What's up with the dc:type value recommendations?

In my work at Sun we've been looking for better ways to rationalize content purpose metadata for management of aggregated XML records. I had occasion to look at the DCMI Type Vocabulary. DCMI Recommendation. This is an ancient document, and was not sure what to make of it. One thing for sure is that we can't use it, or anything like it. We'll have to come up with our own values. I do wonder about the rationale behind that list. It seems quite the hotch-potch:

Now the definition of dc:type is: "The nature or genre of the content of the resource". I can see how one could fit parts of the above list into this definition, but when I read this definition before seeing the list, I assumed I'd see things such as "poem", "short story", "essay", "news report", etc. From the business point of view, I'd be looking for "brochure", "white paper", "ad copy", "memo", etc. I tend to think this would be more generally useful (if much harder to standardize). Maybe ease of standardization was the rationale for the above? But even if so, it seems an odd mix. I've run out of time for now to ponder the matter further (gotta get back to that client work), but do I wonder whether there are recommendations for dc:type that more closely meet my expectations.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


The court awaited
As the foreman got the verdict from the bailiff,
Emotional outbursts, tears and smeared makeup.
They stated, he was guilty on all charges.
She's shaking like she took it the hardest—
A spin artist, she brought her face up laughing.
That's when the prosecutor realized what happened—
All that speaking her mind testifying and crying,
When this bitch did the crime—the queenpin...

Common—from "Testify"— BE

Common is one of my favorite musicians, and so I'm really pleased to see his new baby, BE emerge to commercial success (#2 on the overall album charts in the week of release) as well as critical praise. I was in Amsterdam the week BE came out, and I was too busy to look for it there. I did see it at the Heathrow HMV on my way back home, but it was crazy-dear (excuse me? £13.00?). I bought Blak Twang's latest (The Rotton Club) at U.K. prices while there (can't get that ish in the US) but Common could wait 12 hours. I'm back and I've been listening to BE on heavy rotation for a week now.

A lot of fans have expressed relief that Common has retreated to home base. With Kanye West replacing former gurus No I.D. and Doug Infinite, BE feels like the extrapolation of the straight line from One Day It'll All Make Sense through Like Water for Chocolate, and Electric Circus ends up stranded as an outlier. Common has confirmed that he has turned his back on the crazy next ish of EC. From a recent AllHipHop.com interview:

AllHipHop.com: How would you rate your albums from least favorite to greatest?

Common: Well my favorite albums would have to be Like Water for Chocolate and BE, my second is Resurrection, and my third is One Day It Will All Make Sense and then, Can I Borrow a Dollar, and Electric Circus is my least.

This is very sad, and Common has taken a bad knock on the head when he rates EC lower than Can I Borrow a Dollar (the only Common album even I won't buy, not even used). I don't know whether to be happy that Common has released a tight album with BE or bitter that he has abandoned the risk that was so fertile in EC. I had intended this article to be a review of BE, but I couldn't help its turning into a sort of measuring of BE against EC. I've already rhapsodized about EC here so no doubt where I stand on that album. BE is a major swerve from EC.

Don't get me wrong. I love BE. It is a lot smoother than EC. It's much more focused. We've seen this pattern before. With Phrenology The Roots broke their bounds and put us on some next shit. After the same mixed critical and fan reaction (though much less bloodthirsty than the reaction to EC), the Roots backed off from the experimental and produced an extremely focused and cohesive The Tipping Point. BE is as tight, coherent and cohesive. The sonic texture is pure Chi-Town soul from track 1 through 11. Chi-Town soul is rich and diverse enough the this never leaves your ears tired, and each song has an ingenious little touch that sets it apart from the rest (an example apropos of the main quote is the plaintive battology of the sample in "Testify"). In contrast EC was all over the place sonically, and in one place, "Jimi was a Rock Star" was so far out to the left that it falls off the face of the Earth (and we don't miss it). EC has that one fast-forward moment, and BE has none, so BE is better, right?

