Edd Dumbill on XTech 2005

XTech 2005 presents itself as “the premier European conference for developers and managers working with XML and Web technologies, bringing together the worlds of web development, open source, semantic web and open standards.” Edd Dumbill, XTech 2005 Conference Chair answered our questions about this conference previously known as XML Europe. This interview has been published in French on XMLfr.

vdV: XTech was formally known as XML Europe, what are the motivations for changing its name?

Edd: As the use of XML broadens out beyond traditional core topics, we want to reflect that in the conference. As well as XML, XTech 2005 will cover web development, the semantic web and more. XML’s always been about more than just the core, but we felt that having “XML” in the name made some people feel the conference wasn’t relevant to them. The two new tracks, Browser Technology and Open Data, aren’t strictly about XML topics at all.

vdV: In the new name (XTech), there is no mention of Europe, does that mean that the conference is no longer or less European?

Edd: Not at all! Why should “Europe” be a special case anyway? Even as XML Europe, we’ve always had a fair number of North American speakers and participants. I don’t see anything changing in this regard.

vdV: After a period where every event, product or company tried to embed “XML” in their name, the same events are now removing any reference to XML. How do you analyse this trend?

Edd: It’s a testament to the success of XML. As XML was getting better known, everybody knew it was a good thing and so used it as a sign in their names. Now XML is a basic requirement for many applications, it’s no longer remarkable in that sense.

vdV: How would you compare the 12 different track keys of XML Europe 2004 (ranging from Content Management to Legal through Government and Electronic Busines) and the 4 tracks of XTech 2005 (Core technologies, Applications, Browser technologies and Open data).

Edd: The switch to four clearly defined tracks is intended to help both attendees and speakers. The twelve tracks from before weren’t always easy to schedule in an easy-to-understand way, leading to a “patchwork” programme. Some of the previous tracks only had a handful of sessions in them anyway.

In addition to making the conference easier to understand, we get an opportunity to set the agenda as well as reflect the current practice. Take the new “Open Data” track as an example. There are various areas in which data is being opened up on the internet: political and government (theyrule.net, electoral-vote.com, theyworkforyou.com), cultural ( BBC Creative Archive), scientific and academic (Open Access). Many of the issues in these areas are the same, but there’s never been a forum bringing the various communities together.

vdV: Isn’t there a danger that the new focus on Web technologies becomes a specialisation and reduces that scope?

Edd: I don’t think that’s a danger. In fact, web technology is as much a part of the basic requirement for companies today as XML is, and it’s always been a running theme through the XML Europe conferences.

What we’re doing with the Browser Technology track is reflected the growing importance of decent web and XML-based user interfaces. Practically everybody needs to built web UIs these days, and practically everybody agrees the current situation isn’t much good. We’re bringing together, for the first time, everybody with a major technology offering here: W3C standards implementors, Mozilla, Microsoft. I hope again that new ideas will form, and attendees will get a good sense of the future


vdV: Does the new orientation means that some of the people who have enjoyed last XML Europe 2004 might not enjoy XTech 2005?

Edd: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think they’ll enjoy it more because it will be more relevant to their work. Part of the reasoning in expanding the conference’s remit is the realisation that core XML people are always working with web people, and that any effort to archive or provide public data will heavily involve traditional XML topics. So we’re simply bringing together communities that always work closely anyway, to try and get a more “joined up” conference.

vdV: In these big international conferences, social activities are often as important as the sessions. What are your plans to encourage these activities?

Edd: The first and most important thing is the city, of course! Amsterdam is a great place to go out with other people.

We’ll be having birds-of-a-feather lunch tables, for ad-hoc meetings at lunch time. Additionally, there’ll be dinner sign-up sheets and restaurant suggestions. I’m personally not very keen on having formal evening conference sessions when we’re in such a great city, but I do want a way for people to meet others with common interests.

I’m also thinking about having a conference Wiki, where attendees can self-organise before arriving in Amsterdam.

vdV: Wireless access can play a role in these social activities (people can share their impression in real time using IRC channels, blogs and wikis). Will the conference be covered with wireless?

Edd: I really hope so. The RAI center are in the process of rolling out wireless throughout their facility, but unfortunately haven’t been able to say for sure.

Wireless internet is unfortunately very expensive, and we would need a sponsor to get free wireless throughout the conference. If anybody’s reading this and interested, please get in touch.

vdV: What topics would you absolutely like to see covered?

Edd: I think what I wrote in the track descriptions page at http://www.xtech-conference.org/2005/tracks.asp is a good starting point for this.

vdV: What topics would you prefer to leave away?

Edd: I don’t want to turn any topics away before proposals have been made. All proposed abstracts are blind reviewed by the reviewing team, so there’s a fair chance for everybody.

vdV: What is your best souvenir from the past editions of XML Europe?

Edd: I always love the opening sessions. It’s very gratifying to see all the attendees and to get a great sense of expectation about what will be achieved over the next three days.

vdV: What is your worse souvenir from the past editions of XML Europe?

Edd: The bad snail I ate in Barcelona — the ride over the bumpy road to the airport after the conference was agony!

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