Thu, 27 Oct 2005

I’m at a panel on open document formats today. It is a weird mix of brilliance and fluff- Tim Bray in particular is just dead on- he argues for open standards as the precondition for actual, meaningful competition in the tools related to the standard. This is of course obvious on many levels, but I’d never heard it put that way before. Very well said. This particular revolution will soon be webcast by Dan Bricklin, and probably by us too, if we can get the tape from A/V. :)

Tim’s comments basically slammed the current state of the office suite; he didn’t name either one by name but it was clear he didn’t think highly of any of the current options. I hope he’s right and that more widespread adoption of odf means more actual competition on quality and usability instead of just feature creep. Someone argued with Tim that standardizing on one file format reduced choice, but Tim beat him fairly hard upside the head with the state of networking in the ’80s, where there was IBM networking, and Novell networking, and companies I didn’t recognize, and now we’ve got TCP/IP, and while in the 80s people said that standardization in networking reduced choice, it’s clear now that anyone who proposed replacing TCP/IP with a proprietary standard would be laughed out of the room. He feels the same will happen in doc formats in a few years.

David Berlind, who wrote this great article on the state of things in Massachusetts, is here, and is asking some great questions- it is very good to see a journalist who deeply gets the value of open source; better, to see a journalist who knows what questions to ask when someone tries to BS him. We need more journalists like that at all levels, not just technology.

[Tangentially, saw these amusing/depressing posts on openoffice bloat- some hard numbers which I’m sure have some flaws but which aren’t out of line with what real people are seeing. Again, OOo needs to learn from the moz->firefox experience- slim down radically and get very good at the very core functionality, and drop everything else, and you’ll start to win. Adding a plugin system so that features can be added back if they are actually useful helps too, of course.]

[Bongo looks like it might soon rock my world, speaking of editing documents.]