Win 2500 euros for fighting MS, sounds like heaven to me

The Foundation For A Free Information Infrastructure or FFII (a bit of a mouthful if you ask me) has offered a cash prize of 2500 Euros to anyone who mounts the most effective campaign against Microsoft’s OOXML document format. They’re calling it the Kayak Award and it’s the first time anything like this has been tried as far as I know. I’m sure the deep pockets over at MS will laugh at the relatively small prize fund but hopefully it can get people interested and stop the ISO selection process from being undermined.

If you don‘t know, there’s a pitched battle going on at the moment between 2 competing document formats to become the default standard ratified by the International Standardisation Organisation (ISO). ODF or Open Document Format is a truly free and open format which is the natural choice of many open source advocates. Microsoft has jumped into the battle by proposing their cleverly named Office Open XML format, it’s about as free as free trade and if you don’t get that reference you need to read an economics book. Microsoft is using it’s considerable political pressure around the world to push individual governments to support it’s proprietary format and scupper attempts to provide a free format for everyone. This is standard practice in Redmond and shouldn’t surprise anyone but now activists are fighting back in any way they can. The Kayak Award is designed to encourage people to think of innovative and effective ways of influencing the process and striking a blow for freedom in their country. Why did they call it the Kayak award though? It sounds like a canoeing competition.

FFII president Pieter Hintjens: “In July 2005, before the vote on the Software Patents Directive, a group of young campaigners took to kayaks, in the waters outside the Parliament building in Strasbourg. They fought a symbolic battle with industry lobbyists who had rented a yacht. The Kayak symbolises individual skill and collective action.”

Anyone can enter the competition, all they need to do is show that they have affected the selection process in their country in some way. It’s a very interesting initiative and all I can say is I hope it works. The deadline for nominations is August 31st this year and the winner will be announced on September 30th.

FFII Campaigner Benjamin Henrion: “This is open to any people or group from any country. They just have to show that they are doing what they can to convince their country and national body that OOXML is not a standard.”

If you want to learn more about OOXML and why it’s so dangerous checkout it’s a great resource. Meanwhile I’m off to try and find a paddle for my canoe, see ya 😉

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