Re: Article: Document or else

Subject: Re: Article: Document or else
From: eric -dot- dunn -at- ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2006 09:48:32 -0400

techwr-l-bounces+eric -dot- dunn=ca -dot- transport -dot- bombardier -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
wrote on 07/06/2006 06:28:06 PM:
> I don't see what's so hard to understand about this:

> The EU and Massachussetts decided that open file formats suit their
> customers better. They could have simply dropped MS and gone with
> open formats. Would that have been better for, or more 'fair' to,

> What's good for Microsoft - or any large corporation - is not
> necessarily good for anybody else.

> All the best,
> Brian

What did I miss? Wasn't the original thread and news story, about
Microsoft being told to document properly or be fined, NOTHING to do with
"open" file formats?


It was about Microsoft being held to their obligation to properly document
their API so that competitors would stand a fighting chance against
Microsoft competition when it comes to programming integrated
applications. Government intervention is entirely justified in that
regard. Dishonestly enforced monopolies should be broken to encourage
competition and give consumers a choice.

Being able to share is great. And Microsoft, Adobe, and other giants all
have their "open" formats. RTF, MIF, dxf, and a slew of other exchange
formats. Are they fully functional? Do they work perfectly? Perhaps not.

But consider any "open" solution. It's going to be no more functional and
exchangeable than a workflow that used one of the above formats if the two
users aren't using EXACTLY the same tool chain and work environment.
Anybody who advocates that you're "stuck" in a format or held hostage by
Adobe, Microsoft, or another is an idiot IMO. At anytime, you can evaluate
the costs and advantages of changing formats and tools. An exercise that
is not changed one bit if the tool chain or file formats are "open". Just
the location of the costs changes. Instead of paying for boxed software,
you pay for developers, consultants, or internal resources to reconfigure
and set-up the system.

That is unless your workflow is one of the pathetically bland and
ill-fitting, designed by committee, adheres to every standard, provides no
use specific alterations, tool chains. Whether ATA, Docbook, DITA, CALS,
or any other storage and interchange system using an "open" architecture
or "freely" available components and definitions, why is they all require
5 to 7 figure investments to create the kind of system required by any
company or group bigger than simply "dabbling" to effectively implement,
control, and manage content creation and storage using those systems?

The crusade and evangelisation against the evils of big corporations gets
incredibly tiring to hear. And it's not all rooted in evil, greed, and
need to "lock you in". The idea of an all encompassing document storage
format is stupidity IMO. Take just one functional difference between Word
and FrameMaker, Sideheads. How do you define an "open" and universal
format for something that one application supports and another doesn't?

Then, are binary encryptions of data the work of the devil as some zealous
OSS advocates would have us believe? Well, why should MS or Adobe reveal
the inner working of their software and architecture by encoding the
binary with an easy to decipher code and show things they worked long and
hard to develop? Debates about the support and stability of RTF aside, you
CAN share all of the content from Word and import content from anywhere
that can provide RTF. Just as MIF allows the same for Frame and the open
standard for PDF allows similar advantages and open access. But Microsoft
doesn't owe anyone a glimpse into the inner architecture of Word and
exactly how their data is stored, structured, and controlled for display.

There are other business models that work. But one business model does not
invalidate another. OSS companies also ply the same waters of trying to
tie up customers in their products or services. In many cases, they're
just as insidious. Get the public to use them for free and then rape the
corporate world in support and usage fees.

Think DITA was released by IBM out of kindness? That they switched to
Linux servers out of altruism? Of course not. They just changed business
models. Instead of selling boxed solutions the promise of complete
functionality and turn-key performance, they lure companies in with the
promise of "free", "open", and "exchangeable" knowing full well they'll
have the opportunity to earn a small fortune in fees and consulting once
the customers realise that building a truly robust and all encompassing
tool chain for their corporate needs is going to be a little more complex
than having the local computer geek surf the web and download freebies.
Or, that changing the "open ssource" code for their needs will require
investment in programming resources and development outside their business

Anyone who knows anything about even moderate sized DITA, ATA, or other
open standards, and who is willing to be even the slightest bit honest
intellectually, will admit that the openly available ATA standard compared
to a successful ATA implementation and workflow is the same as the MIF
definition and MIF files compared to FrameMaker running with FrameMaker

Chose the right tool for the job. Drop the religious fervour.


Eric L. Dunn
Senior Technical Writer


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