Liam Quin

Work Experience

I’ve worked at a number of companies, learned things, done things, made things, broken things, cried, laughed.

I’ve been paid to write XSLT transformations professionally, and also XProc pipelines, as well as being in the respective Working Groups.

At the W3C I’ve participated in many Working Groups including the CSS Working Group, the SVG Working Group, for a while chaired the XSL-FO Working Group and edited the specification, and have designed and formatted printed books, technical manuals, posters, slideshows and other material using CSS for print as well as troff and other software.

I was the W3C staff representative for the XQuery Working Group for more than sixteen years; I also helped with development of XSD version 1.1.

I was part of the IETF working group that first standardized HTML in 1994/5; later I was an Invited Expert on the W3C XML Working Group (then called the Web SGML Working Group), developing XML.

W3C / MIT 2001–2018

My primary rôle at W3C was to shepherd the XML family of specifications, including XML itself, XML namespaces, XML Schema, XPath,XSLT, XSL, XQuery, XProc, EXI and others, to become W3C Recommendations, ensuring as much as possible compatibility between specifications, encouraging people to participate, send comments, implement. This work involved travel to meetings, speaking at conferences, mediating conflicts and disputes, teaching and writing.

When the XML standardization work at W3C came to an end I worked in other areas for a while, including CSS, SVG, digital publishing, Verifiable Claims and more, but my primary focus was XML for documents, and how information is represented digitally.

Groveware Inc., 1998–1999

I was brought in to lead the development team in this small startup. Unfortunately the venture capitalist turned out to have much less money than he'd promised and the company had to shrink, but we did ship product.

The software used an object-oriented database (POET).

SoftQuad Inc., 1990–1997

SoftQuad Inc. was originally a Toronto-based producer of text formatting software aimed at small Canadian publishing companies. By the time I joined in 1989/90 as a programmer they were also producing an SGML-based word processor, Author/Editor, out of an office in Surrey, British Columbia. I ended up leading the small division that made custom versions of the editor for clients; I’d visit the clients with sales staff and help design solutions to their business needs.

I was technical lead for HoTMetaL, a free HTML editor and one of the very first commercial products for the Web. I also led the introduction of SoftQuad Panorama, a Netscape plugin for viewing complex and potentially large SGML documets on the Web. This product was one of the influences that led to the creation of XML.

Consulting 1998–2018

I’ve done consulting since leaving SoftQuad (MIT encourages staff to do consulting work and to keep involvement with industry, so I still do it).

I’ve worked on XSLT stylesheets for scientific and technical journals, for documentation, for encyclopedias and more. I’ve even written a preprocessor used in the production of aircraft manuals.

Unixsys (UK) Ltd., 1986–1990

Unixsys (UK) was a branch of a French company that sold computers that ran Unix. I was taken on to port a product we sold, SoftQuad troff, to different versions of Unix on different hardware. This product sold moderately well in the UK for a while and also was my introduction to SoftQuad and hence later to SGML and generic markup.

While here, I also wrote a text retrieval system that was freely redistributed and enjoyed some popularity for a few years. I later discovered it was one of the fastest and most efficient such systems when someone doing comparisons benchmarked it along with several commercial systems.

I left because I was sent as a consultant to SoftQuad in Toronto and decided to stay. For one thing I thought computer networking was going to be important, and there was tons of research going on in that area in Toronto and hardly any where I was working in the UK at the time. Ironically enough, this was the year the World Wide Web was invented.

Compeda Ltd. 1982

Compeda was a firm selling a huge Fortran computer aided design system for building nuclear power stations or designing helicopters. I worked there for one Summer when I was an undergraduate, and I mention it here mostly because exposure to computer aided design turned out to be useful later.

Used Primos, CAD software, innovated a graphics-tablet-based documetation framework.

Warwick University 1984–1986

After graduating in computer science from Warwick University in the UK, I worked for a while for Professor David Epstein in the department of mathematics; I typset the proceedings of a conference on algebraic topology using troff and eqn and refer; refer is a full-text system for managing bibliographies that gave me an interest in automated text processing. In order to produce the book I ended up modifying eqn especially, but the other programs too, and made a Warwick distribution of troff.