In thinking about this all I can think is: where in BE is the "Aquarius" (Common spits hard about his craft and definitely non-sullen art); where is the "Electric! Wire! Hustle! Flower!" (Common zaps us with shock therapy using the sharp honesty of his internal paysage moralisé); where is the "New Wave" (Common turns this exploration to the world at large, with the help of spaced out Moog synth and the marvelously affecting crooning by Laetitia Sadier of StereoLab); where is the "I am Music" (Common, still bent on exploration, journeys on all the many axes of 20th century popular music history). There is no one track on BE quite as powerful as these. In achieving greater consistency, Common has also shaved off the peaks a bit. He takes fewer risks, and it shows in the more modest rewards. Continuing with the Roots comparison, even though The Tipping Point is much less experimental than Phrenology, The Roots retain in the former a lot more of the edge that they bled into the latter. See the madhouse genius Sly Stone mash-up "Everybody is a Star" for easy evidence.

One of the things that fascinates me about EC is that Common drops a lot of easter eggs in the lyrics. The following lines are from "Aquarius".

Playing with yourself, thinking the game is just wealth—
Hot for a minute, watch your name just melt.
Same spot where its joyous is where the pain is felt
As you build and destroy yo remain yourself
They say I'm slept on, now I'm bucking in dreams,
And rhyme with the mind of a hustler's schemes

Listening to that just gives me a frisson. You feel everything Common is saying in the very fabric of the song. Indeed, you feel how Common has just summarized the entire creative impetus behind EC. He wants to build a lasting edifice in art, like Horace, and he doesn't care if the present audience writes him off as a day-dreamer. Common writes into EC a lot of other such apt lines to justify his eclecticism. From "New Wave":

How could a nigga be so scared of change
That's what you hustle for in front of currency exchange
Ya'll rich, we could beef curry in the game
out your mouth: Ain't nobody hurrying my name
[...] Seen hype become fame against the grain become main-
stream. It all seems mundane in the scope of thangs.

I could go on with these examples.

He is a great deal less introspective on BE, and he calls this fact out loudly.

I rap with the passion of Christ, nigga cross me
Took it outer space and niggas thought they'd lost me
I'm back like a chiropract with b-boy survival rap
This ain't '94 Joe we can't go back
The game need a makeover
My man retired, I'm a take over

—from "Chi-City"

He has come out of his dreams in BE, and how he has more material aspirations, as the reference to Jay-Z in the last line hints. And even though I'm rocking out to it f'sure, I just feel that I'm not experiencing the same level of magic as with EC, which certainly "took it outer space" but didn't lose everyone. EC brings me to mind of Gerald Manley Hopkins' poems. What would Hopkins have accomplished if he had the time and encouragement to work on sprung rhythm further? We got some superb poems out of his oeuvre, but nothing that quite matched up to Hopkins' claims for sprung rhythm. You get the sense that he could have built it into a new major branch of metrics in English. I feel that if Common had the time and encouragement to build on EC's approach, we would have not just one superb album, but an entirely new subgenre of hip-hop. Do I exaggerate? The reaction of people whose opinions I respect, to whom I play EC bears me out. I think being a long-time Common fan can give you a touch of tunnel vision when you first listen to it. A fresh ear recognizes the originality and genius.

Anyway, LWfC and EC are still my favorite Common albums, with BE close behind, and then SiWaMS followed by Resurrection (although the latter contains one of the all-time Hip-Hop classics in "I Used to Love H.E.R."). Despite Common's disappointing ranking of EC in the interview I mentioned, he also shows that deep down, he knows better.

AllHipHop.com: I know a lot of critics weren't feeling Electric Circus, but I liked the fact that it was very artistic and pushed your creative ability as an MC. Overall though, what has changed between Electric Circus and BE to cause such a distinction between the two albums?

Common: Exactly. I think Electric Circus was just a part of my evolution and my experimentation as an artist and it was kind of like since this was my fifth album I was trying to continue to grow and elevate in what I was doing. To me what changed the most is that I got more in tune with myself and more grounded. Electric Circus was me and I don't apologize for it, it is was it is and it's something I created, so it's a piece of my art. With this album I did something simple and raw because it felt good to me at this time. When I did Electric Circus I wanted to go way out there because I was tired of how Hip-Hop was sounding, that's why I did it like that. But with BE, I actually like some of the Hip-Hop now, but besides that I am more hungry on the creative side.

We were all tired of how Hip-Hop was sounding. We all needed EC. Don't you ever forget that, Common.

AllHipHop.com: How do you think Electric Circus will be treated in time?

Common: It's hard for me to say how it will be looked upon, but I hope that people will look back and say, “Man, this was an innovative album.” I feel that as an artists you should be able to paint a picture, so that even if people aren't feeling it now, they can go back with a different perspective later on and feel what you were saying because they are at a different point in their life. That's my goal when I create music.

