Now that the Whidbey and Yukon projects have passed some milestones, the team weblogs are starting to show some activity again. Derek Denney-Brown writes down a quick “XML for non-geeks” explanation inspired by a conversation with our admin. Bookmark it for the next time you have to field that dreaded “what is it exactly that you do?” question from friends or family! Arpan Desai posts his thoughts on the rather interesting marketing campaign of an XQuery tools vendor who wants you all to demand XQuery support in .NET 2.0. From what I know of how things work around here, that’s not going to happen even if Bill Gates himself signs the petition — the feature list is frozen, schedules are set, and lots of other plans depend on .NET 2.0 coming out on time and with rock-solid quality. Also, Dave Remy offers a post with a somewhat intimidating title “The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Does program language “centricity” limit you?“, but don’t worry he makes it all quite clear and relevant.
Arpan’s post touches on a couple of other points worth expanding on. First, I’ve noticed some comments on other posts where we discussed .NET 2.0 features indicating that people expect Microsoft to support all the XML standards as soon as they start to have stable drafts. It’s true that was the approach in the late ’90s when there were only a handful of specs and essentially no widely deployed tools to implement them. Things have changed — there are thousands and thousands of pages of XML specs at various degrees of de facto and de jure standardization, there are dozens of tools on a wide variety of platforms to support one or more of them, and lots of real business being transacted with XML today. For the .NET framework itself, Microsoft will implement the most important and proven specs at a very high level of conformance, performance, and security. For other spec which are not yet Recommendations, or those which have not yet proven their worth to a substantial community, we encourage specialist companies, non-commercial projects, or individuals to support them within the .NET ecosystem. For example, XQuery is already supported in the .NET environment by the SAXON.NET project. If you’re a user needing XSLT 2 or XQuery draft support in .NET, check them out and help them out with the work. If you’re a commercial outfit, offer your product for the .NET platform or as a VisualStudio.NET plugin. I can’t promise that MS won’t eventually support some particular spec in core technology, but I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a lot of interesting niches in the XML and .NET ecosystems that we won’t be trying to fill ourselves.
Another one of Arpan’s points that I want to stress concerns how MS goes about choosing which XML technologies to focus on. Feedback from users and customers is a big part of that process. We look forward to seeing the results of petition being circulated to support XQuery, because we’re trying to decide what to do about that spec once the Recommendation is final, which we hope will happen early next year. We want to hear from you however it’s easiest to do so — sign the petition, fine … but better yet post a comment here, or use the contact form to send something privately. Better still, if you have the skill set and vision to help us drive XML support in a direction you would prefer, send us a resume — we are definitely looking for skilled and visionary XML toolsmiths.
Dave Remy‘s post ties in here by stressing importance of learning to think in terms of multiple XML and software languages, and mentioning the most valuable “fringe benefit” that MS offers – the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest people in the business. (I remember chatting with Rem about listening to his graduate-level data structures prof in the evening then discussing those same concepts with Anders Hejlsberg at work the next day.) He concludes ” Are you limiting yourself by focusing exclusively on one language?” In WebData XML group, we’re trying to learn the XML equivalent of the “20 words for snow”  to help developers work with it most effectively. XQuery is definitely part of the vocabulary, and we’re trying to figure out how central it will be. There is a lot of XML technology that has been standardized, but even more which has not been invented yet.
Mike Champion [quick revision to add a link to Derek’s piece]
 Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be an urban legend. Remy points to http://rec-puzzles.org/new/sol.pl/trivia/eskimo.snow which has a rebuttal. Obviously I have no idea which side is correct.