XML · 2008-02-10

XML at X; film at XI

The original XML Recommendation is 10 years old today. Happy XML Day!

These anniversaries feel a little artificial to me; my first clear memory of the XML work was a teleconference Jon Bosak had arranged among the “SGML on the Web Editorial Review Board” members in June (?) 1996, so for me XML is eleven [FIX: erroneously had twelve before] and a half years old. Of course, that just makes me feel ancient, but having just received my very first solicitation from AARP a few days ago (may I just say: eek) I’m getting used to the feeling.

On that early call, I remember insisting that we write down design principles before we do anything else; this was a core part of the methodology I used for SGML DTD development and I felt the effort would end in tears without it. (I’m pretty sure I was right.)

Right now I find myself sitting on a mountaintop in rural Ontario with my old friend Murray Maloney, who was also there at the beginning — in fact, with Yuri Rubinsky he had already been advocating for SGML on the Web by the time Jon began putting together his nefarious plan. I’ve been lucky to make so many lifelong friends through my work on SGML and XML; for some of us, as Tim demonstrates today, the people are a big part of the story.

As something of a birthday present, today I’m publishing something SGML-flavored that I hope may still be of use, or at least morbid interest, to modern XML practitioners. You see, I cowrote a book in the just-prior-to-XML era with another of my lifelong friends, Jeanne El Andaloussi, about SGML, in SGML. In DocBook, as a matter of fact. That methodology I mentioned above, with design principles and stuff? That came from this book. Now that the book is out of print, she and I discussed the matter, and we agreed to publish it here. For the occasion Jeanne penned this note:

Now that XML has become a commodity and most National XML User Groups have stopped their activities, it is time for our ELM methodology to be freely accessible on the Internet. I just hope our readers will have as much pleasure in reading it as we had writing it over a decade ago.

You’ll have to be the judge of how well the content has stood the test of time, but I can tell you the markup did beautifully. With a huge dollop of help from Norm Walsh (both his DocBook stylesheets and his mad skillz), the SGML-to-XML-to-HTML processing pipeline was downright trivial.

Voilà! We present to you Developing SGML DTDs: From Text to Model to Markup.

Developing SGML DTDs front cover (small)

p.s. It turns out the old joke is true. XML is good for reuse. It lets you reuse all your old SGML presentations. (rimshot)