Scenes from a Recommendation 2: subtle and devious

Tim Bray’s prose sketch of Jon Bosak is good, and vivid, but it doesn’t mention what I think is one of Jon’s outstanding traits. In a quiet, utterly unassuming way, Jon is one of the most persuasive and politically astute people I have ever met. He will not thank me for pointing this out: I think he thinks that if people know, they’ll be on their guard. He doesn’t do a hard sell (at least not to me); he takes the trouble to understand where his interlocutor is coming from and to find common ground with them. And he has patience; he is not dissuaded from a goal by the idea that it might take a while, or that it must be approached indirectly. And he is very reticent about taking credit.

We wrote Jon’s name into the XML spec, in the passage

XML was developed by an XML Working Group … formed under the auspices of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1996. It was chaired by Jon Bosak of Sun Microsystems with the active participation of an XML Special Interest Group … also organized by the W3C.

because we wanted to get Jon’s contribution on record and force him to accept credit. Without Tim Bray, or without me, or any of the other members of the editorial review board and working group, the spec would have been different. Without Jon it would not have come to pass.

In memory of a particularly difficult political task undertaken and successfully negotiated, some of Jon’s friends once gave him a gift that I have always thought apposite: a dark gray bomber jacket, embroidered in dark gray (so the embroidery was virtually invisible) with the words “Subtle and devious”.

Hail, xml:Father!

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