Right. Right. And it wouldn't be our beloved Common if he didn't say:

AllHipHop.com: Do sales play into your satisfaction of the albums?

Common: People always looked at me like, “Aw man, you don't care about record sales.” I do want to sell records but I won't give up what I believe in, or take away from the integrity of my music to sell. I'm worth more than that.

But I'm determined to at least close with a bit of appraisal of BE. The master quote above is from "Testify", my favorite track. I cannot listen to this song as background music. I always have to stop and concentrate on listening. I already mentioned the foundational sample, and within that frame lies Common's softly-told story. You're all into the tragedy of this lady's predicament, until the sharply executed twist at the end, when you realize that she's sold her man off to prison. It's brilliantly done. Other favorites for me are "The Corner", "GO!", "Chi-City", "Real People" and "They Say", which I've heard somewhere else before (I can't remember where right now). And oh yeah, Pops is back in "It's your World". I just love Pops. That strong and dignified voice says so much about the nurturing of Common's agile mind. If you're a Hip-Hop fan, or a Soul fan you shouldn't be sleeping on BE, but then again, based on those sales figures, you probably aren't.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Dare on problems with mainstream Web services

"Can XML Web Services Move Beyond the Twin Burdens of XSD and WSDL?" "There is no Substitute for Good Documentation"

Dare discusses how "XML Web Services and how the technologies have been handicapped by the complexities of the W3C's XML Schema Definition Language (XSD) and Microsoft & IBM's Web Service Definition Language (WSDL)." Yes, some of us have been complaining about this for years. Dare has always helped point out where his experience corroborates or counters some of our warnings. His perspective is extremely valuable because he has thousands of customers that he just needs to find a way to make happy. From that perspective, it looks gloomier than ever for mainstream Web services.

These are definitely interesting times for XML Web Services. The complexity of the technologies that form the foundations of SOA is now pretty much acknowledged across the industry. At the same time more and more people are taking the idea of building web services using REST very seriously. I suspect that there might be an opportunity here for Microsoft to miss the boat if we aren't careful.

Well, at least MS has one prominent voice trying to prevent that, but it still has several other prominent voices lubricated with Web services kool-aid, one of which commented on Dare's posting (although I'm not sure I can make out just what he was saying). In another comment, Dave Megginson, always a good one to listen to, said:

I'm still puzzled that so many people missed the simplest lesson of XML's success: we did away with mandatory DTDs, and suddenly everyone was excited about using markup. Perhaps the WS-* people could apply the same idea to WSDL, XSD, and friends.

Dare quotes from Tim Ewald:

In many cases, developers start using POX over HTTP to build systems. When people want to re-purpose those services, its hard because they don't have a lot of information about what message formats and exchange patterns they support. In many cases there is no documentation for that, other than the code and, in that sense, those systems are closed. XSD and WSDL help open them up by providing metadata about what those services do. In some cases that metadata is also useful for finding services that do interesting things. For many of our customers, that is the reason they are migrating from existing POX over HTTP systems to SOAP-based Web services.

I'm surprised at the idea that many of anyone's customers have existing Plain ol' XML (POX) over HTTP systems, and very suspicious of the claim that people who did have one in place and working are looking to spend a lot of resources migrating to SOAP/WSDL. Dare responds:

...I wouldn't consider an XSD or WSDL file as being sufficient documentation [for either internal or external web services]. They are definitely better than nothing but they are a far cry from providing enough metadata for users of a service to determine how to properly interact with a service especially when dealing with operations that have to be performed in a series of steps (e.g. uploading a photo or enclosure to a user's home directory then attaching it to a subsequent blog entry).

Right, although no one should take this as excuse for why we have the WS description stack from hell: "business process", "business activity", "coordination", "experience", "choreography", "policy framework", "eventing" (we should find whoever came up with that ghastly usage, and put them on the gibbet), etc. Cue Sean McGrath on WS- YouGottaBekiddingMe (and people say CORBA was complex). This is all hard stuff, but there is also a lot of hair-splitting and redundancy between the mountain of WS specs, and the REST crowd can easily come up with simpler and fewer description languages if they aren't overcome by politics and bloated committees as the WS space has been. Dare again, with the crux:

If your organization is having problems with poorly documented internal services then the answer is to document them NOT to rely on WSDL & XSD files as documentation.

