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Tim Bray: Ongoing

james hörner

tim Bray is a perennial figure of the web, and his typical bio is frighteningly full of accomplishment: He was manager of the New Oxford English Dictionary Project at the University of Waterloo, a co-editor of the XML spec, co-founder of Open Text Corporation, and is the founder and CTO of Antarctica Systems. Tim was recently nominated to the W3C Consortium's Technical Architecture Group, which serves an architectural oversight function for the Web. To put it simply, his efforts change the way we work with, and perceive, information. He is also a perceptive writer and takes lovely pictures of his garden in Vancouver.

cancon
you're a proponent of standardization in technology, particularly with your work on xml and ongoing involvement with other emerging tech standards. what are some non-tech things in society you'd like to see standardized?

Tim Bray
Nothing.

cancon
through your company Antarctica you're working on better ways to visualize information. given your endless hours of pondering the concept of visualization, what is your perception an ideal future human/technology interface?

Tim Bray
Nobody knows. I used to be heavily Gibson-influenced, but first I made serious attempts to build immersive cyberspaces (I succeeded; they just weren't interesting), and secondly, purposely addicted myself to a couple of immersive MMPORG videogames, then got bored, and now I'm less convinced that 3D works outside anything but a fantasy/gaming environment. For the moment I'm betting on cartography, but trying to see more than a year or so ahead in this game is just nuts.

cancon
after decades of work with computers, how do you feel they've impacted your life?

Tim Bray
They saved me from a life of low-paid unrewarding work, since I have no other discernable talents. Outside of work, I conduct a majority of my personal relationships via email.

cancon
after starting your own company, what suggestions would you have for someone considering going that path?

Tim Bray
Well, parts of it very unpleasant; in particular the process of getting financed. Then sometimes you have to fire people or lay them off. And often you strike out - 80% of all businesses started in Canada fail. And it's more work than you're going to do at any regular job. Of course, there is the chance of making a lot of money, which we can all relate to. And of course the chance of having an irritating boss is lower if you don't have a boss.

cancon
i read that you were the manager of the New Oxford English Dictionary Project at the University of Waterloo in 1987. in what ways did that project alter your ideas around language (and human systems in general)?

Tim Bray
Before I took that job on I knew nothing about lexicography and very little about linguistics. On the technical side, I knew almost nothing about searching, or about processing nonlinear data structures. Now I know quite a lot about all those things. They are things worth knowing about. So rather than altering ideas, it gave me a lot where I hadn't had any before.

cancon
everyone has their favourite things to do in Vancouver - where would you send a first time visitor with a weekend to spare?

Tim Bray
Hmm... the Museum of Anthropology, with side-trips to the Nitobe Gardens and (if vigorous) Wreck Beach. Lighthouse Park. Nat Bailey stadium if there's a game on. Parker Place in Richmond. The harbor, to watch the container cranes do their stuff. One of the many undiscovered great sushi joints. Pretty conventional, eh?

cancon
what's one question you've always wanted to be asked?

Tim Bray
Three days later, I have no suggestions.


james hörner edits canadian content

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