Dog Days of Summer

August 12, 1998

Xavier McLipps

Dog Days of Summer

by Xavier McLipps

Into the doggy days, but fortunately there are some very doggy doings, so to speak, in XMLand; let's all say a collective thank-you to the fine industry folk who provide light summer entertainment with their eXtensible antics. -X.McL.

Feeling Waspish?

wasp icon A bit o' hubbub echoing through the vast halls of the XML mailing lists over WSP, the Web Standards Project. The brainchild of a gaggle of high-paid and just unspeakably cool (at least they think so) web site designers (and, it must be said,'s own technical editor, who apparently leapt on board at the last second), this autumn-leafy website will, its proponents claim, strike fear in the hearts of vendors everywhere who dare contravene the laws as inscribed on stone tablets by the prophets at the W3C.

There were one or two bumps in the road... although the Wasps weren't due to start swarming until August 10th, the website's presence was outed a few days in advance. Some friendly puzzled folks over in xml-dev helpfully pointed out that the Waspy pages weren't exactly kosher per HTML as the W3C says it's supposed to be. Such insolence; a Wasp was there to insert the stinger:

There's been a lot of talk, here and on the WSP list, about how any org promoting standards compliance should stick to the standards. I'd just like to jump in here and say "that's horseshit". If the standards were implemented correctly, you could. Otherwise, we'd be stuck with a gray background bullet list. And frankly, that's not going to impress the target audience. Please be a bit more realistic.
Any flames that start with "I ran your sites through the HTML validator at the W3C, and ..." will be redirected to /dev/null.
A public spirited member of the loose-McLipps brigade sent this gem my way, complete with an email full of HTML validator messages, so I went to look over the weekend and... there were a lot less error messages. By Monday, it seemed that my goodness gracious me, every byte on that site was exuding a glow of SGML virtue; Geneva smiles. I wonder if the Wasp quoted above has been docked one or two stripes?

Turning a New Leaf

The entire XML community is shaking in its boots, breath bated in the shadow of the colossus towering over our briar patch. The colossal shadow is that of Interleaf, a Route 128 company that once more or less owned the desktop publishing industry, and has been scrambling for a new purpose in life ever since Frame ate their lunch sometime around 1990.

Ordinary companies just want to figure out how to make a buck with XML. Interleaf goes further:

BladeRunner [their XML content-management offering] is a business-to-business system designed to enable organizations to improve the flow of information and facilitate business transactions throughout the distribution value chain that connects corporations with their customers, suppliers and distributors.
We figure them words will make the 387 other companies in the content management market realize they might as well pack their bags and go home. Also, people whose products just author, store, or deliver XML must be feeling terribly inadequate in the face of this mellifluidity. [you sure that's right, Xavier? -Ed.]

I am just a bit puzzled at the product name; is their vision of XML's future just a little dystopic? At their trade show booths, they give out plastic eyeballs. These guys are just naturals for the wonderful wacky world of XML marketing.

But behind the marketing is some cutting-edge technology, you betcha:

BladeRunner transforms Microsoft Word and Interleaf's workgroup publishing system into valid XML authoring tools by generating a Word or Interleaf template from an XML Data Type Definition (DTD).

Communicating Graphically

We can always rely on our buddies over at the Graphic Communication Assocation, long-time foster parent of SGML, for some yuks. The main XML '98 page, which features a pair of giant buttocks looming over Chicago, says:

To See a XML version of this conference information, click here [shouldn't that be "an"? -Ed.]
So I clicked: another page, looks about the same, slightly smaller buttocks. Hmmm, this is XML? View Source says:

+ all extensions//EN" "hmpro3.dtd">
<TITLE>XML98 - Technology Enabling Business on the Web
<BODY BGCOLOR="#ffffff">
<TABLE BORDER="0" align="center">

HoTMetaL Pro 3 does XML?!? Anyhow, the first botched XML wasn't until line 6, so maybe they're trying.

I didn't have the strength to get through the whole page, but another loose-Lippser (thanks, big B.) pointed out this gem:

All Submissions must be made electronically in a clear text format which contains the recommended key fields ending with a colon (:). [Do they mean to capitalize the first two words of each sentence? -Ed.]
Just the thing for an XML conference, innit?

Puzzlin' Rumblin'

On the subject of that conference, we hear continuing rumbles of less-than-100%-cordial relations between the cabals organizing the two almost-but-not-quite-concurrent conferences advertised at that web page. In fact, I got a tip-off from a source buried deep inside the process, pointing out that "The logo for the Markup Technologies '98 conference is NOT <MT98/> and the folks at the GCA don't understand why it was even suggested." And, dear readers, I have to admit that I'm not 100% sure whether the point is that the Red team doesn't know what an element looks like, or the Blue team doesn't know they're being accused of emptiness... but watch this space.