XML Prague Is Over

This year’s XML Prague is over and I’m writing this at the Munich airport on my way back home. My brain is still hurting.

The conference was fabulous, as always. Among the highlights were Gerrit Imsieke’s awesome XSLT trickery for splitting XML, Steven Pemberton’s walk-through of his Invisible XML spec, and Michael Piotrowski’s nostalgic look back at SGML. But my personal favourite has to be Adam Retter’s introduction to his new Fusion DB XML (and NoSQL) database that I think just might prove to be a game-changer. He’s launching it in June at Markup UK in London – another great reason for everyone to join us there!

I also gave a paper at XML Prague, about merging two XML sources of the Swedish Code of Statutes, also known as SFS, a project I’ve been busy with for the last eight months or so. It’s been quite a ride, and if you’re interested, have a look at the XML Prague proceedings. There are lot of other good papers there, too.

Markup UK 2019

While XML Prague is gearing up – there’s just a few short weeks left now – we (me and my partners in crime in the Markup UK organising committee) are busy planning for this year’s Markup UK conference, to be held on 7–9 June at King’s College London. There’s going to be a preconference day with tutorials and meetups on the Friday before the main conference, and I think it’s going to be great.

Mark the dates in your calendar and start thinking about that exciting markup talk you know you want to give!

Festival Dreams

The next Göteborg Film Festival is almost upon us.

The last festival I worked was three years ago almost to the day. Over the years, I ran literally thousands of shows for them, most in 35 mm but a select few in 70 mm and a couple of them in 16 mm. I was and remain a film projectionist. I did finish up with some videos, though, when they installed that Barco thing in the booth some years back. I quit when the format became the norm. In my last year, every single feature I ran was measured in pixels, so there was no longer a point in continuing. It was good while it lasted, though, and I don’t regret a single minute of it.

Every year, some weeks before the festival would begin, I’d have at least one dream about the festival and my projection booth. Sometimes I’d climb the stairs only to find that they’d rebuilt the booth or turned the projectors to point in the opposite direction, and sometimes they’d have relocated the whole theatre. I recall several dreams where the transport people – the guys and gals who’d carry the physical prints from one venue to the next – would turn up when I was about to start a show and ask me all kinds of questions about where print A was or if I had yet rewound print B or inspected print C that should actually be replaced with print D. They’d show up right about when I was pulling the curtain, interrupting me, disrupting my flow, bothering me. And inevitably something would go wrong.

I’ve dreamt a thousand variations of the basic theme. I’m about to start the first show; something happens to throw me off.

And here’s the funny thing: I still have those dreams, three years after leaving. And they’re still based on the same concept:  I still work at the festival and as I’m about to start the first show, something goes wrong. I guess this is how important the festival is to me, and how much I still miss it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a desire to run a single digital show again, ever. Not even fleetingly. Clicking Play is the very antithesis of everything I believe in terms of film projection. But I do miss the time when I was running actual film prints in a darkened booth, one after another, up to seven or eight features a day plus a number of shorts, trying my very best to provide the best show I could for each and every one. I miss leaping down the projection booth stairs to the auditorium to listen and to fine-tune the sound level. I miss inspecting the prints. I miss planning a show days in advance. I miss being one with my projection equipment.

And so, I guess, I have these dreams. I had the best profession in the whole wide world and it’s now all over.

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.