Due to a combination of hardware difficulties, network instability and my poor multitasking abilities, I haven’t been able to blog directly during the conference, but I guess better late than never, so here come a few randoms thoughts about the XTech 2005 conference.
First and foremost, the conference was great! There were only very few talks that I attended that were not direct interest to me, and in any case, it was a great opportunity to meet and chat with some of the people you’ve met and chat with before, but only or mostly electronically…
The big highlight of the conference for me was the Open Data track where I spent most of my time and where I’ve seen some of the most interesting ideas developed. It was very much invaded by people from the BBC, but only because they have so much cool projects being developed, e.g. the BBC Backstage. Too bad some of their content licenses are UK-restricted, but I guess I can understand the reasons; I only wish France Televisions and Radio France had this type of combination of open-mindness and technology-awareness. I also particularly liked the two presentations that show how Web technologies could be directly used as tools for civic usage, with the annotated European constitution project and the directory of British parliamentarians, both showing how getting access to political data and giving access to these data can make a difference.
More techy but really awesome was Jon Towbridge’s presentation of Beagle; not only Jon’s presentation style was really engaging, but also the topic of the talk was of real interest to me: I’ve tried and installed Beagle on my computer a few times already, although it never completely worked, the first glimpses of it were really promising — I should probably try to install the latest release. In any case, Beagle sounds plenty of prospectives; I guess if Beagle and Piggy-Bank could be interfaced somehow, a whole new type of interactions between the desktop applications and the Web could start to appear. Of course, GRDDL should be part of the equation…
I also attended a few talks on the Browser Technology track, whose mere existence is a sure sign that browsers are fashionable again…. I mainly saw demonstrations of the technologies at work in Mozilla (XUL, XBL, and the very promising XTF). It also was an opportunity for me eventually to see what the dreaded <canvas> tag was about; I guess I still fail to understand how this new non-standard element can bring anything new to the Web (since it seems to be pretty much less useful than SVG tiny), while it’s fairly easy to see what it can remove from it (accessibility, machine processing, etc.). It looks like an example of technology for technology-sake, as far as I can tell.
In this same track, I saw Steven Pemberton’s presentation of XHTML 2 (which meanwhile was recently updated) and found that he made a pretty convincing demonstration of where this new version of XHTML fits. Although I’m not a big fan of languages wars, the claims that XHTML 2 would be more accessible, and more semantics-rich than the currently deployed versions of HTML are, certainly seemed grounded to me.
I couldn’t attend the WHATWG vision of the future of HTML since that was right at the time where I was presenting my own talk on GRDDL — while most of the conference participants were precisely watching Ian’s talk on HTML, I still got some 40-ish attendants to my talk, which I think went OK. It’s hard to me to assess how much the audience as a whole understood the details of GRDDL, but I got at least some interesting questions and manifestations of interest in the technology afterwards. Now that the conference is over, the paper that accompanies my proposal is available as part of the proceedings, and also in a more up-to-date version on the W3C site. I try to develop there what role GRDDL can play in terms of bridging the various communities using and creating semantics on the Web.
I guess I need to start thinking what I could present next year if I don’t want to miss the conference then!