Nuff said.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Good times in Amsterdam

I already posted my notes about the XTech conference itself, but there was more to the trip than that. I had a wonderful time in a wonderful city. Edd is not much for nocturnes and other night-time events, and I think this is the way it should be. After attending sessions from 9 through 5, who has the brain cells left to think more about XML? Time to hit the streets. (All pictures have titles: hold your mouse pointer over them).

I stayed at the Hotel Barbizon. I am not recommending it (it does beat the goo out of the Novotel at the RAI, though). Next time I go, if they have a reasonable rate available, I'm staying where Damien Steer and Libby Miller did, at the Amsterdam American Hotel. Great location (right on the Leidesplein). It turned out to be a common meeting place

As always at these conferences, I hung out a good deal with Libby and Damian (They also hung out with Lori, the kids, DanBri, Max and me in Bath in 2003). They're a lot of fun to explore and chill with. The XML crowd is, in general. I've always been impressed by the backgrounds of people in the XML circle. To a much greater extent than most expert developer scenes they come from backgrounds from literature, visual art and graphic design, music and theater, relational and object-oriented methodologies, engineering, and more.

I also met a lot of new folks, which is always cool. Ian Forrester and and his wife Sarah were the highlight, I think. Sarah is from Racine, Wisconsin, and reminds me a lot of my clever, hilarious, strong- willed, energetic wife Lori. I've found there's a definite class of women from Wisconsin with those impressive characteristics. Kristen, Fourthought's current manager at Sun, is another. Next time Lori and I head to the UK (next year, prolly), we're hunting down Ian and Sarah to hang out with (whether they like it or not). I also met and had a good time with Ralph Meijer, who was presenting in place of my friend Peter Saint-Andre, Ruud Steltenpool who was pimping SVG Open 2005 and who was kind enough to bring a basketball (I'd asked for ideas on exercise opportunities), Dominique Hazaël- Massieux, Håkon Lie, Michael Day, yet another Dan and yet another Matt (both Brits whose surnames I forget). I met in person for the first time electronic acquaintances Mark Baker and Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer. There were also usual compadres Edd, Eric, Leigh, Micah (The XMLHACK gang), DanBri, MattB, Dahobe, DanCon, Liam, Ricko, Liz, etc.

Amsterdam doesn't seem to have as much fly graffiti as, say Paris or London, but then again I haven't explored it as widely as London. Norm, who clearly has a good photographer's eye, did find a good deal of street art (a good deal indeed), mostly in the form of stickers. Last year Libby captured a beaut. I did find a stenciled cut at Bush and a few other bits, but nothing very exciting.

Thursday night the afters consisted of a party at Steve Pemberton's spacious apartment. The views from his roof are spectacular (see top image, for example). On Friday, after some tapas a large group of XTechers lolled about at Het Vondelpark. I was still craving exercise, so I wandered around until I found a bunch of (I think) Surinamese playing keepie-uppie (a.k.a. juggling) with a soccer ball. They were pretty damned good, but I'm decent enough, so I asked to join them, and did. I then returned to the group of XTechers.

After an Italian dinner we all split up and I went to check out the clubs near Leidseplein and the Reguilerswaarstraat (or something like that). It was fun, except that I was lacking a bit of steam. I noticed that a very weird combination of Samba and Euro electro seemed to be all the rage. Saturday, after a gratifying sleep-in I joined Damien, Libby and DanBri at the Leidseplein. We did some shopping, made an abortive attempt to go on a cruise (line was too long), and, joined by Liam and Mark Baker strolled around until we got to a BarBQ to which Liz and Dave had kindly invited us. We were joined by some of a very fun collective called, apparently, "Hippies from Hell", ate, chatted, joked, and recited poetry in English and Dutch (Liz treated us to Wendy Cope, for example), and that closed off my trip very pleasantly.

For more pictures check out the Flickr XTech tag.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia


We were supposed to to have our fence painted
By this weekend. The letter warned of fines.
That idle council, declaring suburban
Heresy—dire tone
Of grey flanking our homes—
Proclaimed a ceremonial purge for the times.

