Saturday, November 19, 2005
Offtopic Lessons Learned at XML 2005
Bloggers with technical training and technical assignments are blogging the important lessons of XML 2005. I am neither. I've never contributed a single topic or technical item of any importance to XML or the web in general. I am a pundit, an observer of the mammals, and really, just a poet/songwriter. Life among the mammals fascinates me and I do pay attention to that. In a technical world of technical assignments, that is offtopic. Let those who care to read, read, and otherwise, must-ignore applies here.
Once a greased pig is let loose, no man or woman is its master. There may be a profound lesson about XML and/or the web there. To keep coyotes away, kill one and nail its corpse to the fencepost. Texans have known this for years. That explains the career of the Dixie Chicks. In the American South, addressing a woman as "mad'm" is a gesture of respect. In other parts of the world, it's a putdown. Tolerance is best. Science often gives evidence for things best ignored in polite conversation. Let the world work out the consequences for that which it cannot admit. Snakes fear their handlers. Understanding that is the key to keeping them as pets. At every markup conference I've attended, there is a group of contractors and civil servants telling the audience that the lack of interoperability among Tri-service (think DoD) systems nearly caused the last war to be lost. This problem either has no solution or the lack of a solution is profitable. Since the web is an existence proof that whole continents of festering souls have achieved communications over systems that interoperate, it may be time to look at that second possibility squarely and meanly. On the other hand, in a world where keeping secrets and only giving information within a legal framework designed to protect human rights and freedom, it is very hard to interpret the law and apply the technology while still doing those jobs. Future-proof seldom is. I am told that at the last three markup conferences I've attended, I've 'chatted up' at least one brilliant beautiful woman. Guilty as charged. No remorse. Brilliant beautiful woman are not only fun, they can be the best friends a po'boy ever has. It's not about one-nighters; it's about life long friendship with someone I wish to care about because they are capable of caring even if they don't. As the song says, "I can't make you love me if you don't.", but I can get to know you in that short time granted. That is treasure enough and a good reason for what others might consider, bad behavior. As a friend said to me, "You can never know what goes between two people". It is possibly less than you think and more important than you can know. It isn't always best to sit at the front table. The informative conversations are often with people who's acquaintence was a random accident. I crabwalked my way into my career and that is a design pattern. The music industry is corrupt because of its origins in the nightclubs and speakeasys of the early part of the 20th century. The book industry is not corrupt because of its origins in the patronage of nobles some centuries earlier. The people managing the room make the difference. The reason for the success of the web and XML is because of the values of the very small groups of scientists, technicians and humanists who created these. That they cohere and persist are the driving and shaping forces. As these people fade from the scene, the only guarantor of future success, that this *stuff* does as little harm as possible, is the persistence of those values. For that reason, even though there may be no technical contributions, it is important that stories be told, examples made, and that these people be both honored and remembered. I was most glad to see Jim Mason honored and to converse with some of the other SGML cognoscenti. They took care of me when I was younger and just as dumb as I am today. It is about the people, not the stuff. If you really intend to "do no evil", remember that while you are building these marvelous toys. If the room staff accidentally breaks your $50 Norelco, it is good luck that it happen in an expensive hotel that replaces it out of the overpriced gift shop with a $100 Remington. ;-) Kids always like the t-shirts you bring home. Dad's live for the hugs.