Monday, September 20, 2010

Dancing with Data

Well, finally, this blog will start. After so long always planning to start a blog, but never actually doing so, now, my current work on jQuery templates is reaching the point where I really can't 'hide' any longer!

The immediate purpose of this blog, then, will be to share with others what I feel to be the really rich potential of building dynamic Web applications using client-side templates, and in particular, the jQuery Templates I have been working on these past four months or so. But more broadly, I hope to share aspects of my "Dancing with Data" journey that I think may be interesting to others, or on which I would love to get feedback.

Why "Dancing with Data"?

I referred to my "Dancing with Data" journey, and in fact my journey through life has so often I feel drawn me into a fascination with apparent opposites. Dance and Data. Order and Chaos, Mathematics and Music, Science and Spirituality.

I studied mathematics at college, went on to do research studies in theoretical physics (actually twistor theory) under Roger Penrose, then, rather than submit my doctoral thesis, went off in a different direction, getting involved in working in experimental theater and voice work, with the Roy Hart Theatre, and soon after, moving from the UK to France with the theater company, and also playing clarinet and composing music for theater performances.

Then, some time later, music took me back to mathematics, in a sense: For a music composition I was working on, I got my first music software, sampling keyboard, and so on, and from there started to teach myself programming, and began to develop my own music software tools for composition and real-time improvisation. And basically it was music that took me into the world of software development, and ultimately to becoming a professional developer.

So from there, it was "data" too that fascinated me. Not so much data itself, but data-driven applications and UI. In a sense, life itself is data-driven, if you think about genomes and DNA sequences, for example. Yet within that 'prescriptive' concept, so much richness and 'innovation', coming, as it were, from the meeting of chaos with order, through mutations and selection, with the interplay between gene expression and environmental factors. I would almost say that life itself, in fact, is a kind of dance with data.

Right at the beginning of the emergence of XML I created a client-side (in the browser) declarative stylesheet language for transforming XML data fetched from the server, into HTML. This led me to become a member of the XSLT working group on the W3C. - And later, to join Microsoft, where I was a member of the team which created InfoPath before, later, joining the ASP.NET team. And most recently, it led me to be involved in working with the open source community and with jQuery, once again exploring this interplay between data and UI, where the user too is a player, and the result is an interactive responsive application; where the user, too, if you like, is 'dancing with the data'.

Opposites

Opposites then, but through that opposing dialectic, the richness of the interplay. I feel as if my contribution is about bringing together these opposites. Facilitating, in some way. Using my own logical analytic capabilities, but following at the same time some kind of intuitive path, a gut feeling, and seeking the innovative richness that can occur when the goal is not just to compete, or to emulate, (or, dare I say it - in some cases at least - to copy), the competition - rather, the goal is to follow what seems right, what seems to make sense, what seems to be suggested by the underlying patterns, what seems to fit the user need.

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