—Uche Ogbuji—from "May Day Flakes"

My plan was to post a new poem a week, and it's been two, so here are two:

I already posted the first stanza of "Epitaph" in an earlier Quotīdiē of Villon. In the third I have the line:

Charnel birds have plucked eyes from each face,

I'm having a lot of trouble deciding between "charnel" and "carrion". The latter word has the effect of playing on "crone" in the previous line ("crone" comes from old Norman "caroigne" which can mean "carrion" as well as "old bitty"), but "charnel" feels more expressive of the horror. Then again, John Cowan mentioned that he appreciated the matter-of-fact tone of the poem (gratifying, because that was my intent, and certainly the effect of the original Villon), and "carrion" is the more matter-of-fact word.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Ghough and other wacky woids

John Cowan blogged the infamous case of the "ough" words which is the standard example of how much of a tricky jackal English can be to poor ESL (EXL?) students. By coincidence this is just a day after I ran into "List of unusual English words in the LaborLaw Encyclopedia" (strange provenience for such content). One of the entries in on that page is the infamous "ough" gang, but there is also a lot of other really interesting Engligh trivia, some of which I've come across, and some of which I haven't, but all of which makes for fun reading. One thing did surprise me. I'd always carried "set" in my head as the English word with the most definition, but this page has it as second, after run (76 to 63), based on the OED. I wonder whether my memory was from a discussion based on another dictionary, or perhaps is was another measure such as longest actual line count for the dictionary entry.

BTW, re: the title. Back in secondary school a bunch of us were riffing off the joke of spelling "fish" "ghoti", and had a competition for who could come up with the coolest words only based on the crazy phonetics of the "ough" gang. "ghough" was one of the entries (mine, if I recall rightly), pronounced "few". There are some even cooler ones, but I leave those as an exercise for readers and commenters. You can use Cowan's list as a cheat sheet (he keeps things a bit simpler than the LaborLaw page).

[Uche Ogbuji]

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XTech: Mike Kay on XQuery and XSLT 2.0

As I mentioned in my more complete report Mike Kay's presentation was worth a further entry (besides, my note-taking discipline went to hell right after his talk, so I don't have as much to work with on the rest).

The title was Comparing XSLT and XQuery. Much of what Mike discussed applies to XSLT 1.0 as well as 2.0. He did spend some time talking about the role of XPath 2.0 as the basis of both XSLT 2.0 and XQuery. As he puts it XSLT 2.0 is a 2-language system. You call XPath from specific constructs within XSLT. XQuery on the other hand has XPath incorporated into basic language. The way I think of it, XSLT is a host language for XPath, while XQuery is a (greatly) extended version of XPath.

I think the most important contribution Mike made in this paper was a very sober appraisal of the barriers to learning XSLT and XQuery. The difficulties developers have with XSLT are well known: we've had some 6 years to discuss them them. Mike summarizes them as follows:

  1. XML fundamentals: encoding, entities, white space, namespaces, etc.
  2. Declarative programming: variables, recursion, paths, grouping
  3. Data model: the mental shift from the angle brackets they see to the abstraction of nodes
    • confusion between what devs see in the XML versus what their program sees
    • confusion over proper output, e.g. subtlety that creating an element in the output tree is not the same thing as creating text containing angle brackets
  4. Rule-based programming:
    • template dispatch, which forces a non-linear way of thinking about transforms. Mike Kay mentioned the parallels with GUI programming. (I tend to think this common comparison is generally right, but is just stretched enough to be unhelpful in determining how to get developers in the right mind-set).

Mike Kay had Ken Holman in the audience so he did the sensible thing in asking the foremost expert on XML-related training. Ken agreed: "Yep. That hits the high points of the first day of getting people to know what's going on in XSLT."

In my opinion, there is one more category of difficulty, which is capability limitations in XSLT 1.0 (most of which are addressed in EXSLT or XSLT 2.0). This includes frustrations such as the result tree fragment/node set split, the poor facilities for string manipulation, node set operations, date/time processing, etc.

Mike feels that XQuery only eliminates the 4th barrier (it has no templates). Reading between the lines, this is a powerful indictment of the idea of a separate XQuery. I think it's hard to argue that we need such a complex separate language purely from the pedagogical viewpoint (no, I'm not saying "andragogical").

Mike pointed out that people coming to XQuery from SQL tend to write everything in FLWOR expressions (rather than, say XPath with predicates). FLOWR is comfy and SQLey, but this just annoys me. I've pointed out in my bemoaning of SPARQL how unfortunate I think it is that SQL people insist on turning all other languages into some nasty mutation of SQL. I was suitably entertained by seeing Mike demonstrate how easy it is to get caught up in the subtle differences between SQL and FLOWR. Again I'm reading between the lines, but I got the sense that Mike was himself not unamused by the task of pointing out such trip-wires.

