XML and its uses

Discussion in 'XML' started by Zamdrist, Aug 30, 2006.

  1. Zamdrist

    Zamdrist Guest

    At the expense of sounding like a complete newbie and nay-sayer, I have
    not, at least in my field, yet seen a use for XML beyond for the sake
    of itself.

    I work as an IT professional, a database analyst/programmer in the
    legal industry. No one has *ever* asked me for their data in XML and no
    has ever sent me data in XML.

    Is there truly a use for XML beyond using it for the sake of it? Is
    there something XML provides that databases don't otherwise provide
    already? I'm quite aware of the extensive use of XML, especially in
    regards to the web and blogging acitvities. I've read a number of FAQs
    on XML and do understand the basic principles.

    I am however quite chagrined, being in the legal industry, where
    documents and data are churned out like there is no tomorrow, how XML
    has never been even considered.
     
    Zamdrist, Aug 30, 2006
    #1
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  2. Zamdrist wrote:
    > Is there truly a use for XML beyond using it for the sake of it? Is
    > there something XML provides that databases don't otherwise provide
    > already?


    XML is a standard for writing standards for portable data interchange
    representations. It's a substiset of SGML, which had previously been
    used for that purpose (though primarily in the document markup arena.)
    XML has turned out to be remarkably useful as a framework around which
    to build domain-independent data manipulations.

    > I am however quite chagrined, being in the legal industry, where
    > documents and data are churned out like there is no tomorrow, how XML
    > has never been even considered.


    You forgot to say "that I'm aware of" -- and you haven't been looking
    hard enough. The legal code for the state of Tasmania is now being
    maintained in a database system which takes advantage of XML markup, to
    take one particularly visible example.


    --
    Joe Kesselman / Beware the fury of a patient man. -- John Dryden
     
    Joseph Kesselman, Aug 30, 2006
    #2
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  3. Zamdrist

    Zamdrist Guest

    Joseph Kesselman wrote:

    > XML is a standard for writing standards for portable data interchange
    > representations. It's a substiset of SGML, which had previously been
    > used for that purpose (though primarily in the document markup arena.)
    > XML has turned out to be remarkably useful as a framework around which
    > to build domain-independent data manipulations.


    Forgive me but, while that all sounds good, what practical, everyday
    application does what you describe have?

    We had a fairly significant, nationally based client recently ask us to
    send them a report of their data to them, on a regular basis,
    intellectual property law based data. They didn't want their data sent
    to them in XML format...they wanted it in MS Excel.

    > You forgot to say "that I'm aware of" -- and you haven't been looking
    > hard enough. The legal code for the state of Tasmania is now being
    > maintained in a database system which takes advantage of XML markup, to
    > take one particularly visible example.


    Well yes, that I'm aware of. Which is why I explained no one has asked
    for their data, or sent me their data in XML format. No one has even
    inquired about it. Ever. While we are not the biggest IP firm in the
    nation, we are in the top 10 easily.
     
    Zamdrist, Aug 30, 2006
    #3
  4. In article <>,
    Zamdrist <> wrote:

    >Forgive me but, while that all sounds good, what practical, everyday
    >application does what you describe have?


    >We had a fairly significant, nationally based client recently ask us to
    >send them a report of their data to them, on a regular basis,
    >intellectual property law based data. They didn't want their data sent
    >to them in XML format...they wanted it in MS Excel.


    I don't see the connection between those two paragraphs. How does the
    fact that your customers are using Excel have any bearing on whether
    XML has practical applications? At most it tells you about the
    commercial success of XML in some area.

    -- Richard
     
    Richard Tobin, Aug 30, 2006
    #4
  5. Zamdrist

    Soren Kuula Guest

    Zamdrist wrote:
    > At the expense of sounding like a complete newbie and nay-sayer, I have
    > not, at least in my field, yet seen a use for XML beyond for the sake
    > of itself.


    That would also be a silly thing to do? One should use XML because it
    can help solve a problem -- not because it's XML.

    > I work as an IT professional, a database analyst/programmer in the
    > legal industry. No one has *ever* asked me for their data in XML and no
    > has ever sent me data in XML.


    > Is there truly a use for XML beyond using it for the sake of it? Is
    > there something XML provides that databases don't otherwise provide
    > already?


    XML is meta-language. You can make XML languages for a variety of
    purposes. The languages are best at describing something tree-shaped, or
    hierarchial.

    You can define an XML language, and edit files that represent something
    in the language. Can't do that with a database. You send an XML file to
    someone else - can hardly do that with at database table. You can
    describe almost anything in XML - Work documents, programs, mathematical
    expressions, organisational hierarchies --- whatever. Databases can only
    cope with some of these, and hardly in a descriptive way.

