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Bits from the DPL (Debian and OASIS)

The following posting has been contributed by Mark Johnson, Debian's
representative at OASIS, the Organization for the Advancement of
Structured Information Standards.

Debian's Activity at OASIS

This document highlights the Debian project's involvement with OASIS
over the last year.


OASIS (the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information
Standards) [1] is a not-for-profit, global consortium that drives the
development and convergence of XML-based e-business and related
standards.  OASIS standards of particular interest to Debian include
DocBook [2], the SGML catalog standard [3] (aka TR9401:1997), and the
XML Catalog specification [4].

Debian has been an OASIS member organization for almost two years,
with limited, but active representation by a few Debian developers.

The Importance of the Debian OASIS Membership

The OASIS membership is important for a number of reasons.  Debian is
currently the only non-commercial GNU/Linux distribution with
representation at OASIS, thereby bringing a unique perspective to
OASIS.  Furthermore, Debian is the only 'free' software organization
with any representation at this standards organization, and hence
provides the only 'free' software voice at OASIS.

Of more immediate importance, though, are the direct benefits that
Debian derives from its OASIS membership.  Debian is very much a
standards-oriented organization, so having direct input into the
development standards with which Debian will have to comply can have a
significant impact on the standards implementation process.

Through our membership we have direct influence into the process of
standards development.  This benefit has proved particularly
beneficial in the development of the XML Catalogs specification.
During a key period of work on this specification, two of the seven
committee members were from the Debian project.  As a result, the
final specification will be more easily implementable on Debian than
it otherwise might've been.

Similarly, representation on the DocBook Technical Committee has also
proved beneficial to Debian.  For example, DocBook TC member Mark
Johnson played a key role in adding a new <package> element to
DocBook.  Although these direct contributions may not seem
significantly substantial, of equal importance is the role that Debian
members play in shaping a standard, sometimes taking a strong position
against a standing proposal.  Our membership truly makes a difference
that mutually benefits both Debian and OASIS.

In summary, through membership on key OASIS committees, Debian is in a
position to monitor and help steer the standards process.  Due to our
contribution, the quality of the standards that emerge are higher and
the results are more implementable.  As a result, we are able to
implement the standards more quickly, improving the quality of Debian

Debian Involvement in OASIS Activities

  Debian and the XML Catalogs Specification

  After joining the OASIS Entity Resolution Technical Committee (TC)
  Debian developers Ardo van Rangelrooij and Mark Johnson made
  significant contributions to the XML Catalogs specification in the
  first half of 2003.  This specification is of fundamental importance
  for locating XML resources in the filesystem, such as is required to
  validate XML documents.

  In addition to contributing directly to the content of the
  specification, work is also underway in constructing supporting
  materials for the specification, some of which will contain the
  Debian XML Catalogs system as a sample implementation of the

  After this period of elevated activity, Ardo van Rangelrooij changed
  his committee status to that of Observer, in order to devote his
  energies to other projects.

  Another Debiag developer, Adam Di Carlo, recently joined the Entity
  Resolution TC, and will soon have voting privileges on the

  Debian and the DocBook Technical Committee

  Mark Johnson has been an active member of the DocBook TC since mid
  2002, and is engaged in the further development of the DocBook
  family of schema.  His membership provides Debian with a means of
  direct involvement in the development of DocBook, which has now
  become the de facto standard for open source documentation.  Adam Di
  Carlo recently joined the DocBook TC, where his efforts will nicely
  complement his work at the DocBook Open Repository [5].

An Open Invitation to Debian Developers

It is important that all Debian developers understand that they are
welcome to join _any_ OASIS Technical Committee in which they are
interested and are encouraged to do so.

We could make better use of our membership by being more involved in
other committees which may have an impact on Debian in the future.
For instance, the PKI technical committee is trying to work out
standards for a common and secure PKI infrastructure.  There are many
other technical committees which are infrastructural: XDI Technical
Committee, eXtensible Access Control Markup Language TC, Directory
Services Markup Language TC, etc., etc.  Our membership in OASIS gives
Debian developers access to these groups, access which can be
exploited to to increase the chance of the standard being a success,
to raise the profile of Debian developers, and to improve Debian
itself. We believe this capability is being under-utilized.

For information on how to join an OASIS Technical Committee, contact
Mark Johnson <mrj@debian.org>.

OASIS-related Mailing List

A new mailing list has been created on Alioth [6] for the purpose of
forwarding all OASIS messages received by Mark Johnson, the official
Debian delegate to OASIS.  Interested developers can subscribe to the
list to keep informed about OASIS activity.  The list can also serve
as a forum for discussing Debian/OASIS related issues.


[1] http://www.oasis-open.org
[2] http://www.oasis-open.org/docbook
[3] http://www.oasis-open.org/specs/tr9401.html
[4] http://www.oasis-open.org/committees/download.php/4952/wd-entity-xml-catalogs-1.0_2e.html
[5] http://sourceforge.net/projects/docbook/
[6] http://lists.alioth.debian.org/mailman/listinfo/debian-xml-sgml-oasis

Martin Michlmayr

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