Mike finished up with a benchmark which he prefaced with an armload of caveats (a healthy practice, as I've learned from experiences in benchmarking). Saxon running XSLT trounced all processors except for MSXML on a certain task involving the XSLT analogue of a relational join, and with document sizes of 1MB, 4MB and 10MB. In a surprise result, Saxon running XSLT even beat Saxon running XQuery (As Mike said, "in the XQuery world implementors look to optimize joins"). All the XSLT processors suffered N^2 performance degradation with doc size. But strangely enough some of the XQuery tools did as well, including Galax. Qizx did show linear characteristics.

Kay then proved that there is no reason one cannot optimize joins for XSLT by writing a join optimizer for Saxon/XSLT. When he updated the benchmark result slide to show the fruit of this join optimization, we were all astonished to see how thoroughly Saxon ended up trouncing everything in the field at all three doc sizes. Now that, my friends, is the work of a superstar developer.

I'll be tinkering with how Amara handles some of Mike's XSLT and XQuery examples in a coming entry.

See also:

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia

Colorado Rapids home opener, and Mr. Eddie Johnson

Lo! the cat with ball of string
Winking and jinking
Winking and jinking
Winking and jinking
Like Eddie Johnson

In other words, that boy bad! Naw, that boy bad! Running past CONCACAF defenders like they're wearing cement moon boots. Can't wait to see him at the World Cup in Germany next year.

We Ogbujis, proud Colorado Rapids season's ticket holders, went to see the home opener against F.C. Dallas Saturday night. I'll be honest, though. Eddie was the expected highlight. All the images have captions (titles, technically): just hold your mouse over them.

EJ takes a throw in (uuuuh, why, coach?)

Osi showing the folks how to do the Corner Kick Stampede <em>proper

Hmm. Eddie threw up some nice moves, Joe Cannon (should-be MVP and should be national team starter) made some spectacular saves, Carlos Ruiz did his usual flopping flounder impression, but it all ended up 0-0.

So what was cool was that Rapids staffers were going around spotting kids and giving out passes to a post game autograph session with Mr. Johnson himself. It's never hard to miss loudmouth Osi, so we copped some for the family. After the game we went to the tunnel for the event...

Osi gives RapidMan a poundUche sporting Rapids pride while waiting to greet the star opponentOsi and Jide making concrete angels, or something

And we got our brief, but cool bonus. Osi knows Eddie Johnson from watching his father cheer him on through the television set, but upon meeting the man and getting his autograph, his only words were...

EJ scribbles for Osi

Osi balefully inspects EJ's script, while Jide looks on

"Hey, I can't read those letters." Eddie Johnson replied: "So what, dude, you want me to print my name for you or something?". We laughed. We jetted. Fun night, all around.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Scattered notes from XTech

XTech 2005. Amsterdam. Lovely time. But first of all, I went for a conference. Edd Dumbill outdid himself this time. The first coup de maître was sculpting the tracks to increase the interdisciplinary energy of the meet. The browser track brought out a lot of new faces and provided a jolt of energy. There did seem to be a bit of a divide between the browser types and the XML types, but only as much as one would expect from the fact that XML types tend to know each other, and ditto browser types. There was plenty of crosstalk between the disciplines as well.

Second touch: focus on open data, and all the excitement in that area (Creative Commons, remixing/mash-ups, picture sharing, multimedia sharing, microformats, Weblogging, content syndication, Semantic technology, podcasting, screencasting, personal information spaces, corporate info spaces, public info spaces, etc.) and watch the BBC take over (with they bad selves). And don't fret: "damn, maybe we should lighten up on the BBC bias it he speakers". No, just go with it. Recognize that they are putting forth great topics, and that everyone is amped about how the BBC is leading the way on so many information technology and policy fronts.

Third touch: foster collaboration. Put up a Wiki, encourage folks to an IRC channel, aggregate people's Weblog postings and snapshots into one place, Planet XTech, and cook up a fun little challenge to go with the theme of open data. For that last bit Edd put out an XML representation of the conference schedule and asked folks to do something cool with it. I didn't do as much with it as I'd hoped. When I finally got my presentation going I used the posted grid.xml as a demo file for playing with Amara, but I wished it had more content, especially mixed content (it's very attribute heavy). I've suggested on the XTech Wiki that if Edd does the same thing next time, that he work in paper abstracts, or something like that, to get in more text content.

