How to cite this paper

Pemberton, Steven. “Serialisation, abstraction, and XML applications.” Presented at Balisage: The Markup Conference 2012, Montréal, Canada, August 7 - 10, 2012. In Proceedings of Balisage: The Markup Conference 2012. Balisage Series on Markup Technologies, vol. 8 (2012).

Balisage: The Markup Conference 2012
August 7 - 10, 2012

Balisage Paper: Serialisation, abstraction and XML applications

Steven Pemberton

W3C / CWI Amsterdam

Steven Pemberton is a researcher at the CWI, the Dutch national research centre for mathematics and computer science, chair of the Forms Working Group at W3C, and a member of the OASIS ODF technical committee. He has been involved with the web from the beginning, organising two workshops at the first web conference in 1994, and chairing the first W3C Style Sheets workshop in 1995. He chaired the HTML Working Group for a decade. He is co-author of amongst others HTML 4, CSS, XHTML, XForms and RDFa. For more information see


In principle the advantages of abstraction in programming are well understood. Yet daily interactions with everyday objects can lead us to confuse the concrete with the abstract, and think that the thing we are dealing with *is* the abstraction. Getting the right level of abstraction can have profound consequences. I believe that there are things we are struggling with today that are the consequences of a mistake in an abstraction made in the 1970's. This talk will be about data abstractions, and how we use them in XML applications, with a passing reference to the developments in XForms 2.0, and how declarative applications can make your life easier (or save you money, depending on who's doing the actual work).