Monday, June 26, 2006

Belgium Government Requires Open Documents

Good news, everyone. The Belgium government has decided upon banning closed document formats from their office documents, starting in September 2008. Norway and The Netherlands can learn from this. Way to go, Belgium!

Source: Overheid bant Microsoft-documenten

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At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Meertn said...

W00t!! Now it's time the Netherlands does the same.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Laurens said...

Good news? Well I don't know. Only if MS Word will support this open document standard it will work. Problem with most "open software hippies" that they don't look at the reality! They life in a dream made up by the almighty profet of the FSF. The reality is that goverment-folk know one thing: MS Word to make their document. They aren't technical people. They're like my mom: just know where to push the buttons and thank god a document is created.

Danger with this requirement of open documents is that maybe the normal citizen and companies will be the one that suffer here: delayed documents, bad documents, a document in a format they can't even open!!! Come on, who has a document processor that can read this? No one has! Everyone has Word or a PDF client. Everyone has Windows. As sad as it sounds, it is reality. The government must support the citizen and company is the best possible way. A stupid weird open document will not help!

This is really a stupid idea... Really stupid. Why doesn't the government require that public/internal documents are *also* required in let's say PDF? A document standard everyone *can* read because it is in use all over the world! Everyone has a PDF reader (like Acrobat), everybody knows it and will not be scared by this format. Dubble-u-tee-ef is ODF??

Believe me, I've been to a government congres, and I'm busy with government stuff for my thesis: these people are conservative and will not change all of a sudden to "an open alternative".

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Georg Muntingh said...

First of all, calling proponents of ODF hippies doesn't make your arguments more credible. On the contrary, if you feel the need to resort to name calling this in general indicates a lack of valid arguments.

ODF has been approved by the Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Elektrotechnical Commission (IEC), and is officially supported by OpenOffice, IBM WorkPlace, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice 8. The OpenDocument Foundation has made a plugin available for all MS Office versions dating back to MS Office 97, that enables the user to save to and open ODF documents "as if they were native to MS Office."

With the use of open standards come a lot of advantages that nobody sees on first sight. Decide for yourself if you want to keep being stuck in the age of closed formats, with all its disadvantages. It is clear the Belgium government didn't want that.

At 9:20 AM, Anonymous Laurens said...

Having a plug-in available for Word doesn't mean that it is supported by the program. Don't forget that 99% of the people don't know what a plug in is, let alone that they realise they're using Word as wordprocessor. I bet they don't even know what an open document is. Like I said in my previous comment: .doc and .pdf are formats people are used to. They know it. Same goes for .mp3 ("what the heck is .ogg?"). "What? I can't play this video ... Why"-- well because you don't have the codec! -- "Co...dec... what is that???" Don't forget that most people can't even install the flash plug-in for their browser!

Again, the purpose of any government is to support the people and companies in the best possible way.
Most important step: making information available online and create an electronic service desk. A stupid open format no-one can use will not help here. Just make information online available in HTML, PDF and Word, the formats people can use. That weird OpenOffice format is also open, but like hell I can use it? Come on, no John Doe uses it! John Doe buys his PC at the store with Windows and MS Office pre-installed, not knowing there is anythig else in the world. The majority of the people is like John Doe. this group of people must also be served by a government. A stupid "ISO IEC suported open format" will not work for these people. It will only work if they can use without any hussle, like dubble clicking on it and read/use/save it.

Yeah, and I have started FSF people hippies. I'm too much confronted with great ideas that in no way have any chance in this world. "Peace for ever!"-- yeah right! Maybe if the great almighty God/Budda/Allah had not designed the human with greed and jealousy inside it might work.

Working in the IT industry has really opened my eyes. Open source and free software is great, but never forget the reality. Always look whether or not it is practical. Communism also is great in theory, but hell no is it feasible in the real world.

Too many times I had this discussion with "certain people" (not including Georg), so now I stop ...

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous Laurens said...

Sorry, but here I am again ... You should read this. Wise words of the "Ministerie van VROM" in the document "50 manieren om de boot te missen":

29. Van krom hout rechte stokken willen maken

Voormalig minister en VNO topman Van Veen verzuchtte eens. “Twee departementen laten samenwerken: sommige dingen zijn moeilijk. Drie departementen laten samenwerken: je moet het noodlot niet tarten. Vier departementen laten samenwerken: sommige dingen kunnen gewoon niet!” Het lijkt een sombere gedachte. Maar is hij daarom minder juist?

Veel veranderingen stokken niet omdat de ideeën erachter ondeugdelijk zijn. Vaker komt het voor dat wat op de tekentafel verstandig leek, struikelt over de realiteit van alledag. Zeker ingeval van inzet van ICT wordt de afstand eerder groter dan kleiner: de kloof tussen wat technisch kan en wat bestuurlijk kan. Archieven puilen inmiddels uit van de voorstellen, waarmee op zichzelf niks mis was, maar die praktisch onuitvoerbaar waren. Soms is het een kwestie van tijd: kijk vooral eerst oude plannen na voordat je nieuwe verzint. Meestal zit het echter dieper. Plannen die nooit op haalbaarheid werden getoetst, maar waarop wel vrolijk implementatie- na implementatieproject werd losgelaten.

Het is het grapje over de Harvard Business School: als je het schoolbord uitveegt, blijft de matrix leeg achter voor de volgende
docent. De werkelijkheid laat zich niet in frietsnijders vermalen.
En als dat al lukt, dan komt het bij het eten uiteindelijk toch aan op de samenstelling en smaak van de mayonaise.

At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Edwin said...

Ik snap het grapje over de Harvard Business School niet. Kan iemand dat uitleggen?

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Georg Muntingh said...

@Edwin: Ik snap het eerlijk gezegd ook niet helemaal... Het heeft vast iets te maken met dat als er nieuwe bestuurders komen deze weer met een "schoon bord" beginnen.

@Laurens: I completely agree that it is the governments task to support the people. Furthermore I understand the point you are making about the averaged John Doe.

The point is here that Microsoft is deliberately making it impossible to use any open formats to strengthen their market position, thereby enforcing the governments to abide by their laws. What if the government would later want to use its digital archive, and cannot reach their documents anymore because Microsoft decided to stop supporting the older versions of the doc-format? Or what if they want to automatically generate information from a series of documents, and they can only ask Microsoft to write a program for this?

In my opinion it is crucial that the government does not depend on a company in these matters. A government should not be controlled by big companies. The government is supposed to represent and be controlled by the people, and not by an elite of a company like Microsoft or Disney. This is what democracy means. Therefore this is a pattern that needs to be broken.

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Edwin said...

O, nu snap ik het. Hahahahaha!


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