    I think there is no claim that XML should replace databases. It's just a
    way to define some data formats.

    > I am however quite chagrined, being in the legal industry, where
    > documents and data are churned out like there is no tomorrow, how XML
    > has never been even considered.


    Probably just die-hard tradition. I also used to be at a place where
    everything is thought of in terms of database tables. Those poor people
    didn't see that a small change in the business model they are _really_
    representing causes lots of changes in the database nitty-gritty. They
    were constantly running back and forth, trying to keep their hundreds of
    scripts working with revision #3243243. If they had looked at things
    from a top-down perspective (which I think an XML description encourages
    much better than a relational model), they could have gone home earlier
    every day..............

    Søren
     
    Soren Kuula, Aug 30, 2006
    #5
  6. Zamdrist

    Soren Kuula Guest

    Zamdrist wrote:

    > We had a fairly significant, nationally based client recently ask us to
    > send them a report of their data to them, on a regular basis,
    > intellectual property law based data. They didn't want their data sent
    > to them in XML format...they wanted it in MS Excel.


    From the next version of Office, Excel files will be (zipped) XML
    too..............

    Søren
     
    Soren Kuula, Aug 30, 2006
    #6
  7. Zamdrist wrote:

    > Is there truly a use for XML beyond using it for the sake of it?


    XML is often used by software running in the background.
    In such cases, the XML data is not visible to the end-user.
    For example, XML is used for storing the content of
    object-oriented data in software applications.
    Many other applications exist (like XAML and XUL), which
    are mostly unknown to end-users.

    You, as an end-user, might appreciate that XML has solved
    the problem of representing international alphabets in an
    elegant way (Unicode). I have seen Japanese documents
    (being unable to actually read them), but it is commonplace
    to pass Japanese files just like any English data files.

    > I am however quite chagrined, being in the legal industry, where
    > documents and data are churned out like there is no tomorrow, how XML
    > has never been even considered.


    Considering new standards is one thing, but adopting them
    is much more expensive. XML is no panacea. In some places
    and industries, continuity of established standards is so
    much more important than "XML-hype".
     
    =?ISO-8859-1?Q?J=FCrgen_Kahrs?=, Aug 30, 2006
    #7
  8. Zamdrist

    Peter Flynn Guest

    Zamdrist wrote:
    > Joseph Kesselman wrote:
    >
    >> XML is a standard for writing standards for portable data interchange
    >> representations. It's a substiset of SGML, which had previously been
    >> used for that purpose (though primarily in the document markup arena.)
    >> XML has turned out to be remarkably useful as a framework around which
    >> to build domain-independent data manipulations.

    >
    > Forgive me but, while that all sounds good, what practical, everyday
    > application does what you describe have?


    It lets me write documents which can then be published or reused in many
    different formats without me having to maintain multiple parallel
    versions; and to know that what I'm writing is in a file format that
    will outlast both the software and myself. But that's because I write a
    lot, and it saves me time, money, and effort.

    In the legal field, I suspect people who actually do the writing are not
    really concerned about whether their documents can be reused later or
    not, nor about whether they will be long-lived. All they want is a
    pretty interface, which Microsoft provides. The people who actually have
    to make legal documents work in the long term are slowly discovering
    that document formats *designed* to last a long time are Quite A Good Idea.

    There are currently *no* XML editors suitable for direct authoring by
    people who don't know XML (see my paper at Extreme Markup earlier this
    month). This may well have something to do with why it's not used by
    authors (except for those who learn what XML is).

    > We had a fairly significant, nationally based client recently ask us to
    > send them a report of their data to them, on a regular basis,
    > intellectual property law based data. They didn't want their data sent
    > to them in XML format...they wanted it in MS Excel.


    That may well be because what you are sending them is not data: it's
    results (the output of doing something to data). Or that the information
    is transient or just not very important, and thus not worth preserving
    (because it can always be regenerated from the original source data).
    There are many good reasons for not using XML.

    >> You forgot to say "that I'm aware of" -- and you haven't been looking
    >> hard enough. The legal code for the state of Tasmania is now being
    >> maintained in a database system which takes advantage of XML markup, to
    >> take one particularly visible example.


    The recent CDs of legal code for Ireland were all produced from XML
    master copies. No-one in their right mind would ever use anything else
    for permanent textual information (nor has done since the late 1980s).

    > Well yes, that I'm aware of. Which is why I explained no one has asked
    > for their data, or sent me their data in XML format. No one has even
    > inquired about it. Ever. While we are not the biggest IP firm in the
    > nation, we are in the top 10 easily.


    If they (and you) are happy with using Word/Excel/etc, stay with it. I
    see no reason to force anyone to use a format they don't need or want.
    Saving time, money, and effort isn't usually interesting when the cost
    of training for XML adoption is high, the software is mediocre, and when
    the nature of the information just doesn't require any of the benefits.

