A Plea for Schemas

Matthew Gertner matthew at praxis.cz
Mon Nov 1 11:32:41 GMT 1999

I totally agree. The idea of some kind of discovery mechanism for
schemas has already been batted around this list (and I believe I heard
something about some W3C activity starting in this area?). Getting all
the competing approaches behind a standard schema language is a major
prerequisite for this. It is hard to justify investing too much in
schema development and infrastructure if the final form and capabilities
of this schema language are still unclear. How and whether schemas will
then be made available is very much up in the air. The most promising
option I see is to create some kind of schema marketplace that will
enable people to get their schemas out there, with the metadata
necessary for others to find them, and let "free market" competition
decide which schemas will gain general acceptance. There are already
some efforts of this type, but they smack a little of marketing
manoeuvres controlled by a single company and not real attempts to
create an open marketplace.


Jerome McDonough wrote:
> For what it's worth (and my opinion and $2.50 will buy you a latte at
> Starbucks),
> I agree pretty much completely with your rant (except for the gratuitous dig
> at the HyTime guys, who History Will Prove Were On The Side of Right).
> XML doesn't address the problems of interoperability at the level you're
> talking
> about, and neither does RDF.  What you're talking about, unfortunately, is
> establishing standardized controlled vocabularies, and those are a ton of
> work.  They're hellish enough to develop in a relatively small, cohesive
> community
> like librarians.  There's no way in hell you're going to get competing
> companies
> to sit down at a table long enough to do this.
> I suspect what this will probably mean is a variety of grass-roots efforts
> where people
> in particular communities who care enough will establish their own schemas
> with
> controlled vocabularies, and if they see enough use, software companies that
> deal with those communities will start altering their software to make use of
> that fact.  I see a possible danger here in that this might start reifying
> intellectual
> boundaries between communities and make it harder to search for information
> outside your common field of intellectual practice.  Schema repositories will
> help this problem somewhat by making schemas for intellectual domains you're
> not familiar with more generally available, but getting those up and running
> will
> also involve a lot of hard work.
> TANSTAAFL still holds as a universal principle.  But for those who
> really care about trying to achieve interoperability and more open exchange
> of information, XML will still be used.

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