All this buisiness about namespace URNs...
carl at chage.com
Thu Jun 3 20:16:17 BST 1999
From: "Daneker, Vincent" <DanekerV at visa.com>
> So, the development of XML aware applications seems to be a logical step.
> Currently, IE5 can display raw XML, which isn't particularly appealing,
> but it can be done. Will Excel or Access in Office 2000 (or tools by any
> other company, MS is just an example, please don't flame me) allow direct
> and sensible import of an XML file into their formats?
Thanks for bringing things back to reality-- that's the whole point of
XML (it's not really a scheme to force purchase of upgrades).
Besides general office software, sensible import into applications like
Quicken will also be important.
In order for import to be sensible, the application software needs to be
able to interpret the format and semantics (to a certain degree) for
each tag read. That means the application needs to get more
information than just the syntax of the DTD.
The URI's referenced in the XML headers and DTD are a natural way for
applications to access the information needed for a sensible import,
and as a sensible means for humans to access the documentation
about the data.
After you load an XML file into a spreadsheet, database, or XSL
transformed data entry form, you want the "Help" button to work
properly and directly show the definition of that data. You don't want to
write to Geneva and buy a $900 document, or track down a
programmer to find the meaning of a field.
> The blind exchange of data in e-commerce could open a can of worms.
> However, if I'm engaged in a commercial venture, then I'm going to ensure
> that you, our valued customer, have everything you need from us to
> complete your transaction.
Unfortunately, that's not the norm. Missing or ambiguous
documentation and missing code values is quite common. For every
vendor or customer, the software is modified since the "standards"
aren't really standards.
Data exchange these days is often in fixed length files (it's hard to get
mainframe programmers to create tab-delimited), where the postal-
mailed data file is accompanied by a paper containing the
documentation-- a list of abbreviated field names with columns. You
retype all the columns into a computer (or scan and OCR the paper,
then write a perl program to extract the record format). In about 40% of
the cases, the documentation has errors. When you don't understand
the field name semantics, you call the owner of the data, and often,
they have no idea either.
XML could be a continuation of the nightmare, since it allows any writer
of data to invent a new DTD. Data should be written so it can be
imported (not just exported), meaning it must be transformed into
some agreed upon standard which can be interpreted.
XML today is incrementally better than the usual fixed-length flat file
with faxed record format in that it at least has an electronic definition of
the syntax of the data. In my opinion XML won't be significant until all
data that exists has associated electronic definitions of the semantics
as well as syntax.
Style sheets that print the data are incomplete-- there needs to be
style sheets to print the documentation of the data as well, e.g. so the
context sensitive help in a data entry form functions properly.
Likewise, if I type a value into a form from a controlled vocabulary, e.g.
"California" or "CA", the spreadsheet or browser should be able to
access the CV definitions to validate that entry, without having to
create/modify software, download some Java (that works in only 1
Carl Hage C. Hage Associates
<mailto:carl at chage.com> Voice/Fax: 1-408-244-8410 1180 Reed Ave #51
<http://www.chage.com/chage/> Sunnyvale, CA 94086
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