Here is my letter to the State of New York on document formats and interoperability, my home state now wants to ban saving documents in any format but ODF:
Darlene Van Sickle
New York State Office for Technology
State Capitol, ESP - PO Box 2062
Albany, NY 12220-0062
Email: erecords-study AT oft.state.ny.us
Dear Ms. Van Sickle:
I am writing in response to the Request for Public Comments regarding document formats and interoperability. I am a technology professional who has spent many years envisioning, implementing and maintaining solutions for companies both large and small. Given the enormous diversity of needs most companies and governments have internally, I am concerned that your office is heading down a path of mandating a solution that will limit choice and increase costs for our State agencies.
Companies I have worked with over the years, such as Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and the National Football League, often have the same concerns that the State does: accessibility to documents, interoperability, and longevity. But each company and each department may have different needs. So solutions are created with goals in mind, rather than to a specific, locked-in solution. Your study suggests the opposite approach, forcing every department and office to build strategies around a locked-in, one-size-fits-all technology.
If your agency decided to prevent any text document from being stored under existing methods - requiring even the simplest text note to be stored in a new, untested format called ODF- it would force the state to undertake a massive conversion of all existing documents for data retention and indexing. Even if the tools to do this significant transition were free, the testing, rollout, and support costs would be enormous.
Finally, locking every state agency and department into today's technology could be the equivalent of mandating 8 track tapes in the era of CDs. While XML is hot technology right now, it's important to note that just a few years ago, the HTML standard used for the web was a wild new idea. Archie, FTP and Gopher were to tools of the day - now they are almost unheard of. If we have learned one thing in the past decade, it's that technology changes quickly.
I would urge the State to allow Agencies and departments to choose the format and technology that best serves their needs, rather than a locked in solution that may fit no one's.
Senior Partner, Accord Advisory Group