess that the spreadsheet was in the form of an
ISO-standard ODF document.  Would you not agree that an ISO-standard
document format is not an accomplishment and "relevant to the IT

If Microsoft wanted to demonstrate to me that they are seeking to put
the interests of their customers first, they would need to do very
little more in 2007 than build native support for ODF into their
office suite.  Relative to the other work on their plate,  doing this
would be trivial.

Soooo, can I encourage you to write to Microsoft and ask them to
include native ODF support in MS-Office?  If enough people did so,
there could be a chance.  And maybe a few years from now, there would
be less chance of flame wars about proprietary attachments :)


> --
> Benjamin Krueger
> Tough Internet Guy

-*-  Jim Hogan
     Seattle, WA

* Penfield Jackson was on the verge of imposing what could have been
an effective and non-punitive/prejudicial antitrust remedy when he got
the inexplicable urge to discuss the case and his unhappiness with a
reporter and got himself taken off the case.

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