Day of the dead

[2 November 2009]

Today is the Feast of All Souls, better known where I come from as the Day of the Dead. It’s a useful day to remember the dead.

Today, I am thinking particularly of Donald Walker, Antonio Zampolli, Yuri Rubinsky, each important in different ways to me. Life remains (as I expected when they died) a little harder without them around.

It’s also a good day to think about the death that will come for each of us before long.

Deyr fé,    deyia frœndr,
deyr siálfr it sama;
enn orðztírr    deyr aldregi,
hveim er sér góðan getr.
Deyr fé,    deyia frœndr,
deyr siálfr it sama;
ec veit einn,    at aldri deyr:
dómr um dauðan hvern.

What will we leave to those who stay here after us? What would we like to be remembered by?

Balisage is calling …

[5 August 2009]

This week I’m busy trying to wrap things up before heading to Montréal next week for Balisage. Songs from South Pacific keep running through my head, starting of course with “Bali Ha’i” (to which Enrique is working on a contrafacture).

I had meant to post periodically over the summer about papers I’m particularly looking forward to hearing, in the interest of reminding people about the conference and trying to encourage attendance. I only managed one or two, but it seems I needn’t feel guilty, after all. The conference chair, Tommie Usdin of Mulberry Technologies, tells me that we have now pre-registered more people for Balisage 2009 than we have had at any previous Balisage.

So even without my reminding people about what is on the program, people are coming to the conference anyway. Good! But I can’t resist mentioning here: Fabio Vitali and his colleagues have a really super idea for encoding overlapping structures by using RDF (which automatically means that we can try using SPARQL to query such documents). The continuing work on XML representations of overlap in Bielefeld and Lyon continues to bear fruit: Maik Stührenberg and Daniel Jettka of Bielefeld are talking about XStandoff, the successor to the Sekimo General Format (SGF) developed earlier in Bielefeld, while Pierre Edouard Portier and Sylvie Calabretto of Lyon are talking about the problem of constructing documents using formats like Lyon’s MultiX. And Desmond Schmidt of Queensland University of Technology is coming, to talk about his work on overlapping structures in multi-versioned documents.

Norm Walsh and Michael Kay are both talking about pipelines in XML processing. Michael is also chairing a full-day symposium on Monday about efficient processing of XML. (Why did no one from the EXI effort offer a paper?!) Kurt Cagle is talking about XML and linked data (that would be the rebranding of the Semantic Web).

And there’s a lot more. See the program for details.

So this year Balisage will be bigger than ever before.

I hope to see you in Montréal next week!

Another example of the curb-cut effect

[29 June 2009]

The XSD Datatypes spec has a diagram showing the hierarchical derivation relations among the built-in datatypes. The old version (created by Asir Vedamuthu, to whom thanks, and used in XSD 1.0 and in earlier drafts of XSD 1.1) has simple color-coding to distinguish various classes of datatypes (what are now called the special datatypes, the primitives, and the other built-ins).

For the Candidate Recommendation draft of XSD 1.1, though, we needed to make a new drawing to show the built-in datatypes added in 1.1 (anyAtomicType, dateTimeStamp, dayTimeDuration, yearMonthDuration, precisionDecimal).

The new version created for the Candidate Recommendation draft has a new color scheme, which I made with the help of a very nice tool for color, now to be found at (I used the previous version, but the functionality I counted on is still there). This tool (and some others) allows you to see an approximation of the effect of your color scheme for a reader with various forms of color perception deficit (protanopy, deuteranopy, tritanopy, etc.), which means you can try to ensure that the distinctions in your diagrams are visible also to readers with those forms of vision.

I found it remarkable that I ended up with a color scheme I find more attractive than the old one; it’s remarkable how many people have told me they think the same (without realizing the proximate cause of the change).

SVG, of course, makes it easy to make diagrams for which the color scheme can easily be modified. And XSLT makes it easier to generate this diagram and to modify it systematically in various ways (including color scheme). But it’s the idea of universal design that gets the credit for making the diagram visually more attractive.

Universal design: try it sometime. You’ll be glad you did.

Erik Naggum, R.I.P.

[20 June 2009]

It appears from reports on the Net that Erik Naggum, long-time genius loci of comp.text.sgml, has died.

In person, he was (as far as I could tell, on the very few occasions I encountered him in the flesh) a very sweet individual. On the net — well, he taught me what a flame war was. His work on internationalization gave hints of great generosity; his resentment against the Unicode Consortium was almost comic in its ferocity (even to me, never one of that organization’s greatest fans).

Erik Naggum, dead? Is it possible? One person fewer who remembers the old days.

So it goes.