I said "When I finally got my presentation going", which hints at the story of my RAI (venue for XTech) jinx. Last year in Amsterdam I couldn't get my Dell 8600 running Fedora Core 3 to agree with the projectors at the RAI. As Elliotte Rusty Harold understates in his notes from the 2004 conference:

After some technical glitches, Uche Ogbuji is talking about XML good practices and antipatterns in a talk entitled "XML Design Principles for Form and Function"

In fact I ended up having to switch to OpenOffice on Windows, and the attendees endured a font only a hippie could love (Apparently Luxi Sans is not installed by default on Windows and OO/Win has a very strange way of finding a substitute). I'm vain enough not to miss quoting another bit about my talk from Elliotte:

A very good talk. I look forward to reading the paper. FYI, he's a wonderful speaker; probably the best I've heard here yet.

Gratifying to know I managed a good talk under pressure. I hope I did so again this time, because the RAI projectors were no more friendly. The topic was "Matching Python idioms to XML idioms". Remembering the last year's headache I asked about a projector to use to test out my presentation (I was on the first day, Weds). Usually conference speakers' rooms have a spare projector for this purpose, but it looks as if the RAI couldn't supply one. I crossed my fingers and arrived for my talk the dutiful 15 minutes early. Eric van der Vlist was up before me in the block. The AV guy came along and they spent quite a while struggling with Eric's laptop (Several speakers had trouble with the RAI projectors). They finally worked out a 640x480 arrangement that caused him to have to pan around his screen. This took a while, and the AV guy bolted right afterward and was not there to help me set up my own laptop. Naturally, neither I nor the very helpful Michel Biezunski (our session chair) were able to get it to work, and we had to turn things over to Eric to start his talk.

We then both went in search of the AV guy, and it took forever to find him. No, they didn't have a spare projector that we could use to set up my laptop in time for my talk. We'd just have to wait for Eric to finish and hope for the best (insert choice sailor's vocabulary here). My time slot came and we spent 20 minutes trying every setting on my laptop and every setting on their projector. The AV guys (yeah, when it was crisis time, they actually found they had more than one) muttered taunts about Linux, and it's a lucky thing I was bent on staying calm. I present quite often, and I do usually have to try out a few settings to get things to work, but in my encounters it's only the RAI projectors that seem completely incapable to project from my Linux laptop. In all, I witnessed 4 speakers (3 on Linux and surprisingly one on Mac OS X) who had big problems with the RAI projectors, including one of the keynote speakers. I suspect others had problems as well.

I couldn't take the obvious escape route of borrowing someone else's laptop because the crux of my talk was a demo of Amara and I'd have to install all that as well (Several kind volunteers including Michel had 4Suite installed, but not Amara). After 20 minutes, we agreed that I'd go on with my talk on Michel's computer (Thinkpad running Red Hat 9 and it worked with the projector immediately!), skip the demo, and we'd find another time slot for me to give the entire talk the next day. Quite a few people stuck around through this mess and I'm grateful to them.

The next day we installed Amara on Michel's computer and I gave the presentation in its proper form right after lunch. There was great attendance for this reprise, considering everything. The Amara demo went fine, except that the grid.xml I was using as a sample gave too few opportunities to show off text manipulation. I'll post a bit later on thoughts relating to Amara, stemming from the conference. Norm Walsh was especially kind and encouraging about my presentation woes, and he has also been kind in his notes on XTech 2005:

The presentation [deities] did not smile on Uche Ogbuji. He struggled mightily to get his presentation of Matching Python Idioms to XML Idioms off the ground. In vain, as it turned out (AV problems were all too common for a modern conference center), but he was generous enough try again the next day and it was worth it (thanks Uche!). I'm slowly becoming a Python convert and some of the excellent work that he's done at Fourthought to provide Python access to standard XML in ways that feel natural in Python is part of the appeal.

That's the precise idea. A tool for processing XML that works for both Python heads and XML heads. The whole point of my presentation was how hard this is to accomplish, and how just about every Python tool (including earlier releases of 4Suite) accommodates one side and not the other. The response to Amara from both the Python heads and XML heads makes me feel I've finally struck the right balance.

