Boston in Winter

I’m here in Boston at a WebAPI Working Group meeting, along with several other WGs. I arrived yesterday afternoon, and headed toward my hotel on the rattletrap subway (part of the “T”… the nation’s oldest mass transportation system, and looks every day of it). The closest stop was across the river from the hotel, so I walked the Boston University Bridge across the Charles River… the river was frozen over, and geese were gathered on the ice. I was pleasantly surprised that it has not been that cold, though when the wind blows it is numbing.

We’re gathered at MIT, in the Stata Center, a misbegotten piece of architecture that looks like it’s a Transformer caught midway between building and airplane forms. I’d hoped to attend the WAF meeting here as well, earlier in the week, but there was just too much to do at work. As it was, I wasn’t quite done with my project (adding annotation functionality to some pregenerated charts), and the short plane rides just weren’t enough time to finish it (I stayed up late last night to dot the i’s and turn it in). I just barely got to my hotel before it was time for me to rush to MIT for the reception. I find that these joint gatherings are really useful… you get to network with others in the W3C, find out what else is going on outside your own corner of the Web, and find opportunities for collaborative efforts that bind the standards world together. Several old friends and acquaintances are here, including Chaals, Anne, and Kjetil from Opera (first time I met Kjetil IRL), Nandini from Sun (the co-chair of the SVG WG), Arun from AOL, and Jim from just about everywhere… as well as lots of other smart people I don’t know quite as well. I also exchanged a few words with Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the energetic creator of the World Wide Web, who I’d met once before in Mandelieu, France.

WebAPI is concerned with the programming interfaces (events and methods) that script programmers use in Web development, while WAF is sort of a grab-bag of different higher-level programming languages and formats. In WebAPI, we reviewed the current state of our specification deliverables, and took steps to move a couple of them forward. One of those steps was a silly debate about what the names for some methods would be (some favored shorter names that are easier to type, while I was in the camp that preferred more descriptive albeit longer names… the decision came down on the latter, but I suspect the debate isn’t over). Another spec was waiting on a module to handle keyboard events –an issue with a lot of gotchas and thorny legacy problems, the different kinds of keyboards ranging from non-English keyboards to mobile phone soft keys– and I reluctantly volunteered to split that module off into its own spec, so we could move DOM3 Events forward. I don’t relish working on this spec, since it will involve aligning with a dilapidated patchwork of old interfaces that I personally feel should be discarded in favor of moving forward with a more sensible solution, but legacy content does need to be supported when possible. We also held liaisons with other groups, including SVG, which handed off some bits of its spec in order to concentrate on graphics, and which needs those bits to move forward apace. I was pleased to see Microsoft in attendance in the person of Travis, our newest WG member, and to have the participation of the likes of Marcos (hyperproductive WAF member).

I’ll be here the next couple of days, and hope to see some local friends while I’m here.