Ben Langhinrichs

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September, 2007
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Tue 25 Sep 2007, 12:17 PM
In the recent aggressive push by Microsoft to get Open XML certified as an ISO standard, many countries were convinced to switch to P-countries in terms of voting.  The inevitable, but sad, after effect of this effort is shown with the failure of JTC 1/SC 34 N 870.  Did this standard fail due to negative votes or numerous comments?  No, of the eight countries voting, seven voted for the ballot, and even The Netherlands, which voted against it, had only two comments.  The reason why the ballot failed was explicitly stated:
Based on an insufficient response from the SC 34 participating membership, this ballot has automatically failed according to Directives 9.1.10 that states "if more than 50% of the P-members have not voted, the vote will have failed." Late votes are not counted and there are no extensions to the vote.
So, what would the results have been before this run up of P-countries?  As best as I can figure,  with 32 P-members now and 16 P-members joining fairly quickly to vote on Open XML, the vote would have been passed without those new members, since 50% of the P-members would have voted, and the vast majority voted for Approval.

Is it bad to have more voters?  Intuition tells us that it is not, but intuition is not always correct.  When there are more voters, but they don't vote, and when a quorum is required, those new voters can kill off a perfectly acceptable standard.  I know little to nothing about JTC 1/SC 34 N 870, but I do know that many other qualified and reasonable ballots may fail because of the surfeit of under participating P-members, and that is a real shame.

Update: I saw an argument on another blog that
that particular ballot failed because only 8 member voted which would never have sufficed in any scenario.
In case you say, "My, that sounds reasonable!", check out this ballot from one year earlier, JTC 1/SC 34 N 745.  It is interesting comparing these two.  Both had seven P-members voting for approval and one voting against, but the earlier ballot passed and this failed.  In case you need graphic evidence of what has happened in the meantime, look at the list of P-members from one year ago (country that did not vote in italics):
Canada
China
Italy
Japan
Korea, Republic of
Norway
Thailand
United Kingdom
USA

and then the list of P-members voting for this past ballot (countries that did not vote in italics):
Bulgaria
Brazil
Canada
Switzerland
Côte-d'Ivoire
China
Colombia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Germany
Denmark
Finland
France
India
Italy
Japan
Kenya
Korea, Republic of
Kazakhstan
Lebanon
Malta
Netherlands
Norway
Pakistan
Poland
Romania
Sweden
Thailand
Trinidad and Tobago
United Kingdom
USA
Venezuela

Does this make it clear how much harder it is going to be to pass ballots now?

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