Tuesday, November 08, 2005

XML: When We Wuz Fab

Innovation is when someone folds the universe, taking two distant points and connects them. Otherwise, it is incrementalism. The vision for innovation is most always outward seeking. That means someone knows just enough about something to try or say something they won't if they know too much. I'm writing a course on XML this week and had to get XML for Idiots to do it. It isn't that I don't know enough; it's that I know too much. Even then, I keep looking up pointsto be sure I'm right. So the chances that I will ever innovate on XML are pretty slim.

That's Ok. XML is mostly done and the undone parts are undone to keep us honest. Otherwise, we'd cheat and take LISP and a Volkswagen repair manual and come up with something really cool and totally obsolete. But reallllly efficient.

And that would die. Why? Too hard to innovate on that... and the heater wouldn't work. You have to leave something undone for the next guy. Otherwise, he won't take possession and get passionate about innovation. When something becomes plumbing, everyone thinks they can do it, and where's the fun in that?

When XML was SGML and not well-liked by the programming community, the documentation and hypertext communities that did like it conceived of many extraordinary uses for it. When SGML became XML and was well-liked by the programming community, most of those extraordinary uses dwindled as the programming community was as it always is, absorbed in the minutiae of tools and syntaxes, content to treat it as bits on the wire, not as a fertile ground for extraordinary uses. Thus to the world at large, XML became plumbing, a dull subject and mostly one that is well understood.

I cannot conceive of a commercial like the one for faucets where an attractive venture capitalist is shown a software firm. She places a chunk of XML down on the table in front of a CTO and asks, "Can you design a business around this?"

But I think perhaps someone will. I want to work for that guy or live with that girl.

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