There's a little bit of news on the OpenDocument Format (ODF) front. According to eWeek, a new version of Wordperfect has shipped but without ODF support (despite the company's prior statements that it's behind the XML-based productivity suite document format). Under the headline Corel PussyFoots on Wordperfect ODF (talk about not mincing words), eWeek's Stephen Vaughan-Nichols writes:
Greg Wood, communications manager for Corel WordPerfect, recently pointed out, "Corel is an original member of the OASIS Technical Committee on the OpenDocument format, and one of Corel's senior developers is among the original four authors of the ODF specification."....it was assumed that since Corel had helped create ODF, the format would be included in the next version of WordPerfect. It hasn't been.
Elsewhere in ODF news, Groklaw editor Pamela Jones (aka "PJ") has posted her interview of ex-Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn. To refresh your memories, Quinn was a central figure in Massachusetts' decision to standardize on the OpenDocument Format for the electronic authoring, retrieval, and archival of that state's public document. That decision erupted into a controversy that drew anybody that was remotely affected by the decision (vendors, politicians, etc.) into an unprecedented series of public battles the outcomes of which could still be yet to be determined. Quinn, whose professional reputation was vetted in the Boston newspapers, eventually vacated his CIO post -- a move that cast even more doubt on the state's Information Technology Division's resolve to stick to its decision (so far, it says it is...but as you'll see in a moment, Quinn knows Microsoft hasn't thrown-in the towel). If you think the aforementioned eWeek headline doesn't mince words, you should see what Quinn had to say. Here are some highlights:
- Eric Kriss and I always had a goal of making IT a-political and now it was rapidily becoming a political football of the highest magnitude...I took this job in the hopes of making meaningful and institutionalized IT reform. All the previous efforts were about to be for naught as political payback.
- Senator Pacheco and Secretary Galvin's office remain very heavily influenced by the Microsoft money and its lobbyist machine, as witnessed by their playbook and words, in my opinion.
- The Globe and the Herald continue to publish stories of marginal intellectual content, seeking only the sensational headlines and then move on. Resources are rarely brought to disseminate substantive issues (as witnessed by the Globe editorial on Microsoft in today's paper)...
- My Mother always taught us to never be afraid of bullies and the disingenuous (certainly represented by [Microsoft], Secretary Galvin and Alan Cote, and some of the folks in the Legislature) but as anyone who has been on the receiving end of that kind of behavior knows, it takes its toll....In fairness to everyone close to me, it was time to say enough is enough.
- I believe that the ODF decision will stand. I believe [Microsoft] will continue to do anything and everything it can to stop it.
I know I haven't covered the issue recently (not nearly as much as I was at one point). I begining to feel as though the real key here is cost. At then end of the day, governments are more senstivie to cost than they are anything else. When it comes to highly technical and strategic pain points such as those that might be caused by adopting a specific vendors DRM (whether they know they're doing it or not) or guaranteeing the long-term access to public electronic documents, and guaranteeing a healthy vendor-government procurement ecosystem (one that encourages competition), the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts simply don't have any attention to apply to this matter. It's too complex. Those involved (vendors, politicians, etc.) are taking advantage of that. The People are not going to hold them accountable for that which they really don't understand.
But, what politicians and taxpayers do get is abuse of taxpayer monies. So, sooner or later when compelling solutions that reliably get the job done are available for little or no cost (regardless of the format), politicians will have a difficult if not impossible time hauling out the technical rhetoric in hopes of justifying any premiums the state may be incurring. Lack of fiduciary responsibility is what makes headlines (unfounded accusations of it are what landed Quinn on the front page). It's the one lowest common denominator that resonates with citizens regardless of the undertaking and that politicians can't duck if they want to keep their jobs. If ODF ever prevails to the exclusion of other formats in Massachusetts or with any other government, it will be the real dollars and cents that do the talking. Not the theoretical which, as sound as it may be in the case of Massachusetts, is based on too much technobabble (from the People's perspective).