Peter Quinn's resignation

Peter Quinn's resignation

Summary: Peter Quinn, the Massachusetts State CIO who led the charge to make public documents in Massachusetts truly open with ODF announced that he will resign on Jan 9th.  In an interview with Groklaw, Quinn's former boss, Eric Kriss said that Quinn was uncomfortable with the personal attention surrounding the controversy: Peter is an IT professional who is not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics.


Peter Quinn, the Massachusetts State CIO who led the charge to make public documents in Massachusetts truly open with ODF announced that he will resign on Jan 9th.  In an interview with Groklaw, Quinn's former boss, Eric Kriss said that Quinn was uncomfortable with the personal attention surrounding the controversy:

Peter is an IT professional who is not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics. He found the last few months to be very distasteful, especially the Boston Globe article that seemed to imply some sort of improper influence related to his conference travel. 

In his resignation email on Dec 24th, Quinn wrote:

Many of these events have been very disruptive and harmful to my personal well-being, my family and many of my closest friends. This is a burden I will no longer carry.

Boy can I relate.  This whole incident brought back some very unpleasant memories for me.

Quinn was the subject of a page one story in the Boston Globe alleging misconduct related to travel.  The headline was "Romney administration reviewing trips made by technology chief."  Of course the reason the administration was reviewing Quinn was because the paper had begun asking questions.  Later, in a story reported in the local section, the paper reported that an internal investigation had cleared Quinn of wrongdoing.

Why'd he resign then?  Because he smart enough to know that won't be the end of it.  Quinn's enemies would have started a new investigation somewhere else  Likely someone in the legislature would have called an audit and that would have been reported in the same biased way.  The only way to make it stop is to leave. 

What does this mean for Massachusetts' ODF initiative?  In his letter, Quinn said that his resignation doesn't mean ODF is dead in Massachusetts.  I suspect that's true.  The cat is out of the bag now and there are plenty of people involved in the fight.  I'm willing to bet the next CIO will not touch it with a ten-foot poll, but that's not important.  It may take a few years, but this is a battle that's time has come.   

Topic: CXO

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  • Thank you Peter!

    Sir Issac Newton once famously said, ?If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.?

    Perhaps one day in the not so distant future, when Open Standards and Open XML technologies like ODF triumph, the head of HomeLand Security will stand in front of the then highly competitive and rapidly advancing information technology industry, with throngs of government leaders, the President, Cabinet and congressional dignitaries, a sea of computational consumers and global technologists looking on, and say, ?If we have seen further it is by standing on the dead bodies of great CIO's who had the courage to do the right thing......? And such will begin but another stirring tribute to one Peter Quinn.

    For the life of me i can't figure out why Microsoft is taking such a hard line on ODF. Sure it's a threat to their monopoly and future plans of total world domination. In the past though, with such great threats as HTML, the browser, and Java, Microsoft stuck to the reprehensible but thoroughly reliable and proven ?embrace and extend? tactic. It always works. So why do they refuse to touch ODF? I mean, why didn't they join the OASIS OpenDocument TC, work to seek the lowest common denominator threshold possible, and then extend their own implementation to meet their own platform specific needs? Why did they choose to throw down the gauntlet with ODF?

    Not that i'm not grateful they choose to make their stand with ODF. I am. The worst thing that could have ever happened to ODF would have been to have Microsoft take on the standing invitation and offer to participate, then intentionally mucking up the work, dumbing down the specification to an un acceptably low common denominator; all the while lying in wait to spring an enhanced, platform specific version. Instead, Microsoft choose to make a stand, and do whatever it takes, no matter how illegal or reprehensible. What's changed in Redmond? Did they take ODF for a chump?

    Everything Peter Quinn stood for will soon enough be vindicated by the analysis of the ECMA MSXML specification. I've often said that ODF is a wrapper of Open XML technologies. And that MSXML is a wrapper of proprietary technologies. But the recently released ECMA MSXML specification says something else. Something so seriously binding that we'll all remember fondly and long the good ole days when MSXML was filled with binary and application specific dependencies. The ECMA MSXML spec has gone far beyond what now looks trivial in comparison. The application dependencies have been replaced by platform dependencies and an entanglement of system interfaces and protocols that is breathtaking.

    ECMA won't be ratifying an XML file format specification. They are now in the business of rubber stamping MS Vista as a platform standard. And with that, Peter Quinn will have the last laugh. His ride into the sunset will mark forever an important turning point in the history of information technologies. The point where, filled with great hubris, Microsoft finally overplayed their hand.

    Hooray for Peter! Job well done! And many thanks for staying the course and getting it right.

