Massachusetts Open Doc moves lack logic

At the risk of offending many of the fine folks who produce this excellent periodical and who live in the Bay State - has the government of Massachusetts gone plumb loco? Actually, because I was born and raised in Rhode Island, I've known for many years that Massachusetts politicians were, let's say, a few votes short of a caucus. But now the state is looking at mandating the electronic file formats that its office productivity workers can use!

Your thoughts - Discuss this column and Massachusetts' plan.

Yep, the state is moving to ban Microsoft Word, Lotus Notes, Word Perfect and any other office application that doesn't use the newly defined Open Document Format for Office Applications, which has been released in a 1.0 specification by an Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards working group (See the Massachusetts Enterprise Technical Reference Model). Reread that: a "1.0" specification.

You are aware, I hope, of what 1.0 means to an "open standards" body, right? It means, essentially, that it has started the process of identifying the area in which its members think they need to create a protocol or standard.

They may even have defined a few terms. But because everything could - and probably will - change by Version 2.0, no one in his right mind will implement it.

Most people you talk to will admit that the major reason the Scrod State is doing this is to thumb its nose at Microsoft. But it wouldn't be proper to say that, and these Bostonians are always proper when a little political skulduggery is afoot. So the avowed reason for the mandate is that it's an altruistic move to make state documents more accessible to the public, because anyone can have the software to read the format. Interestingly enough, Adobe's PDF format is specifically declared to be "open" and may continue to be used.

I can only guess that because there is a freely downloadable PDF reader available, the letter of the law's published intent is satisfied.

But, wait a minute! Microsoft also allows you to download (for free) readers for it's Office documents. Wouldn't that let Microsoft qualify, too? Well, yes, it should. In more than 20 years of specifying and buying software applications and services, I can't recall one instance where the file formats made a scintilla of difference. The Beantowners need to get their priorities back in order.

Tip of the week

There's a new book out from O'Reilly that everyone involved with security or network services needs to read: Digital Identity by Phil Windley, former CIO for the state of Utah. Subtitled "Unmasking Identity Management Architecture," this should become the handbook for those creating service-oriented architectures.

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