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Thursday, May 25, 2006

FUD Master or Fool?


As readers of this blog know, I rarely if ever get personal or confrontational about the technology issues discussed here. But occasionally an exception is needed to prove the rule ...

Today that exception is Steven Titch, Senior Fellow for Information Technology and Telecom Policy at the Heartland Institute (another one of those manipulative, Orwellian, heart-rendering names).

Mr. Titch writes about The Dangers of Dictating Procurement for the June issue of IT&T News, a newsletter on technology issues targeting state legislators and regulators.

Titch begins by describing Massachusetts' decision about OpenDocument Format as a decision about "open source software format." He then proceeds to talk almost exclusively about the evils of open source software. Sadly, he stubbornly repeats the mistake here just yesterday. All of which begs the question: Is Steven Titch a fool or merely a proliferator of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt)?

Simply put: Mr. Titch, do you know the difference between a standard and software?

In its decision about OpenDocument Format (ODF), Massachusetts was addressing the choice of document formats, and chose to migrate to an open standard for them. This is a decision about standards, not software. It is not a decision that dictates open source software over proprietary software. Massachusetts is not mandating any kind of software.

In a nutshell, the difference is that open standards are a technical specification (or blueprint) while open source refers to software (which uses those blueprints, like other software can). It isn't that difficult. Anyone, any company, any solution can use a truly open standard. That is the point of having an open standard.

There are serious issues to debate on standards, and ODF and Microsoft's XML format. This blog has not been shy to highlight weaknesses, for example, of ODF here.

It is worrisome that decision-makers within state governments are getting such awful, misleading and short-sighted advice from a so-called "analyst."

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