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Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats

From: ian
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] E-envoy and Open file formats
Date: 04 Aug 2003 11:32:19 +0100

On Mon, 2003-08-04 at 10:33, Mike Taylor wrote:

> In fact, I could scarecly be working _less_ for Redmond; however, I do
> recognise that if we're going to defeat a huge goliath-style enemy,
> we're going to need to recognise where its strengths are and avoid
> wasting our relatively puny firepower in those areas.  We need to find
> the weak spots and concentrate fire on them.

Well at least we agree on something. Why do you think I started the OFT
investigation of MS Schools Agreement? Little effort to me,big influence
on a large number of people who are locked into MS products.

> > The point is that OASIS is trying to establish an open standard and
> > there is always going to be a chicken and egg aspect to that. That
> > is why I'm not suggesting that they replace Word with OO.o files but
> > provide OO.o as well as Word.
> But who will use them?

A few to start with, more eventually. Apart from this discussion it cost
me all of two E-mails to get this considered. If it ends up with all
Government sites including an Open Format and say 0.5 of a percent
increase in OO.org usage it will have been massively cost-beneficial. 

> BTW., since we're all so aware of the marketing aspect of all this,
> maybe the time is right to point out that "OO.o" is one of the worst
> names I've ever heard for anything.  Even "Microsoft Bob" was better.
> Can't we call this "OASIS format" or something similar?

No, because of trade marks OO.o was to be known as OpenOffice but that
name turned out to be trademarked and it was too late to change to
something radically different so they took the name of the website and
community OO.o. Personally, I don't think OpenOffice is a bad name, a
lot of that is simply down to subjective taste. 

> > > If I told them it was this great open format which they could read
> > > if they were prepared to fetch and install a 40Mb tarball over
> > > their dial-up lines (and learn the subtle but real differences
> > > between it and the office suite they've grown to know and tolerate
> > > over the last few years) they would look at me as though I'd grown
> > > an extra leg and turned bright orange.  "But I already have a
> > > perfectly good office suite!", they'd say.
> > 
> > So why don't you just use MS Office and receive their MS Office
> > documents?
> I don't need to because _I_ can run OpenOffice.  No problem there
> (although I can't get it to use anything remotely resembling
> half-decent fonts but that's another story.)  The question is, how to
> get _others_ to use it.  Non-hackers.

There are a lot of schools using it and the number is increasing so that
will help. Subscribe to the OO.o lists and get ideas from other people.
There are a lot of non-hackers using it. Turkish law courts are changing
to it, one of the marketing list contributors in California is a
self-confessed technical dummy and he is using it.

> > Seems pretty straight forward. Unless of course you believe its
> > worth making an effort to get people to use free software. In that
> > position, I'd download it for them and cut some CDs and give it to
> > them that way. In fact I give CDs like that out all the time so that
> > 1 of 16 million downloads turns into scores of installations.
> As other have pointed out, this tactic is utterly doomed to abject,
> humiliating, bitter failure.

All I can say is it has worked for me. I must be doing something
different to you, that is all.

>   Best not even think about it.

To me that's just defeatism. You have to make an effort and take the
risk of failure. Some things come off some don't. My OFT action could
come to nothing but on balance I think its worth the risk making the
effort. We send out a steady stream of OO.o CDs simply based on
registering as a community distributor on the OO.o web site and
advertising OO.o on our own site. The more visible it is the more
confident people will be to use it. Why do you think AOL send out all
those CDs and advertise on the telly? Ok, we can't do that quite in the
same way but I have a few plans to get thousands of discs out there and
free advertising on government web sites is a good start.

> The place to push OpenOffice is with vendors.  By the time users get
> their computers, they already have MS-Office on them;

Not always the case, its more likely Works or Lotus for home users and
now StarOffice and OpenOffice are beginning to be OEM'd. Its business
that will provide MS Office pre-installed. Different market sectors
different tactics. We need a wide range of tactics, not just one line of
attack. Its far easier for me to contact the E-envoy's office than to
start trying to persuade Dell to bundle OO.o with every machine.There
are other people working on that anyway.

>  and so, by the
> principle of Least Throwing Everything Up In The Air, they'll keep
> using it.  But if PC-bundle vendors realise they can save themselves
> £200 a time by pre-installing OpenOffice (even on Windows boxes)
> instead of MS-Office, then they will surely bite.

My company will sell you machines with pre-installed GNU-Linux and OO.o
on if you want, but on your above argument, advertising this heavily for
a small company is a big risk. It might get done but at the moment its
better sense to make the environment a bit more friendly first. Its
easier for us to just sell 200 thin client boxes running GNU/Linux and
OO.o to a school than try and chase up and support even 100 individual
hoe users.

