tools for document interoperability


This is the web diary for nfoWorks and realization of the Harmony Principles. Pursuing Harmony tracks nfoWorks research, analysis, specification, and implementation of tools for document interoperability. There is commentary on related activities that address conformance, interoperability, and harmonization of document formats.

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The Real Challenge of Achieving and Sustaining Interoperability

I recently encountered a new blog by Moritz Berger of Microsoft.  Moritz’s first two posts reveal the among amount of goo and disruption there is beneath the surface of any attempt to collaborate when using standard office-productivity formats among different desktop software products.

I take Moritz’s posts as anecdotal demonstrations of the challenges that we face in attempting interchange and collaboration on documents using different products that claim support of the same standard.  What we expect to be matter-of-fact and effortless is simply not so.  The thornier problems of converting among formats place easy-going collaboration even farther out of reach. 

In that spirit, I recommend Moritz’s latest offering: How To Enhance (Or Destroy) Collaboration.

I am not advocating abandonment of open standards development.  But it is easy to see how there is a natural tendency for communities of adopters to settle on specific products that they all agree to use in order to avoid pitfalls and surprises beyond their control.

If the promise of product substitution and effective multi-platform support is to be made real, we have to become much better at knowing what it means when a product supports a format, how that support changes with new releases, and how this all sorts out when we throw different product implementations into the mix.  We also need some way of actually knowing and safeguarding against use of product functionalities for which interoperability with other productions/versions is at best haphazard when not simply hopeless.

It looks like an uphill struggle.  We must do better.

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