Category Archives: SGML


As I write this, Balisage 2021 is four days away and my presentation less than a week away.

I am writing this instead of the presentation.

My paper is about this recent SGML project of mine. It’s a war story, really, and, to a large degree, a rant. It’s about all the reasons to why SGML is no longer a viable solution and why everyone should do XML instead, and I’m procrastinating endlessly about the presentation, to the extent it feels like being back at the uni, studying for an exam, and how I found the time to (finally) do the dishes and reorganise the bookshelf.

I know what I want to be in it, but the contents differ from the paper that was approved, so I’m a bit hesitant. Not that I don’t always do this before Balisage, I do, but this time feels special and different, and I am wondering where to draw the line. How different from the paper can the presentation be, really? Where’s the line? Is it just the title? The structure? The fact that I have evolved from the me that submitted the paper, that I now know what I didn’t know then, that my views have changed a bit and I really can’t (and won’t) go back?

Is this (shudder) an existential crisis?

I should probably do the dishes now.

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.

Developing SGML DTDs: From Text To Model To Markup

Quite by accident, I discovered that Eve Maler and Jeanne El Andaloussi’s Developing SGML DTDs: From Text To Model To Markup is available online. I’m one of the people lucky enough to own a hard copy, but if you aren’t as fortunate, read it at It’s one of the best books ever written about information analysis, that (far too) little used skill required to write a good DTD. In my ever-so humble opinion, the book should be mandatory for anyone involved in a markup-related project of any kind, that’s how good it is.

(Yes, I know it was written before XML came out, 12 years ago, but XML is SGML, really, and the book remains as useful today as it was when it came out in 1995.S