ODF 13th Plugfest Rome 2017 – Summary report

The thirteenth ODF Plugfest was hosted by the city of Rome with support from Logius and organised by OpenDoc Society. This event was coordinated along side the annual LibreOffice conference and co-located at the iconic conference venue “Piazza del Campidoglio” for the second day of the Plugfest.

The ODF Plugfest is a forum consisting of users, developers, policy makers and influencers from around the world. Working together on the Open Document Format Open Standard, the activities help avoid vendor lock-in. The objective is to evaluate the implementation of the standard across vendor applications. More details can be found on the ODF Plugfest website.

The event benefited from strong representation from EU public administrations including Netherlands, UK, Munich as well as vendors including LibreOffice, Microsoft, The Document Foundation, OXOffice and Open-Xchange.

Presentations

Proceedings commenced with a presentation by Marijke Abrahamse (Dutch Standardisation Forum and International liaison to the European Commission) followed by a video explaining the case for Open Standards in simple terms (Link to follow).

Flavia Marzano (City of Rome) presented via a personally recorded video welcoming the Plugfest and affirming commitment to adopting ODF throughout the City of Rome.

Dr Stephen Pemberton (CWI Researcher) re-capped previous events and shared his views on the value of the Plugfest.

Thorsten Behrens (The Document Foundation) addressed the Plugfest and shared his views on the importance of the ODF Open Standard.

Franklin Weng (Software Liberty Association of Taiwan) updated the audience on the Taiwanese Government mandation of ODF.

Terence Eden (UK Cabinet Office) proclaimed unwavering ODF support throughout the UK Government. He stated that, as part of the Digital 5 nations (D5), the UK Government must maintain leadership, and use the Plugfest to influence the quality of the software. He encourages members of the D5 to follow the example of the UK and mandate ODF. Terence emphasized the importance of vendor engagement at the Plugfest and hopes to see other suppliers of ODF applications to the UK Government attend future Plugfests.

Marc van de Graaf (Ministry of General Affairs, The Netherlands) outlined a roadmap for stricter ODF policies on the Dutch government websites.

Updates on Autotests platform

Following the presentations, Jos van den Oever summarised recent changes and enhancements to the Autotests platform which enables automated and repeatable tests. These developments enabled greater bandwidth and a larger range of applications performing rapid testing than previous events and summarised here.

In addition to additional Autotest platform documentation through the recently created Wiki, 17 factories (application processors) were in operation and 77 new documents were tested.

Two of these new factories were user-specific, being the Munich distribution of LibreOffice and the Taiwanese version of OXOffice sued y the public administration. The new Docker-based configuration enabled the Munich factory to be created from scratch and deployed in to production during the testing session.

It was identified that multi-language factories would enable greater permutations and engagement from a wider audience therefore planned for future events.

Additional benefit came from the implementation of a Docker-based configuration, enabling factories to be deployed and managed with less overhead. For the first time, this enables technical members of the community and general public to install their own server reliably.

Technical service providers can now deliver professional service wrappers or commercial support to operate their own private implementations as well as custom factories for forks or custom versions of software.

Testing sessions

Then commenced the technical sessions where scenarios and reports were tested by the participants.

Focal points included Taiwanese language tests lead by Franklin Weng and continuation of the change-tracking implementation issues with Microsoft Office lead by Stuart J Mackintosh.

Non-technical participants were able to take advantage of the improvements in the Autotests platform and discover discrepancies between the outputs of various applications using real documents. Questions were raised around the ability for every-day users to be able to test and report issues discovered which will be considered in future developments.

The session produced some surprising results with large variations between mainstream applications. This evidenced that some implementations are at an early stage and not yet able to deliver a mature implementation of the ODF standard.

Users and testers documented their individual findings throughout the sessions, a summary will be included in the technical report which will provide fuller details of the tests and results, due to be published shortly.

Summary

This year, the proportion of non-technical representation was greater than previous events therefore creating a balance of influencers, users and policy makers alongside the testers and developers.

Other ODF software vendors from both the proprietary space and the Open Source communities are encouraged to take the time to attend future events. Issues were raised with both Apple products and Google Docs yet neither vendor was available to assist or were reachable for comment.

Equally, Public Administrations who depend on ODF and want to ensure that they are not susceptible to vendor lock-in for every-day commodity document exchange are welcome to engage in future events. The Plugfest creates an informal environment with the opportunity to discover how peers have implemented and mandated ODF, the challenges that this has created as well as the benefits.

The value of the ODF Plugfest was re-stated by participants from public administrations and user communities; it would be hard to estimate the additional coast to institutions should ODF not exist. The word “interoperability” was frequently used by the attendees throughout the Plugfest, it was recognised that ODF gives users a choice and creates implementation competition, therefore improving quality of applications.

The event generated active discussions through the #ODFPlugfest IRC channel as well as through the the #ODFPlugfest twitter hashtag.

Outcomes of the event include this summary report, interviews with participants, a technical report (to be published), development of the Autotests platform and supporting infrastructure as well as evidence of issues and active dialogue with vendors.

Report authors: Jos van den Oever Stuart J Mackintosh