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Beyond the Fat Wire

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The rest of Tues afternoon, part 2

(notes continued)

Bob Boiko says, in a discussion with the w3c guy:
Just because it's XML doesn't mean 2 docs will be interoperable ... and if 2 docs are already interoperable, it doesn't matter if they're XML or not

But then again, he didn't address the question of 2 docs that need to be interoperable now, even though they began life in non-interoperable formats.

My thought was, are these guys hooked into the library data preservation community? I haven't really been too far into the digital preservation issues, but my sense is that probably the library digital preservation people would have a contribution to this discussion.

Then, Bob Boiko had the opportunity to provide the diatribe he'd been waiting all day to give: basically, that the semantic web will be all about:
  • society
  • language
  • world view
in other words, getting people to agree on the ways and means of expressing ... and not ultimately about data format, transfer protocol, or the details of standards

In an audience Q/A, a question had to do with dealing with users (read: web authors) who are unable to separate the display of their content with the content itself. The answer was: don't even try. For people ("regular" people), the presentation of content is PART of the content. This is true for those who valiantly learned html in 1997 and still think part of making a web page is choosing font size 7 for a page headline. But it's also true for those whose authoring is just them writing copy and presenting it to an audience ... part of the communicative process is the display (as we well know), and, for these authors, separating the display-based communication from the word-based communication just is not part of their repertoire of expertise. ... which is fine ... everybody has a repertoire of expertise and no one's repertoire is anywhere close to comprehensive.

So, what we can do is "deliver semantic payload under the covers" ... that is, give authors a chance to feel as though they are controlling display, even though the design specialists are the ones who control the details of what that display is. And give them opportunities to preview their (content) creation in a context that is as real as possible so that they have what they need to evaluate the communicative effectiveness of what they have written.

And so ... we create CSS styles that are as much about semantics as they are are about layout, overall visual design, etc.

At the end of the session -- final thoughts from each of the panelists:

Bob Boiko went first: quoting a little ditty he attributed to some uncle or someone, that started with "nibble nibble little sheep". (I told you he was a hoot) Basically, he is saying, do whatever works and don't worry about it

Next was Tony (with no rhyming couplets, he apologized, explaining he's not that fast): keep it simple, don't be afraid to phase in, don't get sucked into an over-engineered, overly fine-grained solution to anything

Matt (the w3c guy) offered a haiku:
Less complexity
if you want people to read
x h t m l

Jon: "the network is the document"


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