Aug 272013

For the XML Summer School this year, I’m teaching about HTML5, CSS3 and ePub in the Hands-on Web Publishing course. The basic premise of the course is to show what technologies are involved in taking a bunch of Word documents or XML files and turning them into a decent-looking website or ePub. The course includes lessons on relevant bits of XSLT transformation (since Word is XML under the covers, if you dig deeply enough), scripting in Ruby to automate as much as possible, and, of course, enough information about HTML and CSS that people can make a decent-looking website in class in the hands-on part.

As a starting point for the exercises, we’ll use a generated template from HTML5 boilerplate, since, if you pick the right options, it is relatively clean and simple to understand. Looking at the current common design practices used across a number of options (HTML5 boilerplate, Bootstrap, WordPress templates for example) coupled with web components and the sheer size and number of HTML5-related specifications from WHATWG and the W3C, I’m wondering just how much more complicated it can all get before the pendulum starts swinging back again towards simplicity and separation of content from processing. Even a bare-bones template has a number of lines in it to deal with older versions of IE, or to load some JavaScript or (mostly) jQuery library. It’s no wonder we’re starting to see so many frameworks that try to cover up all of that complexity (Bootstrap again, or Ember, for example).

In the meantime, at least I have a reasonably constrained use case to help me decide which of the myriad possibilities are worth spending time teaching, and which are best left for the delegates to read up on after the class.

Aug 222012

A large part of my decision to move back to technical work, and less project management, was due to how much fun it was last year working on the web applications course for the XML Summer School. And now it’s that time of year again to brush up on my coding for this year’s version. Fortunately, although I’m running a bit late in my preparations, Matt has done sterling work getting the code base working, and Norm and Paul are doing their bits too.

This is all very different to the healthcare document analysis I’ve been doing recently, so I need to refresh my memory on Ruby, Sinatra, OAuth, and co, as well as catch up on recent changes (in particular to OAuth2, which finally made it to RFC not so long ago). Last year I worked through Singing with Sinatra; this year I get to see what Matt did for our XML web publishing application (taking XML files, converting to HTML for browser viewing, adding various webby bells and whistles) before the delegates do.

I’m mostly talking about the security and identity aspects of web sites (as well as helping out on the other sections), with the stated aim of making everyone paranoid enough to be careful. The hackers are getting more sophisticated these days, which means website coders have to be more careful.

Nov 202009

The XML Summer School in Oxford at the end of September was the usual mix of interesting presentations, punting, good discussions in the pubs, and wandering around old buildings. The photos I took have none of the first, little of the last, and an over-proportional number of punting and pubs, mostly because that’s when the camera did its job best. These are all part of the XML Summer School 2009 group on Flickr, if you want more photos of that week in Oxford.

Sep 042009

This year the XML Summer School in Oxford is at the end of September, rather a change from previous years, when it was in July. This morning on the organising call we decided that we need to go punting on the Monday before dinner rather than after dinner, since the evenings will be dark sooner, but that’s about the only drawback to the late-summer timing.

Apart from being heavily involved in organising the event, I’m chairing two courses this year. There’s Trends and Transients, a fun day with lots of discussion and debate about hyped, over-hyped, and current technology issues. This year we have Tony Coates talking about how XML could have saved us from the current financial crisis (somewhat tongue-in-cheek), Paul Downey ranting on what’s wrong with Rich Internet Applications, and Rich Salz telling you what to look for and avoid in cloud computing. The day is capped off by unconference sessions in the evening where everyone gets to have their say in as much length as people will listen to them.

New this year is the other course I’m chairing, the Semantic Technologies course, where Bob DuCharme, Leigh Dodds, Andy Seaborne, and Duncan Hull are joining forces to teach classes in Linked Data, OWL, RDF, SPARQL, and all those other acronyms that are forming the basis of what some people are calling Web 3.0. I’m looking forward to catching up on what’s new in all of these, and figuring out whether some might be useful for a project I have in mind.

I haven’t decided which other courses and classes I’ll sit in on yet; they all look good.

Apr 212009

One of my current projects is as Course Director for the revamped XML Summer School in Oxford, England. John Chelsom asked me to help out and I was only too happy to say yes; I have many fond memories from previous years. It will be more a late-summer school this year, being from September 20-25, but that does free up more of the summer proper for other things, not to mention giving us more time to figure out the schedule and speakers.

Another advantage of late summer for the XML Summer School is that it doesn’t clash with Balisage in Montréal, Canada, which is on August 11-14 (with the symposium on processing XML efficiently on the 10th). Papers for that are due on April 24, so you don’t have much time to get them in if you’re planning on speaking. Any markup-related topic is welcome, as long as it is of sufficient quality and depth.

It’s interesting comparing the two – Balisage is a geek’s conference, unapologetically aimed at people who are think deeply about the issues, even if they’re not applying them at work. The XML Summer School is more like training, aimed at less expert practitioners of and newcomers to XML, and more likely to be attended by people who want to go back to work the next week and apply what they’ve learned directly. A few of the speakers are the same, of course, and the discussions over dinner tend to veer in some of the same directions.

And, of course, both conferences are on Twitter; Balisage at and the XML Summer School at

Jun 272007

Most years I get to speak at the XML Summer School put on by CSW in late July in Oxford, England. Last year I didn’t go since I’d just had a baby 6 weeks before and the family succeeded in talking me out of it. This year I’m going again. It should be a lot of fun; the idea of the school is to get a bunch of experts as teachers who go along with the attendees to all the social events, so the attendees can ask questions while everyone is in the pub or wandering around the Old Bodleian Library. Questions while punting are best not directed at the punter, of course, and the rest of us are usually too busy laughing anyway.

With sessions on web services (including identity and security), content and knowledge with XML, XSLT, XSL-FO and XQuery, Teach Yourself Ontology (that one’s new this year!), Building XML Applications, and XML in Healthcare, there’s lots to choose from. I’ll have to choose which days I attend carefully, there’s always too much going on.

I’m speaking in the Trends and Transients track (which I chair each year, even when I’m not there) with Jeni Tennison and Dan Connolly; I’m talking about Web 2.0 while they’re talking XML Processing and Microformats respectively. I even got my presentation deck finished, and only a couple of days late! For the last session of the day, I get the other track chairs to spend five minutes telling us what they think are this year’s hyped or under-appreciated technologies, followed by a panel session of all the day’s speakers. There is always some controversy around people’s opinions, even of these supposedly dry technical subjects. For a sample, check out the YouTube video of Bob DuCharme’s talk (rant?) last year (the video and sound quality’s not great, but adequate).

CSW is offering a special deal this year, speakers get a special code that people can use for a discount on registration. So if you are thinking of attending, email me for the code, either at my Sun email address or my Textuality email address. Unless you’ve already got a code from one of the other speakers of course…

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