Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 6th Feb 2006 13:09 UTC, submitted by Andy Updegrove
Features, Office "Over the last six months I've received email from all manner of folks from all over the world relating to ODF. In virtually all instances, the senders were ODF proponents, many asking how they can help, or offering their personal experiences or thoughts. I've also received email from, and gotten to know, many of the other journalists and bloggers following the issue, as well as the principal vendor advocates, and some of the community of the disabled that have voiced concern, as well. Early last week, I received an email from closer to home, with a 'subject' line that read, "Maybe it's time we talk..." I was happy to get the email, because the sender was none other than Alan Cote, the Massachusetts Supervisor of Records."
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RE: It is hard being the first
by Feneric on Mon 6th Feb 2006 16:00 UTC in reply to "It is hard being the first"
Feneric
Member since:
2006-01-16

I think you're missing some key points:

ODF, by its very nature, even in the unlikely event that it turns out to be a passing fad, cannot become unreadable. That's the key advantage of being an open format. Even if all commercial shops currently supporting ODF were to go out of business tomorrow, it would still be possible to write ODF processors and thus read ODF data. Proprietary closed formats on the other hand can become unreadable if the commercial companies supporting them go out of business or even just decide to end support.

The second point is that it's not really a case of ODF versus DOC, no matter how it's getting played up on various blogs. The big move by Massachusetts was to require storage formats to be open. ODF is just one such format; PDF is another. This list is hardly exclusive though, and things like XHTML, Open E-Book, DocBook, Newton Book, etc. also quite probably fit the bill.

The third point is that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts hardly made this move lightly, and various parts of the state have already changed. My home town of Saugus (see http://www.saugus.net/ ) made the commitment to open formats years ago and suffered no ill effects. I personally wrote a bit about Saugus' reaction to the official Commonwealth change on the Saugus blog at http://community.livejournal.com/saugus/4324.html , but I'm sure you'll find other references to Saugus and open formats if you look around. Saugus was also not the only Massachusetts community to switch prior to the Commonwealth itself (although it may be the most visible). If you look a little deeper you will find more. The key thing is that Massachusetts tested the water with its feet before preparing to jump in...

The fourth point is that it's no more of a risk switching from DOC to ODF than it is switching from DOC to DOCX. It's also not more expensive. In fact, so far all the analysis performed by the Commonwealth suggests that it's less expensive and will require less training.

Basically the move to open formats has yet to have any real technical downsides presented for it. The primary arguments against it have been "touchy-feely" ones or "fear of the unknown" ones, but neither of these types of arguments really holds when it can be shown that other organizations have already made the jump without experiencing real issues. The only thing that even remotely sounds real on the surface is the accessibility argument, but that seems to fall to pieces when examined closely, and no one from the accessibility office has yet tried to explain why an open XML format that can be converted to pretty much anything else via simple XSLT style sheets is supposedly inaccessible; they're really just stating that "there might be problems" at this point, and that comes down to another "fear of the unknown" sort of complaint.

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