Fresh from the Semantic Technologies Conference, which was flat-out inspiring. People are solving real problems in powerful new ways.
incomprehension (with rare candor) because they care about the result. They want it to work right. Some of the attendees were in on the cultivation of markup as a concept, so they get markup as only those who saw the bare dirt can.
"I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honour bestowed upon them."
— Plato's as translated by Benjamin Jowett
Most conferences serve a particular community. For instance, the attendees at Content Management Strategies are all on the same wavelength. ("We want reuse!") Not so at the OASIS Symposium, where attendees have a common means (XML standards) for a multitude of goals. The diversity of human endeavor can be a bit mind boggling. NIST naming and design rules, SAML swimlanes, Business Process messaging -- who knew? Which has a less delightful dark side: who could know it all? And without a know-it-all, does this important work end up constructing an acronymic Tower of Babel? Does a standard that solves a specific problem in isolation creates integration problems elsewhere? That question came to the front more than once.
A common shock in this virtual world is the first in-person encounter with someone you've known by email or phone. First, the double vision - your mental image contradicting the tangible person before you. Then the switch, and the person before you becomes the one you knew all along. That good rewiring has happened a lot here at the CMS Conference, along with catching up with folk from previous encounters.
The conference had one track with an official DITA focus, but as people talked about their Content Management strategies in the management, technical, and demo tracks, DITA kept coming up. (I'm tempted to try to make capping remarks about that other, East Coast DITA conference, but the people who went to both said they were glad they did and neither conference sticks to the one coast anyway.) The conversation has shifted from curious buzz ("What's a DITA good for? Will it clean my carpets while I'm away?") to experience ("Well, I don't see that it's necessary to centralize all of my conref targets"). Lots of case studies, progress reports, and lessons learned along with an optimism that we can make more progress - the highlights including insights from people like France Baril, Frances Gambino, Anna Hartman, and the Research in Motion folks.