Projects & Current Interests
Web Publishing: The Next Generation (2005+)
The book creation process has not changed much since the 1990s: it is still a painfully slow, costly process of writing, copy editing, page-proof review and final publication. Why can't this all be done on the Web? Why can't authors, editors and others work collaboratively on the Web to produce better products faster. Isn't this what all those nifty XML/SGML technologies were originally for?
Wikipedia and Wiki Madness: When do Wiki's work? (2005+)
I've been xcited by the success of Wikpedia, but I have wondered if, in the enthusiasm following Wikpedia's success, the Wiki community has forgotten some of the lessons of the past (e.g. the history and benefits of peer review, the difference between individual brilliance and creativity, and the averaging process of wiki authoring). I want to better understand how the Wiki model fits into this historical context, and to better understand where the different approaches are most useful.
HTML / Web Publishing tutorial (1993+. HTML tutorial)
In 1993 I created an online tutorial for HTML and Web publishing, which became in a few months the most popular such tutorial on the Internet. I maintained it until around 2000, and it is still heavily visited. This led to the books that I wrote on this and related topics. I hope someday to upgrade this site, in keeping with my other interests.
... in the Past ...
Data Syndication and Distribution (2000. notes)
Syndication is a core pardigm of web application design: technologies like RSS and Atom provide critical support for the syndication process and syndicated data distribution. In early 2000 I became interested in the issues underlying data distribution and syndication, and started a project, with a University of Toronto graduate student, to look at underlying models for web syndication and data distribution. The unfortunately didn't get beyond the conceptual stage.
Privacy and the Internet (1999. paper (doc | HTML) :: links & references :: presentation)
In 1999 I became interested in the politics of privacy: that is, in how the new Internet technologies were changing the relationship between individuals and businesses or states, making it harder to keep personal information private. I wrote a paper (HTML version, links & references) on the topic, and gave a related conference presentation. I am still interested in this subject, but others are doing a far better job of thinking and writing about privacy than me!
Groveware Inc. (1996-1998)
I too did the Internet startup thing. In 1996 I co-founded Groveware Inc., with my old friend Frank (Francis P.) Jones, and Hrair Achkarian. Our first product was a calendar / event server, built on top of an XML-based document-centric application server we designed. We had an outstanding technical team, led by Justin Wells, the designer of the webmacro servlet templating language (our architecture lead) and Liam Quin, currently the XML Activity lead for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). However, we had management and funding problems, and in 1998 Frank and I (and the technical team) left the company.
Query Engines and Generic Interfaces (1996. report)
While working with the University of Toronto's Computer Systems Research Institute (CSRI) I became interested in how HTML forms could be extended to support generic interfaces to external query systems such as glossaries, dictionaries, navigational tools, and so on. This work was written up as a research report.
Personal Information Organizer (1996. report)
While working with CSRI I had the idea of creating a database of archived web links, and wrote up a description of a proposed solution. Sure wish this had turned into del.icio.us, instead of a just a research report!
Improved Tools for Robot Indexing of Web Resources (1996. notes)
While working on a web indexing problem, I thought it would be useful if web servers could publish metadata about the resources stored on the server, as a guide to indexing systems. Some discussion notes describe the ideas and proposed solution. The solution was not practical, however, since it presumed trust between server and indexing system: as we know today, servers are decidedly untrustworthy in providing indexing (amongst other forms of) information!
In 1995 (when it was hard to do!) I built a not-so-simple web-based system for posting event/seminar notices on the Web. This proved quite popular at the University of Toronto, and is still in use, ten years later. The software and manuals are available under an open source license. The example site is a great place to see what 1996-vintage Web applications look like!
Imagemap standards (1995-96. W3C Note)
In 1995 I became frustrated by the lack of standardized browser (and Web server) handling of HTML imagemapped images when the image was not displayed or not displayable by the browser. So, I documented existing behaviors, and wrote up a set of recommendations for how browser and servers should handle this situation. This document eventually became a formal Note of the World Wide Web Consortium.