Balisage Impressions, At Long Last

I tend to write these “long time no post” posts from time to time. It’s a guilt thing, I suppose, and it’s how this post began life.

This time, though, I did have things to write about. There is the Balisage 2012 markup conference I attended two weeks ago, and it would be such a waste not to post something on it. I gave a paper there, my little something on how to implement XProc with more XML, and I even participated in MarkLogic’s demo jam with even more of the same. Great fun, that.

The most fun I had at Balisage had to do with listening to others give papers, however, with special mention having to go to Wendell Piez‘s talk about how to process LMNL (non-XML) markup. LMNL is all about overlapping structures, the kind of thing that XML just won’t do, and it’s absolutely awesome. For some reason I’ve not given the overlap problem (or, for that matter, the related problem with discontinuous structures) much thought lately. I should have. LMNL, it seems to me, should be very useful for analysing dead languages such as Middle Egyptian where overlapping markup could be used to present alternative interpretations for grammar, pronunciation, and so on. There’s a paper begging to be written, right there. Next year, maybe.

It is good sometimes to remember that XML is not the answer to everything.

But there was more, a lot more. There were some excellent presenters, such as Steven Pemberton discussing abstraction errors (among others, in the C language), Norm Walsh with his compact XProc syntax proposal, and, of course, the undisputed king of keynotes, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, who, as Eric van der Vlist tweeted, “has a special gift to make each presenter feel clever in his closing keynotes.” And so many others.

And I really should mention Betty Harvey’s talk about implementing low-cost electronic documentation for a DoD contractor. In glorious SGML. I love history lessons, especially in my chosen field, and Betty’s was a stroll down memory lane.

Anyway, Balisage was fun and you really should have been there. Or maybe not if you aren’t into markup, but if so, why are you still reading this?

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