> > > And let's not even _think_ about how they'd react if I told them
> > > it was a well-defined XML format that they could easily parse
> > > themselves if they'd just take the trouble to learn some
> > > programming skills and download one of the free XML parser
> > > toolkits.
> > 
> > ROFL. You are off into the realms of fantasy here.
> Yes -- deliberately.
> > Where did I or anyone suggest any of that?
> You did, actually -- but I gues you didn't mean it.

I didn't mean I would try and explain it to a lay audience. I assumed,
perhaps wrongly, that people on this list were more knowledgeable.

> > > I absolutely agree that the .doc format (or, I should say, family
> > > of subtly different and mutually incompatible formats) is a
> > > hell-spawn pool of evil incarnate, and must be banished into outer
> > > darkness.
> > 
> > Er, then why not step on to the first rung of a ladder that can lead
> > to that goal?
> I am very keen to.  However, before I trust my weight to it, I want to
> be sure that the particular ladder is one that's going to lead
> somewhere useful and not just collapse.  I remain to be convinced that
> getting the UK government to put OASIS-format documents alongside
> MS-Word versions is a useful ladder to climb; but this discussion does
> seem to have unearthed at least two potential alternative routes to
> the same destination: (1) build an OASIS-format plug-in for Word and
> distribute it widely,

Yuk, you mean give all those Word users a reason to stick with Word? You
still don't seem to get it. I'm not talking about logical neat solutions
to keep users with proprietary software, I'm talking strategy to kill
proprietary software even if this is going to take time.

>  for free; or (2) spend our precious PR budget --
> time and money -- on persuading bundle-vendors to switch instead of
> wasting our time on end-users.

Thing is I'm not asking you or anyone else to spend anything or do
anything. I will follow this up myself anyway, this was just a note as I
thought people might be interested. It would nice to think I had AFFS
backing on this, but in the end I don't really need it. I didn't need it
to get the OFT to investigate MSSA or to get several questions asked in
parliament about value for money and OSS. I could perhaps understand our
problem if I was asking you to do something personally about it.

> > HTML is not designed to be able to handle complex data formats of
> > this type - that is why XML has been developed and why OASIS are
> > keen to use the OO.o file format. Its the first comprehensive
> > implementation of an open XML format for office applications. PDF is
> > an output specification for printing which is read only. Its no use
> > for document exchange where the two exchangers need to edit the
> > files. That is the whole issue.
> Whatever happened to RTF, by the way?

Its too limited. If it was feature rich enough, why bother with Word
documents at all?

> > > Sorry, but that's the world we live in.
> > 
> > And will continue to live in unless people make the effort to change it.
> The point here is not "That's the world we live in and we're stuck
> with it"; it's "That's the world we live in, and if we want to get to
> _there_ we need to make sure the strategy we adopt is one that works
> from _here_."

Well you seem to be saying your strategies don't work! Look at the
negative comments about getting your local people off Word. I'm saying
that many of my strategies seem to be working - I should think there are
around 1000 desktops running GNU/Linux in schools that would not have
been except for my intervention and that is just a start because things
are getting easier as more people gain confidence. When all that is
needed is to send an E-mail for something that is even a longish shot in
the words of the NIKE ad - just do it.

> For sure MS will not _want_ to open .doc format; and I don't believe
> they can be realistically forced to do so by courts.  But I _can_
> imagine a situation where the government says "Our documents _must_ be
> in open formats; if MS do not open .doc, then we will have use OASIS
> (or RTF or HTML or PDF or plain text)."

That is on the agenda, and having the OASIS format on the web sites is
only likely to add weight to the argument.

> > Another way of looking at it is that if OO.o becomes accepted by
> > OASIS and several governments, MS will probably be forced to at
> > least provide document transfer filters.
> This is indeed a promising line of thought.
> > After all XML is one of their selling points for Office 2003 but its
> > not actually free of undocumented proprietary garbage at present.
> (Off-topic anti-MS rant: AAARARARRRGRHRHG!  What _on earth_ is the
> point of making the use of XML a selling point if their use of XML is
> proprietary and opquae?  Who _on earth_ would anyone care whether Word
> uses XML if _they_ can't use that XML?)

There is a lot of point for MS its called MARKETING. Its not about
functionality or logic, its about getting people to buy your product by
appealing to whatever emotions you can. In these issues, emotional
intelligence is more important than academic and the two are shown to be
quite different. The stereotypical hacker has a lot of IQ and not a lot
of EQ.
ian <address@hidden>

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