Around and About at XML Europe 2001

May 25, 2001

Edd Dumbill

More or less the only international European XML conference, XML Europe always has a distinct character. Maybe it's the echo of history -- this year's conference being the 19th in its series (it was SGML Europe prior to the advent of XML). Clustered in pockets around the conference are the admirable but often eccentric warriors of the SGML days. Stay in one place for long enough and a veritable who's-who of markup history will pass before your eyes.

The down-side to this, sadly, is that more "data-oriented" XML folk weren't present at the conference. The data/document divide is a curious beast: a while back document folk weren't so hot on the data applications of XML -- now the nouveau riche of the data camp tend to view the document folk with some disdain.

The divide itself is a fallacy in terms of technology, there being actually very little in XML that doesn't apply to both kinds of applications. It seems to be more a social phenomenon than anything else -- the wiry kid of data-oriented applications walking away their venerable, but slightly dusty, document-oriented parents.

Walking the Walk

Unlike some other XML conferences, those run by the GCA have the claim to the moral high ground in their own application of XML. The proceedings for XML Europe 2001 serve themselves as a demonstration of the power of XML in publishing.

Making a welcome change from the dreary reams of Powerpoint slides, the XML Europe proceedings are available in no less than four different formats -- including one suitable for download to a PDA -- thanks to the efforts of various companies. Every speaker at the conference submitted their paper in XML, which enabled the re-purposing of the conference content.

It's not just the readers of the proceedings that have choice thanks to XML -- recent progress in XML editing tools meant that speakers had the choice of four different XML authoring environments (provided by the conference organizers) in which to edit their papers.

Of course, the real worthies still used Emacs.

Pictures from the Conference

Interior of Berlin Internationa

The Berlin ICC, although fairly conventional from the outside, is modelled inside in a fashion remarkably resembling a (complex) spaceship. Tunnels, plastic, neon and escalators combine to form a matrix possibly more complex and intertwined than that of the family of XML specifications.

Tim Bray, who in early 2000 seemed to be fading fast from the XML conference scene, is once more a ubiquitous character at XML conferences (no coincidence that he's always on the lookout for opportunities for his new company, Antarcti.Ca). His wit and opinionated style make for enjoyable speeches, and he can often be found debating issues that come up on the XML developers' mailing list, XML-DEV.

Tim Bray delivering his opening keynote

XML Spy 4 Advert Perhaps it's a sign that XML has truly come of age as a mainstream technology when sex starts to be used in its marketing. The instigators of this dubious first for XML are Altova, makers of the XML Spy editor. For version 4 of their product, they've opted for a more glamorous logo. So much for appearances, let's hope they iron out the wrinkles in schema support, too.