Preview: O'Reilly XTech 2001 Conference on XML

June 20, 2001

Edd Dumbill

O'Reilly XTech 2001 Conference on XML: July 23-27, 2001 -- San Diego, California


XTech 2001

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O'Reilly will run its first ever XML conference this year, XTech 2001, as part of the O'Reilly Open Source Convention. XTech 2001 will maintain the technical excellence established by its debut last year under the aegis of the GCA (in association with which this year's conference is produced.)

Catering to software developers, this year's XTech conference is composed of two separate tracks. The first track, " Open Source and Open Standards" focuses on explaining XML and related specifications, as well as the support for them in the open source world. The second track, " Cutting Edge XML", is a forum for some of the very latest work in XML and focuses heavily on implementation. It also includes a special " Bleeding Edge" session, an afternoon of six talks picked only a month before the start of the conference. In addition to the main tracks, there will be three XML tutorials held before the main conference sessions.

As conference chair, I have enjoyed creating a program aimed at software developers that both covers the essential topics in XML and extends the boundaries to include genuinely new, interesting, and innovative material. Open source has always played a very important role in the development and popularization of XML, and it's at the intersection of emerging standards and open source software that some of the most exciting work in XML is being done today.

XTech 2001 is designed to be a forum where developers, whether from an open source or XML background, can learn, collaborate, and exchange ideas. The conference speakers are all current practitioners in XML, including many well known authors of books and open source software. I'm looking forward to an interesting, friendly, and idea-filled conference, and to the California sunshine too. The rest of this article highlights the sessions available; for comprehensive information and registration details visit the O'Reilly Conferences web site.

Open Source and Open Standards

This track presents a comprehensive guide to the big issues for developers working with XML today -- the main areas of excitement about XML standards such as web services and XML Schema, and how open source platforms can process XML.

Setting the scene on the first morning are Simon St. Laurent and James Tauber. Simon St. Laurent is known to many as one of the most thought provoking and prolific contributors to debate in the XML developer community. He will be discussing what XML has to offer open source, and why, despite being perceived by some as a corporate plot, XML is an advantage and not a threat to open source software.

James Tauber, Director of XML at Bowstreet and author of several influential open source XML programs, including FOP and jUDDI, will give an overview of web services. Web services are an emerging model in distributed computing that utilizes XML to bind applications together in a loosely-coupled and ad hoc fashion. Web Services is set to play an important part in emerging computing infrastructure.

We will have coverage of the most important areas in developing XML standards: Eric van der Vlist will give an overview of XML Schema languages, with an in-depth session on W3C XML Schema from Martin Gudgin. Aaron Skonnard will talk about XML Namespaces, Fabio Arciniegas on SMIL and VoiceXML, and Antoine Quint on SVG.

Several complementary sessions focus on the use of XML with popular open source platforms. Paul Prescod of ActiveState will talk about XML and Python,'s Perl columnist Kip Hampton will discuss XML and Perl, and Steve Ball will describe Tcl's support for XML.

Finally, this track will cover some established open source technologies that use XML. Jason Hunter will present JDOM and talk about his experiences putting it through Sun's Java Community Process. Bruce Martin will talk about his Xbeans component technology, and Carlos de la Guardia will talk about the use of Jabber as a platform for messaging services.

Cutting Edge XML

The first day of the Cutting Edge track focuses on one of the most widespread and developed aspects of XML, web applications and content management. Several noted developers will discuss their platforms for XML-based web applications: Matt Sergeant will describe his mod_perl-based XML platform, AxKit; David Halsted will talk about using Apache XML tools for creating web applications; Petr Cimprich will describe Charlie, his XML application platform, and Eric van der Vlist will describe a new content management solution using XSLT, Schematron and Ant. John Tigue will also discuss a technique for indexing pages using XML. The day will end with a panel discussion on lessons learned from real life experience of implementing web applications using XML.

Day two provides a varied mix of presentations focusing on implementation. Don Box, one of the leading lights in the SOAP world, will discuss experiences gleaned from implementing SOAP, and Randy Ray of Red Hat will describe his work with extending XML-RPC. Paul Prescod will talk about how XSLT can be mixed with scripting languages in order to preserve the strengths of XSLT but gain the convenience of languages such as Perl, Python, and Javascript. Matt Sergeant will present Ken MacLeod's Orchard API, a high-performance alternative to using SAX or DOM for XML processing. Hypertext and metadata technologies RDF and XLink will be covered in two talks: James Tauber will present Redfoot, his RDF application framework, and Eric van der Vlist will be surveying the various ways links can be expressed in XML.

The final day of Cutting Edge kicks off with Don Box's "Viewing the World Through Infoset-colored Glasses," a controversial look at XML from the object programmer's perspective. Doug Tidwell, author of O'Reilly's upcoming XSLT book, will then describe XSL Formatting Objects, a W3C technology for printing with XML.

The last two sessions of the day are devoted to "Bleeding Edge XML." As we were putting the program together, we wanted to incorporate some of the very latest work in XML, and so we reserved six half-hour slots until a month before the conference program was finalized. These sessions will present new technologies and new ideas and are intended to be highly interactive. Topics covered include Mozilla, SVG, XML with PostgresSQL, and XPath.


The XML tutorials provide a broad range of content for those working with XML, either in programming or documentation. Steve Ball will be teaching a half day session entitled "Introduction to XML," which will introduce foundational concepts in XML 1.0. Users of the XML/SGML-based DocBook documentation packages will benefit from Michael Smith's half day session on "DocBook Best Practices." Smith will cover topics such as subsetting and extending DocBook, as well as automating the production of documentation. Finally, Aaron Skonnard of DevelopMentor will be presenting "A Day of XML," a day-long tutorial covering XML and related technologies XSLT, XML Schema and SOAP.