Boomerangs, bad pennies, encores

[10 June 2010]

As of 1 June, W3C is paying for a quarter of my time, to work with the W3C XML Schema working group. Given the current state of XSD 1.1 (the working group is mostly waiting for implementations to be completed before progressing it to Proposed Recommendation), my time will mostly be devoted to work on the XSD 1.1 test suite and whatever else can be done to smooth the path of the implementors.

In the work group, the air has (predictably) been full of the expected boomerang references, Thomas Wolfe quotations, and Terminator jokes, with the occasional mention of encore performances. I leave the imagination of the scene as an exercise to the reader.

“Encore performances?” sneered my evil twin Enrique, when he read this over my shoulder. “I’ll tell you about encore performances!” Long ago, he said, he attended a recital where the pianist’s performance of a very difficult piece was greeted by thunderous applause. The astonished pianist had not prepared an encore, so as an encore he simply played the final piece over again. And the second time, said Enrique, the audience was still wildly enthusiastic. There were further cries of “Encore, encore!”, mixed with others of “Again! Again!” And so he played the piece yet again.

After the third rendition the audience was still calling for more, but Enrique swears he heard the man behind him shouting, above the din, “Again! Again! And you’re gonna keep playing it, until you get it right!”

[Thank you, Enrique, for that vote of confidence. I agree, at least, that it’s worth while to try to get a spec right.]

Three quarters of my time will continue to be spent on consulting and contract work, with a focus on using standards and descriptive markup to help make digital information more widely useful and give it longer life. Just as it’s best to combine theory and practice, if possible, so also it’s helpful to combine standards work with work on practical applications. For example: I just finished a project together with an archival collection at a major U.S. university; they are encoding their finding aids in XML using the Encoded Archival Description, and they are publishing the finding aids on the Web, in XML, with XSLT stylesheets to display them nicely for humans. Because they don’t have a separate EAD-to-HTML translation step, their workflow is simpler: they update a collection record in their archival management system, save the collection description as XML, copy it to their Web server, and it’s published. Their finding-aids site is very cool.

In other words, they are using the Web and XML in just the ways their originators hoped they could be used: for sharing semantically rich information. It’s a great pleasure to work on exploiting the open standards W3C has produced, and I look forward to helping produce more of them.

4 thoughts on “Boomerangs, bad pennies, encores

  1. From my point of view, this is great news. XML Schema is not only the brain and spine of the generalized notion of document, but still the foundation of the semantics

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