Oct 042005

Now that the XML Catalog specification has been approved as an OASIS Standard, it feels like the end of an era to me. I’ve been chairing the Entity Resolution Technical Committee since its inception way back in October 2000 , working with a good group of people. As Norm put it today, we’d be happy to work on any standard with this group. Everyone working together, no posturing, no weird agendas, just people trying to find the best solution to a problem. It made the group easy to chair, and I’m confident the results reflect that; I can’t help but suspect that dysfunctional committee politics results in specifications that are not as good as they could have been.

So I’m a little nostalgic right now, remembering the first discussions, the meetings at conferences, as well as the break we took in the middle before deciding to go for that “OASIS Standard” moniker. The TC still has 3 of the original 4 co-proposers (Norm Walsh, Paul Grosso, and me; John Cowan had to pull out part-way through due to work obligations). New people joined, and others left, but overall we had a pretty stable group.

So I want to thank the members of the ER TC, both past and present, and also Mary McRae and Robin Cover of OASIS. Your good humour, desire to do the right thing, and willingness to put in the effort all meant a lot and made it possible to finalize the specification and show members of OASIS why it’s useful. I’d also like to thank the implementors of the catalog spec who proved that it’s implementable! I believe catalogs will be widely used in the future, even if, like much XML plumbing, people won’t actually see a catalog very often.

So feel free to drop by the Sun booth at XML 2005 to talk about catalogs; either Norm or I are likely to be there and Norm will have his catalog implementation on his laptop to show people (along with a bunch of other things, of course).

Friday the 13th

 Standards, Technology  Comments Off on Friday the 13th
May 162005

I spent a certain proportion of Friday morning watching the webcast of the Scott and Steve show – the update of the collaboration work that Microsoft and Sun started a year ago. Lots of other people have blogged about what was shown and the implications (try Tim, Eve, Pat, Robin, Greg and Jonathan for some differing Sun views; CNET, The Register, and Slashdot for some outside-Sun views).

I had a special interest in watching the demo (starts at 17:19) as I did the CSS for the Sun part. What happened was, I’m new to all this identity management stuff, and asked whether I could help in preparing the demo for the eGov forum at the Liberty Alliance meeting in Dublin in April, in part to help me try to get the concepts straight. Pat said the interface to the demo could do with some work; I took a CSS that I’d done for my blog (really must move it into WP 1.5 format some time to reuse it!), spiffed it up a bit, and voila! a CSS custom-built for identity management demos. So it made sense for me to continue spiffing up the demos for this press event. Unfortunately you only see about 2 seconds of the actual demo on the webcast and it’s pretty blurry (the webcast shows more of the demo presenters than the demo they were presenting), but Pat assures me it looked great on the big screens in real life.

I took what I’d done for the eGov forum, made some changes to make sure it would work on IE 6 on Windows XP as well as the JDS browser on Solaris (which, being basically Mozilla, doesn’t have the CSS “inconsistencies” that IE 6 has) and then pinched the colours from the new Sun branding. Pat suggested using some of the Sun images to add some pizazz to the site, while Tim made the fake company logos.

Joint demo development takes a lot of coordination. We discussed small things like which logos we should show (we settled on Sun + Solaris / Microsoft + Windows) as well as big things like the precise script that would be used, which defined how many links should be active, and how many different web pages each company needed to prepare, which determined how much coding needed to be done. And a bunch of other stuff, of course. We had daily phone calls within the Sun demo team, and daily phone calls with the Microsoft demo team, just to nail down all those little details.

In the end, we got there, the demo looked good and worked, and, I hope, made sense to people. Spiffy CSS or fancy images aren’t much use if people don’t get what’s being demonstrated. The write-ups I’ve seen indicate that they did.

Dublin Liberty

 General, Standards, Travel  Comments Off on Dublin Liberty
May 102005

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Liberty sponsor meeting in Dublin, a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been to Dublin before, in October/November 2003, to assist in the Reach PSB Phase 1 procurement, and I like the city, so I was glad to get back again, even if it was only three days. Three days is enough time to get to a couple of decent restaurants and a Dublin pub (these being upstairs at the Chameleon Indonesian restaurant, upstairs again at the Mercantile pub, and down in the cellar at the Thai Papaya restaurant). There was another restaurant but that was on the first, jetlagged, night, so I’ve forgotten the name. Of course, no visit to Dublin would be complete without the endless trek through Heathrow Airport (see Tim’s exegesis on Heathrow); fortunately this time the escalators worked and the airport was mostly empty so the lines for security and buses were much shorter. My weak knee also decided to be kind to me and not play up so I guess the new Pilates exercises I have are doing some good!

Back on topic… Dublin seems to have a lot of old bank buildings that have been nicely revamped to be pubs (the Mercantile above) and hotels (the Westin, where the meeting was held) but maybe that’s just the way it appears when you first notice the phenomenon. Unlike in many cities where banks were taken over for other uses, the Dubliners don’t try to hide the heritage of the buildings. I still remember the first McDonald’s in Auckland, New Zealand, which was also in an old bank building. They did a good job there as well (undoubtedly assisted by some local by-laws forcing the issue), so it is possible to reuse old buildings and keep the heritage aspects congruent with the new uses.

I’m new to the Liberty meetings, so I’m still learning who’s who and how the system works. Compared to W3C and OASIS there appeared to be more Europeans and Japanese, and more women. The former makes timing phone calls tricky (Europe, North America, Japan pretty much span the globe); the latter enables a certain amount of knitting and needlecraft to go on during the discussions (as well, of course, as the typical emailing that always goes on during meetings). The work is done in a slightly different way to OASIS and W3C. There are a number of different groups in the Liberty Alliance (see Liberty Alliance Activities) which share the work. So, for example, instead of one technical committee doing everything from discussing use cases to designing the technical solution as happens in W3C and OASIS, the Business & Marketing Expert Group comes up with the use cases (the market requirements) and the Technology Expert Group creates the specifications to meet those requirements and satisfy those use cases. This is an interesting way to split up the work; it seems to work well (synchronization between the two Expert Groups is a necessary part of the process, of course). Overall, a good crowd of people with lots of technical and market knowledge about important problems; this is going to be a fun part of my job at Sun.

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