I got a lot out of the other XTech talks. Read Norm on the keynotes: he pretty much had the same impressions as I did. Props to Michael Kay for his great presentation comparing XSLT 2.0 and XML Query. I took enough notes at that one for a separate entry, which will follow this one. I missed a lot of the talks between Kay's and my own while I was trying (unsuccessfully) to head off the AV gremlins.

Other talks to highlight: Jon Trowbridge's on Beagle (who, you guessed it, had AV problems that ate up a chunk of his time slot). From the project Wiki:

Beagle is a search tool that ransacks your personal information space to find whatever you're looking for. Beagle can search in many different domains: documents, emails, web history, IM/IRC conversation, source code, images, music files, applications and [much more]

Edd had already introduced me to Beagle, but it was really cool to see it in action. I'll have to check it out. Jon also pointed out TomBoy, "a desktop note-taking application for Linux and Unix. Simple and easy to use, but with potential to help you organize the ideas and information you deal with every day." Two projects I'll have to give a spin. Props to Jon for shrugging off the AV woes and giving a fun and relaxed talk.

Robert O'Callahan's talk on the new canvas tag for Mozilla and Safari was memorable if for nothing else than the experience of surfing Google at a 45° angle, with no apparent loss in snappiness. This canvas thingie looks wicked cool, and it's good to see them working to incorporate SVG. I've heard a lot of grumbling from W3C types about canvas, and all we poor browser users in the middle can hope for is some rapid conversion of cool technologies such as XAML, XUL, canvas, SVG, etc. Others have blogged about the opportunities and anxieties opened up by the WHATWG, which one commentator said should have been the "WHAT Task Force" because "WTF" would have been a better acronym. I'm a neutral in these matters, except that I really do with browser folks would do what they can to push people along to XHTML 2.0 rather than cooking up HTML 5.0 and such.

Matt Biddulph was one of the BBC Massive on hand, and his talk "The Application of Weblike Design to Data - Designing Data for Reuse" offered a lot of practical tips on how to usefully open up a large body of data from a large organization.

Dominique Hazaël-Massieux gave a talk on GRDDL (O most unfortunate project name), which was my first hearing of the technology. My brief characterization of GRDDL is as an attempt to pull the Wild West ethos of microformats into the rather more controlled sphere of RDF. It touches on topics in which I've been active for years, including tools for mapping XML to RDF. I've argued all these years that RDF folks will have to embrace general XML in place of the RDF/XML vocabulary if they are to make much progress. They will have to foster tools that make extracting RDF model data from XML a no-brainer. It's great to see the W3C finally stirring in this direction. Dom's presented very well. I asked about the use of other systems, such as schema annotation, for the XML to RDF mapping. It seemed to me that GRDDL was mostly geared towards XSLT. Dom said it is meant to be independent of the mapping mechanism, but in my post-conference reading I'm not so sure. I'll have to ponder this matter more and perhaps post my thoughts. Dom also mentioned PiggyBank, "the Semantic Web extension for Firefox". Kingsley Idehen has a nice blurb on this software. I do hesitate to use it because someone mentioned to me how PiggyBank had gone into crazy thrash mode at one point. I don't muck with my FireFox set-up lightly.

Rick Jelliffe showed off Topologi's lightweight browser TreeWorld, which is XML-oriented and suitable for embedding into other applications.

Others have blogged Jean Paoli's closing keynote (http://glazman.org/weblog/dotclear/index.php?2005/05/29/1059-adam-3">Leigh, etc.). Seems I'm not the only one who was put off by the straight-up product pitch. At least he did a bit of a service by clearly saying "Binary XML: No please". Check out more quotes from XTech.

The conference was superb. Do be sure not to miss it next year. It's looking like Amsterdam will be the venue again. And what of Amsterdam? Besides the conference I had a great time with friends. I'll post on that later.

For the most comprehensive report I've seen to date, see Micah Dubinko's article.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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Hacking in the name of IE

I finally broke down and made Copia safe for MSIE. When I first set up the site, I tweaked the IE look a bit, but it was such a frustrating exercise that I gave up once satisfied with its appearance on FireFox and Safari (I need to install Opera for testing). Last night I found this excellent Wiki resource and soon got things sorted out. In the process I was alerted to the fact that Copia gets rendered in quirks mode, which is not what we want. I think I know how to fix most of the problems, but some issues are buried in PyBlosxom and plug-ins code, I think, so it may have to wait until my next burst of energy before we can sport one of those fly "valid ?HTML ?" icons.

[Uche Ogbuji]

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