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   Apologia pro vita mea (was: XML-DEV as virtual community)

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  • From: John Cowan <cowan@locke.ccil.org>
  • To: XML Dev <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Fri, 05 Jun 1998 10:08:02 -0400

Peter Murray-Rust wrote:

> It's interesting that many of
> the people involved are quite distinct from those involved in SAX. I think
> this represents an influx of talent that may have come from the non-SGML
> community and in this sense it may bring fresh insights.

As one of those folks from the non-SGML community, let me document my involvement
with XML.  I hope that this will provide a sample of where the "influx of
talent" is coming from.

I was helping to design a project, the details of which I can't reveal, but
which involved various communicating processes.  Other team members had
sketched out rough syntaxes for the basic message format.  One was a
classic binary format with explicit length words, absolute byte offsets
within the message, and no thought given to endianism issues.  The
other was a classic comma-separated, double-quote-employing, backslash-escaping
plain text design.

I looked at these two and blurted, "Aren't these rather archaic?  What about
XML?"  At that point I knew almost nothing about XML except that it was
SGML--, and nothing about SGML except that it was the foundation of HTML.
On this project it happened that new ideas were important, for non-technical
reasons.  The team leader told me to go forth and learn, which I have done.

The project has been handed off to an implementation group and now lives
in Approval Limbo, but I'm still learning XML.  I've prepared a presentation
on XML for my company, which I hope to be able to make public later on.

> [1] The infrastructure of the Web (e.g. the protocols) is , of course, very
> carefully regulated and cannot vary. It corresponds to the basic machinery
> of any organism - essentially all use the same genetic code. But above that
> there is great flexibility.

Actually, the protocols vary more than you may think, and by much the same
Darwinian process.  Efforts are now underway to revise the very format of
email messages (with plenty of respect for backward compatibility, never
fear), and of course TCP/IP has already been revised, though the new version
is not yet in widespread use.

John Cowan	http://www.ccil.org/~cowan		cowan@ccil.org
	You tollerday donsk?  N.  You tolkatiff scowegian?  Nn.
	You spigotty anglease?  Nnn.  You phonio saxo?  Nnnn.
		Clear all so!  'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)

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