Balisage is probably not a term on everyone’s tongue. Its original usage comes from the Navy - for a ship to travel “balisage” means that they are using special dimmed lights for navigation while in enemy territory, a term also known as Silent Running. It has, however, acquired a second meaning more appropriate to computer science in general and XML in particular. Balisage is the use of XML to enable document processing without “giving away” data to a proprietary application’s format. Balisage in this sense is somewhat edgy and subversive, striking at the boundaries where Open Source and Open Standards meet to form Open Data.
It’s perhaps appropriate then that the former Extreme XML conference, long known as the hardest core of XML moots, should take on the name of one of the central tenets of the Open Data movement. Balisage brings together some of the foremost minds in the areas of content management, semantics and ontology, information processing, application development and security to explore how best to build on the shape of this emerging technology. The shift in name also reflects a broader shift going on in the field, as people realize that while XML is core to most of what they are discussing, it is what is being done with XML (and with the harmonics of that activity) that is becoming most important, not the format itself.
Balisage has just announced its 2008 conference (to be held Tusday, August 12 to Friday, August 15, 2008 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) along with the associated International Symposium on Versioning XML
Vocabularies and Systems, held Monday, August 11th [Editor note: this was originally incorrectly reported as the 22nd through the 25th].
As is typical for this conference, the topics involved are definitely heavy-weight, designed to be thought-provoking, to push the edge of what can be done with markup and to seriously thrash out those thorny problems that are now emerging as XML moves increasingly into large scale systems. Topics include resource-oriented architectures, ontology design, schema mashups, constraint management, real-time generation of topic maps,secure publishing for social networks, managing overlapping annotations over the same primary data, XML pipelining, the social limitation of
interoperability in digital libraries, implementation of XSD 1.1 conditional-type assignment, and a host of others.
I especially like the fact that Balisage will have Nocturnes and Impromptus, in which people can sign up to give talks “a la carte” that couldn’t speak during the day, as well as jam sessions that could go well into the evening. My own experience with such conferences is that these jam sessions are inevitably where some of the most thought provoking and challenging experiences of the conference come from.
Speakers include quite a few heavy hitters, such as Jonathan Robie (one of the inventors of XQuery), Dr. James Mason (Chairman of the ISO SGML committees and one of the pre-eminent authorities on XML technologies), Jon Bosak (the person who did most of the heavy lifting in developing XML in the first place and who has since become one of the most influential people in computing), G.Ken Holman (the authority on XSL-FO and a co-inventor of the UN UBL specification), C. M. Sperberg-McQueen (coeditor of the XML specification and of XSD 1.1), Sandro Hawke (Semantic Web, Rules Interchange Format and OWL), Liam Quin (Activities lead for the W3C), and both B. Tommie Usdin and Deborah Lapeyre (who have together become the foundation of the Extreme XML conferences for years) as well as a number of others with similar credentials in industry and academia. As I mentioned earlier - these are serious XML people.
I’ve been wanting to go to an Extreme XML conference for a number of years now, but inevitably something came up that made attending out of the question. However, this year, I will definitely be there, and will be speaking on an increasingly favorite topic of mine: Resource (or REST) Oriented Architectures.
At ten years old XML is at a crossroads - growing into nearly all segments of industry, government and academia while at the same time being seen as an increasingly “mature” technology that lacks excitement. Yet Balisage (like it’s Extreme predecessors) belies that impression, and all of the people who are speaking or attending know full-well that the bulk of the hard work remains to be done. It’s definitely worth taking the time to attend.
- The program can be found in two forms:
- Schedule at a Glance: http://www.balisage.net/At-A-Glance.html
- Detailed program: http://www.balisage.net/Program.html
- The description of the 1-day Versioning Symposium can be found at:
- and the detailed program is at: