In praise of margins

The fuzzy intersection of official and unofficial data has never been a comfort zone for information technologists. In chapter 4 of Klaus Kaasgaard's Software Design and Usability, Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) alumnus Austin Henderson says that "one of the most brilliant inventions of the paper bureaucracy was the idea of the margin." There was always space for unofficial data, which traveled with the official data, and everybody knew about the relationship between the two. [Full story at]
This column muses on the use of DNS TXT records to implement the latest round of SMTP sender authorization schemes. Everybody feels guilty about not using some new formally-defined DNS resource record type, but everybody also knows that would be a non-starter. So instead we're scribbling in the margins of the DNS, and luckily, DNS has margins available for scribbling.

It strikes me that all of my recent experimentation -- with XHTML microcontent, semantically-oriented CSS, and structured search -- has a similar flavor. I've been looking for ways to scribble in the margins of the Web. Not because it's the right thing to do, but because it's perhaps the only feasible way forward.

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