A tale of two cultures

It's clear that that the future of the Unix-style pipeline lies with Web services. When the XML messages flowing through that pipeline are also XML documents that users interact with directly, we'll really start to cook with gas. But a GUI doesn't just present documents, it also enables us to interact with them. From Mozilla's XUL (XML User Interface Language) to Macromedia's Flex to Microsoft's XAML, we're trending toward XML dialects that define those interactions. Where this might lead is not so clear, but the recently published WSRP (Web Services for Remote Portals) specification may provide a clue. WSRP, like the Java portal systems it abstracts, delivers markup fragments that are nominally HTML, but could potentially be XUL, Flex, or XAML. It's scary to think about combinations of these, so I'm praying for convergence. But I like the trend. XML messages in the pipeline, XML documents carrying data to users, XML definitions of application behavior. If we're going to blend the two cultures, this is the right set of ingredients. [Full story at InfoWorld.com]
My recent stuff has provoked some diametrically opposed reactions. Responding to this column, Dan Kegel wrote:
Jon, you've been drinking too much XML / web services kool-aid. Only clueless analysts and those who wish they could program, but can't, think there's anything novel about "web services". Anything you can do with XML can be done more simply without it; the standards documents associated with XML and "web services" are absolutely mind-numbing. In the meantime, real programmers are getting real work done, and ignoring the analysts.

Meanwhile, in response to the previous week's column, the Kalsey Consulting Group takes me to task from the other direction:

Jon Udell says that intranets should abandon Web services like SOAP and REST in favor of screen scraping XHTML. Hogwash. [Measure Twice Weblog]
Given the "two cultures" theme of last week's column, it's probably fitting that my message can be seen in such different ways. And I'll admit that my eclecticism can seem almost perverse. Last month, I was contacted by someone about a nomination to be a Microsoft MVP, and by someone else about joining a Mozilla advisory board. I don't know if either of these things will pan out, but I'd love it if both did. In his foreword to my 1999 book, Tim O'Reilly wrote something I'll aways cherish:
All too often, people wear their technology affiliations on their sleeve (or perhaps on their T-shirts), much as people did with chariot racing in ancient Rome. Whether you use NT or Linux, whether you program in Perl or Java or Visual Basic -- these are marks of difference and the basis for suspicion. Jon stands above this fragmented world like a giant. He has only one software religion: what works.
I can't think of a better theme for the new year: keep focusing on what works.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/01/01.html#a876