Can’t we please try to solve real technology problems for real users?

Why does Scoble choose to deliberately misunderstand Tim Bray’s thought experiment about Microsoft using ODF as the underlying core document format for Office? Robert isn’t dumb, so I have to assume his response is a deliberate misreading of what Bray is suggesting. It’s reflective of all too many technical arguments.

As a user of technology, my devout wish is for technologists to make a real effort to make my life simpler. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I have enough gray hair that I no longer have any expectation that the real world resembles the one I wish existed. Microsoft’s approach to making my life simpler, of course, is to persuade the entire world to use the same version of Office. In the world I live in (where 90% of my documents are simple paragraphs of text with a bit of bold and italics thrown in, as Bray suggests), I can’t even count on compatibility between different versions of Microsoft’s own differing versions of Office.

My solution over the last several years is twofold. First, when I do work on documents that are developed, reviewed, and edited by a group that frequently crosses several organizational boundaries, I end up working with lowest common denominator features and functions of Word, Excel, or Powerpoint. If I’m lucky I get to use maybe 5-10% of the features available. Don’t even get me started on Word’s notion of version control, Track Changes. If this part of my strategy is as common as I suspect it is, I might be trying to muddy the waters too. If Office did put ODF at the core of its file formats, I doubt that I would ever bother to use any feature that depended on a Microsoft specific extension.

The second element of my personal strategy has been to treat Office products and file formats as my final output formats only. I do somewhere between 75-90% of my knowledge work today using tools that help me create and manage ideas and substance first and foremost. I wait until the last possible moment to transfer this work into Office formats and tools and, when possible, bypass Office entirely. Frankly, I don’t really expect Microsoft to be terribly interested in helping solve my knowledge work problems. Making it easier to share my work among colleagues and clients would be a good step in the right direction. But, I expect that looks like a threat to the installed base that Microsoft will go to great lengths to avoid.

Tim Bray wants Microsoft to make Office support ODF.

Tim Bray just told me (and my fellow Microsofties) to do more work. He wants us to convert Office to support the open document format from OASIS.

Tim, I think you are GREATLY overstating the point when you say

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