A Plea for Schemas

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Mon Nov 1 21:24:03 GMT 1999

At 09:29 PM 11/1/99 +0100, Matthew Gertner wrote:
>Okay, let's put it this way: I can see your point that a central
>repository has significant weaknesses. The idea of an automatic
>discovery mechanism is much more promising. This is where you start to
>run into questions of vision (i.e. I'm probably wrong), but think back
>to how unimaginable the wealth of information available on the Web would
>have been a few years back. [...good stuff...]
>Now transpose that to the software engineering field.
>Is it really so crazy to suppose that programmers (and other creators of
>metadata) might publish their information in a way that can be
>discovered and reused by many others, both programmers and

I like where this is going - but it changes 'a plea for schemas' to 'a plea
for a discovery mechanism for information about XML documents'.  I think
you've got the right idea here, a way to keep the open approach of the
BizTalk schema repository without the baggage of the BizTalk framework and
its owners.  Instead of the centrally adjudicated process, we get an open
system for describing information that can be distributed rather than

I'd like to think the W3C's new XML Packaging approach will provide some
tools for this, though it's too early to see where it's going.

>This idea has been derided by some because it smacks of AI technologies
>that have been heavily hyped and then failed to materialize in the past.
>But a simple full-text search could be very effective on this volume of
>data. Advances in full-text technology that have been designed to deal
>with the gigabytes of the Web could be heavily leveraged in this
>scenario. Competition would also spout up among portals who would choose
>and classify schemas. I find the idea of a Yahoo for schemas very
>plausible; as with the real Yahoo, they would not actually author the
>schemas themselves, but they would serve an important role in weeding
>out the junk and sorting the rest.

I'm not even concerned about 'weeding out the junk' - I'm more concerned
that everyone who writes a schema or even a textual description of a
document structure has a means to publish that information.  If aggregators
wants to provide rating services on top of that, but it's more important to
me that I be able to do things like:

<memo xmlns="mailto:simonstl at simonstl.com">
<contents>Hi there!</contents>

and have some way for recipients of this message to process/transform it
into their own preferred memo format without requiring them necessarily to
contact me about it.

The tools you're talking about seem to let us both get the work we need done.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
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