2009-03-25: Document Freedom Day

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Yesterday, Ada Lovelace Day, I learned that today, March 25, is Document Freedom Day (via Louis Suarez-Potts).

Today’s celebration has the over-the-top theme: “global day for document liberation.”   The thesis is that

“In a world where records are increasingly kept in electronic form, Open Standards are crucial for valuable information to outlive the application in which it was initially generated. The question of Document Freedom has severe repercussions for freedom of choice, competition, markets and the sovereignty of countries and their governments.”

“The Document Freedom Day (DFD) is a global day for Document Liberation with roughly 250 active teams worldwide. It is a day of grassroots effort around the world to promote and build awareness for the relevance of Free Document Formats in particular and Open Standards in general.”

A Little Less Manifesto Please

I fancy the simpler notion of promoting “document formats that can be used by everyone and safely implemented in free software.” 

I must also caution that the existence of such a format does not assure that my computer-maintained documents will be able to survive intact beyond the availability of the specific software that I use to create and present them.  There is no causality here, as much as we would like there to be.  There is, on the face of it, a greater opportunity, but not necessarily one that I can exploit on my own.

Owning My Own Documents

Having said that, here’s what document freedom means to me:

That would satisfy me that I am truly the owner of my computer-supported documents.

It takes more to satisfy me that the choice of different platforms and products is a minor concern and there are reliable substitutes.  That would require that the level of interoperable use among (versions of) document-processing products be so high that faithful interchange of our documents and even successful roundtrip collaboration in their development and refinement are assured.

Too Slippery the Slope

I think that is worth striving for.  I don’t think we are close yet.  I don’t think any of the sloganeering and posturing is doing anything to accomplish it.  There are too many mixed agendas:

The Public’s Documents in Public Formats

There needs to be some serious reality-based assessment and measurability.  That’s what it takes to be secure in the ownership of my documents.  That’s what it will take to be sure that those documents that are the instruments of our civil society are indeed the public’s documents, using the public’s formats.

The lingering question, one to ask on next year’s Document Freedom Day, and then the year after that, and …, is who are the stakeholders and what action will they take to substitute reality for blind flag-following?

[update 2009-03-26T01:06Z: I should simply go to Rick Jelliffe’s blog before I open up my mouth about anything to do with open formats.  If I could ever find the blankety-blank RSS feed I would be so much happier.   Meanwhile, here are some relevant words on the status quo and the sow’s ear:

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