Re: Augmented Metadata in XHTML

From: Murray Altheim (
Date: Wed Jun 27 2001 - 15:25:07 PDT

Frode Hegland wrote:
> Users will continue to use HTML editors for quote a while yet. That just
> seems like a reality. So getting translators together for different types
> of HTML documents looks like the first issue.

Yes, this is my assumption as well. We need to take baby steps at the
user level, and hopefully provide the tools to allow the version of
HTML-in-XML called XHTML to perform the transition to a more intelligent
approach to authoring, maintenance, distribution and interaction. Sort
of like some of the ideas in Doug Englebart's H-LAM/T system coming
slowly to life. We need to nurse the community along and demonstrate
at each step of the way that things function, otherwise we'll be
accused of hand waving. We need to keep this grounded in what can be
accomplished, with our eyes not on the master's finger, but on the
moon he's pointing at.

> Then there's the magic part. When it's in XML, it's database
> manipulatable and you wizards here can make it fly and dance and sing.
> This is where I see a lot of effort in discussions at this point but I'm
> concerned it might not be the place for such intense mental activity
> right now, until we get the input and output stages done. And yes, I'm
> using an asbestos email program so comment on that as severely as you all
> like :)

No, I think you're on track. I just read over a paper by Lee Iverson
on the NODAL project, and I'm trying to figure out how it fits into
very similar ideas I've had on component-based documents. Simple ones.
His subsetting of the grove model is a good start, IMO. I look forward
to talking with him over the next few weeks. I feel things are starting
to gel. I'm very excited, and Lee's paper read like a thriller. Honestly.

I'm considering creating a complement to a Topic Map syntax, called a
Sequence Map. This would be an XML serialization of a specific linear
view of a document. The document might be XHTML, might be an XTM topic
map, might be DocBook, etc. There could be different Sequence Maps for
any given document. This reminds me a bit of the multiple dimensions
of Hytime, but like Lee I am prone to want to keep things "radically

> And then there's the viewing stage which to me seems like JavaScript
> solutions to access the XML data and present it to the user. You want to
> attach a glossary to this document? Done. You want comments being able to
> be inserted? Only view first line? Have it all backwards? Done. Working
> with the XML data and support files, this will be the fun stuff.

JavaScript? I hope not. I expect a document compositor to be built from
more solid materials, such as a good metadata registry and database
repository (perhaps ebXML's, which Sun will release as an implementation
in July into open source), probably an XSLT engine to create the view
document, etc.

The tools are thankfully almost all available now to do a great deal
of this, in ways that even follow existing standards. We hopefully
won't have to invent much, perhaps just subset some overly complicated
specs for our own needs (but remaining compatible). I fed Lee's paper
to the engineer here who's most responsible for the ebXML RegRep code,
and he's very excited too. I can't guarantee any management buy-in
(we don't have that "flush-with-cash" attitude around here much lately),
but we can still possibly pull off something very cool.

Jack seems adept at Java-based GUIs, so we can perhaps whip up some
sort of open source viewer. He may already have much of this done, in
a sense. This I expect would be a place for companies to compete, but
we could create the "NCSA Mosaic of the Semantic Web" with such an
application; something to be improved, but demonstrably functional,
with well-documented features and APIs. I think at least Jack and Lee
and I are on the same page here. Probably Eugene and Howard too, if
we beat it out of them.

> Please have a look at our playing around so far to see if it gels with
> you guys. Have a look at:
> &

Thanks for the links. I'll look these over.

> BTW.
> I copied this in to Steve, my project manger and Jan, chief genius Java
> man as they are the ones doing the real work with me here.

Does this mean that at some point if our visions turn out to have
mutually beneficial paths, we might get some commitment on resources?
That perhaps you'd donate a component? That would be great! We have
a meeting in Menlo Park tomorrow where I expect we'll discuss some of
these issues in more detail.

Thanks very much,


Murray Altheim, SGML/XML Grease Monkey <mailto:altheim&#64;>
XML Technology Center
Sun Microsystems, 1601 Willow Rd., MS UMPK17-102, Menlo Park, CA 94025

     i am going to see if i cannot reform insects in general
     i have constituted myself a missionary extraordinary
     and minister plenipotentiary and entomological to bring
     idealism to the little struggling brothers -- archy (1927)

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