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XML-DEV MODERATORIAL [was: The lists I monitor]
- From: Peter Murray-Rust <email@example.com>
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Wed, 09 May 2001 08:51:11 +0100
At 10:27 AM 5/7/01 -0700, Box, Don wrote:
>> Is there a common tendency among people involved with the W3C
>> to feel that
>> all activity should if possible take place on W3C mailing lists?
>It's not a W3C thing. It's a "it's easy to set up yet another list on
>the Internet" thing. Think back a year ago or so when XML-DEV was
>failing. At least once a month someone would set up a list on egroups or
>wherever, yet people saw the benefits of having a single "normative"
>forum rather than dozens of splinter lists to monitor.
The role of XML-DEV has been discussed in a number of postings and I feel
motivated to post to the list, even though I'd probably be better keeping
Many of the people who have come to this list in the last year may not know
who I and Henry Rzepa are - I have deliberately refrained from posting.
Henry and I set up XML-DEV in 1997, and put a great deal of work into it.
Henry ran the membership - I "moderated" the list through personal postings
- often proactively responding to other postings.
It was set up to foster the development and uptake of XML - many of you
will not realise that in those days XML was not expected to survive - SGML
was a minority activity. In XML-DEV we brought together *all* the people
involved in developing it and - I believe - made an important contribution
to its success. Perhaps a percent or so, but every percent helped in those
days. It was a mixture of journal, newspaper and collaboratory. Many people
who came from "outside" the SGML community had a place in a meritocracy and
- I would like to think - have made a name partly because of XML-DEV.
The list was run without sponsorship, but Imperial College provided the
server and listserv on which it was based.
In 1999 I was approached by a member of the OASIS board suggesting that
OASIS take over the running of the list - that I would continue as
pseudo-moderator. This seemed a good idea at the time and I had great
respect for the people involved. In the event the transfer was a technical
and organisational disaster taking many months - the historical records can
be found on the list. I spent a great deal of time, physical and emotional
energy keeping the list going in spite of this and I want to make it clear
that "XML-DEV failing" was in no part due to Henry Rzepa or myself.
It had been agreed that OASIS would display and maintain:
- the complete history of the list (there are 20000 postings prior to the
OASIS involvement. They contain a part of the history of XML. Henry and I
believe it would be a tragedy if they were lost and Henry and I have
actually published them (in a chemical journal as it happens).
- a home page over which I would have moderatorial control. This was
critical because it would allow the philosophy of the list and the
practices to be clearly visible. This would be the single most important
thing in maintaining and developing the spirit of the list.
- a simple public statement that I was the continuing pseudo-moderator of
In practice OASIS have taken over the moral ownership of the list without
our consent. If you look at the list's home page it implies that the list
has been set up and run by OASIS and is self-moderated. There is no
acknowledgment that I was/am still the moderator.
I am trying to be objective about this - it is easy to become emotionally
involved in something that you have worked on intensively for three years.
For most people it is "just another mail list". But to me and Henry it was
like running a journal - you try to achieve something new by allowing a
medium whereby people can communicate, and create.
This isn't just theoretic - it actually matters to Henry and me
career-wise. We are actively involved in developing XML applications in
science and we are asked to provide peer-review of what we have done in
XML. A factual peer-review of XML-DEV would have been and still would be of
value to us. We therefore wrote a few weeks ago to our original contact on
OASIS asking yet again for some historical record on the OASIS pages but
are still waiting for a reply.
Times change and we change with them and "XML" is very different from 1997.
I still have the vision that "XML" is about people and communication and I
saw XML-DEV as a means for developing completely new ways of doing things.
Politically I tried to keep it unaligned: in the early days there was a lot
of cross membership with the W3C - much less so now. Politically it would
be better on a neutral medium, rather than "owned" by an organisation based
on commercial membership. Organisations are not oriented towards individuals.
So what is XML-DEV now and does it matter? Many of the original members
still post and this is undoubtedly the single most important thing that
gives it its character. The list traffic is very high quality and people
are given great support. From a technical point of view it doesn't require
significant moderation. I still read it, but - apart from posts like this -
don't see I have anything to contribute.
To end on a positive note - Henry and I are working very hard on Chemical
Markup Language (CML). It's an enormous task and we have to create a whole
new ontology, software etc.It is starting to become the lingua franca of
chemistry, since it's the only medium that unites documents and data -
currently completely split - and also makes sense of the myriad legacy