Frontier as a scalable XML repository (was Re: Is XML dead already or what?)

W. Eliot Kimber eliot at
Sun Jan 31 01:18:33 GMT 1999

First, I don't want to turn this into a "How do I run Frontier" session,
but since David Winer provided the opening, I think it's reasonable to have
a bit of "how do I do X" in Frontier as a way of understanding what We want
repositories to do and how, as an example of a repository, Frontier does or
doesn't do those things (or does or doesn't make it obvious how to do those

Starting point: I pulled down Frontier, started it up, worked through the
little demo exercise in the tutorial. Got a web page. Great. So far,
haven't seen anything that I can't do with a bunch of other tools,
including DSSSL scripts applied against SGML or XML documents.  


1. It's all open--they're clear about exposing the internals so you can
know exactly what's going on.
2. It didn't crash during the first 5 minutes.
3. The documentation, what I read, was clear and informative.


1. It's all open--they're clear about exposing the internals so you can
know exactly what's going on.
2. The section on XML told me nothing
3. The scripting language is proprietary. Why aren't the page templates in
XML? Why isn't the scripting language Python or Perl (preferably Python, of
course) or XSL (not fair--hasn't been defined yet)?
4. It's an object database but all I see are tables. This confuses me
because I expect tables to be for relational databases and objects to be
for object databases.
5. No obvious way to point to the root of my web site and say "import".
Tutorial makes it clear that you can't just do this--have to rework your
pages to pull things in.
6. Looks like you have script everything you want it to do. This makes
senses for a Web site builder, not so much for a document repository.

Here's my how-to question:

I have about 80 megabytes of SGML documents that currently live in a
repository. How do I do the following:

1. Import them into Frontier
2. Organize them into the organization I want (I have the organization
3. Instantiate and manage hyperlinks among the parts
4. Edit the documents as SGML or XML documents (that is, using an SGML or
XML editor)
5. Ensure access control
6. Track and manage changes over time
7. Publish some or all of the documents as an HTML site, as XML, as SGML
for CD-ROM, as print (that is, how do I integrate the repository with my
existing publishing tools and processes?)
8. Identify versions of documents as being frozen and unchangable.
9. Establish and use use-by-reference relationships

I suspect that answer to all these questions is "write a script". It's
clear from the tutorial that scripting language provides the facilities to
implement some or all of these functions. But of course, as David M. said,
I want that out of the box.  I'm an integrator, not a developer--I don't
want to implement a repository, I want to integrate a repository into my
clients' enterprises and business processes.

I'm not picking on Frontier here--it's just handy. It's not clear to me,
for example, what a "Web site manager" really is or even that tools like
Frontier are particularly compelling for Web site management (given that
Python and NSGMSL or expat go a long long way, are completely standards
based, completely free, and have a large skill pool to draw from).


<Address HyTime=bibloc>
W. Eliot Kimber, Senior Consulting SGML Engineer
ISOGEN International Corp.
2200 N. Lamar St., Suite 230, Dallas, TX 75202.  214.953.0004

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