Busy August for XML Developers

July 28, 1999

Dale Dougherty

In August, while some may be enjoying the breeze off Lake Louise, XML developers will be gathering in Montreal, arriving as early as August 11 and not departing until after August 20. This hefty schedule is something of an endurance test for any XML standards wonk or industry maven. Yet many are looking forward to these ten days of meetings, workshops and conferences.

The OASIS Summer Workshop gets rolling August 11, a two-and-a-half day, members-only meeting. One of the major goals of the workshop this year is to formalize development plans for a schema repository intended for Running from August 16-18 is the MetaStructures Conference, organized by the Graphics Communications Association (GCA). This is a somewhat esoteric conference for those with a more theoretical frame of mind. For the more practical minded, the W3C Schema Working Group will be meeting from August 17-18. Schemas are perhaps the hottest new topic in XML. The culmination of events is the XML Developers Conference, a two-day event on the 18-19 organized by the GCA and XML WG Chair Jon Bosak, one of a handful of people who is involved in each of the different events. Said one pundit, who wished to remain anonymous, "We all schedule around Jon Bosak."

It is a fairly common practice to have W3C working groups and industry groups co-located with conferences. "It's easier to make one longish trip rather than a bunch of short ones," said Murray Maloney of CommerceOne who is co-editor for the Schema WG. But why Montreal in August? "Montreal is an international location and the GCA has negotiated attractive hotel rates," said Laura Walker, executive director of OASIS.The GCA is very supportive of the meetings that have traditionally clustered around their conferences. "GCA has always been dedicated to the development of industry standards," said Marion Elledge, Senior Vice President/IT for GCA, "and we see it as part of our mission to support ongoing efforts relating to XML and its family of standards."

Born and raised in Montreal, Murray Maloney who lives now in Toronto looks forward to this week in August as do others. He says that with all the food, entertainment, and site-seeing in Montreal "Americans feel like they are in Europe, without the long-distance trip." While enjoying Montreal, Maloney plans to "take in a day of MetaStructures, then spend two days in the Schema WG. Then I will sit in on the XML Developer's Conference because Jon Bosak always selects a good list of speakers and topics."

"The conference circuit is a rewarding renewal of contacts," said Ken Holman of Crane Softwrights. "Plus there's the opportunity to meet new people whom you have only ever met electronically." A Canadian, Holman only lives 90 minutes from Montreal but he will miss the OASIS meeting due to his family's vacation. He will arrive in time teach a class on XSLT at the MetaStructures conference and stay for the first day of the XML Developer's Day. "It's unfortunate I can't make everything," he said.

There is a meta-message: if you are going to get more involved in the XML technical community, you better consider two things: how much you know about Montreal and how to avoid scheduling your summer vacation in August.

OASIS Summer Workshop To Concentrate on Schema Registry

Kicking things off is the OASIS summer workshop. OASIS is an industrial consortium organized to support data interchange standards and interoperability and its members-only workshop has become an annual event since 1993. The OASIS Summer workshop will be the first for Laura Walker as executive director. She began March 1in that position, even though she has served on the board of directors previously. "It's the one time all year when we focus on working together face-to-face for several days," said Walker. "It's really productive." Walker said that members will spend most of their time working in committee. "We usually have 60 people in the workshop but this year I am expecting 100."

There are about 35 people on the Registry and Repository Committee, chaired by Terry Allen of CommerceOne. OASIS and its members are funding the development of a schema registry and repository service to be hosted on This group is working on a specification for the registry service and it exists in draft form for members to review. It should be available publicly in late August.

Walker mentioned that OASIS is considering using an Open Source model for implementing the directory. OASIS would fund the development of the registry but it would select developers who were interested in making their work freely available under an Open Source license. "We have not decided this yet but we are leaning towards Open Source because we don't want to get into licensing issues," said Walker. After the specification is approved, an RFP will be developed.

The timeframe for launching the registry has not been established but a pre-cursor to the registry - a catalog - should be available online in September or October.

Schema Working Group

Murray Maloney said he expects 20-30 people to attend the W3C Schema WG meeting in Montreal. This meeting is limited to W3C member representatives and invited experts. The WG published working drafts earlier in May. Maloney hopes they can make more progress in these face-to-face meetings.

Metastructures 1999 Conference

The Metastructures Conference is a "blue-sky" event involving experimental applications and interesting meta-level concepts that are new to many, according to Carla Corkern of ISOGEN, who is the conference co-chair along with Steven R. Newcomb of Technoteacher. "We have people who have been working with architectural forms, EDI, groves, meta-models, and they will be discussing how those traditional metastructures will translate into XML," said Corkern. "In short, those people who have other ways of describing their data are looking at issues in moving that data to XML."

Marion Elledge of the GCA said he expects about 100-125 "true geeks" to attend the MetaStructures 1999 Conference. The conference was originally organized around the HyTime standard, a rather large, complex standard describing SGML extensions to support hypermedia. Some of the concepts that have grown out of HyTime such as architectural forms and topic maps will be covered at the conference as well as updates on how various vertical industries are dealing with meta-level issues in structuring information.

To look at the program for this conference, click here.

XML Developers Conference

Jon Bosak of Sun Microsystems, Chair of the W3C XML WG, cultivates this conference program so carefully that the XML Developers Conference is becoming a standout event among the growing number of XML conferences. Bosak highlights new and interesting work in XML. He likes to call it an "unconference" because he won't load up the program with the usual suspects from influential vendors. It's closer in tone to an academic conference, while also providing a significant opportunity to learn from people working in the trenches with XML to solve everyday problems.

Last year's XML Developer Conference in Montreal was the first and had about 150 attendees. This year, the conference organizer, GCA, is expecting about the same number of people, according Marion Elledge. "It's going to be a small, intense event," he said.

One of the ways that the conference is sure to be fresh is that Jon Bosak has been given the leeway of waiting until fairly close to the conference to decide on the content of the program. He has just announced today (July 28, 1998) the program. Here are some of the highlights:

  • David Orchard of IBM in "Lessons from a Scalable Live Solution" will talk about building an XML-based Java application called the IBM Student server. "The Student Server has brought
    web-based student self-service to the PeopleSoft ERP application."
  • Henry Thompson of the University of Edinborough will talk about a new release of XED, and updates to the XML Schema workbench and the XML DTD normaliser, both of which are written in Python and use LT PyXML parser.
  • James Tauber will give an update on FOP (Formatting Object to PDF), "which is an open-source XSL formatter currently under development. It is a Java application that reads a formatting object produced by an XSLT
    transformation engine and then turns it into a PDF document."
  • Dave Megginson will present "Struggling with RDF" and talk about his real-world experience of "developing a freeware Java-based RDF
    library that will simplify the work of reading and writing any RDF-based XML data formats and of integrating XML into database and forms systems."
  • Nisheeth Ranjan of Netscape will talk about XML support in Gecko, the "next-generation" formatter from Netscape.

To view the complete XML Developers Conference program on the GCA web site, click here.

If you need further convincing to adjust your summer plans to include time in Montreal, listen to Ken Holman on what he sees happening: "There are more 'ah-ha!' discoveries or revelations than sit-around-the-table-let's-fix-this sessions. I've also witnessed 'oh, you're doing that too? I'm doing that!' situations where new collaborations begin."