Open Standards Processes (WAS Re: Nesting XML based languages
and scripting languages)
SimonStL at classic.msn.com
Fri Apr 24 15:22:19 BST 1998
Len Bullard suggested:
>o All drafts posted to the web at all times. Anyone can
> read and anyone can contribute. Only a few people edit
> and ISO makes the rules for these people, not the consortia.
> Ensures openness and "a level playing field".
Frank Boumphrey added:
>What about us poor authors!! We have to write "knowledgeably" about a
>subject that doesn't even exist. Our books usually appear at about the same
>time as a spec which invalidates every thing we have written!!
While I sympathize with everyone's impatience, and have lived Frank's 'poor
authors' issue repeatedly, I would hesitate to change the XML process
dramatically at this point. The discussions on this list in the past few days
about 'semantics' alone have shown once again the kinds of rocks on which this
kind of project may founder if it opens up too widely. XML-Dev would probably
be a much louder list than it is if people felt their comments would have a
direct impact on the standard, instead of the informal listening that (I
think) does go on here. I'm not sure all of that loud would be useful or
This is a significant turnaround in my thinking. When I was working on XML: A
Primer, I even briefly contemplated joining the W3C (as a sole proprietor, if
necessary) before choking on the cost. That prior access to standards would
have been very useful, and I'm surprised there aren't more publishers who are
members. Waiting for new recommendations to arrive was something of an agony,
especially as they were often barely announced or announced late. Reading the
proposed recommendation and the W3C recommendation was especially scary, as
the book was heading to the printer shortly after the PR arrived.
Fortunately, it wasn't too bad.
Looking back on last year, for all the damage it may have done to my stomach
lining, I think the WG did an excellent job of announcing significant changes
and releasing specs in a timely manner. The occasional announcements to this
list, such as the one on case-sensitivity, made it possible to keep the book
(my 'implementation') in sync with the standard throughout the development
process. It's not 100% perfect (an RMD slipped through, and I couldn't get
xml:lang or xml:space into the book in time - see
http://members.aol.com/simonstl/xmlupdate if you need the fixes so far), but
it still feels really good. The changes to Linking and XPointers will make
Chapter 10 come unstuck, but I'm glad to see new activity.
The other important tack I took was conservatism in my 'implementation'. With
a title like 'A Primer', there was no need to cover every possibility. I gave
XSL a sidebar and a general description, and focused more on CSS. The XML
coverage in the book focuses on syntax, the core standard that is a lot more
stable than the rest. I'd like very much to cover XSL in detail - but it'll
have to wait for another edition, when the specification is much more stable.
It was important to get the book out to the waiting crowds, but I think I
managed to balance my publisher's promised ship dates (and mine) with the
reality of XML's development.
The W3C has (finally) gotten itself ahead of the implementors again. I'd much
rather have them in the lead than trailing behind, as was the case for a
number of years on the HTML standard. Staying ahead of the implementors is
going to take a lot of discipline and (probably) a lot of closed-door
discussion. For now at least, I think that's a reasonable price to pay for
standards as useful as these. I don't think that process will last forever,
but for now it seems sensible.
Dynamic HTML: A Primer / XML: A Primer / Cookies
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