The SGML Europe Conference 1995

By Philippe Wattecamps

SGML BeLux, Vol. 2, N° 2

Held for the second time in Gmunden (Austria), the SGML Europe '95 conference did see some important changes this year. Principally, the conference itself changed, by including more participatory workshops where attendees could really share their experiences, and by introducing point/counterpoint sessions where attendees could get different points of view on a specific subject. But also the attendance changed, with more than 300 people coming mainly from the Northern part of Europe and clearly more knowledgeable about SGML or HTML.

The opening session and the first day sessions

As usually, the two keynote speakers tried to find amusing ways of presenting their speeches. Yuri Rubinsky in his "The practice of SGML: Art or science ?" showed us how SGML has grown in the last couple of years thanks to the high rate at which excellent products appear, to the increasing number of industries exploring and adopting SGML as a document standard, and of course to the success of the World Wide Web. He also noticed that in mainstream computing magazines, the term SGML does not get an immediate explanation. Some consider SGML an art, others consider it a science. The conclusion of Yuri was that everybody has his own opinion about it and that how SGML is being used depends on the context of our company.

After explaining to us how to choose a conference site (see the touristic section of this newsletter), the second speaker Dr. Charles Goldfarb, reviewed the present state of the different standards (SGML, HyTime, DSSSL), discussed some new trends in the SGML field (WWW, ...) and had a very brief look to the future of SGML. The important news he had to offer is that after many years of careful deliberation, DSSSL is now ready for publication.

Robert Cailliau, from CERN, explained us (using a Web browser) what HTML is, what it can be used for and how a fully SGML-based Web would enhance the information access capabilities of the Web. The last speaker, Koen Mulder, compared his predictions made six years ago, also in Gmunden, with the current situation in the publishing industry.

The afternoon sessions provided the attendees three topics of interest:

Point/counterpoint sessions

The point/counterpoint sessions are new to the SGML Europe conference, but were appreciated by a lot of attendees because they try to tackle a specific problem from two opposing angles. The following sessions were held:

The major problem of the point/counterpoint sessions is clearly to find speakers that really believe in the approach they have to defend. All of the speakers coming from industry keep their role until the end of their talk, but the speakers coming from the vendors' side seem a bit too elastic.


Two series of workshops were planned during two afternoons of the conference. The general objective of a workshop was to present a subject to the audience and discuss about it during one or two hours. If most of the workshops were oriented towards an open discussion, some speakers allowed only limited interactivity.

Since I did not take part in all of the workshops, I won't summarize them but I will only give you the title of the workshops. A first series included:

A second series of workshops discussed the following subjects:

The closing session

The idea behind the closing session was to have a panel which would show the attendees the many opportunities for the use of SGML in industry. And indeed, many of the speakers and the industries they represented were already busy with projects implementing SGML. The projects discussed covered the semiconductor, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industry, as well as developments in aviation companies and automobile firms. All of these presentations were interesting, but unfortunately the speakers did have not enough time to really enter into their subjects. Perhaps an idea for the next SGML Conference ...

See you next year in Munchen (Germany) in May.

latest update: November 21 1995
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