Documents for Everyone

Documents for everyone seems to be the theme of this conference. Jon Udell said it yesterday and Adam said it again today. Jean Paoli provided probably the most compelling evidence of this theme in his presentation towards the end of the day.

“We need to make things simpler”, says Adam, maintaining that XML and web services are becoming too complex. “Why does it have to be this hard” he repeatedly asked the audience. His plea for simplicity resonates so well with Jon’s theme yesterday. “Because there is no information model, everyone is building their own”, he said. Like Jon’s talk, it is one of those sessions that makes you reflect deeply. Adam blogs and I hope he will continue this theme in his writings.

There were many other interesting sessions. One I particularly liked was from Joshua Fox from Unicorn titled Know what your schemas mean. He pointed out the problem of multiple overlapping vocabularies and proposed a solution based on “Semantic Information Management”. There was another talk about “Combining Multiple Vocabularies without tears”.

For me, the highlight of the day was James Clark’s talk on Incremental XML Parsing and Validation in a Text Editor. He is a legend. I went to the talk to listen to him about how he implemented an incremental XML parser in Emacs. I am not an Emacs guy, but I am interested in incremental parsing. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of his ideas can be embedded in document editors.

Jean Paoli’s talk about Real Applications of XML on the Desktop: A New Era for XML in the Mass Market was not technical but very useful. He talked about how there is a bottom-up movement towards the adoption of XML for everyday tasks. He described different cases of XML use with Office 2003 in simple day-to-day apps. This, of course, is Microsoft at its best. They take something as powerful as XML and hide it behind simple user interfaces of Word or Excel. What makes it so interesting is that most of the apps were built in weeks.

I am looking forward to Dave Thomas’ keynote on Open Augment. It is very complementary to our own effort on prototyping HyperScope at the Bootstrap Alliance.


XML 2003

Today is the first day of the event. Jon Udell gave a great keynote speech. He makes some very good points. He proposes that we pay attention to the human factor in all our attempts to automate. As Doug Engelbart says, it is about “Augmenting human intellect” and not merely automating functions.

Jon has his own unique presentation format. It is not some static HTML pages or PPT. It is a cute XML App built using very simple technologies. He demonstrated dynamic queries on his own slides using simple XPATH expressions. He definitely practices what he preaches.

I went to a vendor presentation by Amazon about their use of Web Services. They have a SOAP interface and a REST based interface (XML on http). Surprised to find that only about 15% of the traffic is based on SOAP requests.

There were a couple of other interesting presentations. One was about adding a third dimention to SVG. The one on Information Architecture with XML: From Lingua Ubiquita to Lingua Franca was pretty interesting.

I was at the News Summit yesterday. It was a full day affair and covered some of the major News XML standards like NewsML, NITF, PRISM, RSS, Atom, ICE, XMP. I am still trying to digest all that stuff. There seems to be some overlap between these different standards. I did not make it to all the post lunch sessions. Had a dream last night that they decided to merge all these things into one standard.