When reason goes out the window

Been reading some of the comments to the recent GNOME Foundation press release about OOXML involvement. Reading things like the comments on osnews and linux.com leaves me in a state of disbelief.

When you have people like Michael Meeks and Jody Goldberg, who have been working on free software office software for a longer time than most others in the community has even been using free software, it is sad to see people trying to claim they know more about the respective qualities of the ODF and OOXML standards than they do. The claims of being corporate shills sounds even more hollow considering these people have been working on free software office software for much longer than they have been paid to do so. Having known especially Michael for many years and had many a beer with him I it saddens me when people in the community doubt his word. Michael care about free software, but whats maybe more important in this context is that he cares about technical excellence.
And thus he is not willing to claim that the ODF spreadsheet specification is better than the OOXML one when he, based on his eight years worth of hacking experience doing spreadheet software in the context of Gnumeric and OpenOffice, knows it not to be the case.

The question worth asking here is if the community has come to a point where we no longer care about quality and technical perfection in what we do, instead we are going to join the proprietary software vendors in a game of FUD and mud slinging. When I started out with free software it felt as the ethos of the community was that we are not a community of people blinded by pride or arrogance instead we happily adopt and evolve the best of what is out there. If that means adapting to standards and formats originally developed by Microsoft then so be it.

Michael has been tirelessly been promoting OpenOffice for quite a few years now, even working on it and promoting it at a time when most GNOME developers felt it was a bloated and unmaintainable piece of software and most the code comments where in German. Through his and his team’s effort OpenOffice has gone from being something screaming Windows 3.11 when looking at it to something that actually looks like it belongs on my GNOME desktop. And there is no longer a half hour wait for it to start up.

I use OpenOffice.org every day doing my job today. Back in the day when I was at Oracle I couldn’t do that. Not because Oracle refused me to do so, but simply because most of Oracle’s documents where in MS Office format and at that time the OpenOffice filters where not good enough to do the job, so I had to dual boot into Windows in order to write reports for customers, fill in expense reports and so on.

Even in my current job, doing linux consultancy work around free software technologies like GStreamer, Telepathy and Webkit I would not be able to use OpenOffice if it wasn’t for the excellent MS Office compatibility. The vast majority of documents and proposals I receive from our customers are in those formats. I haven’t gotten any OOXML documents yet, but it is only a matter of time and when it start to happen I would gradually be forced back to my old dual booting ways unless OpenOffice supports OOXML in a good way.

So Jody if you are reading this, please don’t listen to the detractors and instead keep up doing such great work. I for one would be sad if I have to install windows on my laptop again because you stopped pushing OOXML in the right direction.

11 thoughts on “When reason goes out the window”

  1. The comments on OSNEWS are by segedunum, a very well know anti-GNOME troll on that site. I wouldn’t have thought it’s worth wasting much time/emotion on them.

  2. thanks for expressing what I’ve been thinking about the whole OOXML F/LOSS community fiasco.

    and kudos to Michael and Jody for their fundamental work on making people switch over to the free software platforms and especially for being so patient and calm in the face of the muppets (whose biggest contribution to the community is probably just drivel on some advocacy list).

  3. Amen brother, I could not have said it clearer.

    Michael, Jody and the other gnumeric and oo.o hackers, please, keep up the good work.

  4. Maybe you just don’t undertstand, to some people, freedom comes first, techniquel perfection comes second.

    It’s ok. People are different.

  5. AC: it’s ok for people to disagree and take the side of “freedom over technical excellence” and I personally respect that position. In fact, that is typically /my/ position as well, but the problem is that the people arguing that ODF is a superior standard to OOXML in a technical sense seem to me to be out of touch with reality and honestly seem to be spreading FUD.

    On the contrary, Michael and Jody are not claiming that OOXML is “freer”, rather they are just voicing their educated (as opposed to their opposition who are not educated) technical views for which they are getting flamed.

    Despite whether they like OOXML on a technical standpoint or not is not affecting their contributions in making ODF work well.

    People need to stop getting so uneducatedly emotional over this issue, especially since Michael and Jody are both on-board with implementing good ODF support as well. If they were refusing to implement ODF, I could understand the venemous hatred being directed at them, but being that they are friendly towards our needs, I don’t see the problem.

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