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2008-02-27

 

nfoWorks: The Harmony Get-Ready

see also:

ODF-OOXML: nfoWorks for Harmony?  On February 7, I distilled the Harmony Principles onto a web page.  I was looking for a reaction and also giving myself a breather after finally declaring myself on the matter.  I did begin setting up a web site and laying out a foundation on which to commence harmonization of open-document standards by limiting processor implementations to only harmonized content.   

Microsoft Interoperability Principles Announcement.   When I listened to the February 21 Interoperability Principles announcement and related initiatives, I made note of Bob Muglia's comments about a Document Interoperability Initiative.  The import of that didn't sink in until I was finally completing my lengthy "Interoperability by Design" post bearing my impressions and analysis of the announcement.

Welcome, Document Interoperability Initiative!

here is what the February 21 Interoperability Principles declaration says will happen as one of the steps under Principle III on Data Portability:

"Microsoft believes that the industry has a responsibility to come together to address the interests of users in interoperability and effective data exchange between widely deployed document format implementations. To this end, it will launch a Document Interoperability Initiative that will include an ongoing series of labs around the world where implementers of document formats optimize data exchange between implementations, community development of conformance testing suites for popular formats, and publication of document templates that enable optimized interoperability between different formats."

During the announcement teleconference, Server and Tools Senior Vice President Bob Muglia provided this plain-language statement:

"We're also announcing a document interoperability initiative to ensure that the documents that are created by users are fully exchangeable, regardless of the tools that they are using."

I haven't discovered a web presence for this initiative (and the related domain names are available).  Meanwhile, I will be keeping my eye on the Interoperability Forum, the Open Source Interoperability Initiative, and of course, the OpenXMLDeveloper.org and any developer-focused ODF sites I am able to find.

Whither Harmony Principles?

So, maybe I don't have to do anything here?  I'm not sure.  It may be that a lot less original work will be needed to have the harmony principles are realized in available document processing appliances.  There is certainly important cross-fertilization with translation, conformance testing, and templating activities, especially those that are provided under open-source terms.

I have several reasons for continuing to develop nfoWorks at this point: 

  1. I want to illustrate implementation of document processing as part of nfoWare, and while digging into the processing of a full-up open-document format is interesting, that is heavier and more focused than the level required for nfoWarenfoWorks is a better place for the research, gathering of materials, and development of detailed implementations that target the Harmony Principles.
      
  2. The Document Interoperability Initiative will attract many interests and energies.  Those that provide compatible open-source artifacts will be important to draw on in nfoWare as are artifacts of the related translator efforts.  Likewise, any unique contributions that nfoWare surfaces will be available to the Document Interoperability Initiative, translator activities, and document-generation projects.  We need to see more on all fronts.
      
  3. The more overlap, the less work for me, I say.  Still, the achievement of any strict implementations of Harmony Principles may not be the primary interest of others.  I want to cling to that objective for the important purpose of finding out how much can be done.  The goal is assuring users that they don't have to worry whether the documents they are creating are fully interchangeable among harmonizing implementations of the various open-document formats.  Users will be able to count on the safe interchange of their documents.
      
  4. Establishing document profiles for use by communities of (collaborating) information workers is an open problem.   It might not even be well-defined.  The Harmony Principles establish a rigid test, and we need to see how far one can go to honor that.  It is also valuable to learn the conditions under which relaxation (or qualification) of the principles can be safely tolerated.  Perhaps more important than that is figuring out how the creation and use of profiles that constrain documents can be done in a way that makes sense for the information workers whose labors will be supported and impacted by them.

That said, I am perfectly happy to give it all away.  I will shepherd things along with an eye to exactly that outcome.


After defining nfoWorks, I realized that I should also register a domain name or three.  I have accomplished that.  Now I am bootstrapping up an nfoWorks.org site so I can start more notes, checklists, and a repository of prerequisite materials.  At the moment, that site is as interesting as staring into an empty excavation waiting for a foundation to be framed and poured. As soon as the rain stops ...

[update 2008-02-28T16:59Z: I removed an extraneous work and sharpened up the first item on the connection between nfoWorks and nfoWare.  I may long regret that I made the names so similar.]

 
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