    ///Peter
    --
    XML FAQ: http://xml.silmaril.ie/
     
    Peter Flynn, Aug 31, 2006
    #8
  9. Peter Flynn wrote:
    > Saving time, money, and effort isn't usually interesting when the cost
    > of training for XML adoption is high, the software is mediocre, and when
    > the nature of the information just doesn't require any of the benefits.


    Saying the same thing another way: XML is just a tool, not a silver
    bullet. If it suits your current needs, great. If not, use something
    else until your needs change.

    In my experience, many legal documents often wind up going into a system
    geared to handle ink-on-paper, and are generally manipulated as
    unstructured plaintext before that... and are recreated de novo each
    time (or from a template which is also plaintext and which must be
    re-edited each time). A word processor, or even a basic text editor, is
    a more than adequate tool for that environment.

    If something is intended to be a _living_ document, with ongoing
    generations of editing applied to it, multiple renderings, and so on,
    portable semantic markup with separate styling becomes more useful, and
    a standards-based text-compiler environment such as an SGML- or
    XML-based system starts to gain the upper hand over the wordprocessors.
    Ditto as the data becomes more structured. Of the two, XML is succeeding
    better than SGML did because it hits the 90/10 point -- it delivers 90%
    of the strengths of SGML for 10% of the implementation complexity and cost.

    But human-readable documents are becoming the least interesting
    application of XML -- even when you count the fact that the new version
    of HTML is XML-based rather than SGML-based. Which is another reason
    you're seeing slower uptake there than in the middleware data-exchange
    layers.

    Summary: If you aren't interested, and your customers aren't interested,
    there's no magical reason you should care right now. At some point in
    the future that equation is likely to change; you have to decide when
    and how heavily you want to invest, based on whether you want to be on
    the leading or trailing edge of that wave and your own best guess about
    when it's going to hit your area.


    Putting it yet another way: I don't think anyone's interested in getting
    into a flame war about it. Use the tools that fit your way of
    approaching your task to the satisfaction of your customers.

    --
    () ASCII Ribbon Campaign | Joe Kesselman
    /\ Stamp out HTML e-mail! | System architexture and kinetic poetry
     
    Joe Kesselman, Aug 31, 2006
    #9
  10. Zamdrist

    Peter Flynn Guest

    Joe Kesselman wrote:
    > But human-readable documents are becoming the least interesting
    > application of XML


    Actually they are the most interesting and challenging.

    The use of XML for data-exchange is largely a done deal, with vast
    amounts of software available, plentiful skills, relatively simple data
    models, and ample support (even if people do go off at a tangent
    sometimes :)

    By contrast, modelling human-readable information is *hard*, with many
    unsolved problems, poorly-developed software, and only a few experts.
    It isn't "just publishing": there's a large amount of work still to be
    done, and this makes it -- for me -- by far the most interesting area.

    ///Peter
     
    Peter Flynn, Aug 31, 2006
    #10
  11. Peter Flynn wrote:
    > By contrast, modelling human-readable information is *hard*, with many
    > unsolved problems, poorly-developed software, and only a few experts.
    > It isn't "just publishing": there's a large amount of work still to be
    > done, and this makes it -- for me -- by far the most interesting area.


    .... OK, point granted. The semantic-web stuff is one signpost on the way
    to that set of problems. I still think Tim B-L has bit off much more
    than he can chew in that area, but even partial success is likely to
    produce some interesting results.

    What XML is really buying us here is a shared platform that everyone can
    agree to base their development on, with the hope of seeing it find real
    applications (rather than getting stuck in academia) and the possibility
    of synergy as solutions are combined and applied to new areas.

    --
    () ASCII Ribbon Campaign | Joe Kesselman
    /\ Stamp out HTML e-mail! | System architexture and kinetic poetry
     
    Joe Kesselman, Aug 31, 2006
    #11
  12. Zamdrist wrote:

    >> XML is a standard for writing standards for portable data interchange
    >> representations. It's a substiset of SGML, which had previously been
    >> used for that purpose (though primarily in the document markup arena.)
    >> XML has turned out to be remarkably useful as a framework around which
    >> to build domain-independent data manipulations.


    > Forgive me but, while that all sounds good, what practical, everyday
    > application does what you describe have?


    Err, getting the latest headlines from the BBC
    <http://newsrss.bbc.co.uk/rss/newsonline_uk_edition/front_page/rss.xml>
    (and thousands of other sites) springs to mind.

    --
    David Dorward <http://blog.dorward.me.uk/> <http://dorward.me.uk/>
    Home is where the ~/.bashrc is
     
    David Dorward, Aug 31, 2006
    #12
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