Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog


Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Wed 29 Aug 2007, 09:00 AM
It is hard not to wonder as we count down the last couple of days before the vote on ECMA's (and Microsoft's) quest to get OOXML officially made an ISO standard.  How did Microsoft, well known for its innovation over the years, and a strong supporter of developers and consumers alike, manage to come out with a document format that was so unfriendly to developers and consumers alike, and so innovation-free?  My theory, which is probably as good as any, is that Microsoft, with ECMA as its partner, is channeling Tom Lehrer.  Here are some examples:

Picture the joys of developers (such as myself) trying to implement a 6000+ standard filled to the brim with intricate and little explained dependancies, and you might just hear a soft refrain (to tango music):
I ache for the touch of your lips, dear,
But much more for the touch of your whips, dear.
You can raise welts
Like nobody else,
As we dance to the masochism tango.
 

Now, imagine delving further into those specifications, and coming upon the attributes of one of the many undocumented, deprecated, compatibility elements:
There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium,
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium,
And gold and protactinium and indium and gallium,
<gasp>
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.


But what is Microsoft thinking?  What does Microsoft think its customers are thinking?  Here is one possibility of what Microsoft might hope its customers are thinking:
First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!


Of course, Microsoft customers may not feel quite like that.  Their actual reaction may sound a bit more like:
So say you love me here and now,
I'll make the most of that.
Say you love and trust me,
For I know you'll disgust me
When you're old and getting fat.


Let's go out to the Microsoft blogs, where we can hear a resounding tune as stories trickle in of dirty deeds done to push through a generally unpopular OOXML standard:
Stories of tortures
Used by debauchers,
Lurid, licentious, and vile,
Make me smile.


Boiling down the ECMA/Microsoft position on why OOXML should be made a standard, despite its many flaws, is this sophistic argument:
As the judge remarked the day that he
Acquitted my Aunt Hortense,
To be smut
It must be ut-
Terly without redeeming social importance.


And finally, for those loyal supporters who are reaching out a hand of encouragement to Microsoft in its ignoble quest, here is the tune you may soon hear if Microsoft and ECMA are successful:
I hold your hand in mine, dear,
I press it to my lips.
I take a healthy bite
From your dainty fingertips.

My joy would be complete, dear,
If you were only here,
But still I keep your hand
As a precious souvenir.

Copyright © 2007 Genii Software Ltd.

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