Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

But wait, there’s more! | XML Conference

There’s a story that Yuri was once on a sales call with a colleague talking to some potential customers about the benefits of descriptive markup and the virtues of Author/Editor. He was eloquent, and SGML and Author/Editor were in fact a pretty good fit for this particular organization, so the potential customers were very soon persuaded. They began giving the usual signs of being ready to close the deal, but Yuri kept talking, piling advantage upon advantage to the case for descriptive markup and SGML, and eventually they were practically tugging at his arms, reaching into their pockets for their checkbooks, and his colleague was making let’s wrap it up noises, and Yuri turned around, fixed them with his eye, and said But wait. There’s more.

I recently learned about the Contributions of Yuri Rubinsky, and how he was able to influence the course of XML history. His story, it seems, bleeds into the stories of many others. It is often that you will come across his name. That is often in the context of the creation of standards, on the web or otherwise.

Yuri had a thing he would say a lot. It was “But Wait, There’s More.” He would say it when he was explaining something exciting to someone new. But it turns out, according to C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, that it is an apt metaphor for the process of creating standards. Sperberg-McQueen offers two methaphors. The first is a barn raising, a group project that brings togehter many hands to bring a task to full compeltion. Then there’s community farming, an ongoing process that requires hands coming together, like barn raising, but without a clear finish line or goal. There is no completion.

The process of creating standards is like community farming. But we often treat it like barn raising. And if we were able to shift our way of thinking, it would open up new possibilities.