  • MS FUD/mafia tactics

    The inevitable happened. ODF destroys MS Office lock-in, and lock-in is the business model of Microsoft, so MS's lobies politicians (thus the investigations), and most likely (unless you live in la-la land of naivete') MS pulls strings, either directly or indirectly, to have the Boston Globe trash Peter Quinn. No proof of this whatsoever, but the motive and connections and timing are far too strong for it to merely coincidental.

    But the good news is that Peter Quinn has been martyred, the cat's out of the bag (as Berlind pointed out), and MS is once again exposed for it's anti-competitive, mafia style tactics. ODF is not dead. It will take a while to take hold, but it inevitably will. It makes far too much sense for organizations to use open, non-proprietary, non patent encumbered file formats for it not to take hold.
  • Wimp and weak.

    PQ KNEW when he went against M$ interests, what the outcome would be. He was not so nieve as to think that M$ would not fight back. So why quit?

    This sets a BAD precidence and soils the thousands of IT workers in the country that FIGHT and LOSE every single day - but never give up. My personal fight has cost me thousands of dollars (by getting wimpy raises) to fight for what is best for the company I work for. The political costs have been ENORMOUS for myself - but I hold my head high knowing that I do the right thing and never compromise on the truth, and NEVER give up. Its HARD to be a hero - and you Mr. Quinn, will never be one.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Except that...

      ODF was indeed ratified as a standard, so you can thank Quinn for the initial enforcement of the standard.

      Winning the war is more important than winning the battle, and casualties happen.
  • Running scared

    There are no depths to which Microsoft will not sink in the battle to maintain their market dominance.

    There's an interesting article on Groklaw about this.
  • Resignation as Statement

    By resigning his position, Peter Quinn has succeeded in changing entirely the focus of the discussion. No longer are we obsessed with open and open enough arguments. Or whether MSXML is real XML or just a shoddy wrapper of proprietary system calls and platform specific dependencies. No, with Peter's resignation the discussion quickly shifted to Microsoft's reprehensible business practices, and that they will do whatever it takes, illegal or not, to stop organizations, enterprises and computational consumers everywhere from moving their information to ODF.

    I'm wondering how the Microsoft assault on Peter Quinn is any different from the previous assaults on Netscape and Sun? Or the kind of intimidation, extortion, exclusion, and collusion practices that found them guilty before both a Federal Judge, and a Federal Appeals Court.

    There is every reason to believe that Microsoft ferociously and without regard for the law set out to intimidate Peter Quinn, forcing him through personal and politically inspired pressures to rescind his decision to stick with Open Standards, Open XML technologies, a sound SOA strategy, and the OpenDocument XML file format. Peter responded with his resignation.

    Was Microsoft, with this all out assault on the person of Peter Quinn, trying to send a message to anyone and everyone who would dare consider ODF? Of course. Microsoft remains an unapologetic recidivist reprobate. Intimidation and threats are their calling card. So Peter Quinn wakes up one morning and finds in his bed the head of his most precious race horse (the future of Massachusetts Information Technology). Message received. But instead of toeing the line, and rescinding his ETRM initiative, Peter sends his own message. He resigns.

    This changes things for all other CIO's. If Peter had simply gone wobbly in his support for ODF and the Open Standards principals embraced by the ETRM, those many other CIO's caught between Microsoft and a hard place would also have some wobble and waffle room.

    With the resignation however, they don't have any room to maneuver. Any hesitation or wavering about ODF, or slight favoritism to the highly exclusionary and anti competitive MS Vista platform, er MSXML, will usher forth a gush of questions about intimidation and fear of Microsoft.

    With his resignation, Peter Quinn has insured that fear of Microsoft and their reprehensible tactics of intimidation will become the core of any future discussion concerning CIO requirements and infrastructure announcements. It's not going to be about Open XML technology, SOA, the Open Internet, or even about open and open enough. If you ask me, Peter's resignation is a wooden stake, right through the heart of the beast.

    Now, where's the DOJ and Judge Colleen? Seems they have some unfinished business to take care of.

  • Courage

    I'm amazed, someone resigned over a principle! Oh, wait, it wasn't a politician. Or maybe it was...

    Whatever the truth about why the Globe went after Mr. Quinn many of us will feel that he was being asked to pay a too high price by having his personal reputation, and his family, put under the spotlight.

    David Berlind is right, of course, now that the ball is rolling the ODF versus Microsoft 'game' has taken on a life of its own. I hope I am never found wanting when my time to stand up and be counted comes. I hope I measure up to the Quinn standard.

    However, we must remember that we are not all made of such steel as Mr. Quinn. Don't be too hard on those who fall by the wayside, or wave a white flag when the going gets tough. We can't all be strong. Rather, think of ways to help people undermine, compromise, and side-step proprietary 'standards'.

    Many see making recommendations into true, open, supported, standards as a blood-sweat-and-tears job. I'd rather think smarter, than work harder.

    Thank you, Mr. Quinn.
    Stephen Wheeler