Communities

This year’s Balisage conference is over and I miss it. I miss the people and I miss the talks, but above all, I miss the sense of community.

See, this year’s Balisage was all about communities and the softer values of markup. Don’t get me wrong; there were some great talks on markup theory (overlap, anyone?) and how to make JavaScript into something tolerable in a markup context. But above all, there were numerous talks on communities and on what we do and on how we regard our profession.

Steven Pemberton (who held the mic on no less than four occasions) delivered a brilliant talk on the virtues of declarative markup while killing off HTML5, once and for all.

Mary Holstege discussed the metaphors we code by, and how it’s easy to take those metaphors too far. I chose my words very carefully for the rest of the conference.

Bethan Tovey and Norman Walsh invited us all to rediscover our passion for declarative markup with Markup Declaration, a call for arms to unite the community and to find XML and its kin a new home.

Allen Renear discussed the ethics of XML (really!), and I am unable to do that talk justice here. You should have been there.

Abel Braaksma gave us a tour of the declarative (and functional) programming paradigm, and my only complaint is that he should have been allowed at least twice the time to do the topic justice.

And there was yours truly who discussed the virtues of style guides, that perfect complement to schemas and validation.

The list goes on. I can’t possibly mention everyone here, but I could have mentioned at least as many more talks, every one of them every bit as good as those mentioned above.

Balisage, more than anything else, was about the community we inhabit and participate in, and how we all stand a better chance united. It’s not about just SGML or XML, even though both are important; it’s about declarative markup and our chosen field. It’s about all those standards starting with X but also quite a few that do not, and the power offered to us by semantics, and it’s about us all acknowledging each other’s work. And yes, it’s also about JSON and Markdown, and a whole bunch of other things that we may or may not approve of.

So, from one addict to a bunch of other addicts: I miss you.

P.S. You should all look up Developing SGML DTDs. Yes, there was also a book discussion.

Markup UK 2018

Had my blog not been down because of Markup UK (see my previous post), I would have written about it. Well, it’s not down now.

Markup UK was great. It was fabulous. On short notice (we announced it in February, for chrissakes), we managed to lure enough speakers and participants to have a great conference. There were lots of interesting talks, both on the stage and otherwise, people had a great time, and so we’re going to do it again in 2019.

Watch this space (and http://www.markupuk.org).

My Balisage 2018 Paper

Just finished revising my paper for this year’s Balisage conference.

I have to say, I’m really looking forward to the conference now. In the past, I sometimes forced out a paper because that was the only way for me to attend – my employer would pay only if I presented – but this year’s is what I’ve labelled as my “soapbox paper”. It’s all about my opinions. No new ground, no, say, versioning theory or markup, just me being pissed off about the lack of style guides in today’s (XML-based or otherwise) authoring departments. I don’t just offer my opinions, I provide them as the (absolute) truth.

This will be so much fun.

I’m Back!

Those of you who actually read what’s posted here may have noticed that this blog was offline from mid-April. There were several reasons to this, chief among them that I upgraded my server and things went downhill from there.

The upgrade happened because I needed to use my server for eXist-DB stuff for Markup UK and the older OS had problems running a more recent JVM. eXist-DB installed and ran just fine, but it broke WordPress, for some reasons.

Now you know.

XML Prague Week

As it turns out, XML Prague was rather eventful.

For me, the week began with a very productive two-day XProc workshop. I’m part of the W3C Community Group that is producing a 3.0 version of the XProc specification. I’m pleased to report that we made a lot of progress. There is going to be a candidate release of the spec (multiple specs, actually) in the spring, and alpha releases of two XProc implementations, XML Calabash and Morgana XProc in June, coinciding with an XML conference in London in June.

Which brings me to the next item: There won’t be an XML London this year (Charles Foster decided not to organise one), but instead, we announced Markup UK during XML Prague, to be held on June 9-10. I am organising the conference together with Geert Bormans, Tom Hillman, and Andrew Sales. Details will follow ASAP. Watch this space (and the conference website, obviously).

As for XML Prague itself, it was as great as always. Great talks, great people, great food, great beer.

Balisage 2017

In Rockville, MD, for this year’s Balisage conference. Yesterday, I gave a talk on my current project at LexisNexis, migrating legal commentary in RTF format to XML. The talk seemed to go well, with people laughing in the right places, asking excellent questions, and listening and participating, and I’m just so very pleased at being here again.

Balisage is an institution where markup practitioners gather to listen to each other telling stories and giving talks. It’s a geek holiday, the kind that you look forward to every year. You meet old friends and make new ones, you exchange ideas, you play games, and you talk about pretty much everything. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and everyone is included.

This shows whenever a first-timer presents. You tend to be deathly nervous but that passes because the audience wants you to succeed. I still remember my first time; I’ve never seen so many encouraging smiles in an audience as at Balisage. I knew I couldn’t go wrong.

This doesn’t mean that the follow-up discussion is without edge. Often, the guy who wrote the book on your subject is in the audience, quite literally, and you’d better do your homework well because these guys know what they are talking about.

I love Balisage.

 

Sixth Year in a Row

I’m pleased to tell you that my paper was accepted at Balisage. This, as far as I remember, is my sixth consecutive year speaking at Balisage, and my seventh overall paper (yes, I submitted two papers one year because I desperately wanted to be there and my employer would only finance the trip if I was speaking).

My paper? Oh, it’s about a huge migration project I’m currently involved in at LexisNexis. More specifically, it’s about the pain you’ll only recognise if you’ve converted RTF to XML on a large scale.

 

XML London 2017

I was invited to join the XML London Programme Committee, probably to shut me up after I spent some of XML Prague talking Charles Foster into making the conference happen again this year. Geert Bormans, Tom Hillman and Andrew Sales have also joined, and Charles remains Chair.

XML London is happening on June 10-11 at University College London. The submission deadline is on March 21 and all you need to produce now is an extended abstract that outlines your full paper, and presentation.

yEd

So, today I needed a flowchart editor. Something like Visio, really, but less bloated and available on Linux and Windows. I did a quick Google search.

There’s Dia, obviously. It’s not being developed these days, though, and I never did like it much. Also, it looks bad on a HiDPI screen–my laptop is blessed (or cursed, if you run Java software) with 4k.

The next thing suggested was yEd, developed by yWorks, a company specialising in “the development of professional software solutions that enable the clear visualization of diagrams and networks.” They had an online HTML5 version that I tried and liked, and even better, the desktop software was a) available for Linux, and b) free. Now, yEd is written in Java so a) wasn’t actually all that surprising, but for a company whose bread and butter is diagrams, releasing it for free was.

But Java, you say? What about HiDPI? Well, here’s the best part: while most of their downloads include a prepackaged JRE 8, they also make available the JAR without the JRE, allowing me to run it in an early release JRE 9, and Java 9 has supported HiDPI for quite some time now. And let me just say this: yEd looks great. It’s perfectly scaled, with beautiful icons and a spacey interface.

Plus, on top of the HiDPI goodness, the software itself is great. I’m really pleased.

2017

So many changes already.

I said no to this year’s Göteborg Film Festival, having worked at film festivals since 1987 (and since 1990 at the Draken).

I didn’t submit a paper to XML Prague this year. I was there, though. Naturally.