The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference is this week in the Bay Area. I've attended a couple other O'Reilly conferences and really like them. They push at the edges of what is truly emerging technology in a way that other conferences don't. They are also profoundly geeky, so you dig down into lots of minutia which is often (but not always) both entertaining and very revealing.
The conference just got started today with a set of tutorials. I attended a tutorial on the Web Services Stack which maybe took the minutia thing a little bit too far. But in the course of presenting the details of implementing a web service, Sam Ruby of IBM's Emerging Technologies Group, pointed to a great piece by Cory Doctorow.
Cory's essay is officially titled Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia. It is a basic indictment of the idea that by empowering metadata and better metadata standards we will solve all interoperability woes. According to Cory, the utopian view of metadata falls apart because: 1) people lie; 2) people are lazy; 3) people are stupid; 4) mission: impossible -- know thyself [people are lousy observers of their own behavior]; 5) schemas aren't neutral; 6) metrics influence results; and 7) there's more than one way to describe something. I completely agree with Cory; metadata in and of itself won't solve the problems of interoperability. Which is why the combination of SOAP, .Net, WSDL, WS-Inspections, UDDI, etc. are so useful. They allow metadata to be imperfect yet still create interoperation between disparate systems. This stuff is powerful and getting more so every day.